Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in MoscowI finally had the time to read A Gentleman in Moscow...a book that I had been anxiously awaiting to get to since last summer.  It did not disappoint.  I thought it was an amazing book and I am predicting that it will end up in my top five books for 2018.  We'll see.  I would love to read other books as good!

This novel is not a fast-paced story, nor is it an action-packed story.  It is a quiet story about an elegant man, living a quiet life.  But there is so much to it!

This is counter-intuitive (at least for me), but for such a long book, this is going to be a very short review.  For one thing, I don't feel like I could begin to do it justice, and for another, I don't want to give anything away!

Count Alexander Rostov was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922.  He was accused of writing a poem a few years earlier that was considered to be a "call to action". The Count had lived in the hotel for the past four years in an elegant suite, so that didn't seem to be too bad of a sentence.  Until he arrived at the hotel and learned that he would no longer be living in the suite, but was moved to the attic of the hotel where servants had lived years earlier.  He was taken to his new room, which had been used as a storeroom for the past few years.  Here he was to live out his life in a tiny room, never to leave the hotel again under threat of being shot to death.

One of my favorite lines in the book was the Count stating in his court hearing when he was accused of being a man without any purpose:

"I have lived under the impression that a man's purpose is known only to God."
Great line, great writing.

So this is a story of a man sentenced to live in a hotel for the rest of his life in Moscow during incredibly turbulent times in Russia.  How he manages to have a meaningful life there is the story. An amazing book.  I loved it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The View from Penthouse B

The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman was not a book that I would have picked up to read on my own.  It was a book club pick. Once I figured out that the book was supposed to be humorous, I enjoyed it.  At first, I was skeptical! It ended up being a good book for discussion.

The View from Penthouse BThe story is about three sisters in New York City.  Gwen-Laura was a  young widow who decided to move into a penthouse after her sister Margot invited her to come live there.  Margot was divorced after her gynecological husband was imprisoned for impropriety with patients (ie. impregnating them). Margot could not really afford living in the penthouse, so it made sense to ask her younger sister to move in.  They then decided that they needed a third boarder and found Anthony, a much younger gay man who moved in.  Their other sister, Betsy, played sort of a voice of reason as Margot and Gwen-Laura begin to explore the dating world again.  The adventures included Margot's ex-husband moving into a studio apartment in the same building, and Gwen-Laura exploring the world of on-line dating.

The book was a light, funny, easy-to-read book, that is sometimes needed!

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Best Jigsaw Puzzle Ever!

It's winter here in Illinois, and it has been brutal lately, although I have to admit, not as bad as the East Coast with all the snow.  But it has been really cold here, which is one of my most un-favorite things.

But imagine my joy when I came across this jigsaw puzzle at Barnes and Noble.  It is a puzzle of book covers that have female heroines!!!  My two favorite things I can come up with about winter-reading and doing jigsaw puzzles (the only other things I can come up with are my electric blanket and fires in our fireplace).

Here is the list of book covers on the puzzle.  I am sharing it because, sadly, I have only read 22 of the 50 books. Those I have read are marked by *:

A Wrinkle In Time
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
White Teeth
*The Color Purple
*The Bell Jar
Pride and Prejudice
A Garden of Earthly Delights
In the Time of the Butterflies
The House of the Spirits
*The Joy Luck Club
*I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
*Song of Solomon
The Handmaids Tale
The Lowland
The Age of Innocence
*The Good Earth
*The Secret Life of Bees
The House of Mirth
The Awakening and Selected Stories
*A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Play It As It Lays
A Tale for the Time Being
*Wuthering Heights
*My Antonia
*Like Water for Chocolate
The Mediator
*Little Women
A Good Man is Hard to Find
*Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Night and Day
The Penelopiad
The God of Small Things
*Their Eyes Were Watching God
*bel canto
Wide Sargasso Sea
*The Optimist's Daughter
The Volcano Lover
One for the Money
*Jane Eyre
Flowering Judas and other stories

I will say that 2 of the books that I haven't read are on my TBR pile.  I would love to say that I plan to read all the others in 2018, but, in the interest of honesty, there is no way that will happen.  However, I am going to keep the list and try to whittle my way through it over the next couple of years.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Second Mrs. Hockaday

The Second Mrs. Hockaday: A NovelThe Second Mrs. Hockaday is the first novel I have read in this new year.  And I am predicting that it will be in my top five favorites at the end of the year.  That's how much I liked this book.  Admittedly, it is about the Civil War period, which is my favorite, so that has some bearing on my admiration.  But this is a great read...based on a true story, it read like a mystery, along with a subtle (maybe?) love story.

Placidia Fincher was seventeen years old when her step-sisters' wedding took place at the family's home in South Carolina and she first saw and met Major Gryffth Hockaday, CSA.  His first wife had died while he was away at war and he had returned home to care for his son who was also ill. It was during this time that he had gone to the wedding and met Placidia. Mere hours later, Gryffth and Placidia were married and he took her back to his three hundred acre farm and infant son, Charlie. After two nights and one day, the Major was called back to the War, leaving his new young bride with all the responsibilities.

Major Hockaday was gone for two years and there were but few letters exchanged.  Placidia carried on as best she could and surrounded herself with those she trusted, as she went through all the turmoil of living in the South as the War was being fought and lost.  When Gryffth returned home from the War, he learned that Placidia had given birth to a child in his absence and was accused of murdering and burying the infant.

"All I had known for certain when I came around the hen house that first evening in July and saw my husband trudging into the yard after lifetimes spent away from us, a borrowed bag in his hand and the shadow of grief on his face, was that he had to be protected at all costs from knowing what had happened in his absence. I did not believe he could survive it.”
Placidia refused to reveal anything about the pregnancy or what happened after the birth.

The book begins with a letter written by Placidia to her cousin Mildred.  Placidia was in jail at the courthouse when the letter was written. The story is then told through letters, inquest records, and entries written on the back pages of illustrations in a book.  When those entries are discovered years later, the secrets began to be revealed. The time period of the entries is from 1865 to 1892, describing events from 1863.  It is a fascinating story, and a study of how family secrets can affect others throughout the years.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Loved this Christmas gift!

Image may contain: jewelry

One of my favorite Christmas gifts I received last week was a To Kill A Mockingbird bracelet!  As any reader of my blog knows, this is my all-time favorite book, so I thought this was a really thoughtful, meaningful gift!