Happy Monday! The past week was pretty busy with work so not much reading or audio booking was done, but I did manage to collect quite a few additions for my bookcase (book haul post coming soon!). I also got completely distracted from my current books and went a little crazy placing holds on my library’s website…the limit, by the way, is 30. Which really doesn’t seem like all that many, really, 50 would be much more reasonable, but I guess I’m only saying that so I could go even crazier with my already obscene number of holds going on.
Update: Another flood day here in Houston today. The water’s still rising, but luckily my area is relatively high ground compared to the picture below (borrowed from Houston subreddit). Guess I’ll be spending my day reading and baking banana bread. 🙂 Stay safe and dry fellow Houstonians!
What have you been reading lately?
The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
The story begins as young Ciro and his brother are left at a nunnery by their mother in the Italian alps – their father has died and she is unable to carry on, completely overtaken by grief. Though only a small portion of the story, her abandonment casts a shadow on the rest of Ciro’s life, no matter what good comes his way, he is always saddened by the memory of his mother. But Ciro discovers a priest in a most unholy act and is driven away from their small community, but not before he meets the enchanting young Enza. Driven apart by fate, their separate paths both lead to America and the couple meets again in New York City. Heartbreaking, mournful, and beautiful all at once, their love is renewed again and again as fate attempts to break them apart, brought together once and for all by their unbending faith and goodwill.
“Life, Enza decided, is not about what you get, but what is taken from you. It’s in the things we lose that we discover what we most treasure.” – The Shoemaker’s Wife
Their story is an emotional heartfelt journey with many ups and downs. There were many times when I truly couldn’t guess if they would end up together, or if they did, live happily afterward. Throughout their story, I desperately wanted to slap some sense into Ciro for not knowing what he wanted, and then when he did know, for being too weak to do something about it. Their story is truly frustrating! Between their meetings, both Ciro and Enza pursue their passions showing hard work truly does pay off, especially for two souls always at the ready to help those in need, even when they, too, are in state of desperation. From the glittering descriptions of the Italian Alps to their exasperating life in New York City, the novel is an exquisite work examining the beauty of life and the fortuitousness of good faith.
Rating: 5 Stars
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Relic Master is a satire on the Catholic Church and the sometimes questionable (i.e. lucrative) organization it has become over the ages. Dismas, the relic master, is caught between his two esteemed patrons, Frederick the Wise and Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz, as Frederick sides with the scandalous writings of Martin Luther that threaten to ruin Albrecht’s lucrative schemes to profit from the sale of indulgences. Dismas and his friend, the historic painter Albrecht Durer, take advantage of the Cardinal by selling him a counterfeit shroud, but when the plot is uncovered, they’ll have to risk their lives to complete their penance. Only by translating (stealing) the true Shroud of Chambery will their souls be saved from the eternal fires of hell. Although the pair personally sides with Luther’s views against indulgences, who really wants to risk his being wrong?
“Why Should priests – or cardinals – have the power to condemn us or absolve our sins? I’m with Luther. Salvation comes from Faith. Faith alone.” – The Relic Master
The satire is a success. Witty, engaging, riotously funny, the story is a perfect parody for the current landscape in American politics, exposing the raw avarice, corruption, hypocrisy, and self-delusion behind the coming election’s candidates. Buckley, also the author of Thank You for Smoking, could not have picked a better time to release the novel, for although there is no real Luther, there most certainly is a Cardinal of Mainz (Trump). Some of the characters in the novel are actual historic characters, and there really is a shroud, the Shroud of Turin. Finishing the novel, I couldn’t help but look into the history of the shroud and the narcissistic painter, Durer. There’s not much of a connection between the two, but many believe the form on the shroud looks oddly familiar to that of the artist. Whether true or a fabrication, the shroud is the pinnacle of holy relics. Whether a fan of satire, of history,or of current day politics, this is not one to miss, and I’ll definitely be making a point to read more from Buckley’s bibliography int he future.
Rating: 5 Stars
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma
Why We Came to the City follows a group of twenty somethings living in New York City. They’ve come to the city to pursue their dreams and make it big, but the city is more precarious than any of them could have imagined. Just when everything seems to be falling into place, a dramatic blow forces the group to cover their losses and reexamine every aspect of their lives to find a way to carry on, hopefully stronger than before.
As a recent college grad with a few working years under my belt, I thought I’d really relate to the characters in the story. They’re struggling, I’m struggling – I thought it would be a good fit with my twenty-something crisis, especially after the opening essay on youth making it in a city that only spits in their face.
“For the rest of the world, it seemed to us, had somewhat hastily concluded that it was the chief end of man to thank God it was Friday and pray that Netflix could never forsake them.” – Why We Came to the City
I was captivated by Jansma’s way with words – he perfectly captured my lust for success and what I’d have to do to get there: the late hours, lack of meals, no sleep, stifling work spaces, little pay… He got me good. Until I met his characters. They were completely over the top, pretentious rich kids who know nothing about hard work, or at least that’s how they come across in the beginning of the story. I didn’t make it much further. His writing, too, seemed forced, like he was reaching for a story line that just didn’t fit with his characters. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll give it another chance someday, but for now, I just have so many other books I’d rather be reading.
Rating: 2 Stars