Book Share

Listening to: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; Weather: cloudy and fresh, 15°C

One of my three sisters lives in Yorkshire, in a country where books are valued like nothing else. She and I meet up on Skype usually on the weekends, and I not only get to live vicariously through her (my dream is to live there), but also I get read to. To my chagrin, she’s a far better reader than I am, aloud.

Usually our chats (this one over two hours!) consist of discussing food (today was Italian apple pie, roasted veggie pizza, and baked macaroni), weather (over there lovely: sunny and breezy and dry), National Trust places (too  numerous to list), and books (and pheasants; I’m in love with pheasants). We’re always each talking over each other, pulling books off our shelves and reading bits aloud, telling each other we must read such and such, and OH! This one…

On her part, several antiques were proffered (she much prefers second-hand, and while I appreciate them, I’m a new-book lover): a children’s book my mom used to read as a child (can’t remember the title now, from 1934); one by Enid Blyton about her nature walks called Nature Lover’s Book, with gorgeous sketches of flora and fauna; one by P.G. Wodehouse, whom she absolutely enjoys and recommends because of the hilarity (which I did get a sample of); and then also one by dear old Roald Dahl, God rest his perfect literary soul (it’s Roald Dahl month, did you know? The 13th is his birthday), called My Year. I can’t believe I haven’t read it, am mortified to admit I haven’t read any of his adult books. I need to read more of him, since I do love his writing so much.

From My Year she read me a section on apple picking and why children no longer climb trees to pick apples (Dahl speculates this is because they have too much pocket money to spend on crisps and Coke and it’s all thus made them sluggish and disinclined to do things like climb trees for apples.) The section was excellent and funny, typical Roald Dahl, and of course I’ve added the lovely book (illustrated by Quentin Blake, of course) to my wish list, which you’ll see on this site to the right in the sidebar.

It’s funny and earnestly sweet, when I think of it, how we carefully hold up covers and pages to the screen in an effort to show each other what the other must experience. That’s why we end up reading aloud, because web cams just aren’t that good.

I also added Howard’s End is on the Landing by Susan Hill to my wish list. My sister read a section from that one as well, a book about a year of reading. Like many of us, Hill had a bunch of books she owned that she hadn’t yet read. Ambitiously, like many of you (forget me, I know I’ll never succeed), she imposed on herself a book-buying ban, but for a year (imagine!!), and pledged to read the books on her shelf instead. Howard’s End is her voyage through those books. From what my sister read, it sounds quite good.

Lastly, while looking up another book she’d mentioned, I found BookBrowse (which I think I’ve been on before), on which was featured this gem: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. It’s a mystery by Helen Grant. This is what Random House has written about it:

Not since The Elegance of the Hedgehog [which I just bought but haven’t yet read] has a book arrived in America from Europe on such wings of critical praise and popularity. The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is an unforgettable debut—at once chilling and endearing, haunting and richly insightful—the story of one girl’s big heart and even bigger imagination, and of a world full of mystery, good, and evil.

It isn’t ten-year-old Pia’s fault that her grandmother dies in a freak accident. But tell that to the citizens of Pia’s little German hometown of Bad Münstereifel, or to the classmates who shun her. The only one who still wants to be her friend is StinkStefan, the most unpopular child in school.

But then something else captures the community’s attention: the vanishing of Katharina Linden. Katharina was last seen on a float in a parade, dressed as Snow White. Then, like a character in a Grimm’s fairy tale, she disappears. But, this being real life, she doesn’t return.

Pia and Stefan suspect that Katharina has been spirited away by the supernatural. Their investigation is inspired by the instructive—and cautionary—local legends told to them by their elderly friend Herr Schiller, tales such as that of Unshockable Hans, visited by witches in the form of cats, or of the knight whose son is doomed to hunt forever.

Then another girl disappears, and Pia is plunged into a new and unnerving place, one far away from fairy tales—and perilously close to adulthood.

Marvelously morbid, stunningly suspenseful, and exceptionally winning, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden is a new coming-of-age classic, and the most accomplished fiction debut in years.

Check out this first sentence: “My life would have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother had exploded.” Sounds excellent, yes? Enough that I wanted to share it with you and thus had the idea to write this post. Read from the book by following the link I gave you above on the title. I dislike the cover on amazon and this book, the one I’m showing you, looks much nicer in all, cover and typesetting. To a large extent, that’s important to me, to my reading experience.

Oh. Doesn’t today feel like an especially perfect day for book buying? I WANT TO SHOP!!

So. What books have you found while browsing that you’ve recently added to your wish list?

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  1. bee

    I love it that you and your sister read aloud to each other. I love it even more that you are good at it! Despite being a teacher for several years, I am not good at it. My favourite memory of being a kid at school is Mrs Harvey reading us ‘The BFG’ in grade 5. When I became a grade 5 teacher myself I realised what a skill it really is to make the story come alive when reading aloud!

    1. Steph Author

      I think it comes from having been read to a lot by our parents and teachers but also our parents always brought us home records of stories, like Roald Dahl reading Fantastic Mr. Fox, for instance, or someone reading A Christmas Carol. We ate that stuff up! We started reading aloud to each other from a very young age, copying our teachers, playing school, and then just lying on the bed or floor reading aloud to each other. I think all four of us love to do it, at least two of us definitely do. I loved to do it when babysitting and when I worked at a library, I did story time.

      As a teacher, why don’t you just practice aloud? At first it might sound stupid to you or weird, but just read aloud when you’re by yourself until you become comfortable with it. Get taken in by the story. That’s all it really takes, I think, to enjoy it besides enjoying what you’re reading.

  2. annie

    Reading aloud. There’s a book on that subject. Inkheart?! Some people just have it in them…saying that, I can only read aloud other people’s stories. I’m not a story teller myself.Yes, some people are brought up on bread and jam, others on Sunday dinners, still others on hot dogs and pizza. The Cilias were brought up on books….weren’t we the luckiest?! Steph, that was wonderful. That blog. I smiled, and grinned, and felt like the cat that got the canary. You epitomized it all in that one blog. It felt that way for me too, full to the brim!! Thank you!

  3. Steph Author

    Yes, the Inkheart trilogy. Loved it!!

    And no, thank you. I was telling mom how much we’ve come together, come to realize the values we have in common. It’s truly exciting for me!

  4. That Enid Blyton book looks beautiful!! And so does the Roald Dahl one which I want. In fact, all these books look really great.

    On Saturday, I took to the cottage: The Thirteenth Tale, which I am almost through, and also “GOURMET RHAPSODY” which is the second book after “The Elegance of The Hedgehog” which I totally enjoyed.

    OHHHHHHHHhhhhhh, but Gourmet Rhapsody was truly a rhapsody. Scrumptious Poetry. It’s very thin – you’ll finish it in two hours. You will eat it all up – gobble it – inhale it – and then wish you could eat it all over again.

  5. Steph Author

    T: They DO all look awesome. I’m so glad you bought Gourmet Rhapsody! I knew you’d like it! You know I bought it last week or two weeks ago, right? I posted about it. Anyway, I haven’t read it yet, but the good news is, I CAN eat it up all over again, whenever I feel like. The beauty of owning books. Ah.


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