Book Review: Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin

book review: paris, i love you but you're bringing me down by rosecrans baldwinPARIS, I LOVE YOU BUT YOU’RE BRINGING ME DOWN
by Rosecrans Baldwin

Non-Fiction: Travel memoir
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, April 2012
Hardcover, 286 pages
Source: Library

Rosecrans Baldwin has been a lifelong Francophile; ever since visiting Paris with his family at the age of 10, he has been in love with the city and everything it represents. When he is offered an opportunity to move to Paris and work for an advertising firm seeking a copywriter who can write in English, Baldwin is thrilled to pack his Brooklyn belongings into storage and move with his wife to the City of Light — even though he speaks little French and has never worked in advertising.

However, life in Paris is not the romantic ideal he had envisioned. The coffee is bad, the first charming bistro they visit turns out to be an Australian bar that serves ostrich fillets, bureaucracy thwarts many of their plans, and their tiny apartment is surrounded by noisy construction on every side. Instead of the Paris of Hemingway, Baldwin finds himself in the Paris where, “Luke Skywalker had happened. Supermarkets happened. Hip-hop happened and Joan Didion happened. Email happened.” It is the Paris of Sarkozy, frozen food from Picard, and the Tecktonik dance craze. Continue reading

Quotable Friday: from The Bell Jar

“I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near onto an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again. I don’t believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water.”

–  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Books Speak Volumes is on Facebook!

facebook fan pageHello all, this is just a quick post to let you know that I have started a Facebook page for Books Speak Volumes!

I will be posting once or twice daily with links to interesting articles, bookish cartoons and graphics, quotes, and musings.

To make sure you get the page’s updates, you can add it to your ‘interests lists.’ To do this, like the page and then hold your mouse over the ‘liked’ button. From there, select “Add to interests lists,” and either add the page to an existing list or create a new one! I have a “books” interest list for following my favorite book blogs’ and bookstores’ Facebook pages, which makes it really easy to filter through my clogged news feed.

Click here to view the new Facebook page! I hope to connect with all of you there!

Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

book review: wuthering heights by emily bronteWUTHERING HEIGHTS
by Emily Bronte

Fiction: Classics
Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005
(first published 1847)
Paperback, 338 pages
Source: Purchased

To be honest, I started reading this classic without expecting to like it much; I had heard that it was about horrible people treating each other badly, and I thought reading about miserable people would make me miserable by proxy. This was not the case at all. Sure, some of the characters are truly twisted and despicable, but oh the passion! And the betrayal and the heartbreak! And the tortured souls! I loved this book.

For those who haven’t read Wuthering Heights, the story goes something like this: As a young boy, dark-skinned Heathcliff is brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, where he is treated badly by his adoptive brother Hindley but becomes close friends with his new sister, the spoiled and selfish Catherine. The two grow up believing they are soulmates, but everything falls apart when Heathcliff overhears Cathy say that marrying him would degrade her. Heathcliff disappears and Catherine marries someone else — but she still loves Heathcliff!  His eventual return causes crazy tension between himself, Cathy, and Cathy’s husband Edgar Linton. And then Cathy dies giving birth to her daughter (also named Catherine), and Heathcliff spends the rest of his miserable life trying to punish Edgar and Catherine for taking his Cathy away from him. It’s a bit melodramatic, but this book has a raw power to it. Continue reading

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

book review: the casual vacancy by j.k. rowlingTHE CASUAL VACANCY
by J.K. Rowling

Fiction
Little, Brown, September 2012
Hardcover, 503 pages
Source: Purchased

The Casual Vacancy opens with the death of Barry Fairbrother: a husband, father, coach of the girls’ high school rowing team, and member of the parish council of the picturesque English town of Pagford. His death leaves a “casual vacancy” in the village council, and the town must elect a replacement. Vying for the council seat are multiple forceful personalities with their own secrets, vendettas, and aspirations.

As elections can sometimes do, this one brings out the worst in people; dirty secrets are posted on the council website by anonymous sources close to the candidates, damaging the reputations of formerly respectable residents of the town. Continue reading

Quotable Friday: from Wuthering Heights

“And I pray one prayer — I repeat it till my tongue stiffens — Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you — haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always — take any form — drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

– Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Five Literary Halloween Costumes

Halloween is two weeks away, and if you’re anything like me, you still have no idea what your costume will be. Also, if you’re like me, you abhor the idea of spending $40 on a flimsy store-bought costume that everyone and their 16-year-old sister will be wearing. Oh, and you also love literature and want to show off your sophistication with a costume that no one will get (unless they are also super sophisticated lit lovers, in which case: WIN), but that will make you look smart when people ask you what you’re supposed to be. For you, my friends, I present five literary costume ideas:

edgar allen poe

Edgar Allen Poe

 This is the classic spooky, literary Halloween costume. To dress up as Poe, wear a black suit with a white shirt and a cravat. Add a stick-on mustache and dye your hair black for the night; be sure to tousle your oily locks into an unkept mess. For extra creepiness, wear a raven on your shoulder; given that it’s Halloween season, a fake raven shouldn’t be hard to find at a costume shop. (For extra extra creepiness, bring a real raven with you. Just kidding. Please don’t do that.) Also, you should try to look as sad as possible. Continue reading

Teen Read Week: My Favorite YA Books

teen read week

This week (October 14 to 20) thousands of libraries, bookstores, and schools across the country are celebrating Teen Read Week, an initiative intended to encourage teens to read, just for the fun of it. According to Teen Read Week’s publicity materials, literacy rates for teenagers have been stagnating for the past 30 years, and the number of teens who are able to read but choose not to do so for fun is increasing. However, being able to read and process information is a vital skill in our data-driven society. As adults and role models to younger readers, it’s our job to encourage teens to read for pleasure, as daily reading for fun is instrumental in instilling reading habits for life.

To create a love of reading in teens, I think we need to recommend books that really are enjoyable for younger audiences to read — books that aren’t classics like the ones that often bore students in English classes, but that are interesting and relatable and unputdownable. Since my teenage years weren’t too long ago, I present to you my favorite books when I was a teenager (omitting Harry Potter because, I mean, duh). Continue reading

Quotable Friday: from The Age of Miracles

“In other houses, the sick were growing sicker. New cases of gravity sickness were sprouting throughout the region. Projections about the future were turning more and more dire. But Seth and I felt fine. We felt better than fine. Sometimes death is proof of life. Sometimes decay points out a certain verve. We were young and we were hungry. We were strong and growing stronger, so healthy we were bursting.”

— The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

book review: the age of miracles by karen thompson walker
THE AGE OF MIRACLES
by Karen Thompson Walker

Fiction
Random House, June 2012
Hardcover, 269 pages
Source: Library

I don’t usually post the opening lines of a book, but the beginning of this highly original debut novel is so fantastic I have to share it:

“We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it.

We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.

We were distracted back then by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets in distant countries. Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that these hours, too, weren’t still pooling into days, each the same fixed length known to every human being.” Continue reading