All posts filed under “Books

Weekend E-Reading: Americanah & The Vacationers

office-272813_1280While I am a big fan of reading books and turning pages, I read in fits and starts on my Nook and tablet. Books act as great physical reminders to me of their actual existence. I find that I forget about the books that I have downloaded. This weekend is all about making an active push to take a look at what I have going there and to finish some of the books I forgot I had.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I last mentioned Americanah back in April, when I anticipated reading it in order to attend a friend’s book club. Plans were changed but it is showing up in the book club docket again. That must say something about its effectiveness as a book club pick. Adiche’s writing is gorgeous, and at 74 pages in, her observations of Nigerian and American culture are astute, thought-provoking and sometimes humorous. Ifemelu and Obinze are characters with intriguing depth and complex lives. I’m convinced our discussion will be a lively one.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub: Summer was officially over at the midpoint of The Vacationers by Emma Straubthe week, but I don’t have to let it go completely. The beautiful weekend weather and Straub’s tale of family drama coming to a boil while on vacation in lovely Mallorca, will help me pretend for a little while longer. This one landed on my list after hearing so much about Straub’s debut novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures (which I have yet to read). Also, nothing screams summer or beach read like the cover of this novel. I look at it and am immediately transported to warm weather relaxation.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review


Literary Movie News: Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper in the Movie Adaptation of Ron Rash’s Serena

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are reuniting to star in Ron Rash’s Serena, and the only thing I am worried about is that I haven’t read the book yet. The trailer makes it look all kinds of angsty and dramatic, it’s also period piece to boost, ya’ll. The goal will be to read it before I see the movie, and my motivation to do this is doubled by the fact that I’ve read some of  Nothing Gold Can StayRash’s powerful and moving collection of short stories.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

Weekend Reading: Michel Laub, Bich Nguyen, & Elizabeth Cooke – July 18, 2014

Current Reads

I have plans with a friend this evening and an afternoon seminar set for tomorrow, but I am also planning on some quality time with my books. I’ve got three going at the moment.

Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub – This is I picked up from Other Press at BEA. Set in Brazil, it so far tells the story of  a young Jewish man who is examining his identity as a Jew in the aftermath of cruel bullying and serious injury of one of his non-Jewish classmates (which he participates in). His decisions and their eventual friendship are predicated on the examination of the lives of his father and grandfather and how both men deal with their own Jewish faith and identity.

The Wild Dark Flowers by Elizabeth Cooke – I had no idea that this was a sequel when I first started reading, but so far it has in no way affected my enjoyment of the story about the changes occurring on an English estate in the midst of the war. Sound familiar?

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen – I’m listening to this on audio and it’s a little slow going for some reason. Still, the story of a young woman of Vietnamese descent discovering her own story in the midst of exploring Rose Wilder Lane’s, is appealing and full of interesting history.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

Armchair BEA 2014: An Introduction Post

ArmchairBEA LogoPlease tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

I’m Nicole. I’m from New York City and I have written the blog Linus’s Blanket for 6 years now. I can’t even believe that it has been that long. I fell into book blogging by accident. This blog started out rather generally, and if you look way back in the time machine of my posting, you’ll find the odd restaurant/activity post and a few pictures. You can also see where I blogged about books during a vacation in Italy. The blog never recovered from there and since then it has been mainly about books, though over the next year or so I will be going in more of a general direction. Or so I say.

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

I was and have remained a pretty eclectic reader. A well-written book capturing my attention and curiosity can be about anything. Once I was firmly out of board books, basic chapter books, general tween/teen fare, I read a lot of mysteries. I loved Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and some of the Nancy Drew books. And I read quite a bit of fantasy and some of the classics. Freshman year in college changed the game for me when I was introduced to more contemporary “literature”. Toni Morrison’s Beloved made me think about what book could do and the reading experience in a much different way. Up until then, I thought of reading, when not a textbook, as entertainment. With Morrison I discovered layers and deeper meanings.

Best Books Read in 2013

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year?  

I read so many incredible books that it is hard to narrow it down to just one, so I went with a few. Pictured above are The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell; The Wife, Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon; and Schroder by Amity Gage. My favorite book this year has been The City of Stairs by Robert Bennett Jackson, whose other books I need to track down immediately.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Public Notes to Myself: A Mid April Reading List

Sometimes I need a written reminder for what it is I have committed to reading for the month, and this is one of those times. How is April getting away so quickly? It is the middle of April already, people! I have book club books to read and Bloggers Recommend Picks to pick. I have to get on it! Let’s take a peek at what I’ve got.

Frog Music, The Fever & AmericanahSo this month I have three book club picks in the works.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue –  I am late to the game with Donoghue, having missed the much acclaimed Room and her follow up of historically based short stories, Astray. Frog Music is promising to be a rich historical novel via 1876, the smallpox epidemic and an unsolved murder. All things that tickle my reading fancy. I’ll be starting on this (hopefully tonight!) to discuss the first few sections with my Twitter Book Club, The Hashtags, on Friday.

The Fever by Megan Abbot – If my Twitter book club is called The Hashtags, then my regular IRL book club should be called The Publicists, since its members comprise my favorite people scattered at Bloomsbury, Little Brown, Viking, Random House and Riverhead. This month we are reading Megan Abbott’s The Fever, and I have started it and I love it. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but I am totally intrigued. This is my third Abbott and she never fails to bring an almost uncomfortably realistic depth to the inner, troubled, lives of teen-aged girls.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – As if I didn’t have enough book clubs of my own, I am guesting at a friend’s book club this month. She has been trying to get me to join, and I have been resisting because, you know, all the things and all the books. However, this month they are reading Americanah, and I adored Half of A Yellow Sun. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and discuss it with a group. I also suspect that I will have hard time resisting going back, especially if they keep selecting books that are right up my alley.

A Life Apart and When the Cypress Whispers

My mother has had a lot more time to read this year, so we have been trying to read a book together each month. Way back when, at the beginning of the year, we started with Walter Walker’s Crime of Privilege, but neither of us could really get into. It was strangely light on details despite being a really long book. We went on to Defending Jacob, which we both really enjoyed, me more so than my mom –  she didn’t like the ending. Our favorite joint read has been Rhidian Brook’s The Aftermath.

Two books that we are reading together are:

A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow – I am looking forward reading Marlow’s latest novel about a navy man whose life is saved during the attacks on Pearl Harbor by a black sailor, who dies in his attempt. He develops a relationship with the sailor’s sister when he travels to visit her, in his own hometown of Boston, pay his respects. My mother has already read it and she thinks that is just fabulous. I read the first chapter and I can attest that it is captivating and has and immediacy that make you want to sink into the story. She made lots of notes during her reading, so I am really looking forward to see where the discussion goes.

When The Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon – Corporon’s novel falls into the “woman returns home to find herself” category. It’s a much used plot device, so while I usually enjoy these types of books, I tend to read them with great care in the choosing. I gravitate toward ones that have an element of surprise for me. In this novel, the heroine does her soul searching while on a rare trip home to visit relative in Greece. That heightened the appeal for me. I also love reading beautiful books – the cover and the luxury of deckle-edge pages is very enticing.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Happy Spring! And. A book list.

And hopefully to a better spring. With more posting. I did a double take to realized that I have posted a whopping 2x in the last three months. Time does fly when you are having fun. So what have I been up to? Busy job, busy life. I have made headway with quite a few books, though you couldn’t tell that AT ALL from around here. I took a look at the list of books I have read so far and thought I would share it here. 

What I’ve Read

Fog of Dead Souls  by Jill Kelly
The subject matter on this one is disturbing, but I loved that the characters were firmly in their 6os, and still vibrant and complex human beings, with the accompanying expertise in their careers, consideration for their sex lives, and a long list of completed goals and lingering aspirations. Though this is a essentially a whodunnit, the bulk of the narrative examines how Ellie deals with the crimes committed against her, and subsequent attempts to put her life together.

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie

I just discovered Deborah Crombie with No Mark Upon Her, and I adore her smart detectives and equally smart writing style. If time allowed, I would read all of her books in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. If you can start at the beginning, I would highly recommend doing just that.

Defending Jacob  by William Landay
I read this one with my mother and I can tell why book clubs have been so taken with this one. We debated throughout the book the culpability of parents in raising their children, when sullen teenage behavior should be taken as an indication of something more sinister, and what actions are appropriate to take in protecting your child from society or vice versa . Landay packs in the twists. If you can truly guess the end, you are a better person than I am.

Choice of Straws by E.R. Braithwaite

This was first published in the 60s, and was recently re-published by Open Road Media. What stands out most to me is the oddity of this haunting story. A twin loses his brother while they are in the midst of brutal attacks against black citizens in London, and then he starts to consider feelings for the sister of an unwitting victim. This was an emotionally charged read, and while I’m not sure I felt it was entirely plausible, it gave me a lot to think about.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

I started reading this on the train for a visit to DC and I was enchanted. Let’s see, magic, dragon, and intense alliances and politics, side by side with a romance that by rights should fail. Loved every minute of it.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard – Movie/Book Club

Stack of books

Readers react with mixed emotion when they hear that a book they’ve read is being made into a movie, especially a favorite one. I confess that I’m no different. I try to judge by the attached director, approve or seethe over the casting choices, and find either affirmation or more trepidation upon viewing the first trailers and stills from the movie.  When I heard that a movie was being made of Labor Day, Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel about the unlikely romance between an escaped convict and the housewife he takes hostage (along with her son), I was intrigued because I remembered enjoying it when it was initially published.

My book club was fortunate enough to receive copies of the paperback movie tie-in version of the novel and passes for a screening of the film, which we plan to attend next month. I was really taken with Labor Day when I first read it back in 2009. The premise of the novel stretches credulity a bit in terms of whether a romance like this could have occurred, but the love story is a sumptuous one, and I loved these characters. They were rich and real and I loved seeing the way they developed in the aftermath of a weekend that proved a critical turning point in all their lives. I was really excited to hear what my book club would have to say about, and I am especially looking forward to the discussion after we have all seen the movie.

So far, the feedback upon reading the book has been mixed – with a slight majority enjoying the book. I’ve found that this is the sign of a great book club book. There has never been all that much discussion at my clubs over books that are universally adored. Usually with those books we say we loved it and then get on with the good work of drinking wine and eating great food.

Everyone was curious about the pie-making scene and thought it was a pivotal point in the book. So we are all waiting for that. One of the members had a hard time getting through the book but thought that the trailer makes the movies seem a lot more interesting  than the book.  Those of us who loved it were just as interested in the themes of trauma, empowerment and hope. One our member had this high praise for Labor Day: “This story is about coming ALIVE, re-birth; honesty; goodheartedness; going with the flow; following dreams.”

Labor Day opens in wide-release today. I’ll report back when we’ve seen the movie.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Oh, and Happy New Year. -p

In Search of the Perfect Romance: Four Tempting Romances I Wouldn’t Kick Out of Bed

I use Grammarly for proofreading because I’d be loss without it. See, get it? Ha!

(Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Grammarly. I also got to test drive their proofreading software, which offers the basics for checking the grammar of your writing in the style you need for either your business writing (formal) or your blog (casual).)

Moving on, though. Two or three times a year I go through a period where I am all about a good romance novel, and I read through a bunch of them trying to find the right one. A couple of weeks ago I was on vacation, and I would have killed for one such novel. I picked up and discarded a lot of books (in fact, this was where a Nook and a library card came in handy). I mostly read just a chapter or two of each one because I knew pretty quickly what wouldn’t fit the bill.

Reading so many romance novels  in a quick succession gave me an understanding of how difficult it must be to write one that’s both engaging and rewarding for readers. It’s like comedy. People think it’s easier than drama. But that’s just not true, and the same goes for romance. There are so many foregone conclusions in a romance novel (that the characters will end up together, that their love will be tested, that they complement each other, that one person is in trouble and needs help to get through, etc.) that writing something fresh and imaginative can be a daunting task when readers already know how much of the story will go. Kudos to writers who are capable of pulling off such a coup. While that’s not something I want to try anytime  soon, I can lead you in the direction of the novels that held my attention on such an arduous quest.

Gwynneth Ever After by Linda Poitevin_Fotor_Collage

Gwynneth Ever After by Linda Poitevin – Charming and delightful, I easily devoured this in  just a few short hours and passed it along for my aunt to enjoy, as well. It was refreshing to have a heroine with children and to see both her and her children interact with the love interest. What’s so fun about this story is the touch of fairy tale that comes along with the charming actor (read : royalty) in love with our fair lady.

Once She was Tempted by Anne Barton – I was thrilled to see that there were other books in this series because I loved the clever heroine and witty banter in this romantic story line involving a wealthy man wanting to keep his ward from marrying a woman with a less that stellar reputation.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennett by Pamela Mingle_Fotor_Collage

Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase – I am just waiting for the day when I discover I’m a  lost duchess with land, money and the attention of a handsome prince and other assorted royalty. While I wait for that day, it was great fun to read of Samantha’s playful romps with Prince Alex as she learns about her new home and responsibilities, and opens herself up to the love of a good man.

The Pursuit of Mary Bennett by Pamela Mingle – Though Mingle’s novel strays almost too close to the events of Pride and Prejudice,  I nevertheless enjoyed getting to see some perspective and insight on Mary’s formerly unappealing character. Mingle provides her with the motivation and growth that make you root for Mary finding love and happiness.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

The Book Thief – Screening the Film and Conversations with the Cast


Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief is a novel that I’ve heard much about since it was  published in 2008. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Though there have been some quibbles here and there, almost every opinion I’ve seen raves about this novel. Despite the many commendations, it’s something I had planned to read, but hadn’t yet read. I was definitely interested in seeing the movie, and it couldn’t have been more perfect when I also got to meet some of the cast and filmmakers after a screening I attended courtesy of Big Honcho Media.

The movie is beautiful. I probably cried on and off through half of it. I was that girl in the screening room with ALL THE TISSUES. Without even having read the book, I felt in my heart that the filmmakers, cast and crew had done an excellent job with adapting this beautiful story, and Alison (Alison’s Bookmarks) was able to confirm that for me right away. Even further confirmation came as I read the novel in the weekend after screening the film and before meeting the cast.

Much has been written about the Holocaust, and continues to be  written about it, so it can be tempting to think that you have covered the gamut of books to be read. It’s a subject where I selectively choose books so that I am learning something new, or uncovering a new aspect I haven’t thought about before. I was particularly interested in what the actors had to say about sources they relied on in creating such a touching experience in the film, and the information they received which informed their views of the book, script, and their won roles.  Here are a few tidbits from the roundtable discussion Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse.

TBT-Graphic - Liesl

Geoffrey Rush (Hans)

On playing Hans:

I thought this would be a real challenge for me.  And in and around that, I just adored the story and the perspective of looking at that horror scenario in Germany during the Second World War through the eyes of a very small country town, the community of a country town and a young girl.

On the changes in Germany during the time in the film:

My starting point was that this is a film about a community on a street.  When I read the book and read the screenplay, it was so intrinsically the culture of Southern Germany.  But it could also be an Outback town in Queensland.  It could be a small town in the Midwest.

And you see incrementally the escalation from Hitler ascending to the chancellorship through a democratic process and within a year declaring himself to be Fuhrer, and we’re dealing with a country at the height of the worst depression, and they lost the First World War, so they were in a state of disrepair there.

A huge amount of people would have been seeking a Messiah, and some people would have really gone along with that because it reinstated their faith in German heritage.  Let’s not forget, it has a huge literary, philosophical, musical, rich background, Jewish and German.  You know what I mean.  And it kind of went really out the window.


Emily Watson (Rosa)

On talking to residents of Berlin during filming:

That moment in history is incredibly current still in Berlin.  They’re still rebuilding and surviving it, because after the war, their city was split, and then it’s still massively in their consciousness that they are recovering from that.

But it’s incredibly honest.  They’re not covering it up.  Everywhere you go, there’s an exhibit about how many people died on this spot, and it was relentless, really.  You can’t get away from it.  But also being surrounded by people whose families all were there. You can’t really say, oh, thanks for the coffee, were your grandparents Nazis? It was a really weird etiquette of not knowing how to talk to people and ask people.

On German attendance at a Hitler rally:

One thing I found really telling was that photograph, and I can’t remember where I saw it, but it was somewhere in an exhibit, of one of the rallies where there were something like 2.5 million people.  And that’s kind of everybody, isn’t it?  It’s just they all went, they all went.  Everybody signed up.  And that just tells you, you bought into it or you had to buy into it.


Sophie Nelisse (Liesl)

On preparing for her role:

I read a book called Hana’s Suitcase when I was in sixth grade, but that’s the only thing I knew.  To know what happened in that period, I had to watch a lot of movies like Schindler’s List, The Reader, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and also The Pianist.  When I was in Berlin, I went to see some bomb shelters or some historical things like the Berlin Wall.

I think it was so fun shooting in Berlin because you could go on set, and all the background was just so amazing and so true.  You could really feel like you were there years ago, and when you were done shooting, you would just get out and be in this completely new city.  It was just so awesome to pass from Berlin to being on set.  It’s a bit weird, but it’s fun at the same time.

On aging from 10 to 16:

I just knew that I could play my character over six years because when you’re old–not when you’re old, but, you know, like Geoffrey, in six years, he won’t really change. I mean, his face and everything.

I could do like these little changes, the hair goes longer, change the dresses.  And he was always dressed the same, had the same hair.  So, that was fun.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

If you are thinking of going to the movies this weekend, I highly recommend catching The Book Thief. You won’t be sorry.

Visit the official website
Like THE BOOK THIEF on Facebook
Follow @BookThiefMovie on Twitter


Sunday Salon: October 20, 2013

Sunday Salon

It is a glorious Sunday morning and I will be spending part of the day at brunch with family in honor of my aunt’s birthday. We’re going to Jane’s Tavern in the West Village, and while the service has always been a little slow there, the brunch is delicious! I have spent a better part of the week ruminating over what I want to order, I love it when the anticipation can be delicious like that.

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

Later on today I plan on finishing up  The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook. I’ve been reading it with my mom. It is the perfect book to read for a  book club discussion.

Set in 1946, it’s about an English colonel responsible for reorganizing a section of Germany after World War II. A house is requisitioned for him to live in, and his family is on the way to join him after an absence of almost two years. His son is a virtual stranger to him, and his wife is still heavily grieving the loss of their elder son. While it is standard among the military to evict German families from their home during occupation, the Colonel allows the family to stay and live with his family, since the house is so big. This of course leads to inevitable tensions and clashes as the families try to work out ways to co-exist.

Reading the novel so far has been a very rich experience. We have broken it up into chapters and have been discussing it as we go along. Brook excels in illuminating the complexities of war, and his characters and their feelings and viewpoints are so well considered that it is nearly impossible to take sides – they are all so clearly understood. We have discussed marital discord, the insane politics of war, and how death, absence and grief affect people in different ways – how the failure to bridge the gap when you have the opportunity only makes things worse, and sometimes leads to tragic events.

Transformation is also another solid theme as many of the characters are at a crossroads in their lives, and in their relationships. My mom has said of Brook, “He is out of sight with his themes and characterizations.” I can’t wait to finish up this evening.

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope your reading has been as rewarding as mine has been this week.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung