Total Pageviews

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Cover Art

I am currently reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (#6) by David Mitchell and really relishing it.  However, it has occurred to me several times that if I had just seen this book displayed somewhere on a shelf, or on a table at a bookstore, and not heard about it on NPR, I probably would not have even picked it up. 

You know the old saw "Never judge a book by its cover."?  I can't do that.  The cover of a book influences my decision to pick it up and read the end flap or back cover to see what it might contain.  If I'm browsing the shelf at the library and a title sounds promising, I'll pull it out.  Sometimes the cover art or photograph sends the message "not your type of book" and I'll put it right back.  On the other hand, sometimes the cover is so intriguing that I'll find myself flipping to look at the artwork while I'm reading, and each and every time I pick the volume up or put it down.  I almost always look for the source of the artwork or the cover design to see how the cover concept was put together.  It's one of the reasons I've resisted acquiring a Kindle or other electronic reader: black and white covers and illustrations! 

Occasionally the thing I like best about a book turns out to be the cover.  I had heard about Peter Carey's book Parrot and Olivier In America.  It was billed as a comic novel about de Touqueville's tour of the early American republic in the reviews I read.  My library's catalog used the phrase: "...irrepressibly funny new novel set in early nineteenth century America."  Right up my alley, I thought.  I like Mark Twain, Dave Barry, MaryJanice Davidson, Douglas Adams and Lindsay Davis to name a few authors who make me either laugh out loud, or at least bring a smile to my face.  But I obviously don't have the same sense of humor as the literary critics do.  Parrot and Olivier In America has been short listed for the Mann Booker prize.  If it wins, I'll just wonder if it was just me that failed to get the humor. 

The cover of this book, though, grabbed my attention.  Peeking out from behind the invitation card on the book jacket was the face of an 18th century gentleman.  The more I looked at this portrait, the more I thought this looked liked someone who would be a lot of fun at a dinner party; full of wit and humor, and not too hard on the eyes.  So I did my usual tracking on the internet and found that this was a self portrait of Maurice-Quentin Delatour.  If you moved in French court circles during the reign of Louis XV, you might have had your portrait done in pastels by Delatour.  The Wikipedia entry for Delatour contained external links including one to his portrait of Madame de Pompadour in the Louvre which turned out to be one of the best links I've ever come across:
Check it out for yourself.  After reading this material about Delatour and his work, I think I was right about him as a dinner companion!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekend Reading

I must admit to a guilty pleasure.  I love Regency romances.  After my mother shared her Georgette Heyer paperbacks with me, I was hooked.  In fact, The Toll Booth played a key role in how I met my husband in London.  But I digress.  This weekend I read Mary Jo Putney's Loving A Lost Lord (#4), first in that series.  I had previously read Never Less Than A Lady from that collection and enjoyed it.  This book did not disappoint.  I think the reason I liked them was that the plots had interesting twists and more depth to the characters.  I wouldn't want to read a steady diet of them, but the occasional Regency bon-bon keeps me happy.

This weekend I also spent This Time Together (#5) with Carol Burnett's anecdotal memoirs.  Some touch on her family, some on the cast and crew of the "Carol Burnett Show", and some on the guest stars and celebrities she's met though the years, all done with a humorous touch.  Makes me nostalgic for her show!

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Up

Yesterday I finished Me, Myself and Why? (#1 - I've decided to keep track of how many books I read in this first year by numbering them.) the first book in a new trilogy by MaryJanice Davidson.  I've been a fan of her vampire series featuring Betsy Taylor because they are irreverent and funny.  This new book introduces an FBI agent with Multiple Personality Disorder.  The story constantly switches between her three distinct personalities in pursuit of a serial killer.  I can't say I enjoyed this one as much, but I do think the series has potential, and I will undoubtedly read the next two installments.  Maybe by then I'll have a better handle on what is going on.  I couldn't complete this week without mentioning the two other books I've read so far:  The Doomsday Key (#2) by James Rollins and Women Food and God (#3) by Geneen Roth.
Our local library system puts on an amazing event each January called Bookmania!.  It features over two dozen authors speaking solo or on panels over the course of one Saturday.  Last year my husband and I were excited to go and hear Steve Berry, one of our favorites.  On the program, he was paired with James Rollins talking about his latest thriller Altar of Eden.  Neither of us had ever read any of his books.  The hour these two authors and friends spent together on the stage was one of the most entertaining book events I have ever been to.  Needless to say, we started reading his books.  Rollins does write stand alone books, but he also has a series of novels about The Sigma Force, a US super secret agency of special forces operatives recruited and trained in various branches of science to aid them in their work.  The Doomsday Key is the latest offering in this series (although Devil Colony is about to be released - already have a hold on it at the library!).  Rollins' thrillers contain enough science to make it work as the kernel of a crisis and to prompt reading beyond the books themselves.  High body count, but you have to love a novel that wrecks part of the Coliseum, the Svalbard Seed Bank ( )and Clairveaux Abbey all in the same book.  A page turning read that gives you something to think about.

I believe I was number 92 on the hold list for Women Food And God at my library.  I finally got it this week.  Do yourself a favor and if you're inclined to pick up this book, turn immediately to the last page.  That's the whole book, and more than Ms. Roth includes in the 200+ pages of Eastern philosophy and workshop anecdotes (ones she's both attended and led) leading up to these common sense recommendations.  I fail to see why this book is so popular, but perhaps it's an example of the saying "Common sense isn't common."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I Started This Blog

I have always loved to read.  I can't remember a time when I wasn't surrounded by books at home - spilling out of bookcases in my room, plus the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the hallways, and of course, the library books piled on top of the radiators that belonged to my parents and my brother.  I thought everyone lived like this until I went to school and brought a friend home one day.  She looked around our house and asked in disbelief, "Does anyone actually read these books?!"  Well, yes, we did.

But why did I start this blog now?  I've been at loose ends since I was laid off when the company I worked for was bought out.  I was the senior person in my position, and the prospects have not been looking good out there for someone my age and salary history (What a surprise!).  The upside is that I'm no longer traveling constantly, and I have plenty of time to indulge in my love of reading.  I've had to throttle back my Amazon book-buying habit, but fortunately my excellent local library system has taken up the slack. I mostly read fiction and I particularly like historical fiction and mysteries.  But I also read biographies and straight history with forays into anything else that takes my fancy.  You just never know!

So I've decided to keep a record of what I'm reading and comment on it. I'll let you know whether or not I liked a book, and if it led me to explore other interesting related reading matter or websites.  I make no claims to be a literary critic, but I've read long enough to know what I like and share my opinions.  I hope you'll respond, since it's always interesting to share other people's take on the same books and get their recommendations.

Watch this space for my post on Me, Myself and Why? A Modern Threesome by MaryJanice Davidson.