Monday, April 9, 2018

So Many Books!

Like most of you, I always have to TO BE READ stack of books, often more than one, stashed in various locations at home and at LaDeDa.  Seldom do I commit to reading those piles  though, instead, randomly choosing a title when needed.  However, this is a pile I will commit to.  I will tackle each one.  I will read the entire stack beginning now.

In order of importance?  Maybe.  The top three are book discussion picks, so they are my get-at-it-now books.  This slim  Making Oscar Wilde title is making me very happy.  At least once a year, usually in summer when most people opt for breezy beach reads, I check out 1000+ page Wilde bio from the library with good intentions of finally winning the battle with that quintessential work on one of my favorite playwrights.  I return it unopened each year.

  Midnight the the Bright Ideas Bookstore was suggested by a friend so when I finish he and I will email chat about it.  

Teddy Bare?  I actually have two copies of this book and with the Chappaquiddick movie out soon, I thought I'd read this and refresh my memory on the event. Rumors swirled when the book was first published that the Kennedy family had stopped any further printings.  When I found two copies at St.Vinnie's years ago, I was sure I had a gold mine - rare books, controversial.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I could sell them and run away.   Now I know that the author most likely self published and could only afford a small run.  Sadly, I will not be able to afford a tour of Europe on the $3.73 this book is going for on resale sites.

 Meet Your Dog - I just figured that since I'm 15 years into a commitment to Mrs. George Burns, I ought to know a little more about her dog-ness.

With that pile in front of me, I'm not quite sure where to turn, or in this case, which page to turn first.  Perhaps I can (horrors) break one of my many reading rules and tackle more than one book at a time. 

 Recently I ran across an article detailing how to manage multiple books. These are the writer's be the judge.

Read a thriller.
 And stay up all night reading it.

Start easy. .
Enjoy a cup at your local café and ease into the day.

 Read on your commute. 

 Listen to audiobooks while you’re at work. 
No one will suspect that you’re not actually working, and the time will fly by.

 Read while you eat. 

Run and read. 
This is not going to happen.

Stuck on a book you don’t like?
 Stop wasting time and put it down

 Never, ever be caught without a book. 

Now that I've made my public declaration of what I will be doing with the next week, I better get moving. I am part way into Killers of the Flower Moon, a troubling account of the murders of many Osage Indians. More on that next week.

Keep your fingers crossed for me on Monday as I am starting with a new piano teacher.  She has some strict studio policies, including "no swearing".  Jeeze Louise. I'm good for at least one fiery outburst per lesson as I talk myself through a piece. " B flat. B flat. B flat.  It's still a ##%$ B flat. Play the ^##% B flat." 

 I'll try to curtail my enthusiasm and hope to be  welcomed back for a second lesson.  

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Word is Murder

This ranks up there as one of the most fascinating, artfully crafted mysteries ever!  Anthony Horowitz authored the Alex Rider series for young adults, and served as screenwriter for several PBS Masterpiece Mystery! shows including  Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War.

The first chapters confused me.  Was the author going to spend the entire novel talking about his personal writing history?  Was the personal information ever going to connect with the story arc or had some editor somewhere simply mislabeled the introduction with the early chapter titles?  

Before long, though, I realized that Horowitz has more than intimated himself into the novel, he places himself at the center of the action as a novelist working with a detective to solve a crime.  It's all very meta.

Mrs, Cowper walks into a funeral home to arrange future services for herself.  Six hours later she is dead.  Murdered.  Several murders follow, all tied to a ten year old accident that killed on young boy and resulted in life long injuries for his brother.

Disgraced ex-detective, Daniel Hawthorne enters the picture, as he frequently does when the London police are stumped.  Hawthorne, arrogant, surly and secretive, enlists the help of Horowitz, thinking that the author will follow him as he solves this complex case, and ultimately write a best selling novel about the investigation. The push and pull that erupts between these two often slows the movement of the investigation (but not in a bad way), with both parties questioning the efficacy of the relationship.  Told in first person, Horowitz lets us in on all sorts of writing and publishing secrets while being critiqued at every turn by Hawthorne.  It is this very difference in styles that eventually brings together a obtuse mixture of parts leading to a solution. 

The narrative unraveling of the case is a fine homage to Agatha Christie and  all traditional gumshoe detectives who rely on cunning, intuition, and sometime law-breaking to solve crimes.

Next up -  Killers of the Flower Moon

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Hate U Give

Wow!  Did I ever feel sheltered, ignorant, and fortunate after reading this book.  My friend, Steph, has been an advocate for The Hate U Give for a year or so.   Our tastes often intersect, so I figured it time to follow her lead on this book.   I found myself immersed in a storm  of chaos,  fear, and inequality so powerful that I it hardly seems possible to exist in the same world I occupy.  But it does.

Angie Thomas' book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, shedding blinding light on an issue that should no  longer be part of our human history.  16 year old Starr has witnessed two deaths in her young life.  The first was at age 10, the second was the intentional murder of her friend, Kahlil, by a white police officer.  

Kahlil is stopped for a minor traffic violation in a neighborhood associated with thugs and drug dealers.  Neither Kahlil, nor his passenger, Starr, is armed, yet the officer drags him out of the car, and in short order, shoots and kills him.  

Starr is left to deal with the aftermath of being a witness, knowing that in all likelihood, the officer will not be charged.  Complicating matters is Starr's life, balancing between two different worlds.  She lives in a poor, African-American neighborhood, but her parents have chosen to send her to a fancy suburban prep school. Kahlil's death opens a flood of terrors for her, including recognizing how removed her school friends are from the reality of her day to day life.  She questions her own loyalty to her neighborhood, her family and her race.  

Of course, there are elements I did not like, but writing about them would just be a bunch of blah blah blah compared to the significance of this well told, important story.

thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

I'm a sucker for books about books, usually.  The first time I read this book, I found myself skimming, skipping pages, yawning.  To be fair, I had just read several book-centric novels in a row, and enough was enough.  I bit my tongue when my book group choose this title, but the girl scout in me said to buck up and give it a brave effort.  Well, wasn't I surprised to find an endorsement form Nick Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs?  That was enough for me to clear my mind and give this book a fair second shake.  

Predictable.  Feel good. Cozy. Silly.  Sure.  All of that is true, but it all comes in an artfully written homage to small towns populated by oddball and eccentrics.  My only criticism is that Sara, the little Swedish girl at the center of the fun, has brown hair.  After losing her bookstore job in Sweden, Sara travels to America to meet her much older pen-pal.  In the book's first of many  surprises, Sara arrives in Broken Wheel on the day of Amy's funeral. Broken Wheel townies adopt Sara quickly and,  in short order she opens - you guessed it - a bookstore.  

Little by little, as each resident finds his or her voice, the town becomes less dependent on the respirator of sameness that had long sustained them.   Signs of life begin to stir, along with long buried secrets.  

For me, the fun came from the characters, each one being someone I know or have known.  There's the crusty diner owner with a rifle under the counter), the gay bar owners,  the sullen, but big-hearted confirmed bachelor,  the church lady....all have their moments to shine, and all add to heart and plenty of fun to Broken Wheel.

Personally, this tops my book about books list, right up there with 84 Charing Cross Road.  This book won't change your life, but it is so down to earth that you might just find your town, your friends, you relatives or even yourself within the pages.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dreadful Young Ladies

Randall Jergen - not the worst drunk in town, but well on his way to becoming so - claimed that, when he stumbled by the Sorenson house by mistake, he saw the widow seated at the head of a well-laid table, heaped to the point of breaking, with boiled potatoes and candied squash and roasted vegetables of every type and description. Each chair was filled, not with relatives or friends or even acquaintances, but with animals.  He reported two dogs, one raccoon, one porcupine, a lynx, and an odd looking bear sitting opposite the pretty widow.  A bear who grasped its wine goblet and held it aloft to the smiling Mrs. Sorenson who raised her own glass in response. - Dreadful Young Ladies by Kelly Barnhill

Who can resist intrigue like that?  This book combines two of my favorite, but seldom packaged together, literary genres - short stories and magical realism.  Story one in this collection, "Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch" begins with the widow arriving at her husband's funeral followed by her animal family.  Nothing more unusual than that.  MR readers know to simply accept bizarre, realistically incongruous behaviors and move on.  Not accepting results in closing the book, or reading to the end with regrets about time wasted over such_________________.  Fill in the blank.  We have all been there - forced purselves  to finish a book because that is what we do.  We finish.

I will finish this book.  The first story hooked me.  Just think about the possibilities hinted at by the title alone.  Even though I have only read the first story, I fully expect Barnhill's lyrical prose alone to keep me reading.  I am hopeful that  the same hypnotic literary alchemy sweeps through the entire collection.  

What else am I reading?  Book group #1 has selected The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.  Nice, feel good book without being preachy or saccharine.  More next week when I finish.

 Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Death of an Irish Diva

These grey, wishy-washy days call for some lighter reading, and so I grabbed a cozy mystery from my futures pile.  Like many cozies, this is part of a series.  In this case, some characters and minor incidents carry over, but story lines are fresh so jumping in at any point is easy.

This particular series is anchored by a versatile group of scrap booking ladies which includes a retired journalist and more than one amateur sleuth.  Combining Irish dance, scrap booking, adoptions, murder and much more, the story begins with the St. Patrick's Day parade in Cumberland Creek.  The parade goes off without a hitch until the body of famed Irish dancer, Emily McGlashen is found murdered in her dance studio.  the prime suspect is Vera Matthews, owner of a competing studio where only the fine, traditional dance forms are taught.  

Shortly, we discover that Emily may not be who she claimed to when a couple named McGlashen arrive to identify the body they believe to be their daughter only to announce they have no idea who the body is.  Then there's Vera's mother who, in the process of having her yard dug for a pool, finds that her home may be located on consecrated burial ground.  This is all good fun, just a cozy mysteries should be.  No lengthy description of chopped up bodies. no gratuitous love scenes. no cuss words.

There's a cozy for every interest, occupation, hobby, season, holiday, location, historical period, favorite animal, favorite supernatural obsession....well, you get the picture.   they're pure escape reading, and after one or two in the series, you feel like you're spending Sunday afternoon with old friend.  Do a search on Cozy mysteries and you'll come u0p with dozens of hits.  but, if you're looking for a specific theme and don't have the time or desire to wade through all the on-line sites, let me know.  I'd love to do the digging for you.

As I was thinking about this post, I scrolled through older posts and found a few words about another cozy to add on the right side bar.  In my search, I discovered that apparently I have posted on the same book a couple time - probably because I frequently start a book  and then get pulled away by another title - getting back to the original partial post months or years later.

I also discovered that my dog hasn't posted in a long time, nor have I have a guest post from Steve.  Gotta make some changes there soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Black Painting, Death of an Irish Diva...and discussion groups

Book discussion groups begin in a number of ways have a variety of formats.  The first group I belonged to, organized by two women new to Manitowoc who were looking for kindred spirits, had so many rules I had to review them before each meeting to avoid being excommunicated.  There were to be no last names, no reference to our jobs, no personal chatter, no food or drinks, and - in attempt to show that the leaders had a sense of humor - no dogs.  That group fell apart when a male transplant from a ritzy Milwaukee suburb started showing up, telling us how he had to move since "those people" were encroaching on his neighborhood, and he couldn't even attend community theatre events since the casts were all Jewish.  We had no rules on how to get rid of a problem like that, so we decided to abandon the group and reform at a later date.  We attempted once - but the chemistry with the potential members wasn't there, so that group tanked after one book.

A few years after that, a member of that failed group, suggested we give it another try with a new mix of people.  14+ years later, we're still together.

Book group #2 sprung up when I spent my entire piano lesson talking with my teacher about a book she had just finished.  She said she had never felt like a "reader" before and was bubbling over with questions, insights, reactions.  She had marked sentences that spoke loudly to her.  On that night, another group was born and we are in our second strong year of discussion.

For a while I belonged to an on-line group.  Although it didn't work out as I had hoped, I am up for trying another one.  One person from that group and I have continued our X-country book talks.  Yes,  Steve and I are a book group, although we have never defined what we do as such.  In December, I sent Steve a box on advance reader copies.  He quickly picked one to read and comment on. Coincidentally, I had a second copy of that book and decided to read along.

If you like Gothic mysteries, The Black Painting might work for you. Now, don't confusing this with those Victoria Holt goth-roms we all read in high school.  This gritty story is filled with family drama, generational secrets, a demonic Goya painting and lots of Dorian Gray creepiness.  The characters kept me on my toes; just when I thought I knew who had stolen the satanic painting, someone would double cross me, sending me in a totally different direction.  In addition, the storyline moved me to do some reading on Goya and his woks.  Fascinating stuff.  Of course I had run across him in a college art history class, but there was no mention of his dark works.  Must have been too much for us sensitive, Catholic coeds to handle.

After that aggressive book, I decided something light would be perfect.  Death of an Irish Diva came off the TBR pile - a cozy mystery with a theatrical theme.  It seems we're selling more and more cozies these days.  Maybe we all need a litter humor mixed with mayhem during the dreary months.  More next week when I close the book on the murder of the Irish dance teacher.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Literary Couples

Love, romance and the accompanying tribulations and joys have provided endless material for writers from the beginning of time.  Enjoy this list of memorable love matches......

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet,
by William Shakespeare
Generally perceived as the quintessential romantic couple, Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed lovers, painfully separated by feuding families. In this classic play, Shakespeare asserts that teenagers were just as impulsive and dramatic in the 16th century as they are in modern times..

Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy
Pride and Prejudice,
by Jane Austen
Despite her mother's incessant pleas, the independent and headstrong Lizzy is determined to marry for true love or else be a spinster.  In a life bound by etiquette and frivolity, she meets the proud, taciturn, and very wealthy Darcy. The two seem to disagree on just about everything, but an unlikely love blooms from their antagonism.
Tristan and Iseult
Folk Legend
This archaic legend tells a tale of forbidden love between a Cornish knight and an Irish beauty. Tristan, who is trusted implicitly by the King.  He is sent to fetch the enchanting Iseult and bring her back for a royal wedding. During the journey, the two unknowingly consume a potion that entrances them, and they fall deeply in love.

Gatsby and Daisy
The Great Gatsby,
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In a period marked by surrealism and superficiality, Jay Gatsby attempts to win back his old flame, Daisy, with flashy parties and panache. Daisy's marriage presents a weighty obstacle, but Gatsby fervently persists.

Jane Eyre and Rochester
Jane Eyre,
by Charlotte Bronte
 Jane is an abused orphan employed as a governess to the charge of an abrasive, but very rich Edward Rochester. The improbable pair grow close as Rochester reveals a tender heart beneath his gruff exterior. He does not, however, reveal his penchant for polygamy.

Catherine and Heathcliff
Wuthering Heights
by Emily Bronte
Sweethearts, Catherine and Heathcliff,  manage to continue a paranormal affair even after Catherine's death. Death has not abated Heathcliff's adoration of his beloved, and he begs Catherine's spirit to haunt him always.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
by William Shakespeare
 Lady Macbeth wields a weighty influence over her infatuated husband. When she urges him to seize the crown by murdering the current king, her infectious ambition takes hold, and the easily manipulated Macbeth takes measures to carry out the treasonous scheme.

Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler
Gone with the Wind,
by Margaret Mitchell
Proving that timing is everything, Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler never seem to be quite in synch. Throughout the epic story, this tempestuous twosome experience passion but not permanence, and their stormy marriage reflects the surrounding Civil War battles.

Lancelot and Guinevere
Folk Legend
The love that rocked an entire kingdom, the illicit affair between Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot has been immortalized by storytellers for generations. The rogue Lancelot is knighted by King Arthur after he bravely rescues Guinevere from odious captors. However, unbeknownst to the King, his favorite new member of the Round table is in hot pursuit of the Queen.

Emma and Knightley
by Jane Austen
Austen once remarked that she created Emma as a character that no one would like but herself. Vowing never to marry, Emma is content instead to play matchmaker -- to fruitless and hilarious results. She nonetheless finds herself a surprising and loving mate in her close friend, George Knightley.

Odysseus and Penelope
The Odyssey,
by Homer
Few couples understand sacrifice quite like this Greek pair. After being torn apart, they wait twenty long years to be reunited. War takes Odysseus away shortly after his marriage to Penelope. Although she has little hope of his return, she resists the 108 suitors who are anxious to replace her husband.

Also making my list.....
  • Anne and Gilbert - Anne of Green Gables
  • Jo and Laurie - this is a "wish" match since Jo ended happily married to Mr. Baehr in Little Women
  • Beatrice and Benedict - Much Ado About Nothing...for them being smart, happy and single was perfect
  • Ma and Pa Ingalls
  • Kermit and Miss Piggy - right, they aren't literary hallmarks, but their dart and dodge affair rivals that of many lovers caught between the pages

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dewey - The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

The title may be somewhat hyperbolic, but nonetheless. tenderness drips from each and every page.  I committed to disliking this book from the moment book group #1 selected it as our January title.  Really?  A book about a cat?  A book about a cat with a most precious photo on the cover?  That can only mean one thing - a devastating ending which is something I object to with fire and fury when it comes to books about dogs.  Now I have to add cats to that rule.

If you were missed all the Dewey hype several years back - here's the scoop:  Someone deposited the scrawny, obviously sick kitty in the returns box at Vicki Myron's  library in Spencer Iowa.  After considerable campaigning with the library board and several hard to manage locals, Dewey was granted access to the entire library where he lived, lounged, entertained and ruled for a good many years.

Vicki Myron is a librarian, and as such, she deals in minutia.  She also fills her book with minutia.  She is not a writer; he is not even a very good story teller.  Despite that, she has filled this book with so much  undeniable love, respect, and dignity for that darn cat that she broke my resistance.  I like this book.  Of course it's flawed, but it works the way it is supposed to work.  It charms, and that makes all the difference.

My cat interactions have been slim, most of them being at the vet's office.   Luna, the original clinic cat, hated by dog, GB.  I would have to hold G on my lap as we waited to be called.  There was nothing sneaky about Luna's attack.  He would jump right up on the bench by us, stand on his hind legs and start punching her like a kangaroo.  Of course, my dog - who I swear is part chicken - would freeze and do nothing to defend herself.  Luna is gone.  Now there are twin cats.  I call them Pinky and Stinky and that is probably why they don't like me.  Pink and Stink are beautiful, long-haired cats.  They are generally lolly gagging about atop a piles of files or relaxing on the reception desk.  When they seen us come in, they both sit up proudly, wag their tails, and (I swear) they smile.  That's an invitation to pet them, right?  Wrong.  I get within scratching range, they both stand, turn on me, and expose their puckery cat butts at me.

Those cats I do not like.  But there was Hoops, my neighborhood cat.  Golden,  Laid back Hoops.  In summer, Hoops liked to sleep on the warm blacktop, right in the middle of the road.  I live on a cul-de-sac and a couple fast driving boys live on the curve.  They would never spot Hoops in time to stop, so whenever I saw him sunbathing, I'd yell out my front door, " Hoops, you idiot, go home."  And he did.  Long before Hoops and I were formally introduced, he appeared on my front porch one wintry day.  He returned several days in a row; he resisted coming inside, so I began putting bowls of milk out for him each day, along with dog treats - cuz that's what I had on hand.  This ritual went on for months.  One day, the neighbor who had moved in across the street in early winter came over in a panic.  Her car wouldn't start and her cat had a vet appointment. He was gaining so much weight that she was worried he had a tumor.  OOPS.  Must have been the extra meal ticket he was punching at my house.

Peaches and Punkin, my friend's cats, adore me.  This is a problem.  They shed like mad.  I hate shed;  I always opt for non-shedding models when it comes to dogs.  The two P's always make a bee line for my lap. They crawl onto my shoulders and down my back, depositing enough fur to knit a small sweater..  When they finish that greeting ritual, they lay upon my jacket, my purse or whatever else I have set down in what I thought was a cat free zone.

I guess everyone has a cat story - even those of us on the cat fence.  I hate to admit it, but Dewey was a fun book for me.

Thanks for stopping by.