If her memories were bittersweet now, they still testified to a life lived to the fullest, a life that had not lacked for passion or adventure. — “Lionheart,” Sharon Kay Penman
Can you believe it’s the end of September already? The month has flown by.
Yesterday saw the first new Books section, now reduced to a page. I had a complaint about the length of the reviews and the size of the art. I plan the section out in advance and wasn’t able to cut the reviews before the page published. This Sunday will see shorter reviews. The page is still being put together, so I can’t comment on the art.
Now you’ve seen the new page, I hope you’ll give some feedback about what you liked/disliked about it. I’ve received some good ideas, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to share. Some of your ideas I have to discuss with my bosses, so I hope you understand if changes aren’t immediate.
The end of the month also means it’s book giveaway time. If you’re like me, fall is a very food-oriented time of the year — stews, pies, pumpkins, squash, all that good stuff. What better way to spend a fall day cozy on the couch reading about the meals of our forefathers? I’m giving away “Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal.” Michael L. Ramsey reviewed it earlier this month, so you can see what he has to say about it before you dive into the competition.
As for me, I’m about halfway through “Lionheart.” It took me a little while to get into it, and I’m a bit lost on the eleventy billion characters Sharon Kay Penman introduced, but I’m enjoying the ride. I like it most for the depiction of Richard I’s wife, who you don’t really hear much about in history or historical fiction. In fact, Eleanor of Aquitaine tends to dominate the Plantagenet women, so it’s a nice change to have her in background and Richard’s wife and sister as the main female characters.
What did you read this weekend?
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Who would expect a tame bird to fend for itself if it were set free after a lifetime of gilded captivity? – “Lionheart,” Sharon Kay Penman
Happy Monday, book lovers!
It’s been a long week for me, but I got in a ton of reading. I finished “The Disaster Artist,” the book I referred to in my previous post, and it was excellent. I never got round to basing a blog post on it because I wanted to share changes that are coming to the Books section. Starting this Sunday, the section will be just one page.
I’m soliciting your thoughts on how to best use this space, and I really want to know what you want for the page. I can’t promise anything, but I want to hear your ideas. This page is for you, the readers, and my priority is pleasing you.
Shifting back to books, I devoured one called “Four Wives” by Wendy Walker. It wasn’t a great book — I devoured it the way I do a McDonald’s hamburger when I’m in the mood for one. It was a fluffy “chick lit” that addressed the perennial problems women have in trying to have it all. I do think these problems have very valid bases, actually, tied to societal expectations that in some cases are evolving quickly and in others not quickly enough, but there’s a way to do this like a fillet mignon and there’s a way to do it like a McDonald’s hamburger. But even though fillet mignon is superior, sometimes you just want the hamburger.
After finishing “Four Wives,” I felt like something different, something rugged and more masculine. I thought I found it in “Lionheart,” from which the quote at the top was taken, but this historical fiction about Richard I is so far from the points of view of lots of different women. I’m not that deep into it, but I plan to keep going.
Finally, this quiz from Abe Books will tell you what literary character you are. I’m Galadriel. I wish it told me why, but Galadriel’s all right, so I’ll take it.
What’s going on in your book world?
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The Room doesn’t work in any way films have evolved to work over the last century of filmmaking. It’s filled with red herrings, shots of locations that are never visited, and entire conversations comprised of non sequiturs. It is, essentially, one gigantic plot hole. — “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
I’ll start your Monday off on a good note: Another J.K. Rowling book is being adapted for screen. No, not “The Cuckoo’s Calling”; this is one of two Harry Potter tie-in books Rowling wrote to raise money for charity. They look and read like textbooks Harry would take to school. The one being made for the movies is “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” by Newt Scamander. Pretty cool, eh?
Last week, I finished “Mockingjay,” the final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I know I’m way behind, but I’m keen to exchange thoughts about the series while it’s fresh in my mind. I explained what I liked and disliked about the whole trilogy in this thread, and I’d love to keep the discussion going. Just as I finished, news broke that Julianne Moore will play President Coin, and I think that’s an interesting and unexpected choice.
Keeping with the movie theme, the book I’m reading now is about the making of a gloriously bad movie called “The Room.” This is the king of bad movies, the “Citizen Kane” of the genre, as one critic put it. The star actor — who also wrote, directed and produced — is an eccentric, mysteriously rich foreigner who is determined to be a movie star even though he has zero talent. I love so-bad-they’re-good movies. I’ve watched “The Room” about half a dozen times, so I was thrilled when I heard one of the actors wrote a behind-the-scenes book. It’s a really good book, too, very well written. I’m not doing the book or the movie justice, but that’s OK, it’s inspiring this week’s blog post.
A good week for book and movie buffs then! How are things in your literary world?
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“Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!” — “Mockingjay,” Suzanne Collins
Happy Monday, readers! What did you read last week?
If you read the paper, you saw a few interesting book-related stories. Dan Casey wrote a column about former Mayor Nelson Harris’ new book, “Hidden History of Roanoke.” Harris talks about Roanoke’s wild past — the North Carolina politician who had a second family in Roanoke County, the 1879 sham marriage that became New York Times front-page news, and the former Crystal Spring Elementary School student who killed an international icon. The book sounds well worth the dollars. One of my book reviewers is working on his own review, and that should be out in the next few weeks.
The other book story is completely different: Ralph Berrier Jr.’s story about the burying of books by the Jewish community. According to the story, Jews should not throw away any document that mentions God’s name. Instead the books are buried, the idea being they decompose and create new earth from which to grow trees to make new books. Is this practice unique to Judaism, does anyone know? I love this idea, although I wonder how it works in practice. The hardbacks on my desk look distinctly nonbiodegradable.
As for myself, I am reading “Mockingjay,” the final book in Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy. I read “Catching Fire” months ago, so I’m twisting my brain to remember who all the tributes are. Also, I don’t remember Haymitch being such a jerk.
I thought the best parts of Collins’ previous books were when Katniss was in the arena, so I was a little apprehensive going into this one knowing there was no arena. Also, someone said it’s the least interesting book because it’s about government, politics, revolution, etc. However, “Mockingjay” has completely engrossed me so far. I don’t miss the blow-by-blow of the arena, and — SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK PLEASE STOP NOW — I find the practices of District 13 interesting.
I hope you all had a good week. Let me know what’s going on in your literary world.
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Can you believe it’s September already? A new month of fun book stuff awaits us.
But first, some sad book stuff: the passing of poet Seamus Heaney. Now, I’m not really one for poetry. Most of what I’ve read is by men who died a long time ago — Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy, John Donne — and that was back in high school. However, I remember reading Seamus Heaney my senior year with my English teacher, Mrs. Holtmeier. The two of us were in her classroom and we analyzed “Blackberry Picking.” I liked that poem; I think it was the first “modern” poem I read, understood and enjoyed. When I read of Heaney’s death last week, I recalled that memory and felt a twinge of sadness.
I am between books right now. I just finished “Constance” by Rosie Thomas, and am planning my review. I have to untangle all the themes in my head first. “Constance” is romantic, dramatic, sad and bittersweet. I opened it unsure that I would like it — romance and sentimentality aren’t my things — but I liked it very much.
I already have my next book waiting on my bedside table: “The Original of Laura,” Vladmir Nabokov’s unfinished work. Nabokov is one of my favorite authors, and I am eager to begin. I got that book and the latest in my favorite vampire romance series last week for my birthday. That sums up my reading habits right there.
The book giveaway continues this week — “Let Me Be Frank,” by Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer. Columnist Andy Bitter wrote a story about the book. Warning: It contains some spoilers, such as when Beamer was considering leaving Tech.
It’s been pretty hot and humid this Labor Day weekend. If you’re off, why not stay inside where it’s cool and read a book? That’s what I’d like to do.