Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wed., April 27: Back at it!

The Jewels of ParadiseThe Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A non-Brunetti Leon novel still holds its charm: Venice, food, an interesting character, strong life of the mind and a strong reverence for history, literature, and other cultural gems, but Jewels of Paradise could've been more developed--another 100 pages might've fleshed out the new character, the intriguing supporting characters, and the plot a bit more satisfactorily.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 16: Opening Saturday of Vacation!

Ahhhhhh. It actually snuck up on me after so many weekends of Things To Do: Plays, Concerts, PBE class, Trips to Lewiston, Massive Amounts of Grading. . . . but here we are. It's sunny, and Maine-in-April warm, and things are good. Tomorrow I will embark on one of those packed-in multi-step family visits that I have learned to love: leaving here around 6 am to get down to see Alex play b'ball and Tom coach b'ball and to visit with Ellyn, Jake, Lyle, Dad, and Ann! Whew! I think Nate will come with me to add to the fun--Andy has to go down to B'wick all day on Wed. to meet with realtors so he's passing on another s. Maine trip. We are hoping to stop at Holy Donuts.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 9, Saturday: Marking Period Ends!

Crooked HeartCrooked Heart by Lissa Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just wrote a really carefully developed rave review of this wonderful book and then the computer burped and it disappeared. I am very sad.

However, it is a rare and lovely book: controlled, wry, funny, heart-breaking, and insightful. It's beautifully written--even the cover is gorgeous!--and I want to go buy myself a copy to keep. Evans manages to take us into Vee's and Noel's worlds, and she creates unprepossessing characters who eventually win our hearts. I plan to read her other books, too!

Two great passages are on page 200 (about Vee's lazy son) and page 243 (where Vee reassures Noel about his guilt). . . but I haven't the heart to type them out again.

Please, though, go buy a copy of this book, read it, and then give it to someone you love.

The Other Daughter: A NovelThe Other Daughter: A Novel by Lauren Willig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Welllllll. . . .it was okay. The reader was a bit breathy and excitable, which might have dimmed my appreciation, but overall, it was predictable and trite. I kept wondering why Vera/Rachel didn't just go talk to her father--the character waffled between strait-laced probity and moral outrage leading to dubious behavior. There were also a lot of dropped plot threads, but overall it was a bit more substantial (a bit, just a bit) than many of Willig's recent works. I did listen to it all, and I did wonder how it would end: surely those are good signs!

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Well, it's the end of the marking period, and though I worked hard all week long, I ended up having to spend 5 hours working today and will spend at least as much time tomorrow to be ready for Monday's due date. However, I knew it was coming, so I scheduled myself: two hours in the am, then a two hour "do what you want!" break, then (I hoped for two, but ended up with ) three hours in the afternoon. AND all my major correcting is done. Whew! Inputting and comments tomorrow. And planning. And church, and food shopping, and . . . . but it feels great to be home and not heading anywhere for any reason.

Also: I won an art lesson!
And I made lemon cupcakes for Grace's b'day on Wednesday!
And we have one week till vacation!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday, April 1: April at Last!

EmmaEmma by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Juliet Stevenson does an amazing job of presenting Emma: each character is distinct, and the infamous "Mrs. E." and the sweetly overwhelming Miss Bates are topnotch. I've read, seen, and listened to this work probably 6 times, and Stevenson's version does a fantastic job of highlighting the wit, insight, and satire of Austen's novel.

Highly, highly, highly recommended on all fronts.

*Earlier review labeled July 1, 2o14!
*Re-listened to this version, finishing on Thursday, March 31, 2016. What a way to get through this tough month!

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well. I got this from Audible, and I'm not sure if I realized I had already seen the movie with Jason Bateman when I got it, but it was a fun read. What hit me over time, however, is that the author's view of women was pretty damn one-sided: his description always focused on their sexual appeal/looks/availability--and I'm afraid that wasn't Tropper trying to create a character. I'm afraid it was poor self-awareness. So although the book has some laugh-out-loud funny parts and some fairly poignant reflections on family, it's troublingly limited in its perspective. The movie, which removes Judd's/Tropper's viewpoint and has great female actors (Fonda! Tina Fey!), is actually better than the book.

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought I had read The Bluest Eye before, but I am pretty sure I hadn't when we chose it for our MDIHS Readers & Writers Group read for March. My first time through it was a slog: its story is heart-breaking and difficult, putting it more in the Beloved than the Song of Solomon range. However, we had to postpone our meeting, and as I was reading over some critical essays and screening interviews with Morrison to prep for the meeting, I began to see Morrison's aim as a writer, and I decided to reread it. On my second go-round, I fell into the book completely.

A key review was this one by John Leonard of the New York Times:
"Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye is an inquiry into the reasons why beauty gets wasted in this country. The beauty in this case is black. [Ms. Morrison's prose is] so precise, so faithful to speech, and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry…I have said 'Poetry,' but The Bluest Eye is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music."

This is Morrison's first novel, but she does craft a heart-breaking story into "history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music"--I saw parts of each of those in Pecola's story, and I was amazed.

A tough read, but one worth reading, and worth discussing. Wow.

ANNNNNDDDDD: from the sacred to the profane (as Thirkell would readily admit. . . .) Never Too LateNever Too Late by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cleaning out the shelves, I spotted my vintage copy of this Thirkell and succumbed to its lures (and then also read A Double Affair, the next one in the series). . . . Thirkell is SUCH an acquired taste, but she is truly wonderful when she's at her best. I wish there were movies: the life with butlers and maids is presented as so normal, the mention of leasing out the wing of the big house for a school is so common, and the concern about how to keep the family property intact so frequent that it's hard to realize that these are REALLY RICH PEOPLE! The people in the village who are so gently but snobbishly described as different or as trying hard but not quite making it--they are US! I'd love to see the "actual" landscape that she was describing. It is surely alien to this American, but I do love to visit it.

Plot-wise, not her freshest, as there is a lot of repetition about Edith and her difficulties and George and his. Still, worth a visit.
**Read July 2014.
**Reread March 2016.

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Friday. April. Rain. Warm. We had a thunderstorm! And this is the calm before the end of the marking period on Tuesday, with a trip to see Nate and many other singers and musicians at the Basilica in Lewiston sing Beethoven's Missa Dormis (?) on Sunday. Mom's away so we're staying in a hotel, and I think it will be a wonderful change from our crazy busy March. Hello, April!

I went to the library on Wed. and got an armload of books to celebrate the impending end of March. I have already finished one of my load:

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1)Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pleasant, entertaining, quick read--fun to see Evanovich developing new schticks even as the old familiar formula show through. Set in Marblehead, which is familiar territory for my family, so that adds interest. Not as funny as her early Stephanie Plums, but much better written than her later ones. A perfect three-star novel!