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.