"Elizabeth and Her German Garden"

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

  • I couldn't resist this book because of it's title and because Elizabeth Von Arnim wrote The Enchanted April, which I love. I figured anything she wrote would have to be enjoyable.
  • I was right, it was enjoyable. Her writing is pure delight to read and it's a shame her books ever end. 
  • My feelings about this book are very mixed. I love the writing, the setting, and her dry humour, but, oh my goodness, she irritates me sometimes. She lives a privileged lifestyle that few women will ever experience, and yet she tends to look down somewhat on others who don't feel about life as she does. She spends much of her time outside enjoying her luxurious gardens because she prefers that to being confined within walls and she has all the freedom in the world to do so. She has 2 gardeners who do all the work in the garden she's so proud of building, a nurse for her three small children so she has only to play with them and read to them,  a cook to make the meals and do the cleaning up, and maids to do the housework. She does admit to how fortunate she is, but it's a little hard to swallow when she's less than gracious to those less fortunate. At one point she calls her servants "the menials".
  • Conclusion: I enjoyed the reading of it. If I can find more novels by her, I'll read them, but her sometimes flippant attitude toward other people took away some of the enjoyment I might otherwise have found in this personal journal.  

"The Trouble With Goats and Sheep"

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

  • I was drawn immediately into the community setting where neighbours all know each other. I felt quite immersed in Britain while I was reading it and that's always enjoyable. I'd rather a book be set in Britain than anywhere else. Except maybe Middle Earth.
  • It begins: "Mrs. Creasy disappeared on a Monday. I know it was a Monday, because...". I think that way of beginning a story is getting worn, but what follows thankfully drew me in very quickly
  • Though I don't really like mysteries as a rule, this one is nicely quirky, and unfolds in a way that had me often stopping to think "hmmm". It showed me things to consider instead of telling me what to think, and built the story gradually. And it's more than just a mystery. It's really the story of a neighbourhood told though the mystery that takes place there.  
  • I have to say I liked the first 3/4 of the book better than the last 1/4, but I'm not sure that's any problem with the book. I think I just prefer getting into a story more than I do wrapping it up. I've noticed lately I'm enjoying the first part of every book better than the rest of it. I'm finding there's something so sad about leaving the world you've been living in for the past few days. I miss people, places, houses.  
  • I love the title. It's unusual, and by the end of the book you don't have to wonder why it was chosen. 
  • Some chapters are narrated in the first person by a young girl. Others are written in the third person, letting the reader keep tabs on the various other characters, of whom there are quite a few. I kept a list to sort it all out. The child's chapters are priceless. Children may not understand all that they see and hear, but they are refreshingly honest and direct and I think the author captures that well most of the time. There was only one instance where I thought the reasoning attributed to the little girl was more sophisticated than was probable for child of that age.
  • I quite enjoyed the writing. I found it fresh and even poetic at times. A few examples:
"People drove their cars with the windows down. and fragments of music
littered the street." 

"He had tried to carve into the quiet with the television and the radio, 
and the sound of his own voice, but his noise just seemed to grow the silence
 and make it taller, and it followed him from room to room, 
like water pouring from a glass."

"My words faded in my mouth, because they couldn't decide 
if they wanted to be true."     

  • Somewhere in the second half it began to feel a bit muddled, and at the end I was still thinking "hmmm" about many things. I'd like to read it again (but other books keep calling from the bookshelf), taking notes this time to pick up on any of the more subtle clues I think I must have missed. I enjoy endings that aren't all neatly tied up, but I really do think I missed some things in this one. My first thought after closing the book was how I wish I could talk it over with my book club. There would be so many questions to ask and so many theories to test out; what a fun discussion we'd have had. 
  • Conclusion:  Thought provoking story, fresh writing, engaging characters, appealing setting. Just a little confusing at the end. Very glad I read it. 

"The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake"

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

For the first time in almost a year, I've read a book that makes me want to say something about it. Excited? Yes. Intimidated? Yes. Here are the somethings I want to say:
  • If I hadn't read great reviews I'd never have picked it up. At first glance the cover suggested the book might be fluffier than I like, but I think this picture represents the title, and it's a good title, rather than the story. The lemon cake is the door to the story, but there is so much more.
  • When I finished reading, I felt much like I had when I finished Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarter. Exhilarated. Grateful for a writer who can still surprise me. Wishing the book was longer because I wasn't ready to be done yet. 
  • So many times I wanted to underline certain perfect descriptions of emotion, or perfect insights into what it is to be human, but I couldn't because it wasn't mine, it belonged to the library. 
  • I liked every character. Not that they were in any way perfect, they were flawed and confused and just getting through the day the best way they could. In the past few months I've read book after book where I didn't like any of the characters, or at least not enough to really care what happened to them. Finally, a story world I didn't want to leave and couldn't wait to get back to. Why are these books never 500 pages long?
  • The book requires a suspension of disbelief. If you go into it wanting only the reality you know, or want to know, you might not like it. Be prepared to consider that your assumptions about what is possible and what is not may have to be adjusted, that Hamlet was right when he said there were more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. 
  • Aimee Bender has that wonderful ability to make the reader feel the ache the characters feel. Or maybe it's simply that these characters ask you to look inside yourself and admit your own ache. Either way, she's good at it.  
  • There is no villain in this story. Nobody to be hated, nobody to be defeated, beaten, killed or moralized away. Just people, strong in some ways and weak in others, who find their own individual ways to adjust to the strangeness, the sadness of life. 
  • This is not a book about light and sweet things. It is a book about living with whatever you are given to live with. There's an existential angst that is neither dark nor depressing. If anything, it's hopeful that there is almost always a way to live with life. And when there isn't, well, there isn't.  
  • This is writing that made me want to swallow the book whole and let the words live inside me. Page after page that made me wonder why I can't say things like that.
  • Back to the cover. I want it to be more serious, something more profound, that would give a potential reader some indication that there is weight to this story. 
  • I'm adding this book to my short list of favourites.
  • Henceforth, I may be more careful about judging a book by it's cover. Maybe. 

Happy New Year!

Six Months Later...

...and I'm still not sure what I'm doing. I'm not yet able to go back to writing a post on every book I read, but I do hope to get to the point of having enough energy to write the occasional post at least. For now, I'll just use this blog to keep a record for myself of what I'm reading.

In the meantime I wish you all a Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving. :) 

Taking a break from blogging...

Hello, faithful readers. I know you are only a few but you have stuck around through thick and thin for several years now and I appreciate every one of you.

I feel it's time, now, for me to take a break from blogging due to certain life situations that I'm sure would bore you were I to talk about them here. I don't know how long the break will be, but I expect at least for the summer. Right now the stress of knowing I have to write a post on every book is taking all the joy out of reading, the one thing I have always relied on for relaxation and escape. It has become just one more pressure, one more chore. I want to get back to where reading was a help and not a hindrance. 

I will leave the blog up in hopes that things will change in a few weeks or months and I can come back to it. If, after a time, it seems I won't be able to get back to it at all then I guess I'll take it down and that will be the end of my blogging career. In the meantime I'll continue to add titles to my lists as I finish books but I won't be writing posts about them. 

Thank you all so much for spending time here and for your kindness and comments.

Here's to reading just for fun for awhile... 

Ordinary Reader