Sunday, February 24, 2013

BW9: Book news

Oscar Statuettes

I don't go out to the theater any more preferring to wait until movies come out in DVD so I can watch them in the privacy of my own home. And I don't watch much live television so miss all the commercials for upcoming releases.  Which is why I enjoy watching the Oscars and finding out about the offerings out there.  This year six of the nine  best picture nominees were inspired by books or plays or news articles.  The movie Argo is based on a article from Wired magazine and  Juicy and Delicious was inspired by a one act play by Lucy Alibar. So be sure to check out the Oscars tonight and then read the books.

Oscars 2013 - Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Les Miserable by Victor Hugo

Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin
Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

In other bookish news CSPAN's The First Ladies of the United States has been published to go along with their television series: First Ladies: Influence and Image about the lives of the first ladies which will run for two seasons and begins weekly on Monday, February 25th.  

    The series will cover

  • the first ladies' White House years
  • the interests they championed
  • their policy influences on the presidents
  • their stewardship of the White House
  • their approach to private and public life
The 90-minute programs will air live Mondays at 9 pm ET on C-SPAN and C-SPAN3 (which also is the home for American History TV on the weekends), C-SPAN Radio, and via livestreaming on
Link to your reviews:    Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

BW8: WEM - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The 6th book in Susan Wise Bauer's Well Educated Mind great fiction reads is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  The book was originally released under the name of Currer Bell in order to protect her and her sisters identities and because women authors weren't looked upon kindly at that particular period of time. 

"Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine' — we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice . . . [quoted from the Norton edition of Wuthering Heights, p. 4]

Chapter One

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.

The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mama in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy.  Me, she had dispensed from joining the group; saying, “She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation, that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner—something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were—she really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children.”

“What does Bessie say I have done?” I asked.

“Jane, I don’t like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner.  Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.”

A breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there.  It contained a bookcase: I soon possessed myself of a volume, taking care that it should be one stored with pictures.  I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement.

Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day.  At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon.  Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.

I returned to my book—Bewick’s History of British Birds: the letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank.  They were those which treat of the haunts of sea-fowl; of “the solitary rocks and promontories” by them only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape—
“Where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,
Boils round the naked, melancholy isles
Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge
Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.”
Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with “the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space,—that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surround the pole, and concentre the multiplied rigours of extreme cold.”  Of these death-white realms I formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended notions that float dim through children’s brains, but strangely impressive.  The words in these introductory pages connected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.

I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard, with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly-risen crescent, attesting the hour of eventide.

The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine phantoms.

The fiend pinning down the thief’s pack behind him, I passed over quickly: it was an object of terror.

So was the black horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a distant crowd surrounding a gallows.
Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when, having brought her ironing-table to the nursery hearth, she allowed us to sit about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed’s lace frills, and crimped her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention with passages of love and adventure taken from old fairy tales and other ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages of Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland.

With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way.  I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon.  The breakfast-room door opened.

“Boh!  Madam Mope!” cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused: he found the room apparently empty.

 “Where the dickens is she!” he continued.  “Lizzy!  Georgy! (calling to his sisters) Joan is not here: tell mama she is run out into the rain—bad animal!”

“It is well I drew the curtain,” thought I; and I wished fervently he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed have found it out himself; he was not quick either of vision or conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at once—

“She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack.”

And I came out immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being dragged forth by the said Jack.

“What do you want?” I asked, with awkward diffidence.

“Say, ‘What do you want, Master Reed?’” was the answer.  “I want you to come here;” and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.

John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage, heavy limbs and large extremities.  He gorged himself habitually at table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye and flabby cheeks.  He ought now to have been at school; but his mama had taken him home for a month or two, “on account of his delicate health.”  Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home; but the mother’s heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more refined idea that John’s sallowness was owing to over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home.

John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an antipathy to me.  He bullied and punished me; not two or three times in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh in my bones shrank when he came near.  There were moments when I was bewildered by the terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him strike or heard him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence, more frequently, however, behind her back.

Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal it.  I wonder if he read that notion in my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly.  I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.

“That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,” said he, “and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!”

Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult.

“What were you doing behind the curtain?” he asked.

“I was reading.”

“Show the book.”

I returned to the window and fetched it thence.

“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense.  Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years.  Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.”

I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough, however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it.  The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.

“Wicked and cruel boy!” I said.  “You are like a murderer—you are like a slave-driver—you are like the Roman emperors!”

I had read Goldsmith’s History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, &c.  Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I never thought thus to have declared aloud.

“What! what!” he cried.  “Did she say that to me?  Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana?  Won’t I tell mama? but first—”

He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder: he had closed with a desperate thing.  I really saw in him a tyrant, a murderer.  I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him in frantic sort.  I don’t very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me “Rat!  Rat!” and bellowed out aloud.  Aid was near him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her maid Abbot.  We were parted: I heard the words—

“Dear! dear!  What a fury to fly at Master John!”

“Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!”

Then Mrs. Reed subjoined—

“Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there.”  Four hands were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.

 Read more online here or here
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

BW7: Keeping the Feast

Sung Kim  - Vineyard Terrace

Before I got married I was one of those eat to live rather than live to eat type of people and if it involved more than a couple pans, then it was just too much trouble.  Food never played a big part in my life. It was simply sustenance and when we traveled, it wasn't the restaurants or the food I remembered, but the places.  Although my parents could tell you I knew where to find every single chicken restaurant on our summer travels.  My husband taught me to cook and eventually I branched out, experimenting more and trying new things.   A couple years back I happened to come across and read Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini which sort of put a whole new light on things.  

Keeping the Feast is Paula's memoir of what happened during her marriage when John was shot while on assignment and reflections on life past.  In 1985 Paula and John met and three years later in 1989 decided to marry.  The fall of the Berlin wall would affect their lives substantially.  Two weeks before their wedding, Paula was covering a protest march against the communist leaders in Prague - the Velvet revolution.  The Czechoslovak police started beating up the peaceful protesters and despite the fact Paula was just there to report it, they savagely beat her as well.   Five weeks later, two weeks after they had gotten married, John was shot while covering a story in Romania.  He had a long and hard recovery and was deeply depressed for a long time. I think she was as well but handled it in a different way.   Keeping the Feast is Paula's account of how she was able to keep their lives together and how food played a substantial role.  

Their story is at times difficult to read, yet shows a strength of character.   I think a big part of their healing came from living in Italy itself.  Paula found healing and solace  in the daily routine of walking to the outdoor market in the piazza to pick out their food for the day, preparing and cooking their meals.  Interspersed throughout the book, she shared stories about growing up,  her parents, her mother's fight with depression and most of all, memories of family meals.  Christmas and other holidays centered about the food, not the event. 

I imagine if we lived in Italy,(or any other country for that matter)  the slow pace, the fresh food in the square offered by the farmers, fresh baked bread, the pasta, the wine would change my mind about the way we eat. My husband has a thing about French wines (now so do I) and his people come from England, so we're contemplating a journey to Europe for a few weeks. Whether it takes place this year or 5 years from now, in the meantime,  we'll be vicariously journeying and eating our way around the world through culinary memoirs.

And since we've been traveling through Canada during the Continental challenge, be sure to check out one of Canada's best well known chef's  Michael Smith  and try out some of his recipes.  

A few more memoirs to tantalize your tastebuds: 

A Chef's Tale: A Memoir of Food, France, and America by Pierre Franey
My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story by (with recipes) by Luissa Weiss
The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel
A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

My challenge to you is to read a book about food - a chef's memoir, history of food, etc,  try out a recipe from it and let us know how it turned out. 

Do you live to eat or do you eat to live?

For some reason I am starving....... *** grin ***   

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

BW6: Hallie Ephron

photo credit: Lynn Wayne

I'm a sucker for psychological suspense novels so when I read this description, I simply had to get Never Tell a Lie by suspense novelist Hallie Ephron: 
"Eight months pregnant and nervous about the future, Ivy Rose doesn't recognize the woman approaching her and husband David as they attempt to rid themselves of the decades worth of junk cluttering up their suburban home.  The woman says she's Melinda White--their former high school classmate, now pregnant also--and asks if she might revisit the old Victorian house she recalls playing in as a child.  David takes her inside. But Melinda never comes out.  With her husband a suspect in the bizarre disappearance and probably murder of the near stranger he claims not to remember, Ivy must now dive into a deadly whirlpool of deceit, betrayal, and terrifying alternate histories in pursuit of a shocking trust--a truth that could destroy everything...."

Somehow the book got buried in my stacks and forgotten until William Morrow publishing sent an email asking if I wanted to review her latest book which is coming out in April -- There was an Old Woman which sounded equally intriguing:

Once upon a time, there was a neighborhood in the Bronx that time forgot. Its tiny shotgun houses were built in the 20s on waterfront land that was once part of Snakapins Amusement Park which, in its heyday, was reachable only by ferry. Today its resident enjoy views of a salt marsh and, in the distance, the Manhattan sky line.
Ninety-something Mina Yetner’s father was an entrepreneur who built the houses. She grew up in the one where she still lives. Next door is Sandra Ferrante, a much younger woman, a lonely woman with a serious drinking problem.  Mina doesn’t like to get into her neighbor’s business, but when Sandra is pulled from her home and taken by ambulance to the local hospital, she leaves Mina with a message to convey to her daughter.
“Don’t let him in until I’m gone.”
Seriously intrigued, especially after reading an excerpt of the first chapter, I said, "Of course" which subsequently reminded me of the other book and off I went to look through the stacks to find Never Tell a Lie.  Now you know what I'll be reading this week. *grin*  The book has also been made into a movie called And Baby Will Fall and is showing on Lifetime network on February 8th. Sounds like a good time to do a Book to Movie comparison.

Ephron comes from a family of writers including her parents who were Hollywood screenwriters and her three sisters Delia, Amy and Nora who passed away last year.   She will be presenting at a series of writing workshops as well as doing a few book signings this coming year.  Be sure to check out the schedule for when she'll be coming to your town. Hop over to her website and check out her other books including her Dr. Peter Zak mystery series Amnesia co-written with Donald Davidoff.


Link to your reviews:    Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. If you don't have a blog, tell us about the books you are reading in the comment section of this post.