JANUARY 2021 READING

Well, I didn’t break any reading records in January because I’ve been doing alot of research for two upcoming art shows. But, I still managed to read six books.

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and THE ANGEL’S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafòn  – These are the first two books (of four) in the series The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I have read The Shadow of the Wind before, but I got so much more out of it on the second go! Written in the genre of magical realism in Barcelona from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, it is set in the  long shadow of the Spanish Civil War. You don’t know what is real, what is imagined, or who really exists. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all-time favorite books, and while The Angel’s Game is a prequel, I am reading this series in the order they are published.

THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott – A historical fiction novel, there are two primary stories here. The first is the story of Irina, a Russian-American typist for the CIA turned spy. Her mission? To get Dr. Zhivago published in Russia. The second story follows Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olga (who Lara in Dr. Zhivago is based on – also note the author’s name!). I had no idea about this story, he was not allowed to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 (his family was able to accept it in the 1980’s). I consider a historical fiction book a success if I am compelled to do further research – and I vow to read Dr. Zhivago someday!

A GESTURE LIFE by Chang-Rae Lee – This is a stunningly beautifully written book – in fact while reading it I would get so caught up in the beauty of the words, I’d have to stop and ground myself to remember there is a story here. It is the story of “Doc” Hata, a Japanese man of Korean birth that has immigrated to the US. He is careful to never overstep his boundaries and tries to make every one comfortable around him. But, as his life begins to unravel  he looks back over his life. Gradually you learn the mystery – his forbidden love for a “comfort” woman when he was a medic in the Japanese army during WWII.  This was a book club selection, and on a scale of 1-10, the lowest rating given was an 8! 

THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE by Elizabeth Church – Another historical fiction book which takes place from the 1940’s in Chicago to the 1970’s in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Meridian Wallace gives up her aspirations to be a scientist for love and moves to Los Alamos, where her husband is working on what would become the Atomic Bomb.  She begins studying a group of crows (actually it would be a Murder of Crows), which I found fascinating. It also shows how the women’s movement really changed the world. 

 

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie – This too was a book club selection and it was so much fun to read!!! I haven’t read Agatha Christie in years! There are ALOT of characters to keep up with – but I bookmarked the first chapter to go back to refresh my memory (and also the page that lists all the accusations). I think I’ll read more Agatha Christie – there is no shortage of her books at the library.

Right now I’m reading another classic – A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN – which some generous should left in my Little Free Library!

Do you have any suggestions for upcoming books?

 

COAT OF MANY COLORS

What does “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR” mean? While exploring the connection of music and memory (as you never lose your music memory). All of the art I create is inspired by a particular piece of music. As I spend time listening to the music and researching the song,  I ago one step further, l learn to play them on the piano. So, basically this series is the visual part of what I actually hear. But, to go further into this, I have picked eight songs that I would take with me to a deserted island which is inspired by a podcast I have been listening to while walking. I explored this a previous blog – HOW A WALK AND PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!” Dolly Parton

 Who doesn’t love Dolly? I began a relationship with her in the late 1970’s, seeing her perform for the first time in 1978 or 1979.  Dolly has written over 5000 songs in her career, and recorded over 1000. And – COAT OF MANY COLORS is Dolly’s personal favorite.  The song tells the story of her mother making a coat for her out of rags. Dolly was proud of it and rushed to school to only be made fun of. (I will post the lyrics at the end of the blog).

Below are three collages 

 

The Love from the Coat of Many Colors, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board ©vickiemartin 2021

Patchwork Coat, 6×6 collage using hand dyed paper (on 10×10 board ©vickiemartin 2021

Coat of Many Colors

Coat of Many Colors, collage, 6×6 on 10×10 background, ©vickiemartin2021

One of the reasons these collages became so personal to me is the dress patterns used are from actual coat patterns from my childhood that my mother made for me – sort of paralleling the story Dolly tells. The thread and the buttons that appear were also in my mother’s sewing supplies. See, my mother made all of my clothes while I was growing up.  Also, all the colored paper used in the collages were scraps of paper I hand dyed.

I also created two paintings. 

COAT OF MANY COLORS, 18×24 mixed media on canvas, ©vickiemartin 2020

I think of this painting as being 60+ individual paintings – I worked on each square individually, sanded them down, added threads and put a very thin wash over the coat to make the material look a little aged.

Coat of Many Colors Grid, 12×12 mixed media on canvas ©vickiemartin 2021

This painting is a study, or a meditation,  of color. Each horizontal row was begun using a “root” color, and I continued by adding a different color to each block in the row. For example, on the top row I began with Napthol Crimson, the next block is adding Titanium White to the crimson, the next is adding Mars Black to crimson. . The fourth block is Napthol Crimson with Turners Yellow. So, the song Coat of Many Colors inspired me to really look at color theory again!

Some fun facts to know about Dolly are:

  • I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU is the highest grossing song written by a woman. It also reached the charts four separate times
  • She wrote JOLENE and I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU at almost the same time
  • ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE named her the 30th Greatest Songwriter
  • She can’t read music
  • Beside playing the acoustic and electric guitar, she also plays the banjo, dulcimer, fiddle, autoharp, piano, saxophone and pan flute. She likes to refer to it as “playing at it”. You think she’d throw in the harmonica or ukulele too!
  • Her philanthropy is legendary – I’m not even going to begin to list them – too numerous to begin.
  • She has never riden the rides at Dollywood.

Next up is a tribute to another idol of mine (no, it isn’t David Bowie if you know me!) but Beethoven.

What songs would you take to a desert island?

Here are the lyrics to the chorus to COAT OF MANY COLORS and two verses:

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
 
But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me
 
 
What song would you take to a desert island?

 

DECEMBER READING – AND BRIEF 2020 OVERVIEW

As the year of 2020 is behind us, I actually read less than usual, completing 79 books and over 24,000 pages.  I have broken the books into categories to see if there was any “trend” to my reading (the answer is “NO) – which I share at the end of the December books.  I read 9 books in December.

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE by Lewis Carroll – This was the book that I ended the year with – good choice because I haven’t read it in years. This is kind of a symbolic bookend as I read Alice in Wonderland earlier in the year!

SECRET LIVES OF GREAT ARTISTS – WHAT YOUR TEACHERS NEVER TOLD YOU ABOUT MASTER PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS by Elizabeth Lunday – I’ve read this before and  very entertaining . My one complaint -. with little stories and vignettes highlighting 35 artists – only TWO of them are women!!!!!!

READER’S DIGEST BIOGRAPHIES – BEETHOVEN by Allan Pryce Jones – I actually found this on the bookshelf while cleaning out my books. I’ve read many biographies on Beethoven, but this made me want to pick up a very thorough one in 2021. In fact, in 2020, I learned several pieces of Beethoven on the piano – including on Sonata!

JAZZ BABY – by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Gregory Christie –  I got this for my grand-niece and couldn’t resist reading it myself. It is delightful – and the illustrator is a friend of mine – and he did the cutest inscription for me (actually for Lilly).

Jazz Baby

UNSEEN by Karin Slaughter – I picked this up book written by an Atlantan author from a Little Free Library. This particular one is set in Macon. a fun, but somewhat confusing read.

COP TOWN by Karin Slaughter –  This is set in Atlanta in the early 1970’s, so it was a fun read. Wow – Atlanta has changed alot since then!

DAILY RITUALS – HOW ARTISTS WORK by Mason Curry – Another reread and one I revisit. Some of the rituals are bazaar, but the most common ritual is daily walks!!!!  The author has another one now devoted entirely to women!

NAKED by David Sedaris – As always – Sedaris is hysterical. It is worth it to read through the entire book to get to the last story about his adventure in a Nudist Colony.

HOLIDAYS ON ICE – by David Sedaris – I should read this every year, because I had a tradition of seeing The Santaland Diaries play every year!!!!

WHAT DID I DISCOVER WHEN I LOOKED BACK:

Most of the books I read were actual rereads – 10 in all!

I read 6 classics, including a Hardee’s boy mystery. I read the complete Aesops Fables this year for the first time.

I read five books about animals; a pig, an octopus, a parrot, and if you count fables – walking and talking animals!

I read 5 children’s books

I only read three biographies in 2020 – Alice Roosevelt, Harriett Tubman and Beethoven.

AND – I started re-reading my favorite book in the world at the beginning of 2021 – THE SHADOWS OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – which is the first book of the Cemetery of Forgotten books series.  Doesn’t it sound like a magical place??

What are you reading?

 

WHY I AM GRATEFUL FOR 2020

I know, it seems counter-intuitive to be “grateful” for 2020, but I am. I am so grateful, in fact, that I have made this my word of the year for 2021!

Gratitude has the power to heal in tough times.

Having gratitude gives hope. 

So, what am I grateful for 2020?

  • I’m grateful to be healthy
  • I’m grateful I learned it is okay to be anxious
  • I’m grateful I have the ability to walk and breathe fresh air
  • I’m grateful I live in this neighborhood and grateful for the new friends I’ve made
  • I’m grateful I really clarified my vision with the direction my art is taking. You can read about it on an earlier blog:

    HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART

  • I’m grateful that I’m a learner by nature, and therefore boredom is something that rarely happens to me

I still have a sense of humor – as proved by the following musical tribute to the end of 2020.




What did I accomplish in 2020?

I painted a piano that now resides in the Art-Haus gallery in Atlanta, Ga. This was a gift from my lifelong friend that now resides in Costa Rica (it belonged to her grandfather. I am grateful I can go to the gallery weekly to play to a group of children that are part of an art-pod.

Vickie Martin teaching music to the children at Art-Haus Gallery, Atlanta, Ga.

I am grateful I had a successful solo show during the year.

Vickie celebrating in front of part of her exhibition at Art-Haus gallery, Atlanta, Ga.

 

I am grateful I was interviewed by Shout Out Atlanta which also resulted in TWO SALES!!! (click on below for the entire article). 

Meet Vickie Martin: mixed media artist and musician

I feel there is so much to be thankful and also so much to look forward to in 2021! I have two shows lined up in 2021, which is a good start. But that is what it is, it is a just a start!

By the way – beginning with March 29, I have walked over 1800 miles, met many new friends (especially is they have dogs!), explored many new places.

What are you thankful for from 2020???

 

 

 

 

 

WHY I AM GRATEFUL FOR 2020

I know, it seems counter-intuitive to be “grateful” for 2020, but I am. I am so grateful, in fact, that I have made this my word of the year for 2021!

Gratitude has the power to heal in tough times.

Having gratitude gives hope. 

So, what am I grateful for 2020?

  • I’m grateful to be healthy
  • I’m grateful I learned it is okay to be anxious
  • I’m grateful I have the ability to walk and breathe fresh air
  • I’m grateful I live in this neighborhood and grateful for the new friends I’ve made
  • I’m grateful that I’m a learner by nature, and therefore boredom is something that rarely happens to me
  • I never lost my sense of humor – and the following video – which is a goodbye tribute to 2020 – is proof of this!



What did I accomplish in 2020?

I painted a piano that now resides in the Art-Haus gallery in Atlanta, Ga. This was a gift from my lifelong friend that now resides in Costa Rica (it belonged to her grandfather. I am grateful I can go to the gallery weekly to play to a group of children that are part of an art-pod.

Vickie Martin teaching music to the children at Art-Haus Gallery, Atlanta, Ga.

I am grateful I had a successful solo show during the year.

Vickie celebrating in front of part of her exhibition at Art-Haus gallery, Atlanta, Ga.

 

I am grateful I was interviewed by Shout Out Atlanta which also resulted in TWO SALES!!! (click on below for the entire article). 

Meet Vickie Martin: mixed media artist and musician

I feel there is so much to be thankful and also so much to look forward to in 2021! I have two shows lined up in 2021, which is a good start. But that is what it is, it is a just a start!

By the way – beginning with March 29, I have walked over 1800 miles, met many new friends (especially is they have dogs!), explored many new places.

What are you thankful for from 2020???

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER 2020 READING

If it is true that you are what you read, in the past two months I have been a pig (a good good one at that), an African grey parrot, a hawk, a pigeon, various talking animals and a movie star!  So here goes – in the order they were read:

THE GOOD GOOD PIG – THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD by Sy Montgomery – I met Christopher years ago on NPR.  Sy Montgomery, a naturalist who travels the world, and her husband adopted him as a small piglet, not knowing how big he would actually get (around 750 pounds, few pigs live to adulthood).  This is his story and also the story of a small New Hampshire town that adopted him, restaurants would bring him all the left-over food, in fact the entire small town ends up adopting him.  I fell in love with him and I am thankful I stopped eating pork years ago.

AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins – I agree with Stephen King who said “I defy anyone to read the first seven pages of this book and not finish it”. I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t predict what was coming. I was so emotionally involved with these characters that I did something I don’t ever remember doing before – I put it down for over a week before I finished the last chapter – I was fearful for some of the characters! 

AFRICAN AMERICAN FOLKTALES FOR YOUNG READERS, FROM AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STORYTELLERS by Judith Dockrey Young and Richards Alan Young – This is a collection of thirty four folktales from Africa, the Caribbean, and the American South, divided  into seven categories: stories about heroic youngsters, animal fables, trickster tales, parables with human protagonists, larger-than-life heroes, scary stories, and modern Brother Rabbit tales. I picked this up in a Little Free Library and it was quite a treat to read.

Birdology: Adventures with Hip Hop Parrots, Cantankerous Cassowaries, Crabby Crows, Peripatetic Pigeons, Hens, Hawks, and Hummingbirds By Sy Montgomery –  I learned so much in this book and was thoroughly entertained.. One thing I learned, each bird has a unique personality – and they are more like us than I previously thought. One of the birds featured became an internet sensation – here is Snowball dancing.

AESOP’S FAVORITE FABLES; MORE THAN 130 CLASSIC FABLES FOR CHILDREN BY Milo Winter – I don’t believe I’ve ever read an entire collection of these. They are easy to read with great illustrations – ending with the lesson learned.

ALEX & ME: HOW A SCIENTIST AND A PARROT DISCOVERED A HIDDEN WORLD OF ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE – AND FORMED A DEEP BOND IN THE PROCESS BY Irene Pepperberg – I’ve read this book before and I loved the book and Alex just as much as I did the first time around. Alex had a brain the size of a shelled walnut, yet he could add, sound out words, understand concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none,  He also has a big personality. If you have ever dreamed of talking to animals, you will love this one too!

ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY By David Sedaris – It didn’t disappoint, but it isn’t for the easily offended. Sedaris makes absurdity seem normal!

Coat of Many Colors

Coat of Many Colors by ©vickiemartin2020, 20×20 on canvas

COAT OF MANY COLORS by Dolly Parton  (Author),Brooke Boynton Hughes (illustrator) – I got this book as inspiration for a piece of artwork I was working on knowing I would send it to my grand-niece when finished. It is delightfully illustrated and tells the story from the song Coat of Many Colors.

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS by Kurt Vonnegut – Well worth the reread many many years later. And Kilgore Trout is in the book. To me, a win-win.

MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER – by Hillary Lifton – This is a beach read – kind of. It is basically a thinly veiled story of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I read it in two sittings and don’t remember that much.

ECHOES OF THE SAME – by Nicki Salcedo – This was a book club selection by a local Decatur author. These essays come from a column called Intersections for Decaturish.com, a locally sourced news site based where I live. I liked her voice – what I didn’t like was the typos!

THE SOUL OF AN OCTUPUS: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery  – Okay – I read three books by Sy Montgomery in the past two months. I kept recommending this book when people were raving about the documentary – MY OCTUPUS TEACHER. I thought it was time to re-read it. An octopus is smart, and also curious and a bit of a prankster. I loved this quote about this book: “Sy Montgomery’s joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures will have you rethinking that order of calamari.” ― Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick

NAKED by David Sedaris – Yes, this was my second David Sedaris book, and as hysterical as the other. You have to read all the essays to get to “Naked” – his time spent in a elderly nudist colony. As someone said, if you can’t laugh at his absurdity – you don’t have a sense of humor. Also – I stumbled upon the movie C.O.G. on Netflix which is based on some of the essays on his adventures apple picking in Oregon (on Amazon Prime). 

THE GIVER OF STARS by JoJo Moyes – This was a book club read, and another book club had recently read The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek. I thought they were very similar, but we started researching the possibility of plagiarism. My personal jury is still out on this one, but there are striking similarities. 

I hope this gives you some ideas on what to read. What are you reading?

 

 

HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART

I have been exploring music and memory with my art for a couple of years with a series titled “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”.  This was initially inspired by my mother’s dementia, but the fact I come from a musical family had a part in this decision.  I know, you hear “my family is musical” a lot. But in my case, it is true. My grandfather was a piano tuner and had a music store. My father rebuilt pianos and my aunt taught piano for over 70 years (she probably taught half of North Georgia how to play the piano!). In fact, I began learning at age five.

Every piece I create is inspired by a specific song and I begin with writing the lyrics of the song on the first layer. I not only study the lyrics but I meditate on them, searching for visual cues within the lyrics.  I also learn to play each song on the piano and really study the structure of the music. But the choice of the songs was a little random. Yes, I took requests. Some songs were chosen simply because I already knew how to play it on the piano. Below you can see some of the songs chosen and the art it inspired – with a line given for why the song was chosen.

 

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water, which should be the theme song for all caregivers out there.

Moon River

Inspired by Moon River, “this is my favorite song in the world” I was told. Plus – it is a fun song to play.

Inspired by Up UP and Aware

Inspired by Up Up and Away “It is such a positive song!”

While I enjoyed creating these pieces, there was something missing – ME!

When I say I started walking, I mean I started WALKING! Since March 29th, I have walked every day but one (migraine headache). Since the beginning of April, I have achieved my daily goal of 11,000 steps every day but two (again the migraine, and the first day after the time change – I miscalculated nightfall!). If I had walked a straight line going west from Atlanta, I would be looking Denver in my rear-view mirror.

The podcast that fueled these walks is DESERT ISLAND DISCS adapted from a radio show that has aired on the BBC since 1942. Each guest is seemingly whisked to a desert island taking only eight songs, one book (they are given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), and one luxury item. The people interviewed range from Margaret Thatcher to Keith Richards to Tom Hanks to public servants in England. The reasons the songs are chosen are very thought provoking and often revealing.   Usually it is not because of they are their favorite songs, but because of a memory associated with the song. For instance, Keith Richards picked  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Why? He said Vivaldi was the only composer Mozart respected (who I believe he referred to as the North Star), and if he was going to a desert island, he wanted four seasons. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked the same John Lennon song (Beautiful Boy). What is the most requested song? Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy. What is the most popular song by The Beatles? Something. 

So, it got me to thinking, what songs would I take? This was not an easy decision. In fact, I  have thought about this for months. So I finally sat down and made a list and I am ready to commit to my eight songs. So, for the next 8 weeks I will share one of my “picks” with you, with the history and background of the song, and the process used in creating the art the song inspired. And I am going to “gulp” start recording my version of the songs on the piano.

As for the other choices, my luxury item would be a piano, with a bench filled with music. Actually, the piano is a very popular choice, but so is a machete (you have to build shelter), and an unlimited supply of wine. In fact, one person chose a bathtub with three faucets, one for cold water, one for hot, and one for wine.  The book I would choose? I think I would pick the largest art history book I could find!

A quick note in closing. It has been scientifically proven one NEVER loses their music memory. I have seen people in adult day care that are totally incommunicable sit up straight and belt out all the words of a song they recognize.

What songs would you choose?  and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER READING

My reading has been a mixed bag – but that’s okay, I was still entertained. A total of twelve book and I added something new to recommend this month. 

NAKED ON THE BENCH – MY ADVENTURES IN PIANOLAND – by Robin Spielberg – A very engaging memoir, written in an easy to read style.  As a pianist, I could relate to many of Robin’s stories, but you don’t need to know the techniques of music to enjoy them. I laughed out loud and even shed a few tears. When she decided to pursue life at the keyboard instead of acting, she made a list of what she wanted to achieve, and achieve she did!  This included playing at Carnegie Hall, which is not as hard as we have been led to believe! (Plus – I love the cover art!)

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate –  When I started seeing advertisements for the new Disney movie of the same name, I was glad I kept this book. This is the story that most Atlantan’s know – Ivan, the gorilla – spent his first 27 years in a shopping mall in Washington State, was rescued and came to live at the Atlanta Zoo. This is told through his eyes, it is a story of friendship, hope and art. Oh yeah, Ivan paints (not just in the book, but prints of his paintings were sold at The Atlanta Zoo.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN – DRAW ME A STORY by Beth FerryI purchased this for my 16 month old grand-niece, so she would know the story of Ivan – but I couldn’t resist the urge to read it myself.  Both of us enjoyed it!

THE BOOKWOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson Based on a time during the Depression when women were hired to deliver books and other reading material to the people in Appalachia. I fell in love with the main character, Cussie,  one of the “blue” people of Kentucky. I consider historical fiction a success if I yearn to learn more, and learn more I did. I looked up the Bookwomen (which I’d never heard of) and I looked up the Blue People (which I had heard of – but was only vaguely aware of them).

THE FOREVER WISH OF MIDDY SWEET by Terry KayOne of my favorite authors – this did not disappoint. He spoke at my bookclub several years back and said he didn’t know if he had any stories left. Thankfully he did. The tale of young love, rekindled 50 years later, and the ever present question “What if?”.

THE ORDER by Daniel Silva This is the 20th Gabriel Allon novel, a world famous art restorer by day and an Israeli spy by night and this book involves the possible murder of the pope. What more could you ask for?

WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE by Susan Rebecca White – This was a book club read. Set in Atlanta beginning in 1962, it follows the friendship of two women. I found this book uneven at times, and the author spent so much time with the restaurants and the stores in Atlanta during this time, it was distracting and the timeline was often wrong!

THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING by Carson McCullers – I found this tattered book in a Little Free Library. I had never read it and I’m glad I can add it to the list of classics I am finally getting around to! 

THE POWER OF NICE by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin KovalAnother find in a Little Free Library. It is a very small book, and using real life examples it proves that nice people often finish first.

HARRIET TUBMAN – ANTI-SLAVERY ACTIVIST by M.W. Taylor – Yet another Little Free Library find!  A Young Adult book with a forward by Coretta Scott King it is part of the series: BLACK AMERICANS OF ACHIEVEMENT. I wish I could find more of these books, especially if they are all this engaging. 

AMERICAN PRINCESS by Stephanie Marie Thornton – Alice Roosevelt, Teddy’s daughter was a BADDASS!!! She kept a pillow on her sofa with the quote “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, come sit by me”.  When asked about his daughter, Teddy responded “I can do one of two things. I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice Roosevelt. I cannot possibly do both”.  I really enjoyed this book, but it made me thirst for more non-fiction about her.  Did you know the color “Alice Blue” was her signature and became a fashion sensation. 

AMERICAN DIRT – by Jeannine Cummins – I know there has been some controversy surrounding this book, but I agree with Stephen King “I defy anyone to read the first seven pages of this book and not finish it”. I could not put it down and I was constantly surprised. It is the story of a Mexican woman and her son who find themselves leaving a comfortable life and becoming a migrant and her journey to the United States. I was so emotionally involved, I couldn’t read the last chapter for days – I was so afraid for the characters! 

MY VIDEO RECOMMENDATION THAT EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH:  In fact, it inspired me to pull another book of the shelf to reread – details to come in the next issue.

What have you been reading? Anything that sucked you in? I always like recommendations

JULY 2020 READING

As we all navigate through another month of “stay at home”, my reading is finally getting back to normal. For the past several months, I started more books than I finished. But, in July, I managed to finish 8 books – which is a normal amount for me.

THE ART DEALERS by Laura de Coppet – This book has been on my bookshelf for years, so I finally took it down and read it. Interesting, but a little dated because it was written in 1984. Thirty-two contemporary art dealers talk about their careers, trends in modern art, and their opinions on art history and evaluation. 

NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson – I picked this up from a Little Free Library while on a walk and it is written by a fellow Decatur, Ga. resident (who says she moved here because of the Decatur Book Festival, considered the largest independent book festival in the states). This is a psychological thriller, based on the game “never have I ever” that a new resident into the community introduces to the book club. There are some twists, many that involve blackmail. I put this in the “good beach read” category.

ONE PLUS ONE by JoJo Moyes – I have read several books by JoJo Moyes, and they are always fun reads. This is the story of Jess, a cleaner/barmaid struggling to make ends meet and IT Guru Ed, who is involved in a financial scandal. They embark on a road journey to Scotland with Jess’s daughter Tanzie (a math genius), Nicky (a goth,  kind of a stepson that has been bullied) and Norman, the drooling smelly dog. While it is a fun read, it seemed vaguely familiar. When I logged it into Goodreads – I had read it back in 2014!

LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY by Clyde Edgerton  – Edgerton has a gift for capturing Southern dialogue, and this book gives us the challenges of aging with sympathy, sensitivity, all done with a sense of humor.

ANTI-RACIST BABY by Ibram X. Kendi – I have been very impressed with interviews with Ibram Kendi – so I ordered this  book prior to publication to send to my one year old grand niece – and of course I had to take a peak! I love it!

THE ENGINEER’S WIFE by Tracey Enerson Wood – Historical fiction based on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the role Emily Roebling played in it. When her husband, the chief engineer of the project is injured on the job, she puts her role in the women’s suffrage movement on hold and takes on the project under his guidance. It is interesting, but the introduction of P.T. Barnum as a possible love interest is not based on fact at all. Their paths may have crossed, they were in New York at the same time and P.T. Barnum historically took his circus across the bridge (with all the elephants) to prove the strength of the structure. But, it did succeed in sparking my curiosity to look up these characters.

THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander  – This is the first of two books I read in July where a musical instrument is actually a character.  I was captured by the first paragraph in the book referring to the spruce trees in Romania that would be made into a Bluthner, commonly referred to as one of the big “four” of the piano makers, (the others are Bechstein, Bosendorfer and Steinway). My grandfather sold pianos, and there is a Bosendorfer in my family and I have owned a Steinway. It is the story off Katya, who leaves her beloved Bluthner in Germany, and a woman that inherits one in 2012. It’s a good concept, but it turns into a road trip of a photographer moving the piano around to photograph it around a National Park. Even with an unbelievable story line of endlessly moving a piano around a national park, I couldn’t put it down!

GONE, A GIRL, A VIOLIN AND A LIFE UNSTRUNG by Min Kym – In this memoir, you learn what it is like to be a child prodigy – she wins her first international prize at age 11. Her violin is a personal choice for many reasons, and when it is stolen from her in a London cafe, her world crashes. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function and is silent. Even though the violin is recovered 3 years later, it no longer belongs to her – it belongs to the insurance company and she can’t afford it. I loved this book. I loved the way she described the music and the instrument. I loved the music history she threw in. For instance, I’m aware of Clara Schumann – who was herself a child prodigy – and I knew she was expected to take care of the entire household even while traveling and performing. I didn’t know Brahm’s was in love with her, they travelled together with her children, and he felt he had to choose between love and music – and obviously – he chose his music. 

I’m going to finish some of the books I began in April and May and research more books where a character is actually a musical  instrument. 

What are you reading during this “Stay at Home”? Are your reading habits changing? I’d like to know!

 

MAY AND JUNE READING 2020

To say life has changed lately is an understatement. My reading habits have changed, I have started more books than I have finished lately. But, here are the ones I actually finished over the past two months.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland With Artwork by Yayoi Kusama   I purchased this at the Kusama exhibition in Atlanta, as I love this book and I have probably read if at least five times. But, I have to admit, I missed the old illustrations by John Tenniel. It’s time to pick up Through The Looking Glass!

 

The Mark on the Door and The Secret of Skull Mountain both by Franklin W. Dixon – I had never read a Hardy’s Boys book, but I found these two on the bookshelf (they belong to my husband). I didn’t know anything about the Hardy Boys’ – I didn’t even know their father was a world class detective. But, these books were a nice diversion while “staying at home”.

The Secret of Skull Mountain

The Secret of Skull Mountain

Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons  – I read this book when it originally came out (1988) and living in Miami. I realized how much I missed Atlanta, and I was back before the end of the year! Even though it starts off a little slow, it picks up. Of course, it is fun to read a book knowing exactly where they are. Plus – you can’t put a book down that begins with this: “The South killed Lucy Bonduran Chastain Venable on the day she was born. It just took her until now to die…..It’s what we do best, kill our women. Or maim them. Or make mother’s of them, which may be the worst of all.”  The two main characters, Shep (the narrator) and Lucy are well fleshed out. I was glad I saved the book and could revisit it. On an aside, when the “stay at home” began, I started walking. I no longer live in Buckhead, but it is a short drive from my home in Decatur. My plan was to go into Buckhead, park my car and take a walk on the streets that are in the book. But, then the demonstrations started and I decided to stay close to home, at least for now!

Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests – Inside and Out – by Jonah  McDonald – I’ve had this book for YEARS and have referred to it over and over again. But with my new interest in walking, I sat down and read through the entire book and have started visiting new places to explore. My favorite? The Doll’s Head Trail –

Image from the Doll's head trail.

Image from the Doll’s Head Trail

 When the land was purchased to create a nature preserve, volunteers and other workers noticed the many dolls and other interesting finds in the dump and began placing them in thoughtful ways along the trail they were foraging, that would eventually be the Dolls’ Head Trail.

The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer – At the end of May, I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning about the explosion of audio books. Apparently, there is a “star” in this world, Scott Brick. Meltzer was interviewed and he said when he writes his books, he hears Scott Brick reading them. (here is the link to the story) I’ve read his books before and I found the story interesting. Weirdly, on a walk later in the week, I came across a Little Free Library – and there was this book, which was discussed in the story! Serendipity in action.

The main character is trying to find the identity of an assassin before he kills the President. And, of course, the President is corrupt. The real history of presidential assassinations is blended into the mystery. The timeline moves about – and it is alot to keep up with. I would say it is an “okay” read, not his best, but it still moves forward.

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe – another reread, in fact I received this book after attending a luncheon with Tom Wolfe. (I am a long time fan. In fact, I went to see him four times over the years beginning in 1975.)  At 704 pages, it is a commitment. There are three different stories. First is  Charles Croker, once at football star at Georgia Tech, now a middle-aged Atlanta titan with an outsize ego, who also has a 29,000 acres quail shooting plantation in South Georgia, a young wife, empty commercial real estate and alot of debt. Then you have Conrad Hensley, who is laid off from his job for Croker Global foods in California.  There is Fareek Fanon – a Georgia Tech football star from the slums, accused of date-raping the daughter of a wealthy member of the top echelon of Atlanta’s white society, and the lawyer, Robert White II, who represents him. The book is thought provoking and at times hilarious. It would make a good HBO series!

Sullivan Island by Dorothy Benton Frank – because this is set in the “low-country” of South Carolina, I enjoyed reading it. Great beach read – but it won’t stay  with you for long.

Severe Clear by Stuart Woods – This is one of his “Stone Barrington” novels – a character that has appeared in 20 novels. This one deals with the opening of a very upscale hotel in Bel-Air, on property that belonged to his late wife. Of course, terrorists are involved and havoc ensues!

The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton  Henry Dampier loved selling Bibles, saving souls and getting to know his customers who bought Bibles from him. One day, Preston Clearwater invites Henry to join him working for the FBI. Henry is clueless that he is actually transporting stolen cars. Henry begins to read the Bible he has been selling for years and falling in love with the girl at the produce stand. It takes place in the early 50’s, and goes back to Henry’s childhoods in the 30’s. Edgerton understands the South – and while this isn’t his best book, it was still a pleasure to read!

I see an inadvertent trend here. All of the books except for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Hardy’s Boys books and the Brad Meltzer book were written by Southerners.

While the library remains closed, many of these books came from Little Free Libraries (or which I have one!). If you prefer reading an actual book, refer to their map and see if there are a few around you! 

Moving forward, I’m going to revisit some of the books I started and finish them. It is very unusual for me to not finish books – and there was nothing wrong with the books, I just couldn’t concentrate!

What are you reading? Has your reading changed during the “Stay at home” time we are living in?