Friday, April 27, 2012

Secrets of the Woods

Secrets of the WoodsSecrets of the Woods by William J. Long

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read this with my daughter as part of the AO Yr3 curriculum for nature study. We enjoyed most of the animal stories, especially the otter and the wood-mouse, but quite a few were unnecessarily wordy, which detracted from our overall enjoyment of the book. Mostly, we have really liked the AO book choices, so this is the first 2-star review for us.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Barnes is masterful. Stories of middle-aged men don't usually interest me, but this one did because I remember liking Flaubert's Parrot a long time ago, even though I didn't understand some of it. Perhaps my memory is as faulty as Tony Webster's.

"In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives--and time itself--would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernable." p.10

"Still, as I tend to repeat, I have some instinct for survival, for self-preservation. And believing you have such an instinct is as good as actually having it, because it means you act in the same way. So, after a while, I rallied. p.143

I read this book in two sittings: it is brief, but not light. The narrator reflects at one point that life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Still, it beats the alternative.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Amateur Night, Night and Day!

“On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.”
― Evelyn Underhill

Ann Voskamp included this quote in a recent post. In light of it, I'd have to consider myself a professional amateur if I honestly consider how often I'm in a hurry or impatient with my kids. I really think many people feel that they have to be in a hurry. To appreciate how strongly this habit has been ingrained in me, I must say that I have greatly mellowed in my approach to life, and yet still hear myself telling the kids to hurry up or we'll be late, etc. nearly every time we head out the door. Can you imagine what I was like before the chill pills?

Well, the experts say that you have to recognize a problem before you can work on it. The professionals... Maybe someday when I fully renounce my professional amateur title I'll say that too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Private World of Georgette Heyer

The Private World of Georgette HeyerThe Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who wouldn't want to know more about the author of so many wonderful books? During her lifetime, Heyer refused all interviews and publicity. Her fans know about as much about her personal life as they know of Jane Austen's. (But isn't there a great market for all of that surmising about Jane?)

This biography gives us a picture of Heyer as a dedicated writer and meticulous researcher. The rare instances where she made historical errors usually occurred when she forced herself to complete a manuscript during an illness. Although her Regency era novels are best-known, I enjoyed learning about her love of the medieval period. Throughout her career writing mysteries and romances to keep the Tax Man at bay, as she put it, she kept returning to her ambitious historical novel of Henry V's younger brother, John, Duke of Bedford. The unfinished work was published after her death as My Lord John.

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Monday, April 16, 2012


Checkmate (The Lymond Chronicles, #6)Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! What an ending to a spectacular saga! I leave to other reviewers to summarize. Some have done so excellently. But, better yet, I suggest if you are interested in engrossing reads, tackle this series, prepared for ups and downs much like you encounter in real-life personal relationships. While difficult, it will also prove rewarding.

"We know something of men. We know of evil, and of sloth, and of self-seeking ambition. We accept it, and will use what we have of wit and good faith to overcome it."

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