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November 23, 2016

Wordless Wednesday


Today is the day Annie came to live with us in 2007. Happy Adoption Day, sweet girl!

Click here to see last year's post with more photos.

November 18, 2016

Looking Back - A Literary Christmas


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



A Literary Christmas Edited by Lilly Golden
Nonfiction
1992 Atlantic Monthly Press
Finished in January 1997
Rating: 3/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

The finest writers throughout the centuries have graced us with their literary visions of Christmas. Charles Dickens, O. Henry, Truman Capote immediately come to mind. Dozens of collections contain history's best. But what has been sorely missed on bookstore shelves is a collection of great contemporary Christmas stories by today's most gifted writers. Here, gathered in one volume, are twenty-seven stories that celebrate the spirit of Christmas present. In Ray Bradbury's tale an aging priest becomes reconciled with his past on Christmas Eve, while in Frank O'Connor's story a young boy's Christmas morning brings the end of innocence in the devastating knowledge that there is no Santa Claus. Paul Bowles tells the traumatic account of a small boy's Christmas that is overshadowed by his cruel father, while Ron Carlson offers an inspiring story in which a loving husband's unspoken Christmas wish is granted when his wife tells him she wants to have a baby. Though these stories share the subject of Christmas, whether as a central theme or as subtext, each explores a unique aspect of the holiday season and its psychological and emotional reverberations. And most important, in each of these marvelous stories, some uplifting, some deeply melancholy, we are given a Christmas tale of the highest literary order.

My Original Notes (1997):

So-so. So many of the short stories were depressing! I enjoyed these, though:

Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned by Ray Bradbury

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story by Paul Auster

Christmas for Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange

Christmas by Harper Lee

Where You'll Find Me by Ann Beattie

The Night of the Magi by Leo Rosten

The H Street Sledding Record by Ron Carlson

My Current Thoughts:

I no longer own this book, so I can't go back and re-read these stories. After 20 years I have absolutely no recollection of any of them!

November 14, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince



Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter, #6
Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
2015 Audio Pottermore from J.K. Rowling (Originally published in 2005)
Read by Jim Dale
Finished on June 9, 2016
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The war against Voldemort is not going well: even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of The Daily Prophet looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet …

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to apparate, and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Harry struggles to uncover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the past owner of a potions textbook he now possesses that is filled with ingenious, potentially deadly, spells. But Harry's life is suddenly changed forever when someone close to him is heinously murdered right before his eyes.

With Dumbledore's guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort, and thereby attempts to find what may be his only vulnerability.


There's really not much to say about this series that hasn't already been discussed. I thought this installment was better than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but not as good as the first two in the series. Jim Dale is a marvelous reader for the audios, so I was entertained. I was also very sad to learn that another beloved character had died. Yes, I lived under a rock, ignoring all the chatter about the details of this character's demise. ;)

November 11, 2016

Looking Back - The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Nonfiction - Memoir
1995 Moyer Bell (First published in 1973)
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

When she’s invited to London for the English publication of her wildly successful book, 84 Charing Cross Road—in which she shares two decades of correspondence with Frank Doel, a British bookseller who became a dear friend—New York writer Helene Hanff is thrilled to realize a lifelong dream. The trip will be bittersweet, because she can’t help wishing Frank was still alive, but she’s determined to capture every moment of the journey.

Helene’s time in London exceeds her wildest expectations. She visits landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle; explores Shakespeare’s favorite pub, Dickens’s house, and the Oxford University courtyard where John Donne used to walk; and makes a host of new friends from all walks of life, who take her to the theater, introduce her to institutions like Harrod’s, and share with her their favorite corners of countryside.

A love letter to England and its literary heritage, written by a Manhattanite who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (or tell a British barman how to make a real American martini), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is an endearing account of two wildly different worlds colliding; it’s an outsider’s witty, vibrant portrait of idiosyncratic British culture at its best, as well as a profound commentary about the written word’s power to sustain us, transport us, and unite us.

My Original Notes (1996):

Just as good as 84, Charing Cross Road. I would love to see it as a movie! A wonderful way to see London again [I had recently visited England]. Helene Hanff has a wonderful sense of humor. Both books would make a great gift set for anyone who loves England, books or romance! Should be read at least once a year.

My Current Thoughts:

Well, I must have loaned my copy out, because I can't locate it anywhere and I know I loved it. Darn it!

Highly recommend.

November 10, 2016

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter, #5
Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
2015 Pottermore from J.K. Rowling (Originally published in 2003)
Read by Jim Dale
Finished on May 31, 2016
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected...

Suspense, secrets and thrilling action from the pen of J.K. Rowling ensure an electrifying adventure that is impossible to put down.

Boring! I was really not interested in this installment at all, but decided to keep going since I wanted to finish the series. The book was ok, but I didn't love it like the first in the series. I did go on and read the remaining books, though. I had to see what happened next.

November 8, 2016

November 7, 2016

A Month in Summary - October 2016


This year is flying by so quickly! Wasn't it just summer? It still feels like it here in Nebraska. We've had a few chilly days (and a couple of frosty mornings), but for the most part it's been fairly mild, if not downright hot. The leaves are falling, but our grass is still green. I'm sure winter is just around the corner, so I'd better get my ice scraper and shovel in the car. {sigh}

October proved to be a decent month for audio books. I listened to three and read one book in print. I think I've been distracted by the election and have spent far too much time on social media. Hopefully, November will be a bit better. {fingers crossed...}

So here's what I read. I actually read My Name is Lucy Barton in the print format and then listened to it on audio, although I didn't finish listening until November. A good friend said it was one of her most favorite books, so after a ho-hum read, I thought maybe the audio would be better. You'll have to wait until November's recap to see what I thought about that. :)

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (borrowed) 3/5

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (borrowed - audio) 5/5

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (borrowed - audio) 4/5

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Learner (borrowed - audio) 3.5/5

Stats:

Triple Dog Dare Challenge - This turned out to be the worst month for reading from my stacks. I was in such a reading slump that it was all I could do to read one book in print. The audio books saved me from a total fail. I did get rid of a few more unread ARCs, so there is still hope for a reduction in the number of books we'll have to move to Oregon next summer.
 

4 books
3 novels

1 nonfiction
1 thriller
1 memoir
1 science fiction 
3 new-to-me-authors 
1 print
3 audio
3 female
1 male
4 borrowed
0 from my stacks 

Favorite of the Month: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.


Reviews to follow

November 4, 2016

Looking Back - 84, Charing Cross Road


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Nonfiction
1990 Penguin Books (First published in 1970)
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb: 

This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

My Original Notes (1996):

One of my all-time favorite books ever read!! I loved it! I feel as if I know Helene and all her friends at Marks & Co. How heartbreaking that she never did meet Frank Doel. I saw the movie before reading the book and they were both equally wonderful. Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins play Helene and Frank. A wonderful romance. Now I want to go back to London!

My Current Thoughts:

I've read this lovely gem of a book at least three times and it never fails to entertain and touch me. It's been ages since I watched the movie (which I'm sure I've seen at least twice), so maybe I'll add it to my Netflix queue and watch it later this winter.

Highly recommend to all lovers of books and bookstores!

I love the cover art for the different editions of this book. I've also included a couple of images from the movie. 





November 3, 2016

Her


Her by Harriet Lane
Fiction
2015 Little, Brown and Company
Finished on May 30, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

You don't remember her--but she remembers you.

On the face of it, Emma and Nina have very little in common. Isolated and exhausted by early motherhood, Emma finds her confidence fading fast. Nina--sophisticated, generous, effortlessly in control--seems to have all the answers.

It's easy to see why Emma is drawn to Nina. But what does Nina see in her?

A seemingly innocent friendship slowly develops into a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Nina eases her way into Emma's life. Soon it becomes clear that Nina wants something from the unwitting Emma--something that might just destroy her.


Now that five months have passed, I'm tempted to drop my rating to just three stars. I had to re-read the final chapter to refresh my memory of the details of the conclusion and why I was so irritated when I finished the book. As I said on Goodreads, I would have thrown this book across the room when I read the final page, had it not been 3 a.m. It was definitely not the ending I was expecting! However, I was sucked in from the opening pages and couldn't stop reading long into the subsequent nights.

Final Thoughts:

This page-turner is one that you'll either love or hate. It's been compared to The Girl on the Train, with its sinister, ambiguous finale, but I didn't care for it quite as much as Paula Hawkin's debut hit. It's a compulsively readable story and perfectly paced, but nonetheless, a disappointment. Maybe that's not fair, though. Maybe my distaste is in the individual's actions rather than the book itself. And thus, my 4/5 rating. Not a keeper, though.

Note: 

I did find some of the British vocabulary a bit confusing, resorting to Google for clarification. For example, plane leaves are sycamore leaves; E-numbers are European food additive codes.