Wednesday, February 27, 2013

~ Wondrous Words Wednesday ~

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share words we’ve encountered in our reading. Join in the fun and be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion.  

Here are some of the words I came across while reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: 

This flag was removed & presented to a chieftain, who wore it proudly until the scrofula took him. 

Scrofula:   {origin: Middle English (1350-1400)}
~ primary tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands, especially those of the neck
( no longer in technical use ) Also formerly called: the king's evil  tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands

Autua subsisted in his Polynesian Eden on wild celery, watercress, eggs, berries, an occasional young boar (he risked fires only under cover of darkness or mist) & the knowledge that Kupaka, at least, had met a condign punishment. 

Condign:  {adj. (origin late Middle English (1375-1425)}
~ Well-deserved; fitting; adequate
Oh, we ate with Ayrs's daughter, too , the young equestrienne I'd glimpsed earlier. Mlle. Ayers is a horsey creature of seventeen with her mama's retroussé nose.

Retroussé: (adj.) (French)
~ (especially of the nose) turned up

This Oriental rug, battered divan, Breton cupboards crammed with music stands,   Bösendorfer grand, carillon, all witnessed the conception and birth of Matryoshka Doll Variations and his song cycle, Society Islands. 

Carillon: (noun) (French)
1. a set of stationary bells hung in a tower and sounded by manual or pedal action, or by machinery.
2. a set of horizontal metal plates, struck by hammers, used in the modern orchestra.

After I’d finished, V.A. kept swinging his head to the rhythm of the disappeared sonata; or maybe he was conducting the blurry, swaying poplars. “Execrable, Frobisher, get out of my house this instant!” would have aggrieved but not much surprised me. 

Execrable: (adj.)
1. utterly detestable; abominable; abhorrent.
2. very bad: an execrable stage performance.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. To participate share the opening paragraph(s) of a book you've decided to read based on the paragraph(s). 
I've had this book on my shelf waiting for me to read it.  I'm really looking forward to it!

Chapter 1
Family Home Evening

to Put it as simply as possible: this is the story of a polygamist
who has an affair. But there is much more to it than that, of course; the life of any polygamist, even when not complicated by lies and secrets and infidelity, is anything but simple. Take, for example, the Friday night in early spring when Golden Richards returned to Big House—one of three houses he called home—after a week away on the job. It should have been the sweetest, most wholesome of domestic scenes: a father arrives home to the loving attentions of his wives and children. But what was about to happen inside that house, Golden realized as he pulled up into the long gravel drive, would not be wholesome or sweet, or anything close to it.
The place was lit up like a carnival tent—yellow light burned in every one of the house’s two dozen windows—and the sound coming from inside was as loud as he’d ever heard it: a whooping clamor that occasionally broke up into individual shouts and wails and thumps before gathering into a rising howl that rattled the front door on its hinges and made the windows buzz. Golden hadn’t heard it like this in years, but he knew exactly what it was. It was the sound of recrimination and chaos. It was the sound of trouble.
“Oh crud,” Golden said
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Friday, February 22, 2013

A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock

A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date: February 5, 2013 (Reissue)
ISBN:  978-0062229359
Pages: 480
Rating  5 out of 5 

Book Summary: The final installment of the saga of the Grevilles of Abingdon Pryory begins in the early 1930s, as the dizzy gaiety of the Jazz Age comes to a shattering end. What follows is a decade of change and uncertainty, as the younger generation, born during or just after the “war to end all wars,” comes of age.
American writer Martin Rilke has made his journalistic mark, earning worldwide fame with his radio broadcasts, and young Albert Thaxton seeks to follow in his footsteps as a foreign correspondent. Derek Ramsey, born only weeks after his father fell in France, and Colin Ross, a dashing Yankee, leave their schoolboy days behind and enter fighter pilot training as young men. The beautiful Wood-Lacy twins, Jennifer and Victoria, and their passionate younger sister, Kate, strive to forge independent paths, while learning to love—and to let go.
In their heady youth and bittersweet growth to adulthood, they are the future—but the shadows that touched the lives of the generation before are destined to reach out to their own.

My Thoughts:  The final book of the Greville Family trilogy opens with Lord Greville, Earl of Stanmore, rising and dressing early, as was his habit, on one of the first warm mornings in the spring of 1930.  This opening is harkens back to chapter one in The Passing Bells, the first of the trilogy.  In those opening pages, Lord Greville, a much younger man, spent his mornings horse-back riding while his family slept.  Now, Lord Greville is sixty-eight and though the passing years have seen a plethora of changes and modernization, Lord Greville’s maintained his conservative, aristocratic ways.   On this beautiful morning, he learns of a shocking occurrence that deeply saddens him shaking him to his core.   He is thrust into the past, overwhelmed by memories of a former time that addle his mind.  Here, author Phillip Rock captures so well a feeling familiar to us all, but difficult to explain.  We’ve all experienced an incident, either trivial or much more important, that comes to us unbidden and suddenly.  At this time, we’re reminded of a glorious time in our past that we miss deeply but we know is lost to us forever.  Not only does Rock use these passages to evoke our empathy, Rock impressively guarantees here that A Future Arrived can stand on its own, apart from the first two books, for readers who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this trilogy from book one.
  I was happy to see that, right from the beginning, this book promised to maintain the high standards and relatable, if not completely familiar, feelings and situations of the previous two.   As a result, the way Rock relays this sad occurrence, Lord Greville’s reaction and the events that follow, is an effective means of underscoring the arrival of the future.  You can feel what Lord Greville is feeling: the sense that now the future belongs to the generation of his children and their families. He can no longer ignore that an era has passed and life has truly moved on.   Lord Greville his happy as his children and their families, along with his close friends, fill Abingdon Pryory to show their love and support but he can no longer deny he’s lost complete control over his own life.  Having read the first two books, this book’s beginning becomes something more than poignant, but even if you haven’t read them, you know this is a great indication of a good book ahead.
Reading A Future Arrived was bittersweet.   I was sad knowing I had come to the end of the trilogy, remembering how much fun it was to meet the saga’s characters in The Passing Bells. (my review)  Then came learning who they were and what they’re about over the course of the first two books, within which Rock does an amazing job developing the many characters.  They are fully formed in all areas: mentally, psychologically, morally, and even physically.  I came away from the first novel feeling like they were all real people.   It was a joy to immerse myself in the second installment, Circles of Time, (my review) and discover what the characters who I felt I knew so well were doing.  It was as if I was visiting old friends after a long separation and, over good food and drink, (although not like Lady Hanna’s feast, unfortunately!) they relayed their ‘adventures’ since last we’d met.
Martin Rilke, the American journalist and Lady Hanna’s nephew, continues to be the connection between most of the other characters. He’s intelligent, kind, a good listener, free of judgment and amicable.  But it’s Martin’s integrity that’s made him a household name as a writer and is bringing him fame as a radio correspondent.  He’s also the one friends and family seek out for advice in confusing and serious matters.  Martin’s young brother-in-law, Albert Thaxton, has his sights set on being a journalist like Martin.  He’s taken Albert under his wing to teach him to be a proper journalist.  As we learned about the Great War primarily through Martin and the people he met on his travels in book one, Hitler’s influence in Germany and the advent of World War II is brought to us through Martin and Albert. Martin and Albert’s relationship is a poignant reminder of the woman who brought them together, Ivy Thaxton. She’s the love of Martin’s life and, although there marriage was quite brief, Martin hasn’t found a woman he could love as he loved Ivy.
Phillip Rock began his trilogy with the Great War and ends it with the beginning of WWII.  In between, he successfully shows us how war impacts the lives of the people it touches.  We become aware of how much people’s behavior is altered and societal norms become less important.  We see in Rock’s characters how significant honesty becomes in relationships and people become aware of the need to show and tell others you love them and to cherish your time with them.  Inappropriate behavior is explained away by the stress associated with war and individual’s perspective on what really matters in life undergoes significant change.  The chasm between generations seems to widen as young people becomes more open-minded while their elders cling to what they always known and believed.  In Rock’s mesmerizing saga we see how all of these things come to pass particularly with the youngest generation in A Future Arrived including Lord Greville and Lady Hanna’s grandchildren.
I’m sad to finish these books.  I highly recommend them to anyone who has enjoyed Downton Abbey, British fiction and stories about the world wars.   Rock’s writing is beautiful and he transitions smoothly from character to character, year to year and even book to book.  I didn’t speak about specific characters for the most part because there are so many and they seem to come in pairs or more so I thought I’d leave it to you to discover the wonder and breadth of Rock’s characters.  Their lives are filled with love, loyalty redemption, loss, forgiveness, friendship, laughter and tears.  You don’t want to miss this trilogy. Trust me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane on her blog, Bibliophile by the Sea  every Tuesday. To participate, share the opening paragraph(s) of a book you've decided to read based on the paragraph(s).  This author's debut novel, Learning to Swim, won several awards. This is her second novel, a sequel to the first and both books are literary thrillers.

A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry

Chapter 1
We could feel the reverberation of the ice-cutting machine through the frozen lake beneath our feet. Matt Boudoin was telling me this would be the best ice palace ever, and I was nodding, because of course every year the palace seems better than the one the year before. At the same moment, he stopped talking and I stopped nodding, because the machine had halted and the crew of men was staring down at the ice. Then, in unison, like marionettes with their strings being pulled, they turned their heads to look at Matt. Their faces were blank, but we knew something was wrong, very wrong.We started moving forward. Because this is an Adirondack mountain town and Matt has an ingrained sense of chivalry, he held his arm out in that protective gesture you make toward a passenger in your car when you have to slam on the brakes. But it didn’t stop me.Later, I would wish it had.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

~ Mailbox Monday ~

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme originally created and hosted by Marcia of A girl and her books and hosted this February 2013 by Audra at her fantastic blog, Unabridged Chick.  I received these books over the past week:

 A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry  (ARC from Crown Publishers for review)
Freelance writer Troy Chance is snapping photos of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace when the ice-cutting machine falls silent. Encased in the ice is the shadowy outline of a body--a man she knows. One of her roommates falls under suspicion, and the media descends. Troy's assigned to write an in-depth feature on the dead man, who, it turns out, was the privileged son of a wealthy Connecticut family who had been playing at a blue collar life in this Adirondack village. And the deeper Troy digs into his life and mysterious death, the murkier things become. After the victim's sister comes to town and a string of disturbing incidents unfold, it's clear someone doesn't want the investigation to continue. Troy doesn't know who to trust, and what she ultimately finds out threatens to shatter the serenity of these mountain towns. She must decide which family secrets should be exposed, what truths should remain hidden, and how far her own loyalty can reach.
A Cold and Lonely Place, the sequel to Learning to Swim, follows Troy on a powerful emotional journey as she discovers the damage left by long-hidden secrets, and catches a glimpse of what might have been.
  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear  (from TLC Book Tours for review)
Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant in a Belgravia mansion, only to be discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Rowan Compton. Fearing dismissal, Maisie is shocked when she discovers that her thirst for education is to be supported by Lady Rowan and a family friend, Dr. Maurice Blanche. But The Great War intervenes in Maisie’s plans, and soon after commencement of her studies at Girton College, Cambridge, Maisie enlists for nursing service overseas. Years later, in 1929, having apprenticed to the renowned Maurice Blanche, a man revered for his work with Scotland Yard, Maisie sets up her own business. Her first assignment, a seemingly tedious inquiry involving a case of suspected infidelity, takes her not only on the trail of a killer, but back to the war she had tried so hard to forget.

 A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (from TLC Book Tours for review)

In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs’ career goes in an exciting new direction when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities “not in the interests of His Majesty’s Government.”
When the college’s controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote’s death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance. To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain’s conduct during the war, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

~ The Sunday Salon ~

I haven’t posted a TSS post in a couple of weeks.   By the time Sunday rolls around, I feel lazy and restless.  I tend to find myself spending the day, if I’m home, reading the entire NY Times in bed and several cups of coffee or, like last week, getting lost in the fun of Pinterest.   It’s not as if I’m at a high-pressure, long hours job all week, as I know some of you are or have several young children demanding every minute of my time (unless you count the cats who  often seem a lot like small children!).  I think sometimes I just get a little tired or bored doing the same thing day in and day out.  Even with reading and it doesn’t matter what I’m reading.  I just realized this happens to me only in winter.  So maybe it partly has to do with knowing my chances of getting out of the house during these weeks of winter are pretty slim.  In the warm, sunny weather when I can get outside everyday if I want to, I don’t get this lazy, restless feeling.  I admit, to, during the winter months when I’m inside most of the time, I don’t always know what to write about in TSS posts.  Cute anecdotes about the cats and the weird videos I found on YouTube only go so far!  I wonder if this would happen to me if I lived in CA or GA.  Someday I’d like to move out of the city, maybe to somewhere a little more temperate.
I have some good cat stories for you.  I’m just holding off until I have some good pictures to go with them.  I have to work on getting photos online again since I couldn’t transfer what was on the old computer.  I need to update the cat pictures on my blog, too (among many other things!).  I have two new cats to tell you about, Oscar and Cecelia (Cee Cee).  Oscar’s a one-year-old (approx.) and Cee Cee is 6 or 7 months and getting fatter every day! We also feed and sometimes give temporary shelter to 2 or 3 other cats when it’s really cold out.  I’m hoping within a month to have the pictures ready…maybe sooner!
 On the book front, I started reading Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear a few days ago.  It’s very different than I expected but I like it.  I’m also reading Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon for a book club hosted by Andrea whose blog is Great Thoughts.  I’m really enjoying Wife 22; it’s smart, funny, poignant and unexpected. I’m still reading The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.  I’m taking more time with this book because it doesn’t have a concrete deadline while the others do!

I hope you’re all enjoying your Sunday and reading a good book!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date:  April 23, 2012
ISBN:  978-0345525550
Pages:  352 
Rating: 5 out of 5 

Book Summary: The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. 

My Thoughts:  I wasn’t very interested in reading this book at first.  When I was a practicing attorney, at one point I worked in the area of neglected and abused children. I learned enough about the foster care system to understand that someone who lacks actual hands-on experience with children, who have been in foster care, can truly know what that’s like.  But the minute I read that the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is a foster mother, I wanted to read The Language of Flowers.  I thought this was such a beautiful and powerful book, filled with pain and heartache but, even more, with hope and love that I’ve read it twice…so far.  I know I’ll be reading it again, too.

Victoria, at 18, has “aged out” of foster care after more than a decade in the system.  She’s basically on her own and responsible for her food, shelter and work.  That doesn’t sound easy for any young person, let alone Victoria who didn’t have a good childhood.  She is sullen, prickly, cold and withdrawn.  She rarely, if ever, makes eye contact when speaking to someone, which she does as seldom as possible.  It would be easy to call Victoria unlikable, perhaps even bratty.   Diffenbaugh makes sure we know what growing up was like for Victoria, as it is for many kids in foster care, by sharing those years with us in chapters about Victoria's past which switch back and forth with ones about her present life.  We’re given a look at some of the daily struggles and hardships Victoria experienced.  Diffenbaugh does a remarkable job of presenting anecdotes that show us how Victoria learned over and over again  she wasn’t lovable.  She may not have been physically abused, but Diffenbaugh successively shows us that being chastised and ignored everyday chips away at a child’s essence until they’re utterly miserable.  This type of emotional abuse often results in a complete distrust and fear of the world.  Victoria had nobody in her corner fighting for her, and she took that personally.  Certainly anyone would and children especially are wont to.  So Victoria reached the only conclusion she could: she believed she was the problem. She was unlovable.

Diffenbaugh trusts us not to give up on Victoria because we know underneath her hard exterior is a young woman who still hopes to be loved and connected to others.  Victoria began nurturing and loving plants and flowers at a young age.  She was taught by the only wonderful foster mother she had, Elizabeth, all about plants, flowers and their significant meanings in our language.  Victoria continued to learn all she could about flowers and their language even when that foster situation ended in disaster. Diffenbaugh contrasts the beauty and life-affirming nature of flowers with Victoria’s own nature.  This is just one aspect of the author’s ability to present seemingly disparate concepts and connect them. I thought this was a brilliant way to show us that Victoria may be damaged but still worth befriending.  Diffenbaugh does this a few times throughout the book, surprising us at times but certainly never boring us.  It’s a fresh and interesting way to tell a story and kept me interested and reading, particularly because, all the while I felt I was getting to know and understand Victoria more. 

 I hoped, early in the book, that Diffenbaugh would find someone for Victoria who’d want to understand her and know her. A person who would nurture her slowly, forgiving her faults, acknowledging her intelligence and resourcefulness and eventually, love her for who she is.  This kind of relationship doesn’t happen overnight normally and, with Victoria, it seems it’ll be an even slower and more rigorous process.  Diffenbaugh shows us what a risky venture it is, filled with many bad and painful days.  A person who may be the right one for Victoria shows up in her life but there’s much more to the story than a simple meeting.  Once again, Diffenbaugh amazed me with her story-telling abilities.  She doesn’t rest on her laurels by putting everything on the shoulders of the savvy but dysfunctional Victoria.   Knowing we all have pasts, many with complicated stories, Diffenbaugh uses this to her advantage. She manages to connect Victoria’s past to her present and the result is a mesmerizing story about a brave young woman.

The Language of Flowers has received terrific reviews which are completely deserved in my mind.  Diffenbaugh’s debut is a layered story with shocking, grim moments as well as ones of extreme heartbreak and pain.  But there’s also sincerity, love and laughter in this book.   Diffenbaugh shows a profound understanding of human emotion and behavior and of the difficulties life sometimes presents.  She reminds us that, although life can be complicated and bewildering, our lives can also have many days that fill us with warmth and happiness.  It’s ultimately up to us to choose to make ourselves vulnerable to the connections and relationships that will help us to blossom.  Diffenbaugh understands this so well that she didn’t stop at being a foster mother.  She started the Camellia Network to assist foster children who have reached 18 thrive in the adult world.  Visit the website to read the young people’s amazing stories as well as an interview with the author.
 If you haven’t read The Language of Flowers yet, you don’t wait much longer.  I cannot recommend this book enough.  This is one of my all-time favorite books.
For further information see:
The Language of Flowers website;
Vanessa Diffenbaugh's Facebook page
I received a copy of this book many months ago in 2012.  Between my health problems and computer problems this is my first chance to post a review.  I apologize to Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Randonm House, especially Liza Eliano, for the very long delay in posting my review.  Thank you so much for a copy of The Language of Flowers.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. Join in by sharing the opening paragraphs of a book you'll be reading.  This book is mixture of literary fiction and crime fiction which I couldn't pass up.  I'm hoping I like this book because the wuthor has written many others!

By Kate Atkinson

1975: April 9
Leeds: "Motorway City of the Seventies." A proud slogan. No irony intended. Gaslight still flickering on some streets. Life in a northern town.

The Bay City Rollers at number one. IRA bombs all over the country. Margaret Thatcher is the new leader of the Conservative Party. At the beginning of the month, in Albuquerque, Bill Gates founds what will become Microsoft. At the end of the month Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese army. The Black and White Minstrel Show is still on television, John Poulson is still in jail. Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye. In the middle of it all, Tracy Waterhouse was only concerned with the hole in one of the toes of her tights.

It was growing bigger with every step she took. They were new on this morning as well.

They had been told that it was on the fifteenth floor of the flats in Lovell Park and - of course - the lifts were broken. The two PCs huffed and puffed their way up the stairs. By the time they neared the top they were resting at every turn of the stair. WPC Tracy Waterhouse, a big, graceless girl only just off probation, and PC Ken Arkwright, a stout white Yorkshireman with a heart of lard. Climbing Everest.

They would both see the beginning of the Ripper's killing spree but Arkwright would be retired long before the end of it. Donald Neilson, the Black Panther from Bradford, hadn't been captured yet and Harold Shipman had probably already started killing patients unlucky enough to be under his care in Pontefract General Infirmary. West Yorkshire in 1975, awash with serial killers.

Tracy Waterhouse was still wet behind the ears, although she wouldn't admit to it. Ken Arkwright had seen more than most but remained avuncular and sanguine, a good copper for a green girl to be beneath the wing of. There were bad apples in the barrel - the dark cloud of David Oluwale's death still cast a long shadow on police in the West Riding, but Arkwright wasn't under it. He could be violent when necessary, sometimes when not, but he didn't discriminate on the grounds of color when it came to reward and punishment. And women were often slappers and scrubbers but he'd helped out a few street girls with cigarettes and cash, and he loved his wife and daughters.
Did you find this section interesting? Would you keep reading?

Monday, February 11, 2013

~ My Book Giveaway! ~

Brooklyn Blizzard Book Giveaway!

I always mean to giveaway most of the books I read. There are some I feel unable to part with, at least for a time after I’ve read them.  But, because I believe part of enjoying books is sharing them with other readers, I’m beginning what I hope will become a regular monthly-ish giveaway!  The snowstorm this past weekend gave me plenty of time to look over my shelves and teetering stacks of books – which the cats have recently taken to sitting on top of, occasionally with disastrous results! – and I chose these three books:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (hardcover copy) (my review)

In the Woods by Tana French (paperback) (my review)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (extra ARC, never read, plain cover) (my review)

To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment. You don’t have to be a follower of my blog, but if you aren’t and would like to be, that would be swell!

If you’d like to join my Networked Blog List, that would be great too! (It’s pretty empty). You’ll find it on the right sidebar at the bottom of my blog after the pictures of my adorable cats!

Giveaway Ends Tuesday, March 12th at 6pm. There will be one winner for each book and I will email the winners who must reply within 3 days or Big Sexy Bob (see sidebar) will choose a new winner!

Good Luck!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye

Publisher: Unbridled Books
Date: November 5, 2010
ISBN: 9781609530082
Pages: 256
Rating: 5 out of 5 

Book summary:  Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other.

Meanwhile, Noah's own struggle to make a life with an absent father has found its real reward in his relationship with his sagacious wife, Natalie, whose complications with infertility issues have marked her husband's life in ways he only fully realizes as the reconciliation with his father takes shape.

Peter Geye has delivered an archetypal story of a father and son, of the tug and pull of family bonds, of Norwegian immigrant culture, of dramatic shipwrecks and the business and adventure of Great Lakes shipping in a setting that simply casts a spell over the characters as well as the reader.

My Thoughts:   I became aware of Safe from the Sea when Ti gave it a glowing review on her blog, Book Chatter.   I knew then I wanted to read this book.  It took me a while to get to it because I didn’t want to have any reviews hanging over my head or other things I had to do.  I like to be able to sit down with quiet books like Safe from the Sea with a clear head and simply enjoy and savor the reading experience.   And that’s exactly what I did!  This is a quiet, beautifully written book about dying, death and life and how to cope with them.   

Peter and his father Olaf have been estranged for many years.  So, when Olaf calls asking for Peter’s help, he agrees to visit his father immediately, if reluctantly.  It doesn’t help that Peter’s wife Natalie isn’t happy about his leaving.  There’s been a lot of tension and stress in their relationship recently.  Peter may be relieved to have a reason to get away for a few days.  Peter arrives at his father’s small cabin in the Northern Minnesota shipping village of Misquah to find things very different than he expected.  The cabin and land are in a surprising state of disrepair.  When Peter first sees his father he almost doesn’t recognize the small, fragile looking, stoop-shouldered man.   His intentions to be cool and somewhat uncaring towards Olaf completely dissolve.

Things between the two men are awkward at first but it seems they both want a better relationship.   As the days go by, father and son begin to talk about the past, attempting to smooth over and clear up misunderstandings.  Geye shows a keen eye for the intricacies of human behavior as well as an understanding of family interactions that lead to miscalculations and judgments that compromise relationships.  Peter and Olaf don’t really know each other.  Resentments based on half-truths set in many years ago and precluded a stable father and son relationship.   These flawed but good men finally sit down to talk about the pink elephant in the room:  the tragic shipwreck 35 years ago on Lake Superior that brought the Torr family to its knees.  This is an amazing section of the book.  I felt as if I’d witness the shipwreck after reading Geye’s detailed description. 

The setting in the raw and cold Northern Minnesota wilds plays a major part in the story.   The powerful waters of Lake Superior are both beautiful and frightening.  Geye describes the area so skillfully you can hear the wind howling off the water, hear the snow crunching under foot and feel droplets of lake water on your skin.  He’s also careful to keep the setting in the background where it complements the father-son relationship but doesn’t over power it.  And it’s in this stark, quiet landscape that brings back so many memories for Noah, father and son find forgiveness and reconciliation and learn to trust and respect each other. 

This heartfelt story is a reminder of the importance of family and relationships and keeping open the lines of communication.   Spending a week with his father, talking with him, heals Noah’s wounds from the past, giving him a new perspective on love and family.  Olaf and Noah There’s a lot of sadness in this book but there are also plenty of funny moments as well as happy ones.  This is a wonderful, absorbing debut.  If you haven’t read it yet, try to very soon.  I think you’ll be happy you did!

Monday, February 4, 2013

~ Mailbox Monday ~

Welcome to Mailbox Monday! Originally created by Marcia, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Audra at Unabridged Chick this February.    This list includes books from several weeks since this is my first mailbox post in a long while!

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (review copy from Random House)

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon (win from Great Thoughts, Thank you Andrea!)

Circles of Time by Phillip Rock  (review for TLC Book Tours)

The Future Arrived by Phillip Rock  (review for TLC Book Tours)

Dickens at Christmas by Charles Dickens (won from Delia at Postcards of Asia  Thank you, Delia!)

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (library book sale)

Aloft by Chang-rae Lee (library book sale)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Circles of Time by Phillip Rock

Circles of Time by Phillip Rock

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Date published: January 2, 2013 (reprint edition)
Pages: 448
ISBN:  978-0062229335
Rating:  4.0 out of 5 

Book Summary:  A generation has been lost on the Western Front. The dead have been buried, a harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins. But ghosts linger—that long-ago golden summer of 1914 tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.

From the countess to the chauffeur, the inhabitants of Abingdon Pryory seek to forget the past and adjust their lives to a new era in which old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been irretrievably swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into reporting, discovering unsettling political currents, as Fenton Wood-Lacy faces exile in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville shows signs of recovery from shell shock and Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance. Circles of Time captures the age as these strongly drawn characters experience it, unfolding against England's most gracious manor house, the steamy nightclubs of London's Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—for the moment.

My Thoughts:  Circles of Time is the second book of the Greville Family trilogy by Phillip Rock.   A few weeks ago I reviewed The Passing Bells (see review), the first book in the series. This second book covers the years 1921 through Christmas, 1923.  England and other countries are coping with the detritus of the Great War and people are working to rebuild their lives.  The Greville Family, like everyone else, was impacted by the war, experiencing their share of tragedy and loss.  Now the family and their friends are trying to move forward. Phillip Rock maintains the integrity of the enjoyable people he introduced in The Passing Bells, while taking the next step in the characters’ respective evolutions.  Rock also takes a minor, rather insignificant character from the early pages of The Passing Bells and gives him a more important role.  I was surprised and delighted by this development, marveling at Rock’s ability to seamlessly weave this character into the story.  A few new characters are also introduced.  Werner Rilke is particularly unlikable, becoming significant for his subversive motives.
Martin Rilke is an American journalist who came to England in 1914 to tour Europe and never left.  He is the nephew of Lady Hannah Greville and, as in the first book, he remains the character that connects everyone.  He also continues to be my favorite.  In this book he’s marked by pain and grief as a result of the war.  He’s been hired to run the International News Agency, or INA, in London, and spends as much of his down time as possible at Abingdon Pryory, the home of Lord Greville and Lady Hannah.  Once again, I was impressed by the way in which Phillip Rock moves the story along.
 Martin has become extremely close to his Greville cousins Charles, Alexandra and William.  In this book we learn more about them: how the war affected them and what they’re doing now as a result. Rock makes it clear how the impact of the war changed their perspective and the things Lord Greville’s children consider important. 
Life at Abingdon Pryory is a throwback to an earlier, more traditional time.  It’s all about long walks, picnics and horseback riding.  It’s dressing up for dinner, where only light banter is permitted in place of heavy topics such as politics.   Here the women leave the men to brandy and cigars when the meal is finished.  This idyllic place stands in sharp contrast to life in London and other cities.  Martin feels despair and concern reading the reports his journalists send from their posts in neighboring countries.  What he experiences in London as well as Berlin and Munich is worse.  There’s chaos and unrest in Germany, which is in financial crisis the effects of which ripple across Europe.  And as political parties form and disband in Germany, it soon becomes clear The National Socialist German Workers’ Party formed by D. Eckhart and A. Hitler is the one to be concerned about.
Circles of Time is almost 100 pages shorter than The Passing Bells, which is unfortunate.  The last quarter felt rushed.  It seemed as if Rock tired of writing certain story-lines, so he jumped ahead many months in the life of one particular character.  The rest of this character’s life we learn secondhand from another.  Even more disappointing to me was the way in which Rock resolved another topic: dashing it off via a brief comment by another character.  I was surprised since The Passing Bells was such a wonderful book.  Still, I enjoyed Circles of Time, just not quite as much as Rock’s first book. 
I’m looking forward to the final book in the Greville Family trilogy, The Future Arrived.  Circles of Time ends with the reader learning that The National Socialist German Workers’ Party are called Nazis for short, and they’re creating quite a stir in Munich and Berlin.   It’s the end of 1923 and even we, the readers, can feel the tension in the air.  Rock does a splendid job tantalizing us with such an interesting ending that most readers won’t be able to resist reading the final book in this trilogy.  I highly recommend Circles of Time. It’s a good book independent of The Passing Bells, but to get the full flavor of Phillip Rock’s wonderful saga, I recommend also reading The Passing Bells.