Rich in character and plot, a Banquet of Consequences is a Scotland Yard detective novel. Fascinating settings and situations make the novel immersiveRich in character and plot, a Banquet of Consequences is a Scotland Yard detective novel. Fascinating settings and situations make the novel immersive and quick to read, in spite of the fact that it is 573 pages. The details of motive are disturbing, but readers of the genre will manage.
Though A Banquet of Consequences is the 19th in a series, it stands alone. I will seek out more of Elizabeth George's novels. She's incredibly talented....more
From luscious moonlit gardens to sumptuous castles, the settings of SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN are as dazzling as those of Vienna’s Imperial Court TheatFrom luscious moonlit gardens to sumptuous castles, the settings of SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN are as dazzling as those of Vienna’s Imperial Court Theater, and the drama enacted on its pages is no less impressive. Pataki resurrects the unforgettable Empress Elisabeth in a rich and exquisite tragedy of passion and heartbreak—a true tour de force. ...more
I have been a long-time fan of the writing of Elizabeth Gilbert, and only recently, have stumbled upon her joy-filled, wonder-full, awe-some FacebookI have been a long-time fan of the writing of Elizabeth Gilbert, and only recently, have stumbled upon her joy-filled, wonder-full, awe-some Facebook and Instagram accounts. They are a well for anyone involved in creative pursuits; no, for all of us–for we are all creative and curious beings.
Gilbert’s joy is unabashed. She’s radical in her flagrant wielding of it. Her joy is the antidote to the abundance of trouble-making, politicizing, snarky, angry babel that infests social media. Gilbert addresses this joy in the opening pages of BIG MAGIC by quoting poet Jack Gilbert (no relation), so the reader knows what to expect from the onset:
“We must risk delight…We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”
I’ve lately seen a sharp uptick in the amount of posts on Facebook and Twitter addressing divisive issues. I’ve been tempted to respond to these posts, retweet them, create my own, but often this leads me to a darkness that just doesn’t fit…me.
Does the need to share controversy arise from ego? (Do a certain amount of likes give me satisfaction?) Does it arise from a fear that I’m not doing my part? (We must not be silent.) Or is it more sinister? (Zuckerberg is playing with my emotions using data and share-metrics, and I am falling right into his trap.) I don’t know what it is, but increasingly, I find myself turning off social media (or retreating into the happy pictures of Instagram) in search of time off from Facebook and Twitter philosophers and politicians. More so, I find myself going OUTSIDE which has done wonders for my emotional and physical well-being, but more on that in another post.
All of this may seem like a digression from the purpose of this post; it is not. Read BIG MAGIC.
Liz Gilbert is a light-bearer. She brings energy and wonder and curiosity and gratitude back into fashion. She reminds the reader of simple things we know, or more complicated things we might not have understood, but all of it translates into a manifesto for embracing the joy of life, taking yourself and your endeavors lightly, and boldly going forth in the world bearing light.
Skeptics might grow uncomfortable with Gilbert’s talk of faith, of ideas as entities floating around looking for ways to be made manifest, and the divine cooperation the universe seeks with us, but read it anyway. Read it because it will not hurt you or make you angry. It will not make you lose sleep worrying over the state of the world, or whether you should share that political post, or if anything is worth fighting for any more.
Some things must be taken seriously. Some things must be shared and protested and addressed, but all of that seems to take care of itself, in excess. Give yourself the gift of BIG MAGIC to take care of the other part that needs tending: the glorious side of humanity when it engages fearlessly in the wonder of creation....more
Geraldine Brooks is a rare writer who is able to employ both gorgeous prose and spellbinding storytelling. Though some scenes in THE SECRET CHORD moveGeraldine Brooks is a rare writer who is able to employ both gorgeous prose and spellbinding storytelling. Though some scenes in THE SECRET CHORD moved me to revulsion, or even tears, I could not look away. Many passages in my copy of the book are underlined for their potency and elegance. Brooks writes most lyrically when she describes David’s musical talent–arguably his most redeeming quality.
“It’s a kind of sorcery, a possession of body and spirit. Yet a wholesome one. And there is one chord, one perfect assembly of notes that no other hand can play. The sound of it–pure, rinsing sound, void, so that your spirit seems to rush in to fill the space between the notes.”
In THE SECRET CHORD, King David’s story is told through a reliable narrator, which allows the reader to see a legendary ruler in all his unvarnished capacities. If we had heard David through his own voice, there may have been excuses, justifications, or omissions from his brutal history. Seeing David through a servant or advisor gives the entire picture, and that portrait–for all its beauty and glory–is blood-stained, torn, and decaying, even as the King makes his ascent.
Fans of WOLF HALL will be enthralled by this unflinching depiction of biblical royalty. The loyal and humble narrator, who helps the reader understand a time that feels both far removed and close to home, enchants. I give THE SECRET CHORD my highest recommendation....more
Moyes' much awaited sequel to ME BEFORE YOU is a gift to her fans. Moyes pulls no punches; she allows Louisa to fail and fail mightily, but that is whMoyes' much awaited sequel to ME BEFORE YOU is a gift to her fans. Moyes pulls no punches; she allows Louisa to fail and fail mightily, but that is what makes Louisa's story so compelling: her utter humanness. Having just lost my mother, I was especially moved (and amused) by the bereavement group, and their progression throughout the novel. There are no tidy bows or knights on white horses--just characters real enough to step from the pages, in all of their endearing imperfection.
This is the third novel I have read by Jojo Moyes, and it will not be my last. I have loved them all. ...more
With its lush settings, high-stakes suspense, and novel-within-a-novel, 300 DAYS OF SUN delivers a labyrinth of complex relationships the reader is boWith its lush settings, high-stakes suspense, and novel-within-a-novel, 300 DAYS OF SUN delivers a labyrinth of complex relationships the reader is both breathless to solve and eager to return to upon completion. I lost sleep reading this fabulous, haunting novel....more
Please refrain from throwing pencils at me, but I despise Little Women. I think it is silly, saccharine drivel. Because of this, I was reluctant to piPlease refrain from throwing pencils at me, but I despise Little Women. I think it is silly, saccharine drivel. Because of this, I was reluctant to pick up LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE, but I’m so glad I did. Atkins delivers a marvelous reimagining of the very human story behind one of America’s most beloved novels.
Artists are often jealous by nature. They wish heartily for one another’s success when they’re struggling, and then covet it when another achieves a certain level of status. Equal parts self-doubt and ego, artists experience an incessant war within the psyche. Atkins fully animates these competitions and struggles, giving an unflinching glimpse into the tensions of a being a woman in the nineteenth century, in a working class family, in a nation at war. LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE portrays these conflicts of sister and world with just the right touch–never burdening the reader with too much hopelessness, while creating intrigue and bringing the well-known writers and thinkers of Concord, Massachusetts to vivid life.
Throughout the reading of the novel I was often tempted to look online for May’s full life story, but I’m happy that I waited until I finished. LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE is the Little Women I have always wanted, and for those who enjoy literature of this time period, and complicated female protagonists, I highly recommend it....more
1) The Toni Morrison Blurb: “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me afThree things prompted me to pick up this book:
1) The Toni Morrison Blurb: “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates….This is required reading.” 2) This book was written as a letter to an adolescent son. I have three sons (of English-Irish-Welsh-Russian Catholic descent), whom I am trying to raise in an environment that will prepare them for the world by encouraging intellectual, emotional, and spiritual exploration, to make them more empathetic human beings. I need to expand my worldview to expand theirs. 3) I have grown up 30 minutes outside of Baltimore my entire life, and after the Freddie Gray riots, I realized a) I might as well live on another planet, and b) I need a better understanding of the black men and women raised there.
This book was eye-opening, to say the least. I have new insight into what it means to grow up black in America, and I am deeply ashamed of the past of the country, disheartened by the current state of it, and admittedly hopeless about the capacity for large-scale future change. The problems are systemic–so much a part of our cells, our maps, our minds–and the root systems are too complex to fully eradicate. Not to mention that there must be a reckoning; society must reap what it sows.
However, I believe in God–a force Coates acknowledges he has no connection to, yet does not discount because of the strength faith has given so many–and with God, there is hope. While Coates does not provide a tidy solution, I’m inspired by a truth I found reinforced in his anecdotes, and in my conversations with others after reading the book. We are responsible for those around us, for the small square of land we inhabit.
More and more, when I’m tempted to take rants to Twitter or Facebook, pile onto the masses, tear out my hair over the terrible state of the world, I pull inward. I look at the many and varied faces of the people around me. I see the living they do–the good in my community, my church, our schools. I see the rifts in my family and know that until I reach out and mend those torn places, trying to impose change on society is futile. I realize I can make simple gestures: hold a door for young black man and walk in after him, look a person in the eye when I’m speaking with him, raise my sons not to fall into the traps of categorizing people based on “race,” give the book to the family member who insists on proclaiming her ignorance when confronted with Black Lives Matter by retorting All Lives Matter to read, instead of hitting her over the head with it.
The responsibility lies in my hands, my actions.
I don’t know if Coates wanted someone like me to read his book, and I don’t know if this is what he wanted me to take away from it. All I do know is that I cannot stop thinking about it, and this thinking has silenced me. Acknowledging the crisis of the past and present, and watching, listening, and responding to the needs of others is what I can do in my home and in my community to start change, and I intend to do it.
In this stunning sequel to WOLF HALL, the reader should be familiar with Mantel’s unusual stylistic choices–sometimes addressing the reader through thIn this stunning sequel to WOLF HALL, the reader should be familiar with Mantel’s unusual stylistic choices–sometimes addressing the reader through the second person point of view, lines of great meaning and gravity embedded within the narrative the way gems are sewn into royal gowns, ambiguous pronouns (that Mantel makes great pains to illustrate clearly, almost rudely, in this novel)–and can sink immediately into the story that hums with the tension leading up to the death of Anne Boleyn and her unfortunate admirers.
The book is deeply cynical; there might not be an honorable character in the bunch, but all are starkly human, larger than life. Mantel takes a story that has been told, and told, and told, and somehow makes it new. Starting the book is like mounting a runaway horse approaching a cliff, knowing full well the horse will not stop, but going along anyway for the sheer terror and adventure of the ride.
In all honesty, this is a hard recommendation for me. It’s difficult for me to separate the work from the artist, but ultimately, there is no need. BRING UP THE BODIES is well served by its author, because its protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, is quite antagonistic....more
I had the pleasure of seeing Jacqueline Woodson deliver the Keynote Address at last week’s Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Rarely does onI had the pleasure of seeing Jacqueline Woodson deliver the Keynote Address at last week’s Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Rarely does one come across a speech that inspires, humbles, makes one laugh and cry, and ends all too soon. Ms. Woodson’s talk did just that. She enchanted the room with her warmth, humor, and intelligence, and when she concluded, the crowd of hundreds gave her a standing ovation.
I read Woodson’s memoir BROWN GIRL DREAMING on the train home. I could hear her voice in my ear, telling me in verse who she was from the roots up, creating such vivid pictures with her words that I could have been watching a film. From Ohio in the sixties to the Jim Crow south, to New York in the seventies, each time and place are encapsulated vividly in the references to songs, shows, dress, and food, and provide the context for a girl learning who she is from the adults around her. The memoir has won the National Book Award, the Newbery Honor, and the Coretta Scott King Award, and all are well deserved.
In Ms. Woodson’s speech, she said, “Going deeply into the emotional truth of the work makes the specific universal.” Because BROWN GIRL DREAMING does just this, it is every child’s story, coming of age in complicated families and cities. It is the kind of book everyone in this country should read right now, because it makes us aware of our shared humanity, and our obligation to give our children a better world than the one in which we currently exist. I give BROWN GIRL DREAMING my highest recommendation....more
O'Connor's reflections on the duty of the writer (in particularly the Catholic writer) are fascinating and thought-provoking. She also brought up theO'Connor's reflections on the duty of the writer (in particularly the Catholic writer) are fascinating and thought-provoking. She also brought up the challenges facing the writer of a given faith in a secular society where relativism is the god. There was much I intuited before reading this, but she named it for me. ...more
If I hadn’t loved McLain’s THE PARIS WIFE, I still would have picked up CIRCLING THE SUN based on the cover alone: so warm it glows with the heat of tIf I hadn’t loved McLain’s THE PARIS WIFE, I still would have picked up CIRCLING THE SUN based on the cover alone: so warm it glows with the heat of the African sun, moody with the distant silhouette of the acacia tree, and the brooding woman with bobbed hair wearing slacks and riding boots when women didn’t typically wear slacks. The cover could enfold a Hemingway story–something Kilamanjaro-esque–and my high expectations were met in every way.
Set in Kenya in the 1920s, CIRCLING THE SUN represents the best in historical fiction. It tells the tale of a little known corner of history in beautiful, vivid prose that not only enlivens the period, but will send the reader searching for more information on the people and places depicted in its pages.
Like Hadley Hemingway in THE PARIS WIFE, the protagonist of CIRCLING THE SUN, Beryl Markham, is a complicated woman. Unlike Hadley, however, Beryl takes bold charge of her own destiny. Her decisions are sometimes selfish, often honorable, and occasionally deplorable, but Beryl’s strength of spirit, honesty, and courage redeem her.
Fans of period fiction, family drama, and tragic love stories will be mesmerized by CIRCLING THE SUN. I give it my highest recommendation....more