Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book o' the Month: Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Oh, poor Tess!

I knew beforehand that this classic novel was a tragedy, and reading it was akin to watching a train wreck, but...I still held out hope until the second to last page!

Thomas Hardy wrote this novel in 1892 but, unfortunately, the themes are easily contemporary--particularly, the shame of the violated woman.  Just see this article from Scary Mommy/Club Mid, which I just read this morning.

There is a ton of literary criticism out there about this book.  Whatever Hardy's true feelings and intentions in and apart from the time in which he wrote, I came away from this piece of fiction with a hollow in the pit of my stomach.  I felt the loss of Tess, on many levels.  

The writing is wonderful, the story is intriguing and heart-wrenching.  No wonder it's a classic.

Now I've got two film versions of the book on DVD from the library...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book o' the Month: The Sea

The Sea, the sea.

For the past few summers, I have read a book with the word "sea" in the title while vacationing by the sea.  Seemed like a fun idea. has turned out that the three books I have read, have basically been the same story:  middle aged man returns to a place by the sea and contemplates his past.  Two of the books were written by prominent women writers and two won the Booker Prize.  Each has it's merits, wonderful writing, themes and allusions worthy of academic literary review (IMHO).  See my previous posts here and here.

I enjoyed the narrative style of John Banville's novel, my most recent read.  He is a brilliant writer.  And it was a good book to read with the sound of gently crashing waves in the background.

So, nothing personal, Mr. Banville.  But, next summer, I want a change of subject matter!

Dear readers, any suggestions??

Now...take a gander at what Adrienne has to suggest this month on Turn the Page ... Tuesday over at Some of a Kind!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book o' the Month: Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez is the kind of book you might find on the syllabus for a literature class and end up binge-reading because you just can't put it down.

Florentino Ariza has been in love with Fermina Daza for fifty-one years, nine months, and fours days, when he finally has the opportunity he has waited so long for--to tell her he still loves her.  This novel chronicles the course of both their lives up to that point and beyond.  It is a meditation on heartbreak, marriage, and ageing, among many other themes.  I found myself marking at least six pages where there was a line or passage that seemed to be written about my own life.

Don't expect yourself to love or even particularly like all the characters.  They all have their flaws, but that is where we might find ourselves in the pages of this book.

I very much enjoyed the way the narrative meanders throughout the novel (if not the way Ariza meanders).  It is the second book I have read recently, translated from Spanish, my second language.  There is such an interesting sensibility in the style of storytelling.  I am not sure whether or not it is a feature of the original language or of Latin American authors in general.  I will have to do some more research to find out.  Or go back to college!

Head on over to Turn the Page ... Tuesday at Some of a Kind to add more great books to your summer reading list.

Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm Gonna Miss You

This morning as I watched my son run ahead of me to his first grade classroom, "I'm gonna miss you," popped into my head and tears filled my eyes.  He was smiling and bounding down to hang up his backpack so he could run and get a ball for us to play with.  He likes to get to school early so he and I can kick a bouncy ball back and forth to each other on the field before the bell rings. I never know where that ball is going to go when he kicks it, and I'm not much more accurate.

I feel bad that I'm not very enthusiastic about this morning ritual, and I won't say I'm disappointed when the bell rings and he has to put the ball away and go to class.  But he is.  He would kick that ball back and forth with me all day if he could, and I'm not even kidding.  So I do enjoy it, if a little begrudgingly.

After he has reluctantly put the ball on the rack he gives me big hugs and kisses and I tell him I love him and will see him after school, and he trots off to his classroom door.  Then he turns and waves, and I wave and blow him kisses, and he blows me kisses right back and waves some more and smiles at me with such exuberance.  Then he runs back to me for one more hug even though the late bell just rang, and I burst with joy.

When he finally goes inside, I turn and head back to the car.  The P.E. teacher, who is setting up for her first group says, "That's OK, take it while you can get it," instead of passing judgement on me for not getting him into class right away.

And that's the thing.  He is just going to keep on growing up.  I try to think about all the wonderful things to come, but the fact is, I'm going to miss him the way he is now.

I approach the wing of fifth grade classrooms hoping for a glimpse of my daughter, who pulled away as I tried to kiss her goodbye this morning.  She will be finished with elementary school two weeks from today.  I already miss her.  She is a smart and beautiful girl, and I love her, but I do sometimes (OK, often) wish for the days when she was little and I got a lot less sleep, but also a lot less drama.

Someone told me or I read somewhere (I can't remember stuff anymore--I blame mommy brain), that these are the best days of my life, these days while my kids are young.  And as the years fly by, I think I agree.  Not that I am pessimistic about the future, but I feel my children separating from me, and it hurts.  And entering the middle school years is just plain scary.

So, my work now is to keep up the connection I have with my kids, even when they don't act very affectionate--or are behaving downright rude.  My job is to keep on loving them and to meet them where they are now, even if I miss them the way they were.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book o' the Month: Zorro

Oh, this one was fun!!  I have been a Zorro fan ever since this very un-PC George Hamilton film--yikes!  Then came Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones and wowza!  Now, thanks to Isabel Allende, we have an origin story for the Robin Hood of early California.

Zorro chronicles the formative years of Diego de la Vega, from Los Angeles to Barcelona to New Orleans and back, plus many points in between.  It was a thoroughly entertaining read.  But, I kept thinking, "I bet this or that line sounds really good in Spanish."  And now I have requested the Spanish version (the original language used by Allende) from the library--like I need another distraction!  (In addition to my plans for watching as many film/TV versions of Zorro as I can get my hands on...)  In either language, this is a good one to put on your list for summer.

And...I am right on time for Turn the Page ... Tuesday today!  I have read the first book in Adrienne's post, so--great minds, as they say!  Go check it out!

P.S.  This is my 400th post since starting this blog nearly six years ago!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Books o' the Month: Exit Unicorns and Commander Jose Castro in the Two Californias

Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner is the first in a series that takes place during the time period of The Troubles in Ireland.  It is a self-published book (as I understand it, correct me it I am wrong) and I applaud the author's tenacity.  She writes a compelling story and she did what she needed to do to get it out there.  

There is more to California history than the Missions and the Gold Rush.  Most importantly, California was populated by numerous indigenous tribes before the arrival of the Spaniards.  There was also a turbulent twenty-five years of Mexican rule after independence was won from Spain and the native born Californios struggled for self-rule.  This is where Commander Jose Castro comes in.   The publication, Commander Jose Castro in the Two Californias by Julianne Burton-Carvajal, offers a fascinating examination of his life and times as reflected in correspondence written by, to, or about him and, luckily, saved for posterity.  The translated letters make for very interesting reading--and even better when you are able to read them in Spanish!  I found the missives between Castro, his wife Modesta, and his son Estevan especially intriguing.

I am woefully late to the party this month (blame spring break and other general distractions) but please take a look at Adrienne's Turn the Page ... Tuesday for this month to find more great reading suggestions!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Books o' the Month: The Bronze Horseman Trilogy

Oh my goodness.  Adrienne, over at Some of a Kind (where you should totally go next because today is Turn the Page ... Tuesday and she recommends excellent books!), wrote about this series a little while ago and I thought, "Hey, that sounds like my cuppa tea."

Whoa, Nelly!  It was coffee I was needing after staying up too late at night reading these books!  The Bronze Horseman begins on the day the USSR went to war with Germany in World War II.  The next several hundred pages take you through the Siege of Leningrad.  It is a love story, but one that will make you feel like you've been riding a roller coaster.

And the roller coaster continues to pick up speed in Tatiana and Alexander and just doesn't stop twisting and turning, climbing and falling until the last page of The Summer Garden.  This is an epic, my friends.  I was taken hostage by these intense books.  Just, wow.