Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Brief: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Spiegel & Grau, 2014
352 pages
source: borrowed from library

narrated by  Bryan Stevenson
 Random House Audio, 2014
11 hours and 4 minutes
source: borrowed from library

Publisher's summary:
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice - from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship - and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy  is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

My thoughts:

This book!
It made me angry.
It made me cry.
It made me think.

You should read it, too... better yet, listen.

"We need more hope, we need more mercy, we need more justice."

My rating:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Intro: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

All true histories contain instruction: though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found out, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge; I sometimes think it might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others, but the world may judge for itself: shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture, and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend.
Agnes Grey 
by Anne Brontë

My current read was chosen for me by the Classics Club Spin. I loved Anne Brontë's second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so decided to add Agnes Grey  to my Classics Club list, too. The novel was published in 1847 and deals with the author's experiences as a governess. I'm approaching this as a read/listen combination... a surprise to no one, I'm sure.  I "purchased" the free kindle edition from amazon, and that entitled me to a reduced-price audio from audible - only $3.95!

I've read or listened to just over a third of the novel so far. It's not quite as good as Tenant (yet), but I am enjoying it.  Between Agnes Grey  and my recent viewing of the Charlotte Brontë exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum, I have been inspired to finally pick up The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors by Juliet Barker, a book that has been on my shelf for years.

Here is the goodreads summary:
At age 19 Anne Brontë left home and worked as a governess for a few years before becoming a writer. Agnes Grey was an 1847 novel based on her experience as a governess. Bronte depicts the precarious position of a governess and how that can affect a young woman. Agnes was the daughter of a minister whose family was in financial difficulty. She has only a few choices for employment. Agnes experiences the difficulty of reining in spoiled children and how wealth can corrupt morals.
What do you think? Would you continue reading?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Brief: Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

by Julian Fellowes
Grand Central Publishing, 2016
402 pages
source: purchased

Audio edition:
Hachette Audio, 2016
narrated by Juliet Stevenson
15 hours and 48 minutes
source: Borrowed from library

Publisher's Summary:
Julian Fellowes's Belgravia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London's grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s, when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond's new legendary ball, one family's life will change forever.

My thoughts:

"Show, don't tell." 

When it comes to writing, we're all familiar with that basic rule. Julian Fellowes not only breaks it with Belgravia, he totally ignores it. This novel is ALL telling... and yet, still immensely enjoyable.

Belgravia  is a rollicking good story filled with a big family secret, social class and position, upstairs/downstairs tension, and intrigue - so  Julian Fellowes! While there's nothing special in the writing, Juliet Stevenson's narration is perfection. I could practically see the miniseries as I listened. And I'm guessing that's exactly as Lord Fellowes intended.

I especially recommend this book as a follow-up to an intense, emotionally draining read. It was exactly what I needed after Germinal.

My rating:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A quick hello...

Remember me? It sure has been a long time! Blogging and life just don't seem to be compatible at the moment...

The photo above is from our hotel in Cape Cod. We took a quick road trip last week... the weather and the seashore were glorious! On Friday, drove up to the Adirondack Mountains for a day of nature and leaf-peeping. Foliage was at peak color and we found a new-to-us trail to explore. Tomorrow we are off to NYC to spend a few days with our daughters.

As you might expect, reading time has been hard to come by. I finished Belgravia by Julian Fellowes a couple of weeks ago. The book brief is still in my draft folder... could have sworn I hit 'publish', but evidently not. Anyway, it turned out to be the perfect 'recovery book' after Germinal. I'll bring it to NYC tomorrow and let my Downton-obsessed daughters fight over who reads it next.

Current reading//   
I *should* finish both of these books today.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan 
For #damalong... with thirty pages to go, I am lagging behind. Ian McEwan's books may be short, but they are never a quick read.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I borrowed both the ebook and audiobook (narrated by the author) from the library... it has enraged me and moved me to tears. The author will speak in my area this spring and I may just plan my return from Florida around it! This will surely be on my list of nonfiction favorites in December. Click on the title to read the goodreads summary.

Up next//

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
The due date on my library book is fast approaching and I haven't even started yet. I'll bring it to NYC, but plan to buy my own copy if I can't finish in time. Ann Patchett  is worth purchasing in hard cover!

Agnes Grey by Ann Bronte
My Classics Club spin book. I'll be listening to this one, but also have the ebook on my kindle.

Life should be back to normal next week... or at least my husband will be back at work, so I'll have time to read and blog again. Hope all is well with you (I'm sorry I haven't been able to visit your blogs for the past week or so) and you're reading some great books!

Monday, October 3, 2016

And the Number is...

The Classics Club Spin landed on number one, so I will read Agnes Grey by Ann Bronte. I loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall  when I read it a few years ago, so am happy with this outcome. I'll get started right after I finish Amsterdam... and Commonwealth. It's a good thing I have until December first!

Which book did the spin select for you?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Germinal by Émile Zola

This book!  Where do I even start??

With a label... Émile Zola's style is classified as naturalism, a form of literary realism. And let me tell you, Germinal is nothing if not realistic! Brutal, in-your-face realism. There is dire poverty and suffering juxtaposed with the bourgeois life of ease and plenty, but Zola portrays the characters with such respect and humanity, the reader somehow sympathizes with everyone.

Germinal is about mining, politics, and labor relations. Sounds incredibly boring, right?  Yet boring is the last word I would use to describe this book. The women (and animals) especially broke my heart... such horrible lives. And the incident - OMG!! Can there be anything else in all of literature like that riot scene?

Zola's descriptions of physical surroundings are incredibly vivid. I could practically feel the moisture from the dripping water and melting snow. My feet seemed mired in the thick mud. The scenes in the mines made me nervous and anxious... my heart was pounding. Germinal is the most realistic piece of literature I've ever read. No wonder it is considered Zola's masterpiece!

This is not my first experience with Zola. I read Therese Raquin several years ago and thought it was excellent. [It's a perfect starting point if you're inclined to give Zola a try.] Not long after, and before the television series, I enjoyed The Ladies' Paradise. I've also read several of his short stories.

Germinal is the thirteenth novel is Zola's famous Rougon-Macquart series. I have considered reading them all, but can the others be this good? I've added the first book, The Fortune of the Rougons, to my current Classics Club Spin list. We'll see what happens on Monday...

A few more details...

As usual, I approached this classic as a read/listen combination. I purchased the Penguin Classics edition (pictured above) translated by Roger Pearson. Initially, I downloaded the audio version narrated by Frederick Davidson, but didn't like the translation. Audible has the best customer service and let me exchange it for the Leighton Pugh narration (pictured below)... much better, although the translation was still differed slightly from the print. I wish they would include translation information on their website.

Finally, a big thank you to Melissa and Care for organizing and hosting #GerminalAlong. Classics are always better with friends - great conversation and photos (!) on twitter, Litsy, and instagram. And, of course, the postcards :)

Overall, a grueling, but truly memorable reading experience.

My rating:



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