Almost exactly a year ago, I declared a quest to read a book by an author from each state (read about it here).  For Colorado at the urging of more than one of my readers, I chose a book by Kent Haruf, a native of Colorado who died in November 2014. The book I chose is  Plainsong, which is the first book of a trilogy.

“This ain’t going to be no goddamn Sunday school picnic” (quote from book)

The book is set in the fictional town of Holt Colorado, located in the eastern plains near Kansas and Nebraska. According to New York Times author Verlyn Klinkenborg, 

“Haruf has made a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader.”

In fact, the title Plainsong refers to unaccompanied church music that is typically sung in unison.

The book begins with teacher Tom Guthrue. His wife Ella is lying in the guest bedroom for who knows how long. Their sons, Ike and Bobby (9 and 10 years old) watch their mother slowly disappear mentally, until she physically leaves them.

High school student Victoria Roubideaux finds herself pregnant and evicted by her own mother. She turns to Maggie Jones, who is also a teacher. Maggie takes her in, but her senile father frightens Victoria. Maggie turns to the McPheron brothers, elderly gruff unmarried cattle farmers who agree to take her in.  

The book follows these characters from fall until late spring. While the  language is almost minimalistic, it packs a punch. There is heartbreak, grief and anger. But there is also love, humor and  kindness – as well as  beginnings of new lives and new families. The characters are decent, somewhat troubled human beings that are going on with their lives.

I loved this book, and I have the sequel Eventide to read!  While the book is somewhat stark, it steers clear of melodrama and sentiment,  telling the story of characters I deeply cared about.

I was just disappointed to find out Holt Colorado is a fictional town!

Some interesting facts about Colorado:

Is home to the world’s largest rodeo in Denver, The National Western Stock Show

Has the highest suspension bridge in the nation over the Royal Gorge 

Pagosa Springs is the home of the deepest hot spring in the world

Colorado means “colored red” and is known as the Centennial State.

The US federal government owns more than 1/3 of the land in the state.

It contains 75% of the land mass in the US with an altitude over 10,000 feet.

The 13th step of the state-capital building in Denver is one mile above sea level.

There are 52 peaks over 14,000 ft.

“America the Beautiful” was inspired by the view from Pikes Peak

and my favorite fact:

The world famous Read Rocks Amphitheatre is located here – it took 300 million years to create!

Next up – Connecticut. I have to admit, my reading is ahead of my blogging – I had read through Delaware and have made preliminary choices through Hawaii. But – I’ll still take requests!!!! 


I am currently reading a book from an author from each state  (read about my quest here)- and the most recent state I visit is Florida. Interestingly, many writers you associate with Florida are not actually from there. Because I lived in Miami for three years (and one month and 12 days, but who’s counting?), I wanted to read something written by an actual Floridian. I read two books, a children’s book, and a book that is a collection of op-ed columns from the Miami Herald.



THE AMERICAN JUNGLE, The Adventures of Charlie Pierce by Harvey E. Oyer III: This is the first book in a trilogy based on Charlie Pierce, written by his great grand nephew. Luckily for us, Charlie Pierce kept extensive diaries! His family were pioneer settlers in South Florida arriving in 1872, one of the first non-Native Americans to settle there. In fact, his sister Lillie was the first while child born between Jupiter and Miami (hard to believe since there are over 6 million people there now).  Not only do they survive a hurricane living in primitive conditions, but they planted salvaged coconuts from a Spanish shipwreck in 1878 resulting in the coconut palms that provided Palm Beach it’s name. If you are interested in the early history of South Florida, pick up this book!



DANCE OF THE REPITILES: Rampaging Tourists, Marauding Pythons, Larcenous Legislators, Crazed Celebrities and Tar Balled Beaches by Carl Hiaasen:  I have long been a fan of Carl Hiaasen and thought I’d read all his books. But I must admit I was delighted when I found this book containing almost 400 pages of his op-ed columns from the Miami Herald! Carl is a native Floridian (born in Plantation) and has been working for the Miami Herald since 1976, having his own column since 1985. If you have read Carl Hiaasen before and wondered where he comes up with the crazy stories and eccentric characters, look no further, they come from real life, as you can see in these pages! Plus, how could I ignore any book with such a great title?

You can see him being interviewed about it on 60 Minutes:

Yes, according to the world of Carl, truth is stranger in many cases than fiction. The title refers to not only actual reptiles (as in pythons and alligators), but also refers to corrupt lobbyists, politicians, developers and of course the tourists! The essays are backed up by actual facts.

Some of the topics he tackles are:

  • haul off the crazy tourists to tourist court and let the jurors consist of people from the hospitality industry.
  • The idiotic idea by tourist boat captains to feed sharks.
  • Closing major freeways for days from 9a-3p for the filming on a second rate film (Interestingly, the most profitable movie filmed in Florida was Deep Throat).
  • 144,000 pythons are imported each year into the U.S. , with many being dumped  (in the Everglades or course) – and their natural enemies are tigers and jaguars (which are not being imported into Florida that I know of).
  • Gator Panic, people shooting the alligators as we (humans) have invaded their habitation -even though only about 17 people have been killed in Florida since 1948!
  • Manatees reclassified (or downgraded) as threatened (from endangered) because there are now over 3000 of them now.  Whoopee!  a whopping 3000 (with approximately 10% killed by humans annually)  Why?  Developers want to build docks where the manatees like to frolic, and the boaters (and the boating industry) are tired of having to slow down!
  • Dolphins being hit by boats because humans started feeding them for fun (which is illegal, but who’s watching?)
  • The amount of land being encroached by developers, and how the Everglades are being slowly drained.

He also writes about national news, from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, Vice-President Cheney, The NRA, The Iraq War, and Florida’s stand your ground law.

He is angry about what is happening to the environment. He is angry about government corruption, about greed, and ignorance (and the Bush administration).

He also loves Florida. Liberals will love this book, conservatives, not so much.


It is the third most populous state.

St. Augustine is the oldest European settlement in North America.

Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous US.

It is the flattest state in the US (mean elevation is 100 feet).

It is the only state with an “embassy” in Washington (Florida House).

There are two rivers with the same name – Withlacoochee – and they have nothing in common but the name.

It is the largest producer of citrus fruits in the US, 2nd in the world.

Gatorade was named for the University of Florida’s Gator.

Key West has the highest average temperature of any city in the US.

Miami is the only  metropolitan city in the US that borders on two national parks, The Everglades to the west and Biscayne Naitonal Park to the east.

Florida has more golf courses than any other state.

The Everglades is the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators co-exist.

You are never more than 60 miles from a beach in Florida.

Clearwater has more lightening strikes per capita in the US.

It is illegal for unmarried women to parachute on Sundays.

Key West has more bars per capita than any other place in the US.

There are more crazy facts about Florida, but with all the eccentricities, I still love it!

Next up, I’m traveling to Georgia. Oh wait, I live here!

You can see past posts regarding my quest below:

Alabama – Truman Capote

Alaska – Heather Lendt

Arkansas – Maya Angelou

Arizona by Jeannette Walls

Colorado by Kent Haruf

Conneticut by Sloan Wilson

Delaware by Lisa Ann Sandell







LITTLE FREE LIBRARWOW, It has been a wild ride of a year! I haven’t blogged in three months – a record for me. But now – I’m back! This is a recap of my reading in the past three months – I recorded 62 books read in the year 2015.

EVENTIDE by Kent Haruf – This is the sequel to Plainsong, a book I read as part of my quest to read a book by an author from each state (you can read about it here). The book continues the story of several characters as well as introducing new ones. There is a third book in this series that I will be reading in 2016 – need I say more? I recommend this series.

BETWEEN, GEORGIA by Joshilyn Jackson – Between is an actual town in Georgia, situated between Atlanta and Athens (where the University of Georgia is located). Being a native Georgian, I saw this book and thought it would be fun to read a story set in a town I travelled through multiple times. It is a whacky story of Nonny, who is caught between her adoptive family  with her biological family. Quick, funny read.

BIG MAGIC, CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR by Elizabeth Gilbert – In short, this book offers magical advice. She talks about how ideas manifest in you and if you don’t act on them, they might move on to someone else. The book is divided into six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. I will refer back to this book over time.

THE LITTLE FREE LIBRARY BOOK by Margaret Aldrich – I’m getting a little free library of my own and this came with the paperwork. If you don’t know what I”m talking about, it is a “movement” that started in 2009 and has spread about the globe totaling more than 32,000! In short, The Little Free Library uses the motto “take a book, return a book”. I will have one in my front yard by early spring. I want to decorate it with miniature book covers of my ten favorite books (to be determined). Here is an over-the-top library located in Atlanta incorporating a historic movie theater.


EIGHT KEYS by Suzanne LaFleur – I just happened to pick up this little magical book at the library. It follows Elise and her best friend Franklin at age 12. Elise is living with her uncle and aunt after the death of her parents. Her father left her 8 keys that begin turning up, unlocking the doors to rooms on the second floor of the barn. It is a book about self-discovery and love. It is a lovely book, especially for young girls.

THE DAYS OF ANNA MADRIGAL by Armistead Maupin – This is the latest installment of the Tales of the City series, which was begun in 1978 as a newspaper series.. Anna is the transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane. I’ve loved these characters for years. But I suggest starting with the first book if you are interested. BTW, Anna Madrigal is an anagram for “a man and a girl”.

STORIES FROM SEPARATION TEXAS by john J Asher – This is a series of short stories set in West Texas, beginning in 1866 and continuing through the present day. The stories are gritty and raw. Overall, this was a good read, some of the stories much better than others.


THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen – A magical little book with a hint of a fairy tale. Set in Mullaby, North Carolina, it follows Emily moving in with her giant of a grandfather she never knew after her mothers dies.

“How tall is he?” she asked, her voice hushed, as if he might hear.
“Tall enough to see into tomorrow.”

Her room has wallpaper that changes with the moods, there are lights dancing in the back yard (are they ghosts), and a woman who puts hope in the cakes she bakes.  A story of love, redemption, things lost and found, and reunion.

THE DIRTY PARTS OF THE BIBLE by Sam Torode – Don’t be put of by the title of the book. It is basically a coming of age story set it the Depression era, with life riding on trains, living with hobos and finding your own truth. Check and see if it is still free on Amazon!

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle – I can’t believe I waited so long to read this little gem of a book – which was a winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963. Meg and her bother Charles Wallace, along with Calvin (the most popular boy in school) travel through time and space to find Meg’s father. I will definitely read the rest of the books in the series 2016.

A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Anne Tyler – Oh Anne, how I have missed you! This tells the three-generational story of the Whiteshank family, set in Anne Tyler’s beloved Baltimore. I enjoyed getting to know these characters and I missed them when I was finished with the book. Makes me want to revisit other books by Anne Tyler.

JUST KIDS by Patti Smith – This was a reread. I went to an “interview” of Patti Smith as she was promoting her new book M TRAIN, which we all received a copy of. I decided to go back and reread this book before reading M Train. I enjoyed it more the second time around, which I didn’t think was possible. It tells a great story and it is so well written you want to stop and reread the passages just for the beauty of the words. I can’t wait to read M Train!

For 2016, I chose MINDFULNESS to be my word of the year. How will that relate to my reading? I’m going to choose my books more carefully.  I will continue on my quest to read a book by an author from every state – I may even get through it this year! But, I’ve seen a 2016 reading challenge for 12 books to read – which I’m going to loosely follow.  They include:

  • a book published this year (2016)
  • a book I can finish in a day (i will try to limit this to only one in the year!)
  • a book I’ve been meaning to read
  • a book recommended by a librarian or a book seller
  • a book i should have read in school
  • a book chose for your by your spouse, sibling, child or bff (looking for recommendations as my husband isn’t a big reader)
  • a book published before I was born
  • a book that was banned
  • a book I put down
  • a book i have but never started
  • a book that intimidates me
  • a book i’ve already read.

Do you have any plans for reading in 2016?




To say I’m behind is an understatement. I have some catching up to do. In the past three months I read some crime stories, an older classic children’s book, a Russian novel, Science Fiction and my new standby Sherlock for starters!  So – here goes!

FATAL EMBRACE, THE INSIDE STORY OF THE THOMAS CAPANO/ANNE MARIE FAHEY MURDER CASE by Cris Barrish – I originally started this book as part of my quest, to read a book by an author from each state. This was originally my book from an author from Delaware – but about halfway through the book, I decided Delaware deserved better. However, this is an unbelievable true story. Thomas Capano was the former deputy attorney general of Delaware, married with children AND the last person seen with Anne Marie Fahey. Her body was never found, however, his brother admitted to helping bury her at sea. Compano  was convicted and actually sentenced to death. This is a fascinating crime story, actually made into a movie starring Mark Harmon and it inspired an episode of Law and Order!

PLAINSONG by Kent Haruf – I read this as part of my quest, this was my selection for Colorado – you can read about it here! I am currently reading the sequel Eventide.

A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway – I read this as a reading group selection. It is important to note, this book was published posthumously in 1964, edited from his manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway. It consists of Hemingways personal observations of life in Paris in the 1920’s. It is a quick and enjoyable read.

A MAP OF THE KNOWN WORLD by Lisa Ann Sandell – this is my selection for my quest for the state of Delaware – I will be blogging separately about this book.

THE MAN IN THE GREY FLANNEL SUIT by Sloan Wilson – This is my selection for my quest for the state of Conneticut – so I will be blogging separately about this book (I’m behind on blogging about my quest!).

A SUMMER PLACE by Sloan Wilson – I enjoyed the book The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit enough to read another book by Sloan Wilson. The 1959 movie starring Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee is but a sliver of the book.  The book focuses on the lives of teenage loves, Ken and Sylvia, who end up marrying other people and meet up years later. The movie focuses on the children of Ken and Sylvia – Molly and Johnny. The book has a lot more depth and texture than the movie. Both the book and movie were considered controversial in the late 50’s, focusing on  divorce, adultery and sexuality.

BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA by Roland Merullo – this is a delightful little book – considered “spiritual fiction”. It follows Otto Ringling, a food book editor living in New York, who travels to his parents home in Bismark SD to liquidate their estate. He reluctantly agrees to take Volya Rinpoche, a Siberian Monk, with him at the urging of his sister. Along the way, they go to a chocolate factory, go bowling, and attend a baseball game at Wrigley field. Otto begins this journey  as a skeptic, but he slowly gains new perspectives on the world and his life with Rinpoche’s company. There have been two sequels, titled Lunch with Buddha and Dinner with Buddha. It was a sweet and somewhat thought provoking book – I plan on reading the sequels,

FIRST LOVE by Ivan Turgenev – Originally published in 1860, it begins with a 16 year old boy falling in love with a 21 one year old neighbor. The girl, Zinaida, has several other suitors, and the boy, Vladimir, gets in line. However, Vladimir eventually discovers the true object of her affection is his own father, and the last two chapters take a tragic turn. This is a wonderful and beautiful written little gem of a novella – and it is free on Kindle.

THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub – The Post family is spending two weeks in Mallorca to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of Franny and Jim. Franny is a food editor, Jim was recently forced to resign as an editor of a New York Magazine because of an affair with a 23 year old intern. Obviously, their marriage is in trouble. Their daughter Sylvia has recently graduated high school with a goal to lose her virginity. Son Bobby arrives from Florida with his much older girlfriend, Carmen. Then there is Charles, Franny’s best friend, and his husband Lawrence. The book is very well reviewed, but I found it kind of exasperating.

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter – I love books about movies. Beginning in 1962 in Porta Vergogna, a tiny Italian coastal town, you meet Pasqual who’s family owns the only hotel in town.. There is an American tourist who comes annually to work on his novel for two weeks a year.  A beautiful actress, Dee, arrives from Rome, where she has been filming the movie Cleopatra. It jumps around in time, going to modern day Hollywood with a legendary producer as well as a character that is pitching a movie about the Donner Party. Richard Burton makes an appearance. I found this book entertaining – even though it is almost epic in scope, moving around time and also moving around the world.

A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett – as a child, I loved the movie that starred Shirley Temple. The story line is basically the same, Sara arrives from India to London to go to Miss Minchin’s school, enjoying a life of privilege. All of this changes for her in a classic riches to rags story. Her father is killed and she becomes a beggar and a servant. But Sara is kind and becomes inspirational. The movie ads an entire plot line that doesn’t appear in the book. Surprisingly, Frances Hodgson Burnett also wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden!

A STUDY IN SCARLET by Arthur Conan Doyle – I think I need a monthly does of Sherlock these days. This is considered the first Sherlock/Watson pairing. The best part is also when Sherlock begins his deductions to Watson’s amazement, who proclaims “You are wonderful, Holmes!” – you know what? I agree!

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir – the story about this being published is almost as interesting as the book itself. I really loved the book and can’t wait to see the movie!

THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN by Jonas Jonasson – this should be a Wes Anderson film. Nombeko is born in 1961 in Soweto. She becomes imprisoned and ends up as a housecleaner for an incompetent engineer in a research facility working on nuclear bombs. There is an extra bomb and Nombeko excapes to Sweden (along with the bomb) where she meets the twins Holger One and Holger Two, whose father wanted to take down the King of Sweden. The Mossad gets involed, as well as Jimmy Carter and other dignitaries from the time. I could go on about the story, but it sounds crazy when trying to recount it!  Even so,  enjoyed this, but if you want to read only books that are realistic, this isn’t for you. If you like crazy, fantastic stories that somehow make sense, enjoy!

Any suggestions?





I declared a quest several month back – I am reading a book by an author from each state – alphabetically of course  (you can read about my quest here).  For my selection from California, I chose John Steinbeck;  the book – Travels with Charley In Search for America.


In 1960, at the age of 58, John Steinbeck bought a truck, modified it with a camper, and drove across the United States with his  10 year old “blue” standard poodle Charley. He named the truck Rocinante, Don Quixote’s horse. According to his son, Steinbeck wanted to know what Americans were like, after all, he’d been writing about America for decades.

Starting off in Long Island, he travels up to Maine and then over to the Pacific Northwest, down into his native Salinas Valley in California, over to Texas, to New Orleans and back, covering nearly 10,000 miles. In a 50th anniversary of the book, the introduction stated:

“it would be a mistake to take this travelogue too literally, as Steinbeck was at heart a novelist.”


I don’t want to recount his entire journey, I want you to discover it yourself.  At times it is comical, as when he tried to pass into Canada and couldn’t because Charley didn’t have the proper identification.

Steinbeck made it clear he found wastefulness and technology pervasive in America. He developed a fascination with mobile homes, which allowed American’s to pick up and leave. And, he felt the government made the “people” feel small, the government just didn’t care.

Here are some quick facts about John Steinbeck:

  • Born in 1902 in Salinas California, living there most of his life, but later moved to New York City and Lake Tahoe
  • Won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath in 1939
  • Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962
  • Worked as a correspondence in WWII and injured in North Africa returning home in 1944
  • He had a very left wing political leaning, attending strikes and meetings of workers unions
  • Stood up for Arthur Miller during the “House Un-American Committee” trials
  • Traveled to Russia many times and he felt it made him an FBI target (which they continue to deny)

Here are some quotes from Travels with Charley:

  • “I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”
  • “A sad soul can kill  you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”
  • “I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.”
  • “we value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.”
  • “A journey is like a marriage, the certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
  • “There are two kinds of people in the world, observers and non-observers.”
  • “I suppose our capacity for self-delusion is boundless.”
  • “I find out of long experience that I admire all nations and hate all governments.”

john-steinbeck-rocinante-camperThere has been much written about the book being primarily fiction, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care that he only apparently spent a handful of nights in his truck, that his wife met him along the way several times  – I just didn’t care. I still enjoyed reading it.

Oh – I admit it – I had to make sure Charley made it through the book prior to reading it. I enjoyed it so much, I now have Cannery Row sitting in my stack to read!

Just so you know- Salinas, California, Steinbeck’s birthplace is known at the “Salad Bowl of the World” – over 30% of all the lettuce in the world is grown there. Throw that little tidbit out at your next cocktail party!

Now, on to Colorado!