Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's on Your Nightstand? July edition

My fellow would-be-writer, Beth Anne, told me I had to read more of Pearl S. Buck than just "The Good Earth." Since we have markedly similar taste in  the books we cannot live without, I agreed and set out to find more of Ms. Buck's novels. This one was available at my library. What a blessed day!

I am ABSOLUTELY in love with this book!! What amazingly beautiful and romantic prose. I have never read anything so gloriously well written on any subject, let alone on a marriage. Ruth's and William's story is a marvel of poetic prose. Their physical love (nothing as nasty as contemporary TMI-sex scenes) left me teary eyed--and I'm a cynic. It was that lovely. Finally, an author who clearly sees and communicates just what love means to a man--the insecurity that vanishes just having that loved woman near. The way the couple communicates their need, the way they bless each other, the way they loath and despise each other, all brings them to joyous oneness. They live and love to the time when they no longer need passion--they are simply one. They are fulfilled and broken by their children. Again, she captures perfectly the man's insecurity about children, as well as the way children tear the woman's heart, rending it in such a way she must ignore the man even though it cripples him.

This is simply the most amazing story of human connection. It is NOT to be missed. I am happy to say that it is now available on kindle! While you might loose the fabulous illustrations, you can still rejoice in the story. Portrait of a Marriage: A Novel by Pearl S. Buck

"Whatever misgivings they might have about Aethered, they would love their pretty young queen." (p. 208) Substitute the name "Charles" [and change the title to "Shadow on the Princess"] and you could have been reading about the early 1980s, instead this book is set in 1001--1005 A.D. and it's King Ethelred and his young 2nd wife, Queen Emma. The marriage is one of dynasty protecting dynasty and keeping away the raping and pillaging Danes. Teenage Emma is married off to the much older Ethelred who wants nothing to do with her. Elgiva, the plotting, scheming, loose-living daughter of a nobleman, beds Ethelred willingly. Emma wants her eldest step-son! Sounds too twisted for words, but it's a great story with only brief profane language and brief, not-terribly-graphic forced sex. Patrician Bracewell has done a marvelous job of taking the few source documents on this couple and turning out a novel that evokes the time, stays as faithful as possible to the scare source documents, and leaves us wanting to know the rest of this story! I certainly hope this is to be a series! Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

I had much more interest in audio books this month! This is a not-so-typical immigrant-slash-coming-of-age story aimed mostly at young adults. I did skip one story-line that bothered me. Overall, I enjoyed this one. Cross-cultural experiences always hold my attention, and immigrant stories are among the most interesting. This was very well written. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarz.

Suite Scarlett is the first volume of a new Young Adult series. It was well-written and fun and held my attention. It brought back so many memories of high school, when the drama club was one of the focal points of my life and my friends all wanted to study acting. I was the lone hold-out who wanted, instead, to be a writer and diplomat. I liked the values of this book best. The family features two parents, very happily married, with children who respect them, feel remorse, and stop to consider the ethics of their decisions. Another adult appears on the scene who mentors two of the children. Yes, they do mention being drunk or that the brother has a box of condoms in his room--things that DO come up in normal teenage conversation. But in the end, right prevails (or true remorse follows). No one is hopping in and out of bed or having too much PDA on the subway. They set goals and work toward them. Education matters. Family matters. I will probably listen to the next book in this series--it was that much fun! Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.

Oprah and I don't often agree on a book!! This, 1990s book by one of my favorite authors, Anne Tyler, somehow escaped my notice, so I am grateful to the O Book Club email for recommending it! As a single-mom, even though I became a mom by choice through adoption, I still share much of the ennui that has beset Delia. I, too, wonder if the family would even remember to eat if I didn't put the meal on the table! Delia takes charge of her life. While I don't know I think her choice was the right one, I do know how it feels to have to find a community in which you are valued, taken seriously and appreciated. I do know, too, that being taken for granted is not always a loving, secure feeling, even in marriage. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will most likely re-read it in the future. I listened to it this time, so may want to get it in print next time. Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler.

I love the way Beth Hoffman writes! The parts of this book on antiques and rare books just SING to me! Her complete authenticity in describing rural Kentucky may even top Barbara Kingsolver's command of the back roads. This book is simply GREAT. It does get confusing in the audio version when the scene shifts back to an earlier time--this would not happen in the print I don't think since you would see the date clearly at the beginning of the chapter. It is READ in the audio, but I often missed it and had a WT? moment in listening. Very, very minor problem. Should be one of the best books of the year. And, can't everyone find a Sam or a Michael at the 11th hour? Wouldn't that be GRAND!

NOTE: If you are a dog lover there is one brief (mentioned in 2 chapters so far) story of cruelty, but justice is served. A very brief mention is made later in the story of an act of animal terrorism. It is not graphic, just mentioned. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman.

Finally, I was SO EXCITED to see this book finally out in print!! But, oh my!! WHAT A LET-DOWN! Save yourself the trouble and just get the movie or book  The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. Chapter 1 reads like she watched the movie the "Right Stuff" and that's about it. It is written in that trendy, annoying new, "sassy"/hip/disrespectful tone that is starting to ruin non-fiction reading. Like aging Valley Girl does Master's thesis. Hope it gets better. The women themselves ARE interesting, but the style of writing just grates. "Astro-"everything really wears thing very quickly. The story itself IS interesting, but it's told in the manner of a hip Jr. High School history teacher who practices his stand-up routine. Enough with the glib-non-humor and just TELL THE DAMN STORY already.  Sadly the tone continues throughout the book and the "depth" is not just sadly lacking.....it's non-existent. Not recommended, which is a shame. These ladies deserve a tour of duty in the spot light. Astronauts Wives Club by Lily Keppel.

Need ideas on what to read next? Head over to 5 Minutes for Books to see What's on other Nightstands this month!


Lisa notes... said...

I've only read Buck's The Good Earth. Maybe I need to branch out too... Thanks for the warning on The Astronaut Wives Club. I'd rather save my time for something better. Appreciate your reviews!

Kara said...

Wow! You got a lot of reading done this month! Great list.

Annette {This Simple Home} said...

It's so hard when books disappoint!