The Sunday Salon: 1/16/2011

Happy Sunday fellow Saloners! I have not been awake for very long (it’s Sunday, after all!), but my plans for the day consist of laundry, cleaning and reading.  The perfect Sunday, in my opinion.

My reading week was kind of fast paced, at least for me.  I read three books–The Polski Affair, by Leon Gildin, What I Thought I Knew, by Alice Eve Cohen and A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear, by Atiq Rahimi. They were all three enjoyable but all seemed kind of fleeting.  I think I need to find a longer book to sink my teeth into.

I did try to read Ken and Thelma, by Joel Fletcher, which is a biography about John Kennedy Toole, the author of A Confederacy of Dunces, and his relationship with his mother.  Dunces is one of my top two favorite books (Gone with the Wind being my other fave) and my book club is reading it this month, so I thought the biography would add a bit more to my experience of the book, but it was so boring.  Fletcher just kept focusing on Thelma and what a kook she was.  I felt like Ken was not a focus.  I put it down after about 50 pages–my first DNF of 2011!

I think this week I am going to reread Dunces.  It has been two years since I originally read it and I know, being my favorite book, it deserves a reread.  I confess though, I suck at rereading.  I did it all the time in high school.  You can bet if I liked a book then, I was going to read it at least 3-4 times, but I have fallen out of that and I don’t know how to fix it.  So we’ll see if I make it all the way through Dunces or if I move on to something else.

I hope you all enjoy your Sunday and make sure to let me know what you’ll be reading today!

The Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday everyone!  I feel like I have been out of the loop for weeks, possibly months.  In reality, it has just been since Wednesday.  I am happy to say I am now a married woman, as well as a stepmom.  I was married this past Thursday in New Orleans and am now sitting in the NO airport as we wait for our delayed flight to get here and board.

For anyone who has never been to New Orleans, I urge you to go–it’s a must!  This was my husband’s (wow–how weird is that that he is my husband!) first trip there, as well as the first trip for most of our friends who came.  It is a city unlike any other.  First of all, you can carry alcohol on the streets.  I suppose that could be a recipe for disaster but I swear, it’s a non stop party and we are only now just starting to recover.

Suffice it to say, I did NOT get much reading done.  I finished Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, on the flight to NO and then I began The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson.  But then we got to NO and I did not read any of my book for the rest of Wednesday . . . Thursday . . . Friday . . . or Saturday!  Yes, you read that right–I did not read a single word while on vacation.  I don’t think I have gone that long without reading in years and years.  It was strange but I actually didn’t miss is.  There was just too much other stuff going on.  Now I am trying to get back into the swing of things, so I am sure my reading will pick back up.  Watch for my Classics Circuit post this coming Tuesday–my very first book by Christie!

And now, I leave you all to have a wonderful, hopefully lazy, Sunday.  We’ll be flying for the rest of the day, but nevertheless I hope to be reading a lot today.  And here’s a wedding picture!

The Sunday Salon

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.  I am excited for brunch in a little bit with my own mom–yum.  Later on this week I’ll be traveling to New Orleans and getting married.  And then I will be . . . Mrs Borders!  How fitting is that–my new name will be that of the bookstore.  I plan on posting at least one review while I am gone.  Hopefully two if I finish my current book.

This week I read two books: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  For those who haven’t read the latter, do it!!  All the rave reviews are true–this is a great book.  I am now reading The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker.  After that, I will be reading Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, followed by The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson. 

I checked four books out from the library yesterday.

-Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown (for the GLBT challenge)

-Blue Angel, by Francine Prose

-Bad Things Happen, by Harry Dolan

-Charity Girl, by Michael Lowenthal

I hope everyone has a great day.  I have to go to brunch now but afterwards I will be back to check out everyone else’s Sunday Salon!

Book Review: Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke

Patti Friedmann

Counterpoint

240 pages

A Confederacy of Dunces meets The Corrections in Friedmann’s (Eleanor Rushing) warm and wacky tale of family dysfunction and redemption, set mostly in New Orleans .

I saw this blurb on Amazon and that was it for me.  I was looking for books set in New Orleans but the comparison to Confederacy of Dunces put me over the edge!  For anyone who doesn’t know, which is probably all most of you, CoD is one of my all time favorite books.  Actually, it is in the top two (along with Gone with the Wind), so any book comparable to it is worth a chance in my eyes.

Jerusha “Ru” Bailey is an older woman with two grown children, son Wilson and daughter Zib.  Her two children stay away from home for years until the death of their father, at which point they return home.  They are convinced that their loud and irritating mother is to blame, at least in part, for their father’s death.  He has been living in a cloud of smoke for decades, as Ru is constantly smoking.  Hence the title.  Zib and Wilson are struggling to come to terms with EVERYTHING.  Their relationship as siblings, their own lives, their pasts.  Meanwhile, Ru is on an adventure of her own, which includes finding her husband’s ashes in a McDonald’s parking lot (at which time she proceeds to transfer the remains to a paper McDonald’s bag) and culminated in her sleeping in the bushes by the library with her dog.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say Secondhand Smoke lived up to my expectations.  I can see why it was compared to CoD, both because of the setting as well the character of Ru.  Had the book been solely from her viewpoint, I am sure it would have been a better fit for me.  As it stands though, the book was like a drama and comedy merged and it didn’t work for me for that reason.  Wilson and Zib were so serious and their viewpoints took away the comical aspect of the book.  But then you have Ru’s chapters that are laugh out loud funny at some points.  Perhaps if Friedmann had stuck to one extreme or the other, it would have fared better for me.

Other Reviews:

None

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Yellow Jack

Yellow Jack

Josh Russell

WW Norton & Company

250 pages

Today marks exactly two weeks until my wedding and since I am getting married in New Orleans, I decided to spend these two weeks focused on literature set in NO.  Yellow Jack was my first pick and boy was it a good one!

I chose Yellow Jack for one reason, besides the fact that it is based in NO. The reason is because it’s about a pestilence–for whatever reason that fascinates me.  In reality, “yellow jack” played a role in the book, but it involved so much more. 

Claude Marchand is studying under Daguerre in Europe when the two of them discover the daguerreotype–pretty much the first form of photography.  Because I am a novice to the process, I will quote my good friend Wikipedia:

The image in a Daguerreotype is formed by amalgam i.e. a combination of mercury and silver. Mercury vapor from a pool of heated mercury is used to develop the plate that consists of a copper plate with a thin coating of silver rolled in contact that has previously been sensitised to light with iodine vapour so as to form silver iodide crystals on the silver surface of the plate.

Exposure times were later reduced by using bromine to form silver bromide crystals.

The image is formed on the surface of the silver plate that looks like a mirror. It can easily be rubbed off with the fingers and will oxidise in the air, so from the outset daguerreotypes were mounted in sealed cases or frames with a glass cover.

The image in a Daguerreotype is formed by amalgam i.e. a combination of mercury and silver. Mercury vapor from a pool of heated mercury is used to develop the plate that consists of a copper plate with a thin coating of silver rolled in contact that has previously been sensitised to light with iodine vapour so as to form silver iodide crystals on the silver surface of the plate.

Exposure times were later reduced by using bromine to form silver bromide crystals.

The image is formed on the surface of the silver plate that looks like a mirror. It can easily be rubbed off with the fingers and will oxidise in the air, so from the outset daguerreotypes were mounted in sealed cases or frames with a glass cover.

When viewing the daguerreotype, a dark surface is reflected into the mirrored silver surface, and the reproduction of detail in sharp photographs is very good, partly because of the perfectly flat surface.

Marchand decides to flee Europe and when he travels to New Orleans, he introduces the dagguereotype, which he renames “soliotype”, and opens a studio.  Many of the soliotypes Marchand does are “memorials”, meaning that they are done after death.  I had heard a bit about that before reading Yellow Jack, but I hadn’t realized how popular it was! According to the book, many people didn’t even have their picture taken at all during their life–only after death.  I did a Google image search and apparently the prevalence of memorial dagguereotypes is true, because I found a TON. 

So anyway, obviously the city is being plagued, literally, and the morbidity of life back then is all too real to Marchand, but there is more to the book than that.  Marchand is caught in a love triagnle between Millicent, a gritty street girl, and Vivian, who was born into the lap of luxury.  Marchand seems to value them based on their social status–he treats Millicent like crap while he worships Vivian, yet he seems to be in love with both of them.  The novel is very erotic and the love triangle between Claude, Vivian and Millicent is intriguing.

Yellow Jack is full of so many intricacies, that I feel like I have only touched on a small part of the book.  The format was conducive to the novel and made it more readable.  It switched back and forth between Marchand and is point of view, Millicent’s diary entries and excerpts from a modern history book.  If you enjoy historical fiction but are looking for something different, check this book out!

Other Reviews:

None that I could fine!

I borrowed this book from my local library.

The Sunday Salon

Once again, I feel like my week in reading was pretty weak.  That seems to be my mantra for February.  I finished one book this week–Passing, by Nella Larsen–and I am close to finishing the third part of East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.  I also read fifty pages of The Shack and decided it just wasn’t worth it.  The writing was so contrived and I just didn’t want to read it.  So I didn’t.

The good news is that there are really no plans for today.  I have some general housework to do, but other than that my day will be devoted to reading.

Despite the fact that my reading has been lagging, I decided to aquire some more books this week.  Firstly, I bought Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.  The reviews I read for it portrayed it as a phenomenal book, so I purchased it. 

I also got two review copies this week from Hatchette.  The first, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker, is a book I have had on my list for over a year.  It will also count towards the Deb challenge I am currently signed up for.  The other book I am super excited about!

I love Chelsea Handler.  I think she is absolutely hysterical.  When her last book was published, I was lucky enough to get to meet her.  As soon as the book arrived in the mail, I immediately texted my family members because I knew they would be insanely jealous!

I also got quite a few library books.

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (this is a re-check out)

Secondand Smoke, by Patti Friedmann (for my trip to New Orleans)

The Last Madame: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld, by Christine Wiltz (also for my trip to New Orleans)

Forever, by Judy Blume (for the Shelf Discovery challenge)

Murder of a Medici Princess, by Caroline P Murphy (for my trip to Florence)

Signora da Vinci, by Robin Maxwell (also for my trip to Florence)

Have you read any of these?  If so, what are your thoughts?

Have a great Sunday everyone!

 

 

Book Review: New Orleans Cemeteries

Images of America: New Orleans Cemeteries

Eric Brock

Arcadia Publishing

128 pages

For those of you who read my last Sunday Salon post, I recently compiled a list of books for my trip to New Orleans in May.  I sent the list to everyone going on the trip with me, so thatt people can choose books to get them in the mood for the trip.  I recently started this tradition, and so far it has been a lot of fun (I’m going to Florence in March with my mom and sisters, so that trip got a list too).  So anyway, I came across some books on NOLA cemeteries during my perusal while compiling my list, and the morbid part of me was instantly interested.  I checked my library, and this was the first book I could find that dealt with cemeteries in NOLA.

New Orleans Cemeteries is basically a picture book of some of the most well known cemeteries in the area.  Most people believe that the above ground crypts and tombs are a result of New Orleans being below sea level.  While that theory makes a lot of sense, Brock explained that the real reason for this burial style is the fact that most Latin burials were above ground, and the citizens of New Orleans adopted that method.  In fact, there are a lot of below ground graves in NOLA–there are quite a few Jewish cemeteries in the area, where the burials are all underground, since Jews believe that graves must be underground. 

The nice thing about this book is that it had a lot of fascinating captions with the pictures.  It was interesting to read about the history of New Orleans and its most prominent citizens.  I now have an interest in Victorian-era graveyards and I hope to read about some other cemeteries not based in New Orleans.

And now, I leave you with pictures.

I borrowed this book from my local library.
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