Friday, April 30, 2010

Physick Books and Family History

By the time I was 100 pages in to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, it had brought to mind that I have an ancestress, Elizabeth Emerson, who was hung on Boston Common around the time of the Salem Witch hysteria. You know, one of those, "Oh, I should really learn more about her" ancestors. It wasn't until I paid a visit to the Haverhill Historic Society last summer that I even learned of Elizabeth's existence--it's her sister, Hannah Emerson Duston, who is relatively famous, and it was the legend of Hannah that brought us to Haverhill in the first place.
Tuesday night, I set down Deliverance Dane and picked up an old copy of the Emerson genealogy. I verified Elizabeth's name and entered it into Google--not really expecting anything at all, but thinking that was a starting point. Was I wrong! Elizabeth is infamous! She was hung in June 1693, three days after Cotton Mather delivered a sermon about her...Although she was not hung for witchcraft, she was presumably held with all those women from Salem who were. Elizabeth's crime was allegedly infanticide, and--a crime I was unaware even existed--whoredom.
The best summary I've been able to find of Elizabeth's life is here:
Tonight I finished the book. I also discovered that Elizabeth's first cousin, Joseph, was married to a woman who was tried and hung as a witch in the Salem-area hysteria of 1692. Rest in peace, Elizabeth and Martha Emerson. The rest of you--read this great book!

April 2010 Summary:
  1. The Hole We're In (Gabrielle Zevin)
  2. An Expert in Murder (Nicola Upson)
  3. Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen)
  4. Henry's Sisters (Cathy Lamb)
  5. Tales from Outer Suburbia (Shaun Tan)
  6. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Katherine Howe)

Tales from Outer Suburbia

What a book. Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia is deceptively simple; the metaphors are compelling and ring true while the text itself is surreal, almost bizarre. I will be giving it as a gift for graduating seniors this June.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Making up for lost time

I finished two books this week: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, and Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb.

I was hooked on Garden Spells almost immediately; after all, the main character lives in her grandmother's Queen Anne Victorian with a tulip tree in the front yard. How could I not relate?!? But instead of two crabapple trees in the back yard, Claire's house has a beautiful garden and a magical apple tree. When her sister arrives with her young daughter in tow, they take refuge in the family homestead as well. It was a little predictable, but it was such a good read that I didn't put it down until it was done--at 2:00 a.m.!

Then I read Henry's Sisters, loaned to me too long ago. Wow. It could have been a southern novel--dysfunctional family living in grandmother's house, check!--but that it's about a Catholic family in Oregon. Henry is a developmentally delayed man who loves everyone, and his sisters return to the family home (and business-a bakery) when their mother has open-heart surgery. Their grandmother believes she's Amelia Earhart, which adds a little comedy. That's all I'll say, but I'll follow it with a caveat: I spent most of yesterday afternoon sobbing through the last 100 or so pages of the book.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A quick read that took a loooong time

I just finished An Expert in Murder: A Josephine Tey Mystery by Nicola Upson. I am a Josephine Tey fan, and was thrilled when my friend (and fellow bibliophile) Banna recommended a book about a beloved author. This did not disappoint! Upson captures the language and complexity of Tey's best novels, and writes a compelling story to boot.

Now, the thing about a mystery is that any information is too much, so my lips are sealed!

The book took longer to finish than it should due to an extended visit from a very sweet 16-month-old boy. Thank goodness it's spring break and I have time to read some more!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Hole We're In

The title of the book I just finished seemed a reasonable title for its corresponding blog; don't we all spend our lives in (and out) of holes? (And, as Gabrielle Zevin wisely observes, we all end up in the ultimate hole at the end of our lives...)

I was so excited to read the newest book by the author of Elsewhere, which is easily my all-time favorite. This book was not nearly so beautifully crafted--in fact, each section seemed almost as though it could have been written by an entirely different author. But the questions it raises are certainly haunting, and it shines a much-needed light on the lifestyle we live and the choices we make.

I am not sure that I would have kept reading this book if it had not been written by a beloved author, but I am certainly glad that I did. In the end, it is one of the most personally affecting books I have read this year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Time Marches On, REDUX

Have I used that title already in March? The best part about it being April is that I can stop using these corny blog titles. Anyway, a reference to TIME is a propos (how does one add accents, I wonder?), as the last book I finished in March was Stopping Time by Melissa Marr.

I know that series have to be released slowly as to allow the authors time to...well, write the books. But the downside of that, as a reader, is that I can't always remember which character (or even which series) is which. Melissa Marr wrote brilliantly, as always, but I was at least halfway through this novella before I remembered clearly who Leslie (the main character) was! Still, it was a good, quick read. And it was free on my Kindle! :-)

So, titles I finished in March:

  1. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
  2. Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers
  3. Wondrous Strange by Leslie Livingston
  4. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  5. Darklight by Leslie Livingston
  6. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  7. Food Rules by Michael Pollan
  8. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. Stopping Time by Melissa Marr