Saturday Review of Books: March 22, 2014

“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.” ~John Berger

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.

Poetry Friday: Lucy II by WIlliam Wordsworth

Lucy II

'Image taken from page 9 of 'The poetical works of William Wordsworth. Edited by William Knight'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/SHE dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh,
The difference to me!

The interesting thing about this poem to me is the check in the rhythm at the very end between the last two lines. I don’t remember the technical terms (iambic tetrameter, then iambic trimeter?), but the rhythm is very sing-song –until you try to read the last two lines. Then, you’re almost forced to make a long pause after the word “oh”, and then either pronounce the three syllables of the word “difference” very distinctly, not a normal pronunciation in current American speech anyway, or slow the entire last line of the poem down and emphasize its importance and emotional impact.

Anyway, I like the picture of unheralded, little noticed Lucy, whomever she was, who made such a difference in the poet’s life that she has been immortalized in verse.

Today’s Poetry Friday Round-up is hosted by Julie at The Drift Record.

Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

The premise is cute: what if you got a flu shot, and the side effects were headache, purple coloring in your eyes, and ESP? So, now you and your classmates, who all got the same batch of vaccine, can read each other’s thoughts—and everyone else’s thoughts, all the time.

I thought it this light-hearted look into the minds of upper middle class teens was entertaining and funny. The only thing that prevents me from recommending it whole-heartedly is the language and some gratuitous sexual content. A few f-bombs, which aren’t really bombs anymore apparently, and some graphic kissing descriptions were as yucky and repellent to me as the scene in which one of ESPies “overhears” her parents’ thoughts as they’re having sex was to her.

Nothing deep here, just a silly story about a group of teenagers who are given a special ability and about what it does to them and how it changes their perceptions of each other and of the non-ESPies with whom they go to school. One of the kids, Pi, is the competitive, intelligent, bossy type. She tries to organize and control the group, but if everyone knows what you’re thinking, they’re sort of hard to control. Another one, Olivia, is a shy, hypochondriac–until she realizes that no one is really thinking about her at all most of the time. At that realization, Olivia is released from her own prison of uncertainty and self-doubt to be the person she really is inside.

Then there are the couples: Mackenzie and Cooper and Tess and Teddy. Their love lives are about to get really, really complicated. Would you want your boyfriend or girlfriend to know everything you are thinking all the time?

I liked this one, but if the previously referenced content bothers you or if you’re looking for something a little more intellectually challenging, it’s not for you.

Sunday Salon: Gleaned from the Saturday Review

Actually, this is an old post that got buried in my “drafts” folder, gleaned from an old Saturday Review, but the books still sound interesting.

Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra. This memoir sounds heart-wrenching, but also inspiring and informative. Reviewed at Guiltless Reading.

WOOL by Hugh Howey. The author “wrote WOOL while working as a bookseller, writing faithfully each morning and during every lunch break for nearly three years. He self-published in 2011, and the book has since become a hit.” OK, that’s a story already, and then one of my favorite book bloggers (and Words with Friends opponent), The Ink Slinger, gives WOOL glowing review. I’m sold.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. Reviewed by georgiane. This book sounds as if it says what I believe about creativity: it’s 99% borrowed from other people. The other 1% comes straight from God. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

State of Wonder by Anne Patchett. Reviewed at Small World Reads. “Patchett’s writing is beautiful. Her description of the Amazon and life in the tribe is fantastic. She is a beautiful, lyrical writer.” OK, then, I’ll read it.

Blackmoore and Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson. Blackmoore is reviewed at Becky’s Book Reviews. I don’t usually read romance novels, but this author sounds good. I’ll take Becky’s word for it.

Godric by Frederic Buechner. Reviewed by Janet at Across the Page. Buechner “recreates with great lyricism and economy Godric’s world, a place at once more earthy and more preoccupied with holiness than we can easily imagine.”

Kindred by Octavia Butler sounds absolutely fascinating, even though time travel makes my head hurt. Reviewed by Girl Detective.

The Anatomist’s Wife by Ann Lee Huber. The first in a mystery series set in Scotland in 1830. Reviewed by Susan Coventry.

Quoting . . .

Will Duquette at Patheos: “Facebook is a good servant but a poor master. I’ve got to learn to keep it in its place.”

From wordsmith.org: “I think I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; to suffer. I signify all three.”
~Ulysses S. Grant (General and U.S.President), from a note written a few days before his death.

From Fanny Harville’s Homeschool Academy: “At a certain age, sometimes early, sometimes late, children make up their minds about their parents. They decide, not always justly, the kind of people their mothers and fathers are, and the judgment can be a stern one.” Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart.
(I rather agree. I think I decided a long time ago what kind of people my parents were, not a stern judgment, but a judgment nevertheless. I wonder what my children have decided about me, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever really know.)

Soldier finds lifeline in letter exchange with Vermont author. Soldier and author Trent Reedy (Words in the Dust) in Afghanistan, after reading Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terebithia: “I needed that reminder that there was still hope and still beauty in the world. At that time in my life there was none. There was nothing except guns and fear. I was really not at all sure that I was ever going to get out of that place. This book gave me a little bit of beauty at that time, and I needed it. Not the way I need a new app for my iPad. I needed it to keep my soul alive.”
Yep, I, too, need certain books to keep my soul alive.

“It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.” –Thomas Sowell

“Based upon what is going on in the Ukraine/Crimea, Texas should be able to vote and then secede from the U.S. However, we may have to endure some harsh words from Secretary Kerry and President Obama.” ~a friend on Facebook.
I don’t know where he got the idea, maybe from his own brain, but although I don’t advocate secession, the logic seems to me to be about right.

March 18th: St. Alexander of Jerusalem and Second Lieutenant Owen

St. Alexander was a bishop in Jerusalem in the third century, and he is known for having founded a theological library and a school in Jerusalem during his tenure there. When he was an old man, he was arrested and taken to prison in Caesarea where he died, after being physically tortured and almost fed to the wild beasts.

“The glory of his white hairs and great sanctity formed a double crown for him in captivity.” Feast Day Of St. Alexander of Jerusalem, March 18th.

Wilfred Owen, World War One poet, b.March 18,1893, d.November 4, 1918.

2nd Lt, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, 5th Bn. Manch. R., T.F., attd. 2nd Bn.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme Line on October 1st/2nd, 1918. On the company commander becoming a casualty, he assumed command and showed fine leadership and resisted a heavy counter-attack. He personally manipulated a captured enemy machine gun from an isolated position and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. Throughout he behaved most gallantly.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
by Wilfred Owen

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

This Sherlock Holmes tribute starts off slowly, but the pace picks up about halfway through when the author has finished setting up the relationship between Holmes and his teenage, female apprentice, Mary Russell. Mary, a sharp-eyed, feminist mirror image of Holmes himself, is, from the beginning of their acquaintance, mach more actively involved in Sherlock Holmes’ experiments and detection than was the ever-admiring, but frequently dim-witted Watson. Russell, as Holmes calls her, becomes Sherlock Holmes’ protege, and eventually his equal partner in sleuthing as the two of them face off with an enemy even more subtle and diabolical than the deceased Moriarty.

I had a good friend in high school/college days who was a great fan of Sherlock Holmes. I preferred Nero Wolfe or Miss Marple. I wish I knew where Winona was. I would definitely recommend The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to her—and to any other Sherlockian mystery fans, at least those who aren’t offended by the non-canonical addition of a female genius apprentice who sometimes outdoes even the Great Sherlock Holmes himself in her deductions and observations.

I’m in the middle of the second book of the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and the feminist themes are definitely predominating in this one. However, the plot and characters and the writing are all stellar, and I’m definitely in for the long haul, unless the quality goes down or the feminist* propaganda gets to be too much. I’m looking forward to getting to know Ms. King’s version of Sherlock Holmes and his (now) partner, Mary Russell, over the course of twelve books.

*I would never use the word “feminist” to describe myself because the term has way too many connotations and associations that are anti-Christian and anti-male. However, Mary Russell’s version of feminism, so far (only in the second book), has much to recommend it. Ms. Russell is an independent and highly intelligent young woman who is learning how to relate to and older male mentor in a way that is dignified and and at the same time grateful for the things that he is able to teach her. So far, I like Mary Russell very much.

March 17th: St. Patrick and Kate Greenaway

I have written in past years about this poem, The Breastplate, attributed to St. Patrick, but probably not actually composed by him. However, we do have a couple of written pieces that most probably were the work of St. Patrick, one of which is his spiritual autobiography, St. Patrick’s Confessio. For today’s Lenten reading, I suggest you take a few minutes to read through Patrick’s confession.


“I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me, and raised me up, and placed me on the top of the wall.”

“For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.”

For a fictional treatment of Patrick’s life and work, I recommend Stephen Lawhead’s novel, Patrick, Son of Ireland.

And here’s a list of picture books for St. Patrick’s Day from Amy at Hope Is the Word.

And yet another list of St. Patrick’s Day picture books from Mind Games.

Celebrating the Irish at Semicolon.

'Image taken from page 43 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

March 17th is also the birthday of British author and illustrator, Kate Greenaway (b.1846, d.1901), whose name is used for the Greenaway Medal, the British award for distinguished illustrations in children’s books. Her illustrations are very Jane Austen-esque, aren’t they, although Greenaway herself would have been more of a Victorian/Edwardian era illustrator. Ms. Greenaway was homeschooled until she was twelve, and then she attended the Finsbury School of Art for six years. Her first book, Under the WIndow, was published in 1879 and almost immediately sold out of its first printing of 20,000 copies. The Book continued to sell well for years, and Kate Greenaway’s illustrations and artistic style was widely copied and admired in England and in the U.S.

Greenaway was friendly with Randolph Caldecott, the other famous illustrator of children’s books of the time, and she maintained a twenty year long correspondence with John Ruskin, the famous critic. Ruskin and Greenaway eventually met; however, her relationship with Ruskin, who was probably mentally ill and morally corrupt, was not good for Kate’s confidence or for her art. Kate Greenaway died in 1901 of breast cancer, convinced that her public had rejected and outgrown her art.
~Information taken mostly from the website, Women Children’s Book Illustrators.

'Image taken from page 10 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

More K-Drama Recommendations

Julie at Happy Catholic: When a Man Loves. Julie’s friend Renee says, “The main character, Han Tae Sang, is a thug for a loan shark who turns his life around. The show is full of great Catholic themes like mercy, forgiveness, and redemption.”

The Headmistress at The Common Room recommends You Who Came from the Stars. High praise: “I might even like it better than, or at least as well as, King2Hearts, my previous favorite.”

One reason I’m enjoying my exploration of the world of K-drama so much is the structure and composition of the dramas themselves. K-dramas generally have a set number (16-20) of related episodes. The entire drama has a beginning, a middle and an ending, and each episode builds on the ones that come before it. So, it’s a bit like watching a soap opera, but a soap opera with an ending. Some of the K-dramas are drawn out and artificially stretched a bit to fit this format, but the scheme usually works to give enough time for character development, but not so much that the plot and the characters’ interactions become repetitious and boring. In the best of the dramas, hints as to the characters back stories and motivations are embedded in the first few episodes, to be revealed and explored fully in the later episodes.

Unlike American TV series, which are more like a series of short stories about the same characters, very episodic in nature, K-dramas are like a novel with a long slow development of plot and characters until the action reaches its climax in episode 15, 16, or 17– and a final ending, either happy (comedic drama) or sad (melodrama) in the last episode(s).

I prefer novels to short stories.

Saturday Review of Books: March 15, 2014

“[R]ereading can be a product not of simple dissatisfaction, nor of the fan’s utter enchantment, but rather of some curious mix of gratification and a feeling of incompletion. You can reread not from love or hatred but from a sense, often inchoate, that there’s more to this book than you have yet been able to receive.” ~Alan Jacobs

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.