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Posts Tagged ‘fairy tales’

shakespeare co nyc autumn window bookstore

I am, it seems, constantly in the middle of five books at once, these days. But I have managed to finish a few lately. (And admire a perfectly autumnal window display at Shakespeare & Co. in NYC.)

Here’s what I have been reading:

Three Daughters of Eve, Elif Shafak
Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife, is mugged on her way to a dinner party in Istanbul. The thief unearths an old photo, which takes Peri back 15 years to her time as a student at Oxford, and the professor who fascinated her. A well-written novel of a woman caught between several worlds. Peri’s character frustrated me at times, but I enjoyed the glimpses of Oxford, my favorite city. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Dec. 5).

Woman Enters Left, Jessica Brockmole
I loved Brockmole’s previous two historical novels, Letters from Skye and At the Edge of Summer. This one moves into the U.S. and the 20th century, following actress Louise Wilde as she drives cross-country in 1952, trying to unravel a mystery involving her mother. (We also get glimpses into her mother’s earlier road trip along a similar route.) An engaging story with three likable protagonists, though I found the ending abrupt.

Hunted, Meagan Spooner
This YA reimagining of Beauty and the Beast (recommended by Leigh) is gorgeous and compelling. When Yeva’s father loses his fortune, begins acting strangely and then disappears, Yeva takes off into the woods, determined to find him and the creature he’s been tracking. What – and who – she finds is surprising. A fascinating take on this familiar story, weaving in Russian folklore and the tale of the Firebird. I loved Yeva and her sisters.

All We Saw, Anne Michaels
I heard about this new collection of poems on love and grief via the Knopf poetry newsletter, and picked it up at the Book House in Summertown, Oxford. It is spare and haunting and jarring and lovely. One of my favorite lines: “forgiveness is not about the past but the future / and needs another word.”

Here is Real Magic: A Magician’s Search for Wonder in the Modern World, Nate Staniforth
After working for years as a touring magician, Staniforth found himself totally burned out. So he headed to India with a friend and almost no plan, hoping to rediscover a sense of wonder. A highly enjoyable, honest memoir about the hard work of doing what you love, dealing with disillusionment and finding wonder in it again. I liked Nate’s voice and he has some wonderful insights about magic (the non-staged kind). To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 16).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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A Presumption of Death, Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L. Sayers
I’m usually wary of authors adapting another author’s characters – but Jill Paton Walsh superbly continues the story of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. As World War II heats up, Peter goes abroad on a secret mission and Harriet takes the children to the country, where (of course) she has to solve a mystery. Full of familiar village characters (from Busman’s Honeymoon) and two truly wonderful bits of code-breaking.

Hoot, Carl Hiaasen
As the new kid at his Florida middle school, Roy is trying to stay under the radar. But a mysterious barefoot boy and his tough soccer-player sister introduce Roy to a group of tiny burrowing owls – which lead all three kids into a confrontation they hadn’t expected. Funny at times, but definitely aimed at middle-school boys.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home, Laura Vanderkam
I loved Vanderkam’s 168 Hours and enjoyed these three short, pithy productivity e-guides. Useful tips for making the most of your mornings, weekends and work hours. I’m paying more attention to where my time goes, and am planning to implement some of Vanderkam’s ideas. Smart and practical.

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris, Ann Mah
When Ann Mah’s diplomat husband was posted to Paris, she began planning all the culinary adventures they’d have together. But when he was called to Iraq for a year – alone – she had to revise her plans. A lovely memoir of creating a home in a new place, with lots of French culinary history, mouthwatering recipes and nods to that other American diplomatic wife, Julia Child.

The Attenbury Emeralds, Jill Paton Walsh
Lord Peter Wimsey recounts his first case – the recovery of a stolen emerald – to his wife Harriet. Then the emerald’s current owner turns up, needing Peter’s help again. The retelling of the first mystery dragged on and on – it only got interesting when the second case started to pick up. Not nearly as good as Walsh’s other two adaptations, but still entertaining once it picked up steam.

Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
I reach for this book every year when winter digs in its heels and it seems spring will never come. I love watching Jane discover the world of P.E. Island, but even better is watching her blossom into a confident, happy young woman. Charming and fun.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer
Linh Cinder, gifted mechanic, has a secret: she’s part cyborg. When the prince asks her to fix his personal android and her sweet stepsister falls ill, Cinder gets drawn into a web of politics, medical testing and the secrets of her own past. A slow start, but a really fun take on the story of Cinderella. First in a series – I can’t wait to read the sequel! Recommended by Leigh and Jessica.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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I mentioned recently, in my post about curating a library, that I treasure a few books passed on to me by people I love. I thought I’d share them with you, since treasures, after all, are meant to be shared.

My dad received a copy of Shakespeare’s Wisdom & Wit from a favorite junior college professor. (I think this was the same guy who’d put a totally random question on every test, and say with a smile, “Just pull that one out of your universal body of knowledge.”) It ended up in my Christmas stocking a few years ago – I think Santa and Dad knew how much I would love it. The inscription is wonderful:

I’ve loved the Betsy-Tacy series since I was a child – my sister is named after Betsy Ray, and I read and reread the first four books (though I don’t know where those copies are, actually). But my mom had an old library edition of Betsy and the Great World, and somehow it found its way from her bookshelf to mine, when I was in high school or college. I have the whole series now, the last six in HarperCollins’ gorgeous reissued paperbacks, but I cherish this copy, with its charcoal cover illustration depicting Betsy on her way to Europe and adventure.

After my sister and I outgrew naptime, we still had “quiet time” each afternoon during our summer visits to Mimi’s house in rural Missouri. I discovered No Children, No Pets in the hall closet one summer and curled up on the bed to read it – and giggled until my mom came in to ask what was so funny. I reread it every summer for at least 10 years, until Mimi finally gave me the book for my own. (I wouldn’t let her give it to me when I was younger – I wanted to keep it at her house. That was part of the magic.) I still reread it every year or two, always in the summer, and smile at the adventures of Jane, Betsy, Don and Mike in 1950s Florida.

Similarly, Neno’s house (that old blue farmhouse in Ohio) held some bookish treasures, including the entire My Book House collection, twelve volumes of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, folklore and Bible stories and adaptations of Dickens and Shakespeare (among others) for young readers. I fell in love with A Midsummer Night’s Dream because of these books, and read some of the fairy tales over and over again. They got packed in a box when my grandparents moved to Texas, but Neno pulled them out of a closet a couple of years ago, and passed them on to me. So precious.

Finally, when my great-grandma Ada (my mother’s grandmother) passed away, my grandparents gave my mom a few of her books to send to me. Some belonged to Ada, some to her mother, who I never knew. They are beautifully old, with spidery inscriptions in the handwriting of long-lost friends and relatives. I keep them on a table in the living room, and sometimes I wonder about the girls and young women who carried them, read them, wrote in them and loved them enough to keep them safe all this time.

Your turn. Any heirlooms – books or otherwise – that you treasure?

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