Saturday, 17 December 2016

Noah Hawley

   How do I discover new books to read?  Well, sometimes friends recommend books or I read other blogs.  My daughter lets me know when her quilting bloggers write reviews of books.  And so, I started following "Sister's Choice Quilts".  Quilters are often great readers!
   Please click here to see what this blogger had to say about Noah Hawley's book "Before the Fall".
   Since Christmas is approaching, I thought that a book about a plane crash was not a good idea, but perhaps I could try another book by this author.
   So I tackled "The Good Father".  I realized that it was about a young man who shot a U.S. senator running for president, but the story was written from the viewpoint of the father and I was curious to see how a family would deal with this horrendous disruption in the family.
   Well, I got quite attached to the father, a very interesting doctor, and read right through to the end in order to discover how he finally came to terms with his son's act.      However, in the meantime, the author included many stories of other assassins- such as Sirhan Sirhan and Lynett "Squeaky" Fromme.  I had no idea that there were so many assassinations or attempted assassinations.  And the details of these lives interested me not at all!
   However, I always check what other readers have to say and some people are very intrigued by these assassins and what makes them tick.
  Actually, human nature does fascinate me and this author can definitely write. The father said, "I had spent the last three months trying to compile the evidence, to add up all the moments from Danny's childhood that could provide a diagnosis. a definitive answer to who he was and why he did the things he did, and yet in life everything is open to interpretation."
  I enjoyed the writing, but the content was too violent for me.
Noah Hawley

   Noah Hawley is an American film and television producer, screenwriter, composer, and author, known for creating and writing the FX television series Fargo.
  Noah has writtten five books, but our library only has these two.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Choosing books for 2017

   This is the time of year that my Monday Night Book Club chooses books for the coming year.  
   I love this kind of planning!  In fact, I guess I convinced the group to operate in this manner.
  We all bring suggestions to this "Battle of the Books" and make a pitch for our favourites.
  I have been going though books and lists to come up with my suggestions.  We alternate classics with contemporary novels.  
   I discovered this book discussion group in the mall in 1998.  They were planning to read "Middlemarch".  Wow!  880 pages.  But the next month they read "A Suitable Boy" with 1400 pages.  I realized immediately that these readers were serious.
  And so, since then, we have read over 100 classic novels.  It is becoming difficult to find titles in the library.  Even book stores don't carry much of a collection of classics.  Sometimes we can order the books or get them from interlibrary loan.

  I had been interested in reading "Hans Brinker', but it is difficult to find enough copies.  It is a children's classic, but we have read several children's classics- "Black Beauty" for sure!
I also would like to do another Wilkie Collins book.  We read "Woman in White" and it was great. "Moonstone" is a mystery but hard to find.

  I settled on "The Time Machine" by H.G.Wells.  I am able to get several copies through the library and it is very small and the girls will love that for a change.

   However, the contemporary books that I was considering are very large.  I bought "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt but haven't found time to finish it yet.  It is 773 pages.

   I also considered an older book that Oprah had on her show "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski.  It is a great story involving training dogs, but also a mystery.  It has 688 pages, but does drag on occassion.

   What about "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert? She wrote "Eat, Pray, Love", but this book is very different.  A 48-year-old woman studies botany and evolution and is searching for the origins of all things.  Very deep!


I wonder what the others in the group will suggest?  We vote on which books to read, so my books may not be chosen at all!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

"Room" by Emma Donoghue

  I found myself in a 'book club dilemma' again.  This is the November choice for one of my book clubs.  I read it when it was first published in 2011 and really didn't enjoy it.
  However, I have a commitment to my book clubs, so I decided to re-read the book.
  I know that this book has been very popular.  It has won many awards and was made into a movie.  Some of my friends really enjoyed it.
   Once again, my opinion is not the popular one.
   "Room" is written in the voice of Jack, 5 years old.  His mother had been abducted 7 years previously and held captive in a windowless shed where she was used for sex by "Old Nick"- the kidnapper.  She had one baby that died because Old Nick wouldn't help at the birth.
   Jack has a strange speech pattern which irritated me.  His mother interacted with him all day with games and stories, so why wouldn't he talk like her?  The sentences are so disjointed that there is no flow to the story.
   Then, after they escape, you read all the terms used by the social workers- cognitive distortions, depersonalization.  It just doesn't fit when it is first person narration.
  I didn't think it worked to use the voice of the boy.  
Author Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue, 47, born in Ireland, now lives in London, Ontario with her partner and children.  Her latest book was published this year- "Wonder".  The publisher says it is: "a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil."

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Love Warrior

   This book was waiting for me at the library and I didn't recognize the title.  Then I saw the stamp saying that it is a 2016 selection for Oprah's book club.  I put many books on hold and forget why.  This book was on hold for a long time!
   I immediately disliked the cover and considered passing up on it.  Covers really affect me and the red, black and white colours with the 'warrior' title did not interest me. 
   However, I trust Oprah to choose good books and I have read many of her choices.

On to the book:
Glennon Doyle Melton, the author of this memoir, is an enigma to me.  From the age of ten she struggled with body issues and identity.  She became anorexic, alcoholic, and overly sexual.
Her childhood seemed magical.  But at such an early age, she had severe struggles.
Her life was more difficult than I can imagine and I expected that something terrible must have happened to her as a child.  I am left with this question: Why do some people have such a difficult life?

 Here is Glennon's explanation:
"For twenty years, I was lost to bulimia and alcoholism and bad love and drugs.  I suffered.  My family suffered.  I had a relatively magical childhood, which added an extra layer of guilt to my pain and confusion.  Glennon-why are you all jacked up when you have no excuse to be jacked up?
My best guess is that I was born with an extra dose of sensitivity to love and pain.  I didn't want to walk through the battlefield of life naked.  So when I was ten years old, I made up my own little world called addiction and I hid there for decades. I felt safe.  No one could touch me."

  This book certainly was very detailed and I can never understand how someone writes every detail of their personal life for all to see, and then goes to the supermarket or sits in church.
  Glennon finally found her way out of the pain through extensive counselling, yoga, breathing workshops, and God.  She researched the Biblical word 'helpmate' and rather than believing that women are made to be helpers, she decided that they are warriors, thus the cover and title.
  Some readers found the book self-indulgent.  Others just felt it was terribly raw. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Alyson Richman

What a brilliant and talented woman!  Her historical details are so intricate and beautifully described!
I have written about two of her novels:
The Lost Wife
The Last Van Gogh
I just read The Garden of Letters (2014)

   Verona, Italy, 1943.
   Another love story taking place during W.W.II. In fact, this novel includes three love stories.
   Elodie Bertolotti is a talented cellist, whose father died from injuries after being tortured by the 'black shirts'. 
   Elodie decided to join the Resistance Movement and she became very valuable to the movement because of her memory and her ability to write secret codes into her music.  I really enjoyed that aspect as it was described in detail.
   In fact, every aspect of the story was described in minute detail- the sights, sounds, smells and emotions.
  Elodie fell in love with a leader of the movement, but he was killed and she eventually had to escape to save herself.
  As she arrived by boat, in the harbour at Portofino, a doctor, Angelo, saved her from interrogation by the German soldiers. Angelo was a very kind man who went to the harbour every few months to see if he could save one person.  He chose the one who looked the most afraid.  And, on this day, that happened to be Elodie, who was pregnant and alone.
   Angelo, the doctor, had experienced extreme loss and his story is the reason for the title.  But I won't go there...
   And so, the final love story is between Elodie and the doctor and it is beautiful.
  I really feel that I should adore this book.  The writing is spectacular!  Each sentence is beautifully crafted!  And I loved that at first, but eventually it appeared to be very melodramatic and interfered with the story.
  War stories distress me more than entertain me.  But I realize that it makes the story poignant.  The combination of love and war makes a great story.
  Also, there is the non-linnear aspect that always ruins my enjoyment of the story- movement back and forth in time and place.
 This will not be my favourite novel, but it is extraordinary.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Serendipidy at the library

Serendipity: Serendipity means a "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise".  It was coined in 1754.

   I have had many interesting experiences while visiting the public library.
   Often I meet people that I haven't seen for years.  It is a great place to reminisce.  Sometimes people recognize me from volunteer work there and stop to speak to me, giving me a chance to get to know them better.
  But I also often speak to complete strangers.  Well, actually, no one in the library is a complete stranger.   We are all connected by our love of books. Once I was carrying the book "The Kitchen House" and a woman stopped me to tell me what a wonderful book that was, and had I read the follow-up, "Glory Over Everything"?  Both great books by Kathleen Grissom.  I call this interchange "serendipity".

   Today's serendipity was a real zinger.  I got into conversation with a man named Allen, who chooses 50 books for himself at a time.  I had a million questions for this man.  Do you read them all?  How long does it take to read each book?  How do you choose your books? etc, etc, etc.
   He certainly is a fascinating man and I asked if I could write about him on my blog.  He said that I surely could as long as I spelled his name Allen (guess many people spell it Allan).  There were no last names exchanged.
   Allen goes to bed at 8:00 and wakes at 3:00 and spends about 15 hours a day reading!  What????  I guess it would be easy to get into a book that early in the morning, but..but...but.  
  I was happy/sad for him.  Imagine reading that many books.  But obviously no time for other interests and friends.  He seemed very social as we got into a conversation about the wonderful author, Rob Sawyer.  He was picking up one of Sawyer's books and I was recommending others.
   Serendipity at the library!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Year of Pleasures

    I have been starting book after book without really getting involved.  Perhaps it is because of the change in season- just couldn't get interested in a book.
   A friend gave me this book and I thought it might be just right- and it was.  It's not a favourite for all, but I do enjoy Elizabeth Berg's writing.

 This particular book is about grief and new beginnings.  Betta, an author, is the protagonist who has just lost her husband to cancer (he was a psychiatrist).  They had no children, in fact no family at all.  What surprised me was that they also didn't have any close friends.  I have never known a couple who completely kept to themselves.  That whole idea was new to me and I wondered how she would manage.
   Well, she moved to a new town to start her new life.  And she did reach out to people there.
  I enjoyed the story - no great themes or wonderful language.  But I greatly enjoyed her descriptions of the ordinariness of life, such as reading about cooking while smelling something cooking. Hmmm.
   She makes a list of the things that brought her the most comfort- raspberries in cream, sparrows with cocked heads, shadows made by trees, the shouts of children at play.  It made me think  about the simple things that bring me joy- the full moon, porridge on a winter's morning, the fall colours, a drive through the country. 

Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg
   I don't think she gets enough credit for her writing.  It may not be great literature, but it reflects the joys and sorrows of daily life.  I even learned a new word - "gibbous".  You may be sure that I will use it often when the moon is past the half-way stage- a gibbous moon.
   There is a quote that my friend Terri would like: "Did you ever notice how after you look at art for a long time you come out onto the street and see only art?"

  Elizabeth Berg writes a lot about food, and she has been a waitress.  But actually she was a nurse for ten years before she started writing.  That's where she learned about human nature, human emotion, and relationships.  

  I have read eight books by Elizabeth Berg, including "Open House", which was chosen by Oprah for her book club in 2003. I am happy to know that there are many, many more books to enjoy whenever I need something light and easy to read.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Tie That Binds

I had read four of Kent Haruf's novels when our book club chose this book.
You can read about those books here.
You will see that I am not a fan of this author, but he has a huge number of very loyal fans.  On to the book...

Edith Goodnough, 80, is in the hospital and has been charged with murder.  The whole novel is a recital of her life in order to explain that charge.  This litany of her life is given by Sanders Roscoe, her closest neighbour in this untamed wilderness.
Fans of this author seem to love his descriptions of the hard life of those who work the land, especially in the early 1900's. The ranch is in Holt, Colorado.  And perhaps we should call it a farm- ranch sounds too appealing and her life was complete drudgery.
Fans also love this author's characters.  Edith is a hard-working, thoughtful woman who sacrifices her whole life for her family.  Her father is a tyrant, especially after he has an accident with the machinery.
The story is told in anger by the neighbour Sanders in a straightforward, linear fashion. I would have preferred an omniscient narrator who could describe the thoughts and emotions of Edith.  Also we might have been able to better understand the venomous, belligerent father.

I rather enjoyed the central part of the novel, when I was anxious to know how Edith's life turned out.  But towards the end, I just wanted to get it over.

But...don't listen to me on this.  One of his fans said,
"I highly recommend this beautifully descriptive and powerful look at a woman of strength and labor-intensive farm life in Holt, Colorado".

Sunday, 2 October 2016

One Book One Community is over for another year

   One Book One Community has celebrated fifteen years of encouraging the Waterloo Region to read a specially selected book.  The announcement of the new title is made in April, giving the public lots of time to read the book before the author visits the community in September.
   Last week, Amanda Lindhout, the author of "A House in the Sky" spoke in four locations within Waterloo Region.  There was a tremendous response to her appearances.
  I have been very involved in O.B.O.C. for the fifteen years and always look forward to hearing about the next book that we will be reading. I greatly enjoyed leading a discussion of this book at our local library after we had heard the author speak. 
   I was surprised to hear that our program is the longest-running of its kind in Canada.  Sometimes the program is run by a city or sometimes by the whole province, as in "One Book One Island" in Prince Edward Island.

Read my blog about O.B.O.C. by clicking here.

Read about "A House in the Sky" by clicking here.
I was much more sympathetic to Amanda after hearing her speak.  She made a very poor decision to go to Somalia, but suffered greatly and her book was appreciated by many!

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Grimm Brothers

     This book researches the Grimm Brothers- Jacob (born 1785) and Wilhelm (born 1786).  It destroys the myth that two men travelled far and wide to record these tales.  Actually, they got many of their stories from their sister Lotte's friends. Those women remembered the tales from their youth.
  Jacob and Wilhelm began publishing volumes of fairy tales and after the second volume was printed, male scholars took the work seriously and began digging up old manuscripts to contribute to the collections.  There were 7 editions, (210 stories in all) often with two volumes per edition, from 1812 to 1857, called "Children's and Household Fairy Tales".
   When the first editions were published, there was much criticism because, although they were targeted to children, it was felt that aspects of the stories were not suitable for children.  So...
Quote: "They transformed the too shocking, amoral stories through the lens of middle-class concepts: wicked mothers became evil stepmothers, nude princes were splendidly dressed, and Rapunzel's pregnancy remained undiscovered by the wicked witch as well as by the young reader."

Fairy tales have been told since the Middle Ages.  They speak to our psyche in strange ways. They are compelling in their portrayal of the human condition.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Fairy Tales

   An interesting change for a book club.  We are planning to discuss the Grimm Fairy Tales, in particular "Snow White".
   I remembered a book about fairy tales that I read many years ago.  "The Uses of Enchantment" by Bruno Bettelheim is about the meaning and importance of fairy tales. So I reread this book in preparation for discussing fairy tales.
   Doesn't it seem strange that such apparent violence and brutality can be a positive influence in a child's life?

  Bettelheim is a therapist who works with severely disturbed children.  He works to restore meaning to their lives.

  He believes that children find fairy tales more satisfying than all other children's stories.  Of course, they don't know why they enjoy them, but Bettelheim thinks it is because fairy tales deal with universal human problems.  
  Good and evil are obvious, the bad always loses and the child feels a connection with the good.  There is an assurance that the child can succeed in life.  In many fairy tales, the hero is out in the world alone and separation anxiety is a normal problem for children. 
Quote (book cover) "Bettelheim shows how the fantastical, sometimes cruel, but always deeply significant narrative strands of the classic fairy tales can aid in the greatest human task, that of finding meaning for one's life."

   There is a chapter in the book on each of several fairy tales.
  "Snow White" focuses on the oedipus complex and, although I found it interesting, it is very complex.  All aspects of the story are analysed.

  Who knew that fairy tales have such symbolism and existential dilemmas?

Friday, 9 September 2016

"Light Between Oceans"- the movie

   I read this book in 2013, 2014, and 2015.  Three times!  Obviously, I loved it!  You can read my review here. You will notice that my review was done in 2013, when I had just begun my blog and it really was a video book blog.  That technology was not fun for me, so I settled for photos.

   The movie was in town and we were anxious to see the beautiful scenery of the Australian coast.  We realize that movies today are not made for seniors and expected some challenges with the sound.  But there were more than challenges!  
   Most of the story takes place on an island with the lighthouse keeper and his wife, who desperately wants a baby, but has three miscarriages.  For the first half of the movie, there were waves loudly  pounding the coast.  As well, there was a musical background. Sound overload!  We couldn't hear much of the dialogue. And the pounding of the waves made me crazy.  Was that on purpose?  Because the lighthouse keeper's wife really did lose her sanity. Perhaps I was meant to understand her loneliness and isolation.  I only experienced disappointment.

  The director was asked: What was it like working with actors on these raw emotional scenes, while everyone was wrestling with the environment?
  He answered: The weather helps. I mean, I don’t want to control the weather. I don’t want to control the actors either. I want to put them in a place where they can have an experience. If you live on this location, like we all did, and the wind is keeping you up at night, when you show up the next day you’re rattled. It emotionally, psychologically drives you crazy.

   Although there were some lovely panoramic scenes, mostly the videography was terrible.  And the sound was a problem even for our daughter with good hearing.
  One more time we were reminded that a movie can very seldom capture the details of the story that make it so compelling.  Maybe I should read that book one more time!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff)
    Kent's father was a Methodist minister. Kent attended Wesleyan University in Nebraska and later was involved with the writers' workshop there.  He taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps.  He also taught college in Nebraska and Illinois.
  Kent has written 6 novels. I blogged about his last novel in 2015, "Our Souls at Night".
   This week I decided to tackle a trilogy: "Plainsong", "Eventide" and "Benediction".  Kent's books take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, and he really describes the landscape well.

 In this novel there is an interesting assortment of characters- a high school teacher with two sons, a pregnant, homeless girl, two older bachelor farmers.  It really could be a slice of life in any small town.
 I could not figure out the reason for the title. I read this: "The title comes from a type of music sung in Christian churches, and is a reference to both the Great Plains setting and the simple style of writing".  This novel was made into a T.V. movie.

  In this second novel, some characters continue.  The McPheron men, who had provided a home for the pregnant teen, are lonely when she leaves for college and takes her baby.
  There is some sadness and also some romantic involvements in this book.
  A welfare family was added to the story and I hated that storyline.  It was full of abuse and bad language.  There was no redeeming feature in that.  Two other storylines were added that contained abuse and violence.  

   I'm not sure why these three books are called a series because none of the characters are continued in this book.  The town is the same.
  It is about an elderly man's last few weeks as he died of lung cancer. He had a loving wife and attentive daughter but his son had not been heard from for many, many years.  No resolution to that.
   I thought it was going to be without the abuse of the last book, but a fight breaks out in the church when the minister speaks about the Sermon on the Mount.  The whole scene was so bizarre to me.

   What I was missing from these books: character development, insight and understanding.  It really was just a town of people going about their everyday activities and it was often not clear why they were doing the things they were doing.

   Many people love Kent Haruf's writing.  I found this series plodding, with too many abusive characters.  The author wrote a lot of fight scenes in detail. 
   I cannot get over the lack of quotation marks.  There is not even a new paragraph when someone is speaking.  It seems so strange to me that an English teacher would ignore the rules of writing.
   The first book had a title at the beginning of each chapter to indicate who the chapter was about. But in the second book, you often didn't know who the chapter was about until you got a few paragraphs in.
   I thought the writing was very poor in this series.
   But I did enjoy Kent's very last book "Our Souls at Night".  He wrote it just before he died and it is sensitive and lovely.  You can read my review here.
  I am not finished with Kent Haruf's writing.  Our library book club is planning to read "The Tie Than Binds" in October.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Debbie Macomber

   I visited my friend Gayle while she was in respite care. Gayle is a great reader and was equipped with lots of books. 

   One choice for this stay was Debbie Macomber's "16 Lighthouse Road".  It is the first of the twelve novels in the Cedar Cove Series, which centres on an interesting group of people in a small town in Washington State.  All of the titles in this series are the street addresses of the main character of that novel. ("16 Lighthouse Road", "201 Rosewood Lane", "311 Pelican Court", etc).  Gayle loved that special touch and enjoyed reading about good ordinary people.  It was light reading for Gayle, but perfect for a stay in long-term care.

   Debbie Macomber is a very prolific author of contemporary women's fiction.  Her books can be read by any age in any circumstance.  Many of her books have been made into T.V. movies.  She writes about family and relationships- just what women are interested in!
  I found this uplifting story on Debbie's website:

I’d been writing for five years and had four completed manuscripts yet had not sold a single word of fiction.  The rejections came so fast I swear they hit me in the back of the head on the way home from the post office.  I wondered if I’d ever be a good enough writer to sell a book.  After the sale of an article for which I’d received $350 I was able to attend my first writers’ conference.  Because of the conference, I had the opportunity to meet with an editor who had read the first fifty pages of my manuscript.  I loved this story and felt it had all the elements of a wonderful romance.  If this book didn’t sell I didn’t know that anything I wrote would.
To say the editor didn’t like my book is an understatement.  In fact she said the best thing I could do with it was throw it in the garbage.
Devastated, I decided that I should give up trying to sell adult fiction and write children’s books instead.  I attended a workshop for children’s books and the author said something that I’ll never forget.  “Your book has a home.  Your job is to find it.”  That little bit of encouragement is all I needed.  I grabbed hold of it with both hands and clung to it as I submitted the very manuscript that had been so brutally rejected.  That book, Heart Song became my first sale.  Heart Song found a home with Simon & Schuster.  That small encouragement meant everything.  I believe if I had given up, and surrendered to defeat as a writer I would have lost a piece of my soul.

Monday, 29 August 2016


  T.B.R. (To Be Read) Everyone has a pile but I have a bin.  
 I had great plans for summer reading.  Since there is only one book club that goes through the summer, I thought that I would dig into my 'bin', containing all the books that I have bought over the years but never found time to read.
  I love to buy books when I travel, but when I get home, I have to get down to the business of preparing for book clubs.  So the books collect in the 'bin'.  This summer, I was able to sort through the bin, get rid of some books and read others.
  All of the books on my shelf have been read and are favourites that I want to keep and perhaps re-read.
the book bin for unread books

   Speaking of re-reading, that was another plan that I considered for the summer.  Why keep trying new books that you may or may not enjoy?  Why not spend the whole summer re-reading favourites?  Sounded like a good plan but I didn't have the discipline to do that.      

   I just kept arranging books in piles that I was sure that I needed to re-read.  I didn't get to any of them, but John did.  And I enjoyed looking at them and remembering the joy that they gave me once, and I am sure I will dive into them again.      Until then, they go back on my shelf!

Friday, 26 August 2016


   In 2003, I spent some time in San Francisco with a friend.  I loved the cable cars and spent a lot of time riding up and down the hills of the city.
   The view of Alcatraz is quite spectacular and we decided to make a tour of the prison.
my photo of Alcatraz

   As we were getting on the ferry to go to the island, there was a man selling a book.  Darwin Coon had been a prisoner in Alcatraz and he was talking to the tourists and selling his book.  

touring the prison
   The tour of the prison was fascinating.  Each person was given a headset and wandered alone, listening to commentary.  It was an interesting way to get the information and really set a grave atmosphere.

   I finally got around to reading this book about Alcatraz.  Sometimes there was more detail than I needed but other parts were interesting.  As well as the Bird Man of Alcatraz, other prisoners made pets of lizards or mice.  It was extremely difficult to remain sane and 'safe' in Alcatraz.  Many prisoners tried to escape and Darwin was involved in a few escapades.
  Darwin Coon had been in trouble since childhood, when his mother deserted him.  He developed a lifestyle of crime (mostly robbing banks) and prison, with breakouts involving brief periods of wild living, then back in prison.  He was in five institutions, ending with four years in Alcatraz.  But his story is much more interesting than just the years in Alcatraz.
   I discovered that, at age 30,  he turned his life around with the help of God, the church, the minister and a good woman. He found a job in property management.  Surprisingly, he and his wife were able to foster children- 94 actually!  He became a Bible teacher in a prison.    He never forgot his years in the prison system and especially in Alcatraz.  After his wife died, he spent a lot of time around Alcatraz, selling his book and talking to visitors there.  He was well-loved by the residents and tourists alike.  He died in 2011 at the age of 78.

Monday, 22 August 2016

"Night" by Elie Weisel

   Elie Weisel (1928-2016) was  a survivor from the holocaust, who wrote 57 books during his life.  He wrote in order to come to terms with his horrendous life experiences. He also was working to promote peace.  He was a professor at Boston University and won the Nobel Prize in 1986.
  This book is his best known and most powerful.

   As with many memoirs, there is concern about the truth of the novel.   However, the book has been through many translations and there may be some errors in translation.  That makes no difference to me.   I read memoirs for the emotions more than the small details.  And it appears that his experience was similar to many other Jews in that time period.  And we need to learn from those experiences.
  I bought this book ten years ago when Oprah chose it for her book club. It has been sitting in a bin of books  that I hope to read some day.....
  Here is a picture of Elie with U.S. President Obama.
   And this book is on the list of the best 75 book of the last 75 years.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The 75 best books of the past 75 years

Ann Patchett, with the help of her bookstore staff, chose these books as
The best 75 books of the past 75 years
 (in the English language)
If you enjoy 'lists', you will love this.
How many have you read? Do you agree with the list?  Actually, no two people ever agree on 'the best books'. But it's fun to mull over.  I love to 'mull'.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
The Civil War, Volumes 1–3, by Shelby Foote
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Rabbit Angstrom novels by John Updike
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Double Helix by James D. Watson
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Burr by Gore Vidal
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Maus by Art Spiegelman
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
A Perfect Spy by John le Carré
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
The Color of Water by James McBride
The Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Writing by Stephen King
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live by Joan Didion
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
New Selected Stories by Alice Munro
Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Sunday, 14 August 2016

"The Sound of Gravel" by Ruth Wariner

   This memoir is 'hot-off-the-press'!
   I love memoirs but I must move on to another genre, because they are so often heart-breaking.  You begin to wonder if anyone is living a 'normal' life.
   But I understand why it is important for these authors to tell their story.  This author, Ruth Wariner, started writing her story in bits and pieces several years ago but was finally able to put the book together with the help of her husband who spent hours walking with her while she struggled through her childhood memories.  And it was a very painful childhood!

  Ruth's father was the founding prophet of a colony of Mormons in Mexico.  He was murdered by his brother for control of the church.  Ruth was the 39th of 42 children.
  Her mother remarried another man from the colony and he caused havoc in their lives.  They lived in poverty and had to constantly go across the border into the U.S. where they could get food stamps and other government assistance.  The mother had nine children, Ruth was the fourth oldest but was the one who mostly raised the children, three of whom had disabilities.
  The father was a 'do-it-yourselfer' who never finished anything.  There were live wires around the property and one day Ruth's young brother was electrocuted with a friend.  When the mother came to help, she was also electrocuted.  By then, an older brother was living in the U.S. and Ruth went to the store to use the phone and told him to come for them immediately.  He drove through the night and Ruth ended up, at 15, raising the younger children in the U.S.
  Miracle of miracles, she also got her education.  She had seldom been able to go to school as a child.  But she eventually put herself through college and graduate school and is now teaching high school in Portland, Oregon.
  The T.V. show "Sister Wives" shows a good side of polygamy.  And I don't see polygamy as the main problem here.  The father was the problem- a molester among other terrible traits.  The mother was so desperate for attention that she accepted whatever came her way. 
  The stirling character of Ruth shines out from the beginning and she is such an inspiration.  I would read anything that she writes in the future.
Three years ago, I read this historical fiction novel: "The 19th Wife", based on the life of Brigham Young (1847-1877), who was the second president of the L.D.S. church and had 55 wives throughout his life.  I really enjoyed this fiction novel, although, ironically, it also includes a murder.

It is my understanding that polygamy has been banned by the Mormons and is presently only practiced by renegade groups.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Personal Writing- one more!

   My last blog was about Dan Gibson, our friend and ex-pastor.  This is his wife Susan in the middle with my friend Carol and myself.  While Dan was our minister, Susan, Carol and I had 
a wonderful book club three-some.
We read many books with a spiritual theme- either fiction or non-fiction.  It was a very special discussion because it was filled with honest thoughts and emotions.

Susan has also published this book of devotions, and I will always have her words and thoughts. The cover shows her special connection with nature. 
Words can last forever!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Personal Writing (continued)

   My last blog was about keeping the words of those we love, even though we are missing the connection that we once had.  
   I sometimes see John smiling while he is reading "The Dancing Cottage" by our friend and ex-pastor, Dan Gibson.  Dan and his wife Susan have moved to the east coast and Dan has had some medical challenges.  However, the distance has not changed the connection that we have experienced.  And John still loves to read Dan's words.
   Every Sunday while Dan was our minister, we looked forward to the sermon and always found it inspiring and thought-provoking.  I love to mull over ideas and there were plenty of opportunities for that.
  In addition to the pastor connection, we had a deep friendship.
  Here are 'the men'.
This self-published book allows us to keep Dan's words and remember his wonderful spirit.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Personal Writing

Jean's poetry
My friend Jean is now in an institution because of Alzheimer's.  She doesn't know me any more, but I can stay connected to her words.  She loved to write poetry and many years ago, she gave me three little books that she had put together.  These words have great value for me and this week I am going to share them with a mutual friend, George, who is in his last days.  He will love to reconnect to Jean's spirit- what a fun-loving spirit it was!  She wrote about her joys in life- family and God.

In Nassau with my friend Jean
When I visit with George this week, I will read Jean's poems to George and it will seem that Jean is in the room with us.  It will bring smiles to George's face because he knew her so well and he has great memories that he is able to tap into.  He will have lots of stories of Jean.

This has reminded me of the value of personal writing, journals, photos books.  I have blogged about this before.  Check it out here.