Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary together with Sellic Spell by J.R.R. Tolkien

I'm a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and I always said I would read his translation of Beowulf if it was ever published in a book. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary together with Sellic Spell, edited by Christopher Tolkien, was published in May 2014.

I give this book five stars because (1) it’s Beowulf, (2) it’s Tolkien, and (3) it has a lovely cover. I confess to being thoroughly lost much of the time, both while reading the poem and while reading the commentary. But how fabulous it would have been to attend a Tolkien lecture! At least I got some sense of that. I most enjoyed finding little items in the commentary that resonated with my knowledge of The Lord of the Rings.

The most readable part of the book for me was Sellic Spell. Tolkien wrote:

This version is a story, not the story. It is only to a limited extent an attempt to reconstruct the Anglo-Saxon tale that lies behind the folk-tale element in Beowulf .... Its principal object is to exhibit the difference of style, tone and atmosphere if the particular heroic or historical is cut out. ... And by making it timeless I have followed a common habit of folk-tales as received.” (p. 355)

Whatever its principal object, Sellic Spell was very readable and understandable compared to Beowulf itself.

My absolute most favorite part of the book is this line from Christopher Tolkien about including the Old English version of Sellic Spell:  “[T]he interest of this text lies chiefly, in my view, in its demonstration of my father’s fluency in the ancient tongue.” [p. 407] 

It’s touching that Christopher Tolkien is so fiercely proud of his father’s accomplishments. I'm glad I made my way through this book, and will probably purchase a copy at some point to add to my personal library.

Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary together with Sellic Spell can be found at the Galesburg Public Library in the Fiction section under Tolkien and in the Nonfiction section at 823.912 TOL.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

Oh Agatha, Agatha - will you never learn? Apparently not, and perhaps that's why we love her, but it would be nice to see some emotional growth in our beloved Agatha Raisin.

The Blood of an Englishman is the 25th book in the Agatha Raisin series, and it is for the die-hard Agatha fan only, not someone new to the series.

This is a typical Agatha Raisin novel - mildly amusing narrative, outrageous plot, Agatha on the prowl for a husband and jealous of her young assistant Toni. This book requires no effort to read.

If you like cozy mysteries set somewhere in the United Kingdom - this series is set in the Cotswolds - I do recommend the Agatha Raisin series. Agatha is a middle-aged detective who is ferocious in her pursuit of a crime's resolution. She is insecure, and her gruff exterior hides a good heart. She is an unashamed smoker who adores her cats. Her surprising best friend is the vicar's wife. The first book is Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. Beaton is a prolific author, and the Galesburg Public Library has copies of her books in Fiction, Large Print, mystery paperback, and audiobook, all under her last name.

I read a Netgalley advance copy of The Blood of an Englishman. It is scheduled to come out on September 16.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Posted for reader Kaye:

Five Days Left is the first book for the author, and I hope it won’t be her last. She very quickly involves you in the lives of her characters.

The main character, Mara, has Huntington’s disease and the author had definitely researched this dreadful disease.

It is a story of Mara’s love for her husband, daughter, parents and friends. An unselfish love that does not want to put them through the pain of seeing the devastating pain the disease will have on her. It tells of her friendship on an internet online community of non-traditional families for five years, a chat site for adoptive, step foster, gay and other parenting arrangements. Mara was an adopted child, and so is her daughter Lakshmi. This support group has helped to answer the many questions in raising a child.

I loved reading about the families in the support group, and their friendship and support, all done anonymously!

I could hardly put this book down once I had started it, and I quickly finished it the second day. I read it at railroad crossings, at my granddaughter’s soccer practice, and every spare minute.

I look forward to reading other books from this author. I loved it!

-Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll / August 28, 2014 

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly

Posted for reader Kaye: 

Broadchurch by Erin Kelly is a murder mystery set in a small British coastal town. Very quickly you are engrossed in the lives of the inhabitants and feel they are your family and friends.

The lead detective is new to the small town, and has been sent there after bungling a murder case in his old city. The detective working with him is a woman from the area, returning from a three week family vacation, who thought she was going to be promoted to the job he now has.

I couldn’t put this book down, and did not know or even suspect who the killer was until the last four chapters.

This book is based on a British TV series that aired in 2013. It is coming to the United States TV this fall season. The series is called Gracepoint and I am looking forward to viewing it.

I look forward to more books from this author!

-Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll / September 4, 2014

Note: Broadchurch is due to be published September 16, 2014.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Calico Joe by John Grisham

Calico Joe is a lovely and lyrical short novel, a bit sentimental at times but very nicely done. I am a Cubs fan and particularly enjoyed that one of the main characters is a Cubs player in the early 1970s. I remember so many of the real players who are mixed in with the fictional ones.

This is my first John Grisham novel, so far as I remember, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio version. The voice of the narrator rang true. Definitely recommended for baseball fans, and also those who like a good story about family issues and resolutions.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Posted for reader Kaye:

Mysterious disappearances of people in town - over decades of time. Gruesome murders and badly battered bodies. Superstitions and old legends whispered among the villagers. A killer that evades capture. Warnings to stay out of the woods taught to the children from birth.

An old diary is found hidden away that tells of a portal from which a grieving loved one might call a dead person back for seven days if they perform a ritual. But sometimes this dead person, called "a sleeper," doesn't leave at the end of their seven days.

The story of The Winter People is set in West Hall, Vermont, and author Jennifer McMahon does a great job describing the hills and countryside. She makes you feel like you know the characters and keeps you reading to see what is going to happen next. I look forward to reading Promise Not to Tell, which is another of her books.

 - Kaye

[The Winter People and other books by Jennifer McMahon can be found at the Galesburg Public Library under the author's last name in the adult Fiction section.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine is a sweet novel about half siblings in New York in the turbulent 1960s.

Fin is 11 when his mother dies, leaving him an orphan. His father, also dead, had a daughter by a previous marriage, and Lady is the only family Fin has left. Lady is 23, and not exactly the model guardian. She retrieves Fin and his dog Gus from the Connecticut farm where he grew up and takes him back to New York City with her.

Lady is a wild child, a glamorous figure Fin hardly knows. She’s seeking something, and even she is not sure what. Fin is seeking a family, and he finds it, awkwardly, in Lady and her black maid Mabel.

Lady is the kind of person everyone falls in love with. She has multiple suitors and three in particular. Fin has a favorite, a Hungarian named Biffi, and Fin adds Biffi to his family as well, although Lady is reluctant to settle down with any of them.

The dialog in Fin & Lady is smart, a little too smart sometimes, but enjoyable. Information about the 1960s is woven into the plot in a believable way for the most part. Fin is always reading, various real books that also reflect on the times and Fin’s life with Lady.

I liked spending time with Fin and Lady, and I enjoyed Cathleen Schine’s writing style. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a nice character-driven novel. Fin & Lady can be found at the Galesburg Public in both regular Fiction and Large Print.