Category Archives: Favorite authors

Jane Eyre

 

Thank you to my big brother, Curt, for telling me 57 years ago that he thought I’d like the book he’d just finished reading: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I read his copy and it’s been my favorite book ever since. And having just finished listening to the audiobook version, fabulously narrated by Thandie Newton, I can say without reservation that it is still my favorite book!

from the publisher, Penguin Random House:

Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester. The loneliness and cruelty of Jane’s childhood strengthens her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice. Ever since its publication in 1847, Jane Eyre has enthralled every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman’s quest for self-respect.

I know from experience that this is a classic that should be reread at different times in one’s life. Each time I read it I see something new, receive the story in a different way. This is the first time I’ve listened to it read aloud to me, and my narrator did an incredible job! Thandie Newton’s narration was an absolute gift…so perfect, so insightful. It added a whole new dimension to the story for me.

Charlotte Bronte’s writing, though, is superb. I didn’t want to miss one word of it as I listened.  Her plot is compelling with an amazing level of detail about Jane Eyre’s experiences and her responses to them. I know that when I first read it I was carried away by the romance of it, and it is a deeply romantic book. This time, I was completely carried away by her struggle for independence and for her right to live her life by her strong sense of right and wrong, without compromise. That was a personal strength that was in her from a very young age, strength that  helped her survive an incredibly cruel childhood, a difficult pathway into adulthood, and was the source of her courage and resilience as an adult seeking to find her place in the world.

Once again, after finishing this reading of the book, I find myself deeply admiring Charlotte Bronte. She created a complete and totally engrossing world in this novel, and she created a main character that continues to inspire me.

 

I chose this book to read for The Classics Club, as one of my 50 books in 5 years. I also count it as one of the books on my list for R.I.P.-XIV.

Christmas in Absaroka County

Christmas in Absaroka County is a collection of short stories by Craig Johnson. He has added some novellas and short story collections to his Walt Longmire  mystery series, and they are a lot of fun to read.

from the publisher…

I am very fond of the character of Walt Longmire and am enjoying slowly reading through this mystery series. The extra glimpses of Walt that we see in these short “in-between” books give us a deeper understanding of the character and just add a lot of interest and fun to whole experience of this series.

 

I read this book for the R.I.P.-XIV reading challenge.

The Lost One

Mary Stewart is one of my favorite authors, so when I found that Audible had The Lost One available (one of her short stories that had recently been republished), I downloaded it immediately knowing that it would be a perfect beginning for my RIP-XIV reading challenge! I was going to wait to listen to it until September 1st, but I have no self-control and decided to go ahead and start my challenge a few days early. So on this hot afternoon, I hunkered down inside with some knitting and my earphones on and listened to it. PERFECT book for this challenge! Great narration and non-stop suspense. I do love Mary Stewart!

…from the publisher:

The recently rediscovered short story ‘The Lost One’, perfect for fans of Daphne du Maurier, Santa Montefiore and Anya Seton.

First published in Woman’s Journal in 1960, and set against the backdrop of unfenced country and dark winding valleys at night, the aptly named ‘The Lost One’ features The Wind off the Small Isles heroine, Perdita West, who brings her characteristic pluck and courage to this classic Mary Stewart tale of suspense and intrigue….

I listened to this short book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIV challenge.

An Agatha Christie Film Festival

…photo I took at The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake CIty.

I wish there was an actual go-to-the-movies “Agatha Christie Film Festival” in town, but since there isn’t, we are having our own right here at home. As part of the Readers Imbibing Peril XIV reading celebration of mysteries and all things spooky in September and October, the hubby and I will be watching as many old movies of Agatha Christie stories as possible. My parents used to love the old Agatha Christie movies, starring Margaret Rutherford, and would take our whole family to the movies every time one would come to town. So of course I am including some of those in this film festival, along with the TV series of Miss Marple and of Poirot. We are definitely going to enjoy our evening TV times for the next two months!

I invite you to check back every once in a while to visit my page for keeping track of the books I read and the movies I watch for this fun reading challenge.  Click here or on the little RIP-XIV symbol on my sidebar to see my growing list.

 

Watching these old films is part of my “PERIL on the SCREEN” in the Readers Imbibing Peril XIV.

Currently Reading: At Seventy

May Sarton’s books have been part of almost all of my adult life. I discovered and read Journal of a Solitude when I was a young mother. And then, over the years, read most of her journals, some of her fiction, and much of her poetry. This year, I turned seventy and am celebrating it with a year-long reading festival of books related to Seventy, so I happily added her journal, At Seventy, to the top of my reading list. I’m reading it slowly, savoring some of the wonderful passages like the one below, and simply enjoying  being with May Sarton again at age seventy!

What is it like to be seventy? If someone else had lived so long and could remember things sixty years ago with great clarity, she would seem very old to me. But I do not feel old at all, not as much a survivor as a person still on her way. I suppose real old age begins when one looks backward rather than forward, but I look forward with joy to the years ahead and especially to the surprises that any day may bring.

 

I am reading this book as part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old.

 

Island Treasures

Island Treasures, by Alma Flor Ada, is a collection of two of her books, Where the Flame Trees Bloom, and Under the Royal Palms, plus a new set of stories called “Days at La Quinta Simoni.”

I read the two books that are included in this collection many years ago, and I read this new collection in February of this year but didn’t review it. A few weeks ago, I found that it was available as an audiobook on Audible, so I downloaded it and listened to it. What a lovely way to experience this book! The narrator, Trini Alvarado, is absolutely perfect! She has a beautiful voice for both reading and singing! It was fun to hear the little songs included in the book…a wonderful addition to the experience of reading these beautifully written stories.

from the publisher:

The author of My Name Is Maria Isabel offers an inspiring look at her childhood in Cuba in this collection that includes “Where the Flame Trees Bloom”, “Under the Royal Palms”, five new stories, and more. These true autobiographical tales from renowned Hispanic author and educator Alma Flor Ada are filled with family love and traditions, secrets and deep friendships, and a gorgeous, moving picture of the island of Cuba, where Alma Flor grew up.

Told through the eyes of a child, a whole world comes to life in this audio: the blind great-grandmother who never went to school but whose wisdom and generosity overflowed to those around her; the hired hand, Samone, whose love for music overcame all difficulties; the beloved dance teacher who helped sustain young Alma Flor through a miserable year in school; her dear and daring Uncle Medardo, who bravely flew airplanes; and more.

Heartwarming, poignant, and often humorous, this wonderful collection encourages listeners to discover the stories in their own lives – and to celebrate the joys and struggles we all share, no matter where or when we grew up.

I discovered Alma Flor Ada’s work while I was teaching because one of her picture books for young readers was included in our second grade reading text. My students and I both loved the story, and I followed up my own interest by researching the author. I discovered a dedicated educator, wonderful award-winning writer, and delightful human being!  And I found a treasure trove of stories for young and old!

about Alma Flor Ada (from her Amazon page):

Alma Flor Ada, Pro­fes­sor Emerita at the Uni­ver­sity of San Fran­cisco, has devoted her life to advo­cacy for peace by pro­mot­ing a ped­a­gogy ori­ented to per­sonal real­iza­tion and social jus­tice. A for­mer Rad­cliffe Scholar at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and Ful­bright Research Scholar she is an inter­na­tion­ally re-known speaker and the author of numer­ous children’s books of poetry, nar­ra­tive, folk­lore and non fic­tion. Her books have received pres­ti­gious awards; among many: Christo­pher Medal (The Gold Coin), Pura Bel­pré Medal (Under the Royal Palms), Once Upon a World (Gath­er­ing the Sun), Par­ents’ Choice Honor (Dear Peter Rab­bit), NCSS and CBC Notable Book (My Name is María Isabel). She is also the author of a book of mem­oirs, Vivir en dos idiomas, two nov­els for adults, En clave de sol and A pesar del amor, and sev­eral pro­fes­sional books for edu­ca­tors, includ­ing A Mag­i­cal Encounter: Latino Children’s Lit­er­a­ture in the Class­room, as well as a wealth of edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als. Her work, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with F. Isabel Cam­poy in pro­mot­ing author­ship in stu­dents, teach­ers, and par­ents is the con­tent of their book Authors in the Class­room: A Trans­for­ma­tive Edu­ca­tion Process. Alma Flor Ada has been awarded the Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion Research Asso­ci­a­tion [AERA] His­panic Issues Award for Research in Ele­men­tary, Sec­ondary and Post­sec­ondary Edu­ca­tion and the Cal­i­for­nia Asso­ci­a­tion for Bilin­gual Edu­ca­tion [CABE] Life Long Award. She has received the Virginia Hamilton Award, for her body of work, as well as the OHTLI Recognition from the Mexican Government for her support of Mexican communities abroad.

These stories are full of beauty and wisdom and poignant memories of growing up in Cuba. Each one is a little gem.  I have my copies of Where the Flame Trees Bloom, and Under the Royal Palms, that I bought years ago. Now I have the audiobook of Island Treasures, and I have ordered a hardcopy of the book, as well. Alma Flor Ada has a special place on my bookshelves and in my heart!

Please read my review from 2008 of her book Where the Flame Trees Bloom. (And if you read the comments to that post, you will see that after I published it, she wrote me a sweet note!)

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book based on a true story from Cuba.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens, by Virginia Woolf, is a beautifully written story. Someone described it as almost an impressionist painting, but in words. I would agree with that description! It was a self-published work, printed by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press and illustrated with woodcuts by Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf’s sister.

The story is simple, but the writing quite complex. It begins with an intricate description of one of the oval flower beds at Kew Gardens. It’s almost as if you were lying down on the grass looking at the flower bed from ground level and noticing every minute detail of the flowers, the structures, the colors, the life (including a snail) in this flower bed. And then people start walking past, and as if the snail (and thus you) were listening to everything said, you overhear parts of conversations of the different human beings passing by. It’s really quite fun and interesting to hear those snatches of conversation! We are all listeners of such things.

The beauty of the flowers, the leisurely enjoyment of the garden by the passersby, and the quiet glimpses into the lives of those people make for a fascinating and enjoyable afternoon in Kew Gardens!  I loved it!

 

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

My Literary DNA

I love the following quote from Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing. I finished the book awhile ago, but keep going back to parts of it that really hit home with me. That is a particular pleasure when you’ve read a really good book.

“Books help to form us. If you cut me open, you will find volume after volume, page after page, the contents of every one I have ever read, somehow transmuted and transformed into me. Alice in Wonderland, The Magic Faraway Tree. The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Book of Job. Bleak House. Wuthering Heights. The Complete Poems of W H Auden. The Tale of Mr Tod. Howards End. What a strange person I must be. But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA.”

Adventures of a Biographer

I sometimes have the feeling that every biography I have written is a part of my autobiography. Remembered experiences and emotions grant me a lens of empathy through which I can view my subject. One’s writing and one’s personal life frequently mesh. We are the stories we tell.

Natalie S. Bober is an author I came across during my teaching years who quickly became a favorite author of mine (and of my mother after I introduced her to some of her books!). She has written excellent biographies for young people, and I found them fascinating to read.

I discovered recently that she had written a book about being a writer and specifically a writer of biographies. Of course, I had to find it and read it immediately. Simply put: I loved it!  It tells her own story about becoming a biographer, and explains to young writers how to make that happen. It also describes her immersion into the lives of the subjects of her biographies, and so gives a fascinating new view of the lives of those people and extends the experience of each of those biographies. I just wish my mother were still here to enjoy this book as much as she enjoyed the other books by Natalie Bober!

This book gives a wonderful view into the life of a writer. I found myself highlighting many passages, wanting to store them away and refer back to them many times. Here are a few of her ideas that resonated with me:

The story becomes, then, not simply the life of a subject, but the portrait of an era as well. And – in this way biography becomes a prism of history. In fact, biography has been described as the human heart of history. The biographer, then, becomes a historian as well as a portrait painter.

To be a writer, I was discovering, one must first be a reader!

Every biography that I write offers me an excuse to travel. Documents can never tell the whole story. I must go to the territory. I must walk where my subjects walked, and see what they must have seen. The language of landscape is essential.

I have always felt that writing is exploration. I write to learn. My drafts become a lens helping me to see my subjects from a new perspective.

Research can be exciting, for me perhaps more so even than the writing, because when I’m researching I’m learning. It’s like a game, a treasure hunt. I’m playing detective, and the excitement comes from search and discovery – from recreating a life from details.

Most importantly, the good biographer combines the detective work of the historian, the insight of the psychologist, and the art of the novelist.

Always, as I write, I have in mind something written by Sir Sidney Lee (1859-1926), editor of the Dictionary of National Biography in England, and known for his biography of William Shakespeare. He wrote: “The aim of biography is the truthful transmission of personality.”

There are still a couple of her biographies I haven’t read yet, and I would love to reread many of the others. I’ve read her books on Abigail Adams and on Robert Frost but didn’t review them. I would love to reread both of those! When I do, I will definitely review them and add to the list below!

Please check out the other blog posts I have written on Natalie Bober and her wonderful biographies:

I do hope you’ll read some of her books! They are so well written and so interesting!