Sunday, May 30, 2010

What a gift!

My brother, sister-in-law and nieces (6 month old twins) have been visiting from Toronto since Wednesday and just left this morning. I had a great time snuggling with the girls and even survived a full day on my own with them while mommy and daddy went to a Cubs game. The smiles and coos I got from them was all I needed (though I do think having one or both of them around to snuggle after a rough day at work would be nice), but as they were leaving my sister-in-law presented me with a gift card for Barnes & Noble and:

Totally unnecessary, but very much appreciated. 
Now excuse me while I start reading.....

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Monday - What are you reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Sheila to keep the blogosphere up to speed on what everyone is reading.

Last week I finished the following books
              Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
              The Knife Sharpener's Bell by Rhea Tregebov (reviewed here)
               My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
I don't know how much of my own reading I'll have time for this week as my 5 1/2 month old nieces (with their parents) are arriving Wednesday for a visit, but I do plan to read them some of my favorite Winnie-the-Pooh stories (and get in some quality cuddling time).   But if I can sneak in some of my own reading, the books I'm currently working on are:
                  The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
                  Everything is Broken by Emma Larkin

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Knife Sharpeners's Bell - Review and Giveaway

  May's stop on the World Party Reading Challenge, hosted by Jill at fizzythoughts, is a Communist country, past or present.  The book I selected to read for this month's party is The Knife Sharpener's Bell by Rhea Tregebov, which is mostly set in Stalinist Russia.

  The novel starts out in Winnipeg, Canada (useless trivia:  my hometown!) during the Depression.  Annette Gershon, the primary character in the novel, is the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants who run a delicatessen and even though times are tough, they are managing.  Annette's father, Avram, is disillusioned with what capitalist society has done to the working people, and he decides to close his shop and move his family back to Russia, where he believes the working man is treated better and that Stalin's Five Year Plans are what is needed to improve living conditions.  They head to Odessa, Annette's mother's hometown, where other relatives still live and are able to ease the Gershons back into Russian life.  The move is hard on young Annette at first:
"When I lived there, I never thought Winnipeg, didn't think I lived anywhere.  But in Odessa, I found myself lost in someone else's country .... "
but as most children do she quickly adapts and becomes a good student.

Then World War II comes along, and everything is thrown into chaos.  Once Germany invades Russia, Odessa is in peril due to its location, and Annette's father arrranges for the family to flee to Moscow.  Annette's mother refuses to leave Odessa, and while her father makes a last attempt to convince her, the train carrying Annette and her brother Ben leaves.  The two are taken in by family friends in Moscow - Raisa, Pavel, and their young son Vladimir - and they are forced to endure the deprivations and tragedies of war and the increasing oppression of the Soviet state.

Annette's saga does not end once the war does.  She makes a choice that most readers would see as crazy (I did) and that causes her story to make some interesting and at times tragic turns.

I enjoyed this novel for its glimpse into a world I'm not entirely familiar with and for the author's beautifully descriptive writing (even when writing about horrible things).  I hope that others will enjoy this book, but since I haven't seen it widely available in the United States (or available for an outrageous price)  I would like to give away my copy to a random commenter to this post.  Any comments posted before May 31, 2010, are eligible -- please make sure that you include an e-mail address. 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express

 Welcome to today's stop on The Classics Circuit Golden Age of Detective Fiction Tour!

 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express are two of Agatha Christie's best known novels featuring her eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  Both are true murder mysteries, but the resolutions of the crimes in each story are very different than anything I have ever read before or since

 In Ackroyd, a gentleman (Roger Ackroyd) is murdered at his home in a small English town to which M. Poirot has (conveniently) retired.  Poirot is hired by Mr. Ackroyd's niece, Flora, to help find her fiance (and Ackroyd's stepson) Ralph Paton -- who mysteriously disappeared after Ackroyd's death and is as a result the prime suspect.  The detective is assisted by Dr. James Sheppard, the town's physician and Poirot's neighbor, who dined with Ackroyd the evening he was killed. 

 In the Orient Express, a man is murdered in his train compartment, and because the train is stuck in the middle of nowhere due to a snowstorm, his killer must be another passenger on the train. Monsieur Poirot - a last minute passenger on the same train - is again asked to assist in the investigation.  When the true identity of the victim is revealed, a motive becomes clear; determining who among the remaining passengers would have that motive for murder requires the use of Poirot's infamous "little gray cells".

 I read both of these books for the first time when I was a teenager and remember being surprised by the endings.  Reading them again for this Circuit post, I was able to pick up on the subtle and not-so-subtle clues Christie provided throughout the novels.  I also didn't realize how witty her novels can be and how nice it is to read a novel simply to escape into its story.  They are fun to read.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Library Loot May 19-25

Library Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Marg and Eva to let bloggers tell others what treasures they may have found at their local library.

I haven't done a loot posting in a few weeks because with all of the books I have at home I've been avoiding the library.  BUT last night I was there for my classics book group discussion, and as I arrived a bit early I made the mistake of looking at the new releases shelf and, well, I was off to the races.
My loot:

I know -- how fortunate to find all of these new releases on the shelf at the same time!  I'm not sure when I will read them - even though there is a three day weekend coming up I'm having company so my reading time will be limited - but I'll sure give it a try.  All of these books (well, except for the Joyce books, which are prep for my upcoming Ulysses read) are ones that I've wanted to read, and since I've heard good things about from other bloggers on several of them (The Enchanted April from Rebecca, The Invisible Bridge from Ann at Books on the Nightstand, and Everything is Broken from Lisa at thelittlereader) I know I have to get to these and soon!

Next week is the release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest on which I put a hold at the library a few months ago.  I don't know where I am in the queue or even when the library will have copies, but once I get my hands on that one everything else is falling by the wayside.....

What have you picked up from the library this week?

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday - What are you reading?

    It's Monday - What Are You Reading?  is a meme hosted by Sheila to let fellow bloggers and book-lovers know what we are reading.

    I spent a few days out in Vermont this last week on a business trip, and before I left I was able to head down to The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, which is an awesome independent bookstore.  I had time and luggage constraints, so I only bought two books (The Whole Five Feet by Christopher Beha and The Island by Victoria Hislop), but I will definitely make a point of heading back there the next time I'm in the area (and I define "in the area" loosely -- from where I was, getting to Northshire was a 75 mile drive each way!)

    I  finished three books last week:  Honolulu by Alan Brennert, The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham (both for my two book groups this week), and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes:  Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession by David Grann.  On the plate for this week are:
   Since I also decided that I'd start reading Ulysses on Bloomsday, I think I should also start doing some warm-up reading of Joyce.  Darn, I guess I have to hit the library.

   What are you reading this week?  Enjoy whatever it may be.


Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Monday - What Are You Reading?

  It's Monday - What Are You Reading?  is a meme hosted by Sheila to let fellow bloggers and book-lovers know what we are reading.

  I did not have a very productive reading week last week -- I decided that I needed to be more organized in how I choose what to read (related post here), so I abandoned (temporarily!) a couple of books and started to tackle the books I am reading for book groups or blog tours.  Unfortunately I cannot read 24/7 (though it would be really nice) so I must make choices.
  So these are the books I put aside for now:
                             The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen
                             Mountains Beyond Mountains:  The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder
  What I read of both of them was good, so I will definitely go back to them.

  The only book I completed last week was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie; an enjoyable re-read for an upcoming Classics Circuit post.

  Tuesday I am heading out to Vermont for a few days on a business trip, so if nothing else I will have a few hours of available reading time on the flights and in the airports.  The decision of what books to bring is harder than deciding what clothes to bring, but right now this looks like what will be coming along:
                            Honolulu by Alan Brennert - currently reading for my book discussion group
                            The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham - for my Classics Book Group
                            The Knife Sharpener's Bell by Rhea Tregebov - for May's World Party Challenge
I am also currently reading Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt along with Lisa at thelittlereader, but since the copy I have is hardcover I will see how heavy my bag is before I decide to include it on the trip!

What are you reading this week?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Finds

     This is what I picked up at bookstores this week (yes, I *may* have visited more than one, but I needed some cheering up and buying books is a lot better than buying a burger and fries, no?):

Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni  (I really enjoyed her book Lipstick Jihad)

Best European Fiction 2010, edited by Aleksandar Hemon

The Long Song by Andrea Levy

     I'm sensing an escape-type theme in what I have found this week.

     Friday Finds is hosted by the blog Should Be Reading.

     Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finding the time to get it all in

Oh my God, it's May 5!  I already have the sense that I'm running out of time to read the books I have planned to read this month.  This last weekend, I figured I had plenty of time so I started reading random books from the shelf, but now I'm thinking that I need to re-assess what I am reading and change the rotation accordingly.

Since I've joined a couple of  face-to-face book groups, started following different blogs and establishing my own blog, I've become more "involved" in the reading community; I have also been fortunate enough to receive a few review copies of books from publishers.  I feel that to make a meaningful contribution to this community I will need to set and follow some sort of schedule.   That's not to say I'm forcing myself to read -- far from it, I want to read too much! -- but I think I need to change the way I choose what I read. 

If you blog -- how do you choose what and when you read?  Do you keep to any kind of schedule?

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Monday - What Are You Reading

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? - a weekly meme hosted by Sheila to give bloggers another opportunity to tell others what they are reading.

Despite the fact that I am still under the weather with a nagging cough that won't go away and we had an unexpected home renovation project to start over the weekend, I did get a lot of reading done, which makes me happy.  There were a couple of days during my lunch break at work where I couldn't read and, well, I got a bit grumpy because of it, so the fact that I could catch up on some reading at home made me feel better.

What I read last week: 
         This Book is Overdue:  How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson  (thoughts about this book here)
          The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (read for an upcoming Classics Circuit post)
          Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (still thinking about this book two days after finishing it -- will definitely be posting something about it soon!)

What I'm reading this week:
         Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (for the same upcoming Classics Circuit post)
         The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen
         The Devil and Sherlock Holmes:  Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession by David Grann
         Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

As I am going out of town next week for a business trip part of this week will be spent deciding which books to bring along with me.  Believe me, it could take a while.

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This Book is Overdue!

  I enjoyed reading as a child and loved going to the library to select armloads of books.  For some reason, however, becoming a librarian was never on my career choice radar - it was too "nerdy" and not enough prestige was attached to it  (we could discuss the irony of my current career choice but that is well beyond the scope of this blog!). 
  Man, how wrong I was.  Marilyn Johnson's book This Book is Overdue:  How Librarians and Cybrarians Can SAVE US ALL (borrowed from my fabulous local library) celebrates librarians and the work they do - with books, sure, but also with information in all its forms.  From librarians in small-town consortiums trying to work through a computer system overhaul, to those fighting to protect patrons' right to privacy, to big-city librarians dealing with changes in their branch systems and the proliferation of librarians in the blogosphere and in virtual reality games online, Johnson covers a wide range of librarian life.  And none of it was boring. 
 If you love libraries then I highly recommend this book.  If you have any interest in becoming a librarian this is a definite must-read; it certainly has me thinking about a career change .....