litlover12: (Books)
Pretty much everyone else is doing a books post, so I figured I might as well join in. :-) Below (in chronological order of my reading them) are the books to which I gave five stars this year on Goodreads.

Read more... )
litlover12: (Darth)
Just a little book meme I thought of. Feel free to put your own unpopular opinions about books and adaptations on your LJ or in the comments section!

So, here are mine . . .

Spoilerish talk below )

Book meme

Feb. 13th, 2013 08:46 am
litlover12: (Books)
I got this from a message board, and modified it a bit. The idea is simple: Suppose that for some reason you had to pare your library down to 25 single volumes, plus 1 series. You're allowed to read other books, but these 25 (plus 1) are the only books you're allowed to keep or to reread.

(The original meme said 20 books plus 1 series, but that would be inhuman. I think there's something in the Geneva Convention about it.)

You can put the series anywhere in your list, but mark it with an asterisk.

Here are mine . . .


The indispensables )
litlover12: (Lily1)
There's an absolutely gorgeous photo spread in Vogue, using actors to recreate scenes from Edith Wharton's life at The Mount and elsewhere. "Edith's" hairdo is a little unfortunate, but other than that, the pictures are to die for.
litlover12: (Lily1)
I already own all three of these novels, but I confess I am lusting in my heart for this gorgeous new edition.

litlover12: (Lily2)
I've been so busy blogging about the Dickens bicentennial (seriously, sometimes I think I'm about to drown in articles) that I almost missed the big day of another of my favorite writers. Glad I found out in time to celebrate!

Oh, Lily

Jun. 19th, 2011 10:57 pm
litlover12: (Lily1)
At my request, [livejournal.com profile] ever_maedhros has made a gorgeous batch of House of Mirth icons. Go check 'em out!

I don't think I've mentioned before that Lily Bart is one of my favorite heroines ever. She makes me want to shake her until her teeth rattle . . . and yet I love her so. I can't help it. She makes stupid mistakes, and yet through all of it, through the sheer brutality of her life, she has such a purity of heart. She loves luxury and ease and beautiful surroundings -- loves them too much, in fact -- but she can't make herself do wrong things, or even expedient things, to get them, and so life beats her down. A really clever woman could perhaps find a way to get those things by honorable means, but she can't even do that. She breaks my heart, but I feel like I understand her, and I love her.

The way that Lawrence yells, "Oh, LILY!" in that half-horrified, half-exasperated way at the end of the film always makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. In any other film, with any other characters, it would be way over the top, but right there it's so fitting. It's just so . . . Lily.

FINALLY

Jun. 14th, 2010 06:02 pm
litlover12: (AH2)
At long, LONG last, I've finished that Edith Wharton biography. I can't say I'm sorry to see it end (with all due respect to Wharton). There is something about exhaustive biographies that is, well, exhausting. For instance, I love gardens, as Wharton did -- although I'm not sure any other human being has ever loved them quite as much as she did -- but I did not need to read the history and description of every single flower the woman ever raised.
litlover12: (CY)
This one's from Nina at Wickfield.

First: If you've been tagged, you must write your answers in your own LJ and replace any question that you dislike with a new question. Second: Tag eight people. Don't refuse to do that. Don't tag who tagged you.

(I'd have used an LJ cut, but it doesn't want to work. What is up with LJ these days, anyway? It seems to be going out of its way to be obnoxious.)

What song are you currently addicted to?

Mm, hard to say; I always seem to be listening to all kinds of songs. Right now, pretty much anything by Chris Young, I guess. Especially "Burn."

What books are you currently reading?

Way too many to list. :-) I'll just name the ones I have listed on my Visual Bookshelf on Facebook: the latest biographies of Charles Dickens and Edith Wharton; Anna Karenina; and Dickens, Christianity, and The Life of Our Lord. I'm also rereading Barnaby Rudge for the current group reading project at Dickensblog.

What's the funnest thing you've done today?

It's been more of a work day than a fun day. The most fun thing has been doing this meme, I guess! Well, that and playing with the neighbors' cats.

ZOMBIES OR ROBOTS?

Robots!

Sweet or salty?

Both!

What's your current fandom/obsession/addiction?

I have many ongoing ones, but my most recent one is White Collar.

Cake or Death?
Definitely cake!! (And our neighbor just brought over a REALLY YUMMY one!)

What websites do you always visit when you go online?

The site that I manage at work, Dickensblog, LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter. There are other sites I visit frequently, but those are the ones I go to pretty much every time.

What was the last thing you bought?

A tall vanilla soy latte at Starbucks.

What fictional character are you most like?
Jessica Raney from Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon: timid, creative, loyal, hardworking, and affectionate.

Favorite toy growing up?

My baby doll Shelly.

What do you do to change your mood?

Any number of things: pray, exercise, write in a journal, read, watch something funny. If all else fails, I take a 5HTP capsule. (It's a supplement I take to help me sleep at night, but it's also good for moods. It's non-prescription and harmless . . . mostly. You can actually have nightmares if you take too much, as I know to my cost!)

What was the last meal you ate?
Stuffed salmon, rice, roasted mixed vegetables, tomato and olive salad, and cake!

Do you want to learn another language?

I'd like to relearn Italian. I took it as an undergraduate and loved it. Took it again in grad school, some time later, and the teacher was so terrible I think I actually regressed in my understanding of the language! Of course I had forgotten a lot in the years between, but I swear I actually knew less Italian when I came out than when I went in.

Five things you can't live without: 

God, family, friends, books, flowers

Find the closest book currently sitting near you and flip to page 54. What is the first sentence of the second paragraph?

"There was a slight amount of defiance in her voice, but Mrs. Lacey did not seem to notice it." Agatha Christie, "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding," in the book Murder for Christmas

What's something you'd like to say to someone right now?

"Would you go out with me?"

(I won't say to whom I want to say it. I'm pretty sure he doesn't read this journal . . . but I can't be 100 percent certain!)

What are you looking forward to?

Visiting one of my favorite shops on Wednesday. :-) It's pretty far away, but I'm going to be in the area that day, so I'm planning a stop there.

I tag [livejournal.com profile] valancy_s , [livejournal.com profile] tempestsarekind , [livejournal.com profile] mosinging1986 , [livejournal.com profile] modernelegance , [livejournal.com profile] jenny_wildcat , [livejournal.com profile] velle  (I know, you just finished the last one I gave you! :-) ), [livejournal.com profile] sonneta , and [livejournal.com profile] wunderkind_lucy .


Seriously?

Jan. 13th, 2010 09:12 am
litlover12: (AH1)
I learn from the Edith Wharton biography, which I'm still plowing through, that Wharton had a friend named Rosa de Fitzjames.

Seriously? Rosa de Fitzjames? How does one get a name like that? These days we're so casual with our naming practices that an Italian, say, might end up with an Irish name, or a Chinese person with a French name, or whatever. But Rosa de Fitzjames would be in a whole different category of its own even today. You've got Spanish and French and Irish all rolled up in one simple first name-last name combination. Remarkable!

I learn from the index that there is more of Rosa coming up, to which I shall look forward with great interest. (And the index also states that she was a countess. Countess Rosa de Fitzjames! Even better!)
litlover12: (P1)
This weekend turned out to be chaotic, hence the lack of updates. But I've now finished not only Woe Is I, but also another book that I got for Christmas. More on that momentarily.

I was expecting something like Lynne Truss's great Eats, Shoots & Leaves, but Woe Is I turns out to be more of a reference book. It's a pretty good one, though. Very basic, and occasionally the approach is a little more easygoing than I prefer. Its philosophy could be summed up by this sentence from the glossary: "We adopt rules when we need them and discard them when we don't, so the rules are always changing." But it's readable and helpful and, I think, would be a useful desk reference for most people who are trying to learn the ropes of writing, or who need a refresher course now and then. And the example sentences and the chapter headings and subheadings are great (e.g., "Plurals Before Swine," "The Compleat Dangler," "Metaphors Be with You"). Four out of five stars.

And a rare five-star rating goes to Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook by Sarah Schmelling, which my parents gave me for Christmas. It's just what it sounds like, and it's hilariously awesome. For example:

"Dr. Frankenstein removed 'bodybuilding' from his Interests."

"Pip became a fan of Mean Girls."

"Scarlett threw a Scarlett at Ashley! Fan yourself, heave your bosom at, rustle your petticoat, or do something else."

And so on. I could quote this thing all day. In fact, I'll probably be quoting it every now and then for a while, here and at Dickensblog, just because it's too much fun to keep to myself. (I was going to say "for the foreseeable future" instead of "for a while," but Woe Is I says not to. It says you can put a preposition at the end of a sentence, however.)

A word about the star system: I'm not really comparing the books against each other, but against themselves. Thus, I'm not trying to say that Sarah Schmelling or Patricia T. O'Conner is a better writer than Edith Wharton -- just that I happened to like their books a lot, whereas I didn't think The Reef was among Wharton's best. It's a very subjective system . . . but then, reviews and ratings generally are subjective, I guess.

I'm now reading A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle.
litlover12: (Default)
The Reef isn't bad -- I don't think Wharton published a bad book -- but she piles up the nuances and descriptions until they're almost suffocating. And if she had used "luminous" to describe just one more aspect of the landscape, I was going to go blind.

Pssssst . . . Edith, honey, you don't have to write like Henry James. You already write better than he does.

The plot is a little artificial -- My Fiancee's Stepson Is Marrying the Girl I Had an Affair With sounds more like Jerry Springer than Edith Wharton. But the fallout from all this is appropriately devastating. And the characterization is good, especially of Anna Leath. I love this: "She dreaded above all the temptation to generalise from her own case, to doubt the high things she had lived by and seek a cheap solace in belittling what fate had refused her. There was such love as she had dreamed, and she meant to go on believing in it, and cherishing the thought that she was worthy of it. What had happened to her was grotesque and mean and miserable; but she herself was none of these things, and never, never would she make of herself the mock that fate had made of her . . . " Except for the "she was worthy" part, that sounds like one of my favorite passages about Arthur Clennam (and would that Arthur had realized sooner that he was worthy!).

Anna's perpetual "I can't give him up/I'll give him up/I can't give him up/I must give him up/Do I really have to give him up?" in the last part of the book gets tiresome, but it's all too realistic. And so is Anna's realization that the person you love and feel in complete sympathy with, can be the same person who does things that horrify you and that you can't understand at all. That is achingly realistic and very well portrayed.

It's a sad and bleak little book on the whole, and the Jamesian stuff is over the top, but it has some magnificent moments. Three-and-a-half out of five stars.

Now for Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, Second Edition, by Patricia T. O'Conner. I'm not a grammarphobe, but it looks like a fun and interesting read. And a quick one, which right now is just what the doctor ordered. I'm going at a pretty good pace, but I'm a little behind where I wanted to be at this point.
litlover12: (WC1)
Certain parts of it are formulaic -- when you open your novel with an evil tycoon luring an antagonist into a silo full of corn, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to guess what's coming. Certain parts of it are gross -- after all, Dr. Nick "The Bug Man" Polchak loves nothing better than to chat about insects and what they do to human bodies. And certain parts of it cross the line between quirky and just plain unbelievable -- more on that in a moment.

And yet with all that, Ends of the Earth is still a thoroughly good read. Nick, as always, is irresistible with his singlemindedness and his one-liners, which occasionally rise to Dr. House-like levels -- and that's a compliment I don't pay lightly. He's kept me reading for four books now despite being one of the most squeamish readers ever. (The first Bug Man novel I read made me decide to be cremated when I die.) As for the plot, despite its formulaic moments, it has a good solid premise and some cool twists and turns.

Nick's relationships are not quite as well-drawn as his character. An element of romance has been present in each previous novel -- in a way that sort of bugged me (har!), because I'm always a little annoyed by series in which there's a new love interest in every installment. Make a choice and settle down, I say. Well, here Nick decides to do just that . . . in a way that sort of works and sort of doesn't. To begin with, we have a love triangle with Nick and two women from previous novels -- if you can call it a triangle when both women are after Nick and he spends much of the book not even noticing -- so at least we're recycling and not bringing in yet ANOTHER woman. There's something in that. And though I don't like love triangles as a rule, there's at least a bit of originality in the way that the two women in question, Kathryn and Alena, grow to be friends and to look out for each other in a dangerous situation. And one of them, I won't say who, really got me rooting for her. She's gutsy and smart and goes after what she wants without beating around the bush.

What doesn't exactly work is that we see very little of Nick's mental processes as he falls in love with one of the women, so when he finally decides to propose, I was half "Goody!" and the other half "Really?" And here's where we get all gimmicky -- Downs ends the book without saying to whom Nick proposed! You had to go to his website and vote!! After the shock and a brief moment of hating the author with the heat of a thousand suns, I rushed to the site to do just that. Turned out I was too late, the voting had already closed . . . but, joy and relief, my choice had won by a huge margin. In the next book, which Downs is writing now, she'll be either engaged or married to Nick. In a way I like this (hurray, he's making a choice and settling down!); in another way I can't help feeling it's all been just a little too quirky, and maybe a little too rushed; but in yet another way -- am I running out of ways? -- the weirdness of it kind of fits the characters and the general tone of the story.

So . . . I can't say that the story works the whole time. But I can say that when it works, it really works. Three-and-a-half out of five stars. I have a feeling the next one, when it comes out, may be higher; when we see Nick actually settled into a stable relationship with a very cool lady who gets him, I think it'll probably be better written than all the will-he-or-won't-he stuff. I just hope he gets her as well as she gets him.

Next: The Reef by Edith Wharton. In his introduction, Louis Auchincloss calls it "a Jamesian novel." Uh-oh.
litlover12: (HP)
Thanks to Nibs at Wickfield for this meme. I'm sure many of you have done it before, but if it's new to you and you'd like to try it, consider yourself tagged! Apologies for any unorthodox spacing; LJ is really acting up for me these days.

"List twelve characters from any fandom/literary source, and then answer the following questions." Make SURE that you list the characters BEFORE reading the questions!!!

  1. Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities)
  2. Anne Shirley (the Anne of Green Gables series)
  3. Lord Peter Wimsey (the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries)
  4. Arthur Clennam (Little Dorrit)
  5. Sara Crewe (A Little Princess)
  6. Miss Betsey Trotwood (David Copperfield)
  7. Harriet Vane (the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries)
  8. Lily Bart (The House of Mirth)
  9. Father Tim Kavanaugh (the Mitford series)
  10. Adrian Monk (Monk)
  11. Radar (M*A*S*H)
  12. Archie Goodwin (the Nero Wolfe mysteries)

In which the above named have some strange adventures . . . )

litlover12: (AH1)
According to Hermione Lee's biography of Edith Wharton, she and Henry James may have been friends, but that didn't stop her from parodying him, like so:

. . . It was not that, as Mrs. Byas said, one couldn't always buy a new umbrella.

From the visibly permissible assumption of the conjecturer's solvency one might, it was clear, predicate without risk of tenable refutation, his congenital capacity for the spontaneous gratification of even more considerable exigencies. Figuratively & literally, Mr. Valentine Grope would, one instantly surmised, be always able to buy a new umbrella; but then, as he, with a not wholly unapt delimitation of her axiom, permitted himself to point out to his admirable friend, it would always be a new umbrella.

"There, my good woman, is the rub."

She glanced at him with a sense of the after all never wholly evitable hindrances to complete communion.
You GO Edith! It sounds exactly like him.

litlover12: (Default)
"'There's something tremendously suggestive in that fancy of yours, that tradition has misrepresented the real feelings of all the great heroes and heroines; or rather, has only handed down to us the official statement of their sentiments, as an epitaph records the obligatory virtues which the defunct ought to have had, if he hadn't. That theory, now, that Odysseus never really forgot Circe; and that Esther was in love with Haman, and decoyed him to the banquet with Ahasuerus just for the sake of once having him near her and hearing him speak; and that Dante, perhaps, if he could have been brought to book, would have had to confess to caring a great deal more for the pietosa donna of the window than for the mummified memory of a long-dead Beatrice -- well, you know, it tallies wonderfully with the inconsequences and surprises that one is always discovering under the superficial fitnesses of life.'"

Edith Wharton, "That Good May Come," The New York Stories of Edith Wharton

Had Wharton known how incredibly overused that idea would be in about a hundred years or so, I submit that she might not have let her characters romanticize it quite so much.

litlover12: (Default)
"It was characteristic of these indifferent but agglutinative people that they could never remain long parted from each other without a dim sense of uneasiness."

The Glimpses of the Moon, Chapter 7 (emphasis mine)

Don't you just love it when an author produces the perfect word in the perfect spot? I'd never seen agglutinative before, but I fell in love with it at first sight.

litlover12: (Default)
I finished Drood yesterday; final review here. Whew, that was a hard slog.

Now for a nice long Edith Wharton orgy! Wharton is one of my "comfort food authors," as Cleolinda has it, and I went a little crazy and ordered three of her books off Amazon for a special treat recently. I'm starting with The Glimpses of the Moon, which is billed as a comedy. Thank heaven. After nearly 800 pages of torment and angst and lurid opium hallucinations, I need a comedy in the worst way.

Of course, it's still Wharton, comedy or no comedy, so four chapters in, the moral dilemmas are already flying thick and fast. But her writing is so lovely that even the moral dilemmas are a pleasure to read about.

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