Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign: Paris Times Eight - Deirdre Kelly

Paris Times Eight Title: Paris Times Eight
Author: Deirdre Kelly
Published: 2009 Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir/Travel
Rating: 4.5/5

Before I begin, this review is part of the Green Books Campaign organized by Eco-Libris. Today 100 bloggers are posting reviews at the same time of books that were printed in an eco-friendly manner. It is a worthy cause, so be sure to check out and the other participating blogs. Paris Times Eight is printed on FSC-certified, acid-free paper.

Paris Times Eight is Deirdre Kelly's memoir of growing up as a Canadian with a deep love for Paris. Throughout her young adulthood and as an adult she traveled to Paris eight times and each time her experience was shaped by the events that were happening in her life: from the first time when Deirdre traveled to Paris as an au pair in her late teens and falling in love with the city for the first time but feeling like an outsider to later slowly feeling the embrace of the city in her other visits as a news correspondent or as an adult seeking refuge from the craziness of her life.

I really loved this book. I fell in love with Paris along side Deirdre and I loved seeing how her mindset at each point in her life gave her a different outlook to the city. For Deirdre Paris is a city of intrigue and mystery, comfort and connection, heartache and loneliness. Each time she visited she learned a little more about herself and her desires. Paralleled with her travels to Paris are the events in Deirdre's home life in Canada with a difficult mother and a career as a journalist that sometimes took her sky high and sometimes to rock bottom. Deirdre Kelly takes great care in writing about all of her experiences and made me feel like she was pulling me into an intimate embrace.

Two quotes. The first comes from the first chapter and the second from one of the later chapters. The quotes parallel one another and show how the city treats her on each visit. In the second she is with her fiance, Victor, who has never visited Paris before:

"In Paris it seemed I would always be on the outside looking in. No matter how much I wanted the city to embrace me, it would always keep me at arm's length while wagging a finger in my face. I had rarely fit in--at home, at school, among my peers. But in Paris that feeling of alienation intensified. I didn't belong there, either" (46).

"I thought of the times I had wandered there alone, feeling lost in thought if not in purpose. I remembered that Paris, on previous trips, had sometimes made me feel alienated, isolated, alone. I felt Victor's arm around my shoulders, holding me tight. There was a logic to Paris when seen from above, close to the clouds. The streets had an obvious order that made them easy, all of a sudden to navigate. I told Victor we should go back down into the city to explore it for ourselves" (231).

I really recommend this book, especially to those who love armchair travel or memoirs. Kelly's writing style is fairly straight forward but she writes with such a raw honesty that it was impossible not to feel a connection to her. Due to the span in years this book covers, the growth that Deirdre accomplishes is also easy to feel and recognize. She shows such passion for Paris as a city but also Paris as a feeling and a way of life and I love how varied the city is, like a living organism that is constantly changing and growing and evolving. Just as we all are.

Again, thanks to Eco-Libris for sharing this book with me and allowing me to be apart of their Green Books Campaign.

I am an Amazon Associate. If you purchase Paris Times Eightthrough this review I will receive a small portion of the purchase.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton

Title: Ethan Frome
Author: Edith Wharton
Published: 1911 Pages: 181
Genre: Literary Fiction/Classic
Rating: 4.25/5

Set in the early twentieth century in a remote and wintry part of Massachusetts, Ethan Frome is a tragic and heartbreaking story of love and betrayal. At the beginning of Ethan Frome, the unnamed narrator encounters Frome and other townspeople who know Frome and the narrator pieces together the events described in the book. Frome, a quiet man, lives with his sickly wife, Zeena, who is several years his senior. Zeena's cousin, Mattie, also lives with them and she is young and beautiful. Ethan takes quite a liking to Mattie and while Zeena leaves town to seek treatment for her ailment a quiet affair between Ethan and Mattie ensues.

Even though I hosted the Classics Challenge, I have been terrible at reading classics lately. This is the first I've read in months and reading it made me want to toss everything else aside and seek refuge in classics for the rest of the year. Wharton's writing is spellbinding. The story is a simple one and even the writing is fairly simple, but the heartache is palatable in the book. Ethan is such a complicated character torn by his emotions for Mattie and his duty to Zeena. Even though this is such a short book, Wharton's descriptions are so impactful. The sexual tension between Mattie and Ethan is on the one hand subtle and hardly existent, but the richness with which Wharton describes Ethan and Mattie's encounters tore at my heart:

"The sudden heat of his tone made her colour mount again, not with a rush, but gradually, delicately, like the reflection of a thought stealing slowly across her heart. She sat silent, her hands clasped on her work, and it seemed to him that a warm current flowed toward him along the strip of stuff that still lay unrolled between them. Cautiously he slid his hand palm-downward along the table till his finger-times touched the end of the stuff. A faint vibration of her lashes seemed to show that she was aware of his gesture; and that it had sent a counter-current back to her; and she let her hands lie motionless on the other end of the strip" (95).

The above comes from a fairly long passage and I wish I could include it all, but I don't want to give too much of the event away. But even as almost nothing happens in this passage there is still an electricity that can be felt through Wharton's description. Love it. The only other book I've read by Wharton is The Age of Innocence and I don't remember it having quite the same passion (all I remember really is that the ending ticked me off).

If you're looking for a short and engaging classic, I would recommend Ethan Frome. I read this within a few hours, and because I read it for the readathon I'm sure I missed much of the depth, but it is one that I would love to go back to one day. And it certainly makes me eager to read more of Ms. Wharton's works. Any classic that has me wanting more is definitely a good one in my book!

One more thing but since this contains spoilers, don't read on if you haven't read the book. When I closed the covers for Ethan Frome I was struck by how messy the book ended. It seems nowadays that everything needs to be wrapped up in a neat little bow, but I loved how tragically unhappy this book is. Doesn't that sound strange! It almost killed me when Ethan and Mattie drove for that tree in order to be together, but for all three of them to end up in the same household together is almost unbearable. I'm not really sure what to make of any of this--I guess just an observation--but it isn't often that such powerful endings are found in modern literature? Of course they're there, but maybe just not as often? Ramble over.

What was a classic you've read that had you reaching for more?

Hope everyone's having a good week so far!

**Edith Wharton is actually going to be on tour in January via the Classics Circuit! Be sure to check out the fun!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nick the Football Star

My brother is a rock star. If you know Nick, you already know what an awesome kid he is. If you don’t know my brother then I might sound like I’m bragging a bit, but I’ve got a lot to brag about.

Nick is such a light in my life. He is always making me laugh and makes me feel like he’s so glad to have me around. I never feel like the geeky, totally uncool older sister when I’m around him. Even if I have to ask him what his texts mean because I’m not down with the lingo.

Nick is thirteen years old which makes us fifteen years apart in age. Yes, do the math, I really am 28 years old. I left for college out of state when Nick was just two years old and since then I have lived here and there—sometimes near and sometimes far—but despite all of that I feel like I have a really special relationship with Nick. As I tell my mom, Nick has such a special place in my heart.

But mushy stuff aside, Nick is a total rock star. Not only is he taking karate, plays the trumpet, is in scouts and is working on his Eagle Scout, is a member of an organization at school that helps special needs kids, but Nick is also a key member of his football team. I'd like to tell you that Nick is the star of the team, but I know that would make him feel a little uncomfortable. Nick is a talented football player, but he is also humble and he is a great teamplayer.

One of my favorite games was a few weeks ago. It had been raining a lot so the field was covered in mud. It was a tough game, and his team fought so hard to pull ahead of their opponents. As you can see from the picture above (Nick is #27), my brother is one of the smaller players on the team, but he also plays the hardest. He had already scored the team one touchdown, but they needed one more to clench the win.

With just seconds left on the clock, Nick was given the ball to run down the field. The other team pulled Nick down and the whole stands groaned as it looked like Nick was going to be tackled, but he broke away from the hold and twisted and turned and ran down the field to score the last touchdown of the game.

And you can bet that I was yelling and screaming from the stands and Nick, covered in mud like Pigpen, made the touchdown that won the game.

Good luck tonight, Nick. I'll be the one in the stands stomping and screaming at the top of my lungs!

Love you,

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Published: 2008 Pages: 342
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4.25/5

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is one of those books that I heard about all over the blogosphere and finally grabbed my own copy at Borders Bookstore from one of their bargain shelves. I'm kind of funny when it comes to reading reviews--I don't read a lot of summaries and I have a terrible memory, so I often go into books not knowing very much about them except that others really liked them. The case was the same for this one--and what a delightful surprise!

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks besides having a terribly long title is the story of Frankie Landau-Banks during her sophomore year of high school when she decides to take down the school's secret society. After living in her older sister's footsteps during her freshman year, Frankie finally makes a breakout during her sophomore year and becomes involved with some of the cooler and older kids at school. One of the seniors, Matthew, begins courting her and thus begins a whirlwind romance as well as her secret involvement in the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, the secret male-only society. Upset about the continual lies, deceit, and hypocrisy, Frankie decides to take down the Loyal Order one prank at a time.

Mostly this book was just a lot of fun. Although Frankie is not the narrator, the narration focuses around her thoughts and actions, so we get to know her really well throughout the book. Frankie is a little insecure and eager to be accepted among her peers. Her mother still thinks Frankie is her little "Bunny Rabbit" and is constantly undermining her abilities and intelligence. Even in her involvement with Matthew, Frankie shows how important it is for her to make a name for herself and to be taken seriously.

The meat of the book comes from Frankie's growth and development throughout the book and her desire to become her own person. Frankie shows that she is every bit as clever and quick-witted as her male counterparts, but she must do most of this through a covert cover and the leader of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, Alpha, quickly takes credit for Frankie's work--even as the pranks become more and more serious. My favorite bit about Frankie, though, is her playfulness with the English language:

"[Matthew] got up from the desk, walked over to the couch on which she sat, and kissed her on the lips. There was nothing else around.

'Mmmm,' she whispered. 'Now I'm gruntled.'


'Gruntled. I was disgruntled before.'


'It's drizzling, there's nothing to do but study, the vending machine's broken. You know, disgruntled.'

'And now you're...'

'Gruntled.'" (110).

Frankie is such a likeable character, and while some might be annoyed by her antics, I think Lockhart portrays Frankie as many teenaged girls are--someone who is just looking to become a part. My only regret about the book is the ending when although Frankie has learned a lot and accomplished a lot, she's still the teenaged girl who second guesses herself. This book has received some mixed-reviews, but generally I would recommend it. I certainly really enjoyed it!

On a side note: I'm taking a bit of a blogging break. I'm tired of whining about blogging, so I'm making this announcement kind of quietly. And who knows--maybe in a few days I'll change my mind. Ideally I'd still like to get my pending reviews written and posted, but I fear that otherwise I might be a bit sparse around the blogosphere. I've felt that blogging lately has become a lot of pressure and I'm trying to alleviate some of that pressure (mostly self-induced) and until I can figure that out...I'm in a state of avoidance. :)
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