Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blogging Break

Cropped from this source

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Lives by Lucas Hunt

Lives by Lucas Hunt
Copyright 2006
Vagabond Press - Poetry
93 pages

It takes a nation bent on home repair
and self improvement to destroy
abusive tyranny.

--from "The Close Followers" in Lives by Lucas Hunt, p. 41

Sometimes I wonder if this is the local insane asylum
for the squirrel kingdom,
Their version of a hospital for the psychotic.
Then I observed others in the neighborhood
And traveled to different towns, to the countryside
In hopes of spotting one stable squirrel, yet saw none.
To the contrary, my studies find these cute little animals
mentally abnormal,
To be clear--they revel in perilous situations.

--from "The Business of Squirrels" in Lives by Lucas Hunt, p. 52

I ordered a copy of Lives after Simon Van Booy recommended that his followers follow Lucas Hunt on either Twitter or Facebook -- I can't recall which. Hunt has a newer book out, Light on the Concrete, but I was unable to locate a copy (I'm pretty sure it hadn't been released, yet), so I just grabbed what I could find in order to get a taste of his writing. Simon told me he and Lucas have been friends for 17 years.

The description, copied from Paperback Swap:

Lives is a rich and lyrical collection of poems - both a passionate and occasionally ironical account of life in a modern world of infinite possibility. Here is the full spectrum of the varied colors of human experience from the pleasantly erotic to the disturbingly violent. The poet breaks from contemporary forms of expression to confront reality and the beyond, and to communicate powerful truths about eternal situations. Filled with vivid (and visceral) imagery of work, love, dreams, and death, these poems celebrate the phenomenal aspects of life while acknowledging the futility of our continual search for meaning. The need for ritual, reason, and intoxication all serve as (black) comic relief from the all too common experience of tragedy. Hear this invocation from one of the new poets of our age: Of origins beyond explanation, ruled by laws unknown, Come spirit of poetry, muse, sing us something new!

Actually, I didn't find the poetry in Lives at all lyrical. But, Lucas Hunt's poetry is definitely passionate, full of imagery, and unique. I think the book is very aptly titled. Lives crosses a broad spectrum; Hunt observes life, people, animals. I mentioned in a past post that I've watched a video of Hunt reading his poetry and he comes across as charming and funny. His writing might lead you to believe otherwise, at least in this book, as it can be a little dark. But, sometimes it is definitely ironic or humorous.

The bottom line:

Not a favorite book of poetry, but I still enjoyed reading Lives and came out of the reading with a few favorite poems and passages. I hope to eventually read his newer book, Light on the Concrete.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Demian by Hesse and The Book Borrower by Makkai

Because I feel like I have very little to say about either of these books, I've decided to lump them together in one post.

Demian by Hermann Hesse is a book I plucked off my shelves when someone on Twitter mentioned a German Lit discussion. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to "favorite" that comment and never saw another tweet about a discussion, but that doesn't matter. At the time, I was having trouble settling on a book to read. I wandered to my shelves to look for the book the twitterer mentioned, Homo Faber by Max Frisch, but wasn't able to locate it (I've since found my copy). Demian was on the shelves, though, and when I sat down to read a few pages, it grabbed me.

Demian is a very internal book. I had to look up notes about it because, to be honest, it's hard to describe. Wikipedia's entry on Demian describes it as a Bildunsroman, a novel focusing on the psychological and moral. Well, that's certainly on target. Max Demian is the name of a friend of the hero, Emil Sinclair, who begins with a story of being bullied and lying to impress a bully and feeling tremendous guilt when his immoral choice causes him to end up in an even worse situation. When Emil meets Demian and Demian somehow drives away the bully, Emil is grateful but also impressed by his maturity and insight. Eventually, he becomes obsessed with Demian's ideas about spirituality. After many years, he slowly settles on his own beliefs.

Here's the plot summary from Wikipedia:

Emil Sinclair is a young boy raised in a bourgeois home, amidst what is described as a Scheinwelt, a play on words that means "world of light" as well as "world of illusion". Emil's entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth. In the course of the novel, accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate 'Max Demian', he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self.

This is the kind of book I probably really needed a teacher to guide me through, but I liked the prose; I was drawn in and really wanted to know what would become of Emil and his friend, whom he refers to as "Demian". I'm not all that familiar with existentialism and I admit that a good portion of the book eventually became a little frustrating. But, I don't regret reading it. Demian was definitely an unusual read for me and reading it broke me out of my slump. It also made me yearn to go back to school to take some literature classes. I'm glad I read Demian, but it was certainly not a favorite so much as a nice break from the common.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai is one of my "Goodbye, Borders" purchases. I bought it primarily because of Jill, aka Softdrink's review at Fizzy Thoughts.

In The Borrower, Lucy Hull is a young librarian living in a small Missouri town who works in the children's section of her library and does weekly chapter-book readings. One of her favorite patrons is a 10-year-old boy named Ian Drake. Ian's parents are hyper-religious, the kind who don't allow their children to read Harry Potter . . . the banning kind, I suppose. Ian likes to read everything and Lucy is happy to check out books she knows his mother won't approve of and quietly smuggle them to Ian.

Lucy's not particularly happy at her job, but she's got a bad case of inertia. When Ian spends the night in the library and she finds him in the morning, Lucy tries to take him home. But, she doesn't have a phone number or address for Ian's parents and he's not the slightest bit interested in sharing that information. Instead, he tries to direct her to his grandmother's home. Even though Lucy suspects the grandmother is fictional, she goes along with him and ends up inadvertently driving him across the state line . . . kidnapping him without intent. And, then they just keep on driving and end up spending weeks away from home while his parents and the police are frantically searching for the missing boy.

The idea is far-fetched, but The Borrower starts out very fun because of the light-hearted tone and all the references to books. Unfortunately, the author seems to have had an agenda. Eventually, the book becomes a bit of a diatribe about tolerance and a rather scathing view of Christianity. The author confuses intolerance with Christians, in general. Of course, Ian Drake's parents are the extreme type -- book-banning, homophobic and willing to close their child off from the world, if necessary. But, being a liberal Christian who loves her gay and heterosexual friends equally, I was really put off by the preaching. In the end, I felt like The Borrower was a waste of perfectly good reading time and regretted the purchase, but not only because of the heavy-handed theme. I also grew weary of Lucy's voice. She's cheeky but eventually she becomes tiresome.

The one thing I continued to love about The Borrower was the literary references. And, Ian Drake is a very lovable, spirited character. Lucy's Russian heritage and her father's illicit activities are an important part of the book and pretty entertaining, as well. Unfortunately, there were two things that were supposed to be mysterious during her travels and I figured out both of them long before the end of the book, so they turned out not to be surprising. I don't personally recommend the book.

And, now, you must have a happy picture to offset one iffy and one negative review. Things are blooming like crazy, now that it's cool and lovely in Mississippi. Here's one of my favorite recent photos from our yard, a rosebud:

The onslaught will continue as long as I feel like reviewing, but as always . . . no need to comment on everything, if you're a regular reader!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister by Lodding & Beaky

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister by Linda Ravin Lodding
Illustrated by Suzanne Beaky
Copyright 2011
Children's Fiction (Ages 4-8)
Flashlight Press
32 pages

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is the delightful story of a young girl whose working parents have booked her solid with daily after-school activities. She takes lessons in knitting, tuba, yodeling, sculpture, water ballet and karate. Her parents mean well, although they don't realize Ernestine yearns to just play like her next-door neighbor, Hugo. When her father leaves for work, he says, "Live life to the fullest, Ern!" Her mother says, "Make every moment count, E!" as she heads out to catch the bus.

One day, Ernestine gets a scathingly brilliant idea. She hides her calendar and her nanny's phone, then zips across the street to the park, where she and Nanny happily play. Meanwhile, Ernestine's yodeling instructor informs Mrs. Buckmeister that her daughter has not shown up for her lesson. Mr. & Mrs. Buckmeister go from one class to another, asking if anyone has seen Ernestine and becoming increasingly frazzled. They arrive home exhausted, with a fresh understanding of why Ernestine looks so pale. Then they hear laughter across the street and find their daughter in the park. Ernestine explains what she and her nanny have been up to and asks if she can drop a few of her extra-curricular classes.

"But how will you live life to the fullest without sculpting and swimming?" asked Mr. Buckmeister.
"Right," Mrs. Buckmeister agreed. "And how will you make every moment count without yoga and yodeling?"
"Like this," Ernestine said.

Here, you see an illustration of Ernestine with her arms spread wide, her eyes closed, breathing in the fresh air.

Everyone inhaled. Then they exhaled.
"My, the view is heavenly," said Mrs. Buckmeister.

Ernestine gets her way. Her mother takes up gardening. Her father builds a treehouse. Ernestine still practices karate and plays the tuba, but with her friend Hugo.

And sometimes she just plays.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister almost seems geared more to the parents who will read the book to their children than to a small child, at least thematically. It's a meaningful but nicely silly story with cheerful, goofy, colorful illustrations. The author was particularly clever at naming Ernestine's teachers. She takes sculpting from Mr. Lumpkin. Mrs. Goldfisher teaches water ballet. Mrs. Stichem is her knitting instructor. Karate is taught by Grand Master Hi Ya. Nanny O'Dear says "Oh, Dear," quite a bit as she finds Ernestine's calendar of activities complex enough to make the occasional error.

Illustration-wise, I particularly love the fact that the "cast" -- teachers, friends and classmates -- is ethnically mixed. And, Ernestine's two cats add a bit of adorable fun to the depictions of Ernestine's home interior.

The bottom line:

A bright and playfully illustrated, immensely clever story about how living life to the fullest can be accomplished without exhausting oneself by cramming in as many activities as possible. The only thing I did not like about The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister was the occasional sequence within an illustration, showing the characters progressing, say, down a hill. For some reason, I thought that might be a little confusing. I could be wrong. I'm going to ask one of my teacher friends what she thinks, and I'll try to remember to report back on that after my blogging break.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fiona Friday - Troublesome children

With apologies to those who have already seen this one on Facebook and Twitter:

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Backwards glance - July, August & September Reads

Looking way the heck back, as in 3 months' worth of reads . . . with apologies. I've reviewed all but two of the books I read from July to September, but many of them were included in multiple-mini-review posts. So if you follow the link and find that I reviewed three or four books in the same post, that means there is not a full-length review, elsewhere. In one case, the same book was read twice and therefore both links lead to the same review.

Of the two I have not yet reviewed, one will be reviewed shortly and the other is unpublished (my friend Greg's book, Riding with No Hands).


July was not bad for a summer month! Favorites were The Summer of the Bear, Everything Beautiful Began After, The Help and Divergent. I really enjoyed When She Woke, Amazing and Extraordinary Facts: Great Britain and Gone. Avebury Avenues was very informative (but tourist-book length and most interesting to those who have visited or plan to visit Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire, England). Agonizing Love was pretty fun but you can't think about it too hard if you're a feminist or it'll make your head hurt. One Second After was decent in a post-apocalyptic horrifying way, but the characters all sounded alike and that drove me nuts. God Gave Us You is directed at a very narrow crowd. The Ghost of Greenwich Village is probably the one book I regret reading.


August was not bad for a month of few books. My two favorites would have to be Horoscopes for the Dead (poetry) and Inside Out (YA) but What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Maman's Homesick Pie followed close on their favored heels. I always love the Grandma's Attic books and I liked The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. The two Blue Envelope books (both YA) were, I thought, disappointing in spite of the fact that I really like Maureen Johnson's unique turn of phrase. Pillow Talk was really very well written and not deserving of its fluffy pink cover, but the language in a couple portions offended me so greatly that it couldn't possibly end up a favorite. A little cleaned up and it would have been close to the top; the story is much deeper than I expected and Freya North is a very sharp writer.


104. The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister
109. Riding with No Hands - Gregory K. Moffatt, PhD

August shocked the heck out of me. Seriously. I thought with all the travel (two weddings and a trip to Boston) I'd get next to nothing read, but instead it turned out to be a solid reading month. Favorites were Everything Beautiful Began After (which I loved even more on the second reading), Learning to Bow, To the Moon and Back, The Oracle of Stamboul, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, The Call and The Lost Wife. I'm disappointed with my ridiculously brief review of The Lost Wife. It deserved a better description. There were some minor problems but it was a very good book and I whipped through it, completely engrossed in the story. Haiku Mind (poetry/spirituality) was enjoyable but best taken in small doses and I enjoyed my friend's book, Riding with No Hands, but don't feel like I can say much about it, so . . . it goes in the generic very-good file. I'll review Ernestine Buckmeister, soon. Lord & Lady Spy had some great adventurous moments and I do think it would make a great series if the characters go on to do more spying and less arguing, but it wasn't my favorite book by Shana Galen.

My two disappointments were Juniper Berry and The Taste of Salt. Both started out good and then went downhill.

October has been pretty good, so far, with 6 books finished! I can't seem to keep up with reviewing the way I used to and it's going to get worse for the rest of the month. But, then November should be normal, I hope. How many times have you heard that? Well, I'll do my best to crank out reviews of the books I've read, so far, although they will probably be brief reviews, for the most part. In a few days, I think I'm going to have to go on a blogging break. The cooler weather is motivating us into a cleaning frenzy, here, and I am truly enjoying seeing little spaces open up in my cluttered house. So, I have to keep rolling with it, while the urge lasts. I've even put myself on holiday at Paperback Swap, so that I won't have to spend time wrapping parcels and running to the post office, although I'm going to have to make several runs to the library to get all my donations hauled to the perpetual sale corner. Those bags of books are heavy!

How is your reading month going, so far?

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Fiona Friday - Isabel puts herself in storage

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

How to Survive the Titanic by Frances Wilson

How to Survive the Titanic or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay
by Frances Wilson
Copyright 2011
Harper - Nonfiction/History
352 pages

How to Survive the Titanic is partly a biography of J. Bruce Ismay --the wealthy former owner of the White Star Line whose reputation was permanently ruined when he left the sinking Titanic -- and partly a fascinating comparison between Ismay's downfall and several works of literature that mimicked his story.

Anyone who has read much of anything about the Titanic will have heard of J. Bruce Ismay, but How to Survive the Titanic goes into greater depth than more general Titanic books. The author delves into Ismay's upbringing, schooling, personality, telegrams sent from the Carpathia, testimony in both the U.S. and U.K. inquiries into the disaster and Ismay's correspondence with a Titanic widow. The author also draws from numerous opinions by literary giants of the time as to Ismay's guilt or innocence and thoughts about whether or not those who stayed behind could be considered "heroic".

As for the language of heroism employed by the halfpenny press, 'There is nothing more heroic in being drowned very much against your will, off a holed, helpless big tank in which you bought your passage than in dying of colic caused by the imperfect salmon in the tin you bought from your grocer'. It would have been finer, Conrad suggests, 'if the band on the Titanic had been quietly saved, instead of being drowned while playing -- whatever tune they were playing, the poor devils'.

from pp. 187-188 of How to Survive the Titanic, Advance Reader Copy (some changes may have been made to the final print version)

I went into the reading of How to Survive the Titanic thinking Ismay deserved a fair shake and came out of it thinking he had a serious case of irresponsible entitlement. The fact that Ismay sent messages using the code name "Yamsi" (Ismay backwards) insisting that a ship should be held so that he and the surviving crew members could immediately return to England whilst he was ensconced in the doctor's cabin on the Carpathia seems damning enough. But then the author carefully brings those messages into question.

I liked the fact that Wilson made me go back to Square One -- Wait just a minute, there, did he really mean to dash away from responsibility? -- and then turns right around and deals out all the vast evidence that Ismay coldly stepped off the boat in full knowledge of how few would be saved from the sinking ship and without bothering to even inform any of the people who worked directly for or with him that the boat was definitely going under. He was not apparently tormented by the disaster and did not accept one iota of responsibility nor was he technically "ruined". Ismay's story is both fascinating and appalling.

Unfortunately, there really wasn't all that much to say about Ismay's post-Titanic life, beyond his testimony, his letters and the raw facts about his retirement and withdrawal to an estate in Ireland. So, the subtitle of the book is a tiny bit misleading. Yet, How to Survive the Titanic is a fascinating addition to the many works about the disaster.

I confess that I got a little tired of the lengthy description of Joseph Conrad's fictional Lord Jim and how closely the downfall of Jim paralleled that of Ismay, but I enjoyed the vast majority of How to Survive the Titanic and definitely recommend it, particularly to those who hold a fascination for the disaster.

The bottom line: An intriguing addition to the many books about the sinking of the Titanic, with focus on one infamous survivor and some interesting literary parallels to his downfall (some of which go on at surprising length). Recommended. There are a few annoying repetitive grammatical errors. Hopefully, changes will have been made to the final copy. I received an uncorrected proof from HarperCollins.

I think I'm going to go back to rating books numerically, at least occasionally. In this case, I'll say 4/5 -- very good; not a book I'd reread but definitely enthralling enough to recommend.

In other reading news:

This past week has not been particularly productive. I've floated from one book to another and put aside too many to even mention, although I'm enjoying The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe. But, yesterday I saw mention of a book that I know I used to own on Twitter in a tweet about German literature and roamed out to the shelf where I kept it for an embarrassing number of years. Apparently, I either moved the book (Homo Faber by Max Frisch) or decided I was never going to read it and donated it. But, I did happen across a different German author and whipped through Demian by Hermann Hesse, last night. While I can't say I really liked it all that much, at least it got me back to reading and I appreciate the sense of completion.

After I finished Demian, I moved on to The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, which I'm enjoying immensely. Hopefully, that's a sign I've reached the end of my week-long fiction slump.

Recently walked in (in the past few weeks):

Never Been Bit by Lydia Dare - ARC from my friend Melissa
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma - from Paperback Swap
A Darcy Christmas by Grange, Lathan and Eberhart - from Paperback Swap
Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia by Blake Butler - from HarperCollins
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar - from HarperCollins
A Man of Parts by David Lodge - from my friend Sandie

Cat news:

I discovered there's a kitty setting on my new camera! Unfortunately, I don't think it's an improvement over the regular automatic setting, which I overuse because the camera seems to do a better job of focusing than I do, now that I'm old enough to have trouble seeing the focusing screen.

Today, a neighborhood cat waltzed up to our window and sent poor Isabel into a frenzy. She wildly scratched at the woodwork, trying to dig her way outdoors to fight him off. That would be quite an unfair fight. Slim is a big, muscular boy and Isabel is tough but she's a featherweight. Fiona was never bothered by Slim before Isabel arrived in our household; the two would just blink at each other through the window when he dropped by our house. But Slim growls at Izzy, which Fi naturally finds a wee bit upsetting. At any rate, Slim's visit is an excellent reminder of why it's good to keep the cats indoors-only.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy
Copyright 2011
Harper Perennial - Fiction
402 pages

Rebecca, George and Henry are wounded souls. Each has come to Athens to live and work. Rebecca is an artist from the French countryside who is still pained by her mother's abandonment. Henry is an archeologist from Wales who remains deeply wounded by a death for which he blames himself. George is an American from Kentucky with a knack for languages and a troubled soul. George falls in love with Rebecca but Rebecca falls in love with Henry. Then, Henry and George meet and discover that they're both in love with the same woman after they become fast friends.

"Ah, a love triangle!" you say to yourself. But, then tragedy strikes and suddenly the book takes a wild turn. No longer a tale of two men in love with the same woman, the story becomes a mad tale of grief for one of the characters, a life-changing revelation for the other. When the two survivors take off in different directions, you follow one of the characters on an unsuccessful attempt to run away from grief, only to find that it's in facing up to the past that one creates a future.

We go back to move forward.

But going back is like returning to a house where everyone moved out long ago; for the only life that dwells within memory is the shallow breath of your misplaced desire.

--from p. 218 of Everything Beautiful Began After

My description of Everything Beautiful Began After is deliberately vague because I think half the joy of reading this book is in the surprises -- the plot twists and the alterations in characters as they deal with tragedy in remarkably different ways. Even the point-of-view changes during one section of the book, so that the reader is temporarily placed in the shoes of a character in the throes of grief so deep as to be pathological.

What I love about Everything Beautiful Began After:

I'm particularly fond of the relationship between Henry and George and the scenes that make it clear that neither man is more deserving of love, even if one is rejected by Rebecca -- that fate is a part of life and intertwined in the stories of the three characters. For example, there's a scene in which George and Rebecca are talking and a kitten is walking around behind the tire of a car in the street. As George and Rebecca part, she looks back and sees George bend over to pick up the kitten and move it away from danger. George is an alcoholic and a bit of a disaster but it's in those small moments that you gather hints of his potential for redemption. He's not totally lost from the world; he's still a caring human being. The way Henry sees this in George is also endearing.

"Why is it so dirty back here?" George said again.
"Ever hear of a Nigerian Hercules Baboon spider?" the professor exclaimed.
"Definitely not," George said.
Henry watched him in the mirror--not with coolness or relief, but with a compassion that extended beyond the moment, as though behind the bruised eyes and the quivering mouth he could sense the presence of a small boy the world had forgotten about.

-- p. 128

There are also a lot of quirky, smile-inducing moments: a comical phone call from Henry to his parents in Wales, a scene in which Henry and George fall asleep and wake up realizing they'd drifted off while enjoying each other's company, that they are like long-lost brothers. The description of the car and office owned by the professor at the archeological dig are also gems, as are the scenes in France when Henry rents a car and makes an error setting the GPS then is stuck with the a GPS speaking to him in a language he can't decipher.

Professor Peterson's office was the most dangerous place on campus. Books piled ten feet high leaned dangerously in various directions. On the tallest tower of books, a note had been hung halfway up:

Please walk VERY slowly or I may fall on you without any warning, whatsoever.

There were three oak desks with long banker's lamps that the professor liked to keep lit, even in his absence. On his main desk were hundreds of Post-it notes, each scribbled with some important detail or addendum to his thoughts. There were also hundreds of pins stuck in a giant map that had been written on with a fountain pen. The ashtrays were full of pipe ash and the room had that deep aroma of knowledge: old paper, dust, coffee, and tobacco.

-- p. 129

What I didn't love about Everything Beautiful Began After:

The prologue is dense with metaphor -- so heavy that it's a little exhausting to read. It takes a while for the fog of metaphor to clear. However, once you get past the first 20 pages or so, the book is much more readable and the further you read, the more compelling and gripping the story becomes. When you reach the end, you'll immediately want to reread the prologue and it will make sense.

I've read Everything Beautiful Began After twice, now, and I felt the same way, both times, although I loved the book even more on the second reading. The first time through, I neglected to mark any passages because I plowed through it so fast, dying to know what would be come of the character who was so paralyzed by grief. On the second reading, I was equally mesmerized but I took the time to mark a few favorite lines.

Here are a few more quotes I like:

The beauty of artifacts is in how they reassure us we're not the first to die.

-- p. 13

"This is the old marketplace," Henry said, "where Zeno came up with a few of his lines."
"I see," Rebecca said. She had no idea who Zeno was, but imagined a masked man with a sword in fishing waders. Then Henry stopped walking and recited something to a slumped dog under a bush.
"Every man has perfect freedom, provided he emancipates himself from mundane desires."
The dog sat up and began to pant.

-- p. 49

"I think he looks lonely," Rebecca said.
"But there are always people on the street below his balcony--"
"That doesn't mean anything," Rebecca interrupted. "Loneliness is like being the only person left alive in the universe, except that everyone else is still here."

-- p. 67

To love again, you must not discard what has happened to you, but take from it the strength you'll need to carry on.

-- p. 372

The bottom line: A beautifully written, surprising story of love and loss, grief and hope. Lovely imagery and setting, likable characters and a believable storyline make Everything Beautiful Began After an excellent read. As in all of Simon Van Booy's writing, there is a startling amount of wisdom and humor (the mice and their poisonous plops -- you have to read it to understand!) and always, always hope, even during the darkest moments. Even better on the second reading and well worth owning.

Other reviews:

Marg's review is wonderful
Wendy's review is equally awesome

On a personal note:

I've already mentioned that Carrie and I got to hang out together in Boston to hear Simon do a reading and answer questions about Everything Beautiful Began After. We also got together with Simon for coffee before his reading. I hadn't seen Simon since I "interviewed" him in 2007 (it was more like a chat than an interview). Someday, I'm going to lure him to Mississippi for a reading and signing, but that hasn't happened, yet!

Simon is one of the most delightful men I've ever met. Carrie and I had a blast chatting with him and enjoyed his reading. He is an exceptional speaker but talking with him one-on-one will make you a fan for life. He is truly a man I highly admire and am honored to call my friend. If you ever get the chance to go to one of his readings, signings or events, you really must. Tell him Bookfool sent you. :)

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.