Sunday Bulletin – December 21

PicMonkey Collage

When it comes to Christmas music I prefer a mixture of vintage classics and unique contemporary artists. This year when I finally got into the Christmas music mood I organized my CDs (yes I still listen to CDs!) and found these four on the top of my favorites. Doris Day is just the best. I love the mid-century arrangements of her songs, with the swoony strings and breathy vocals. Instant nostalgia. David Archuleta has such a pure, clean, beautiful voice and this CD, a collaboration with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, always makes me cry. You can feel the passion in his singing and it is very heartwarming. Mindy Gledhill is one of my favorite indie artists and her interpretation of holiday standards is just as quirky and loveable as her regular music. Christmas would not be Christmas without Bing Crosby, would it? His version of ‘White Christmas’ will never be surpassed and I adore listening to this CD early in the mornings on my way to work. It makes me happy all day.

You can see some of my other favorites here.

What are you listening to this year?

Books finished this week:

West of the Moon by Margi Preus – I read this great middle-grade book for the reading challenge at work. It is a fairy-tale influenced story of a girl named Astri who only wants to join her father in America. He’s left her behind in Norway until he can earn money to pay for her passage. Things don’t quite go according to plan – she has an evil aunt who sells her to a crass old man as his goat girl. When she decides to escape the adventure begins and it is riveting. I never thought I’d stay up late to read a juvenile fiction novel, but this one is very good and intelligent. The writing is thoughtful and the author doesn’t talk down to her intended audience. I’d recommend this for kids 10 years old and up.

Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose – I absolutely loved Rose’s The Shelf, a great book about reading and libraries. This is a very different book. Parallel Lives chronicles the marriage woes of five Victorian couples: Effie Grey and John Ruskin, Thomas and Jane Carlyle, John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor, George Eliot and George Henry Lewes and Charles and Catherine Dickens. The preface to the book is brilliant and set the stage for a fantastic book. However, I didn’t much like the rest of the narrative. I think it is more to do with my own feelings than any flaw in the book – I felt like I was reading a load of gossip about a very private and intimate subject and it made me squeamish after a while. I struggled to finish, especially after reading about the Dickens marriage (what a jerk!), and I just didn’t enjoy observing these couples and their troubles. It does make me grateful, though, that I wasn’t born in the Victorian era.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

What I Read In March

little purple flowers

March was a hugely productive reading month for me. I finished nine books (one of them an audiobook) and mostly enjoyed the things I read, though there really wasn’t that ‘killer’ book that knocked my reading socks off. A bunch of decent reads is much better than a run of stinkers, though, so I’m not complaining. Here is a quick roundup of my reading life in March:

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue is her first novel since the highly popular Room. In 1876 San Francisco we follow a French prostitute, her dandified boyfriend and the woman who comes between them. This historical mystery features great female characters and a richly drawn setting.

The Receptionist by Janet Groth. You can read more about my thoughts here.

The Shelf by Phyllis Rose. This nonfiction title is an account of Rose’s year of reading almost exclusively from one shelf in her local library and is a perfect book for readers of all stripes. Her humor, curiosity and thoughtfulness make her a lovely and feisty companion through the books of Gaston Leroux, Rhoda Lerman and John Lescroart, among others.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell is another funny romance from this author filled with pop culture references that I adore. This is an adult title about a failing marriage and what happens when an old telephone gives the wife, Georgie, access to her husband of the past. Intelligent chick-lit at its best.

The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia LaingI started out really loving this book about five writers and how drinking affected their lives and work. I was fascinated by the story of Tennessee Williams, who I didn’t know anything about before reading this, and how addiction both focused and destroyed him. The ending was a bit of a letdown as the author speedily related the stories of John Berryman and Raymond Carver. I would have liked to learn more about them and less about Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub. This book is a gem of a family tale. The Post family (dad, mom, brother and sister) rent a house in Mallorca for two weeks with a couple who are good friends of the mom and the brother’s girlfriend. Being cooped up in close quarters forces conflicts to be resolved, choices to be made and truths revealed. All of this takes place in a beautiful setting by the beach with Spanish food and culture surrounding them. Her writing reminds me a little of Cathleen Schine.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset MaughamA silly wife in 1920’s Hong Kong cheats on her stoic husband so he forces her to accompany him to a cholera ridden area in China. I thought every single character was incredibly frustrating and they all made me want to throttle them, but I did love the portrayal of Kitty’s growth and maturing as she overcomes her many challenges.

After I’m Gone by Laura LippmanI listened to this over the month in my car and it was quite good. When a small-time but good-hearted criminal intentionally disappears to avoid prison time, his wife, three daughters and mistress all pay a price. When a cold case detective starts dredging up the past we learn just how high that price was. This has truly believable characters and a surprising twist that made me gasp out loud. I loved the narrator, Linda Emond, and want to listen to more books she’s worked on.

Picture Perfect by Shanna Hogan. A true crime novel about Jodi Arias that broke me out of a reading slump.

Now on to April – I can’t wait to see what I end up reading this month.