another review of a book about book lovers

So in the exhilarating hours following my completion of Anna Karenina I read 84, Charing Cross Road quickly followed by the similar The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A book with which I fell completely in love.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

As I mentioned in my review of 84 I heard about Guernsey when listening to the Diane Rehm show on NPR. And because of Anna I had to wait to read it. I opened the pages and found a quote from the book on this special glossy page at the beginning of the novel.

I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How wonderful if that were true.

  I teared up more than a few times while reading this book. Mary Ann Shaffer (described by her niece as their family’s best story-teller) and her niece Annie Barrows struck quite an amazing tone in telling the stories of the men and women who lived under German occupation in the British Channel Isles during World War Two. It is a story of courage and unlikely friendships and all those “feel good” cliches they use to describe novels like this. And I loved it.

Anna is considered a “great romance” and I guess I can kind of see that when it comes to Levin and Kitty… but to me it seemed more like a dissertation on dysfunctional relationships. So, this whimsical romance set in such a distinct little place was refreshing and just so cute to me.

Like 84, Guernsey is told through correspondence. The letters written to and from Juliet unfold the story of her life and the inhabitants of this quirky little island in the English Channel. All of the characters are resiliently recovering from the horrors of World War II and attempting to piece their lives back together. And Juliet, hearing of the people and their plight during the war decides to write a story about them.

I think after the bleak, bleak pages of early 19th century Russia the hopeful love story set in the late 1940s was so completely refreshing that I just liked it without even thinking about it. It is one of the best kinds of stories: people drawing together during a dark time and creating joy in the midst of terror.

I find the title of this book sort of amusing. As with most absurdly long titles it makes perfect sense once you’ve read the novel. And the quirkiness is sure to grab attention of book browsers. I like quirky names, but I am over them a little bit. I don’t think I’ll ever like books with one word titles. But somewhere in the 2-4 words range is acceptable I think. Or maybe I’m just in a weird mood after blogging about so many books with ridiculously long titles.

I have some exciting news for you all later this week… so make sure you stop by the blog Thursday to read it!

See you then.

Some Suggested Reads

I thought I’d give you guys a quick rundown of some books that I’ve really enjoyed and probably won’t review on here. Check em out. And if you have any suggestions for me drop a note in the comments below.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

 

This is Nick Hornby’s most recent novel. It was released in 2009. It follows a sort of obsessive music fan and his intransigent, mismatched live-in girlfriend. She winds up meeting the man her boyfriend is obsessed with and discovering that sometimes heroes are not all they’re cracked up to be. I enjoyed the nerdy music fandom dissection. The wry humor about obsession with celebrity. It’s solid Hornby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield

In this follow up to Love is a Mixtape (but really a prequel of sorts) Rob talks about what it was like growing up with the phenomenon of 80s pop music. It was an education for me, for sure. If nothing else I’ve now seen more creepy music videos than I could have ever cared to see… Need some proof? Watch this one. Anyway, it was pleasantly nostalgic and a bit happier than Love is a Mixtape (a book that I still love tremendously).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

 

I really, really love this book. It was given to me a few years ago by a former student of mine. Since then I’ve read it several times and even did a presentation on it for my YA Lit class last semester. It’s a powerful little book. They’re currently making it a movie (with a stellar cast). I’m currently pressing this book on my youngest sister since I know she loves all that mopey teen lit. It was published in 1999 by MTV books, but that shouldn’t turn you away. Read it. Then talk to a kid about it. Books bringing people together, whoda thunk it?

 

 

 

 

 

Emily of New Moon
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

 

Ok, first of all I have to say I love these new covers and I might have to invest in getting these new printings. The original Emily series was given to me by a teacher when I was in middle school. Now, you may be much more familiar with Montgomery’s famous red-headed Anne of Green Gables. I’ll be honest, I’ve only seen the movies but I absolutely devoured these books. Emily enchanted me with her elfin features. She’s a classic Montgomery heroine with a love of books and writing as well as the bad habit of always getting into trouble but being dearly loved. It has been years since I’ve read them so they might be terrible, but I remember so much enchantment in the scenery and the odd Victorian plot twists.

 

 

 

 

The Magicians
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magician King
The Magician King by Lev Grossman

 

 

I’ve just finished The Magician King by Lev Grossman which is a sequel that is all over the interwebs and has won some sort of award for stand out fantasy fiction. For the most part I enjoyed it, definitely more so than the first The Magicians. Apparently it’s number two in a trilogy, so we’ll see how that turns out.

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow I will be telling you about some awesome sunscreen. And I’ll be reading more of Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned (Sidenote: that novel was mentioned in One Day which made me feel a bit odd). Wish me luck that the weather will stay clear.

 

A Re-cap of the Beach Week

the three books I finished

At this point it may seem a little cruel to dwell on the fact that I spent last week on vacation. But I did want to give you guys a little update on some of the progress made. Plus, I’m sure you’ve all experienced that refreshing feeling you get from a week of doing pretty much nothing.

I finished three of the eight books I took with me (including Anna Karenina;well I took her with me, but I didn’t finish her). In order it was One Day, The Joy Luck Club, and The Book Thief. So, you’ll have those reviews to look forward to in the coming weeks.

I also got on a blogging frenzy and wrote posts halfway into next week. Which isn’t much further ahead than I normally am, but if you remember a couple weeks ago I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything interesting worth saying, and that little burst proved me wrong.

I also spent a lot of time interweb lurking. Thanks to my friend Catie I found Books of Adam. She said he’s her favourite blogger (which gives me something to work toward). I did however read his entire blog in one evening. There were a few other blogs I spent some time on. As well as making sure my Goodreads profile was up to date. And then there was that pesky beach I just had to spend some time on in effort to even out my ridiculous tan-lines.

The thing I’m perhaps the most stoked about was getting into Pottermore. People keep asking me what it is and I’m finding it difficult to describe. It’s best if you just watch J.K. explain it herself. Anyway, I will be a beta tester for the site and am anxiously awaiting the cyber equivalent of my Hogwarts Acceptance letter. (Sidenote: Lauren Gilmore, everytime I think about your plan with Chad to train an owl I bust up laughing).

Finally, Tuesday night last week we went to a show at my church called Jam Fest featuring my younger sister, her boyfriend’s band All I Am, and a friend of our’s band named I Surrender. It was a great little show. The kids all seemed to have a blast. And I felt like I was walking around like I was 16 again.

It was a good week. And now I’m glad to be home feeling refreshed and ready to go. The next couple of weeks will be exciting for me. I’m also participating (for the first time) in the twentysomethingbloggers Blog Swap. So that will be very cool.

Now, I’m gonna watch Wilfred and then head to work. Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain today…

Ghost Road

There’s a story I read once in The Martian Chronicles that Ray Bradbury wrote. A short story set on Mars that deals with ghosts. The beauty of this collection of short stories is that none of them actually feed into each other, making them different than chapters in books, yet they do sort of build on each other. So, before this story happens Man from Earth has sent several groups of astronauts to Mars. In all their expeditions the men either go crazy or are murdered by the Martians. By the time the third group of explorer-astronauts arrive the Martians are extinct. I believe it was some sort of virus that wiped them out.
So, man conquers Mars, builds his own empire from the ruins of theirs. The Martians civilization centered around the beautiful flowing waters that ran through their cities. They had almost a Venetian look to them. By the time Man enters the scene the waters are dried up and gone. Mars is desolate. Soon, regular people from Earth come to settle on Mars because Earth is over-crowded and polluted.
Thus our story begins with a man driving on one of the ancient highways on Mars. He’s speeding through the desert late at night, not expecting to come across anyone else. I imagine in my mind Highway 50, which my friend Adam told me is called the Loneliest Road in America. The sort of highway you pick up phantom radio signals from 50 years ago when you’re driving in the middle of the night. I think that’s what Bradbury might have been inspired by.
So, this man driving along meets two other headlights coming toward him. Intrigued by this he pulls over and waits for them. The other pair continue toward him and as they approach he sees a vehicle completely alien to him. Out steps one of the extinct Martians. They are both confused by the sight of the other. In the distance the Man sees the ruins of a great city; the Martian sees it lit up and beautiful, waiting for his arrival and a celebration. They talk, the Man tells the Martian he must be a ghost because his kind no longer exist. The Martian tells the Man that cannot be possible, he remembers hearing ancient stories of men who came from another place.
An ordinary timeline is set on it’s ear. At the conclusion of the short story one is uncertain of who is actually the ghost. It’s one of those concepts that adds more wrinkles to your brain.
I remembered this story today as I was driving. My little sister in the passenger seat was playing DJ and she picked Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down” right as we started driving on Bayshore Boulevard. For almost four years I travelled down this Boulevard on an almost daily basis. This was a few years ago now, so almost every time I drive on it now I’m overcome with nostalgia. But, this time, the feeling was very much more intense. You see “Hands Down” was on one of the few CDs I had when I started driving, so it got a lot of airtime. As we rounded the curves this morning I almost caught sight of a green VW Jetta in my blind spot, windows down and sunroof open, housing a girl a few years younger, totally alive in that song. Or in front of me I could see a beat up BMW, hand out the driver’s side window bobbing in the air current with the song. I drove alongside the ghosts of myself. This girl, unsure of the next few years, but loving this drive, hugging the curves of the boulevard with her German-made, tight suspension. Did she come before me, or will she come after me? I feel like, had we three had our own roadside chat, we would dispute the timeline. I know 17 and 20 come before 23, but as I get older the things that were the truest about my 17 and 20 year old self become obvious to me as the things truest about myself now.
I feel as though I’m always writing the same story. One that leads back to where it started. But life sort of flows like that doesn’t it? It’s the sensation you get when you visit someplace totally new, that you’ve been there before; that gas station looks the same, that street corner echoes another. Pieces of the familiar spring up and surprise you, make you feel a little more secure. bring peace.