Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Fountain of St. James Park

naslund

Title:  The Fountain of St. James Park or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman

Author:  Sena Jeter Naslund

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Pages:  448

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Historical Fiction

Setting:  Revolutionary France and modern day Kentucky

Source:    I purchased this novel for myself.

Publication Date:  Sept 17, 2013

Blurb:

How do writers and painters get their ideas? And what are the realities and heartbreaks that lie behind such seemingly glamorous and romantic lives? In her groundbreaking new novel, New York Times bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund explores the artistic processes and lives of creative women

Sena Jeter Naslund’s inspiring novel-within-a-novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, creates the lives of a fictional contemporary writer and of a historic painter whose works now hang in the great museums of Europe and America. Both women’s creative lives have been forged in the crucibles of family, friends, society, and nation.

The story opens at midnight beside a beautifully illumined fountain of Venus Rising from the Sea. Kathryn Callaghan has just finished her novel about painter Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun, a French Revolution survivor hated for her sympathetic portraits of Marie Antoinette. Though still haunted by the story she has written, Kathryn must leave the eighteenth-century European world she has researched and made vivid in order to return to her own American life of 2012.

Naslund’s spellbinding new novel presents the reader with an alternate version of The Artist: a woman of age who has created for herself, against enormous odds, a fulfilling life of thoroughly realized achievement.

What I Say:

The premise of this novel is so intriguing:  a story within a story, one being told in the 3rd person in modern times and the other being told in 1st person from a historical perspective. The modern-day main character is Kathryn, an older author who has just completed her latest novel about Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun, our historical main character. Kathryn’s story is told mainly in the present, mixing in perspectives from other characters that touch her life. Kathryn’s part of the story is extremely introspective with very little dialogue.

Then we have our artist, Elisabeth Le Brun. Elizabeth was a celebrated artist in Marie Antoinette’s court. She is known for her portraits of Marie Antoinette as well as other nobles from the era. Also, some of her more famous paintings include her self-portraits. We get to know Elizabeth from the time that she was a child in convent school until she is an old lady, having survived the guillotine, the loss of her daughter, and fleeing France to travel as an ex-patriate.

These chapters of the book, for me, were the most enjoyable. I found Kathryn to be annoying. Also, vignettes were tossed in from time to time from the perspective of her friends and her ex-husband. I thought these additions detracted from rather than added to the story. One specific scene involving her neighbor and her ex-husband left me baffled as to what the point of it was.

I could go on with the many things that I found wrong with this novel, devices that were used that were obvious, plot holes that were never filled, etc., but instead I will say that I learned quite a bit about Elizabeth because the tidbits that Jeter Naslund included were intriguing enough that I conducted quite a few Internet searches while reading this novel. Another thing that I will say, as a result of my own research, is do not take the historical bits of this novel as fact because, WOW! did Jeter Naslund take liberties, which is her right as a fiction writer, I know. But she presented certain events as factual when they were, in fact, either rumor or just didn’t happen the way she wrote them. Sheesh.

I rated this book as a 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because of Elizabeth’s chapters. This is the second Sena Jeter Naslund novel that I’ve read and disliked. I just don’t think her writing is for me. It took me 11 days to read this book, which is a very long time for me.

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Posted in blog stuff, Reading Roundup

December 2016 Wrap Up

Time flies, ya know? I just realized it’s already Jan 3rd and I haven’t post a wrap up for December. Having the kids out of school and the husband home for the holidays really throws off my perception of time.

decemberwrapup

In December, I read a total of seven books, one being a graphic novel and one being a novellette. I actually stopped reading when I finished The Night Circus on December 29th because I ran out of room on the page I was using to track my reading in my bullet journal. Seriously. Not kidding. I’m that anal. I couldn’t stand the thought of either not recording another book or having to waste an entire new page for just one more book. I need therapy.

So, I read:

  1. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. 304 pages.
  2. Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory. 556 pages.
  3. Wool by Hugh Howey. 509 pages.
  4. Gilded Cage by Sherry D. Ficklin. 80 pages.
  5. Shift by Hugh Howey. 570 pages.
  6. I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 2:  Fluff My Life by Skottie Young. 128 pages.
  7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. 400 pages.

For seven books, I read a total of 2,547 pages and an average rating of 3.71 stars. That, folks, is a good month of reading. I only had one dud on my list that I wish I could just forget about. If I could, that would be six books with an average rating of 4.16 stars.

My favorite for December is The Night Circus. This was a truly magical book. Very close behind it are Wool, Shift, and I Hate Fairyland. If you’re not reading the I Hate Fairyland graphic novels, you should be. They’re so funny. I love the language, the color palette, and the artwork is wonderful.

I only reviewed one of these books on my blog (linked above), but if you’d like to hear my thoughts on any of the others, you’ve only to ask. 🙂 I hope your December of reading was as great as mine.

Posted in Reading

Reading Equals Better Writing

december

I often get teased for using “big” words on Facebook and in every day conversation. It’s gotten to the point where it’s annoying and seems insulting. I don’t use “big” words to show my intelligence level or to belittle others. Maybe I have a more extensive vocabulary than some people, maybe, but if I do, it’s because I READ. I read a lot. Almost every time I read a new book, I run across a word that is new to me. I always look up words that I don’t know in a dictionary. I have an English degree and have almost completed my Master’s in Library and Information Science. Do you really think I can get degrees in these fields and not be exposed to a lot of words???

I ran across an article on Book Riot today written by college Composition professor, Jessi Lewis. She says that in her experience, her students that read books outside of assigned reading, or for fun, often have better writing skills than their peers who don’t. Lewis says, “…it often feels as though if they missed out on reading at certain points in their lives, it will take lots of catching up to get them back to that golden point of grammar-comfort.” This is true also of expanding your vocabulary. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

Lesson of the Day:  Pick up a book and read it.

 

Posted in meme, Weekly Reading

Mid-Week Update Dec 21, 2016

I don’t know about you all, but I barely can find the time to read. I’ve been so busy trying to get ready for Christmas. I can already tell, this is going to be one of those years when I’m up until 2 am wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, lol. Thankfully, my fabulous step mother sent us a care package this year including three boxes of baked holiday goodies so I’m using that as an excuse not to bake this year. Honestly, I hate baking. I like the measuring and mixing stage but I don’t like dropping the dough on cookie sheets or cutting shapes out of dough, or rolling dough, or dipping stuff in chocolate, and I really HATE the cleanup stage of baking, heheh. So yeah. I get to skip all that this year.

On to the show!

whatareyoureadingwed

What Are You Reading Wednesdays hosted by It’s a Reading Thing.

Grab the book you are currently reading and answer three questions:
1. What’s the name of your current read?
2. Go to page 34 in your book or 34% in your eBook and share a couple of sentences.
3. Would you like to live in the world that exists within your book? Why or why not?

  1. I am currently reading Shift by Hugh Howey. It is the second book in the Silo trilogy.
  2. At page 34 we have, “The lone guard on duty looked up from something he was reading and nodded in greeting. Troy placed his palm on a screen that had grown hazy from use. There was no chit-chat, no small talk, no expectation of forming a lasting relationship.”
  3. I would definitely not like to live in the world of the Silo trilogy. No, no, no. If you’re not familiar with these books, some sort of global disaster has happened that has caused what’s left of the living to reside beneath the earth in silos. Not only would I not want to live on earth after such a disaster, but I cannot imagine living underground without natural sunlight or weather or in such a confined area.

shelf-control

Next, we’ll take a look at Shelf Control hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies. The rules for this meme:  Write a blog post about a book you already own but haven’t read yet. Include when and where you got it.

I just bought Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at Barnes and Noble last week. I actually wanted to get this as an audio book because I’ve seen so many rave reviews for the audio version. Plus, Wil Wheaton is the narrator and I’m a fan. However, I have a hard time with audio books. I’ve only listened to two audio books EVER but I couldn’t tell you what either book was about. I don’t retain information when I hear it. I’m not that kind of learner. Also, I have a hard time only doing one thing at a time. For instance, when I’m watching TV, I’m also fiddling around on my iPad or my phone. So, I know that if I were listening or should I say “listening” to an audio book, I’d be itching to do something else at the same time, which means I wouldn’t be paying 100% of my attention to the book. Wow. Talk about getting side-tracked.

Anyway, the reason I haven’t read this yet is because I just got it and I’m focused on the Silo trilogy right now. I’m really looking forward to Ready Player One though. From what I’ve heard, there’s a lot of 80s pop culture references and I find books, movies, and TV shows that revisit this decade to be fun and endlessly entertaining (cough::Stranger Things::cough).

So, tell me. Are either of this books on your reading lists? TBR? Have read? Suckage? Loved it? Share!

Posted in Reading

Adding a New Shelf

dnf

No matter how much I read or how much older and wiser (heheh) I get, I still hesitate to allow myself to DNF a book. It almost seems unfair to form an opinion about a book that I haven’t finished. How can you make an informed decision when you lack all the information? That being said, I do allow myself to DNF a book now and then. If an eBook’s formatting is so terrible that I can’t figure out what I’m reading, I DNF it. If a book doesn’t hold my attention, is not interesting, and I’m not getting anything from it, I DNF it. If a book has so many typos or the sentence structure and/or grammar is awful (and where are the editors here??) I DNF it. There are other reasons, but these are my main three. When I do this, I do not write a review for the book even if it’s a proof copy. I absolutely do believe that it’d be wrong of me to convey my thoughts and opinions on a book publicly without having completely finished a book. This is strictly my personal opinion for myself.

There are times, however, when I’m reading a book that I am enjoying but set it aside for one reason or another. Maybe a book that I’ve been waiting for has finally been released and I can’t resist reading it right away or sometimes life just gets in the way. On Goodreads, I usually leave these books on my “currently reading” shelf. Eventually, I’ll move them back to my “to read” shelf, but I don’t have any set amount of time for making that decision. It just seems as if I’m padding my numbers when I “say” I’m currently reading a book that I haven’t picked up in six months or however long.

I was watching Jean’s booktube channel, Jean’s Bookish Thoughts, the other day and she discussed this topic herself and said that she created a shelf just for these books. You know. Books that you’ve started, have set aside, but fully intend to pick up sometime in the future. I don’t know why I didn’t think to add this shelf to my Goodreads before. It will also be a good way for me to review these books every once in a while to see if I do, in fact, want to come back to them or maybe I should just add them to my box of books to trade at the used book store.

There’s nothing wrong with DNF’ing a book. There’s nothing wrong with setting a book aside in favor of another. There’s nothing wrong with reading ten books at one time. I just like to stay organized and I’m a visual person. Creating a shelf on Goodreads for books I’ve started and haven’t finished just makes good sense for me.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a similar shelf? Do you have a better or more creative solution?

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors

behind-closed-doors

Title:  Behind Closed Doors

Author:  B.A. Paris

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

Pages:  304

Genre:  Fiction, mystery, suspense

Setting:  Modern day England.

Source:    I received this novel in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher.

Publication Date:  Aug 9, 2016

Blurb:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

What I Say:

This was very Sleeping with the Enemy-esque but unique in its own way. The story starts out in the Present with Grace and Jack hosting a dinner part at their home. Things seems pretty much normal and even pleasant if it weren’t for Grace’s nervousness about the entire evening. This is our first hint that things aren’t as they appear and that Jack and Grace aren’t the perfect couple that their friends think they are.

The story goes on to switch from the Present to the Past in alternating chapters and is told in the first person point of view from Grace’s perspective. This was the first thing that I thought was unique about this book. Granted, this isn’t a novel in a genre that I normally read, but I fully expected it to be told in the third person. How can an author maintain that edge of suspense when the main character is giving everything away? Paris does so and very well. She manages to reveal certain things in the present but the reader doesn’t truly get their meaning until Grace is relating events from the past.

Another unique aspect of the book is that though the chapters alternate from past to present, they gradually come together in time. I don’t recall another novel using this same method and I thought it was really clever. Paris managed to portray a woman at the mercy of her husband who was both strong and flawed, which is something that I personally appreciate in female characters. I don’t need them to be perfect, but I can’t get on board with pathetic either, lol.

While Paris does use some of your traditional suspense writing methods, I thought it was balanced out and equaled a very enjoyable suspense novel. I read the book in one sitting in about five hours (my Internet went out in the middle of the day, lol). It was an entertaining and easy read, great for a cold afternoon on the sofa with a blanket over your lap.

4 Hearts

Posted in Reading Roundup

November Reading Wrap-Up

novemer-reading-wrapup

Saying goodbye to yet another month. November was pretty busy for me. We’re still dealing with the cleanup from my daughter’s car accident. Still a lot of things up in the air where that’s concerned. We also had my step mom down to visit. It was a totally laid back, rest and relax, type of visit but it still left me with little time for anything outside of being a good host. Directly following that, we had Thanksgiving here in the United States. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the big Ohio State vs. Michigan football game and boy! Was that an exciting game. OSU barely won (for the 5th year in a row) and I was exhausted following the double overtime.

With all of the above, I didn’t get a whole lot of reading done. Frankly, I can’t figure out what to read next and haven’t picked up a book since I finished The Wicked + the Divine graphic novel five days ago. Anyway, here’s a summary of my month in reading:

  1. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. 608 pages.
  2. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. 384 pages.
  3. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. 400 pages.
  4. Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb. 375 pages.
  5. The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal. 400 pages.
  6. The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. 144 pages.

That is a total of 2311 pages and an average Goodreads star rating of 3.67. My favorite pick for the month would be Gemina. For books that I’ve already reviewed, I’ve linked back to their original posts. If you’d like to hear my thoughts on any of the books not already reviewed, leave me a comment. I hope you had a fantastic month of reading in November and here’s to an even better December!