Sunday Salon: Maiden Voyage

Maiden Voyage

About once a year, I re-read the book Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi. I originally read it when it first came out, and I remember being curled up on the bed in my dorm room on a cold, grey, San Francisco morning, drinking hot tea and living vicariously on Aebi’s solo voyage around the world. At the time she made the voyage, she was just a couple of years older than I was. At the time I read it, I was the same age she was in the book.

It’s a cold, grey Texas Sunday, and even though I have a thousand things I should be doing, I can’t help but want to escape into this book. It’s technically a memoir, but it’s such a great story that it reads like a novel, and whenever I return to its pages, I’m also sailing along with Tania on her sailboat the Varuna with her cat Dinghy (and later Tarzoon), as she discovers life and love and learns about celestial navigation and engine maintenance.

I’ve made this journey many, many times with Tania over the last twenty or so years, and every time, I find something new in her story, or it evokes something new in my head.

And of course, with each reading, my fantasy of living aboard a sailboat for several months is rekindled.

Except, of course, that I don’t really want to live that basically. I mean, I am the woman who hates camping, and thinks “roughing it” is a hotel that doesn’t have room service or free wifi.

Even so, it’s nice to relive Tania’s Maiden Voyage from time to time.

Just as it’s nice to relive any favorite dream, and enjoy the wishing as much, or more, as you would the fact of what you’re wishing for.

Sunday Salon: Bookless?

The Sunday

September is nearly over, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t finished reading a single book. As is my custom, I have several started, but nothing is capturing my attention. I could blame work, or the weather, or any number of other things, but the reality is that I just haven’t been able to fall into anything I’m reading.

I have this urge to invite people over just to read plays or short stories and discuss them. Not books. I have no patience for book clubs and book groups, because I read too quickly (most of the time), and by the time everyone else has finished the book, I’ve read five others. I was this way in school, too, which made literature classes difficult for me. I wish it had occurred to me to ask for the exam work as soon as I finished reading a book; it never did.

And so, this blog lies empty-ish, and I skipped posting anything to Sunday Salon last week, and I want to read, I do, but my brain won’t engage.

On the other hand, I’ve written twelve pages of a story I’m working on for fun, and five of my novel, so the month hasn’t been completely useless.

Sunday Salon: Re-discovery

The Sunday

Have you ever bought or borrowed a book, either because it looked interesting, or because a friend recommended it, and then found that you’ve actually read it before?

That happened to me recently. I was exchanging emails and blog comments with my friend Becca, because I’d mentioned that one of my favorite books to re-read was Bread Alone. She suggested I might like The Whole World Over, by Julia Glass. Later that weekend, I bought a copy at the local used bookstore, in hardcover, for under $5.

That evening in the bubble bath, I cracked open the book, only to find the opening pages eerily familiar. Sure, there’d been a sense of deja vu when I’d looked at the cover in the store, but I’d just assumed I’d seen similar cover art. Nevertheless, I began reading the book anew.

And the thing is, I don’t mind this sort of rediscovery. I remember that I’d enjoyed the book the first time I’d read it, but I read very quickly, so there are times when, depending on my mood in the moment, certain things catch my attention differently. Example: When I was little, and read Little Women for the first time, the part that I cried through was when Beth died. When I read it again as a young adult, who’d had some experience with love and relationships, I was moved by the scene where Jo refuses Laurie, because on one level, we want these two brash kids to be together, but anyone who’s had a best friend of the opposite gender knows that those relationships never work when they cross into romance.

The Whole World Over, then, is going to remain my “bathtub book” for the next couple of weeks. I know the story well enough that I don’t need to race through it to see what happens, but that doesn’t mean I won’t appreciate a slow, savoring read of it while I soak in lavender-scented bath bubbles.

What about you? Do you ever “re-discover” a book? Do you embrace the situation, or feel cheated out of a new story?

The Sunday Salon: Struggling to Read

In the last week, I’ve written a novel’s worth of articles, supervised (and tried to help) while my husband and friends moved some furniture around inside, and also into, our house, helped a friend pack to move half way across the country, picked up a cake for another friend’s birthday, managed to shatter the glass of my iPhone when my dog knocked it from my hands, and I’m also rehearsing a song for church. If there was a way to get a roadside assistance plan for my brain, I totally would.

While this has been going on, I’ve noticed that reading has become a struggle. Either I’m too tired, or too hyper, or I just don’t have time. I posted a few days ago that I was not in a reading mood at all, but that’s not true. I want to get lost in a book, and am in the middle of three now (up from two), but I’m not connecting to anything. It’s like, I only have the mental capacity to hum Christmas tunes and watch cheesy movies on Fa-la-la-la-Lifetime.

I know this mood won’t hold, but I was really hoping to manage to complete 104 books this year, and I’m short of that goal.

So, I wonder – what does everyone else do when reading becomes a struggle when it never was before?

The Sunday Salon: Summer Reading, Summer Fashion

The Sunday

It’s not Sunday, but since I’ve got a full weekend, I’m posting my Sunday Salon piece early.

As of this evening, I have only one more Elin Hilderbrand novel left to read. It’s her most recent The Island, and I’m both eager and afraid to begin. Eager because I’m really enjoying my virtual summer on Nantucket via her works, and afraid because if it’s disappointing, or too short or anything like that it will be as bad as a storm wrecking an actual vacation.

Okay, so maybe not that bad.

I’ve noticed that Hilderbrand’s female characters are always three-dimensional, but her male characters are not so well drawn. They could be mannequins from high-end big and tall clothing stores, each in a different color (mainly pastel) polo shirt and pressed khaki pants and topsiders – the quasi-uniform of men in technology and men with summer homes on coastal islands.

My husband also lives in polo shirts and khaki pants, but unlike the men in Hilderbrand’s novels, his are not pastels. Instead, they are dark: black, grey, forest green, navy blue. He has four sets: those made out of sturdy cotton blends, those made out of lighter cotton blends (and which he says are too ‘flimsy’ for work, though the softer cloth fits his slight form better), those with his own company’s logo on front, and those with the logos of his vendors – Cisco, Foundry, etc.

He never wears the vendor shirts anywhere nice – like me, he has a strong aversion to wearing anything with writing on it outside the house. The few exceptions for him are the shirts from ThinkGeek – one refers to Firefly the other to Star Wars in gently humorous, inoffensive ways. For me, the exceptions are vintage rock band t-shirts and the artsy tees from foreign Hard Rock Cafes. The long sleeve, but lightweight, Tokyo shirt is one of my favorites, and the Hong Kong one is a fave as well. (Both, btw, are designed in much the same way as a vintage rock band t-shirt.)

The women in Hilderbrand’s novels also get better clothes than the men: she name drops designers that are represented by her characters – everything from Kate Spade to Diane von Furstenberg, and from Donna Karan to Liz Claiborne to – for teens – Juice Couture.

Summer novels are great escapes. Through them you can imagine yourself eating grapes and organic cheese and sipping chilled chardonnay on a beach blanket with the Atlantic Ocean flirting with your toes, or you can flip a few pages and find yourself dressed in designer togs and dining at the hottest bistro in town, accompanied by an attractive, but not exciting, man in a pastel polo shirt.

Ahh, summer.

Wednesday Salon

Technically this should be a Sunday Salon entry, but I slept through half of Sunday, and spent the other half cleaning, so I’m writing a chattery post now because I’m in the middle of half a dozen novels, but not done enough with any to write reviews…yet.

Lately, I’ve been in a mystery mood – everything from the kinds of novels where dead bodies are wrapped up in rugs, to the kinds of novels that are more about puzzles. I’m reading the Aurora Teagarden series, by Southern Vampire Mysteries author Charlaine Harris, but I’m re-reading Laurie R. King’s latest Holmes/Russell novel The Language of Bees as well.

The Teagarden novels actually predate the Sookie Stackhouse series, and while they share the same southern flair, they’re also a bit cozier, and a bit gentler. These are modern mysteries for those of us who still hold Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot fondly in our hearts.

As to Laurie R. King – I reviewed a number of her Holmes/Russell novels this spring, as I was re-reading them all (and filling out my collection) in preparation for the most recent book. She writes amazingly plausible Holmes situations, adding a sidekick/wife/colleague who blends perfectly into the world.

Don’t believe me? Check out this trailer for the most recent book:

Sunday Salon: Ship-shape

The Sunday

I realize that I’m actually writing this on Monday evening. I’m either slightly late for yesterday, or really early for the 30th, but either way I was mulling this over yesterday, but never manage to post it.

My reading this week has been a leisurely revisiting of one of my favorite books, Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi. It’s the memoir of the author’s two-year trip around the world as the solo handler of a sailboat. She wrote it twenty years ago, and I bought it when it was new, and have re-read it a few times, over the years.

I’m not sure why this book resonates so with me. Part of it, I think, is that I love the ocean in a way that most people who don’t sail rarely do. Part of it is that the romance of being alone on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean appeals – and the risk. Part of it is that I relish the coziness of a ship’s bunk with a small furry animal for company, and reading myself to sleep as the waves gently rock me.

There are, of course, moments I do not wish to experience, even vicariously. At one point, Aebi describes having an earache in the middle of the ocean, and how she heats a sock-full of salt and holds it against her ear. Another tale in the book is the relatively brief mention of a fellow sailor’s issue with a toothache, and how he basically gets drunk so he won’t care, since it’s not exactly like there are orange nj cosmetic dentists hanging in the tropics. Or if there are, they’re sailing, too, and not seeing patients.

Mostly, though, I recognize that I, who considers “roughing it” to be a hotel without room service or wifi, and who can’t even sit through movies where people are cold, wet, tired, hungry, dirty and lacking toilet paper, would probably not be happy for more than a day or two than the minimalist conditions Tania Aebi seemed to thrive upon, as much as I like to imagine I might.

For Tania Aebi, Maiden Voyage represents two years of her life, twenty years ago.

For me, it’s several hours of reading enjoyment and lovely dreams about sailing, which is, after all, what reading is all about.

Sunday Salon: Free Books!

The Sunday

It may not be exciting as winning a lifetime of Vegas vacations, but this week has seen me fetching free books from my mailbox at least three times. Two of them were sent because authors or publishers asked if I’d be willing to read/review their work. I love reading new authors, and the people who have approached me are so polite, and their work so interesting, that I could not say no.

The third mailbox trek, which resulted in multiple books, was my order from ATRIA Books’ “GalleyGrab“, where reviewers can request soon-to-be released work. One of these was the latest from Jennifer Weiner, Best Friends Forever, and since I finished Water Witches the day it arrived, and I’d been eagerly awaiting its arrival, that’s the book that has been holding my attention for the past couple of days.

This is NOT a review of Best Friends Forever, though I will say that Weiner’s tone is a bit darker in this offering, the humor more subtle, and the characters a bit less lovable, though still very likable. I’m just over half way through it, as I write this, and it will probably be my last book for July.

Maybe not, though, because I do read fairly quickly, and I now have a stack of books I want to read in addition to the stack of books I bought last year, and have put off reading, and have promised I will wade through before I spend (much) money on new books.

Of course, my birthday is in August, so all bets are off next month.

Sunday Salon: Shark Infested Waters?

The Sunday

I have a “thing” for sharks, so when the weather stayed in the triple-digits for yet another week, I was already thinking about rereading The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey.

On Saturday, I came inside from swimming feeling too hot, strangely exhausted, and dehydrated to the point that my skin felt like chalk. I drank a bottle of water, and went to bed, sleeping away the late afternoon and early evening. When I got up, I grabbed Devil’s Teeth from my studio shelves, and took it with me into a warm bath laced with pleasantly fragrant moisturizers, and sipped more water while I soaked and read.

After my bath, I took the book with me to bed, losing myself in this story of a woman who, like me, is obsessed with the elegance and power of great white sharks – to the point where she was willing to spend several days on an island, and later on a sailboat, where not only was the water not flowing from a Grohe faucet, but on some days, not flowing at all – and certainly never hot!

The first time I read this book, two years ago, it was in March, and the weather was much cooler. Reading it in the heat of summer, I felt myself imagining waves rocking me to sleep, about spending a day surrounded by fog and water, and about being close enough to see white sharks swimming in the wild.

I’ve always loved the sea – it’s in my blood, and my heart – and I’ve liked sharks for years, but rereading this not only kept me sane all weekend, but also cemented my desire to cage dive with great whites…someday.

Sunday Salon: Escapism

The Sunday

For my first Sunday Salon, it seems appropriate that I talk about the escapist reading I’ve done in the past few days, for what is Sunday but an escape from the endless errands of Saturday and the tedium of the work-week? Forgive me if my account is a bit vague. Money doesn’t grow on trees or buy memory capacity for the human brain, but it can buy lovely, lovely muscle relaxants.

I’m currently about half-way through a novel set in Marrakech, called Lulu in Marrakech, it’s a bit lighter and a lot less organized than I’d hoped, but I’m finding the exotic setting rather engaging.

I’ve also just begun reading By Bread Alone, which takes place in a house built inside a water tower in a funky little English town. I’m only a few pages in, but so far it’s quirky and charming.