These are NOT the Christmas Books of Ebenezer Scrooge and other volumes which put the winter holiday on the map. These are the annual holiday-themed sThese are NOT the Christmas Books of Ebenezer Scrooge and other volumes which put the winter holiday on the map. These are the annual holiday-themed stories Dickens published in his Household Words journal. These stories made Mr. Dickens the prophet of home life. He brought imagination into the winter homes and told his readers that comfort, a cozy fire under the hearth, spiced wine, and a good story made home-staying worthwhile.
...there are strings in the human heart which must never be sounded by another, and drinks that I make myself are those strings in mine.
In this collection of his Christmas tales, Dickens combined goodwill with tales of shipwrecks and orphans and traditions. There aren't any ghosts of Christmas past nor the haunted recollections of doomed men. Instead, the reader gets a poverty-stricken man relating his "castle in the air" or a narrator describing the various country inns of Yorkshire, "haunted by the ghost of a tremendous pie".
The stories I liked best were the maritime tales of The Wreck Of The Golden Mary and The Perils Of Certain English Prisoners. Reading of adventures on the high seas when the weather outside your own home is cold is always worthwhile.
...a right little island, a tight little island, a bright little island, a show-fight little island...
Not every story whammed me and I probably do love his actual books of Christmas season more (mostly because of the haunted tales), but these were a worthwhile read. Family, friends, rituals.
Book Season = Winter (a glass of Smoking Bishop) ...more
The packaging of this little hardcover book is rather nice...purple cloth cover with an inlet picture of a medieval townscape. So, of course, I purchaThe packaging of this little hardcover book is rather nice...purple cloth cover with an inlet picture of a medieval townscape. So, of course, I purchased it. I'm a sucker for good covers.
As you live, you find yourself among a community of fellows-or so you believe.
This is a first novel, one combining magic and proto-realism. Past and present. The real and the unreal. It's a bit of a mindbender, that's for sure. Politics and the subversion of the creative mind come to the forefront, in a roly-poly fashion.
This is the natural course of things, that we rein in our energies, defer to the agencies of others and, for the sake of the common good, hew to a common course.
I liked the journal style of narration and the take on modern humanity. It's the type of book meant for a programmer sitting in a cubicle in a vast fortress of an office.
I really wanted to like this book. While I'm not a big fan of Eco's books, I somehow seem to collect them, nonetheless. The premise wowed me, the coveI really wanted to like this book. While I'm not a big fan of Eco's books, I somehow seem to collect them, nonetheless. The premise wowed me, the cover art is righteous...and yet. And yet. The main character drove me crazy, Hamlet-style. He reminded me of the fear mongers who work 9-5 jobs, but never leave their unhappy jobs and go through life blaming others. It's like driving in the slow lane, even though all the other lanes are empty, and then getting unhappy because the slow lane is bumper-to-bumper. Do something!
Eco is a very intelligent writer, perhaps too intelligent for moi. Try I did, but success eluded me. Instead, I felt like Tantalus, with the grapes always eluding my grasp, the water always receding. Sadness envelops me, not worthy of Umberto. Me sorry!
After completing this book, I felt I had just stepped off that Mr. Toad ride at Disneyland. Funky and freaky. Gothic and nautical. Squirmy and psyched After completing this book, I felt I had just stepped off that Mr. Toad ride at Disneyland. Funky and freaky. Gothic and nautical. Squirmy and psychedelic.
Hit me with your rhythm stick!
Using the travels of Odysseus as her broomstick, Janice Clark has created a gothic seaboard world of dubious ancestral ties and longings not fully understood by the story's young heroine. Saltwater may just as well be swishing on the paper, because the sea is everywhere, pulling the characters and the reader back to the clam shells from which we all were born. Islands appear and then disappear, families trade physical beauty for ancient Egyptian table settings, and the tale of Moses, Mercy, and Mordecai weave a spell that is hard to break.
...a glance at Roderick's sister...showed me that the ugliness had only been lying in wait like an eel in its cave.
Melville, Poe, Lovecraft, even Washington Irving are influences here, and I loved it. Surely, there are more intelligent readers who can assign some between-the-lines reading, but I simply enjoyed the adventure and the, uh, weirdness. Old worn former wives who live on an offshore island. Young golden boys whose eye sockets flood with the colour of the green of the Atlantic. Whales who willingly sacrifice themselves to saner Ahabs.
"Go, and conquer the world! I can do no more for you."
Treasure hunting means finding exquisite little 19th-century books like this one. Short stories"Go, and conquer the world! I can do no more for you."
Treasure hunting means finding exquisite little 19th-century books like this one. Short stories about life in Italy when it was still rural and not-really-united, this little volume makes a nice companion over a nice cappuccino.
One good action begets another.
A family prepares for the all-important confirmation of their bambina...a tourist learns much from a gondolier...Venice haunts a widow...a girl learns to love the beauty of song...
There is an inscription written in the front of the book wishing the recipient a merry Christmas in 1893. It's wonderful to hold a little bit of history in one's hands, a book that was once held by long-gone guardians.
Book Season = Summer (quicken the vitality) ...more
This should have been a mind-bending read. Alas, it wasn't for me. It was a trudge, a trudgKing Arthur...Merlin...Rebellion...Poetry...Wales...Ravens!
This should have been a mind-bending read. Alas, it wasn't for me. It was a trudge, a trudge I say! My initial perception while standing in the bookshop was, oh wow look at the neat cover. A coal-black raven with a scarlet sash holding a golden ring. And when you move the book slightly, the cover seems to come alive! What is this? An Arthurian re-hab? Bam, purchased.
How can you mess up a story about an archaeological search for clues from the Battle of Camlann, where King Arthur was mortally wounded? This book was just an exercise in the banal existences of snotty university elites who bemoan their loveless marriages and seem to have to drive everywhere. I mean, c'mon, Wales isn't that big. You drive in, you drive out (at least one character stops for books).
It's not all sloggy. The author creates a poem which leads to clues about ancient Welsh figures, and there's a side story about the bombing of a Welsh dam, nationalism in Wales, and pre-historic barrows. Somehow, it just never tied up for me. When it finally became intriguing, one quick paragraph ended the momentary excitement. Ah, well. There's always that raven on the cover.
Book Season = Autumn (season of long-falling shadows)...more
Upton Sinclair became famous for his muckraking or reform-minded journalism, but while most folks scramble for The Jungle, I prefer this drilling lookUpton Sinclair became famous for his muckraking or reform-minded journalism, but while most folks scramble for The Jungle, I prefer this drilling look at the nascent petroleum industry of California. The movie, There Will Be Blood was based upon this novel, although this was originally published in the 1920s.
The Roaring Twenties...think President Warren Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal. A nation starts to move away from farms and the simple life as greed takes center place. If you've ever driven through Southern California, you will still see some of the original oil grasshoppers that are described in this novel, while the larger derricks once dominated the previously tranquil land.
If you liked the movie, be prepared for so much more in this great novel. Here, the main character is the son and the lessons learned about the pursuit of power and the exploitation of the land will resonate after the read is completed. The 1920s must have been an amazing era with so many progressive inventions and silent screen idols and orchards of oranges shimmering in the California sun. Most folks run to Fitzgerald for a review of that notorious decade, but for me, this book does the trick all by its lonesome.
This was a book I picked up while working in a bookstore many years ago, and I still have dreams about it. Rather, I don't have dreams about picking uThis was a book I picked up while working in a bookstore many years ago, and I still have dreams about it. Rather, I don't have dreams about picking up the book but dreams about the story and the water in the story, always the water, which is dark purple or plum. A boy finds a ledge leading to an underwater world and adventure ensues.
The book earned its place on my bookshelf (yes, each book must earn a spot) because of its inventive story and for the lovely understated drawings by Muriel Nasser, which begin each chapter. Published in the 1980s, it was a book that was written for the young adult crowd, who didn't have Harry Potter yet. However, parents who bought it always told me their little ones loved it also, so I took their word for it. Teen, pre-teen, and child will all enjoy this tale.
And when I wake up and see the water on "Quake Days" (humid and still), I know it will be Plum.
Sometimes we find the end of the rainbow in secondhand bookshops. This little (literally) jewel found me when I was browsing books in Gloucester. I waSometimes we find the end of the rainbow in secondhand bookshops. This little (literally) jewel found me when I was browsing books in Gloucester. I was on my way to view the magnificent effigy of Robert II in the cathedral, so it seemed fitting to have some Robert Louis Stevenson in my hand when I did so.
When you have read, you carry away with you a memory of the man himself; it is as though you had touched a loyal hand, looked into brave eyes, and made a noble friend; there is another bond on you thenceforward, binding you to life and to the love of virtue.
If you're going to visit royalty, bring some with you.
Book Season = Summer (flower of the hedgerow)...more
Although this is the first volume in the Harry Potter series, it was not the first title I happened to read. That honor belonged to Harry Potter and tAlthough this is the first volume in the Harry Potter series, it was not the first title I happened to read. That honor belonged to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was lucky as it led me to start the series from the beginning. Perhaps it's because the book is not altogether too big, and the characters involved me, but I certainly enjoyed the read. The premise was fun, the introduction to Hogwarts was fun, the Sorting Hat was fun...easy to like whether adult or child. Good stuff.
There are pure horror stories and then there are ghostly supernatural tales, of which Le Fanu was a specialist. These are the tales which make me singThere are pure horror stories and then there are ghostly supernatural tales, of which Le Fanu was a specialist. These are the tales which make me sing and whistle as I walk deserted streets alone at night, for I was once told that spirits will stay away if one keeps a steady tune. These are the tales requiring a flashlight at night, because one is hiding beneath the covers in case a ghostly apparition makes an appearance.
The Child That Went With The Fairies and Dickon The Devil had me jumpy, and the rest of the stories thankfully adhere to Victorian decorum. For those who want ghosts but not a bunch of gore, this book is a good fit.
Here is a winter tale for the young adult set, evoking magic and gothic melodrama in a fairly easy read. The timeframe of the story takes place duringHere is a winter tale for the young adult set, evoking magic and gothic melodrama in a fairly easy read. The timeframe of the story takes place during the Dead Days, that sargasso sea of time between Christmas and New Year's Day, when 'spirits roam'. This would be a perfect read for pre-teens and younger adults who yearn for more magic-infused tales, post-Harry Potter.
I enjoyed the plot and the main characters, particularly Valerian. Any story lead named after a long-dead (and stuffed) Roman emperor will always have my attention.
Book Season = Winter (but with an October feel)...more
JAMES BOND the indestructible agent who thrives on trouble--both violent and voluptuous--pits his devastating wiles and deadly charm against the most bJAMES BOND the indestructible agent who thrives on trouble--both violent and voluptuous--pits his devastating wiles and deadly charm against the most bizarre fiends he's ever encountered in these high-voltage exploits taken direct from the files of IAN FLEMING master of murder, mystery, and incredible suspense.
Aahh, you have to love the way the original Bond novels were marketed in the early 1960s...a time of Cold War served with martinis, timeless clothing, and British spies who could swing with the best. Unlike Fleming's other Bond books, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is actually a collection of Bond short stories. All-in-all, these stories are great reads, fluid and snazzy.
She was the sort of woman who always belongs to somebody else.
Fleming wrote two of the stories in a different style than the usual 007 thrillers, with one story focusing on the responsibilities of M. However, the quintessential essence remains. Most importantly, I finally understand the whole reason for THE QUANTUM OF SOLACE (a better tale than a movie).
Bond didn't like Nassau. Everyone was too rich. They didn't even gossip well.
The premise for this book hooked me immediately. A Jewish Golem meets a Jinni from Arabia in the New York of 1899. Great starting point. Throw in a loThe premise for this book hooked me immediately. A Jewish Golem meets a Jinni from Arabia in the New York of 1899. Great starting point. Throw in a long selection of characters from Syria and Eastern Europe and one has the quintessential immigrant experience to the New World.
...a city of strivings and lusts and heartaches.
If the historical Big Apple could have been portrayed with a bit more detail, I would have been happier as a reader. The potential is there, as Wecker describes the gaping maw of the New, yet characters seemingly find each other easily in the densely packed city and I never felt that sense of displacement, which any immigrant feels upon entering a new land. Also, there was a stretch just past the mid-point when everything started to be sewed up too quickly. It needed a Dickensian touch instead.
But, I enjoyed the story itself (imaginative), I loved the descriptions of the Jinni's abode in the desert, but especially I enjoyed the character of Malik/Schaalman. A very good debut.
Book Season = Winter (Central Park with snow)...more
There is a latent creepiness about the northeast section of North America (Canada and the U.S.) that seems to bring out the Melvilles and Lovecrafts oThere is a latent creepiness about the northeast section of North America (Canada and the U.S.) that seems to bring out the Melvilles and Lovecrafts of the world. Weird. So I place this book within the gothic chapter of the Atlantic, where fog covers treacherous shoals and madness breeds within shuttered homes. There's a reason the sun decides to set in the West, folks.
Circa 1910-1911, the protagonist of this story makes a living by selling his own bird illustrations while living in a remote village of the Newfoundland territory (still governed by Britain). He lives with his parents, who don't really seem to be "one", and he sleeps with the local slag. He introduces us to the Witless Bay villagers, who meet the hardness of isolated life with their own peculiarities. Within the first paragraph of the story, we know the main character has killed someone, so the rest of the book is there to explain the why.
The writing was enjoyable and it was interesting to read about the nutbuckets on that side of the world. My issue is that I simply had no connection to Fabian Vas, the narrator. He doesn't have any get-up-and-go of his own, allowing others to make decisions for him. Even Hamlet had a plan, but not this guy. Drove me crazy. Instead, I looked forward to the descriptions of the birds and the villagers. Perhaps, the vastness of the cold North makes it difficult to exceed one's limitations.
Again, nice writing and it did make me want to see Newfoundland. But, but, but...fortress of solitude.
This Borrow novel begins suddenly and ends suddenly. Since I've never read Lavengro, the first autobiographical account of the author's experience witThis Borrow novel begins suddenly and ends suddenly. Since I've never read Lavengro, the first autobiographical account of the author's experience with the English Romani, I found myself trying to play catch-up (they really should be read one after the other). However, the journey is interesting, as he introduces characters with an empathy for the nomadic gypsy.
George Borrow led quite a life, one of travel and language. Along with publishing a dictionary of Anglo-Romany, he also did a Manchu translation of the bible. A true character, very eccentric.
I enjoyed this book for its historical skippy-hoppy into 19th-century America. Longfellow, Lowell, and Oliver Wendall Holmes all play characters in thI enjoyed this book for its historical skippy-hoppy into 19th-century America. Longfellow, Lowell, and Oliver Wendall Holmes all play characters in this murderous thriller, and I actually started believing some of their cud chewing. Mix that with Dante's Inferno and you have a rather original novel.
Matthew Pearl's writing had me eagerly tagging along until the 2/3 mark, and then I started to flag a bit, just as I flagged when first reading Dante. There are only so many Circles of Hell I can endure in one reading. Still, it's inventive and meant for October afternoons when the sun sets earlier and the dark comes on quicker.
Thankfully, I wasn't of the Sean Connery James Bond generation. Not anything against the original movie spy, but it meant I was able to actually readThankfully, I wasn't of the Sean Connery James Bond generation. Not anything against the original movie spy, but it meant I was able to actually read this book before I ever saw the old films. In other words, this was a treat! Since I wasn't conversant with the Ian Fleming style, this book quickly became a page-turner, and what a joy it was. 007 on a Caribbean island of death, when Caribbean islands of death weren't over-developed. Most cool.
Tottensea Burrows. This is the name of the village where some very enterprising mice live. These are mice of the merchant persuasion, running bookstorTottensea Burrows. This is the name of the village where some very enterprising mice live. These are mice of the merchant persuasion, running bookstores, tea shops, and boardinghouses. Their story is told by a bird who has been adopted by the little rodent community and it makes for a charming read.
The introductions of each mouse family goes on a bit, but it all comes together in the final third act, as pirates and hidden treasures come into play. The story zooms along from there, as the danger of living close to humans elevates the sense of urgency for the characters and the reader. I particularly liked the final lesson learned about nature and how we all look at possessions.
Book Season = Year Round (perfect for afternoon tea)...more