Book Haul

A few weeks ago, I placed an order with Indigo/Chapters and they arrived this week.  They are:

Book Haul Picture

The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall – set in Russia, this novel’s main character, Valentina, is being pushed into a loveless marriage by her parents.  She meets a Danish engineer for whom she develops feelings.  While all of this is happening, Russia is in crisis with a revolution developing.

The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Laker – set in Amsterdam, Francesca begins an apprenticeship with artist Johannes Vermeer, however, in return, her father demands that she stops seeing Pieter van Doorne, a tulip merchant.  This book is set during a period of Dutch history with respect to “tulip mania” and I am really interested in learning more about this.  I am excited to read this book as I am taking a river cruise later this year and will be staying a few days in Amsterdam.

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens – on Book Tube this last Christmas season, I saw a lot of videos with people talking about their favorite Christmas story and I realized that I did not have one.  Like most people, I am very familiar with the story of A Christmas Carol, but have never read it so now that I have it, it will be on my TBR list for December.

Lone Star by Paullina Simons – I received this book from Book Depository.  I loved Paullina Simon’s Bronze Horseman which I read quite a number of years ago.  Chloe, an American young adult, travels through Europe with friends before attending college.  Along the way, Chloe meets Johnny.  She is attracted to him and her boyfriend takes an instant dislike towards him.  All the while, war is brewing in Eastern Europe.

What’s Left Behind by Gail Bowen – Gail Bowen’s books are an automatic buy for me.  This is her newest release which technically doesn’t have a release date until March 1st, however, I had preordered it.  This is book 16 in the Joanne Kilbourn mystery series set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  I love these books, not only because I live in Regina and enjoy all the references to familiar landmarks, but the political plots are always so interesting.  I will be diving into this book immediately!

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Book Review – A Mother’s Reckoning

Book:  A Mother’s Reckoning:  Living In the Aftermath of Tragedy

Author:  Sue Klebold

Sue Klebold

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students and a teacher at Columbine High School.  This story is about how Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has coped with her grief and guilt about that tragedy.

As I am sure anyone would, she has spent the last sixteen years wondering if there was anything she and her husband could have done or said that would have stopped Dylan from committing these atrocious acts.  In great detail, she described how they parented Dylan and his older brother; Dylan’s personality as a young boy and later as a teenager.  She talks about a situation where Dylan and Eric had gotten into some trouble a year prior to the shootings and they were put into a diversion program where I believe they had to perform community service and check in with the program manager.  Eric and Dylan performed so well in this program, that they actually got early release and a glowing report of their service.   Other than this one occasion, Dylan hadn’t been in any trouble, had good friends, was active in bowling and got relatively good grades.

Sue now believes after reading Dylan’s journal entries, along with the videos that Eric and Dylan made that Dylan was suffering from depression and that committing the acts he did, was an out for him to commit suicide.  For the past several years Sue has been working with organizations and agencies with respect to what she calls “brain health” trying to bring awareness to parents to be on the lookout of signs of depression in their children.  All proceeds of this book are going to charity towards the cause of mental health.

If the facts as presented are a fair summation of how Sue and her husband parented, I do not see how they can be blamed for what their son did.  They were hands-on parents who communicated with their children, knew their children’s friends and their parents.  There were certain things that she wished she had now done like reading her son’s journal entries, however, at the time she considered that an invasion of privacy and I have to agree with that.  She talked about Dylan’s grades falling a bit the last semester he was alive, but he was graduating in a few months, had been accepted to college and it was felt that this was just another case of a kid getting close to the end of high school and not trying as hard as he used to.  Even the guidance counsellor and the diversion program had no concerns about Dylan or his behavior.

I listened to this as an audiobook read by Sue and her emotions came through very clearly.  I did feel deep sympathy towards her and her husband along with the others who lost loved ones in the attack.   At the end of the day, there were so many people affected by this tragedy and the reverberations are still being felt.  After over forty years of marriage, Sue and her husband separated a couple of years ago – another casualty of this event.

Four out of five stars.

Book Review – The Muralist

Book:  The Muralist

Author:  B.A. Shapiro

This book is a historical fiction novel with fictional characters interacting with real-life persons and events.

I read this author’s other novel entitled The Art Forger a few years ago and really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the same love for this book.  The main character, Alizee Benoit, is an American artist living and working in New York.  She had been hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was a government project to put the unemployed to work during the depression.  Her parents had been killed in an explosion when she was a young child and all her other family was in France.

The story flips between the current day and the beginning of World War II prior to America joining the war.  I enjoyed learning more about the occupation of France and how America, under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, told the world that they were open to Jews immigrating to America where in fact, the government official in charge of approving visas, was deliberately not approving them because he was anti-Semitic.  Eleanor Roosevelt played a substantive role in the story whereby she befriends the fictional character, Alizee, and tries to assist her in bringing her family over from France.

The reason I only gave this book three stars was because I just wasn’t all that interested in Alizee’s backstory and artist’s life.  I didn’t find the character at all compelling when compared to the character in The Art Forger.  While I am glad I read the book because I learned more about the United States’ role in pre-World War II, the character’s story just didn’t intrigue me enough to rate it higher.

The Book of Life

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Book:  The Book of Life

Author:  Deborah Harkness

This is the final book in the All Souls Trilogy and because of this I don’t want to go into too much detail and reveal spoilers.  I think it is fair to say that in a lot of ways, this book is about Diana coming into her own as a witch and discovering her full powers.  Anyone familiar with this series knows that as a reader you are taken on a journey around the world – United States, England, France and other European locations but my favorite has always been Diana’s childhood home in the United States.  I love the descriptions about this house, it’s magical elements and how it has become its own character in the series.  I rated this book four out of five stars but would have given it an additional star if we could have spent more time at this magical temperamental house.

Weekend Reads

Friday Reads Feb. 18So, as I said in my last post, I am behind on what I was planning on reading in the month of February so I intend to do some serious reading this weekend.

Currently I am reading The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness which is the third and final book in the All Souls Trilogy but I am almost done and should finish it Friday or Saturday. I am looking forward to picking up my next book – The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro.  I loved her other book “The Art Forger” and the modern day art world that it was set in.

So, along with lots of reading this coming weekend, I am planning on having a leisurely lunch with my sister followed by a visit to our local Second Cup for a tasty hazelnut latte. I also foresee stopping into Bath and Body Works (maybe a new candle to light while I am reading??).

I also wanted to show you a cute ornamental light that I picked up at the Palm Springs evening market/craft sale last Thursday when I was on vacation (in the picture attached).  It is a bottle that has been hand-painted and then they drilled a hole at the back of the bottle and pushed in a set of fairy lights.  They had so many to choose from and they were all gorgeous.  If anyone is interested, she has a website where you can order them:

www.creativeexpressionsbyjoy.com

They apparently ship fairly cheaply in the United States.  They can also ship to Canada but apparently is quite expensive (around $50.00 is what I was told).

Have a good weekend everyone.

Gwen

Bits and Bobs

So I am back from my vacation in Palm Springs and it was great – nice hot days and lots of time to relax and unYear of Yeswind and a chance to do some shopping in stores that we don’t have where I live — Prada Outlet and Barnes and Noble, I miss you already!!  One would think with all that time that I would have read several books.  Wrong.  I barely finished an audio book and I listened to the majority of that while flying.  So what did I do with all my time in the evenings — re-watched Season 1 and Season 2 of Rescue Me.

I always know when I am under a lot of Sue Kleboldstress at work because when I do have downtime, I don’t do any reading and I totally veg out (or maybe it is numbing out??) watching TV programs from ITunes or Netflix.  Anyway, I watched Rescue Me back years ago when it was on the air and I just remember it as a very funny show.  Re-visiting it this last week, I see so much more.  While parts are still funny, it is an extremely misogynist show.  The show was created and written by Denis Leary.  While I enjoy some of his comedy, I can only hope that this is not how he really feels about women because every woman on this show is belittled, discriminated against, abused or seen only a sexual object.  I am glad I did re-watch some of this show as I now see it in a totally different light.

A book I actually did get through while on vacation was “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes (I gave this four out of five stars).  I listened to this in audiobook form when I was flying and waiting in airports.  I always enjoy it when the author reads their own work but in this case I think I got even more out of the book because she was the reader.  I would say that you could classify this book as part autobiography/essay on feminism/self-help.  Parts of it reminded me a lot of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which I also enjoyed.

Early in the book before she started saying “Yes” to things, she described herself as “playing veal” which meant that she laid around on the couch, ate and didn’t move for days.  I had to laugh out loud at this because I have been there and again I return to my example of re-watching TV on vacation and not reading because of being stressed and wanting to numb out and not dealing with the stress in a more constructive manner.  Parts of the book really hit home for me and gave me a lot to think about while on vacation, one being that I need more exercise.  I live downtown and while I walk to work it is only a 20 minute walk.  My condo building has an exercise room with one treadmill and I have tried coming home and getting on it but between being tired at the end of the day and another tenant also wanting to use it at the same time each day, that plan soon fizzled out.   Best thing about being in management, is that I get to make the decisions around my working hours so I have decided to start work half an hour later each day and take a shortened lunch hour so that I can get up and put some time in on the treadmill at least three times a week.  Now I am not a person who feels the endorphins so I have to find a motivator to get me to do this and I think I have it – audiobooks.  I have listened to two non-fiction audiobooks this month and have enjoyed this format a lot and I think it is something that might just work for me.  I will report back in a month or so to let you know how this is working out.  The first book I am going to listen to while on the treadmill is A Mother’s Reckoning:  Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold.

One thing I like to do when I am away from home is to visit book stores. We no longer have any independent book stores where I live and our only real book store is a rather poorly stocked Chapters. In September I made it to the Harvard Book Store and I am still thrilled whenever I look at the pictures I had taken.  In Palm Desert they have a Barnes and Noble which we do not have in Canada.  Needless to say, I picked up a few books.  Two of my purchases were on my “to buy” list and are:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.  I saw someone on Booktube and Instagram talking about this series and thought it sounded really good.

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni.  This is the first in a series (not sure how many books there will be) but I got the second book at Book Outlet a couple of months ago so I finally now have the first book.

And, I found a complete stumble:

Charleston by Margaret Bradham Thornton.  The name of the book got my attention.  Although I haven’t been to Charleston, it is on my bucket list and I have been to several places in the south — Savannah, New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West.  I love the southern states in the US and this looks like a really good read.

Currently I am reading The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness which is the third and final book in the All Souls Trilogy.  I am about 70% complete and plan to finish it this weekend.  I have fallen behind in my planned “to be read in February” list and hope to make some inroads over the next week.

Hope everyone is having a good week and happy reading!

Vacation Reads

So I started my vacation today along with a new book – The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. This is the third and final book in the All Souls Trilogy. I don’t know if I should take another paper book with me on my travels or not. I did download an audiobook today by Shonda Rhimes called  Year of Yes which I anticipate listening to on the airplane. It’s always a crapshoot how much reading I get done when I am on vacation. It is usually one extreme or the other where I either read a ton or I read nothing and I spend my downtime watching Netflix on my iPad.

One of the things I love to do when I am away on vacation is to visit other bookstores and come home with three or four books.  I don’t believe I’m going to find any independent bookstores on my travels this time but I will get to a Barnes & Noble. We don’t have any Barnes and Noble stores in Canada so I really enjoy spending time in them when I’m in the United States. I made sure to take extra suitcase with me so I don’t have to worry about bringing home a few books.

I hope everyone has a great reading weekend and week ahead.