Monday, September 25, 2017

Outlander

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!



Evicted

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!

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Bones of Paradise

I had read The River Wife by Jonis Agee years ago and loved it, so I was happy to see that she had written another book.  Sadly for me, I wasn't nearly as enthusiastic with this book as I had been with The River Wife.  However, my reaction doesn't seem to appear to match the excellent reviews on the book, so maybe I just missed something.

The Bones of Paradise: A NovelThe story takes place in the Sand Hills of Nebraska in the 1900's.  The Wounded Knee massacre had occurred ten years earlier not far from the Sand Hills.  The book opens with JB Bennett on his way to retrieve his son from JB's father, who has raised the boy as he felt he should be raised.  JB's wife, Dulcinea, had left him about ten years before after JB let his father take their son and she lived in a nearby town.  JB was raising their younger son by himself.  As JB was headed toward his father's place, he came across the dead body of a young Lakota Sioux woman (Star). As he studied the body, JB was shot and killed. And that set up the story.

Dulcinea returned to the ranch after JB's death and was left there to deal with her resentful two teen-aged sons, her father-in-law, Drum Bennett, and her best friend, Rose, who was Star's sister.  Not only was Dulcinea dealing with who killed her husband and Star, but also her conniving father-in-law who not only wanted her sons, but wanted her land.  Meanwhile, there is the issue of how the murders tied into the Wounded Knee massacre.

It's kind of a busy story, but good enough to keep my interest in finishing it.  Not good enough to keep the book, however.

That's my new standard, since we will be moving.  Is the book good enough to keep? Nope, not this one.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Days Without End


Days without EndI read Days Without End by Sebastian Barry last year, but apparently forgot to include it in my blog.  It was chosen this year for our August book group, so I re-read it.  And I can easily say that I think this is the best book that I have read so far this year.  The writing is stunning and the characters are so very well developed.  I have been a fan of Barry for a long time, and this book is just amazing.  


The story is about two young boys who met around 1850. Thomas McNulty was an orphaned young boy who had come to America from Ireland by himself.  He met John Cole, a young boy from New England, in Missouri under a hedge escaping the rain when they were around fourteen or fifteen years old and quickly became the best of friends.  Once they left their covering, they came across a saloon looking for young boys to dress up as female dance partners for the miners who came in the saloon.  After Thomas and John got a little older, they had to leave that work and so they signed up for the army together, fighting in the Indian Wars.  It was during that time, that the boys became lovers.  During their time fighting, they found a nine year old Indian girl who they took care of and became their daughter.  Soon the Civil War began and the two boys/men signed up and left Winona with a trusted friend.  The Civil War fighting was as brutal as the Indian War.  The two were taken prisoners.  By the time they were freed, they learned that Winona's uncle wanted her back with the tribe.

In all, the story is about two boys who live through horrors and hard times, and love each other through it all.

"I almost wasn't able to say, my father died too.  I saw his body.  Hunger is  sort of fire, a furnace.  I loved my father when I was a human person formerly.  The he died and I was hungry and then the ship.  Then nothing.  Then America.  Then John Cole.  John Cole was my love, all my love."