Book Review: The Square-Root of Summer

I think I’ve managed a first for me in my challenge reading.  I put The Square-Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood on my random To-Read list on my phone (I think I stumbled on a blog post review while at work—more on that later, and why it really was work).  I requested it from the library without remembering it clearly—and found myself stumbling accidentally into a parallel universe novel!

Gottie’s world is coming apart.  Literally.  Seventeen, on the cusp of needing to figure out what to do with her life (or at least whether to go to college), Gottie’s attention is focused on the past.  On her grandfather’s death almost a year previously.  On the return of her childhood friend Thomas, out of touch across an ocean for five years.  On the memories of her secret summer fling last year with her brother’s friend.  And all around her, wormholes are opening up, sending her hurtling back into the past.

First, the mechanics of this.  I never quite got them, even though Gottie is a math genius who spends a lot of time discussing equations and theories.  But in practical and storytelling terms, the point is that she’s periodically encountering wormholes which send her mentally (but not physically) flashing back to earlier points in her life.  As the novel progresses, the effects become more dramatic, until she’s physically moving to parallel lives, not moving through time but moving to a universe where an earlier choice caused a change.  And ultimately cause and effect become confused, and things like writing an email response turns out to be the message that inspired the email that she was responding to.  If you see what I mean. Continue reading

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book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Can you say this sentence describes you? READING IS MY PASSION.

It’s certainly a passion of mine.  I feel like writing is my more significant passion, but reading supports the writing too.  And purely in terms of time spent on an interest, I spend more time reading than I do on just about anything else!

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Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I was recently perusing my bookshelves for something to read (this comes up less often than you’d think—usually I have a stack from the library) and settled on an old favorite classic: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

The tale begins with one of my favorite opening lines in all of literature: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” (It’s best in a British accent, and preferably Joan Fontaine’s voice.)  The never-named narrator goes on to describe her whirlwind courtship with Maxim de Winter, her arrival with him at his ancestral estate of Manderley, and her growing realization that the memory of the deceased Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, still holds powerful sway over the house and their lives.

This is a delightful, wonderful read in so many, many ways.  I love the narrator, the second Mrs. de Winter.  I love that we never learn her name—that’s such a brilliant writing device.  Throughout the book she’s overwhelmed by the overwhelming presence of Rebecca, and even her name is obscured.  The second Mrs. de Winter also slots nicely into a couple of my favorite literary types.  I love heroines who think they’re ordinary who discover their own power, and I have a serious soft spot for children who are disregarded by the adults in their lives.  The second Mrs. de Winter is definitely the first type, and has elements of the second too, even though she’s twenty-one.

Maxim does see and appreciate her when he meets her, but unfortunately joins a long list of literary heroes (including Mr. Rochester and Mr. Darcy) who do not use their words.  Causing, of course, far more complications and therefore plot. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: To eBook or Not to eBook

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Do you read via eBook and if so which one(s) and why?

I suspect all my book-reading friends who know me off the internet have already heard the answer to this question…  I do not read ebooks.  I still hang onto my paper ones.  I very, very rarely read a book on my computer (usually beta-reading for a writer friend).

There are a few reasons I haven’t switched to an ereader.  The big one is that reading is my one major activity that doesn’t involve a screen.  I work at a computer for most of the day, and in off time I write novels and blog posts, then relax with television…  Socializing doesn’t involve screens, but my one solitary leisure activity that doesn’t require a screen is reading.  I’m not prepared to give that up!

Advocates of ereaders tell me that it’s not really like a computer screen…but it feels like one to me, when I’ve looked at other people’s devices.  People have also pointed out that they can carry 1,000+ books around with them.  But I don’t need a thousand books.  I carry one book, and the only time this question is really relevant is extended vacations, which only come up about once every two years.  Last argument?  Ebooks are cheaper than paper ones—but the library is free, and that’s where I get the vast majority of my reading material.

I’m not anti-ebooks for anyone else, but none of the arguments in favor have ever weighed much for me personally.  And paper books have a charm and a character and a warmth that no device will match!

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Book Review: Around the World in Eighty Days

I can’t remember how long ago I read Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, but it was probably high school or even earlier.  I’ve been meaning to reread it for a while now, for a very writerly reason!  In my Phantom of the Opera reimagining, my protagonist Meg dreams of travel.  The Phantom needs a Christmas gift for her, and I thought–Around the World in Eighty Days!  Verne was a French author popular at the time.  Perfect!  Except I thought I ought to reread the book to make sure it really was perfect.

The novel tells the tale of English gentleman Phileas Fogg and his (possibly) mad bet that he can travel around the world in a mere 80 days.  Accompanied by French manservant Passepartout, Fogg travels east from London, through India to America, passing through a series of adventures and mishaps with perfect, imperturbable calm all the way.

This is a strange and fun book.  Like its protagonist Fogg, it is frequently quite calm and unperturbed and serenely explaining (in more detail than really necessary) the exact mathematical calculations enabling Fogg to pursue his goal.  But like its secondary protagonist Passepartout, it also goes on wild flights of drama, including encounters with a murderous cult in India and an extremely bloody attack by Indians somewhere in the American west. Continue reading

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