Brautigan, Richard. The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966. Simon & Schuster, 1971. ISBN 978-0671208721 226 pp. $
Finished The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan just before the weekend. A pleasantly odd book… completely dated… I haven’t read such a book that dated itself that way since I know What You Did Last Summer (by Lois Duncan–not like the movie at all as a side note). I came across the title when I was fooling around at the Invisible Library. “The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books.”
I became intrigued by The Abortion because it had so many imaginary books in it and I suppose too because it was near the top f the list (alphabetical order). Anyway, I had to request it from another library and when it arrived I was even more intrigued… on the cover are two people…. so 60’s looking and beneath them a caption: “This novel is about the romantic possibilities of a public library in California.” Well, it’s more about this couple, their relationship and getting an abortion when it was still illegal. The library that the man works in is like no other library in the world, it’s where people can bring in books they have written… anytime of day of night… and they are entered into a log then the author gets to put their book anywhere in the library. It’s completely wild and for me might have been more fun if it was solely a novel about romance in a public library or more about the kookiness of the library. It’s definitely a book I will never forget though, for it’s style (very unique) and the characters (very original). The author apparently was well known for his book Trout Fishing in America and I am tempted to try it.
Falick, Melanie photography by Ericka McConnell. Weekend Knitting: 50 Unique Projects & Ideas. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2009. ISBN 978-1584797692 pp. $19.95
On Friday I had to pick up some books for work at the New England Mobile Book Fair and this place has become very dangerous for me. I had been there years ago and think that maybe this is why I have avoided it for so long. It’s an awesome place to get books…. they have everything and at a discount! And it’s just so fun to browse around. Now if only there was a cute little coffee shop right next door…
No! That would be bad! Anyway, I bought a couple of gifts for my niece who is learning the alphabet and a knitting book for myself: Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick and . This book sums up for me what knitting is… she talks about the relaxing rhythm and enjoying crisp fall days. Of letting go of “instant gratification” (something I have a problem with) and knowing that your love goes into the things you knit for others. At the end of her introduction she says that weekends are a state of mind and I totally agree. So I loved the book right from the intro! But I also love the addition of cookie recipes, a knitting filmography, hand massage instructions and other little tidbits that seemed just right for a weekend knitting book. (And makes it unlike any other knitting book and believe me I have seen a lot lately!) And of course I want to try the projects like a bag that has a tie on backgammon board, fluffy mittens and adorable finger puppets.
Melanie Falick is one of my favorite knitting people…I already love her Kids Knitting book which I recommend for adults too. Both books have wonderful color photographs and easy layouts.
Kalman, Maira. What Pete Ate from A-Z where we explore the english alphabet (in its entirety). Puffin, 2003. ISBN 978-0142501597 48 pp. $8.99
Kalman, Maira. Smartypants (Pete in School). G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2003. ISBN 978-0399234781 32 pp. $
If you have not yet read What Pete Ate from A-Z: where we explore the english alphabet (in its entirety) in which a certain dog devours a myriad of items which he should not, get off your duff and read it. Then, immediately run back to the library and check out Smartypants (Pete in School). Both books are by Maira Kalman and neither one will disappoint. The author/illustrator’s sense of humor is so clever, I can’t even describe it. Make sure you read all the little text, even on the title pages. She does not waste a single space on any page. Read them both, read them soon, laugh and laugh and marvel at how clever and interesting and wonderful two picture books can be! ‘Nuff said!
Weston, Martha. Act I, Act II, Act Normal. Roaring Brook Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0761328599 160 pp. $
For those of you with a flair for the dramatic, or fans of Gordon Korman’s No More Dead Dogs, Act I, Act II, Act Normal by Martha Weston may be the book for you. A book about middle schoolers, the annual school play, bullies, annoying-horse-obsessed little sisters, well-loved family pets, a bit of cross-dressing, this book has a bit if everything. Perhaps not the finest piece of literature ever, it’s still a good chapter book for 5th and 6th graders.
I’m thrilled to join this site. Reviews to come: Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman and The Between Boyfriends Book. Bet you can’t wait!
Zeppa, Jamie. Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A journey into Bhutan. Riverhead Books, 2000. ISBN 978-1573228152 320 pp. $16
I haven’t read a book that infiltrated my thoughts so much in a long time. Perhaps it is because this awesome memoir/journal reminded me so much of some of my overseas experiences. Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa is a wonderful glimpse into the author’s decision to leave Canada to teach in Bhutan in the late 1980s. She had never been out of the country before and never spent much time away from Robert, the man she plans to marry. Something inside of her is gnawing though, she knows she needs to have this experience to learn about herself and the world.
Despite protests from her grandfather and other family and friends, she heads to a remote village in Bhutan. She is honest about how awful things are at first with the rats, the homesickness, the fear of eating anything besides crackers with diseases like giardia attacking folks right and left. Not surprisingly, she learns to love the country and the people and her life there. Although she sometimes gets caught up in the beauty and simplicity of life there, she is realistic and tries not to romanticize her experiences. She knows there are problems there like everywhere else.
This book made me think about our materialistic lifestyle here in the Western World and reminded me of how I felt traveling in Vietnam. Here in the US I always feel like I need so many things. Life in Vietnam was so simple–we had so few things but managed to live full and exciting lives everyday. It’s easy to romanticize that lifestyle, but one of Jamie’s friend’s in Bhutan reminds her that many of the people in Bhutan would jump at the chance to have the kinds of things we have in the Western world if they could.
She also acknowledges the battles between the different ethnicities in Bhutan that have emigrated from the surrounding countries. Bhutan was working hard to maintain its cultural identity and when Jamie was there the government made strict laws governing the use of national dress and imposing national dress on groups who were not native to Bhutan. It would be like our government declaring that all people in the US have to wear the traditional dress of the early Pilgrims.
This book made me think about a lot of things, and I could go on and on here, but I’d rather have a dialogue than a monologue. So if this sounds interesting to you, read the book and then we can chat! 🙂
Tuck Everlasting the movie is pure evil.
Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. Crown, 2004. ISBN 978-0767908184 544 pp. $20
Thanks to April I’ve finally managed to log in properly so I can post. Really, I’m not computer illiterate–just having a few stupid days I guess. I’ve been on a non-fiction kick of late. Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything is amazing. He has a wonderful way of interspersing the scientific with the anecdotal. You’ll be reading about the accomplishments of Newton and bust out laughing because of some bit he adds in about the man’s seriously odd behavior, like the fact that he once stuck a needle in his eye to see what would happen. I listened to it on audio first but had to re-read it in print because I felt I was missing too much. The book is huge, over 500 pages, but I am a fan of a lot of Bryson’s writing so I thought it was well worth the time it takes. Next up, all the new YA stuff that just came in today.
Draper, Sharon M. The Battle of Jericho. Atheneum, 2005. ISBN 978-0689842337 pp.
A hazing incident culminates in loss of life at a high school where select teens compete to become members of a prestigious and long-standing community service organization. Jericho is excited to be chosen and happy that his circle of friends are also being invited into the inner circle, but as the initiation events become more intense, his discomfort level increases. Not only must Jericho examine his priorities (belonging to a social club verses preparing for his future career) but he also calls into question his personal ethics. Do girls deserve the same chances as boys, even when their emotional and physical well-being is threatened? Does being a man mean you shut up, or stand up?
The realistic plot raises many issues for discussion, including sex roles, peer pressure and hazing. The ending has a clever twist, with Draper manipulating the reader into thinking another character might be lost. However, reading this book was frustrating on several levels. Something about the dialogue, peppered with slang, didn’t quiet ring true for this reviewer; it could be the subject of the conversations isn’t always believable (boys having one-on-one conversations about the objects of their affection), and the use of black dialect is sometimes distracting to the story.
Above all, it is disconcerting that a seasoned author who makes a major mistake of first time writers won a major children’s book award for The Battle of Jericho. “Show not tell” is the first rule of good writing, and throughout the entire novel, Draper tells the reader how the characters are feeling and directs the reader how to take their comments by using language such as “Josh hooted” and “Arielle laughed.” She also modifies the “saids” with adverbs (“Rudy added ominously”) instead of conveying the thoughts and feelings of the characters through their actions and words. Hopefully, the next book by this dynamite storyteller will have a better editor.
Tessaro, Kathleen. Elegance. Harper, 2019 (reprint). ISBN 978-0060522278 366 pp. $15.99
Refined. Glamorous. Sophisticated. ELEGANT.
Louise is none of those things as Elegance opens. She is in her early 30s, married to a nice, (yet boring and a little too into house cleaning) man, and feeling a little frumpy. It doesn’t help that her mother-in-law, a former model, and friends mistakenly think that Louise is pregnant because of her tent-like dress. It doesn’t help that her husband has no interest in taking her to bed. It doesn’t help that she is a fairly unsuccessful actress now working at a box office.
One day, while exploring a used book store, Louise discovers a book called Elegance by Madame Dariaux, an exquisite sounding French woman. The book is an alphabetic exploration into what it takes to be a woman of elegance. As Louise attempts to spice up her life by implementing the advice of Madame Dariaux in her own life, she experiments with new lingerie, fur, hairstyles and more. But that’s only on the outside…
I have not finished this book but I really like it so far–I’ve been reading it every spare second I get–I even woke up early this morning to read. Even though the opening scene is a little difficult to get through, as soon as Louise starts reading her special book, the plot picks up as Louise begins her journey of self discovery. I like that it is an imperfect, experimental journey (like life, go figure) and she falls into some situations that I can really identify with.. Also, she has good friends who aren’t afraid to be honest with her… even when it comes to the revealing robe that is in no way appropriate for a roommate living situation.
Let me know what you folks think!
Smith, D.L. The Miracles of Santo Fico. Warner, 2004. ISBN 978-0446690362 358 pp. $
I just finished a wonderful book last night called The Miracles of Santo Fico by D.L. Smith. In the tiny Italian Village of Santo Fico, everyone knows everyone. One would think that because of this, that they would all know each other’s secrets. Not so. Father Elio has his own burning secret, as does Leo Pizzola, Nonno, Topo, Marta and others. Leo and Topo’s attempts to create miracles in the village tend to go wrong every time, but out of each attempt, other Real miracles occur.
With a last name like Smith, I doubt the author is Italian, but everything about his writing is Italian. In one of my favorite passages in the book we meet Guido (better known as “Topo”) and we can instantly feel the passion that Italian men are known for:
“Whenever Guide saw Carmen Fortino… he always found it hard to breathe for a moment. It wasn’t just because of her luxurious black hair and smooth olive skin or her dark eyes that seemed to bore through him or her red lips that never required paint. It wasn’t just because of the way her mouth always seemed about either to smile or sneer at him–he didn’t care which. It wasn’t just the haughty manner with which she carried her body or the way certain of her soft curves pushed and strained against her clothing. All of these things certainly caused his mouth to go dry and his stomach to tense, but there was also something mystic to her allure.” (pg.17-18)
Oh la la… pour the red wine! Thanks to my friend Judy for recommending this one!