Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander Series #2)Twenty years had passed since Claire Randall had returned to "real time".  She had completed medical school and she and her husband Frank and their daughter Brianna lived in Boston.  Two years after Frank died, Claire and Brianna went  to Scotland so Claire could show her where Claire and Frank Randall had gone after the war.  Shortly arriving, they went to visit Roger Wakefield, a historian.  His uncle had been a friend of Frank and Claire's and he had recently died.  While visiting with Roger, Claire became interested in his work and over the next few weeks, Roger helped Claire discover that Jamie Fraser had not died in the battle of Culloden as she had always thought.  She also got the courage up to tell Brianna about her time travel and that Brianna was really Jamie's daughter.

With her husband Frank gone, Claire reluctantly decided that she would attempt to return to early Scotland and find Jamie.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon is the second book of the Outlander series. This book is once again, incredibly researched and fraught with Scottish history. Another one I couldn't put down!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

News of the World

News of the World: A NovelNews of the World will definitely be in contention for my best read of the year. I loved it. The author is Paulette Jiles.  I had read Enemy Women by her several years ago and liked it.  I may re-read it to see if it was better than I remember. This book (News of the World) was a National Book Award finalist. The story takes place in 1870.  Captain Jefferson Kidd was a seventy year old widower who at the time was in Wichita Falls. Kidd was a "reader".  He chose articles from national or local newspapers and read them to audiences who usually did not have access to news. That evening an old friend of Kidd's appeared.  He had a ten year old girl named Johanna who had been taken captive by the Kiowa tribe four years before. He was returning her to her aunt and uncle who lived in Texas and who were all that remained of her family.  The friend convinced Kidd to take the girl to Texas for him. He agreed and thus began the three week journey with Johanna.  She wanted to be back with the Kiowa tribe and did not remember her life before being taken captive, so Kidd had to very slowly re-introduce her to her old life and ways.  They encountered difficulties on the journey and as they went on they began to get close to each other.

Jiles does a great job letting the reader get to know the characters intimately.  It's touching story and told well.  I loved the writing in this book.

"Maybe life is just carrying news.  Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed."

Monday, September 25, 2017


I read the first four or five Outlander series books when they first came out, but didn't continue with them (there are eight books right now, and I have heard that there will be two more coming).  My daughter-in-law convinced me that I need to go on with them.  However, it has been so many years since I read them, that I had to start over with the series.  So the first one, Outlander by Diane Gabaldfon, is completed.  And it was as good as I remembered!

Outlander (Outlander Series #1)Claire Randall and her husband Frank were in Scotland, reconnecting after World War II had kept them separated.  Frank was seriously researching his genealogy and Claire was just enjoying her time there.  However, one day Claire went out exploring on her own and  walked into a circle of stones.  She then found herself back in time two hundred years, still in Scotland.  In order to survive what was happening there, she had to marry Jamie Fraser.

This is a very involved historical novel, along with a rich love story.  I can't even imagine the amount of research done in order to write this book. It's amazing. I couldn't put it down and immediately began the second book!


Hooray!  I read a non-fiction book this past month!  I always have one going, but usually take my time reading it.  However, Evicted by Matthew Desmond was fascinating and read like a novel at times.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for this book last year.  It is about the housing situation for the poor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which basically reflects the housing situations across the country.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American CityThe author spent two years living in housing among eight poor families observing their difficulties navigating the never-ending cycle of renting, being evicted, making rent, living in shelters, then trying to find another place to live. The stories were fascinating and heart-breaking.  Reading how poverty influences every aspect of ones' life was eye-opening. It was estimated that 70-80% of their income was spent on housing.  Imagine how one could raise a family with that kind of obstacle. Reading about the other side-the landlords, rental managers, etc.-was also eye-opening.

I also really like that at the end of the book, the author has actual suggestions for easing these burdens.  This book needs to be taken very seriously by everyone.

The Man In My Basement

 The Man In My Basement by Walter Mosley was the September pick for one of my book groups.  Most of the book group didn't really care for the book, including me.  I just never really got the point of the whole thing.  And really didn't find any redeeming characters along the way.  The book was published in 2005 and seemed to get pretty positive reviews.
The Man in My Basement: A NovelThe book tells the story about Charles Blakey, an unemployed Black man who  lives in his family's elegant home.  He has a few close friends, but no wife or girlfriend.  One day a man showed up asking to rent Charles' basement for the summer.  At first, Charles wasn't interested, but as his financial situation became more dire, he agreed.  Anniston Bennet offered him about $50,000 for a three month stay in the up-coming summer.  Since Charles was close to losing his house, it seemed a wise offer to take.  He began cleaning out the basement and uncovered priceless heirlooms.  A friend hooked him up with an antique dealer and she and Charles began somewhat of a relationship.

Meanwhile, Anniston Bennet tells Charles his terms for his stay in the basement, which include a cell and meals.  It's bizarre.  And gets even more so as the story unfolds.

A Couple of Book-ish Events That Occurred This Month

I had a couple of interesting "bookish" things happen this past month.  And they have both been really enjoyable!

First, my son and daughter-in-law got me started on listing to podcasts.  Yes, I know, I am late to the game, but still, I made it! One of my favorite ones is called What Should I Read Next?  In this podcast, there is a guest each week who talks about their reading life, then shares their favorite three books and one book that they "hate".  After sharing these, the narrator recommends three books that she thinks the guest might like.  So over the podcast, seven books in total are discussed.  What is difficult for me, is that I listen to the podcasts while driving in the car, so I can't write down the titles I'm interested in while I'm listening!  It is good practice for my short-term memory!  So far, so good.

Secondly, I recently attended my 50th high school reunion and while there saw a good friend from high school who I had not seen for probably 40 years.  I did remember that she was a big reader, so we had a great time talking about books, book groups, book blogs, and podcasts.  She doesn't live near here anymore, but we have already touched base by email.  It was wonderful to re-connect with a serious reader!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ever Have This Happen?

This afternoon I was listening to my very first What Should I Read Next podcast.  I'm just discovering the joy of podcasts and when this one was recommended to me, I was thrilled.  So as I was driving home on my 30 minute drive from town, I turned the first one (to me) on and was greatly enjoying it as they talked about books.  First the guest discussed her three favorite books she recommends to others, and then she was asked to share the book she has read that she likes the least-the one book she actually hates.  The guest kind of hemmed and hawed, reportedly feeling embarrassed to admit that she hates this book.  Finally the interviewer tells her, in so many words, to just put it out there, and the guest says "To Kill A Mockingbird".

I audibly, out loud, gasped!  It was as if I had been shot in the heart.

Then I questioned the guests' books that she recommended.  Could I possibly like them?  I have put two of them on my to-be-read list, so I will find out.  I kind of felt sorry for the guest....one, that she doesn't get the beauty of the book, and two, that she had to admit it to everyone! And I found my reaction to be really funny!  Thankfully, I was still in control of the car as I drove down the highway!