Lori's Book Nook

Posts Tagged ‘novel

Yikes! I’m 23 days into the #95books challenge (my first post on that), and only 7 books in…and no real theme to my reading. But that’s not new – and I fully intend on following my nose from book to book.

Continuing the list:

#5 – Julie Powell‘s Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. I enjoyed the movie – the pseudo-biopic with the delightful Meryl Streep as Julia Child – so thought that reading Powell’s memoir of cooking through Child’s classic cookbook would be fun. It feel off a thrift store shelf into my hand, so that was an easy decision, honestly. In the end, it an amusing bit of trifle, with a lot of honesty and personal anguish: “And as the week progressed the throbbing of my biological clock syncopated with my crepe anxiety until they formed one jazz rhythm.”

#6 – Carol Shields’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Unless. Again, a novel that dropped off a shelf in the thrift store that I’d been meaning to read. Shields’ prose is smooth, deceptively simple, the story carrying the reader along until you realize that you’re deep into it, unable to leave it. The link above is to a Salon review that has a line that struck me as being very descriptive of the experience:

Shields’ fiction has always had this sort of stealth spikiness, like soft fish that, when bitten into, turns up a web of bone, or like that sweet middle-aged lady next door when you were growing up, who turns out to have been watching you more shrewdly and understanding you more completely than you ever suspected.

#7 – Kurt Busiek & Cary Nord’s graphic novel of Richard E. Howard’s stories Conan: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories. Yes! A graphic novel is a book. An early set of stories by Howard, this lovely collection of comics was a hardcover gift to my husband at Christmas. It’s a good yarn, and the story reminds us to beware of what we wish for – always a good lesson.

So…what’s next on the pile to be read? I’ll let you know soon enough!

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I’ve been reading a  lot in French lately.

[My that sounds pretentious. My apologies. I’ve been studying la belle langue for work, and my own pleasure, and I read. Seems logical]

Last fall, I read Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda…a lovely story of 4 unlikely friends who find themselves sharing an elegant apartment in Paris for a time. It’s an absolutely lovely book, the characters are fascinating and realistic, and some moments will move you to tears. I mentioned it awhile ago on this blog, where the only thing I really said about it is that they’d made a movie out of it. I’ve since read the book and seen the movie — my suggestion? Forget the film. Find the book. The movie hits the bulk of the plot points without delving into the characters at all deeply — and the characters make the story truly live. (The English title chosen was Hunting and Gathering — odd.)

So then the book L’Élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery was recommended to me by my tutor. And I would like to thank her deeply for both (1) pointing me in the direction of this brilliant book and (2) assuming that my French was up to the high-brow erudition of this novel en français!

From the first chapter, first paragraph:

I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly—though always polite—I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social
prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and
sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

(Source: the sample chapter on the US publisher’s site)

So there I was, reading this in French, marveling at the gorgeous sentence structure, and then I got bogged down and unfortunately had to put it aside. I found it in the wonderful English translation, and continued reading…and was not disappointed.

The publisher’s reading group guide is available, for those that enjoy filtering their reading through themes.

Any other suggestions pour des livres en français pour moi?

NO, this is not a blog post about Twilight. Oh, spare me that agony. I did read the first book, lent to me by a co-worker, on a bus trip. It was a relatively fun, mindless 2 hours to the end of the book…but it was like eating cotton candy, absolutely no sustenance.

And it is not a post about Anne Rice, although I enjoyed her vampire books. I especially enjoyed the history of each vampire. Fun, sexy books.

Who I would like to talk about is the author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. A good friend of mine intercepted me after the above-mentioned bus trip, told me, if you want vampire fiction, here is where to go.  That was 2 months ago. She has since lent me 5 of Yarbro’s books, all of which I’ve devoured…but I’m only getting around to writing about them now. My apologies.

The website states the over-arching focus of the books much more succinctly than I ever could:

The books of the Saint-Germain Cycle combine historic fiction, romance, and horror and feature the heroic vampire first introduced in Hôtel Transylvania as Le Comte de Saint-Germain. In this initial novel, the character — cultured, well-traveled, articulate, elegant, and mysterious — appears in the court of France’s King Louis XV.

A ‘heroic vampire’ makes for a very readable series (of which I’ve only read 1/4…there are 20+ books so far!). Then, the conflict is in the human world around Saint- Germain as he maintains his life.

As Chelsea Quinn Yarbro explains:

The second level of questions arose from the relationship of vampires to humans — must the relationship be exploitative? And must humans abhor vampires? The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was worth trying to use a vampire as a metaphor for humanism: a person living an unnaturally long life might become alienated from humanity, as a means of avoiding the pain of spending most of your time saying permanent good-byes. Or it was just possible the vampire would, through his very alienation, seek to be part of human experience, which offered a great many more dramatic possibilities.

So, the books follow the efforts of the vampire Saint-Germain to live in each age. Of course, because of his accumulated wealth and knowledge, he finds himself embroiled in public life and that brings its own difficulties. The stories recount his activities in this public sphere, with any sucking of blood kept to the sidelines.

The most fascinating aspect of these books is that the horror and danger in a Saint-Germain novel come from the humans, not the vampire.

Any other Yarbro fans out there?


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!