Friday, January 16, 2009

Books 2009 -- #1-4

I am taking a page out of Jill's book and will try to post here about all the books that I read in 2009.

The good thing about being sick was that I read 4 books in the last week and a half!

#1. The Star Garden

I read this one for January book club (which I could not attend, sniff). Another very enjoyable book about Sarah Prine. Nothing will quite measure up to These Is My Words for me, and I still miss Captain Jack Elliott, but this one was still a worthy addition to the series (and I preferred it to Sarah's Quilt).

Udell is a very good man, and at times I was impatient with Sarah's waffling over him. I could really relate to Sarah's yearning to be cared for instead of having to be so independent all the time. Still, I had to admit I probably would have a very hard time deciding to give up my freedom and marry again as well.

For some reason, I found myself thinking about technology a lot while reading this book. How convenient it would have been to have a cell phone to call for help from her sons when Maldonado's men were attacking at Udell's house! It's hard to imagine not having electricity and central heating when we consider it a hardship to be without internet or cell service...

#2. The Archivist

Jill gave me this book some time ago, and I finally picked it up. Just seeing the cover on my bedside table gave me a little thrill.

An interesting read, though it risked being on the dull side of erudite at times. I enjoyed the parallels between the narrator (the archivist) and his wife and T.S. Eliot and his wife. All that the narrator's wife endured with her mental illness and institutionalization was very disheartening, she was so misunderstood. At least there was some small redemption in the end.

This one reminded me at times of A.S. Byatt's Possession.

#3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Marc gave me this book for Christmas, mostly because it has "hedgehog" in the title, an inside joke. Also because it was translated from French (though it doesn't read like a translation).

I didn't immediately like this book -- it seemed too self-aware for my taste, and sometimes repetitive. But gradually the characters grew on me. The main character is a concierge in Paris who is short, chubby, and unattractive. Although she is an extremely intelligent autodidact, she goes out of her way to keep up appearances and conform to what people expect her to be. I really ended up liking Renée, Paloma, Kakuro, and Manuela, and I wished I could have seen more of their interactions, it was simply a pleasure to see them going outside themselves. Now if only it didn't have that French ending! A very unsatisfactory ending for this American.

In addition, I learned some new words, which I always love:

avuncular (adj.)
  1. Of or having to do with an uncle.
  2. Regarded as characteristic of an uncle, especially in benevolence or tolerance.
equipoise (n.)
  1. Equality in distribution, as of weight, relationship, or emotional forces; equilibrium.
  2. A counterpoise; a counterbalance.
consonance (n.)
  1. Agreement; harmony; accord.
    1. Close correspondence of sounds.
    2. The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string.
  2. Music A simultaneous combination of sounds not requiring resolution to another combination of sounds for finality of effect and conventionally regarded as harmonious or pleasing (the opposite of dissonance).
(I suspected as much, but wasn't sure.)

And, two favorite passages:

"... on the way home I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language." (p. 160)

"I untie the string and tear the paper. It's a book, a fine edition bound in navy blue leather of a coarse texture that is very wabi. In Japanese wabi means 'an understated form of beauty, a quality of refinement masked by rustic simplicity.' I'm not really sure what this means but this binding is most definitely wabi." (p. 165)

#4. Pilate's Wife

I would probably give this one something inbetween 3 and 4 stars. It was a very engrossing, quick read. I really enjoyed learning more about what it was like to be a woman in the time of Christ. Claudia was an interesting, passionate character, but she sure did make a lot of foolish, rash decisions.

She was prone to visions and dreams, which normally brought her great pain, as they quite often foretold the death of loved ones. After befriending Mary Magdalene, she foresaw the death of Christ and tried to dissuade Pilate from condemning him.

There is a decent amount of sex here, for those who are sensitive to that.

I'm sure I can't keep up this pace, but I'm off to a great start! Let me know if you have something I should add to my reading list for this year.


Jill said...

Wow, 4 books in a week and a half, not too shabby at all! That's probably more than most people (nonreaders) read in a year. I'm glad there was a benefit to being sick.

Amie said...

You are off to a fast start. I seem to be on the slow track... which is ok but I know I probably don't give books justice for how good they are when I am the one who drags them out.

Your reviews are the perfect length... enough but not so long I am tempted to skim (or scroll). gasp.

Amy said...

I'll be looking forward to these posts! I always love what people have to say about books. I've been planning on writing more about the books I read, too. I even started a sidebar to list all of the books I read this year over on my blog.

Melinda said...

Is it horrible that I have never heard of any of these books? I am so out of it. That is great that you got to read so much. I have two books under my belt. I like your reviews though so that I can know if there is a good book to get.

Kelly said...

I always love to read posts about books -- especially coming from you. I have two books under my belt so far this year, which I am happy about. I suppose I should post about them! I definitely recommend "Up High in the Tres", can't think of the author right off, but it's on my goodreads. Really good!

Christina said...

"the memory keeper's daughter" by kim edwards

it's a sad and compelling story written in such masterful, beautiful prose. I absolutely could not put it down.

Denise said...

I am sad to say that I hardly ever read for pleasure. I miss it, but am just too tired once my head hits the pillow at night. I will have to make time for another Sarah Prine installment, however.

Hope you're on the mend!

Susan said...

I'm right there with Denise. I hardly ever read for pleasure,but for work inspiration or information. I enjoy it, but it's ifferent than reading for pleasure.

Thank heavens I have the Scriptures. And, I will make a goal to read one of your recommended books for pleasure this year!

I love the new vocabulary words. Thanks!

Hope your're feeling better, but it sounds like you made the most of it with your reading.

Claudissima said...

O lala...4 livres! C'est magnifique. I can't imagine that. Good use of time. My aunt usually is the fastest reader i know. She gobbles up a book every two to four days! I was scared to hear what CLAUDIA was like....I will tell you a spiritual sort of thing...when I see you next time, it took me by surprise.
Hope you are feeling better.

shannon said...

I'm so envious that you were able to get so much reading in! (Not jealous of your sickness, though)--Isn't that the pits that it takes being majorly sick to be able to have a bit of time to yourself?--

My problem is that once I start a book, I obsess over it until I'm finished. It doesn't work out so well with the whole "motherhood thing"--

I enjoyed your mini book reviews and new words to boot! I love introducing a new word into my usual repertoire.

I am currently reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett--

Rin said...

FOUR books in a week and a half!!! Holy cow, you are a fast reader.

Also, what is a French ending? I suspect that that I know already...just a very unsatisfactory ending, sort of like a starcrossed type of ending?

carlo said...

good reading and reviews! wow. i am impressed. i tend to watch bad tv when i am ill and have the chance.

Anonymous said...

Can I just tell you how embarrassed I am at my lack of commenting and then this massive catch-up? (although it is fun to get such a dose of you all at once!)

I love those new words- consonance is awesome!

I have that Hedgehog book on my to read list, I think I heard about it on NPR??? I am curious about a French ending!

I keep forgetting about the Star Garden too, must read that soon!

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