Archive | September, 2014

What I’m Reading Wednesday

25 Sep

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On my list of fascinations in which I must read everything and anything about, includes Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I’m not alone in this, because in the dedication page of Nicole Mary Kelby’s novel The Pink Suit, she writes For those of us who fell under her spell.

I fell under the Jackie spell when I watched The Kennedys miniseries in 2011, and spent the next three years reading everything I could about her.

Everyone knows how the Kennedy story ends. It’s been told and retold, hypothesized and conspired. But on that fateful day, Nov. 22, 1963, before and after the assassination, attention was drawn to Jackie’s double-breasted pink suit. Kelby’s novel imagines a tale of the hands that created the suit, weaved with historical details.

Kelby’s main character, Kate, is a young Irish immigrant who misses her homeland but also desires a career in New York, where she has found limited success as a seamstress at a couture boutique.

The pink suit is a piece of history in itself as Jackie chose to wear the blood-stained clothing after her husband’s assassination as Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office as president.

Today, the suit is stored in the National Archives where it will stay hidden from the public eye until at least 2103.

Kelby’s tale is a work of fiction that played out during a historical moment in time. For many during the Kennedy-era Jackie was viewed as untouchable. A beautiful figure to be adored from a distance. The Pink Suit offers just a glimpse of who Jackie was to one impressionable young woman.

 

 

What I’m Reading Wednesday

10 Sep

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Do you ever suffer from a book hangover?

Sometimes a book pulls you in and you become so emotionally invested that when you reach the end, you’re not ready to move on. Am I being too dramatic?

After reading The Fever Tree (if you missed my post, check it out here) I was disappointed it had to end. It wraps up semi-abruptly and gives you little time to process the change of events leading up to the last scene.

When suffering from a book hangover it’s difficult to get into a new book, but I attempted to anyway. I plucked The Commoner off my bookshelf (hey guys, did you hear me? My bookshelf for once!) and couldn’t shift my literary emotions from 1880s South Africa to post-World War II Japan.

It was no fault to author, John Burnham Schwartz. It was just bad timing on my part. I should have given myself a day, maybe two, to grieve before I moved on. Again, too dramatic?

The Commoner came along with me on my red eye flight a couple of weeks ago to the East Coast. It kept me company in Sea-Tac before I boarded the plan at 11:59 p.m. and then again in Detroit during my layover at 7 a.m.

And it was there my book hangover subsided.

I’m always interested in Japanese historical stories, especially centered around WWII, the time when my grandmother Toshiko lived in Japan. The Commoner is a first person story told from Haruko, a young Japanese woman and commoner who marries the Crown Prince of Japan (Pop culture side note: Kate Middleton is proof that us “commoners” have a chance at becoming royalty).

Schwartz’s novel is a work of fiction, but histories of certain members of the Japanese Imperial Family served as an inspiration. Japan is a country rich in tradition and The Commoner gives an imaginative glimpse into what life was like for a carefree teen who loved playing tennis to become an isolated Empress.

Schwartz has penned several novels, including Reservation Road, which you might have seen the movie.

What books have given you a hangover?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

3 Sep

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I remember someone who once said they weren’t going to get any more books from the library until she read the ones she already has.

I know.

You big fat liar.

Those were the loving words spoken from my husband Tuesday evening as I came home with my bag weighed down with books. I had swung by the library to pick up a book on hold for me and ended up leaving with three. And I already have two library books in the house!

What is wrong with me?

Which leads me to my book question of the day: How do you pick your book?

Do you read what’s popular on the New York Times Bestseller list? Do you keep pace with the Goodreads newsletter? Are you reading in preparation for the latest movie release?

I was at the library a few weeks ago picking up another book on hold (I know!), when the spine of a book on a shelf caught my eye. It was just one magical word on a green sticker that made me stop and pick it up.

Historical.

A quick glance at the inside of the book jacket and I was convinced. Thus began my South African adventure in the 1880s.

The Fever Tree is the first novel of Englishwoman Jennifer McVeigh. The character lineup was my typical selection: upperclass woman destined to marry someone she does not love, (but this time) goes abroad on a grand adventure only to live in near squalor in a desert. There’s a love affair, the injustice surrounded by blood diamonds, a medical scandal, and a painted landscape of a land I can only imagine.

It didn’t take long for my obsessive personality to take hold. In fact, I was almost late for work one morning because I couldn’t put the book down, eager to find out how it ended.

There were a couple times where the story line and characters reminded me of Naomi Watts and Edward Norton’s characters in the film The Painted Veil. But instead of remote China the setting is the diamond mines of South Africa.

McVeigh studied English Literature at Oxford and while researching the history of English colonials in South Africa she came across an old diary written by a doctor at the end of the nineteenth century. The diary told the story of a smallpox epidemic that ravaged the diamond-mining town of Kimberley. Rather than try to control the disease, which would halt work in the mines, it was covered up, killing thousands, and was later reported as the greatest medical scandal in British medicine.

Pretty riveting stuff.

And so reader, how will you find your next book? Or how will the next book find you?