Under The Covers and Reading

October 18, 2008

I love Olive!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by underthecoversandreading @ 9:55 am

I finished Olive Kitteridge yesterday afternoon and it remained as well crafted as I suspected from start to finish.  Elizabeth Strout’s novel is actually more like 12 short stories each written to include the main character, a retired school teacher in small town Maine named Olive Kitteridge.  In some chapters  Olive figures rather tangentially as a neighbor or teacher, in others we hear her voice or that of her husband, Henry.  The reader learns about Olive by seeing the world as she sees it– her observations,  her critiques, her painful memories– and then by seeing her interactions with others.  It’s a fascinating technique and one that suits such a nuanced character.  Olive isn’t wholly sympathetic but she’s also not despicable.  She’s as flawed as we all are and Strout reveals just enough in each story to keep you reading and wondering.  How did Olive get to be Olive?  What binds her to her husband, Henry?  Why is her relationship with her son, Christopher so broken?

Strout leaves enough to the imagination that there would be endless ways one could go for a book club conversation.  I can’t wait to choose this one as my own pick for my own book club.

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October 11, 2008

When You Don’t Trust Someone Else’s Reading Recommendations

Filed under: Uncategorized — by underthecoversandreading @ 2:46 pm

I  don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but sometimes I’ll get reading suggestions from dear friends or even supposed literary ‘experts’ and find myself terribly skeptical.  I’ll dutifully read the book’s back cover ‘blurb’ and then think it just doesn’t sound like I book I’d pick out or even be interested in.  I don’t buy the book or even borrow it.  I just remember that it was strongly recommended.  I try to leave it at that.

Then something changes — my book club decides it wants to read this highly touted book or I see it at the library on the new fiction shelf– and I realize I’m just going to have to try it.

That’s just to me again– twice, in fact, this week.  The book my book club is reading was highly praised but I wasn’t initially interested.   It’s a UK release by Tim Rice’s daughter, Eva Rice, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

It’s set in 1950’s post-war London and I did not expect to like it after reading the first two chapters. A bit too chick-lit-y for me.   Since it’s for my book club and I adore my book club friends, I’ve had to press on.  Much to my surprise, it’s getting better.  I hope it keeps up that way and becomes an unexpected pleasure

The other overly recommended book is Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout.

I’d read Amy and Isabelle almost a decade ago and loved it, but the new book was being pushed in an almost over the top manner last week when I went on the Book Club Field Trip.  The woman who oversees book clubs at the large independent bookstore kept saying it was THE book for book clubs to read.  Honestly, her hype turned me off immediately.  But, there it was, Olive Kitteridge, right on the library shelf yesterday calling my name.  I reasoned that since I wasn’t paying for it, I could at least see how wrong this woman was about the book.  Of course, when I got it home last night it was fabulous– at least the first two chapters.

I hate it when that happens!  Not really– It just humbles me and makes me laugh at myself a little more.  There’s something terribly lovely about being in the midst of reading two splendid books.

October 6, 2008

People of the Book

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This book was a complete surprise to me.  I had read and heard it was terrific, but I honestly didn’t think it would be for me.  The plot revolves around the true story of the lost Sarajavo Haggadah (that’s a 15th century Passover prayer book) and a 20th century conservationist’s (Hanna) attempts to learn more about the book’s creation and past life.  Hanna finds clues to the book’s past from objects in its ancient binding and stains on the pages.  The book alternates between Hanna’s detective and restorative work and the imagined voices of those who handled and ultimately created the book.  There’s more to it than this because the independent (and fictional) historical stories have fantastic settings and rich imagery.  Brooks is excellent as usual at taking her readers on historical and geographic journeys.  I have never had ANY interest in hearing much about Sarajevo and now I’m anxious to learn more.

I am absolutely recommending this book!  I do, however, want to note that those of you who do not have much (or any) knowledge of Judiasm will find your reading experience is much richer if you learn something about Passover (what is a haggadah?) and some of the history of european anti-semitism from the 1400’s on (expulsions of Jews from Spain etc.).  The same could be said about gleaning some understanding of the relationship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  This book doesn’t demand you know much, but you’ll enjoy it far more if you have a bit of background or a resource to consult while reading.  It’s a gem!

October 4, 2008

Books About Boobs

Filed under: Uncategorized — by underthecoversandreading @ 5:52 pm

No….. not really.  Can’t wait to see what traffic that post generates!

No, I’m just slow in finishing my latest book, People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks and the reason is I spent this weekend at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in our closest major metropolitan area.  Last week I was able to do a significant amount of reading on the weekend but not so with the race.  I was early to bed last night and early rising this morning to make the trek north.  The race was in a new location this year but they were close to raising one million dollars for the event.  I’m hoping they do!

And, just in case you need some books about boobs, well, there are some books on breast cancer awareness, treatment, and prevention.  Go get yourself (or your loved one!) checked so you don’t ever have to read these!!

  • Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book:4th edition
  • Breast Cancer: The Complete Guide: Fifth Edition (Just out!)

October 2, 2008

Book Club Field Trip Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — by underthecoversandreading @ 8:25 pm

Ah, the field trip!

What could be better than a trip to talk about books?

We had a lovely time last night.  We drove 40 miles north to a large indy bookstore for what was billed as a ‘book club seminar.’  I’m not sure that’s really what it was, but it was enjoyable.  Mostly for the company, but also admittedly, for the book swag. I was able to get three new books– Louis Bayard’s The Black Tower, Tony Early’s The Blue Star, and Sarah Hall’s Daughters of the North. More on those later.

We heard a speaker from our local chapter of the national endowment for the humanities plug a gigantic local book festival that’s coming up in 2 weeks and then Susan Gregg Gilmore, the author of Looking for Salvation at Dairy Queen spoke quite articulately about her writing process and journey through the publishing process.  She’s a local product (I have not read her book) but I was quite impressed with her demeanor and candidness about writing and editing.  She didn’t seem overly rehearsed or like she was doing ‘canned’ remarks so I was pleased to be introduced to her.  I’m not sure I’ll read the book, but I’m definitely more likely to now than I was before.

After these two women spoke the convener of the meeting pushed a few books at us that had been successful for her in book clubs.  Much to our dismay, several were titles she promoted last year so we didn’t come away with too many new ideas.  That part was incredibly disappointing and I have to say, given all that I read on the internet, I could’ve done a much better job presenting book club resources and new titles.  If only I had my own bookstore….

We wandered around the store after the event and shared title’s that looked interesting to us.  We ended the evening at a local Cheesecake Factory with a late night dinner and drinks.  I love the women in my book club and we laughed and talked for a few more hours about books, our lives, and our families.  I only wish these field trips could happen more often instead of us stealing away for dinner once a month!

October 1, 2008

Book Club Field Trips

Filed under: Uncategorized — by underthecoversandreading @ 12:11 pm

Today’s one of my favorite day’s of the year– it’s a book club field trip!  Once a year my group takes a trip 40 miles north to a rather large independent bookseller for a preview night and book giveaway.  This is the second year we’ve gone (the third for some in the group) and it promises to be a hoot.  We stop for dinner beforehand and then get to hear all about what books have been most popular so far and what new and upcoming releases look promising.  The organizer is a bit of tyrant, but we laugh A LOT on this adventure, both driving to and from.  I can’t wait to let you know what books I hear about.  Last year we got some fabulous ideas.

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