February 27, 2015
Baillie Scott: The Artistic House: by Diane Haigh
Academy Press, 1995, 128 pages
This book includes some good photographs of Baillie Scott’s Arts and Crafts houses. However, it was published in 1995, before some of these homes underwent significant restoration projects. The best part of the book is the diverse collection of essays. They cover biographical elements of Baillie Scott’s life, the history of particular homes that he designed, and in depth discussions of the various design techniques and materials that he used. One of the most interesting portions is a reprinted essay by John Betjeman, former Poet Laureate of England. It is a “personal reminiscence” of the young poet’s relationship with the architect. Also of interest is a section of “Advice for Baillie Scott House-Owners,” which counsels owners on the best ways to repair, improve, and add-on to these homes while maintaining their original integrity. The fact that many have since been restored, and some opened up to the public, is testament to value of the book, particularly at the time of its original publication.
February 25, 2015
Arts and Crafts Master: The Houses and Gardens of M. H. Baillie Scott: by Ian MacDonald-Smith
(Rizzoli, 2010, 240 pages)
This book is a beautiful collection of M. H. Baillie Scott’s (1865-1945) Arts and Crafts style homes. These homes, mainly located in the U.K., are characterized by their tiled fireplaces, large halls, and simple use of local materials. The Arts and Crafts movement recovered elements of a medieval aesthetic and emphasized skill of craftsman. These emphases are obvious in the beautiful wood and stonework displayed in these homes.
Baillie Scott’s homes were designed mainly for middle class families in an attempt to make beauty, excellence, and simplicity in design more widely available. In his introductory essay, MacDonald-Smith quotes Baillie Scott’s principle that
“there should be no arbitrary division between construction and decoration…Everywhere construction is decorative and decoration constructive, and when the builder’s work is done the paperhanger and painter only help, by pattern and colour, to put finishing touches to a construction which has already gone far to make the building beautiful.” (8)
This principle is clearly displayed in the homes featured. The natural materials used in the construction are showcased in beamed ceilings, colorful plaster, and intricate tiles. Much of the furniture is even built-in – mainly in the form of the “inglenooks.” These recessed fireplaces with built-in wooden benches serve as living spaces adjacent to larger rooms, and they are found in many of Baillie Scott’s homes. MacDonald-Smith’s helpful essays and wonderfully executed photographs serve these homes well.
February 23, 2015
The Raven Boys: by Maggie Stiefvater
(Scholastic, 2012, 416 pages)
Blue’s mother and aunts are all psychics. Blue seems to be the only one without this gift, though she does have the ability to enhance the supernatural abilities of others. One downfall of being surrounded by people who can predict the future is you know things about yourself you may wish you could forget. In Blue’s case she knows that she will be the cause of her true love’s death.
One night while Blue is out with her mother watching the “dead walk” she finds she is able to see one of the dead-to-be – a young man who attends the local private school. She normally makes a point of staying away from those students and refers to them as the Raven Boys. But the appearance of this young man, Gansey, sticks with her and when she meets him in real life she finds herself drawn to him. Along with three of his best friends, Blue joins Gansey in his quest to solve a mystery he’s been obsessed with for quite some time.
This is book one of the Raven Cycle series. I think it was built up too much so I found myself underwhelmed when I got around to reading it. I had a hard time getting into the story and didn’t really care about the main characters. It wasn’t until the end that I was actually intrigued to see what would happen as the pacing of the story picked up. I’m glad so many people enjoy the series but it’s not for me.
February 23, 2015
The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry: by Rachel Joyce
(Random House, 2012, 320 pages)
Harold Fry, a soft-spoken retiree, receives a letter from an old friend letting him know she’s dying from cancer. Harold writes her a letter and as he sets out to mail it he suddenly finds that he’s made the decision to walk across England and hand deliver it. This “unlikely pilgrimage” forces Harold to reflect on his life and it touches the lives of many others, from his wife to complete strangers.
Harold and his wife have had a strained marriage for years. His decision to set out on this trek leads both of them to think about what got their marriage to this point. Harold’s journey also ends up expanding to include people across the country who want to join him on this walk.
This was a quick read that was surprisingly touching.
February 23, 2015
The Enchanted: by Rene Denfeld
(Harper, 2014, 237 pages)
I picked this up after Sadie read it. I remember when I asked her about it she wasn’t sure how to really describe it to me and I understand why now. The “enchanted” world referred to in this novel is a small prison. Told from the perspective of a prisoner on death row we learn the stories of a death row inmate who WANTS to die, the investigator tasked with keeping him from being killed, a priest who has left the church, a warden who wants to do the right thing, and then we get glimpses into the life of our protagonist.
If this book were to have a color for how it makes you feel, that color would definitely be gray. There’s no question the book is intriguing but it just makes you feel gloomy while you’re reading and trying to figure out where the story’s going to go. In the midst of the darkness there are bright elements that Denfeld highlights – acts of kindness, attempts at love, and the desire to combat evil.
An interesting read. I wouldn’t pick it up if you’re looking for something that will make you feel good. But if you’re looking for something different, this will offer it to you.
February 23, 2015
The House Girl: by Tara Conklin
(William Morrow, 2013, 370 pages)
Two stories are intertwined in this novel. In 19th century Virginia we are introduced to Josephine, a young slave who wants nothing more than to escape from her life. One small outlet she has is when her mistress allows her to join her in her studio to paint and sketch. But Josephine has sights on running north…
In 21st century New York we meet Lina Sparrow, a young associate at a large law firm who has recently been given the assignment of finding a plaintiff for a reparations lawsuit her firm recently acquired. In her search for the perfect plaintiff she learns about the artist Lu Anne Bell – a 19th century southern woman whose art has recently come into the news as people question whether or not she was truly the artist behind her work.
Josephine and Lina’s stories inevitably cross. The book looks at history, art, and how people make the decision to claim the lives they truly want.
February 23, 2015
Five days at Memorial : life and death in a storm-ravaged hospital: by Sheri Fink
(Crown, 2013, 558 pages)
This nonfiction title won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the New York Times Book Review. Five Days at Memorial had been something I’d wanted to read for a long time. I’d had the book galley for years and finally found the time to pick it up. Five Days at Memorial takes a look back at 5 days at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
The circumstances faced by those who remained in the hospital during Katrina were intense and horrifying to say the least. Hospital workers and patients were put in situations it’s hard to wrap your mind around. Decisions had to be made about which patients to evacuate first and then it came down to how to treat those who remained and still needed care and medication. A number of the medical professionals who stayed behind later faced criminal charges for deciding to drug some patients to such an extent that it led to their deaths.
It’s still hard to believe how bad things were during Katrina; it’s hard to believe situations like those recounted could happen here in the United States. Even though it was difficult reading about the situations people at Memorial faced I was engrossed in the book. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. And we have it in the library so you can come right in and pick it up!
February 19, 2015
A Reunion of Ghosts: by Judith Claire Mitchell
(HarperCollins, 2015, 416 pages)
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell is a novel about three, forty-something, Jewish sisters named Lady, Vee, and Delph. The sisters live together in a rent-controlled, family apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The year is 1999. Lady, Vee, and Delph decide that on December 31, 1999 they will all commit suicide. Suicide runs in the family so it is not something that they fear or take lightly. Before they die, the sisters decide to write a single suicide note and include the history of the family. The family history includes their Jewish great grandfather who invented the gas that was used in the gas chambers of concentration camps.
A Reunion of Ghosts was not a quick read for me. I found the premise interesting, but I didn’t really like (or dislike) the sisters. Although the sisters are billed as “wickedly funny”, I didn’t really see the humor. I think that I continued to read this book because it was well written and to find out if the sisters really do commit suicide. If you want to know what (if anything) happens to the sisters, you’ll have to read A Reunion of Ghosts.
February 18, 2015
Church, Sacrament, and American Democracy: The Social and Political Dimensions of John Williamson Nevin’s Theology of Incarnation: by Adam S. Borneman
(Wipf & Stock, 2011, 202 pages)
The Mercersburg Theology and its primary theologians, John Williamson Nevin and Philip Schaff, are undergoing something of a revival. This nineteenth-century theological movement was defined by a high view of the sacraments, an emphasis on the catholicity of the Church, and a focus on the doctrine of the Incarnation. These emphases ran counter to the revivalistic ethos of much of the era’s Protestantism. Nevin in particular has begun to earn a reputation as one of the century’s most important American theologians.
Adam Borneman explores the political dimensions of Nevin’s theology in Church, Sacrament, and American Democracy. He examines the antebellum political context that Nevin was working within, and he shows how Nevin’s view of the social character of the Church and the sacraments challenge important American democratic principles. Borneman looks at the influence of Hegel and German idealism on Nevin. Nevin’s critical reception of continental philosophy is a clear indicator of the unique place that he holds among the American Reformed theologians of his day (most of whom were indebted to Scottish common sense philosophy, which sat much more comfortably alongside democratic ideals). Nevin is brought into conversation with the Eastern Orthodox tradition and with Radical Orthodoxy, a contemporary theological sensibility. The parallels that are to be found between Nevin and these theological traditions show just how unique a figure Nevin really is.
Borneman does an excellent job of drawing out the major themes of Nevin’s writings and looking at them through a political lens, drawing out the contemporary relevance of Nevin’s thought for questions regarding church/state relations. This relevance is further established through demonstrating the ways that Nevin anticipates contemporary trends in theology. This book should be helpful to those interested in political theology and the history of American Christianity.
February 17, 2015
The Cinderella murder by: Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
(Simon & Schuster, 2014, 320 pages)
Television producer Laurie Moran is delighted when the pilot for her reality drama, Under Suspicion, is a success. Even more, the program—a cold case series that revisits unsolved crimes by recreating them with those affected—is off to a fantastic start when it helps solve an infamous murder in the very first episode.
Now Laurie has the ideal case to feature in the next episode of Under Suspicion, the Cinderella Murder. When Susan Dempsey, a beautiful and multi-talented UCLA student, was found dead, her murder raised numerous questions. Why was her car parked miles from her body? Had she ever shown up for the acting audition she was due to attend at the home of an up-and-coming director? Why does Susan’s boyfriend want to avoid questions about their relationship? Was her disappearance connected to a controversial church that was active on campus? Was she close to her computer science professor because of her technological brilliance, or something more? And why was Susan missing one of her shoes when her body was discovered?
With the help of lawyer and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley, Laurie knows the case will attract great ratings, especially when the former suspects include Hollywood’s elite and tech billionaires. The suspense and drama are perfect for the silver screen—but is Cinderella’s murderer ready for a close-up?
First of all let me say that Mary Higgins Clark is one of my all-time favorite writers. I always like her books, but it seems that she’s happened upon a series with this one. This is the second book with the same core cast of characters; the TV producer, her father, (a retired cop), her son and a budding love interest! As a producer she creates shows where she tries to solve older unsolved mysteries. The mystery is good and the “guest” characters are interesting! I’m thoroughly enjoying this new concept and I can’t wait for the next one! Like her other books, it’s a fast and satisfying read. The characters are true to life, and the plot keeps you reading, wondering and guessing who committed the murder. A good page turner.