New Orleans Literary Tourism

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In May 2018 I finally got to visit New Orleans. I'd been dying to explore it for years and was thrilled to get to take a short girls trip there. The city's literary history is rich and I had a few must see spots on my list. 
Faulkner Books was the one I was the most excited about. It's a perfect little bookstore located down a quiet side street near Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. William Faulkner lived in the home in 1925 and it is filled with gems from his life. After exploring the stacks for awhile I purchased a copy of Faulkner's "New Orleans Sketches" and the short story, "A Pair of Silk Stockings" by Kate Chopin for myself and Mary Poppins for my daughter. Books are always my favorite souvenirs from a trip. 
In addition to an excellent selection of books, there are framed letters from famous writers like Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, and Tennessee Williams. There were first editions of Faulkner's books (including the ones above). They were locked in a glass case, but the man working there let me look at them. They were worth thousands! The bookstore was completely charming and I'm so glad we made it there.
The other literary highlight of the trip was the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. It's literally a carousel that rotates very slowly in the hotel lobby. It was a popular hangout for authors like Truman Capote, Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and others. We got there early enough to grab a seat on the carousel and I sipped on my sazerac while we slowly turned. I loved it! There's a display in the lobby featuring books and photos of the famous authors who have been guests at the hotel. 

All-in-all New Orleans was wonderful. Filled to the brim with delicious food, great music, a cemetery tour, and time to wander the unique streets. Highly recommended!

Henry VIII and Pericles

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Henry VIII
by William Shakespeare

Henry VIII is the final play in the histories series. Although it’s frequently challenged as being written solely by Shakespeare, I'm accepting it as part of the canon.  The histories begin, chronologically, with Richard II and take us all the way through the Wars of the Roses.

The plot covers the execution of Buckingham, the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the divorce of Henry VIII and Queen Katherine, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, the birth of Elizabeth, and more. The play itself is rarely produces and not well known, but  pieces of it will be familiar to anyone who has read Wolf Hall or The Other Boleyn Girl.

There's a lot crammed into this one, but a few of the characters truly shine. Your heart breaks for the neglected Katherine. She’s tossed aside by her husband of 20 years when someone younger catches his eye. She has some fantastic moments when she challenges Cardinal Wolsey.

“Y’ are meek and humble-mouth’d,
You sign your place and calling, in full seeming, with meekness and humility;
but your heart is cramm’d with arrogance, spleen, and pride.”

Buckingham is also a sympathetic character with some great speeches. Overall the play doesn't flow as well as many of his others. It's too scattered, too many moving pieces, but it's still got some beautiful language.

“Yet I am richer than my base accusers,
That never knew what truth meant.”

“Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
That it do singe yourself.”

“Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,

Thy God's, and truth's.”

Pericles, Prince of Tyre 
by William Shakespeare

In only a few minutes we’re in the midst of incest and attempted murder. There’s soap opera level drama from the start. There’s a storm at sea, shipwreck, a lost infant, lost wife, prostitutes, pirates, and so much more. Pericles escapes a dangerous situation, on the run for his life. He ends up in a new kingdom and falls in love with a princess there. In a plot straight out of The Tempest, Shakespeare has the princess’ father pretends to be against the pairing to encourage the two to fall even faster in love. There is a narrator who helps the reader navigate the many location and time changes in each act. Pericles’ lost wife plot is reminiscent of Winter’s Tale.

This is one of Shakespeare’s “romance” plays. Though the ending might be happy, the story is full of tragedy. Redemption doesn’t come until the characters are heartbroken by loss. The play is interesting, but it does feel like a pieced together effort that combines some of his better work. It was the very last of his plays that I read and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment that I've finally read ALL of his plays!

“Few love to hear the sins they love to act.”

“Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.”

2018 End of the Year Book Survey

Thursday, December 27, 2018

It was an interesting year for reading for me. I found some absolute gems, but read some forgettable ones too. For the first time in quite a while I was lacking in the classics department, though I did finally conquer Ulysses! This was also a banner year for new releases from favorite authors of mine. Some were beautiful (Bridge of Clay), some were disappointing (Nine Perfect Strangers and The Clockmaker’s Daughter), and The Labyrinth of Spirits provided closure to one of my favorite series (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books).  

Audiobooks have continued to be a lifesaver for me as I balance life with a toddler. We’re expecting a new kiddo in the Spring and so I’m sure that side of things will be even trickier next year. I maintain that even when life is crazy and you’re exhausted by work/kids/pregnancy/life you can still find time to read if it’s important to you. During my most hectic times I’ve learned that sometimes a comfort reread is just what I need. Other times it’s a brainless fiction story that won’t ask me to think too much. That’s ok! As long as I’m still reading, I’m happy.

Any books I reread this year are not eligible for this list. I also didn’t count the piles upon piles of children’s books I read, except to list a couple favorites. I also don’t limit myself to one book per answer if there are two or three that are a perfect fit.

Number of Books You Read: 142
Number of Re-Reads: 9
Genre You Read The Most From: Total mix of genres this year: classics, YA, fantasy, nonfiction, etc.
1. Best Books You Read In 2018?
Classics — The Mayor of Casterbridge, The Island of Dr. Moreau
Historical Fiction — Love and Ruin 
Mystery — Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel)
Literary Fiction — Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Nonfiction — All the President's Men, American Wolf, The Day the World Came to Town, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Fantasy — Circe, the Grisha trilogy 
Play — Henry IV, Part 1 and Birthday Candles
Poetry — Milk and Honey
YA — If You Come Softly,  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Science Fiction — Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files), the Red Rising series
Children’s — Anatole, Where Is the Green Sheep? and Little Owl's Night
Graphic Novel — Displacement, Bones

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
How to Stop Time, Nine Perfect Strangers, and Crazy Rich Asians (loved the movie version of this one though!)

3. Most surprising (in a good way) book you read?
The Rules of Magic, I had very low expectations for this Practical Magic prequel, but I was pleasantly surprised to find wonderfully drawn characters.   
4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
Sleeping Giants 

5. Best series you started in 2018?
Grisha Trilogy and Red Rising

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018?
Leigh Bardugo 

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Reading People, a fascinating look at how personality types can impact the way we approach things.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Bird Box and the Red Rising Trilogy

9. Book You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
The Red Rising trilogy (are you seeing a trend? It was SO good!)

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?
Uncommon Type and Loving vs. Virginia

11. Most memorable character of 2018?
Sevro from the Red Rising trilogy and Uncle Hal in The Witch Elm 

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2018?
Circe and Bridge of Clay

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2018?
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, so many incredible women that I hadn’t heard of! I had so much fun reading it to my daughter.
Ulysses, this one was a struggle for me. But I got a lot out of it and I loved seeing the impact it had on censorship and literature.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read?
A Wizard of Earthsea, planning to continue reading this quartet in 2019.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2018?

“I still find a long walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood teaches me more about what’s new and exciting than any number of hours of television can.” -Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

“Really, every time a person said good-bye to another person, they should pay attention, just in case it was the last time.”- When Will There Be Good News?

“What I really love about travel is that it takes us outside ourselves... it unhomes you. And allows you to see possibilities for change, growth, a new life.”- An Age of License

“At the time I was just a kid and life was still a few sizes too big for me.” The Labyrinth of Spirits

“It’s silence was something awesome—an enormous playground for the guilt to wreak havoc, to work him over.” - Bridge of Clay

“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.” - Music for Chameleons

“I don’t believe that blood makes a family; kin is the circle you create, hands held tight.” - An American Marriage 

“I suppose that is what every man must tell himself in war. That there will be an end, and when it is done, enough of himself will remain. Enough to be a father. A brother. A lover. But we know it isn’t true. Don’t we, Darrow? War eats the victors last.” - Iron Gold 

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2018?
Kindred Spirits: 41 pages & Ulysses: 816 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most?
Bridge of Clay and Morning Sun  

18. Favorite Couple?
- Nate and Bronwyn in One of Us Is Lying 
- Max and Ory in The Book of M 

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship of The Year?
- Auggie and Jake in Wonder 
- Flavia and Dogger in The Grave's a Fine and Private Place
- Fermin and Daniel in The Labyrinth of Spirits

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2018 From an Author You’ve Read Previously?
Force of Nature and Circe 

21. Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A
Recommendation From Somebody Else?
If You Come Softly and The Music Shop

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018?
Jesse from Out of the Easy

23. Best 2018 debut you read?
The Book of M

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Smile: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland. This one just gave me hope. On such a dark day, the world was still full of selfless people willing to help complete strangers.
Most Fun: The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, Emma Thompson is hilarious and I wish we were friends.

26. Book That Made You Cry in 2018?
- American Wolf, I don’t handle animal deaths in books very well.
- One True Thing, a Mom dying of cancer hits a bit close to home for me.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
I Am, I Am, I Am 

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Under the Banner of Heaven, the book is well written, but the real events are just awful.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2018?
Sleeping Giants, loved this one! Even the way the author approached the story telling was unique. We see it all happen through interviews conducted by a nameless man. I would highly recommend the audio version of this one.

30. Book That Made You the Maddest?

All the President’s Men, excellent book, just a little too close to our current situation. 

Thanks to Perpetual Page Turner for once again hosting this survey! It’s always so much fun to look at everything I read throughout the year and think about what I loved/hated. 

Photo by me.