Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Bridgetown Sonata: Sonata Mulattica by Emmanuel Dongala -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


cover of The Bridgetown Sonata: Sonata Mulattica by Emmanuel Dongala


After a whirlwind couple of weeks at work, I can finally catch my breath! Thank heavens! Which means I remembered to put up this Book Beginnings post on time, Thursday evening, for people who like to post early. I've been forgetting to do that -- sorry! 

You do not have to post early. You can post on Friday. You can even come back and add a post any time during the week. 

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a chance for readers to share the first sentence (or so) of the book they are reading that week. You can also share a book you are excited about, even if you aren't reading it right now. 

Please add the link to your Book Beginning blog or social media post in the Linky box below. If you post or share on SM, please use the hashtag #bookbeginnigns. 


From The Bridgetown Sonata: Sonata Mulattica by Emmanuel Dongala, translated by Marjolijn de Jager (2021, Pegasus Books):

Borne by the last arpeggio notes of the final rondo, momentarily suspended above the violin -- the time of an eighth-note rest -- the bow attacked the code of the last movement, the allegro spiritoso, in a dazzling play of shifting and multi-colored cadences whose final very sharp trills were lost in the sound of the full orchestra and the applause of the audience that, having held its breath until then, could no longer restrain itself. 

It is hard to write about music, but that sentence captures the drama of a classical concert. 

George Bridgetower was an 18th Century violin virtuoso and the son of a Black man from the Caribbean. He was a child prodigy who entertained Parisienne high society on the eve of the French Revolution. He then fled to London where he was a court favorite of the Prince of Wales. 

When he moved to Vienna, he became the friend and collaborator of Ludwig Van Beethoven. The two composed the "Sonata Mulattica" together, but Beethoven later changed the name to the "Kreutzer Sonata" when the two had a falling out. 

Emmanuel Dongala's new historical novel brings life to this forgotten story. He makes the most of what is known about Bridgetower's life, telling a fascinating story of race, class, creativity, and friendship in 18th Century Europe.


Please link to your Book Beginnings post in the box below. 

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From The Bridgetown Sonata:
That was why he'd put on the fine suit he'd set aside the night before. Furthermore, instead of a sword he was wearing his Turkish Saber at his side.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

April Wrap Up -- My April Books

basket of books


April showers brought these May flowers! And a basket of books I read in April.

I continued to make progress on my TBR 21 in '21 and Mt. TBR Challenges and the Vintage Mystery Challenge. I read one that could count for the European Reading Challenge, although it is not a challenging pick. I am not making much progress on the Back to the Classics Challenge so need to pay more attention to that one in the months ahead.

Here are the ten books I read in April, in the order I read them, not the order in the picture. There wasn't a dull read in the bunch. 

See any favorites or anything that looks good?


The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam. This is the second in her Old Filth trilogy. I read the first, Old Filth, last month. Wonderful books! ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

Last Friends  by Jane Gardam, the last book in the trilogy. I am glad I read them straight through to get the most out of the experience. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen’s new autobiography (not shown because I read it with my ears). I wanted to read this because of all the controversy and am glad I did. He reads the audiobook himself, which I like with nonfiction. It is also really funny. This was a surprising highlight of the month. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

Dead Cert by Dick Francis, his first novel, published in 1962 and showing the hallmarks of his always-satisfying stories. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, more vintage mystery. This one a deserved classic. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

Obasan by Joy Kogawa is on the Erica Jong Top 100 20th Century Novels by Women list and has been on my TBR shelf a long time. It is about Japanese Canadians during WWII. I am familiar with the history of interned Japanese Americans during WWII, but knew nothing about what happened to Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia during and after the war. Heartbreaking. It is excellent novel and a moving novel. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

The Wisdom of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton, vintage mystery short stories. (Free on Kindle, by the way.) ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

The Florence King Reader is an introduction to this eccentric, hilarious, impossible to categorize writer. It has samples from all her books. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

Faithful Place by Tana French. I’m slowly making my way through Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. This one is the third in the series and my favorite so far. In general, I enjoy them tremendously but find they all get a bit soft in the middle.

How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century by P. Gaye Tapp, Foreword by Charlotte Moss, is another beautiful book published by Rizzoli. This was  part of my project to read all my coffee table books. This one inspired a mantel makeover, which was long overdue. ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

What were your favorite April books? Or are you already deep into your May reading?


cover of How They Decorated: Inspiration from Great Women of the Twentieth Century by P. Gaye Tapp

Monday, May 3, 2021

A Batch of New Spring Books -- MAILBOX MONDAY



It's been a while since I've done a Mailbox Monday post. Not that books haven't been trickling steadily into my house each week. I just haven't had my act together. I do love Mailbox Monday! I need to get myself more organized about posting. 

I gave myself a little Monday motivation by creating a new Mailbox Monday picture. It isn't much to sneeze at, so I think I'll keep puttering. But it will do for now. 

On with it! What books came into your house last week? These five new nonfiction books came my way and I am excited about all of them for different reasons:

cover of The Garden in Every Sense and Season: A Year of Insights and Inspiration from My Garden by Tovah Martin

The Garden in Every Sense and Season: A Year of Insights and Inspiration from My Garden by Tovah Martin is new from Timber Press

What a great idea for a garden book! Tovah Martin describes a year in her garden broken down by season, starting with Spring, and by what is going on for each of the five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. It really gets you thinking -- and feeling -- about your garden on many levels. 

This one could be a good idea for Mother's Day!

cover if The Age of Decadence: A History of Britain: 1880-1914 by Simon Heffer

The Age of Decadence: A History of Britain: 1880-1914 by Simon Heffer is new from Pegasus Books. 

There was a lot going on in Britain in the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods leading up to the First World War. Simon Heffer dives deep into this fascinating period in his new 900+ page history.

The way my husband snatched this up as soon as he saw it tells me this one may be a good idea for Father's Day.

cover of No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami

No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami is new from Head of Zeus

This is the story of how four women -- Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Natalie Barney, and Gertrude Stein -- fostered the Modernist movement in Paris in the 1920s. Yes, I wanted to read it because I love the brash title!

This is Emerick's memoir about moving to the Alaskan coast when she was 38, becoming a kayak ranger, and trying to stay married to a man from another island. 

cover of On the Run: Finding the Trail Home by Catherine Doucette

On the Run: Finding the Trail Home by Catherine Doucette is also new from OSU Press.

This is another book by an adventure-seeking woman. Doucette is a backcountry skier, horseback rider, and mountaineer. In this collection of essays, she looks at how her outdoor lifestyle give her excitement and joy but has limits and requires sacrifices.  

So what do you think of these Mailbox Monday books? Do any of them catch your eye?

And which do you prefer, my new Mailbox Monday picture at the top, or this original Mailbox Monday picture?


Join other book lovers on Mailbox Monday to share the books that came into your house last week. Or, if you haven't played along in a while, like me, share the books that you have acquired recently.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us by Lawrence Weinstein -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



Welcome to Book Beginnings on Fridays, where books lovers gather to share the opening sentence (or so) of the book that caught their fancy this week. 

Please add the link to your post in the Linky box below. You can play along on your blog or social media, whatever generates a URL link. If you don't have a blog or social media account but want to play along, just share the first sentence in a comment below. If you do, please tell us the name of your book and author's name.

If you post or link on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag.


From Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us by Lawrence Weinstein:

When my devoted wife, Diane Weinstein, was still living -- and avidly contributing her input on the first version of this book -- I had a cockeyed dream one night in which she played a crucial part.
-- from the author's Introduction.
To get what I required for survival and a good, full life, I must often turn the ears of others in my direction.
-- from chapter one, “Getting Noticed: Colons." 

You can tell by the title and cover that this is not your ordinary grammar book. I love grammar books and self-help books so I'm game! 

Later in the introductory sections, Weinstein explains that his book explores the idea of a "connection between grammar and successfully obtaining something we human beings require in order to live fully." The first section, for example, looks at agency as "a person's sense of agency is his or her foremost enabler." In chapter one, Weinstein argues that using more colons will help people build confidence and increase their sense of agency.

This is going to be fun!

Do you read grammar books? Would you read this one? Take a look at Weinstein's website before you answer. He might convince you. 


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The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

From Grammar for a Full Life:
Unfortunately, though, English is sorely lacking in grammatical constructions that do justice to the active-passive hybrid state of mind involved in pulling off most real deeds on Earth. Sentence after sentence, our language forces us to choose between active voice and passive voice.
This book is a dream come true for grammar geeks looking to delve into the deeper meaning of grammar. I think I'm going to love it. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Windhall by Ava Barry -- BOOK REVIEW



Ava Barry’s new novel Winhall brings the Golden Age of Hollywood back to life through a film noir lens. Eleanor Hayes was a rising star in the 1940s. As movie director Theodore Langley’s leading lady, she was the toast of the town. That is, until she was murdered during the filming of their last movie and her body discovered in the garden of Theo’s Hollywood mansion, Windhall. Theo was tried for her murder but let off on a technicality. He fled town, leaving Windhall empty and moldering.

Decades later, Eleanor’s murder is the hobbyhorse of investigative journalist Max Hailey, who thinks Theo was framed. When a young woman’s dead body is found near Windhall, wearing the same type of dress as Eleanor and killed in the same way, Max sees a story idea and an opportunity to investigate Theo’s innocence. Since the reclusive Theo has returned to L.A., the pieces fall into place for Max’s big chance.

The story is mostly set in present day. But Barry cleverly uses a journal of Theo’s to introduce scenes from the 1940s from Theo’s point of view. She used a different font for the diary entries, a font that looks a little like handwriting, which highlights the transition between the present day and historic storylines. The technique works well, especially when Theo describes making movies in Hollywood in the 1940s, as in passages like this:
When we need cowboys for a shoot, we drive over to Gower and Sunset, where all the unemployed cowboys hang out, waiting for work. They drift in from the desert between jobs wrangling cattle, because they know that film people pay a lot more money for a lot less work. The same goes for Indians and churchgoers, cops and priests – if you can’t find an actor to suit your needs, you drive around town looking for the real thing. He’ll turn up, sooner or later.
The technique works less well when, in several of the journal passages, Theo records entire scenes of dialog. This makes for a good novel, but an inauthentic diary. Maybe Theo could have written in an excuse like, “As is my habit with this diary, I’ll record the conversation exactly as I remember it. I may want to use it in a movie one day.” Or something to make the dialog passages less noticeable. But that is a quibble in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable book.

Barry tells the story well, with plenty of twists and turns, Old Hollywood atmosphere, interesting characters, and an exciting finish. Fans of old movies and good mysteries will love Windhall.

Windhall by Ava Barry came out in March 2021 from Pegasus Books.

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