Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Year That Follows

I was up until 1 am last night finishing The Year That Follows by Scott Lasser. Was it really that good to keep me up so late? No. We were out until midnight, so I was just doing my usual bedtime reading and wanted to finish it so that I could get to another book!

The book had an interesting premise: a woman trying to find her dead brother's baby.

Divorced, Cat Miller went to visit her 40 year old brother Kyle in New York and at dinner he told her that his ex-girlfriend had just had a baby and he thought that he was probably the father. The next morning, Kyle headed to a meeting in the World Trade Center. It was September 11, 2001. Cat looked/waited for Kyle briefly, then realized that she just wanted to head home to her young son, Connor. She finally was able to get a rental car and headed home to Detroit.

Over the next year, Cat searched for Kyle's ex-girlfriend, wanting to know if her brother had left a child. She searched the NY paper every day, and finally after a year, there it was....the girlfriend had also died on 9/11.

Meanwhile, Cat's father, Sam is living on the West Coast, 80 years old and not in good health. He has kept a secret from Cat all of her life and is feeling the need to tell her. He asks her to come out to CA to visit, not telling her that he is not well. Cat has not told Sam about Kyle's child.

I won't divulge the rest of the story, but I guess that the 2 secrets somehow play into each other. I never cared enough about the characters to really sit and analyze the story. Maybe I am not giving the book enough credit, but I just wasn't really taken with it. Not great writing. Not bad writing. I cared enough to finish the book to see how it ended, but didn't care enough to spend time thinking about it! Which, after having lost 2 brothers in the past 20 years, is rather sad that the book didn't touch something in me. And believe me, it isn't hard to reach that pain, so I think that tells something about the book.

I would give it a "pass over".

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Book Challenge

I did it! I joined my very first book challenge! I joined the What's in a Name? 3 Challenge over at:

The challenge only involves 6 books (only, I say? check with me at the end of 2010), so surely I can manage that! It may be more of a challenge than I realize. The challenge is to read books that have the following in their names:
1) Food (rats, I just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-so it won't count for 2010)

2) Body of Water

3) Title (ie. President, Queen, Mr. etc)

4) Plant

5) Place Name (city, country, etc)

6) Music Term (rats again, I just finished Song of Solomon)

Of course, right now I am blank on what to read, other than books that I have already read. But I am looking forward to the challenge of finding books for the categories.

BTW-I am open to suggestions!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

While in Mexico laying on the beach one afternoon over Thanksgiving, my daughter asked me if I had read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I had not. She had just read it for her book group and loved it. Upon my return to the States, I was checking out some of my favorite book blogs and found that Susan at You Can Never Have Too Many Books had written about the book at:

So I headed to the library and checked it out and just finished reading it this afternoon. Like Susan, I stayed up very late a couple of nights reading it, but last night fell asleep with only 3 pages to go!

I have to confess that at page 150, I wondered what all the fuss was about. The story was good and I found the whole occupation of the island of Guernsey fascinating, but I didn't get the huge fascination with the book. Then I came to page 151, and broke into tears! And then I got it!

The book is a series of letters between Juliet, who is an author in 1946 from London seeking a new topic for a book, and the chance acquaintance that occurred when Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey, writes her a letter. It seems that he came upon an old book Juliet had owned and he is requesting more information about the author of the book. They begin corresponding with each other and Juliet slowly learns about Guernsey being occupied by the Nazis during the war. Some of the residents of Guernsey rather unknowingly formed a Literary Society and so then Juliet begins corresponding with some of the other members also.

Soon, Juliet decides to write about the Guernsey residents experiences and she goes to Guernsey to meet them all. Meanwhile, the entire book is letters between different people, including her best friend, and her publisher.

It is a very heart-warming and heart-breaking book, both at the same time. It is a quick read and I liked it very much. Thank you, Susan and Emily, for your wonderful recommendations!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bookstore gift card!

I turned 60 years old this week. Don't know how that happened, but it's true! I got a $100 gift card to Barnes and Noble for my birthday! What a great gift! Especially for a reader who has retired and is trying not to spend so much on books as in the past! I am so excited that I feel like I may hoard it, afraid to actually spend it. What if I spend it, and then there are more books that I want...??? Hmmmm....I will be very careful on what books get purchased with this great gift! Not just any book will do, especially if it is a book that I can read from the library...see my dilemma? What a great problem!

On another note, I have already researched and purchased a book for each of my 4 grandchildren for Christmas. The oldest 2 are becoming great readers, while the youngest 2 love being read to, so they show great promise at being readers also! Such fun. And now both of my daughters are also in book groups! And my son read the whole time in Mexico! I think that I did it...I raised readers!!! Hooray! Interestingly, all 3 of their spouses are also big readers. Now, if I could just get my husband to read a book....

Song of Solomon

Well, it seems like I have been away from here forever! We spent Thanksgiving weekend weekend in Mexico with our family (kids, spouses and grandkids) and I am still recovering (in terms of laundry, cleaning, etc.) on top of getting the house ready for Christmas!

While in Mexico, I read Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, written in 1977. At my book group last month we voted to read The Bluest Eye for January and I remarked on how much I loved Beloved. One of the group members asked if I had read Song of Solomon and thought that I would really like it. I did! He was right!

It is the story of Macon "Milkman" Dead searching for who his family was and, ultimately, who he is, struggling to understand his family history. It is a story about love, loss, family, grief, and history, especially slavery.

Ms. Morrison's characterization of the people in the book is fantastic. You get such a vivid portrait of each well-developed. Even their names are amazing....Pilate, Hagar, Guitar...great characters.

I do have to admit that the first half of the book was a bit slow-moving. Not enough to have lost me, but the second half of the book really begins to pull you in as Milkman begins to learn about his family's past.

I am anxious to read The Bluest Eye to see if it is as good as the others that I have read by Ms. Morrison.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Missing

Seems like a long time since I have posted here...I got off to a rough start after my last post. Started 2 different books, and gave up on them. But I got The Missing by Tim Gautreaux from the library, and it was a stick-to-it! I had read his earlier book, The Clearing, and so I felt pretty good about trying it...and it was a good one.

The story is of Sam Simoneaux, whose family was murdered when he was an infant. He was raised by his aunt and uncle in a loving home, and never gave much thought to the fact that they were not his parents. When Sam grew up, he joined in the fight in WWI, and ended up saving a young child before he left France. He returned to the States, married, and became a floorwalker at a department store in New Orleans (where he was from). One day, a little girl, three years old, was kidnapped from the store and Sam was fired for not following proper protocol. He was told that if he found the child, he could have his job back.

The child, her brother and her parents were musician/entertainers on a boat that traveled up and down the Mississippi. Sam figured that someone had seen the child on one of the boat's stops and so, he got hired on the boat and became friends with the family. Most of the story is about the search for the little girl.

As Sam searches for the child and watches what the family is going through, he begins to question his own background and starts to ask questions about his family, their murder, and the murderers.

It is a good story and I liked how the story of the missing child played into his own deepest (and unknown) feelings. I like his writing style, and how he writes about the South, but I did feel that the book got a little bogged down at times. However, with perseverance, it was a good read.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2 Books

I read Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson. It was for my book group. Interesting book, non-fiction, and certainly not one that I would ever have picked up on my own to read. I had trouble getting into it, but because it was for my book group, I stuck with it, and surprisingly, that was a good choice! It got much better and I ended up enjoying the story. Learned lots, as I did not know anything about deep sea diving.

The story is about weekend divers who discovered a WWI German U-Boat off the coast of New Jersey in 1991. Yet, all records indicated that there was never a submarine sunk there. The book alternates between the men diving to find treasures and the search to learn what boat this is, then who was on the boat. There appeared to be great reverence for the bodies that have laid undersea for the past 50 years, and some of the divers became intent on learning more about the submarine crew.

I especially found the search for the historical records and families most interesting, since the searches were very much genealogical in nature. Right up my alley!

It was a good book and I recommend it!

Last night I completed The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudendauf. It was an easy read, good story, nothing too deep (pun intended!). Two little girls go missing one early morning, assumedly together. One of the little girls has been selectively mute for the last 3 or 4 years. It really was a story about a marriage and its effect on the wife and children. Husband was an abusive alcoholic. As I said, it was an easy read...each chapter was told by different characters: the mother, the missing daughter, the son, the police officer, the father of the other missing girl.

The ending was rather predictable, I thought. I won't tell the ending, but just say that I was pretty sure it wasn't who was the obvious.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

This is an amazing book! The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb is 723 pages long (hardback). There were a couple of reasons why I had not read it before. 1) it is always presented, at least it seemed to me, as a book about Columbine, and I just didn't want to read and revisit that horror, and 2) as much as I love long books, I find them incredibly difficult to read when I am reading in bed! Anyway, after having just read She's Come Undone, and having already have read I Know This Much Is True, I couldn't resist reading his latest work. And, boy, was it worth it! This book combines many of my passions...psychology, addiction and genealogy! [ok, addiction as a passion sounds pretty weird...just that working with addicted women was my life's work...]

Columbine is a central part of the story, especially the aftermath of Columbine. How being there plays into people's lives for always. Caelum Quirk (I love the name Caelum!) and his wife Maureen were teachers at Columbine. Caelum was gone the day of the shootings, tending to the death of an aunt out east, when he heard the news and got a flight straight back to Colorado and desperately searched for his wife. She had hidden in a cabinet in the library during the shootings and survived. However, the Post Traumatic Stress of that almost destroyed their lives.

Caelum and Maureen decide to leave CO and go out to the east coast to Caelum's family farm that he inherited from his aunt. As they struggle to make it there, addiction comes into play and wreaks havoc, as it will. Meanwhile, Caelum rents out the top half of the farm house to a couple escaping Katrina. The woman is working on a doctorate in Women Studies and begins (with Caelum's permission) to go through his grandmother's old papers. His grandmother had begun a local women's prison many years before, with the focus being "A woman who surrenders her freedom need not surrender her dignity." In the papers are letters dating back to the Civil War and forward in time. The papers begin to tell the story of who Caelum's parents were and how his family evolved into what it became.

This, as I said, was just an amazing book. I finished it yesterday and am still thinking about it.

In an afterword, the author said that it took him 9 years to write this book. Yikes. That sounds unbelievable, except that there is so much in the book, that I understand that it would take a long time.

I highly recommend the book if you haven't read it already! Now I am thinking that I need to re-read I know This Much Id True.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In case you are interested.....

Met with my book group last week and it was my turn (my first time!) to present books to the group. We present 3 books, then vote on which to read. My book is for our December meeting. I presented the following 3:

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

In The Woods by Tana French

Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

I love all 3 books, but really wanted The Stolen Child to be chosen, since I have never had anyone to discuss it with and I found it fascinating...and it won the vote! Hooray! Then the anxiety kicked in...will they like it, will I still like it, was it a bad choice? etc. etc. I am eager to read it again, which always gives one a slight advantage in discussion of the book, I think, but that will help the discussion, I guess.

It was an interesting experience presenting the books. Gilead is one of my top 5 favorite books (I have read it twice), so I would have been happy if they had chosen it, but after reading Home, the follow-up book, I thought Home was even better! But I didn't want to suggest that they read Home before Gilead, so I didn't present Home. And In The Woods is just a great mystery story! However, another group member had presented it before, and, again, it was not chosen.

[In case you are new to this blog and are interested in my thoughts of the above mentioned books, I reviewed The Stolen Child on 3/27/08, Home on 9/23/08, and In The Woods on 7/7/08. I haven't done a review on Gilead, since I read it before the blog began.]

In a totally unrelated topic, remember how excited I was to be thinking about helping with our new library, serving on a committee or whatever? Well, no one has ever called me. It is very disappointing. Perhaps they still will, but I'm not holding my breath! I had volunteered for the fund-raising committee and they have had several events. Apparently they didn't need my help! Guess they just don't know what they are missing! I like books. I'm a good person. Well, ok, I like books.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wolf Whistle

Wolf Whistle by Lewis Nordan was the latest book read for my book group. We met this week to discuss it and the book was a great one for discussion. It is the kind of book that before joining the group, I would have wished that I had a group to discuss it with. My book group is so good; it is amazing to hear all that each person gets out of each book. We have great discussions!

Wolf Whistle is based on the true story of Emmett Till, a young black boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman. The two men responsible were acquitted for the murder. Lewis Nordan grew up near the place that all of this occurred and the story is about the murder.

The character's name who is killed is Bobo, who has come to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi to visit from Chicago. He carries a picture of a white woman in his wallet and tells the boys that it is his girlfriend in Chicago, buy it is really a picture of Hedy Lamar. "Bobo said 'That's some good white stuff.'" trying to impress his new friends. Being from Chicago, he did not realize that down in Mississippi there is no joking around about blacks and whites being together.

One day, Lady Montberclair ("she was modern") went into the Red's Goodlookin Bar and Gro to buy tampons. Apparently, Bobo's friends dared him to ask her out or something and he went on in there.

"Everybody else heard it, though, what that spotey little shine did, dared to have did. Runt Conroy sure heard it. Runt heard it and wondered if he could teach his parrot to say hubba-hubba. His parrot couldn't say a word, only sound that durn retarded parrot could make was a noise like a cash register. Maybe it could learn hubba-habba.

Gilbert Mecklin heard it, the housepainter, just about the time he was helping his blind daddy come back up the steps. Gilbert didn't have time to pay it no mind, but he heard it. Heard him whistle, too. Wolf whistle, real low."

Solon Gregg had just arrived back in town and he heard it too. He began confronting Bobo, when Lady intervened and told Bobo to go get into her car.

Solon Gregg is protrayed as the trashiest of all white trash. He sees an opportunity to make some money and goes to Lady's husband with information that she was seen riding around with a young "buck" in her car. Lady's husband is who decides that Solon needs to take care of the situation for him.

This book is somewhat difficult to read because of the violence and just plain ignorance that is portrayed. It is quite horrifying, yet the real story is also, so I don't think that it should be down-played.

There is a great deal of symbolism in the book and quite a bit of humor. It's an interesting read. It was written in 1993 and won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

I recommend it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Lace Reader

"My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.
I am a crazy women...That last part is true."

So begins The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. Why couldn't I keep remembering the first couple of lines of the book? It really would have made it so much easier...well, I think it would have. Maybe not.

The story takes place in Salem,MA where Towner returns after learning of her aunt's disappearance. Her female part of the family has a history of being lace readers predicting the future (yes, reading lace, something along the lines of reading tea perhaps), and her aunt Eva, who is missing, has been an active lace reader for years. Towner also has the ability to read lace, but has suppressed it.

Towner's mother, May, runs an abused women's shelter on an island off the coast of Salem.

Towner left home at 17, going as far away as she thought she could...California. Turns out that Towner has quite a history of mental illness. The book focuses a lot on Towner and her twin sister, Lyndley. According to Towner, Lyndley was given away to May's sister and was raised by her and her abusive husband, Cal. Lydley was sexually abused by her father and killed herself in front of Towner. Again, this is according to Towner. There is a group of religious fanatics led by Cal trying to rid Salem of witches. They are suspected to have killed Eva.

There is a surprise twist to the end of the story. However, I think that if I went back and reread the book, it probably is quite evident, but maybe not. It is the kind of book that really needs to be reread in order to understand all that you just read! But I didn't enjoy it enough to want to go back and reread it. Even after I finished it, the ending confused me. That's why I wish that I had kept it in my head the whole time that Towner lies. I think that the mental illness would be more apparent to me a second time. (well, obviously!).

There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the is very much involved in the history of Salem and the promotion of the perception of witches in Salem. I found that very interesting. I am also curious about lace reading.

Do I recommend the book? Not really. However, I do think that it would make a very interesting book for a book group to discuss!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

She's Come Undone

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb totally took me by surprise. I have come across it many times and from reading the back cover was just never really interested in reading it, although I really liked his other books. I came across this one a couple of weeks ago at the Salvation Army for $0.49, so thought I would try it. I loved it!

It is the story of Delores Price whose life seemingly continuously falls apart beginning as a child, when her mother is institutionalized. She becomes quite attached to her father, only to have him leave after her mother returns. Her parents divorced and she and her mother go live with her maternal grandmother.

Delores is very much her own person and always speaks what's on her mind. I found her hilarious and usually a bit shocking, but there were times that I laughed out loud with the comments she would make to people. The story (her life) is quite complex, always changing and incredibly sad at times.

The only part of the book that made me uncomfortable was her horrible image of herself in regard to her weight. Yet, I know that it rang very true.

There is a bit of everything in this book...lies, grief, mental illness, sex, sexual abuse, etc. But the book is really about recovery! Delores Price is an amazing girl, then woman.

I loved this book! Highly recommend it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I finally did it. Left a message at the library that I would like to help work on the committees for the new library! I am so proud of myself! I don't know anyone in town, other than our chiropractor and grocery store/pharmacy people, so not only might I meet some others, but surely, they must be interested in books if they are working on the new library! I don't frequent this town's library too much because it is so small and although I am not a small person by any means, I am not unusually large, and I can barely get through the aisles in the present library...and forget trying to bend over to look at something on the lower shelves! I usually drive an extra 10 miles to go to another library (that I love). So you can imagine my excitement when I read a month or so ago that there are plans to build a new library in our small town! Land has already been purchased and plans have been drawn up!

This afternoon the librarian called me and is putting me in touch with one of the committees (fundraising). I am excited!

On another note, while waiting for new tires to be installed today I walked over to the Salvation Army store and found 2 books for $1.00 total. Got a copy of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, and got She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Have never read either, so again, I am catching up with the rest of the world!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Poisonwood Bible

I am pretty hesitant to write anything about The Poisonwood Bible, since I am so embarrassed that it took me this long to read it! I have had no interest in reading it since it came out in 1998 (11 years ago!) and it was about Africa and I just wasn't interested...When I was in Grand Junction last month, my friend Lynn and I were at Borders and saw it and she asked if I had read it. I trust her recommendations completely and so when she thought I would like it, I bought it. I feel like I am probably the last of anyone who reads on a regular basis to have read this book. And, as I said, I am embarrassed. Because, oh my God, what a great book! I can't believe that I took so long to try it!

For anyone out there who is even more in a cave than me about this book, it is by Barbara Kingsolver. It is the story of a family whose father is a preacher and he takes his wife and four daughters to Africa for a year on a missionary trip. However, at the end of the year there, he refuses to leave, so the family stays there, not happily. The story is told in chapters by the wife, Orleanna, and each of the four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May. The chapters were each short, which made the book very easy to read. It was a fascinating story that extended from about 1960 to 1986. The father had remained in Africa, but the others had left him and made their own ways shortly after he had refused to leave.

The authors characterization of each of the females was outstanding. I really felt as if I knew them individually. It occurred to me after I completed it last night, that it would make a really interesting book if Ms. Kingsolver wrote a book telling the father's version of the time in Africa. It would have totally taken away the power of The Poisonwood Bible to have given him a voice in it, but I think that his story would also make for a fascinating read.

This is a great book and for anyone who might not have read it, put it on your list! It is a book that I will go back and read again at some point. I am sure that I will get more out of it a second time!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Run and a play

Run by Ann Patchett was the last book that I have read. It was good. Not great, but good. It would probably be a good book club book, as there are a lot of different things actually going on in the book, such as issues with race, mothers, fathers, siblings, loss, grief, etc.

The book tells the story of a New England family whose mother died years before. Bernard Doyle and his wife had one son and then adopted 2 younger boys who were brothers and were black. Bernard was a former mayor of Boston, and the boys were raised in politics and wealth. As an example of the family, one of the boys was named "Teddy" after Ted Kennedy, and the other was called "Tip". Make you think of New England wealth? The father's greatest hope is that one of his boys will be President of the United States.

One snowy, cold evening, Bernard insists that Tip and Teddy meet him on campus for a political lecture. After the program Tip is almost hit by a car, but is saved by a black woman who was also at the lecture with her 11 year old daughter. The woman is badly hurt, and Tip ends up on crutches with an injured ankle. The woman is taken away to the hospital and the daughter has no one to call or go home to, so she goes home with the Doyle family for the night.

As usual, I don't want to go any further into the story so as not to ruin it for any readers. It is a good book and, actually, I have spent some time thinking about it since I finished it, which, as you know, I consider evidence of a good book!

As said, there are a lot of themes going on in this book, which has provoked many thoughts since completing it. There are many definitions of love and family in this book.

On another note, the book read for my book group this month was a play! I had never read a play before, so I found it quite interesting. It was a very good story also! The book is August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. It is a story of a quite damaged family dealing with the death of the father. The family gathers when the father goes missing. The family consists of Violet, the mother, and her 3 daughters, their significant others, a 14 year old granddaughter, and Violet's sister and her family. There is also Johnna, the 26 year old housekeeper that the father had hired shortly before he went missing.

I did enjoy the experience of reading a play, but I sure missed the narrative and development of time, place and characters that you find in a novel! The group had a great discussion about the book and it was quite interesting hearing and sharing the various insights! Would I recommend someone to read it? Yes, I would!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Story Sisters

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman is described as a haunting novel. It is that. It is the story of 3 sisters (whose last name is Story) who, in the beginning of the book, look alike and share a imaginative language and life, complete with town, etc. Elv is the oldest and, possibly, most "damaged" of the 3 sisters. As to be expected, she is the leader and tells the stories of their made up lives to the other 2 sisters, Meg and Claire.

Early on, Meg seems to pick up on the fact that Elv is a bit over the edge, and she begins to withdraw from the sisterly pack. Claire shares a secret with Elv and seems to understand that Elv has a genuine need for a make-believe life. Claire continues to be her sister's advocate as Elv spirals into disaster.

The book is really good and, as I said/agreed, haunting. It tells probably about 10 years of the sister's lives, where each has to find her own way, good or bad.

This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. For some reason, I thought it was about some elderly sisters (must be another new/current book out about that) and so, I was not prepared for what I began reading! It is a strange book, yet I did really like it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Random

I am quite sorry to report the last 2 books that I read were really not worth the read. I did finish both of them, but was very disappointed with both.

First one read was : The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie. It, of course, was about a woman recently widowed who kept seeing and talking and spending time with her dead husband, who convinces her (or she convinces herself) that he isn't dead, just wanted to get away for awhile.
Enough said.

The second book was a great disappointment to me. It was Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue. Mr. Donohue is the author of The Stolen Child, one of my alltime favorite books. Perhaps that was part of the disappointment for me. I had great expectations for his next book, and, for me, it didn't fulfill my expectations at all. If I hadn't read The Stolen Child, I probably would have liked the book better. It is a nice story of a 9 year old girl who shows up on a widow's doorstep one day. The widow had one daughter, who had run away 10 years earlier and never returned. She decided to let the little girl stay and they told everyone that Norah (the little girl) was her granddaughter. Norah soon begins sharing at school that she is an angel and the community gets upset with her. I won't tell more of the story, so as not to spoil it. As I said, it was a nice story. It just didn't have the same impact on me that his first book did.

I just returned from a long weekend in Grand Junction, Colorado last week, where I stayed and visited with an old friend, who loves books as much as I do. It was so much fun to talk about books each day and share our favorites. I learned (again, with great disappointment) that there were no independent bookstores open anymore in Grand Junction. However, while at Borders, I bought Run by Anne Patchett and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

I have not begun either of them yet. I just finished Angels of Destruction last night and I have a message that The Story Sisters (by Alice Hoffman) is ready for me at the library, so I am off to get it this morning and will be reading it next.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Random Thoughts

I was supposed to be flying into Grand Junction Colorado today, but United called with a recorded message last night stating that they had canceled the flight and put us on the same flight for tomorrow. I couldn't believe it, but called United and yep, it was true. Anyway, I went to the library last night to try to get the Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman to take with me. My daughter has read it and really liked it, so I am eager to read it. It was checked out and I am next on the list, so I had to find some other books to take. I ended up with The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie and Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue.

I started The Widow's Season last night...good so far. I am very anxious to read Donohue's book. I loved his last one, The Stolen Child. It rates up there quite high in my favorite books. And so far I have not met anyone else who has read it. I am due to suggest books to my book club for December. Perhaps it would be a good pick. We present 3 books and the group then votes on the one they want to read.

I am also taking Mrs. Lincoln if I have enough time to read it. I am hoping that perhaps Grand Junction has some interesting book stores! Here's hoping that I get to Grand Junction tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Help

I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett last night. I liked it very much. It is a story that takes place in Jackson,Mississippi around 1962-1963. Skeeter Phelan returned home after graduating from college in 1962, with no job and wanting to be a writer living in New York. Upon arriving home, she learned that her beloved Constantine was no longer working for her family. Constantine was the family's black maid who had raised Skeeter. Skeeter never had any doubt about how much Constantine loved her and Skeeter loved her just as much. When she came home and found that Constantine was no longer with the family, she asked her mother what had happened and her mother was very vague and would not tell her what had happened.

This was the beginning of a seed that grew and grew in Skeeter's mind. She started noticing how her friends and their families treated their female black help.

The book is narrated in chapters by the 3 main characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minnie. Aibileen and Minnie are black maids for friends of Skeeter's. As Skeeter begins paying attention to their lives, she begins to identify the injustice, inhumanity, unawareness, etc, that the black maids have put up with all of their lives. Skeeter has an idea: to write a book about the lives of 13 black maids. She approaches Aibileen first, hoping that she will help Skeeter both find and convince 12 other women to join Aibileen in providing their stories to Skeeter.

Of course, it is difficult to convince the women to spill all of the treatment and secrets, etc. of the families that they have worked for over the years. Skeeter promises absolute anonymity and that the name of the town would be changed.

Skeeter's book happens and, of course, all hell breaks loose in the town as some of the white women began to think that they recognize the stories.

I really liked reading this book. Hearing the narration from the 3 different women added a lot of substance and variety to the book. I wished that there was actually more about the actual stories that were put into Skeeter's book, as The Help primarily was focused on Aibileen and Minnie's lives.

As I have noted before, I feel that one of the things that defines a book as "good" is if the book leaves you wanting to know more about the subject...this book did that for me. In the Acknowledgements, the author refers to a book called Telling Memories Among Southern Women by Susan Tucker...I need to find and read it! Fascinating, hard-to-believe lives. I am almost always drawn to books about the South.

Anyway, good, easy reading book that I recommend!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey is absolutely brilliant! I loved this book! At first I couldn't put my finger on it, but then it finally occurred to me..the writing reminded me of Stephen King' writing. Characters are magnificently developed, and the pace was quick. Probably hundreds of characters are introduced, but there are just a few that thread through-out the book. Very well written and I think that it really portrays what living in a large city is like for much of that city's population.

This is from the Publisher:

"One of the most celebrated and controversial authors in America delivers his first novel—a sweeping chronicle of contemporary Los Angeles that is bold, exhilarating, and utterly original.
Dozens of characters pass across the reader's sight lines—some never to be seen again—but James Frey lingers on a handful of LA's lost souls and captures the dramatic narrative of their lives: a bright, ambitious young Mexican-American woman who allows her future to be undone by a moment of searing humiliation; a supremely narcissistic action-movie star whose passion for the unattainable object of his affection nearly destroys him; a couple, both nineteen years old, who flee their suffocating hometown and struggle to survive on the fringes of the great city; and an aging Venice Beach alcoholic whose life is turned upside down when a meth-addled teenage girl shows up half-dead outside the restroom he calls home. Throughout this strikingly powerful novel there is the relentless drumbeat of the millions of other stories that, taken as a whole, describe a city, a culture, and an age. A dazzling tour de force, Bright Shiny Morning illuminates the joys, horrors, and unexpected fortunes of life and death in Los Angeles. "

Interestingly, this book is the pick of my book group for August. I would not have ever read it, I don't think, except for that. I had read his first two books and thought that they were very good, but was quick to realize (being in the substance abuse field) that the books didn't ring true. I was disappointed in the author. However, this, his first novel, redeems himself mightily in my eyes.

A great read. And perhaps, may be a classic!

Prodigal Summer

Quite simply, a lovely book, authored by Barbara Kingsolver. I had not read it before, but last month at my book group, one of the members asked if I had read it and said that they thought I would enjoy it. I trust all of the group's opinions, so I got the book and read it. My book group had read it several years ago. And he was right! I thoroughly enjoyed the book!

The book weaves together three different stories of people, all living within a short distance of each other in the Appalachia's. Deanna is a park ranger living in the Appalachian Mountains who has been living in the mountains by herself for the past two years, telling herself that she does not need anyone. Lusa is a recent bride, then widow, trying to figure out where she fits in on her husband's family place. Garnett and Nannie are elderly neighbors of each other who live down the road from Lusa. They have continued to feud and fuss with each other over the years.

The book beautifully raises and explores several different themes. One is just plain themes of love, which each of the characters experience in different ways. But the book also is about survival of the land, including the trees, bugs, birds, animals, etc. Deanna is tracking a family of coyotes, long missing from the Appalachian Mountains. Lusa is trying to farm responsibly. Garnett and Nannie disagree on the use of pesticides. The author does a very nice job of presenting the facts and arguments, without the book seeing preachy at all.

Kingsolver does an excellent job developing the characters, making them real and likable. I cared about them, and what happened to them.

As stated, a lovely book!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Won A Book!

I won a book, signed by the author! I have never won a book before, so you can imagine my excitement! The book that I won is: Frank Lloyd Wright: The Heroic Years. I won it in a drawing. I subscribe to the weekly newsletter Living PrairieMod and they are the ones who had the drawing.

The newsletter is about all things FLW, and arts and craft style, etc. If you are a fan of FLW, it is full of interesting items and you would probably enjoy it. To sign up for the newsletter go to:

Here's the announcement:

"Thank you to all who entered to win the July 09 Living PrairieMod Newsletter giveaway.Sue F. won the author signed copy of Frank Lloyd Wright: The Heroic Years written by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer.

Only subscribers of the Living PrairieMod Weekly Newsletter are eligible each month, so we invite you to sign-up if you like!"

I will let you know how the book is after I receive it! I am excited!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love

I got up early this morning to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Quite simply, I loved this book and it may have made a profound impact on my life! Oddly enough, it was a book that has been out for awhile (2006) and I never had any interest in reading about some lady traveling around seeking herself. But I found it for $.70 at Goodwill one day and decided to try it.

As the sub-title states: "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia", this is a true story of Elizabeth's Gilbert search for happiness. Coming off a hard, bitter divorce, dark depression, then an impossible love affair, she decides to go away and find God. First, she goes to Italy and learns pleasure...just in being, enjoying friends, food and landscape. She stays there for, I believe, 3 months. By then, she feels emotionally and physically restored and is ready to travel to India, where she spends 4 months at the Ashram, learning to mediate and seek God on a higher level. This is the part of the book that I found so inspiring and yet simple.

Elizabeth's time in the Ashram is shared with various people who come and go, also seeking their own spirituality. I was most struck with her friend, Richard, from Texas. In his own way, his wisdom is ancient.

I wish that I had read this book years ago (although it hadn't been written) because I would have used some of the wisdom in my own work with clients. In one instance, Elizabeth is talking about her inability to let go of David (the affair), stating that after a year, she still can't let go of him. Richard suggests that she give it another 6 months. "Just keep throwin' six months at it till it goes away. Stuff like this takes time."

Elizabeth then goes on to lament that David was her soul mate. Richard's response:
"He probably was. Your problem is you don't understand what that work means. People think that a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll every meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can't let this one go. It's over, Groceries (his nickname for her). David's purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of that marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. That was his job, and he did great, but now it's over. Problem is, you can't accept that this relationship had a real short shelf life. You're like a dog at the dump, baby-you're just lickin' at an empty tin can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And it you're not careful, that can's gonna get stuck on you snout forever and make your life miserable. So drop it."

What wisdom! And that is just a sampling of Richard's wisdom! He should write a book, too! (***Note: just found this online: Check it out!)

Anyway, Elizabeth spends 4 months in India learning various ways of mediatation, then travels to Bali and it appeared to me that there she spends her time (again, I think it was 4 months) living the life that she had learned to live and appreciate over the past year.

I even learned a new way to meditate that I have been trying for the past 2 days. And I never in my life, have ever had the desire to do so!

The book certainly left me with wanting to know how Elizabeth's life has been going for the past 3 years! I highly recommend this book. It is very easy to read and reads like a novel...very entertaining. I think that this book, and it's messages will stay with me for a long time.

New List of Summer Recommendations

While reading through the magazine Woman's Day (August 4th issue) I saw that they had a site for readers:

On the site, they state: "Every couple weeks we will submit new reviews for books we love so you can find a page turner of your own. Settle in and find a new story to enchant you."

I thought it was a great list of books and wanted to share it with you. I have marked (*) the books that I want to read, and commented on those that I have read. It might be worth checking out the site every so often to see what is new they are recommending. Each book has a brief review with it. Here's an example:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
This story of two Jewish cousins who set out to make it big in the world of comic books in the 1940s is funny, sad, exciting and touching all at once. Much more than a glimpse inside the world of comics, this novel's historical backdrop give it a much deeper and richer meaning. And even though it's more than 600 pages, the story seems to go by in a flash thanks to Chabon's inspired prose. He's a truly gifted writer. -- Angela Ebron

The books listed on the site so far are the following:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafron-good book

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

*The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

*The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

*Broken: A Love Story by Lisa Jones

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult-one of my all-time favorite books! I highly recommend it!

Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob by Bob Delaney with Dave Scheiber

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller

Belle in the Big Apple by Brooke Parkhurst

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

But Enough About Me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet by Jancee Dunn

*Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

*The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides-excellent read

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson-another excellent read

The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult-good, but not her best

*Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

How Not to Die by Jan Garavaglia

*Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff

Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen with Sherry Suib Cohen

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

The Kite Runner by Kahled Hoseini

*Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Romantic Movement by Alain de Botton

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

*The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards-I loved this book

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Cheer! Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders by Kate Torgovnick

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

*The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

*Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Perfectly Imperfect by Lee Woodruff

Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon-see my last review!

Hope that this gives you some more ideas for books TBR! It sure did me! Let me know if you have read any of these and would recommend them!

Friday, July 17, 2009


I just finished Meridian by Alice Walker. It was written in 1976 and tells the story of Meridian Hill, a student at an Atlanta college. She attempt to find her place in the on-going revolution that is occurring, but is not willing "to kill for it". It was an interesting book. I saw a piece on-liine from the New York Times reviewing the book and it pretty much covers it for me, so here it is:

May 23, 1976 Meridian By MARGE PIERCY MERIDIAN By Alice Walker. In "Meridian," Alice Walker has written a fine, taut novel that accomplishes a remarkable amount. The issues she is concerned with are massive. Events are strung over 25 years, although most occur between the height of the civil rights movement and the present. However, her method of compression through selection of telling moments and her freedom from chronology create a lean book that finishes in 228 pages and goes down like clean water. Although this is only Alice Walker's second novel, it is her sixth book. She has published poetry, short stories and a study of Langston Hughes. She writes with a sharp critical sense as she deals with the issues of tactics and strategy in the civil rights movement, with the possibility of interracial love and communication, the vital and lethal strands in American and black experience, with violence and nonviolence, holiness and self-hatred. In spite of many sharply sketched minor characters (for instance, the young woman dying of a kidney ailment who says "Don't sit there. . . . You blocks my view of my husband"), there are only four important characters: Meridian's mother, Mrs. Hill, dour, narrowly religious, frightened and unloving; Lynne, a Jewish civil rights worker from the suburbs who marries and loses Truman the "Ethiopian prince"; Truman, a painter, who shifts and slides with the times; and Meridian herself, a black woman who cannot lie and for whom ideas are simply real and to be acted upon with her life. What Walker wants to say about history and choice she works out through a 10-year-long triangle; of Meridian, Truman and Lynne--their misadventures, their ability and inability to love or forgive each other, the dreadful believability of how they flay and feed and comfort by turns. Meridian has been passionately in love with Truman, who leaves her for Lynne, whom he later abandons along with their daughter Camara. By the time he wants Meridian, she no longer wants him because her life of total commitment to struggle in the black small towns of the South is meaningless to him, an increasingly commercial artist. Lynne cannot go back where she came from and she does not belong in the black community either. Meridian, the protagonist, is the most interesting, an attempt to make real in contemporary terms the notion of holiness and commitment. Is it possible to write a novel about the progress of a saint? Apparently, yes. With great skill and care to make Meridian believable at every stage of her development, Walker also shows us the cost. For every exemplary act of bravery for the black community (standing up to a tank so black children can see a peepshow) she pays an immediate price in her body. Asked by a group of temporary revolutionaries if she can kill for the revolution, she infuriates her friends because she cannot say an easy yes and spends a decade worrying the question. Walker has put "Meridian" together carefully, on every level. For instance, the lost dead black child is a motif running throughout. In ignorance Meridian got pregnant and had to leave high school. When she is offered a college scholarship for her work in civil rights, she gives her baby away to relatives and goes. She feels that giving up her child is a sin and a shame, and after aborting Truman's baby, she is sterilized. She is haunted by having failed to win her mother's love, by the great lack of mothering and nurture; and by her own failure as a mother. Her inability to forgive cripples her. At the same time she is aware that without that harsh choice, she would have accomplished nothing. Her life would have been wasted and she would have taken out her emptiness and frustration on hr baby, whom she could not love. That theme is played out in the story of a child of 13 who bears a baby and kills it, after she has bitten its cheek like an apple, and is put in prison, Lynne, whose daughter Camara is raped and murdered, loses her child and almost her reason. One of Meridian's acts on behalf of the black community in a small town in Alabama is to force the end of the flooding that menaces the children. The city has closed the swimming pools sooner than integrate them. In the hot weather, black children wade in the ditches behind their houses, where the city without warning flushes the reservoir of excess water. "It was Meridian who had led them to the mayor's office, bearing in her arms the bloated figure of a five-year-old boy who had been stuck in the sewer for two days before he was raked out with a grappling hook. . .To the people who followed Meridian it was as if she carried a large bouquet of long-stemmed roses. The body might have smelled just that sweet, from the serene, set expression on her face. They had followed her into a town meeting over which the white-haired, bespectacled mayor presided, and she had placed the child, whose body was beginning to decompose, beside his gavel." I do not find the ending successful. Walker consciously rejects death. Meridian's political commitment is not to end in martyrdom: there have been too many martyrs to her cause. Still, we need some other equivalent of death or marriage to round off a tale, and Walker has not found one here. We are told that Meridian has brought off a successful change from victim to fully responsible protagonist: that she no longer need punish herself physically, have fits, go blind because she acts for her people and herself, and that she believes she could kill if she must to prevent more martyrdom. But telling is not enough. She has ceased to be one sort of committed person and become another. Some act is needed to make real the change and it isn't there; but that's a minor failure in a tight, fascinating novel. Marge Piercy is a poet and novelist. Her latest poetry collection is "Living in the Open."

It is an interesting, complicated story. Although it was written about 33 years ago, it still seems quite relevant and in tume with these times.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Rapture of Canaan

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds was published in 1995, and I just got around to reading it. I ended up loving this book. I had trouble, at first, getting into it, but I think that was my problem, not the book! I was distracted while reading the first couple of chapters, and had trouble following the story, but once I settled into the book, I really liked it.

It is the story of a young girl, Ninah, who lives in a very strict, "religious" community, that her grandfather started (ie. made up). She finds herself attracted to a young boy, James, and becomes his "prayer partner". She became pregnant by James and when she tells him, he is quite frightened by what the community might do to him, as the leader/grandfather is very harsh on "sinners". Shortly before Ninah became pregnant,one of the young men was found guilty of drinking and his punishment was to spend the night in an open grave. James was terrified of what might be done to him, Ninah and the baby.

James handles the situation in a horrifying way, leaving Ninah to go through the pregnancy alone. She stays with her grandparents, and is isolated from the rest of the community. Her grandmother, Nana, takes care of her, both emotionally and physically, until the baby is born.

I am leaving out lots of stuff here, because the story is so good, I don't want to give anything away.

The story tells of Ninah's strength, courage, and moral convictions. Her ability to be resilient despite all of the religiosity is uplifting and amazing.

On a personal note, Nana reminded me a great deal of my own dear sweet Nanya, my grandmother, who was always there for me with unconditional love and support. That made the book even more enjoyable for me!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

well, nuts!

Since finishing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I have been having miserable luck getting into another book. Read 65 pages of The Memory of Water...gave up. Read 65 pages of Moo...gave up. Am now trying to read The Rapture of Canaan and so far, not getting into it...but will give it 65 pages too. I hate it when I don't have a good book to read! Or maybe The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo spoiled other books for awhile? No, surely not....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I loved this book written by Stieg Larsson. Here, listen to the blurb on the back:

"...combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into a complex and atmospheric novel.

Harriett Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption."

What more could one want? The story is written very well and kept me engaged the whole time...I could hardly put it down. Part of the attraction for me was that the book takes place in Sweden (where I visited when my daughter was going to school in Uppsala....beautiful place!).

I thought that the characters of Mikael and Lisbeth were very knew these people. Parts of the story are rather shocking, but just very interesting. I am really reluctant to say more about the book because I don't want to give anything away!

I was rather puzzled by the events at the end of the book...the mystery had been solved, and there were still 80 pages left in the book. I thought it a rather odd way to end a book, but am guessing that the ending was leaving room for a follow-up book.

The author does have a book coming out this month, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which appears to be about Lisbeth Salander again, so that will be interesting. I will be anxious to read it when it comes out. I definitely recommend The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Interesting items

Well, ok, maybe just interesting to me, but they involve books, so others may have some interest!

I heard from my mother's cousin (my 1st cousin once removed), Joan, the other day. She wrote to me about the books she has read this year and I found it quite interesting. Here is what she wrote:

"In the meantime, I wish I had kept a log of all the books I have read over
the many, many years of reading. Here are a few of the ones I have read this
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (outstanding)
Outliers by Gladwell (fascinating, as a psychologist I think you'd like it)
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen (inspiring)
The Hemingses of Monticello (very dry and like a doctoral thesis)
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (about Alzheimer patient-- I recommend it)
Everyman by Philip Roth (I still think his writing is wonderful)
All 4 "Rabbit" books by J. Updike (sure took me back in time to when I first
read them)
The Good War by Studs Terkel (best account of war I've ever read--about WW2)

And about 4 more that I can't recall at the moment."

Almost all of the books she listed I want to read! I have not read any of the "Rabbit" books and don't really know anything about them, so don't know if I would be interested in them or not. I have Team of Rivals sitting on my TBR pile, and have wanted to read The Hemingses of Monticello. I have also heard very good things about Still Alice.

Isn't it fun to hear what others are reading?

The other interesting thing is that the latest Newsweek magazine arrived today and it is about Books You Should Read. If you have a chance, pick it up. They list their top 50 books, and most of them, I have no interest at all in reading, but there were a few that either I have read or want to get to. I was very pleased to see that one of my very all-time favorite books, Gilead, was included!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hooray for Goodwill and me!

Look at what I got today at the Goodwill in Glen Carbon IL (I'm at my daughter's) for $6.70! I know you can't see the titles well so I will spell them out for you:

The Memory of Water by Karen White

Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiani

Open House by Elizabeth Berg

Moo by Jane Smiley

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

I am ecstatic with my finds!

By the way, if you haven't done so, check out It is great fun and very addicting!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finally and more

I finally finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. It was my first book to read for my new-to-me book group. 636 pages. Took me 2 weeks to read. I have to admit that the actual story was really good. But I felt like it could have easily and very well been told in about 250 pages. The author just seemed to go on and on. I read one sentence to my husband that was 4 lines long....ONE sentence!

As I said, I think that the story was very good and that there are a lot of sub-themes through-out the book, but I kept getting bogged down in all the WORDS!

The basic story is that of 2 Jewish cousins who meet each other in the 1930's. One lives in NY and the other has come from Prague. They get into comic book designing and writing, while meanwhile, the war progresses, and finally involves the US. There are lots of relationship issues going on in the book, with a lot of complications, losses, grief, etc.

Would I recommend the book? No, but only because of the wordiness. I think that the story gets lost in all the words.

On a brighter note, I went to Borders with a coupon and a gift card and got 3 new books today...will begin The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tonight. Also got Alice Walker's Meridian and Through Time Into Healing by Brian Weiss. Interesting reads, I hope!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Two things

Two things to talk about today...

First, I just finished Loving Frank last night by Nancy Horan. A really good read. I have to confess, however, my husband and I are Frank Lloyd Wright junkies! Nine years ago we built a Prairie-style home designed by one of FLW's apprentices. We have been to Oak Park a couple of times and have been to Taliesin. We have a trip planned to Taliesin West (in Arizona) for next year.

That being said, at first I had difficulty with the book being a novel, questioning whether FLW would have really said or done certain things, but the more I got into the book, the more I got caught up in it. It is the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney. She, her husband, and their 2 children lived in Oak Park IL and commissioned FLW to build a house for them. Frank and Mamah became attracted to each other, and over a couple of years, began an affair. They went to Europe to escape all of the scandal over their relationship, and there, Mamah began to come into her own. While in Europe, Frank began talking to Mamah about building a home for her in his native Wisconsin. She wanted him to build a home for them in Italy. Soon, Frank returned to the States and Mamah decided to remain in Europe to study and write. Her love for Frank brought her back to the States and the building of Taliesin began.

Mamah had become involved in the women rights movement and while in Europe had begun translating the work of Ellen Key, a Swedish feminist. Mamah certainly must have had her work cut out for her, based on what we know of FLW. He was a very opinionated, strong personality. The story did a good job telling the story of her accomplishments.

The story ends tragically and is true.

I was impressed with the list of references that Ms. Horan put at the end of the book and will be checking into some of them. Isn't that a wonderful sign of a good book, when it leaves you wanting to learn more?

The second thing: in my new retirement, I was invited to join a Book Club! I attended my first meeting last week and was very pleased with the group and their discussion! I am quite excited to be part of this is both men and women, which I think is rather unusual for a book group (or I am just horribly out of touch). The book chosen to read for July is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

I have to admit that I was hesitant to commit to the group because I was fearful of having to read a book that I hadn't chosen for myself and didn't want to give up all my reading time to a book not of my choice. But then I remembered that I am now retired and can read whenever I want. And my husband reminded me that there has never been a time when I have only read one book in a month. Thus reassured, I think that I will be fine!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Story of Forgetting

Another first novel, The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block is an interesting story premise. I felt like the book got bogged down at times by all of the facts/information included, but all in all, a good story.

The novel is primarily about a family history of Alzheimer's and includes a lot of factual information. It starts out with the story of Abel Haggard, a 68 year old hunchback man who fell in love with his twin brother's wife, Mae. His twin brother, Paul, left to serve in (I believe) the Korean War and Abel and Mae began an affair that ended in pregnancy. However, Paul came home around that time and so Mae presented that she was pregnant with Paul's child.

Paul and Abel had been born and raised on a farm in High Plains, Texas. They watched their mother slowly slip away into dementia, as had her father before her. All Abel has left of his mother is a book of stories she had written down for the boys about a place called "Isadora", stories that had been passed down within her family.

After returning from the war, Paul and Mae and their daughter moved out of the farmhouse and Able lived there alone, as the world around him began changing. Over the years, Able found himself surrounded by what he called McEstates, suburbs popping up, surrounding what was left of his farm.

Meanwhile, the story goes to 1998 and there is an adolescent boy named Seth who lives hundreds of miles away from High Plains and who is also watching his mother slip away, until his father places her in a home. She is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Seth knows nothing about his mother's background, not even her maiden name and his dad refuses to tell him the little bit that he does know about her, so Seth decides to begin a search for information about his mother. He has little to go on, other than stories that she used to tell him about a place called "Isadora", where there are no memories so nothing is ever lost.

It is a lovely story and some of the writing is just excellent, but then I would get bogged down in some of it, so it sometimes made for difficult reading.

I was captured by the author's writing with the first paragraph of the book:

"I never found a way to fill all the silence. In the months that followed the great tragedy of my life, I sprang from my bed every morning, donned my five-pound, cork-soled boots and did a high-step from room to room, colliding with whatever I could. The silence meant absence and absence meant remembering, and so I made a racket."

And it got even better from here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two Books Read!

I finished Jodi Picoult's book, Handle With Care, over the past weekend, then read No One You Know by Michelle Richmond.

It took me quite a while to read Handle With Care. The main topic of the book was quite disturbing/distressing to me. The main story of the book is about a "wrongful birth" lawsuit that the mother of 6 year old Willow decides to pursue against her OB-GYN, who is also her best friend. Willow was born with "brittle bone" disease. The story is divided into chapters narrated by the mother, the father, the OB-GYN, the older sister, and the attorney handling the lawsuit, so you get several different takes on the whole thing. As you can imagine, many different themes of love, loss, friendship, etc. are presented. Right from the beginning of the book, I was bothered by the message that the lawsuit gave to the child: the premise of the lawsuit was that if the doctor had informed the mother early in her pregnancy that the child had the disease, the mother would have aborted the child. It did help that the child's father recognized the message and refused to have any part of the lawsuit. The mother's contention was that the money from the lawsuit would be needed to care for the Willow as she grows up, and after her parents are no longer around to care for her.

Meanwhile, the older sister begins to act out in her own adolescent way, with no one really noticing, because they are all caught up in the lawsuit. The parents are having serious marital issues because of their opposing views about the lawsuit. The mother and doctor are no longer speaking after years of being best friends. The attorney is dealing with her own adoption issues and trying to locate her birth mother. Many things going on in this book.

The book is very long, and, as I said, because of the subject, difficult to read, but I stuck with it, knowing that Ms. Picoult usually has endings that are totally unexpected and I was curious to see if that would be the case. It was. And I cried at the end. And I thought about the end of the book for days.

So then, I read No One You Know, by Michelle Richmond. I had read her earlier book, The Year of Fog, last year and liked it. I thought this book was better. It is about a woman whose sister was found murdered twenty years ago. The author did good job processing how the loss had affected the remaining sister over the years. It ends up that the sister runs into the prime suspect when she was in Nicaragua for a few weeks for work. After they talk, she begins to question his assumed involvement in her sister's death. She begins to investigate people that had been involved with her sister back then. I thought that the end of the book was wrapped up too conveniently and quickly, but all in all, it was a good, quick read.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More this and that

Here is a picture of my library area. It holds the largest amount of my books and the most comfortable reading chair ever (if you can stay awake sitting in it!). I also should add that my husband built it for me (he is the best!). I also have book areas in my study and in my bedroom. You can never have enough book space! I am also working on my husband to get our hammock up so that when it warms up I can head out there!

Today is my 3rd day of retirement and I am just beginning to give myself permission to read whenever I want to! I received 2 new books for retirement gifts...John Grisham's The Appeal and The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block. Anxious to get to those. I also have waiting to be read No One You Know and Loving Frank. I need to get to it!

Over the holiday weekend we made a visit to the Illinois Antique Center in Peoria IL and I found 2 more books that I had to have: Diary of a Union Lady 1861-1865 by Maria Lydig Daly and The Lincoln Enigma edited by Gabor Boritt. I want to learn more about Abraham Lincoln and have several other books waiting on my bookshelf in my study to read about him.

I am still reading Handle With Care. It is a difficult subject to read for me, so it has been rather slow going. I am curious to finish it however, to see how the ending is handled. More on that later!

I think that I will go read for a bit!

Monday, May 18, 2009

This and That

Just completed reading The Lost Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini. Apparently, she has a series of books about quilts. I was drawn to this particular book because it was about the Civil War and finding the women who had done a quilt that had been found, so between my interests in genealogy and the Civil War, it caught my attention. It was an easy read, nice story, etc.

My daughter has given me the latest Jodi Picult book to read, so I will be attending to that next, so that I can return it to her. Again, pretty easy reading.

I went into the library at Canton Illinois this morning. Canton is about 12 miles away from us, and is a town of about 16,000. The library is the Parlin Ingersoll Library ( and is just about the best small library that I have ever seen. No, not "just about", it is the best. I am so looking forward to retirement (another 4 days!) in order to begin reading all the great books that I see there. This morning I got a book on the Delta Mississippi Blues, on Organic Eating and 2 books on using Smokers (my husband got one for Christmas and loves it!). I can usually find whatever I am looking for there. Although I was a bit disappointed that they didn't have any books on Clean Eating, which is what I went there looking for. But you know what? I bet that they have some books about it soon! They really seem to stay quite current with books.

I had a pleasant surprise when reading the paper last week and learned that our really small town (Farmington), 5 miles from us, has purchased land to build a new library! It is on hold right now because of the economy, but hopefully it will get going soon. Right now I really avoid that library because it is so small that I can't even bend over in any of the aisles to see what's on the lower shelves. I know that some of that is due to my not-so-small size, but still...I'm not THAT big!

Another thing that I had read recently in our newspaper was that an anonymous donor gave something like 8 million dollars for a new library in Yates City (about 10 miles from us). I may be off on the amount, but it was an incredibly generous gift!

Reading Rules!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On The Black Hill

I finished reading On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin last week. It was one of my challenges to myself to read 5 Whitbread Winners, and I think that this was the last one. I really liked it. What is odd, is that I remember reading about the book when it first came out (1982) and thought it sounded interesting. When I began reading it, I recognized right away that it was a book that I had wanted to read a long time ago.

Simply put, this is the story of identical twin brothers. Which right there grabs my attention. I have always been fascinated with twins (part genealogy, part psychology). Lewis and Benjamin Jones are born to simple Welsh parents, who life a simple rural life. The brothers are quite different from one another, yet are totally devoted to each other, to the point where one seemingly sacrifices his life (not literally, but figuratively). Lewis is the rough and tough brother, interested in the more traditionally "male" sorts of things, like farming, airplanes, and women, while Benjamin seems to be more his mother's son, in that he is very introverted, quiet, shy and not willing to take any risks at all. Very unadventurous. However, as different as they are, they cannot seem to exist without the other. There are several times in the story where they are separated and it is unbearable for them. In the end, they stay together through all of the changes of the 20th century, until death.

Essentially, the book tells the story of one life, through 2 different people! The writing is outstanding and it is another one of those books that I would love to be in a class with to dissect and examine with others. Fascinating story!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Olive Kitteridge

I just finished Olive Kitteredge last night. I loved it. And I almost didn't even try to read it. After I bought it, I noticed on the back of the book that it referred to "stories" as the book was discussed and I realized that it was short stories. However, I also realized that the stories seemed to all be related somehow to Olive, so I decided to give it a try. (Yes, I am a short story snob...I just hate getting into a story and having it end quickly...I just prefer books!).

Olive is a retired math school teacher married to Henry, the local pharmacist, who lives in the small town of Crosby, Maine. Olive appears to be opininated and somewhat inflexible in her world views. Each story is about someone in the town, and Olive is invoved in teh story somehow or somewhere. As each story goes on, you begin to really know Olive, as you watch Olive begin to know herself, as she ages.

There were a lot of lines in the book that touched me and/or made me ponder. Such as: "And she was happy right now, it was true. Jane Houlton, shifting slightly inside her nice black coat, was thinking that, after all, life was a gift-that one of those things about getting older was knowing that so many moments weren't just moment, they were gifts." and another: "She remembered what hope was, and this was it. That inner churning that moves you forward, plows you through life the way the boats below plowed the shiny water, the way the plane was plowing forward to a place new, and where she was needed. She had been asked to be part of her son's life.". And one more: "And so, if this man next to her now was not a man she would have chosen before this time, what did it matter? He most likely wouldn't have chosen her either. But here they were, and Olive pictured tow slices of Swiss cheese pressed together, such holes they brought to this union-what pieces life took out of you."....Brilliant writing!

The last story is titled "River" and it is stunning. I read and reread the last 2 pages 3 times after I finished the book. No wonder this book was announced the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was really good!