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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Beginnings: Lady Chatterley's Lover

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.

"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
This was more or less Constance Chatterley's position. The war had brought the roof down over her head. And she realized that one must live and learn."

I must confess, I am intrigued by banned books. A banned book deemed a classic...even better. I have previously read D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow but I was not prepared for Lady Chatterley's Lover. The introduction is quite breathtaking in describing the discontentment of the characters. It is easy to see how Lawrence's use of vocabulary in this novel would not have been favored by the masses at the time of its release. In the past few years, many novels have been published with the intent on shocking the reader by detailing what was once deemed romance in explicit detail. However, the themes addressed in Lady Chatterley's Lover set it apart from those current books as it tackles large issues of the time such as the class system and social conflict.

About the Book ( from wikipedia)Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was first published in 1928. The first edition was printed privately in Florence, Italy, with assistance from Pino Orioli; an unexpurgated edition could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. (A private edition was issued by Inky Stephensen's Mandrake Press in 1929.) The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words. The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where he grew up. Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel Tenderness and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition. It has been published in three versions.

About the Author (from wikipedia): David Herbert Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among other things, represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In them, some of the issues Lawrence explores are emotional health, vitality, spontaneity and instinct. Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile which he called his "savage pilgrimage."

Happy Reading,

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

About the Book (from wikipedia): The Blind Assassin is an award-winning, bestselling novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 2000. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century. The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002.[1] Time magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.

"Listen to the clock ticking, I said. It was a pendulum clock - an antique, white and gold china; it had been Grandfather's; it stood on the mantelpiece in the library. Laura thought I'd said licking. And it was true, the brass pendulum swinging back and forth did look like a tongue, licking the lips of an invisible mouth. Eating up the time." (page 139)

My Thoughts: 
     The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Double day (2000), is the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase, clouded by unfortunate events. Brilliantly interwoven with news clippings that help the reader piece together the puzzle, Atwood is a master at layering the past into the present. 
     Narrated by Iris, The Blind Assassin is a dark mystery peppered with images of possibilities lost. Two stories collide into a tragedy that the reader is made aware from the beginning with the announcement that Laura Chase has been killed in a car accident. The first is the mystery that surrounds Laura's death. The second is a science fiction story created by two lovers. The intimacy of these characters makes it easy for the reader to drift into another world as told in this fantasy tale.

"Was that the beginning, that evening - on the dock at Avilion, with the fireworks dazzling the sky? It's hard to know. Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then later, they spring." (page 190)

     The mystery takes us back to the childhood of the Chase sisters where they experience the loss of their mother and struggle to find their identity as the world enters The Great Depression. Avilion, the estate on which they were raised, begins to crumble from neglect and the financial resources that the family is losing from its failing button factory which had been a prominent and successful business. Their relationship with their father is estranged and as they girls enter adulthood, finding an eligible spouse appears to be their only option of escaping the demise of the life they have always known.
     Atwood's writing is simply beautiful. Each sentence is so well crafted that this 500 plus page tome feels like a mere dip into a deep ocean. The story unravels slowly but leaves the reader so satiated for the answers that one can't stop turning the pages.

"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it." (page 283)

     A talk dark stranger, a marriage doomed from the onset, deceit, adultery, jealousy, lust, the class divide, suicide-- you name it, The Blind Assassin delivers, all against the background of a world at war. The intricate puzzle that is the fate of the sisters is superbly revealed, piece by piece. An intense piece of fiction, this book will leave you feeling bleak and emotionally stripped but it will also leave you in complete awe of the journey through which Atwood just led you.

To read a brief bio of Margaret Atwood and the introduction of The Blind Assassin, visit my Book Beginnings post here.

Happy Reading,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hazy Days and Steamy Reads

“All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, For they dream their dreams with open eyes, And make them come  true.”  D.H. Lawrence

What is it about the long days of summer that entices us to dream even more? 

A steamy classic is a perfect way to embrace the summer heat. 
I am currently delving into Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence.

What's on your summer reading list?

Happy Reading,

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Mountaintop School for Dogs by Ellen Cooney

* The Mountaintop School for Dogs, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is scheduled to be released Aug. 5, 2014.

About the Book (from Sanctuary. Place of refuge. Training school. Command center for The Network. Home for strays and rescued dogs. Evie is stuck at The Inn, managed by the stern and mysterious Mrs. Auberchon, although she’s supposed to join a training program at The Sanctuary. That’s what she signed up for—never mind that she lied and doesn’t know the first thing about animals except what she’s learned from a breed guide, from the notes someone keeps leaving, and from videos online, like one that asks: Please can more people be nicer to dogs? Once up on the mountain with staffers, volunteers, and her dog students, Evie takes notes on the new things she’s learning. Alpha. Forgiveness. Play. Rehabilitation. Like the racing greyhound who refuses to move, the golden retriever who returns every time he’s adopted, and the rottweiler who’s a hopeless candidate for search-and-rescue, Evie came from a troubled past. She writes: “Rescue. Best. Verb. Ever.” As she creates her own training manual, she may even write an entry on herself. A worthy shelf-mate to books by Garth Stein and Carolyn Parkhurst, this is a brilliantly engaging novel about finding fellow animals who may bring you a deeper sense of home, healing, and the power of inventing a future.

"Abandon. To Turn away on purpose from someone you were supposed to never turn away from. Bad verb. Bad word. Bad everything." (page 43)

My Thoughts: 
     As a dog owner, I could easily relate to this book. Dogs often teach us more than we teach them. They follow our commands in order to receive a desired response but soon they command us with a simple tilt of their head and a gazing stare. I have a five-year-old Sheltie and love her abundantly, however, she tests my patience daily. But once you allow a pet into your home and heart, you are forever changed. 
     The Mountaintop School for Dogs is a story about second chances for all living creatures. The reader is introduced to a variety of characters, some four legged, that are searching for their place in life, a place to call home. When Evie arrives at The Inn and the School, she is lonely and lost. Recovering from past mistakes, she quickly discovers that her own existence isn't that different from the dogs that she encounters. She too is searching for acceptance and finds a kindred spirit in Mrs. Auberchon, The Inn's keeper. Their relationship takes a while to develop just as it takes Evie's students a while to warm up to her. There is a need to assess the expectations and intentions of another before you can reach a level of comfort.
     Evie quickly learns that her inexperience as a dog trainer has left her ill equipped to handle the challenges that arise for rescue missions. I can't even watch the ASPCA commercials. You know the ones- cue the Sarah McLachlin tune in the background....heartbreaking. 
"Because sometimes you don't call it abuse when it's happening to you, even if you're doing it to yourself. You just call it 'my life'." (Page 262)
     The dogs at the school are is a stage of readjustment. They have been rescued from situations of neglect, abuse, or abandonment from those that initially cared for them. Evie is readjusting as well, realizing that you can't run away from your past but you can control your present. She is a strong lead character that the reader cheers on as she improves in the training and care of the canine students, creating a rescue for herself with each achievement, and finding joy in the smallest of progress. Although at a different stage in life, Mrs. Auberchon confronts her own fears and misgivings as she allows herself to be more accepting of others and a new way of life.
"She ran hot water on the label until it loosened enough to peel off. The bottle was too attractive to throw away. It didn't have to come to its end. It could have another life, perhaps as a vase, perhaps as a candleholder, bright wax dripping down its sides, hardening, lasting, staying. She filled the sink with sudsy water and stuck it in there to soak." (Page 143)
     I thought this passage was a beautiful analogy of how we humans, just like our recycling projects, can be transformed. Sometimes all we need is a little trust and self acceptance. The Mountaintop School for Dogs is a wonderful story for reminding us of the importance of compassion and the impact of a second chance for all living creatures.

* I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from Houghton Mifflin. The reading recommendation is entirely my own.

Happy Reading,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Beginnings: The House at Riverton

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.

"Last November I had a nightmare. It was 1924 and I was Riverton again. All the doors hung wide open, silk billowing in the summer breeze. An orchestra perched high on the hill beneath the ancient maple, violins lilting lazily in the warmth. The air rang with pealing laughter and crystal, and the sky was the kind of blue we'd all thought the war had destroyed forever. One of the footmen, smart in black and white, poured champagne into the top of a tower of glass flutes and everyone clapped, delighting in the splendid wastage."

Thoughts on Intro: The House at Riverton begins with the lovely description of a dream that leaves the reader with a sense that much reality lies behind the story. This is the first Morton novel that I have read and I am already planning on reading more. Her writing elegantly creates a world where the characters come to life and the reader is instantly hooked.

About the book (from The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, it is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth. In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever. The novel is full of secrets -- some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history. Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters -- and an ending -- the reader won't soon forget.

About the Author (from Kate Morton is an Australian author whose novels have been published in 38 countries and sold three million copies."The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008. The House at Riverton won General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards, and The House at Riverton was nominated for Most Popular Book at the British Book Awards in 2008. Her second book,The Forgotten Garden, was a #1 bestseller in Australia and a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2008. In 2010, Morton's third novel, The Distant Hours, was released, followed by her fourth, The Secret Keeper, in 2012.

Have you read Morton's novels? Which was your favorite?

Happy Reading,

Inspiration: Where Writers Write

Have you ever wondered what a writer's workspace looks like? 
Where do our favorite authors sit down to create the books we come to love? 
Below are a few images from Pinterest to inspire you!

The Bronte Sisters
From Writers Write Creative Blog
Dylan Thomas
From The Huffington Post
Jane Austen
Ernest Hemingway
A photo my husband took on our trip to Hemingway House in Key West, Fla.

Can you imagine Jane Austen penning her masterpieces on that tiny writing table?
What does your creative space look like?

Happy Reading!


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