Friday, February 26, 2016

Novel Living: Collecting, Decorating, and Crafting with Books by Lisa Occhipinti


I've been trying to fit some non-fiction books into my reading list lately and picked this up after a patron had returned it to my public library.  I read it over my lunch break over a few days and found it extremely interesting.  The book was divided into four sections: collecting books, creating a library, preserving and conserving, and crafting with books.  It gave a lot of really great ideas about each topic and I appreciated the author's insight, photographs, personal examples in each area.  My favorite section was the one on different craft projects and decorating ideas using books and I am looking forward to reading the authors first book on this topic, The Repurposed Library.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

"This must be the way most of us maneuver through the world, half knowing, half not, visited by memories that can't possibly be true."

This was beautifully written book.  It was powerful and raw and captured the very basic of human emotions and experiences.  It was about mothers and daughters and sisters and wives.  It was about what happens when love and security - the basic of all human needs - are not met and a family who struggles to survive despite that.

In this short book (176 pages) we meet Lucy Barton - a woman in the hospital for an extended stay after she develops an infection from what was suppose to be a simple operation.  We meet her mother who we soon learn that Lucy hasn't spoken to for years due to their trouble relationship.  Her mother stay for five days and during this time they talk mostly about family and friends from Lucy's past.  As the discuss ordinary things, Lucy gives readers glimpses into her troubled childhood living in poverty.  We get pieces of growing up and starting her writing career as well as her marriage and love of her two daughter.

This book was not at all what I expected it to be.  The story seems little disjointed and I kept wanting something more from the narrator, but I was never exactly sure what.  I think that was what the author was trying to do and, if so, she did it perfectly.  Lucy's story was complex and tragic and that for her family even more so.  The author was able to capture Lucy's character perfectly and readers began to slowly understand her as the pages unraveled - even though we only got a glimpse of the detail of her childhood.  I'm not sure that I would say that I enjoyed the book, but I defiantly appreciated the style and the emotions that it brought out.  I found myself liking it a lot more after having had finished it than I did while reading it - which I can't say has happened to me more than a handful of times. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

"It is early morning; outside, the sky is dark and the trees move dramatically in the wind.  Soon a storm will come.  I want to live to see it.  This is the way of nature: to persuade us around one more bend, to beckon us to behold one more vista."

Before reading this novel, I did not know much beyond the basic details of George Sand's life.  Being a writer in the 1830s and 1840s is Paris, she lived an extremely unique life as a women ahead of her time.  Elizabeth Berg's books have been on my radar for awhile now, and I was looking forward to reading this historical novel for the Germantown Community Library Adult Book Club this February.

I usually love historical fiction - and who doesn't love a good story set in Paris? - but, I found the novel a bit slow and annoying.  The book was told through alternating time periods: one in the present and the other starting during George's childhood.  I've seen this done well numerous times, but it didn't seem to work well in this book.  There wasn't enough development in the various sections and I often found myself losing track of what time period I was in.  I also found the character of George Sand extremely tiresome.  I'm assuming a lot of the details are historically accurate, but she just seems flaky and I wasn't able to connect with her at all.  I found it ridiculous that she fell in love with literally every single man (and a women as well) that she met.  By the end, I couldn't even keep track of how many lovers she had and all of her love affairs started sounding the same.  It just didn't add up that someone who was such an intelligent and talented individual would act the way she does in the novel.

I wanted to like this book - and I kept trying - but I found myself struggling to finish it.  It had some wonderful writing, but I just couldn't get past how unlikable of a character George Sand was portrayed as.  I did, however, appreciate many historical aspects of the book.  I love reading about Paris - especially in the 1920s - so this gave me another unique view on Paris in a much earlier but somewhat similar time period.  I also loved reading about all of the interesting people that George Sand came into contact with - Frederic Chopin, Victor Hugo, and Franz Liszt to name a few.  Even though I wasn't particularly impressed by this book, I am interested in reading some of Elizabeth Berg's other novels.  From what I have heard, they are mostly contemporary and a lot different.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Master Quilter (Elm Creek Quilts #6) by Jennifer Chaverini (audio)


Let me just start by saying that I am really enjoying this series!!  I kept hearing good things about them at the public library and picked up the first book, The Quilter's Apprentice, about a month ago and have been hooked ever since.  I usually don't read series books - mostly because there are so many books out there that I have a hard time committing the quickly declining reading time that I have unless the series is really, really good.  I also usually like to find books with a bit more substance, but I love listening to these books on playaway and find myself drawn to the various characters and storylines.  I have a little over a half-an-hour drive to and from work everyday and they are the perfect books to listen to in the car (and sometimes in the driveway to finish a really good chapter!)  

Sometimes after reading a lot of heavier and more complex books, I need to unwind with something a big more low-key.  Sometimes I just want to read about real people doing real things and not have to think too much about why or how they are doing them.  Sometimes I just need a break from thinking for awhile.  

And these books just aren't just mind-numbing click-lit type books either.  Even though they don't have that literary quality that I usually look for, there is a substantial amount of historical detail throughout a majority of the books and I am really enjoying learning about quilting!!

This story is a bit different from the previous novels.  It is completely set in the present and comes back to the original Elm Creek quilters as they prepare a bridal quilt for Sylvia.  As usual they all have secrets and problems of there own that are sorted out through the story.  The book is unique in that each chapter is told from the view point of one of the different characters and overlaps in the time span of the story (about four or five months - I think).  I don't remember ever reading a book that was done this way before and I thought it was done very well.  As each chapter unfolds, readers learn more and more about how each of the characters are dealing with specific situations mentioned and why they are acting the way they are.  Even though I missed having a historical aspect of the story, it was still interesting and I enjoyed how the author went more in depth about each of the main characters and showcased their lives and personalities.

I am going to give this series a break for awhile.  I read somewhere that this was originally where Chaverini was going to end the Elm Creek Quilts book, so I figured it would be a good place to stop.  I have grown to really enjoy these books, but I don't want to end up listening to them all in a few months - there are 20 total - even though I easily could.  Plus I have a extremely huge and ever-growing list of "to-read" books at the moment (thank you to my new job at the public library as an adult services librarian!)  There are a few holiday books coming up in the series and I am planning on coming back to them towards Christmas this year - can't wait, but it will be nice to explore some other titles and authors and are sitting on my desk as well!  And perhaps I can also find sometime to learn how to quilt :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Quilter's Legacy (Elm Creek Quilts #5) by Jennifer Chaverini (audio)


The fifth novel in Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilt series focus's on Sylvia's quest to find five of her mother's cherished quilts.  Sylvia's mother died when she was a child and Slyvia has fond memories of learning how to quilt and making her own quilts.  After the estate feel into debt, Sylvia's sister sold the quilts to pay for living expenses.  After learning of this, Slyvia journeys across the country with her finance, Andrew, to try to find the lost quilts.  The story was a little farfetched (to say the least), but I loved the historical details and the story.  Slyvia's mother was such an interesting character and I enjoyed learning more about her life and how she came to live at Elm Creek Manor.

Slyvia's Mother's New York Beauty Quilt from the author's website

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.  It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the worlds."

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

I listened to this book on audio with my one-year-old daughter, Isabelle.  We read a lot of picture books and I read a few chapter books to her when she was born, but now that she's crawling around it's a bit difficult for her to sit still for a picture books - let alone an entire chapter.  So, we listened to this one instead.  It took us many nights of bedtime (with about a chapter every few nights), but we finally finished it!  

What a classic!  I read this book at some point when I was younger - no idea when but it must have been sometime before 2000 when I started keeping track of the books that I read.  I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.  Anne is such a unique and interesting character and I loved her tragic yet hopeful story.  I forgot how much she grows and chances by the end of the book and rooted for her page after page.  I don't remember if I ever read any of the other books in the series, but I hope to at some point in the future.  

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Runaway Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts #4) by Jennifer Chiaverini (audio)

The fourth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series focus's on Sylvia's search for information about her family's history.  When she finds an old journal and quilt in the attic of Elm Creek Manor, readers are taken back to the time of the Civil War and learn how Sylvia's ancestor's became one of the greatest horse breeders of the era.  I loved the historical aspects of this novel and was completely absorbed in the story.  The book includes lots of detail, history, stories of family, friendship, and trial - and, of course, plenty of quilting!   I was surprised by the unique ending to the book and also enjoyed learning a bit more about Sylvia and Andrew and their relationship as they travel.

The Runaway Quilt from the author's website

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Cross-Country Quilters (Elm Creek Quilts #3) by Jennifer Chiaverini (audio)


This novel, the third in Chiaverini's Elm Quilt Series, is a bit different than the first two books.  I tells the stories for five different characters - Grace, Julie, Donna, Megan, and Vinnie - that meet at the Elm Creek Quilt camp for a week of quilting away from their busy lives.  Each women is struggling with some aspect of their lives - whether it be motherhood, their health or keeping up with their career.  The women form a strong bond of friendship that lasts them long after the week at quilt camp ends.  They decide to make a challenge quilt - a project that they all agree to start after they have addressed a problem in their lives.  The novel follows the five women through the next year and concludes with a reunion at quilt camp a year later.  

The book was a little slow at the beginning and very predictable, but I generally enjoyed it.  I missed hearing more about the original Elm Creek quilters, but it was interesting to hear about the quilt camp from the perspective of actual campers - and some original characters did make a few appearances throughout the book.

Challenge Quilt from the author's website