Leslie's Bookcase

celebrating and recommending unforgettable books

I finally read Jane Eyre and am sorting out my feelings for Mr. Rochester

My thesis advisor told me that even professors of literature have at least one book they are embarrassed to admit they have never read (she wouldn’t even tell me hers!!) so I am not too embarrassed to admit: This is the first time I have read Jane Eyre. (This is of course not the only classic I have not read, but I’m not going to admit to the others right now!!)

Intrigued by the recently released Mr. Rochester, which I put on my summer reading list,  I knew I finally needed to read Jane Eyre first.

Because this is a book many of you have already read, my forthcoming discussion will contain spoilers. I hope you will join me in discussion about Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester.

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The Heart’s Invisible Furies

I just finished a wonderful book, one I couldn’t put down and one that made me laugh and cry: The Heart’s Invisible Furies: A Novel is a perfect example of why I love to read new books.

The heart of this novel by John Boyne, known for his bestselling novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is set Ireland, and even when the characters leave Ireland, it is still a novel about Ireland.

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The Sympathizer – on page and in person

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer: A Novel won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This book was already on my radar; I enjoyed two other recent winners of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction:

RELATED POST: All the Light We Cannot See (winner 2015)

RELATED POST: Underground Railroad (winner 2017)

So when I saw he was coming to my town to speak, I paused work on my summer reading list, which I am frantically trying to finish, to read this award-winning novel. And what a great decision this was!!! Reading this book plus seeing him speak and experiencing the audience’s reaction to his book ending up a highlight of my literary year.

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The Force and “Denny Malone”

I needed a couple of days to work out my feelings for “Denny Malone,” the good cop/bad cop character in The Force: A Novel. Whatever I end up thinking of Malone, a fictional character, it is a testament to a writer and a book that I was so conflicted.

This book was included on my summer reading list and is one of the last I’m finishing up before moving on to making a fall reading list. (My summer reading list is updated with several reviews and reflections.)

Denny Malone is a bad cop in the way that he takes bribes, takes money and drugs from crime scenes, and even sells the drugs back to the street. He does this all supposedly to “provide for his family” even though he usually chooses not to see them. These are some of the problems I have with Denny Malone. Also that “The fuck” without a question mark is often the way he asks a question in the dialogue.

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Books my 3rd grader can’t put down!

I love that my kids love to read. My oldest will actually read through football games and shopping trips. Sometimes it’s a bit much, even for me! And when I’ve mentioned his habits to other parents – and parents have actually stopped us in a store or at a game – they want to know: What is he reading that is soooo engrossing??

So I put together a different type of reading list than my usual.

These recommendations are for (approximately) 3rd graders. Most of these are OK for 2nd-4th graders; my son can read at a higher level; however, he still prefers books in the “doodle fiction” or cartoon-ish genre. Even though he is an avid reader, he is VERY particular about what he wants to read. The books that are just pure words that I wish he would read, well he is just not too interested yet. And I’ve decided not to fight it for now, because at least he is reading…right?? So because the books I’ve listed are not too “heavy,” they are great picks for kids who aren’t as excited about reading as well as for those who are already bookworms.

And these books are all part of a series so you can go back for more if the first one is a hit with your child! Continue reading

“American War” – imaginative & terrifying

American War: A novel is imaginative and terrifying.

Set from 2075 – 2175, the former “United States” is separated into the “Red” southern states and the “Blue” northern states. They separated over fossil fuels – the reds wanted to keep using, and the blues did not. But now, so much more separates them as they fight a violent civil war.

Also in this new world — a map is included at the front of the book — Florida is completely gone (it fell into the ocean) as is much of Louisiana. South Carolina is completely quarantined for a disease.  Scared yet? Recent events (both political and environmental) make this an even more disturbing read.

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“Gone Country” and “Drive” with Alan Jackson

I embraced the opportunity to see Alan Jackson in concert. This may seem random considering the last few concerts I blogged about were: The Killers, Tom Petty, and Green Day.

But it wasn’t random. I have loved Alan Jackson since the late 90s when I moved to Dallas and thought “Gone Country” might be my theme song. It wasn’t; I was never  that “country” and have never owned a pair of cowboy boots. But that didn’t keep me from listening to the album “Everything I Love” over and over. The songs on this album still make me think of my time in Dallas.

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If the Creek Don’t Rise – a tale of Appalachia both heartbreaking and beautiful

I added If the Creek Don’t Rise: A Novel to my summer reading list because the setting and description reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy.

This book is fiction, but many of the themes are the same as in Elegy: people in isolated communities, living in poverty, with addiction and violence, and no easy way out.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

First of all, It includes strong women characters, one is Sadie, who has followed the usual path in marrying a bad husband too young, but she has a plan. And another character who isn’t even mentioned in the publisher’s notes, Miss Shaw, a teacher who comes to the area to attempt to make a difference, was my favorite. No previous teacher has lasted very long in this area.

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Celebrating “The Glass Castle” before the movie

Let’s celebrate the The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls as the movie is released.

For me, never before has a memoir read so much like fiction and never before have I both loved and hated the same “character” so much.

If you haven’t read this book yet (of course many of you have as it was on the bestsellers list for a few years) I highly recommend doing so either before or instead of the movie.

Even if you have already read the book I hope you will enjoy reminiscing a bit with me.

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My visit to the American Writers Museum

During my recent trip to Chicago, I checked out the new American Writers Museum.

I highly recommend this experience to all fans and beneficiaries of American literature (and if you are reading my blog I’m assuming you are both of these!!). I found it interesting, inspiring, and even emotional.

This museum just opened in May, and I think the word is still getting out about it. I am excited to tell you more!

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