Monday Mailbox #36

Monday mailbox is hosted this month by At Home with Books.

Got a couple of fun ones this week...I'm afraid the second one is a little...uh...graphic. You've been warned.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star, by Heather Lynn Rigaud

I won a signed copy from Addicted to Jane Austen over the holidays. I'll spare you the silly plot description on the back cover...I think it can all be summed up in the final sentence: "But as the days and nights heat up, it becomes clear that everyone is in for a summer to remember." Oh goody. Looks like a quick, funny, sexytime read.

Kama Sutra, attributed to Vatsyayana
a new translation by A. N. D. Haksar

Uhhh yeah. This is an ARC of the Penguin Classics edition...this new translation comes out I believe tomorrow. I'm afraid the cover is as colorful (and graphic) as it gets. There are no pictures on the inside. It's a new translation of the classic controversial work, but it doesn't come with diagrams. I'll have more on this, on Thursday.


Monday Mailbox #35

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by At Home With Books.

I hate being sick. Makes my head groggy. Makes me forgetful. I received two ARC's this week, and they're both in the room I'm not typing in right now, and I've had to get up three times to get the titles right because I keep forgetting what they are. Mess.

The Darlings is Christina Alger's debut novel, due out on February 20th. 
From Viking: 
THE DARLINGS is one of the first novels set during the fall of 2008, when New York is newly reeling from the financial crisis. It follows the interwoven stories of the Darling family, two eager SEC attorneys and a team of journalists, as they race against one another over the course of one weekend to uncover—or cover up—the truth. Compared byLibrary Journal to the novels of Dominick Dunne and Tom Wolfe, THE DARLINGS is part family drama, part corporate thriller, and offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society—a world seldom seen by outsiders.

There will be a giveaway for this book in mid-February. Stay tuned!

The Old Romantic, by Louise Dean
Dean's novel came out last year, and this is its first paperback edition, due out from Riverhead Trade on February 7th. Don't you just love the cover? The watercolors with the slight skew and the uneven coloring...I love it!


Review: A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches, a novel
by Deborah Harkness
Penguin Books
Now available in paperback
All vampire stories of the last century and a half may be called derivative. Mythology and folklore aside, any vampire novel you come across today may trace it roots back to the poems and short stories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The best known is probably Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) but there were many instances of vampires in fiction prior to that. The stories (especially now) are often very similar: vampires drink blood; they seduce young women; they're often beautiful, poised and rich; they move very quickly; they burst into flames with the sun...

In more recent years, vampires have become something else - especially in literature. They still drink blood but, more often than not, they have a conscience that keeps them from drinking human blood with any regularity. This is a way for an author to get around what is now a kind of boring bump in the night story about vampires who sleep in coffins, but it's also something that teenagers and young adults seem to gravitate towards -- this idea that these humanized monsters who were once human can also feel...it's very angsty...it's very teen drama...teenagers who find themselves as outsiders, and on the fringes, are keen to identify with these pale, beautiful creatures who are just so misunderstood.

Take the Twilight saga for example: little girl lost moves to a new town, people like her but she just feels so very not like everyone else, and then she meets this handsome pasty glittery thing who wants to make all her dreams come true...except he also wants to drain her of her lifeforce: teen drama.

Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches has a similar modus operandi: young woman, on the fringes because she herself is a witch (or, in Diana Bishop's case, denying that she is a witch) bewitches (haha) a vampire with her beautiful ordinariness...he wants to protect her and love her...but also wants to drain her of her lifeforce. Like I said, the stories are often very similar. And while reading A Discovery of Witches, you might find (as I did) many (oh so many) parallels between it and Stephenie Meyer's tetralogy.

Some Basic Examples:
1. Matthew creeps into Diana's apartment and stares at her while she sleeps.
2. Like Bella, who does not see her own beauty (gag me), Diana sees herself as a "gauche country mouse" next to her vampire love.
3. Diana tells Matthew “You won’t hurt me” – literally ripped from the Twilight headlines - if it's not in the books, it's definitely in the movie.
4. “The Congregation” is basically the Volturi, and Ysabeau points out that they can't interfere if Diana is also a vampire...sound familiar?
5. Marcus' rebirth is almost the same as Edward's story of becoming a vampire.
6. Both Matthew and Edward proclaim that their immortal lives will end when their mortal love dies.

And those are just the ones I marked with post-its. There were plenty more. 

But even given its core structure as basically a chip off of the Twilight block, there's something more here. Literally. This is not just about vampires. There are three kinds of "creatures" other than humans - vampires, witches and daemons. And none of them adhere strictly to their classical roots. Harkness has created a world full to the brim with magic, a powerful and ancient magic at that. And its a world all her own. There are extensive histories and anecdotes along the plot's path - it's a little gratuitous, but it's never too much. These instances and facts are interesting and motivate the reader to keep moving along.  It's got a bildungsroman feel to it, which can draw comparisons with J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, but it's less about learning particular spells and more about learning just how powerful Diana is without them. 

And the characters, as many as there are, each with their separate and explained histories, are all so very individual. Even her architectural structures have character. The Bishop home is quite possibly my favorite character in the entire book. Harkness' writing, compared with Meyer's, is lush and romantic like her story. This is not a teen melodrama. This is not little girl lost. It crackles with energy and leaves room for zero dull moments. There was not a single instance (unlike with New Moon) when I wanted to skip ahead to the "good parts." Diana is not a misunderstood girl at a new school - she's a well-established scholar, a strong and sympathetic and powerful woman, who cannot yet conceive of how very powerful she is. 

I've heard a lot of people suggest that A Discovery of Witches is "Twilight for adults." Well I've seen some pretty advanced-in-age women clamor over Twilight, so I don't think the metaphor works. Rather, this is definitely a much more mature book than the entire Twilight series put together. The romance is slower, more patient. The characters are strong, lacking in whininess (unless that's a facet of the character in particular) and commanding. And the plot...well the plot is pretty similar to a lot of things because it's tried and true. But the best part is that there are still two whole novels left...all this exposition, all of this derivativeness, it has a chance to go away now. Harkness was able to take two characters - very similar in basic structure to Meyer's eye-rollable Bella and Edward - and actually made me want to read two more books about them. 

Book 2 of the series (named The All Souls Series), Shadow of Night is due out in hardcover this summer. 


Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten is meant to be the "Top Ten Books I'd Recommend to Someone Who Doesn't Read X", that is to say, to someone who doesn't read a certain genre like YA or Fantasy or Horror... but the thing is I know a number of people who, for whatever reason, just don't read books. And so these are the books I would recommend should they wish to pick up a book, should they seek my opinion for something to read that will move apace, keep them interested, and be fulfilling.

1. The Star Rover, by Jack London
This one is not an obvious choice, and for people who have heard of Jack London, The Star Rover is not one that often comes up in discussion. Most people think of Call of the Wild, or The Sea-Wolf, or The Iron Heel, or even Martin Eden. But The Star Rover (published as The Jacket in the UK) is one of my favorites. I'd have never heard if it if it hadn't been for Professor Furer. Told in first person narrative, it can swing wildly between focuses at times, but some of the writing is simply glorious.

2. Jane and the Damned, by Janet Mullany
On a lighter note, this one is both an easy and fun read. Whether you love Jane Austen, or you hate her, or you don't care either way, this is an undeniably fun book. And if you do love Jane Austen, there are so many nuances for you to appreciate!

3. The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark, by Ridley Pearson
It's fun, it's an awfully quick read, and it's YA Fiction so really all ages will enjoy it - even my 10-year-old cousin, who pretty much hates reading, loves this book. And if you're like me and basically grew up in Disney World, it's extra special.

4. French Leave, by Anna Gavalda
A short and sweet read, full of some stupendous banter. It's the kind of book that engenders camaraderie and sister/brotherhood. One of those novels about screwed up families that doesn't end up making you want to tear your eyes out or jump off of a bridge.

5. Big Sur, by Jack Kerouac
Okay, I may be asking for a little much with this one. If you've maybe decided to stop reading for good because of Kerouac, then maybe this is not the book for you. If you've maybe decided to stop reading for good because of Marcel Proust, then maybe Kerouac is not the author for you. I hate Proust as much as the next Frederick Harris student, but Kerouac...oh Kerouac. This book is, to me, a little more accessible than On The Road or Dharma Bums - anyone can identify with the ravages of drunkenness, right? There's also Kerouac's glorious onomatopeic poem "Sea" - Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur - which contains one of my favorite passages in poetry:

No human words bespeak
the token sorrow older
than old this wave
becrashing smarts the
sand with plosh
of twirléd sandy
thought--Ah change
the world? Ah set
the fee? Are rope the
angels in all the sea?
Ah ropey otter
barnacle'd be--
Ah cave, Ah crosh!
A feathery sea

6. Nocturnes, by John Connolly
You have to be in the mood for some dark stuff. This collection of short stories is dense, but extremely fulfilling. And, because it's not a whole novel (I would have suggested The Book of Lost Things, but that's more for you actual book-lovers) you can put it down between stories! Besides, doesn't everyone love dark stuff these days? I mean actually dark stuff, not Twilight. 

7. The Daydreamer, by Ian McEwan
This is a nice light read for those who would love to say that they've read McEwan but don't have the constitution to withstand the hot air balloon scene in Enduring Love or any of the scenes in Atonement. I love those books, but you've really got to have the emotional fortitude of a...I'm not sure what...but some killer emotional fortitude to get through those books with your sanity. But The Daydreamer is great if you want something kind of cheery or something, even, that you could read to your kids - McEwan did! If you're looking for some McEwan thats maybe a little less cheery, but which is not going to make you curl up on your bed and sob, my suggestion would be In Between the Sheets.

Three Army Doctors, by Richard Hooker
This one really needs no explanation. If you've ever seen the film or the TV series, then you know what this book is. And if you've never seen the film or the TV series, don't speak to me. I do want to say however that, as amusing as the TV cast really and truly is, the film cast (Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Tom Skerritt) is also fantastic, and you should watch the film at least once...and read the book. 

9. Tabloid City, by Pete Hamill
Pete Hamill is an incredible NYC author, an his novels move along quite quickly, without too much fuss, without too many character arcs. His dialogue is realistic, his prose is simple but beautiful, and this novel would be pretty engaging I think, even for those who don't care to be too engaged too often. 

by William Goldman
You probably love this movie. I don't actually know anyone who doesn't love this movie on some scale. My mother doesn't remember watching most of it, but she can quote Inigo Montoya with the best of 'em. It's a classic.  Bear with William Goldman's silly "I didn't write it, Morgenstern did" hullaballoo, and try to get past the differences between the novel and the movie - there aren't too many, but it might confuse you at first. But try you best. The story is totally worth it.                                                    


Review: The Last Nude, by Ellis Avery

For the record, the image on the cover
is not "Belle Rafaela" but "The Dream",
also by Tamara de Lempicka.
New from Riverhead this month, Ellis Avery's The Last Nude is a sensual artistic study of a young girl's rise to womanhood in (always) the wrong hands. Set up similarly to Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring or Kelly Jones' The Woman Who Heard Color, the novel involves a heady dose of both historical accuracy (there are real paintings that you can reference) and imaginative realism which make the story move along at a decent pace with beautiful imagery.

The story takes place in Paris in 1927, between the wars, before the crash of '29, in the Jazz Age - a period of liberal artistic expression and freedom. It's the time of Ernest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder, of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. One sunny afternoon, painter Tamara de Lempicka selects narrator Rafaela to be her model, her muse and, eventually, her lover. She paints her a number of times over the course of the next several months, but her magnum opus is "Belle Rafaela" which de Lempicka paints two separate times with Rafaela posing...this leads to a bundle of money for Lempicka, fame, and the main drama of the novel.

"La Belle Rafaela"
The parallels with Girl With a Pearl Earring are almost too clear (though both novels are works of historical fiction, we have really no information about either de Lempicka or Vermeer's model) and Vermeer's paintings even make an appearance in a book that Rafaela flips through. But whereas the sexual tension of the Chevalier novel really works towards its advantage, there's almost no sexual tension in Avery's novel. We hear Rafaela's thoughts about Tamara - we're there with her in Tamara's bed* - but their relationship is somewhat cold. And when Tamara reveals herself to not be everything Rafaela thought she was, the reader can hardly be expected to show surprise.

Avery tacks on an extra 55 pages or so at the end ("Part Two") in which we're re-told the story from Tamara's point of view. Tamara is much older now - almost on her death bed - but she recalls for us both her reasons for doing what she did, as well as what we don't know about what happened after the events of "Part One." It seems that this extra bit was added to create depth, another dimension to the story maybe. But what it comes across as is an exculpatory mess of excuses that Tamara has for herself. It only makes the story seem even colder.

Rafaela, on the other hand, is warm and passionate despite the world's treatment of her. She's worth rooting for and her slow maturity from childlike observations to womanly righteousness makes her a valuable narrator. If you don't read it for anything else, read it for her.

*Yes, you can expect some lesbian love scenes. I completely skipped the back cover before I started in on this book and was therefore totally confused when I got almost 40 pages into the book and found myself in the middle of their amour. It was fairly uncomfortable not being prepared for it...but now you've been warned. 


Monday Mailbox #34: Christmas, the 4th and final part

This month's Monday Mailbox is hosted by At Home with Books.

Received the last of my Christmas gifts this week, and also something to get started on the non-Christmas mailbox...

by Ken Bloom & Frank Vlastnik, 
Foreward by Jerry Orbach
This is another one my mom ran across when getting the Jerry Orbach biography for me. This book is ENORMOUS. Someday, I shall read it. For now, I'm flipping through and looking at the amazing pictures. 

by Colin Ridsdale, John White and Carol Usher 
This was in my stocking. It's not really my style, but I guess I could bring it the next time I go camping. (I don't really go camping.)

by Krys Lee
First ARC received in 2012! This comes out in February, and there will be a giveaway prior to that - stay tuned!


Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Pamela Aidan - The Mr. Darcy, Gentleman trilogy is SO good...I think she could probably do an amazing job with Persuasion...it would probably be hard to match the Darcy trilogy,  but if anyone is up to the task, it's the author.

2. Cornelia Funke - Okay so...really it's more that I need to read her other books...but I want her to keep writing, because I love them. 

3. Karen Doornebos - Seriously, though. Definitely Not Mr. Darcy was awesome, and I want more.

4. Jack Caldwell - Okay, so he's got The Three Colonels coming out in March...but I want it now. Please.

5. Trevor Shane - Another one that doesn't reeeeeally count because I know he wants Children of Paranoia to flesh out into a series...I assume he's working on it. I hope he's working on it.

6. Charlotte Brontë - I think she could have maybe benefited from writing a novel from someone else's perspective other than a young girl/woman who's been wronged, etc. And maybe from not writing Shirley. 

7. John Connolly - Another collection of short stories à la Nocturnes yesplzkthnxbye.

8. Susanna Clarke - I think I read somewhere that she's supposedly working on her next novel. I would even take another collection of short stories like The Ladies of Grace Adieu..

9. Alexandre Dumas, père - Anything, really. I'd read it. 

10. Richard Gwyn - Again, doesn't really count. I realized that I hadn't even looked him up since I read The Colour of a Dog Running Away, and when I did I discovered that he published Deep Hanging Out in 2007, which means I should go ahead and read that...but I still hope he publishes something else, too. :D


Review: The Western Lit Survival Kit: An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Falkner, by Sandra Newman

With a wit akin to Dave Barry's (at least, for the first half of the book), Sandra Newman takes a big old stab at literary history with The Western Lit Survival Kit, new this past week from Gotham Books. Using a series of ratings (on a work's importance, it's accessibility/difficulty and its fun), Newman holds her readers' hands through the minefield of Western literature from the starting point of the Greeks and Romans, all the way up through the first half of the twentieth century.

This is a comprehensive analysis, but not wholly inclusive. She spends a lot of time on writers whose works are most read and most analyzed (did we really need an entire chapter on Shakespeare?) and almost no time on authors whose works had an impact on other writers but aren't studied so much. She states very early on (in good humor) that, for the purposes of this book,
Western literature is what you traditionally learn about when you go to college to study literature. This book wil not redress imbalances or redefine canon...the present author, like everyone else, would be happier if Western literature were not quite as white and male as it is. Like almost everyone else, however, there is nothing I can do about it...
 Newman says towards the end of the book (as we get into the twentieth century) "We will only deal with authors who have been properly canonized; those works that have begun to ossify in a suitably grand pose." For this, she chooses a handful of poets that I've never heard of (and I've studied literary history fairly extensively), another handful of poets that I have heard of, then James, Stein, Kafka, Eliot, Pound, Joyce, Proust, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Hemmingway and Faulkner. She only includes writers of the twentieth century who were born in the nineteenth century. Steinbeck is left out even though his works are not only important, but also some of the best non-derivative writing we have in the twentieth century.

Not only that, but Newman claims (in an earlier chapter) that "Stephen Crane's work is the most important American contribution to the genre of Naturalism." There's really no other mention of Naturalism for the rest of the book...she puts Stephen Crane on this pedestal (and rightly so, his work is definitely important), but then ignores Steinbeck, Wharton, Chopin and even Upton Sinclair, whose canon is both extensive and terribly important.

She leaves out Sylvia Plath, Ambrose Bierce, and mentions Richard Wright, but leaves him out. Jack London isn't even on her radar, which is weird. I was only an English minor in college, but I studied a lot of writers that she has decided to leave out. Many of these are women and minorities, which frustrates me because of her earlier statement of not being able to do anything about how white and male Western literature is. Charlotte Perkins Gilman is left out, Charles Chestnutt and Paul Lawrence Dunbar are left out, Zitkala-Sa and Sui Sin Far are left out...these are writers who are not only studied, but who defy convention...and Newman just passes them by.

As for her ratings system, it's a bit confusing. Starting with Chapter 2: "Ancient Rome: When the World was Ruled by Italians," she switches from using a rating for Accessibility to a rating of Difficulty, without any explanation for it. She does it in a couple of chapters and, when it happens, it almost reads more like a judgement, and less like an evaluation.

All in all, this is a great book if you've actually read much of the material discussed - you'll probably laugh your head off for half of it. If you haven't read the majority of the works, the jokes will be kind of empty, but also you'll be missing out on a huge chunk of literary history that Newman left out. This book should not be used like Cliff Notes or whatever the kids are using these days, and it should not be used to help you study for that midterm in your Romantics class. It's also not a great book if you want to understand anything past about 1850. Anything after that has been either left out or seriously cheated in its representation, with the exception of James Joyce whom Newman seems to love.

If you've read this book and are curious about those Newman left out, here's a list of those that probably should have been mentioned, even given her limits about being ossified, and given her unspoken requirement that none of them should have lived past about 1972 (Ezra Pound is the latest-living author mentioned, all others died prior to him). Some of these were blanketed over by generalizations in the book... I apologize if any of these were mentioned or discussed in the book, contrary to what I remember reading, and I apologize if I left anyone of merit out of this list. I'm linking to wikipedia so that, if you've read this book, you can read everything you probably would have read from Newman...but there are probably fewer jokes.

Louisa May Alcott*
J. M. Barrie
L. Frank Baum
Ambrose Bierce
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Lewis Carroll
Charles Chesnutt
Kate Chopin
Wilkie Collins
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Paul Lawrence Dunbar
Sui Sin Far
E. M. Forster
Upton Sinclair
John Steinbeck
Robert Louis Stevenson*
Bram Stoker
Jules Verne
H. G. Wells*
Edith Wharton
Richard Wright

* I'm fairly certain they or their works were mentioned, but never actually discussed.


Monday Mailbox #33: Christmas Part 3

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by At Home with Books.

Still more books coming in from Christmas - huzzah!

Jerry Orbach: Prince of the City, by John Anthony Gilvey

Mine is actually the first edition, with a blue background. Not this second edition pukey color thing. I think (and I hope I don't have this wrong and get hit by an offended party, but I think) that my sister gave me this for Christmas from her pile of books that she wanted to get rid of - stuff she'd had in college, etc. Anyway, I'm pretty sure...mostly because there's an imprint on the cover, as if someone wrote on a post it stuck to the book...I can see my sister's handwriting and I can read "Running Errands" with a heart... also, I remember her telling me that's where this book came from. Anyway, it'll either be a helpful tool, or it'll offend me. Like one of those paper bag...grab bags! at parties? Yeah....anyway. YAY Christmas! Everyone should be able to celebrate the holidays long into January. We shouldn't just leave the gift-giving to December 25th! I say this out of pure selfish reasoning: I want more presents. :D

The Club Dumas, by Arturo Pérez-Reverto
Picked up this one at work. I love Dumas...I figure I'm probably the target audience. 


Review: The Bridge to Never Land, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

The first novel of Barry & Pearson's "Peter and the Starcatchers" series to drop the P & S title, The Bridge to Never Land manages to be true to the P & S name while respectfully resembling the inspiration for the series: the works of J. M. Barrie. Whereas its predecessor (in both publication and chronology), Peter and the Sword of Mercy, seemed to miss the mark in terms of continuity and quality, The Bridge to Never Land simply soars.

Over an hundred years has passed since the last installment, wherein Wendy seeks out Peter to help save her mother, Molly Darling née Aster. Sarah and Aidan, siblings living in present day Pennsylvania, happen upon a piece of paper during one of their brother-sister spats. This paper is a clue, a puzzle, that sends them on a mad dash over two continents, into an alternate universe and, in pure Ridley fashion, to Disney World. 

Aiding the pair is physicist J. D. Aster (of the starcatching Asters, of course). But even as they are running from the police, the F.B.I, and Disney security (all of whom believe that the siblings were abducted by Aster) they are pursued by a villain that fans of the series know well - not Hook/Black Stache, not Mr. Grinn, but the very chimera of villains: the shadow-stealing Ombra, himself. Weakened by the battles with Peter and the starcatchers a century ago, Lord Ombra has lay in wait, scouring the earth for the first hint of starstuff, the strange and powerful material unknown to science, that turned fish into mermaids and makes children fly; a material that, in the wrong hands, is deadly. 

Young fans of the series will find that, as with Harry Potter, the modern twist on an old kind of magic is inviting and refreshing.Traditionalists will embrace the presence of the mystical island called Never Land and its inhabitants, and there's even something special in there for the loyal Disneyites among us. And yes, there's room for a sequel.


Review: The Rape of the Muse, by Michael Stein

Just a note - I realize I'm behind in my blogging for the beginning of the year. I haven't recapped, I haven't looked ahead, and I'm behind by two reviews ALREADY. This is all in part due to the fact that this particular review was written, and then my thumb drive crapped out. So I had to write it again. Fun fun fun til her daddy takes the T-Bird away. Anyway, I can only hope the re-write is equal to the original.

Despite a face that only a mother could love, Michael Stein's The Rape of the Muse is not a work of terror or murder, or even thrill--it is, rather, a kind of sedate little novel in which the characters appear rather flat, overshadowed by the author's vision, and bloated with his artistic passion.

This is actually not a bad thing. Rather than being the true focus, the characters are rather vehicles for the debate at hand: What is beauty? Who has it? Who can destroy it? Narrator Rand seems to seesaw between the pursuit of beauty, and lust. Meanwhile his mentor, Montrose--a selfish being matched only by the acidic fictional Rosa from Alina Bronsky's The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine--seems constantly at odds with everyone, but especially with his best friend of thirty years, Simon Pruhar, whose own pursuit of beauty is undermined by his desire for fame and acknowledgement.

The story is based on a real case: Silberman vs. Georges regarding The Mugging of the Musefrom the 1970s. Stein includes the legalese of the inspiration, by also puts his own spin on things by infusing the trial speeches with a passion for beauty and art not often expressed by crotchety self-serving characters (outside of, perhaps, the grandstanding sometimes seen on shows like "Law & Order"). But, as with any piece of art, we must understand Stein's work as an allegory. That is to say, made in one form to represent another: sure, it's about a bunch of artists all fighting for freedom of expression, but deep down it's about friendship and hatred, and how those things must and do coexist in a world where beauty--the pursuit of beauty--is the only honorable pursuit.

In a world where we've moved past the groundbreaking changes that Montrose is attempting by switching from sculpture to graphic art, the value of this novel's message about art may be too late, but Stein's keen observation of humanity and it's quirks is timeless.


Monday Mailbox #32: Christmas, Part 2

Monday mailbox is hosted this month by At Home with Books.

After we finished opening gifts this year, I made a mad dash to fit all of my new things into five priority mail flat rate boxes. I celebrate Christmas with my Family in Florida, but I live in New York...so this is pretty much always a requirement. This means that I kind of get Christmas several times over, over the next two weeks, as packages arrive with all of my books and other presents. With the weird holiday schedule this weekend, I've only received one box so far, but it had a bunch of books in it - mostly ones I hadn't put in last week's MM - yay Christmas!!

Remember How I Love You: 
Letters from an Extraordinary Marriage
by Jerry Orbach and Elaine Orbach, 
with Ken Bloom, and with a foreword by Sam Waterston
I had asked for Jerry Orbach's biography for Christmas - which is kind of hilarious because I pretty much detest biographies and autobiographies, but I will always make an exception for Jerry Orbach. My mom, when she was buying that one for me, came across two other books that alibris suggested. This was one of them. I haven't decided, yet, whether I'll read this or the biography first...

The Bridge to Never Land
by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
I had heard of this book, but had kind of assumed (not seeing an image of it) that it was one of the Never Land Books that Barry & Pearson wrote to accompany the Peter and the Starcatchers series. But actually this is a sequel to the original series. It still involves Never Land and Peter and even some Starcatcher business, but it's modern-day...and I've just finished it, and it's fantastic. Review to follow shortly. 

The Berenstain Bears Series, by Stan and Jan Berenstain:

The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble With Friends

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth

The Berenstain Bears Go to School

The Berenstain Bears in the Dark

The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers

The Berenstain Bears: No Girls Allowed

I had these books when I was a kid. I'm not sure whatever happened to ours. Maybe we sold them in a yard sale. Maybe we gave them to the school library. But my sister and I can remember them pretty vividly. For Christmas, my mom put 12 in a gift bag and told Rory and I that we should share. So we divvied them up, taking certain ones because we remembered them best. I can remember seeing myself and my friend...whose name can't remember...in the Trouble with Friends book. I can distinctly remember my grandmother (my father's mother, who passed away twenty years ago) pointing to one of the bears on the cover of ...Learn About Strangers and saying that one's me...it looks like me...look, it's grandma. I'm so excited to add these to my collection of children's books, books that I want more than anything to pass on to the next generation.