Latest Posts

Beginning The 24 Hour Read-a-thon


It’s a perfect day for a read-a-thon. My favorite kind of day, in fact. The rain somehow seems to give me permission to read, looking at this view out of our living room window, trying to ignore my husband. He’s wandering around looking through each window, as though it will offer a different sort of day, grumbling. “Look, the frost got all the flowers a few nights ago. I’m glad I mowed the lawn yesterday. When it wasn’t raining. If it wasn’t rainy, I could be outside today.”

My beloved husband has no use for a rainy day.

I, on the other hand, am in my element. I have many plans for the day. Dewey’s 24 read-a-thon started two hours ago, and I’ve participated like this:

Hour 1: sleeping

Hour 2: toasting an English Muffin, spreading it with Bonne Maman marmalade, composing an introductory post to the day. If one isn’t careful, the day can become a series of posts, and memes, and leaving comments rather than reading.

But reading is what I’ll do when I’m not making a chicken pot pie for dinner. I have a ridiculously light read going on now, so embarrassing I’m not even going to reveal the title, and then I’ll finish the list for the IFFP Shadow Jury. I have to finish The Ravens. I have to begin and complete Bloodlines. That’s my plan for the day.

As I listen to the soothing sound of falling rain.

Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors


Who are your top ten favorite authors of all time? Such is the question asked here today, the answer for which took me about ten seconds.

I think about them all the time; I read and reread their books often.

  • Haruki Murakami
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • J. R. R. Tolkein
  • E. B. White
  • C. S. Lewis
  • A. S. Byatt
  • Donna Tartt

Are any of these your favorite?


Mailbox Monday

The Memory Painter

The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack

“romance, fantasy, and adventure ~Library Journal, starred review
“a twisty ending…for Da Vinci Code and Outlander fans” ~Booklist
“A Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror read of the month” ~Kirkus

The Winter Family

The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman

“This noir Western is a violent rampage through the American West…Fans of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and James Carlos Blake’s In The Rogue Blood will appreciate this latest entry in the gritty Western genre.” ~Library Journal

“In Jackman’s allegorical Western tale, Augustus Winter, with the ‘strength of will, the sense of purpose, radiating off him like heat,’ is cut from the same bloody cloth as Blood Meridian‘s mysterious nihilist, Judge Holden…” ~Kirkus Reviews

Get Carter

Get Carter by Ted Lewis

“Aristotle, when he defined tragedy, mandated that a tragic hero must fall from a great height, but Aristotle never imagined the kind of roadside motels James M. Cain could conjure up or saw the smokestacks rise in the Northern English industrial hell of Ted Lewis’s Get Garter.”  ~Dennis Lehane

Burning Down George Orwell's House

Burning Down George Orwell’s House by Andrew Ervin

Burning Down George Orwell’s House is really most enjoyable, a witty, original turn on the life and memory of the Sage of Jura, taking place on the island where he wrote Nineteen Eight-Four. Eric Blair serves as the McGuffin in this story, which is one part black comedy and one part a meditation on modern life. It is well-written and truly original.” ~Robert Stone

What Has Become of You

What Has Become of You by Jan Elizabeth Watson

“Watson’s twisty plot speeds with page-turning momentum, but what’s likely to stick with you are the complex characters…who are, by turns, vulnerable, flawed, and surprising, bravely struggling to rewrite the stories of their lives.” ~Publishers Weekly, starred review

These are the books which came into my mailbox this week. I can’t wait to read them after I finish the IFFP short list (one and a half books left!) and the read-along of Little, Big I’m hosting this May. Do any of them look especially appealing to you?

Find more books in other’s mailboxes here.

Circling The Sun by Paula McLain

Circling The SunYou can have a life of drama, scandal, and excitement.

Or, you can have a life of safety, comfort, and peace.

But, I doubt very much that you can have both.

Every time I chastised myself for being monotonous in comparison to Beryl Markham, I realized that she paid dearly for her life of adventure. Hers was not the life of a comforting childhood, growing up within a secure family unit, then finding a loving husband of her own. Instead, her mother left Beryl and her father in Africa when she went back to England with Beryl’s brother, Dickie. And so Beryl’s life of strong independence, embellished with a wild side, began at four years of age.

She was allowed exploration with the animals and freedom of dress, for she had no mother to correct her behavior into proper, ladylike straits. Instead of learning to crook a finger when holding a teacup, she learned to tighten her legs around the belly of a horse. She became daring and bold and brave. Beryl Markham was not a woman to be contained, and as I read, I admired her sense of adventure which brought her fame and glamor along with notoriety and pain.

Having grown up with a father whose business was horses, it is not surprising that Beryl Clutterbuck trained horses and raced them. She married Jock Purves at only seventeen years of age, and it is no wonder that their marriage could not be sustained. For really, the only man that Beryl truly loved was Denys Finch Hatton, a man already involved with Baroness Karen Blixen, and far too committed to his own freedom to be of much support to any woman.

It’s interesting that the film Out of Africa leaves Beryl Markham out of the story altogether, but Paula McLain reveals a more complete  picture of that complicated love story. Apparently, Beryl loved Denys with all her heart just as Karen did, and while Denys was committed to her as much as he could allow himself to be, he found room in his life to fit Beryl in around the edges.

They seemed of a similar spirit; undaunted by other’s opinions, or constrained by a conventional lifestyle, they sought adventure even when it meant danger. Safaris, horses, aero planes…these were things to be conquered, if not necessary elements to make one’s life richer.


After finishing the book last evening, I searched amongst my shelves until I found Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (the pen name of Karen Blixen) and West With The Night by Beryl Markham. (Of which Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book…she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer….it really is a bloody wonderful book.”) These are the books that Paula McLain makes me want to reread.

Circling the Sun has brought Beryl Markham to life and made Africa such a vibrant place you can see why those who loved it had to reside there.  Just as The Paris Wife, this is historical fiction of remarkable power. It is the very reason one picks up anything written by Paula McLain.

Sunday Salon: Soothing a Stagnant Spirit

Such a week it’s been. From my son in the ER on Monday, which fortunately turned out to be too much Spring Break for just one boy; to report cards, comment cards, profiles of progress all due Wednesday, and a myriad of other appointments and pieces of bureaucracy in between, I woke up exhausted today. Exhausted and sad.

Sometimes life’s obligations wear me out.

Authority and governance have made me feel compelled to obey though I’ve never liked being told what to.

I’d much rather chart my own course, which basically means sit in my chair and read. Admittedly, that’s not a very dangerous course. But, it is filled with drama in its own way. Reading the books as I have for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize at breakneck speed (although when compared to the other Jury members clocks in at a snail’s pace), has been hugely rewarding. I feel I have been to Berlin, to Austria, to Colombia, to Korea and Japan. And I have been there with fellow bibliophiles by my side.

Circling The SunJust last night, I read half of Paula McLain’s latest book, Circling The Sun. It is about Beryl Markham, of West With The Night fame, of her relationship with Karen and Denys of Out of Africa fame. I cannot put it down.

So these things cheer me up: books (most excellently written), adventures (albeit taken vicariously), love triangles (that aren’t mine). They assuage the bitterness of my soul from weeks like this, and soothe a stagnant  spirit.

Give-away: Celebrate the Release of One Plus One in Paperback With A Complete Set of JoJo Moyes’ Books

ONE PLUS ONE adds up to a delightful summer read… Moyes is masterful at creating characters … You don’t need to be a math whiz to figure out this book is one worth adding to your summer reading list.”

USA Today

I have not read all of JoJo Moyes’ novels. But after reading Me Before You in 2012, I eagerly accepted One Plus One to review last year. Now One Plus One is out in paperback. There is a link to an online book club kit which includes recipes, cocktails, a playlist on Spotify, and a conversation with JoJo Moyes’ here, and a soundclip to this marvelous novel here.

JoJo-Moyes-e1404834696540In addition to that resource, I am pleased to offer a complete set of JoJo Moyes’ novels from Penguin:

To enter the give-away, simply tell me your favorite novel written by JoJo Moyes. Or, if you haven’t read one yet, tell me which one you’re most interested in reading. I will announce the winner (U.S. only, please) one week from today on this post.

Best of luck!

imageThank you to all who participated in this give-away celebrating One Plus One in paperback offered by Penguin. In the tried and true method of fairness, before electronic lotteries, I drew the name of the winner from a crystal bowl. Congratulations to Nadia of A Bookish Way of Life for being the lucky winner!

The Official Short List vs. The Shadow Jury’s Short List For the IFFP 2015

It doesn’t surprise me that there is some variance in the two lists. The numbers were crunched for the Shadow Jury’s short list yesterday, and our top six for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize are listed in order as:

  1. The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck
  2.  Zone by Mathias Enard (added at the Jury’s suggestion)
  3. The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed
  4. The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov
  5. Bloodlines by Marcello Fois
  6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Meanwhile, Booktrust announced the official short list for the IFFP on April 9 (UK time), and their list is composed of these six:

  1. By Night The Mountain Burns by Juan Tomas Avila
  2. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
  3. F by Daniel Kehlmann
  4. The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck
  5. In The Beginning Was The Sea by Tomas Gonzalez
  6. While The Gods Were Sleeping by Erwin Mortier

In common to both our lists are Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, and The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck. Personally, the book I’d like to see take the prize this year is The End of Days. Those of you who know me, and are aware of my passion for Japanese Literature in general, and Haruki Murakami in particular, will be surprised that I don’t choose his book for the prize. Yet, I really don’t feel it can compare to the outstanding novel which Jenny Erpenbeck wrote.

We will have to see if the Shadow Jury and the official jury agree, or which book each group chooses to win the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize on May 27, 2015. You can keep up with us at #IFFP if you’re so inclined.

(And, don’t forget you’re welcome to join in the read-along of John Crowley’s Little, Big this May!)

A Little, Big Read-Along; Care To Join In?


Peter Milton’s title page artwork for the upcoming 25th anniversary edition of John Crowley’s Little, Big.

Peter Milton’s title page artwork for the 25th anniversary edition of John Crowley’s Little, Big.

On a certain day in June, 19__, a young man was making his way on foot northward from the great City to a town or place called Edgewood, that he had been told of but had never visited.  His name was Smokey Barnable, and he was going to Edgewood to get married; the fact that he walked and didn’t ride was one of the conditions placed on his coming there at all.

So begins John Crowley’s book Little, Big. It is a book which won the World Fantasy Award in 1982 and celebrated its 25th anniversary this past February. The illustrations for that special edition were done by Peter Milton, the title page of which you can see at the top of this post.

John Crowley’s masterful Little, Big is the epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travel by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood–not found on any map–to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied. It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld. It is a story of fantastic love and heartrending loss; of impossible things and unshakable destinies; and of the great Tale that envelops us all. It is a wonder. (back cover)

Little BigTom of Wuthering Expectations and Helen of a gallimaufry and I are planning on reading Little, Big by John Crowley this May.  With six “Books” inside, we could discuss Books 1-3 on May 16, and Books 4-6 on May 30. But, please don’t feel tied to that schedule. You could post as you read, or post not at all, whatever works for you. Everyone is so welcome to join us! Just leave a comment below if you wish to make it official, or simply dabble your toes in with us as we read along.

The Final Word

Two days ago, I had my hand slapped by a blogger on Facebook.

Her post mentioned something about the Constitution being the law of the land, not the Bible. And if the Bible was law, we might as well move to Iran.

While I wholeheartedly agree that the Constitution is our law, and should always be so,  I responded that the foundation of our country lies in the words that we are “one nation under God”, and even our money says “in God we trust”.

Her reply was that those two axioms came in the forties and fifties, in response to the red scare; they are not the foundation of our country at all.

I’ve been, as my son would say, a little salty ever since. They are the words I grew up with. They are the words my class and I have said every single morning for thirty years. They are the words on our currency which I touch every day of my life. And it doesn’t seem that they hold meaning for much of America any more.

“Let it go,” said my beloved husband, who knows how much I yearn for the final word.

“But I have to stand up for Him!” I cried.

“God is perfectly capable of standing up for Himself,” he replied. Which is, of course, true. But if I say nothing, I am not representing what I believe. I am allowing the voices of people who aren’t Christian to silence those who are.

These are troubling times, times when it may be easier to scorn Christianity than to adhere to it.

But as I sat in church on Maundy Thursday afternoon, I was reminded of how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. He came to serve, not be served. If my faith means anything at all, and to me it means a great deal, I want to care like He cared. I want to obey the words He spoke at the Last Supper:

“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” ~John 13: 34-35 (The Voice translation)

That’s all that really matters.

That’s the final word.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

imageHe never claims to be anyone other than who he was, and yet this time the German Volk see Adolfo Hitler as a comedian. How is it possible that a man as evil as Hitler is now perceived as funny?

I approached this book with profound trepidation. And yet I was immediately drawn in, for Vermes is not making light of Hitler. He is utterly scorning the 21st century, particularly the media. From radio to television, newspaper to YouTube, his sarcasm lays the game completely bare.

I was reported to be dead. They said I had committed suicide…Was I dead? We all know, of course, what to make of our newspapers. The deaf man writes down what the blind man has told him, the village idiot edits it, and their colleagues in the other press houses copy it. Each story is doused afresh with the same stagnant infusion of lies so that the “splendid” brew can then be served up to a clueless Volk. (p. 26-7)

No, in Vermes’ novel Hitler is not dead. He has reappeared as the Reich Chancellor in Berlin, in his full uniform, and is promptly introduced by a man in the newspaper kiosk whom he has befriended to two gentlemen from a production company. Joachim Sensenbrink and Frank Sawatzki help orchestrate Hitler’s extraordinary reception by the German people who refuse to believe he is who he says he is.

Didn’t this happen once before?

Look Who’s Back is an unflinchingly honest look at Hitler, at people, at media, at our culture today. It is surprisingly funny, if one has the courage to laugh at one’s self, while at the same time cringing from the truth presented without any facade whatsoever. I am refreshed by the audacity and clear perspective that Vermes has used in pointing out to us what we should already know. I think it is a very courageous novel.

IMG_0625 Timur Vermes was born in Nuremberg in 1967, the son of a German mother and a Hungarian father who fled the country in 1956. He studied history and politics and went on to become a journalist. He has written for the Abendzietung and the Cologne Express and worked for various magazines. He has ghostwritten several books since 2007. This is his first novel.

Jamie Bulloch is the translator of novels by Daniel Glattauer, Katharina Hagena, Paulus Hochgatterer, Birgit Vanderbeke, Daniele Krien and Alissa Walser.

Look Who’s Back stunned and thrilled 1.5 million German readers with its fearless approach to the most taboo of subjects. Naive yet insightful, repellent yet strangely sympathetic, the revived Hitler unquestionably has a spring in his step. (Back cover)