Showing posts from March, 2011

Comfort in Books

For the first time in nearly two decades, I am not surrounded by books. Well, let me clarify: I am not inundated by books stacked around me in every room in the house. That doesn't mean I don't have books in the house.  And it's not even my house! Last summer, Carole helped me "de-clutter" my library so the amount of books I had actually fit within the bookshelves. (I know, where is the fun in that?)  Rest assured, it was for a good cause: the house was on the market, and professionals recommended implementing the "d" word. What that meant was the boxing of about 20 boxes of books.  Give or take, that is; I didn't count.  I just closed my eyes and received the books Carole handed me.  We weeded out the ones I wasn't reading at the moment, added the ones I was unlikely to re-read in the immediate future, and made the remaining ones look like they were meant to be there.  Carole arranged the ones that remained with attractive, boo

Review: Lincoln's Dreams

Days before Abraham Lincoln died, he dreamed he heard people crying in the White House. He asked a soldier what was the matter.  "The President has been killed," he said, and Lincoln saw a casket — and the resident had a black cloth across her/his face. Days later, Lincoln himself was in a coffin in the White House, with a black cloth across his face.  Was it a premonition of his own assassination?  Connie Willis addresses that question — and more about dreams and the American Civil War — in her Nebula Award-winning novel,  Lincoln's Dreams . The question arises while a popular historical novelist is writing a book about Lincoln's dreams.  The novelist had just finished a book about brothers who fought in the Civil War,  and he turned his attention to his latest fascination: Lincoln's dreams and where Lincoln's son, Tad, was buried.  Actually, he set his assistant's attention to those questions.  Jeff (the aforementioned assistant) was dashing about Vi

Review: The Last Dragonslayer

Jasper Fforde creates new worlds in a rather matter-of-fact way.  His England either has color castes, living literature, cloned dodos or dragons on the best real estate.  In The Last Dragonslayer , it is the latter. Jennifer Strange is in a bit of a pickle.  Her claravoyant has predicted that she will kill the last dragon in the kingdom.  It's unlikely that the impoverished orphan, indentured to Kazam by the Blessed Lady of the Lobster, will do more than keep their doors open for as long as the magic lasts.  Only with a strange surge, a new assistant, a persistent king, this young woman with fiercely loyal Quarkbeast may have no choice. The Welsh writer will not disappoint with his first young adult novel. Readers outside the UK may have to rely on their British sources for their copies (thanks, Jo!), or purchase a copy from someone on the Internet.  (I haven't found it in U.S. bookstores.) Maybe some gentle nudging (no bricks!) will encourage Houton Mifflin to publish t

Review: The Witness House: Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Sharing a Villa during the Nuremberg Trials

Imagine this premise: eyewitnesses reveal what happened in the villa where Nazis and their victims are housed together during the Nuremberg trials. Would you want to know what happened, what they said to each other, how it felt to face each other, day after day? Don't look for that kind of information in The Witness House .  Author Christiane Kohl manages to take an interesting premise and squeeze all of the life out of it. This is the second book I have read that was originally written in German, and it fell equally flat. I hated The Reader , which so many other people enjoyed greatly. Dozens of people stayed at Novalisstrasse, a boarding house on the outskirts of Nuremberg, in the years following the end of World War II.  The war trials began in 1945, and those who worked with the Third Reich were brought to court, hopefully to justice, by an international tribunal.  It was an interesting, brief glimpse into a country in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that nearly de

Review: The Best of Times

When indulging in a Penny Vincenzi novel, readers know they are in for a treat. Each story, while unique in details, has a similar rhythm: first we meet people who are terribly rich and privileged as only a rich English person can be, but still remain hardworking and decent enough.  Then an unexpected, unspeakable tragedy occurs that changes everyone's lives, and readers get to wade slowly through the lives of perfectly nice people overwrought with worry and indecision.  Then there is resolution, always for the better (but not always how one would expect). Readers are completely at home in Vincenzi's latest, The Best of Times .  The tragedy is a multi-car pileup on one of London's busiest highways during rush hour one Saturday afternoon.  Readers meet the people whose lives will be touched by this accident: a woman meeting the love of her life with whom she parted during World War II; a groom and his best man learning much about each other on the eve of a wedding; a hu

One More Reasons to Go Print: Sharing

I have a few friends in a never-ending book swap.  Kathy and I leave books on each other's doorstep, and Carole and I trade huge armfuls when we visit. I'm sure publishers and booksellers are aghast at such activity.  Loaning books?  Where's the profit in that? I will tell you: it's in the magic of finding a new author, in reading a book I might otherwise not have picked up myself, in introducing another friend to another author.  The initial profit is low for the bookseller, but the long-term benefits are grand. It's like borrowing a book at the library that turns into a sale: if I know I will love it, I will purchase my own copy so David and I both can read it at our leisure.  It's like picking up a paperback at the second-hand shop: more eyes garner more purchases of current, past and future titles. Apparently Amazon recently figured out this whole scam for its e-books — and implemented a lending program amongst its Kindles.  Rules are strict and Amaz