Monday, March 3, 2014

The Tattooed Girl

As you know if you read this blog much, I am a fan of Joyce Carol Oates, so when I came across The
Tattooed Girl at the used book store I grabbed it.  I had not heard of it, so thought I would try it.  It definitely is not one of my favorite of her books, but it was good and has some very interesting things to ponder and consider!

Joshua Seigl was a young mid-thirties author who was single and not in great health.  He decided that he needed to hire an assistant to help him begin to get some organization of all of his files and writings from the past many years.  He interviewed many males and was not satisfied with any of them.  Then one day in a bookstore, Joshua came across Alma, a young woman who had recently begun working there, but didn't seem to be working out.  Something about her interested him.  She had tattoos on her hands and arms, but what Joshua found fascinating was a tattoo (or was it a birthmark?) on her face.  He decided that he wanted Alma to be his assistant, even though he knew nothing about her, and she agreed to take on the job.

Alma appeared to be quite devoted to the job, but presented herself as a very simple, uneducated woman.  Unbeknownst to Joshua, Alma harbored deep hatred toward Jews.  She had a troubled past and was not really who she presented to be.  However, she appeared very loyal to Joshua.  As they worked together they began slowly to get to know each other and learned more about each other.  More importantly, they began to learn more about themselves.

It was an interesting book...made me think about some issues that were in the book.  It was worth reading, but I am not sure that I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. 

Iron House

I picked up Iron House by John Hart because I had read The Last Child, also written by him, in 2010 Iron House did not disappoint.  It was a story that after I got a bit into it, I could not put it reading a good book that you can't even stay away from!
and really enjoyed it.

Iron Mountain Home for Boys was an orphanage that brothers Michael and Julian were placed in as young boys.  Michael was the older and looked out for Julian, who was not only younger but was also described as rather weak and sensitive.  The Home appeared to be one of survival of the fittest, with lots of bullying and violence going on.  One night, a young boy was brutally killed, and so that Julian wasn't blamed, Michael took off and ran away.

Julian was adopted soon after, but Michael stayed missing.  Michael had made his way to New York and was eventually taken in by a generous wealthy man, who is involved in organized crime. That becomes Michael's life.  Twenty years later Michael met Elena and wanted out of the business.  The old man was dying, and seemed to respect that Michael wanted out and gave Michael his blessing. However, after the old man died, his son vowed to come after Michael and threatened to also come after Michael's beloved brother, Julian (whom Michael had not seen since the night he ran away from the Home).

So Michael and Elena took off in search of Julian and the story really gets intriguing!

I found this book to be a great mystery.  I really enjoy Mr. Hart's writing.

"We can all live with doubts.
It's the knowing that breaks us."

Still Alice

This is of my book groups chose Still Alice by Lisa Genova to read for our February
meeting.  I had missed the meeting two months before when the book was chosen.  I would have not voted for it, since I had read it in May of 2010 and didn't especially care for it then. But this is a case of re-reading a book and changing your mind!

When I had read it in 2010, my mother had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and she wanted me to read it.  That is why I did, and at that time, I just couldn't relate it to my mom.  Well,  my mom died in May of 2012, so there were two years of watching her decline with this disease (although it wasn't what she died from). Reading Still Alice this time was a whole different experience for me.

This is how I had blogged about the book in May 2010:

The story is about 50 year old Alice, a psychology professor at Harvard, who begins to be aware of memory problems.  She is diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer's.  The book tells of the struggles of Alice, her husband John and their three grown children as they deal with the diagnosis and the in-their-face reality of Alzheimer's affecting their wife/mother.
For some reason, I had thought that the story was a true story and that the husband narrated it.  I was totally wrong.  It is a novel and told by Alice herself.  I found the writing to be rather simplistic and never felt like I really knew the characters.  It was an easy read and there is a lot of information about Alzheimer's in the book.  Again, I guess that I would recommend it, also.   
Of course, the story is the same, but seeing it through different eyes changed the story for me.  This time, I felt like it was a beautifully written portrayal of how a person experienced both the diagnosis and the disease itself. And how Alice's family experienced both.  Alice and her husband, John, had three grown children.  Alice was a fifty year old cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who began slowly realizing that she was forgetting things. On the day that she went out for a run and found herself at Harvard Square and did not know where she was she knew she needed to see a doctor and find out what was going on with her.  This was in September 2003.  The book progresses through to September 2005, so it is about the first two years of living with her disease.

After watching my mother (who was about eighty when diagnosed) I found the book very insightful and moving.  I was especially touched by the ending of the book.

A very sad, but touching book.

Monday, February 17, 2014

20th Century of Books

I found this list some time ago of the supposedly best books of each year of the 20th century.  I just came across it in my files again and decided this might be a fun way to read...I got an iPad so hopefully, I can get some of these free to read on the iPad when I am out and about killing time in town.  I will begin with Three Men on The Bummel!

1900 - Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
1901 - The Spinster Book by Myrtle Reed
1902 - The Westminster Alice by Saki
1903 - Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
1904 - Canon in Residence by V.L. Whitechurch
1905 - Lovers in London by A.A. Milne
1906 - The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
1907 - The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
1908 - The World I Live In by Helen Keller
1909 - The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter
1910 - Reginald in Russia by Saki
1911 - In A German Pension by Katherine Mansfield
1912 - Daddy Long-legs by Jean Webster
1913 - When William Came by Saki
1914 - What It Means To Marry by Mary Scharlieb
1915 - Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
1916 - Love At Second Sight by Ada Leverson
1917 - Zella Sees Herself by E.M. Delafield
1918 - Married Love by Marie Stopes
1919 - Not That It Matters by A.A. Milne
1920 - The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
1921 - The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray
1922 - Spinster of this Parish by W.B. Maxwell
1923 - Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair
1924 - The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor
1925 - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
1926 - Blindness by Henry Green
1927 - Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann
1928 - Time Importuned by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1929 - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
1930 - His Monkey Wife by John Collier
1931 - Opus 7 by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1932 - Green Thoughts by John Collier
1933 - More Women Then Men by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1934 - Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
1935 - The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen
1936 - Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1937 - The Outward Room by Millen Brand
1938 - Dear Octopus by Dodie Smith
1939 - Three Marriages by E.M. Delafield
1940 - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
1941 - Country Moods and Tenses by Edith Olivier
1942 - The Outsider by Albert Camus
1943 - Talking of Jane Austen by Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern
1944 - Elders and Betters by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1945 - At Mrs. Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor
1946 - Mr. Allenby Loses The Way by Frank Baker
1947 - One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
1948 - The Corner That Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1949 - Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-Year Lease by Cecil Beaton
1950 - Jane Austen by Margaret Kennedy
1951 - I. Compton-Burnett by Pamela Hansford Johnson
1952 - Miss Hargreaves: the play by Frank Baker
1953 - Guard Your Daughters by Diana Tutton
1954 - M for Mother by Marjorie Riddell
1955 - The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens
1956 - All The Books of My Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith
1957 - Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
1958 - Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico
1959 - Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
1960 - The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
1961 - A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
1962 - Coronation by Paul Gallico
1963 - A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford
1964 - The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble
1965 - Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson
1966 - In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
1967 - The Joke by Milan Kundera
1968 - A Cab at the Door by V.S. Pritchett
1969 - Sunlight on Cold Water by Francoise Sagan
1970 - Frederick the Great by Nancy Mitford
1971 - Ivy & Stevie by Kay Dick
1972 - Ivy Compton-Burnett: a memoir by Cecily Greig
1973 - V. Sackville-West by Michael Stevens
1974 - Look Back With Love by Dodie Smith
1975 - Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge
1976 - The Takeover by Muriel Spark
1977 - Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge
1978 - Art in Nature by Tove Jansson
1979 - On The Other Side by Mathilde Wolff-Mönckeberg
1980 - The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate
1981 - Gossip From Thrush Green by Miss Read
1982 - At Freddie's by Penelope Fitzgerald
1983 - Blue Remembered Hills by Rosemary Sutcliff
1984 - The Only Problem by Muriel Spark
1985 - For Sylvia: An Honest Account by Valentine Ackland
1986 - On Acting by Laurence Olivier
1987 - The Other Garden by Francis Wyndham
1988 - Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
1989 - Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy
1990 - The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
1991 - Wise Children by Angela Carter
1992 - Curriculum Vitae by Muriel Spark
1993 - Something Happened Yesterday by Beryl Bainbridge
1994 - Deadline Poet by Calvin Trillin
1995 - The Simmons Papers by Philipp Blom
1996 - Reality and Dreams by Muriel Spark
1997 - The Island of the Colourblind by Oliver Sacks
1998 - The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
1999 - La Grande Thérèse by Hilary Spurling

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Big Heart Open to God

A Big Heart Open to God-A Conversation with Pope Francis has the full interview with Pope Francis
that was granted to Antonio Spadaro, S.J. six months after Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis.  The book also includes responses to the interview by some select Catholics

Reading the full interview with Pope Francis was amazing.  In the very near beginning of the book, Pope Francis was talking about how he has often visited The Church of St. Louis of France, and contemplates the painting of The Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio that is in the church.

“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew.  That’s me.  I feel like him. Like Matthew…It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’  Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.  And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”

“Then the pope whispers in Latin ‘I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.’”

The interview reads so beautifully.  I was struck by so many things, but one that I had not heard about was where he spoke of his grandmother:

“….This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa, who loved me so much.  In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often.  For me it is like a prayer.  She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.”

I am always taken with hearing of others speak of their grandparents, because mine were so special to me…I feel a special bond with others who also felt so close to their grandparents.  And his words about his grandmother speak so lovingly of his humanity.

I ended up underlining and marking much of this book for myself.  His words truly spoke to me.  I was most struck by the chapter of Certitude and Mistakes where Pope Francis discussed discernment.  I could fill this whole blog piece with my underlings and thoughts, but I will leave it for the reader to find their own thoughts and feelings as they read the book.

This is a very short book.  Half of the book is the interview and the other half is the responses by others.  The book ends with Spiritual Reflections on the Papal Interview by James Martin, SJ.  I am a follower of Fr. Martin’s writings, so I was especially pleased to see this.  His writing about the interview is wonderful.  The article is divided into sections from the Pope’s interview where Fr. Martin shares his insights and questions for reflection.  Other than the actual interview, this was the best part of the book for me.

This is the perfect book for learning about the man Pope Francis.  Loved it.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Death Comes For The Archbishop

Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather was written in 1927. I had never read it nor had I intended to. A member of one of my book groups had recommended another of Ms. Cather’s books and I headed to the library to find it. It wasn’t there, but Death Comes for the Archbishop was there, so I decided to read it. I am glad that I did.

Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather was written in 1927. I had never read it nor had I Death Comes For The Archbishop was there, so I decided to read it. I am glad that I did.

The book is a novel about the first Archbishop of Sante Fe, New Mexico. In the novel, Fr. Jean Marie Latour was from France where he went to Seminary and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. Soon afterwards, in 1848, he was assigned to come to the United States…priests/missionaries were needed in Ohio, so Fr. Latour and his good friend Fr. Vaillant arrived in Ohio and took up there work. Soon, the United States won New Mexico in the Mexican-American War and Fr. Latour was made Bishop and sent to New Mexico to establish the diocese there. He took Fr. Vaillant with him as his vicar.

The novel tells the story of Bishop Latour’s years there as he worked to convert the people, and rein in some of the priests who had been on their own out there for years, and had strayed far from the Catholic teachings. In the end, Archbishop Latour was there for thirty-eight years. He retired there and died there.

The book is very slow moving and I was impatient with it for a bit off and on, but by the end was very moved by the whole story.

(The novel is based on the life of the first Archbishop of Sante Fe, Jean Baptist Lamy….I am sure that the reading of his life would be quite interesting)

knitting yarns-writers on knitting

Here’s a great thing that happened…both of my daughters, unbeknownst to them, gave me the same book    The great thing about it was that it was knitting yarns-writers on knitting.  The book combines two of my favorite things…reading and knitting! was for my birthday and the other was for Christmas.

As the title implies, the book is a set of essays by various authors (men and women) who knit.  They wrote essays about knitting and how knitting has related to their lives.  Some of the authors who contributed to the book are some of my favorite authors such as:  Elizabeth Berg, Andre Dubus III, Hope Edelman, Sue Grafton, Ann Hood, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Anita Shreve, and Jane Smiley.

Some of the essays were great, others not as much.  But I still enjoyed reading them all and could usually relate to all of them.  Some of the authors even included a favorite knitting pattern!

I recommend the book for anyone who loves to knit, or just loves knitted things!  It was a great gift to receive! (My second copy went to my favorite knit shop for others to enjoy while there!).