Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Confession of Brother Haluin - Ellis Peters

the confessions of brother haluin
ellis peters
c. 1988
196 pages
completed 12/22/2009

read for: brother cadfael chronicles

*may contain spoilers*

After a forty foot fall off the roof of the abbey guest hall, Brother Haluin makes a deathbed confession to both Abbot Radolfus and Brother Cadfael concerning a deadly sin against a girl in his past that he has kept hidden for eighteen years. Only Brother Haluin does not die. Slowly he begins to mend, and when he is recovered enough he takes it upon himself to embark on a pilgrimage to ask forgiveness from the people involved in his past sin. Because he will never regain the full use of his feet, which were mangled in the fall, and is forced to go on crutches, Brother Cadfael is ordered to accompany Brother Haluin on his pilgrimage. The two set off on what should be a pretty straight forward errand, but instead get mixed up in deceit, betrayals, thwarted lovers, and murder. And so it is left to Cadfael to untangle the mystery.

Once again, I think I was just so excited to read something that wasn't assigned to me! I couldn't put this down. Yesterday I was supposed to be wrapping presents, but I was in the middle of the third chapter and I thought to myself "I'll just finish this chapter and then I'll wrap my presents." Yeah, eleven chapters later I was done with the book and my presents were still unwrapped.

I had a few quibbles with this edition. First of all, there was just not enough Hugh! He is my favorite and for me, the more Hugh the more enjoyment. But obviously, this takes place outside his jurisdiction. And we got some Hugh at the beginning, so that was good.

Second, there wasn't a lot of mystery. Well, that's not exactly true. There was some weird stuff going on and I as the reader was certainly confused and intrigued, but it wasn't like Cadfael was really out solving a mystery. He was just sort of there. And because of this, Cadfael never really formed a relationship with either of the lovers. Normally he becomes one of their confidantes and advocates, but in this instance he just sort of knew them both. I'm sure as soon as he was gone, he was forgotten. I don't think that is normally the case.

And lastly, I was not satisfied with the ending of Haluin and Bertrande. Perhaps I am too young to find something I had lost so long ago and be able to just keep it as a beautiful memory. I would want it for real. All this being said, I still couldn't put it down. And I didn't really think of these quibbles until after I had finished reading, so they didn't detract from the reading at all. I am going to be very sad when I am finally finished with this series.


It's Tuesday, where are you?

Shrewsbury Abbey Shropshire, England

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory

the other queen 
philippa gregory
c. 2008
433 pages
completed 12/20/2009

read for: TBR list

*may contain spoilers*

Chased out of Scotland by rebellious lords, Mary Queen of Scots turns to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England for safety and support. Instead she finds herself imprisoned and under suspicion and surveillance by the queen she took to be a friend. George Talbot and his wife Bess are ordered to act as Mary's jailer. Though at first imagining this to be a great honor, the Talbots will soon see their fortunes, their friends, their reputations, and even their marriage falling apart all due to their never ending duties as royal jailers.

It has been a WHILE since I've read anything solely for pleasure, so it was so nice to dive into this book I've been wanting to read for some time now. And I was so glad I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. I had read some lukewarm reviews on other blogs, mostly people saying it was a little slow, so I was a little apprehensive going in. History can get a little boring if nothing's going on. You can only get so much pleasure out of descriptions of castles and historical lifestyles. Luckily for me, I was not one of those people who found this installment of Gregory's Tudor series too slow.

For me, it is a remarkable historical author who can make me pull my hair and think for a split second 'OH MY GOD, MARY'S REBELLION WILL COMPLETELY CRUSH THE ENGLISH ARMY AND SHE IS SO TOTALLY GOING TO TAKE ELIZABETH'S CROWN!' I mean, let's be for real...I obviously know there is no way that could happen. But I swear, more than once I forgot what I was really reading about and found myself completely believing that Queen Mary was going to win. And then I got super bummed out when reality came back to me.

For the most part, I think I enjoy Gregory's three-person narratives. Seeing the same story from three different perspectives adds a lot of layers to what is going on and lets the reader understand certain secrets and betrayals and things like that a lot better. It also makes it hard for me to form a consistent opinion on any of the three narrators. When I read from George's perspective I think highly of him. I feel him to be extremely tormented by his loyalty to one queen and his love for another. However, when I read from Bess's point of view I am so frustrated by George. And the same goes for the other narrators. My opinion on each one depends on who is narrating.

I just have to mention that George's nightmare/vision at the end kind of broke my heart. Thinking of him, who had spent about eighteen years as companion/guardian/jailer to Queen Mary, presiding over her execution with tears streaming down his face was too sad for me. And the end of sweet eight-year-old Anthony Babington (okay, he was not eight at the end anymore, but he was about eight for most of the book)... But I guess there's no real way for the end of a book about Mary Queen of Scots to not be a downer.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas to all...

This is the first year I'm participating in the Virtual Advent Tour and I'm so excited! Click the picture link to take you to the tour's blog and check out all the other Christmas awesome-ness!

There is a lot of tradition that goes into Christmas in my family, so today I wanted to talk about two of my favorites.

My family has always been extremely musical, and we all enjoy musical theater. So several years ago we decided to check out the Puget Sound Revels, which are an affiliate of the Revels which began in Cambridge in the 70s. What is the Revels? It's a little hard to explain, but I'll try because it is just so awesome. Basically, the Revels is a musical celebration of Christmas (though some of the groups in different areas put on other seasonal shows). Each year there is a different influence (like Italian Renaissance, Medieval England, or French Canadian) and the Revelers put on a show of traditional Christmas song, dance, and pantomime. I say Christmas, but actually a lot of it is even pre-Christian and so is really a celebration of Yule and the changing seasons rather than Christmas. So when I say traditional music, I mean REALLY traditional. It's a lot of fun. The music is great, the performers are great, and there's even lots of audience participation. Every year I hope they pull my dad up onstage. It hasn't happened yet, but there's always next year. There are carols that are printed in the program so that the audience can sing along when the time comes, and every year at the end of Act One, they do a Morris dance to the song "Lord of the Dance" which ends with everyone in the audience grabbing hands and dancing through the aisles and eventually up on stage with the Revelers. I've only managed to get onstage once, but like I said I can always try again next year. Watch the video below to see "The Lord of the Dance" complete with audience dancing by the end, and to get an idea of the show.

This year (this past Sunday) was my fifth time seeing the Christmas Revels. Past themes were Medieval England, Elizabethan England, French Canadian, and Eastern Europe. This year was Moorish and Sephardic songs from the Ottoman Empire, taking place when the Jews were expelled from those lands and fled to places like England. Going to see the Revels is one of the highlights of my Christmas season, and I would HIGHLY recommend the show to anyone. If you click the link here you can find out more and see if there is a Christmas Revels near you (there aren't too many off the coasts unfortunately).

My other Christmas tradition I wanted to mention is much more bookish. Seeing as this is my book blog I felt there should be something bookish in my post. We have had this one Christmas book in my family since I can remember, The Family Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury. And since I've been little we've done just that. Every Christmas Eve, my family sits around the tree and we pass this book around and read aloud the stories and poems and songs. I think originally we read different things each year, but over time we became attached to certain stories so now we always repeat the same ones. My dad always reads the story of Babushka, and I always read the story of the little blue dishes and read the thank you note poem. My sisters and I are all in our 20s now, but still, Christmas can't start until we've read our stories. Well, these are my Christmas traditions and I hope you enjoyed them!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

anna karenina
leo tolstoy
c. 1877
817 pages
completed 12/10/2009

read for: comp lit 211, 100 greatest novels, 1001 books, penguin classics

*may contain spoilers*

Anna Karenina is a story of a woman, unhappy in her marriage, who seeks love elsewhere with disastrous results. As a counterpoint, this is also telling the love stories, whether tragic or joyful, of other people in Anna's life.

I have been planning on reading this for some time, but just couldn't get around to it. Thankfully school, albeit a really terrible Lit class taught by someone I have nicknamed "Dr. Butthead," has forced me to read it. It's a little daunting, at 817 pages, but is actually a pretty steady read. As Rory Gilmore said, Tolstoy wrote for the masses. So it's not filled with prose that's attempting to be overly poetic and fancy. It's plain and simple which makes for an easy and compelling read.

I will be totally honest and say that I actually did NOT like Anna. I felt bad for her, obviously. She's in a loveless marriage with a man 20 years her senior in a time where that was not uncommon and there was not a whole lot you could do about it. But even so, I feel like she made a LOT of bad choices. Letting Vronsky come to her house, not divorcing Karenin when she had the chance. And it was hard to watch her throw her child away and cling so hard to Vronsky which in turn caused Vronsky to pull away from her. I always got a little bummed when the book switched back to her story line.

On the flip side, I enjoyed every page involving Levin and Kitty. Even when Levin was just chillin in his fields working with the muzhiks I was entertained. I enjoyed the ups and downs of their relationship, the little squabbles they had to work through and the personal quirks they had to get used to. It wasn't as loudly passionate as Anna and Vronsky; instead it was quiet and sweet. And I liked that.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Music Mix Friday...Amy Grant "Christmas Hymn"...The Pogues "Fairytale of New York"

One of my favorite Christmas songs. And, oh man, is that a great outfit.
And just to prove my complexities and contradictions, here is a bonus Music Mix Friday and another favorite Christmas song...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A rose by any other name...

In an attempt to make myself go completely bananas, I am signing up for another challenge for next year: the What's in a Name Challenge! Read six books in 2010, each with a different specific criteria in the title. My books will be...

1. The Whiskey Rebels - David Liss (food)
2. Like Mayflies in a Stream - Shauna Roberts (body of water)
3. The Last Queen - CW Gortner (title)
4. Peony in Love - Lisa See (plant)
5. Looking for Alaksa - John Green (place name)
6. Sir Percy Leads the Band - Baroness Emmuska Orczy (musical term)

I started this challenge last year, but didn't finish (since I quit all my challenges) so I'm excited to try again this year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Making the goal...

I am currently reading Anna Karenina. I've always wanted to read it and just haven't, but now I have to read it for school so yea! I'm really enjoying it so far, though really I could have read ANYTHING right now and raved about it just because it meant I no longer have to think about The Scarlet Letter. Unfortunately, we're kind of a week behind, so we're kind of having to rush through it. I am trying, but this is a LOT of book to get through. So I'm making little goals for myself. As of this moment, I am just beginning Part Four, so I'm on about page 360. My goal is that by midnight Friday I will be at page 500. Which is somewhere in the middle of Part Five. So wish me luck and here I go!

To be read...

I meant to post this yesterday...

The Lady Queen - Nancy Goldstone
The Nebuly Coat - John Meade Falkner
The Praise Singer - Mary Renault
The Queen's Mistake - Diane Haeger
The Day the Falls Stood Still - Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Last Will of Moira Leahy - Therese Walsh
The Garden of Persephone - Cesar Rotondi
Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle - Manda Scott
The Mulberry Empire - Philip Hensher
Cassandra, Lost - Joanna Catherine Scott
The Harlot's Progress: Yorkshire Molly - Peter Motley
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
Invisible - Paul Austen
When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish - Martin Gardener
Last Night in Twisted River - John Irving
The Museum of Innocence - Orhan Pamuk
New York - Edward Rutherford
The Guinea Pig Diaries - AJ Jacobs
The Bronze Horseman - Pauline Simons
Miss Buncle's Book - DE Stevenson
Bad Mother - Ayelet Waldman
Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress - Susan Jane Gilmore
The Dust of a Thousand Places - Lucille Turner
Ash - Malinda Lo
The Madness of Queen Maria - Jenifer Roberts
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England - Ian Mortimer
Emotional Geology - Linda Gillard
First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival - Ken Wheaton
The Adventure of English - Melvyn Bragg
Away - Amy Bloom
The Glass Room - Simon Mawer

30 new books and 1 new series. Seeing my TBR list get longer and longer kind of makes me sad. Because I know there's just no way I'll ever be able to read everything I want to. :(