"The Picture Of Dorian Gray"

The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I have read some sad books in my quest to experience the work of some of the great writers, but this takes the prize for the unhappiest book ever. Not the kind of unhappy that you find in "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" where the characters struggle with disappointment and loss, but the kind that makes you want to beat your head against the wall till the the pain stops one way or another. The kind where it's all self-inflicted.

This story is a morality tale that basically says if you break all the commandments, all the laws, all the principles of integrity and nobility, every rule of manners and morality and you live only to please yourself without ever having a thought or a concern for anybody else on earth, well, then things will go badly for you. I can't think of a more sorry character than Dorian Gray. Unless it's Lord Henry Wotton, who teaches Dorian his sickly twisted philosophies about life and watches while he sinks into a pit of the most nauseating self-indulgence, self-centeredness and self-adoration, blaming anything that goes wrong on anyone but himself.

I get the point being made by Mr. Wilde, but I don't understand the extremities to which he felt he had to go to make it. Both Dorian and Lord Henry are disgusting, depraved, selfish, shallow, lying wretches. And in case I haven't been clear, I don't like them.

I don't see how this book could do anyone any good, but I'd love to hear if it has.

A few more adjectives should just about finish what I though of the story: It was awful. It was appalling. Depressing. Discouraging. Dark. Stifling. Rotten. Distressing. Loathsome. And Ghastly. I can't recommend it to anyone, but read it if you must to get it off your list.

To give some credit to the author I should say that I read "The Importance Of Being Earnest" when I was in High School and I loved it. I know he has written one or two other social comedies and I will try to read them, but it surely won't be anytime soon.

Teaser Tuesday

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly meme
hosted by Should Be Reading. This is my
first time taking part but I've found some
good books this way.

She asks that you...
1. Grab your current read
2. Let the book fall open to a random page
3. Share with us 2 "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
4. Share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from so that people can get some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
5. Please avoid spoilers!  

Here's mine...

"I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world. Tell me more about Mr. Dorian Gray." 

Taken from "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde

A Big Box Of Books

My Alibris order arrived today!  I do so love getting a box full of books to tear into. I didn't remember what I had ordered but I couldn't be happier with my choices. I still have library books too that will have to go back this week so I need to get those read first.

In the box are:

1. A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry
2. A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
3. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
4. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
5. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
6. Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
7. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
9. Roughing It by Mark Twain
10. Slipping Into Paradise:Why I live in New Zealand by Jeffrey Masson
11. The Face Of A Stranger by Anne Perry
12. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
13. The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis
14. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
15. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

From the library I have:

1. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland - reading now
2. My Turn To Make The Tea by Monica Dickens -read and reviewed
3. The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - reading now
4. The First Man by Albert Camus - not read yet
5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway - read but not yet reviewed

Oh yeah, and I bought The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton at Costco.

Hmmm maybe that should be it for acquisitions for awhile...but, I just learned of a great book site that has free delivery world wide....I have to at least give them a try....right?

An hour or so later...oops, I just remembered that I also bought Tipperary by Frank Delaney when I was at Costco.

"My Turn To Make The Tea"

My Turn To Make The Tea by Monica Dickens

This is an author I was completely unaware of until I started blogging. I was surprised and excited to find out she is the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. You can't go wrong with writing genes like that. I've read lots of glowing reviews of Ms. Dickens' books and was lucky enough to find "My Turn To Make The Tea" at the library. Could a book have a better title? I think not.

This book is autobiographical, not fiction, and I had to keep reminding myself of that as I read. The book is peopled with strange and wonderful characters who sound as though they've been made up, but have not. I've always wondered if writers who put such eccentricity into the people who inhabit their stories have more interesting real people in their lives than the rest of us have, but I've decided that's not the case. I think it's simply that some people are more observant than others and they take more notice of the quirky, the comical and the strange that goes on around them. Writers like Monica Dickens have an appreciation for 'off-the-wallness'. I know it's not a word. Don't judge me. People with that ability can write great stories about even the most mundane things. 

Personal memoirs are a favorite genre of mine and this one did not disappoint. It covers the years of Dickens' life when she lived in a boarding house and worked at a newspaper office as a rookie journalist. She has that gift of seeing the humorous in everyday things, and playing up the quirkiness of her colleagues and house-mates, she gives us a lively and amusing look at that period in her life.

I like that Dickens doesn't overwrite things. She tells a story and then gives the reader the freedom to "get it" or not. I love dry humor and wry wit; I do not like slapstick. Humor for me needs to be subtle; actually that holds true with drama and everything else as well. I would like Dan Brown's books more if there was even a hint of subtlety anywhere. 

There were, I think, three different places in the book where offensive language is used. I don't enjoy that, but there were only those three and it didn't ruin the book for me. I have to say though, finding "language" was a bit disconcerting. It didn't matter how often I told myself this was Monica and not Charles, I still fell back into considering it a "Dickens" book and measuring it against that. Her English may be a bit less fastidious than his was, but she certainly does have that same ability to pour a human being onto the page that Charles had. Brilliant.

My favorite line: "The lady was in the downstairs office, pacing the linoleum in a threatening hat."  This was on the opening page and once I read it I was hooked.

I've put her other books on my tbr list and look forward to reading them. I'm expecting  they will be, like this one, character driven rather than plot driven. If you like that style and you haven't yet had the opportunity to try this author, you really are missing out. I can recommend "My Turn To Make The Tea" as a cleverly written and very entertaining read.

"House of Mirth"

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Yet another author I missed reading for years and then found recommended on other blogs. I'm getting more of a literary education now than I did in school!  I loved House Of Mirth and am happy to see there is quite a long list of other books the author has written. They will all go on my tbr list, and sit happily there while I dip into books from the many other authors I'm just now discovering. Life is good, is it not?

This book is more character driven than plot driven, and that's the way I usually like them. Wharton reveals more and more about the characters as time progresses and most end up quite well fleshed out with both virtues and flaws. At times I wanted to cheer them on, but then came the times when I wanted to knock their heads together till they smartened up.

It's appalling to see how conditioned the characters are to accept the social conventions of their time, even when those conventions did more harm than good. The author shows her disdain early in the book by calling them "puppets". It makes me wonder if we, in the present day, are doing the same thing without realizing it. A good discussion for another time perhaps.

I was completely drawn into the story right at the beginning. It's one of those where you check the clock after 10 minutes to find an hour has passed. The story is about a woman, Lily Bart, who goes from well-to-do, sought after social butterfly to poverty stricken outcast in a very short time. The other main character is Lawrence Seldon, who loved Lily and yet stood by and watched her destruction. I feel he let her (and me) down and that he failed to become the strong man of integrity I hoped he would.

A recurring theme throughout the book is the ridiculous class consciousness that completely ruled it's victims in that era. The recurring words 'dingy' and 'dinginess' are used to describe the lives of the lower classes. Anyone without money was cast out of the inner circle and abandoned to fend for themselves. I find it hard to swallow the coldness with which it was done. Many of the characters were in a position to help Lily but found it more amusing to look down on her and enjoy her misfortune.

(Spoiler alert)
As we all do, Lily brought on some of her own problems and acted unwisely at crucial times. She would do just about anything in order to live the life of luxury and leisure she wanted and was raised for. She maintains the higher ground in the end though, which is more than I can say for Lawrence. I was bitterly disappointed in him. He portrayed himself as a man of character who could see past the social conventions, but in the end he failed to be the man of action, and thus the hero, that he could have been.

Another male character offers her help, but only under conditions Lily could not accept. The argument could be made that she refused all offers of help, but I'm of the school of thought that thinks it's not enough to ask "What can I do to help?", but rather you should just find something that needs doing and do it! The people she knew could have done something, they simply chose not to. They would blame it on the demands of social propriety, to which I would answer: pfft! 

I love Wharton's writing and greatly enjoyed reading it. I highly recommend it.

Friday Blog Hop

 It's Friday again already. Where do the weeks go!? If you're dropping by from the hop, please leave a comment so I can return the visit. If you're here from someplace else take a few minutes to check out Crazy For Books  where you will find listed a wide range of book blogs for you to enjoy. And if you have a book blog of your own, why not sign up for the hop? You'll be able to look at a lot of other book blogs and increase your own visitors as well.

Have a great week-end everyone!

"Tess Of The D'Urbervilles"

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Today I want to welcome my good friend, Jean, who has kindly agreed to do a guest blog. There was a certain amount of arm twisting involved but we won't talk about that now. Thank you Jean!

Here's what she had to say about "Tess Of The D'Urbervilles":

"This is my first Thomas Hardy book. Ordinary Reader recommended the book to me and asked if I would do a guest blog. I agreed and here I am. This is my first Thomas Hardy book and my first blog. I confess I’m not well read nor can I write eloquently like Ordinary Reader but I will give my opinion on this book.

When I started “Tess”, I wasn’t sure if I could actually get the story without a dictionary. The book had a lot of description with words I wasn’t familiar with, maybe a bit too much for me.

I can say I really enjoyed watching the characters unfold and become so real.
Hardy easily captured my attention and I was enjoying the character of John Derbyville. He was an odd sort but I liked him. I wish there had been more of John in the book.

“Tess” and “Angel” brought out many emotions in me. I was happy for them at times, angry with them for being so ridiculous, frustrated that “Angel” had double standards. I was surprised at the strength Hardy gave to “Tess”. Her character was quite interesting. She is a young naive innocent at first then her strength and determination start to show.

While I was reading this book I was thinking to myself, I bet there is going to be the typical ‘happy ever after’ ending and I didn’t want that. I admit I didn’t read the subtitle of the book “The tragic masterpiece of the Victorian era”, that would have taken care of the happy ever after ending I was dreading.

I don’t think I would have minded the tragedy but it was all too quick. The last quarter of the book moves too fast compared to the pace of the first three quarters. I felt the book ended somewhat abruptly.

The book opens with a tired man on his way home and along comes an elderly parson and enlightens the man named “John Derbyfield” that he is really the descendant of the prestigious family of D’Urbervilles. The parson calls the man “Sir John” and he then becomes excited to think he can claim he is of the family of D’Urbervilles and should be rightly recognized as one. He sends his older daughter, Tess, to go visit the D’Urbervilles and claim their family’s heritage. He feels that if she goes to the family she will be married to her cousin “Alec D’Urberville”. Alec falls for her immediately but she is not interested in him at all. Alec seems to rescue her from the drunken crowd she is with but he then takes her on a long ride in the fog and they are lost. She lies down to rest and when he returns from getting their bearings, he defiles her.

Tess leaves the home of the D’Urbervilles and makes attempts at a new life. Tess travels in an opposite direction of the D’Urberville mansion in hopes of never seeing Alec again in her life.

Tess becomes a dairymaid and this is where “Angel Clare” is introduced. He is unhappy with ‘religion’ and the role of the ‘church’ in the life of individuals. Angel falls in love with Tess and Tess with Angel. Tess always has this terrible feeling that she is unworthy of happiness and she tells her friends she will never marry, but she doesn’t reveal to them why.

Tess tries to tell Angel many times why she is unworthy of him but he always tells her to wait until after they are married to confess to him her sins. After they are married, Angel confesses first to Tess that he had a 48 hour sin with a woman. This seems to open the door for Tess to confess her sin. Tess tells him she was defiled while a young innocent. He is all of a sudden in a rage about it. It seemed his deliberate sin and her unfortunate sin was not equal. Tess could forgive Angel but Angel wouldn’t be able to forgive Tess.

Angel and Tess parted ways a few days after they were married. Angel went to Brazil to find a farm to buy and then ‘if he could forgive her’ he would send for her.

Tess struggles for 2 years trying to look after herself by working in the fields doing work made for a man but given to her by the farmer. Tess did the work, pined away for the love of her life to forgive her, and then wrote him a letter pleading forgiveness and asking for him to send for her.

While working in the fields, when she would have welcomed death sometimes, along comes the villain, Alec D’Urberville, offering to look after her and her family. Tess tells him to go away many times. When her father dies and there is no home for her mother and siblings she helps move them to a new home, upon arrival in the town, the promised home is already taken. Tess finds them another home and then Alec D’Urberville shows up once again and she is so tired, defeated, lonely and hopeless that she gives in and goes to live with him. Alec looms in the background in the last quarter of the book and I don’t feel he ever takes his place as a ‘real’ villain.

Angel, while in Brazil, has been very sick and had received Tess’s letter begging him to send for her or come home and forgive her. He struggles to get home and searches far and wide for Tess. He finds her family and they tell him where she is living. Angel goes and finds that Tess is going by Tess D’Urberville and living with Alec. When he knocks on the door and the servant answers, it isn’t long before Tess is coming down the staircase. She shows no sign of happiness at his arrival. Angel is torn up inside and he leaves heading for the train station. Angel buys his ticket and sees Tess heading for the same area and he decides to be anywhere she isn’t.

Angel finds his train is delayed by 2 hours and decides to walk to the first stop the train makes. He hears someone following him and turns and it is Tess. They declare their love for one another and she tells him she has killed Alec and then they are on the run. They find shelter in an abandoned estate, which is only tended to, when the weather is sunny, by a local lady. The lady sees them there and they leave and now they try to make it to the coast and get a boat out of there. They walk a long hard way that night and rest in a Stonehenge. Tess and Angel are sleeping when Angel feels the presence of someone. He notices heads moving in the darkness. They are surrounded by 16 people and Tess is finally caught.

I found myself angry at Tess’s mother for keeping Tess so naive which led to her tragedy that marred her for life. I wanted to shake Tess for being ridiculous and her husband Angel for having double standards. I didn’t like the villain but then again, I shouldn’t. I laughed while reading this book, I had sympathy for some characters, didn’t care what happened to others. I think the most prevalent emotion I had was ‘anger'. Tess and Angel were exasperating to me.

I found this book took a turn for the worse quickly, almost too quickly. I had a hard time dealing with the strong character of Tess turning into someone who lost their mind. Angel’s character turned into an ‘all accepting’ man. The two characters lost their strength at the end of the book and became boring. I had suspicions that Hardy had a lot of his own life in this book and when I found a Hardy biography it confirmed my suspicions.

Would I read another Thomas Hardy? I definitely would. I also recommend Tess of the D’Urbervilles to anyone, unless you are looking for a happy ever after ending."

"How Reading Changed My Life"

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

This is a short book (or perhaps a lengthy essay - my copy has 70 pages followed by a few more of books lists) in a series called "Library Of Contemporary Thought" The note at the back said it was a monthly series that "tackles today's most provocative, fascinating, and relevant issues, giving top opinion makers a forum to explore topics that matter urgently to themselves and their readers."

Other books available in this series include:
News Is A Verb: Journalism At The End Of The 20th Century by John Feinstein
Team Rodent: How Disney Devours The World by Carl Hiaasen
Against All Enemies-Gulf War Syndrome:The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Their Government by Seymour M. Hersh
No Island Of Sanity, Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton: The Supreme Court On Trial by Vincent Bugliosi
Interactive Excellence: Defining And Developing New Standards For The Twenty first Century by Edwin Schlossberg.

My copy was printed in 1998 so it's very likely there are more titles available by now if you're interested. I think I'd like to try Team Rodent if I can find a copy.

Ms. Quindlen talks about growing up an avid reader and annoying her siblings because she always preferred reading to whatever they wanted her to do. They would refer to what she was reading as "that stupid book". I heard that phrase from my siblings many times during my growing up years as well. My mother would tell people that I was "somewhere with my head stuck in a book again". It was what I wanted to do more than anything else and I'll bet I read a large percentage of what our small local library had to offer.

The author says "I lived within the covers of books and those books were more real to me than any other thing in my life." Then she says "Perhaps only a truly discontented child can become as seduced by books as I was. Perhaps restlessness is a necessary corollary of devoted literacy." That would make a great topic for discussion so I'm saving it for future use.

As for me, yes I was a restless child and I could travel, run away from home, hide out and become invisible between the covers of a book. I was an addict from the day I opened the cover of a brand new Bobsey Twins book, held the book up to my face and found out what happiness smells like. That smell, the hard shiny cover, and the weight of it in my hands took me captive and have never let me go!

Ms. Quindlen has some very good points to make about how we read and how we judge books and even other readers. Referring to a university she says "The despotism of the educated was in full flower: there was a right way to read and a wrong way, and the wrong way was worse than wrong-it was middlebrow, that code word for those who valued the enjoyable, the riveting, the moving, and the involving as well as the eternal.....But any reader with common sense would also understand intuitively, immediately, that such comparisons are false, that the uses of reading are vast and variegated and that some of them are not addressed by Homer."  Amen to that!

She speaks of literary critics who have "clung to the notion that selling well meant pandering, and talent was in inverse proportion to readership" That's a sentiment I read and hear often. The word "popular" isn't flattering when it refers to books. There's a school of thought that holds any book that appeals to the masses to be unworthy, but as the author puts it: "...reading has as many functions as the human body, and ...not all of them are cerebral. One is mere entertainment, the pleasurable whiling away of time".

She goes on to talk about the connection with other human beings that occurs when we are reading and asks "if readers use words and stories as much, or more, to lessen human isolation as to expand human knowledge, is that somehow unworthy, invalid, and unimportant?" I think that's the first time I've ever wanted to stand up and cheer for an author. She is so right! There are endless kinds of books and endless kinds of people. Surely reading a book for one reason doesn't make the reader either inferior or superior to those who read for other reasons. If I read Thomas Hardy in the morning, can I not read Dan Brown in the afternoon and still be as valid a reader? This is not a trick question. Literary snobbery is as delusional and reasonless as any other kind of snobbery.

Ok then. Another rant concluded. I must try not to make a habit of this.

Just one more thing about the book. At the end there are eleven lists (I love book lists) that I found to be a good source for new titles:

1. Ten big thick wonderful books that could take you a whole summer to read (but
aren't beach books)
2. 10 Nonfiction books that help us understand the world
3. 10 Books that will help a teenager feel more human
4. The 10 books I would save in a fire
5. 10 books for a girl who is full of beans (or ought to be)
6. 10 mystery novels I'd most like to find in a summer rental
7. 10 books recommended by a really good elementary school librarian
8. 10 good book-club selections
9. 10 modern novels that made me proud to be a writer
10. 10 of the books my exceptionally well read friend Ben say he's taken the most
11. 10 books I just love to read, and always will

I'll quit now before I end up quoting the entire book.

Next Book: The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Friday Blog Hop

It's Friday! The blog hop got by me last week before I even realized it so I'm signing up early this time.Take a few minutes to peruse the list at Crazy-For-Books and check out some of the other book blogs that are out there. You'll meet some great people and find lots of  book suggestions in every imaginable genre. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and a Happy Father's Day to all the Dads.


"The Seasons Of Rome"

The Seasons Of Rome by Paul Hofmann

This is one of several travel books I have left on my tbr shelf. I could read a steady diet of these for weeks but I'd never get anything else read if I did that, so I allow myself one as a treat now and then.

This one did something no other travel book has ever done for me; it cured me of any desire to actually go to Rome. I loved the format of the book; it's written like a journal with dated entries, but I expected (admittedly my mistake) a kinder, more charming look at life in one of the most popular cities in the world.

What I got was a lot of information about the constant political struggles, strikes, terrible traffic congestion, crime (organized and otherwise), major public transit difficulties, air pollution, out of control soccer fans, housing problems and bureaucratic headaches that constitute life in Rome. It sounds like a miserable place to live and even to visit. All large cities have these problems to some extent, but most of the travel books I've read try to infuse at least a little bit of romance into the mental pictures they paint. The author refers to Rome as "the most beautiful city on earth" but unfortunately this book made Rome seem like a dirty and unfriendly destination.

The writing is good, it's the material that I found boring, maybe because it was so much fact and so little feeling. There was no atmosphere, no sparkle; I didn't even enjoy the section about the city's great hotels and I love hotels. The last third of the book I more or less just scanned the pages to see if there was anything interesting and I was very glad to get to the end of it. I hate saying that because I know it takes an enormous amount of commitment and hard work to produce any book and I feel guilty every time I have to say I didn't like one. And to be fair, there are probably many people who would love "The Seasons Of Rome", but darn it, it didn't appeal to me at all.

"The Red Tent"

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent is a fictional tale based on the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau. The Bible gives us the basic framework, and Diamant has written a spellbinding story to flesh it out. An unflinching look at how women lived and were treated at that time in history, it sometimes gets gritty in it's portrayal of day to day life. If you don't want to read about the harsh realities, this book might not be for you.

Diamant's story centers on the women in Jacob's life and is narrated in the voice of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah. The first part of the book tells of family history in the years before Dinah was born. Part 2 follows her life as a child and a young woman and the last section follows her through to the end of her life.

I found some of the characters to be a bit of a stretch from their Biblical models, which will matter to some readers more than others. Jacob's mother, Rebbecca, is portrayed as an oracle to whom people come for healing, for help bearing children and any other wants/needs they may have. She's an unlikeable woman with an overblown opinion of herself, who worships, and sacrifices to, the many gods and goddesses of the local culture. Jacob is more true to the Bible with his belief in the one God, El, but his wives and children have their own beliefs and live with all the superstitions and fears of having many different gods to appease.

Jacob's son Joseph, resented and sold into slavery by his brothers, is a hero in the Bible, but not in this book. Biblically, when the wife of Joseph's Egyptian master, Potifar, attempts to seduce him, he refuses to be led astray and is thrown into prison after the insulted woman complains that Joseph raped her. In The Red Tent Joseph is a man of lesser character who takes Potifar's wife up on her offer. Later in the story, he is again portrayed as a weak man without compassion or character.

Though I didn't like certain aspects of the book, I have to give credit where it is due. The characters and the settings are so pulsing with life that when you pick up the book to read you enter another world and completely leave yours behind. When you take a break from reading and have to start living in your world again, it's almost disorienting. Until you can pick it up again, the world of The Red Tent fills your head like a vacation you're just returned from and whose sights and sounds are still as present to you as your own world.

The book was more sexually explicit than I expected. I don't mind innuendo or the odd bit of off color language, I just don't need to know the details. Yes, I know, sex is a perfectly natural part of life, but so are bowel movements and I don't want to read the details of those either. Some things should stay private.

Call me old fashioned, but I like clean books. I don't find myself entertained by sexual details, foul language, torture scenes or blood and gore. On the other hand, I don't like fluff either and it seems as though a lot of clean books are a little light. However, I'm hanging on to my belief that there are still authors intelligent enough to to write a really good book without going to either extreme. There are authors with good vocabularies who can write without having to fall back on curse words in every dialogue and who can create a plot interesting enough that they don't need to fill up space with long steamy sex scenes or horrifyingly gruesome slasher scenes either.

All I ask is a good story, well written, which I guess is why I read a lot of older books (my daughter has complained that I only read books whose author's have been dead for two hundred years). I will keep looking for modern authors who can offer the same quality and I've been lucky enough to find a few. Recommendations on other book blogs have been a terrific source of titles for me and I am always looking for suggestions, so if you find a good one please let me know.

End of rant. Back to the book.

All in all, The Red Tent is a very well written fictional story based on Bible characters. I wish the author had stayed closer to the real story with Joseph, but this is fiction and it's the author's prerogative to write what she wants. I recommend this book to adults, but I think it's too explicit for younger readers.

I will definitely be looking forward to more from Anita Diamant because she's got a wonderful talent for storytelling and I love it when an author can transport me. Her new novel, Day After Night, sounds like something I might like.

My next book may or may not be Paul Hofmann's "The Seasons Of Rome". I'm 64 pages in and don't love it yet, not at all normal for someone who devours travel books and always wants more. I'm still hoping I'll be able to get into it, but am beginning to lose interest. We'll see.

"The Curse Of The Pharaohs"

The Curse Of The Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters

This is the second in the Amelia Peabody books with Amelia and Radcliffe Emmerson now married and the parents of a little boy. Domesticity hasn't mellowed their high spirits, but they both miss the excitement of the archeology dig.

At the beginning of the book they are living in England with their almost unbelievably precocious son, Ramses. He is a highly intelligent child who learned to read at the age of 3 and who is constantly busy doing exactly as he pleases. I think we're meant to find him adorable, and at moments I do, but at other moments I find him obnoxious and in dire need of discipline.

When fellow archeologist, Henry Baskerville dies in the field, his widow asks Radcliffe to go to Egypt and finish his work. Radcliffe is unwilling to go without Amelia, so they leave Ramses with Radcliffe's brother Walter and Walter's wife Evelyn (both of whom were major characters in the first book) and head for the dig in Egypt.

In Egypt other interesting characters enter the story, several mysteries arise and need resolving, and the Emmersons deal with it all in their inimitable way. The writing is every bit as good as the first book and the wit as sharp, as borne out in the following quotes.

Speaking of the negative effect having a widowed lady in the bedroom adjoining theirs might have on their romantic activities:

"I had feared the presence of Lady Baskerville in the adjoining room might inhibit Emerson to some extent. It did in the beginning. Casting an irritated glance at the closed portal, which I had promptly bolted, her muttered, "Curse it, Amelia, this is going to be a nuisance; I shan't be able to say a thing for fear of being overheard." However, as time went on he became so involved in what he was doing that all reserve fled and all external distractions were forgotten. My own contributions toward achieving this end were not inconsiderable."

And when Amelia is considering the long suffering daughter of a drunken, obnoxious woman as a suspect in her latest mystery:

"I immediately removed her from my list of suspects. The fact that she had not yet exterminated her mother proved that she was incapable of violence."

I love all the clever quips that fill these books; it's what makes them so much fun to read and it's what will have me looking for the next title in the series after I knock a few others off my tbr.

Next Up: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

"Crocodile On The Sandbank"

Crocodile On The Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

This is the first book in the Amelia Peabody series, of which I had never heard until I started blogging and discovering other book blogs, many of which referred to this series of books. They are set in the Victorian era and are written in that slightly uppity, bitingly sarcastic, always enjoyable style. Amelia Peabody is a feisty archeology buff and an amateur sleuth. I've never been a fan of mysteries but the writing, settings and characters in these books are so good that I can forgive them being mysteries.

I can't say enough good things about the writing. It's incredibly entertaining, witty, wry and so much fun. I want to live with these characters just so I can listen to them talk to each other. I love well done sarcasm (as long as it doesn't stray over the line and become malicious) and Amelia is an expert. Better than an expert, if there was a Nobel prize for sarcasm, she'd win it.

Radcliffe Emerson, the other main character, is the only one who can equal her, firing back barbs of his own that are exquisitely pointed. He has no tolerance for the vanities of women and she has none for the conceits of men. They butt heads at every meeting. Both Amelia and Radcliffe are people I'm afraid I would avoid in real life, but on paper I admire them and wish I had a measure of their confidence. And lest I give the wrong impression, there is more to them than just their rapier wit; they are basically good people with more virtues than flaws, complex enough to be interesting and sympathetic enough to be inspiring.

In this first book of the series Amelia and Radcliffe meet, irritate each other, work together and solve a mystery that includes a nocturnal roving mummy at a dig in Egypt. Radcliffe's younger brother, Walter, and Amelia's young friend, Evelyn, also meet, then develop a romantic relationship that becomes completely tangled up in the mummy mystery.

The characters are well formed and continue to develop throughout the book. The plot line has enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages and by the time you finish the last page there is no question about whether or not to read the next book. You'll be having far too much fun to stop. Fortunately when I placed a hold on this book at the library I also requested the next one "The Curse Of The Pharaohs", so I was able to start that as soon as I finished the first one.

I don't know which blog I was reading when I first found out about this series but I'm very grateful for the introduction. They are an absolute delight to read.
Here are a few passages to tempt you:

"...love has a most unfortunate effect on the brain, and I feared some lingering fondness for the rascal might still move her."

"I didn't suppose that the man had any notion of matters outside of his account books; men never do."

"Women don't think. A little forethought would prevent most of the suffering they constantly complain about."

"I glanced at (his helmet), and at his haggard face, and sniffed meaningfully; but I made no comment."

"It would be improper for them to travel unchaperoned; but by that time I was ready to consign the proprieties to perdition, where they belonged."

Give this series a look; I think you'll be glad you did.

Up next: The Curse Of The Pharaohs, the second in the series.

"The Wednesday Letters"

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

I picked this book off the shelf because of the word "letters" in the title. I love letter books! The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and 84,Charring Cross Road are two of my all time favorites. Then there's C.S.Lewis's Letters to Malcolm and The Screwtape Letters. Wonderful! There is just something special about a story that unfolds through letters. If you know of any other good ones do let me know.

The Wednesday Letters tells the story of two brothers and a sister who gather at the family Bed and Breakfast after both of their parents die in one night. They find boxes of letters written from their father to their mother every Wednesday of their married life. Some of the letters talk about the ordinary events of family life, some tell funny stories the children have never heard, and a few reveal secrets that shock them and forever change the way they see their family.

The main character is Malcolm, one of the brothers, but his two siblings are also major parts of the story. Secondary characters include an uncle (a recovered alcholic), a close family friend (with the strange name A&P), Malcolm's ex-girlfriend (Rain) and her fiance (Nathan) and a sister-in-law who doesn't enter the story till close to the end. Malcolm has been living out of the country for two years and when he comes home, his past, with it's romantic and legal problems, must be faced. The characters are realistic with both strengths and weaknesses. They are typical siblings in that they love each other, but they also know how to push each other's buttons and they do it often.

The opening is successful at getting your attention and setting the scene for the rest of the book. The story moves along quickly due to an abundance, but not an over abundance, of dialogue that flows well and feels natural. It turned out to be a quicker read than I had expected.

A quaint surprise for the reader is found inside the back cover. A sealed envelope labeled Epilogue contains a final letter. A nice touch, fun and original.

There were a couple of things I didn't like, but they were little things and didn't affect my enjoyment of the story. It's a little too gushy in one or two spots for my taste, and I found it odd that as well as the epilogue in the sealed envelope there was another one in the usual place at the end of the main story. I would have liked to see it structured a little better than that. Also the first couple of letters felt a bit contrived, containing details for the reader's benefit that made the writing feel unnatural.

I recommend The Wednesday Letters as an engaging, clean, easy to read book for just about anyone. It provides a pleasant three or four hours of reading, not particularly memorable, but worthy of the time you spend with it.

Friday Blog Hop

It's Friday and time for the hop, hosted ever week by Crazy For Books, where you'll find  a list of bookish blogs with lots of book reviews and recommendations. Enjoy!

Premio Dardos & Versatile Blogger

A big thank you to Bibliophiliac for the The Premio Dardos award.
"The PrĂªmio Dardos is a way to acknowledge the importance of bloggers committed to spreading cultural, ethical, literary and personal values, showing their thoughts are alive through their letters and words. The rules to follow are: 1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link. 2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

It's very exciting to be acknowledged by fellow bloggers like this and I love passing them on. There are a lot of great blogs, but each award is different and I feel it's important to pass it on to those blogs that meet the specifics of the award, which takes some time to research. So, I'll be doing that in bits and pieces, starting with 5 today.

These are the blogs I'm passing the award on to and that I hope you'll check out:
Bloggin' bout Books
Bookworm With A View
Homespun Light
I Prefer Reading

Another big thank-you to Reading With Tequila for The Versatile Blogger award.
The Rules for the award are:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (in no particular order…)
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Seven things about me:
1. My book club meeting is always the highlight of my month.
2. At last count there were 256 authors on my tbr list.
3. I make lists. Lots and lots of lists.
4. I'm a Montreal Canadians fan.
5. In the past year I have discovered that if I don't like a book I don't have to finish it. It only took me 58 years.
6. I speak fluent pig-latin, a sad confession for a 58 year old, but I lack other talent to brag about.
7. When I was 16 I won a national limerick contest. The subject was hometown tourist attractions and I wrote an unflattering verse that I realize now probably didn't do our town any good, but hey, it did win me the contest.

The first five blogs I'm passing this award along to are:
A Reader's Journal
And The Plot Thickens
Life Happens While Books Are Waiting
The Book Buff
Words, Words, Words

Again, thanks for the thumbs up

"Three Cups Of Tea"

Three Cups Of Tea by Greg Mortensen

I am an idiot. My book club is reading this book for our June selection so when I found it I didn't even look beyond the title. The cover said "Three Cups of Tea" so I bought it. It seemed a little lightweight when I started reading it, with short sentences, simple wording etc., then I noticed the cover...it clearly says "Young Readers Edition". I read the entire book in just over an hour. I'm sure the basic story is the same, but I probably missed out on a lot of extra stories and details.

I have no idea how to write about a "Young Reader's" book; I wouldn't even attempt to say what a young reader would consider "good", especially in a true story like this one. So I'll just tell you about some of the book's impressive "physical" features.

There are quite a number of colored photographs in the book that give faces to some of the prominent characters and also show the work that is being accomplished. There is a time-line, a glossary that I think is great for that age group and a who's who to help sort out all the people involved in the story. Also included is an interesting interview with the author's daughter about her part in the work that her father started in Pakistan. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book, along with research and writing activities and there are maps to show you the various areas the author refers to.

All in all it appears that a great deal of work went into creating a book appropriate for younger readers and I thought all the extra features were great. But I still wish I had read the "grown-up" version. Maybe next time I'll be more careful when I'm shopping. One can hope.

P.S. We had our Book Club meeting tonight and several others mistakenly bought the Young Reader's version as well, leaving me feeling slightly less stupid.