Category Archives: books

FIRST QUARTER 2017 BOOKS

Yes, I have been a little quiet lately. I became the administrator of an on-line book club (currently at 450+ members!), and am active in three other book clubs! Because I didn’t do this blog on a monthly basis, I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

CLASSICS

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I think I’ll read some more!

PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie – this is a very quick and easy read. I don’t know what took me so long to actually read it!

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S by Truman Capote – I decided to read this novella after watching the movie. There are major differences between the two. First of all, the book is set in the 1940’s. And Holly Golightly does not sing Moon River in the novella, instead she the following lyrics.

“Don’t wanna sleep. Don’t wanna die. Just wanna go a-travelin’ through the pastures of the sky.”

And, Truman Capote always wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part. There are many more differences, characters written out, a character added to the movie and the ending very different. Read it and find out!

THE GARDEN OF THE GODS by Gerald Durrell – This is the third book in the Corfu Trilogy. I was inspired to read these books after watching the delightful first season on Masterpiece Theater, The Durrells in Corfu.

THE HANDMAIDS TALE by Margaret Atwood  – I don’t know how I missed reading this all of these years, but reading it now is almost terrifying!

MANUALS (all book club selections)

GET RICH LUCKY BITCH – RELEASE YOUR MONEY BLOCKS AND LIVE A FIRST CLASS LIFE by Denise Duffield-Thomas – Do you think the big word of 2017 is “manifest”? . I learned a few things and Denise is down to earth and delightfully raunchy.

THE ART OF EXTREME SELF-CARE – TRANSFORM YOU LIFE ONE MONTH AT A TIME by Cheryl Richardson – this is a pretty small book, and I think I’ll go back and read a chapter a month at a time!

THE CREATIVE HABIT, LEARN IT AND USE IT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE by Twyla Tharp – this is a must read for anyone wanting more creativity in their life.

BIG MAGIC – CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book had very mixed reviews in the book club. I had read it before, but it resonated more to me this time around.

NON-FICTION

BLACK MOUNTAIN – AN EXPLORATION IN COMMUNITY by Martin Duberman – Black Mountain College was an experimental school operating from 1933 – 1957 outside of Asheville, N.C.  where the study of art was considered not only important but useful. Some of the people that attended there included Willem De Koonig, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Motherwell, Merce Cunningham to name a few. Einstein even lectured there. Fascinating story, but this is a very scholastic book!

OUTCASTS UNITED – THE STORY OF A REFUGEE SOCCER TEAM THAT CHANGED A TOWN by Warren St. John – This is the feel-good book of the year, and has been optioned for a movie. I’m proud to say this town (Clarkston, Georgia) is two exits from me! I am checking into volunteer opportunities there!

FICTION

THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – This is the third book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books trilogy. The first book in the series THE SHADOWS OF THE WIND is one of my favorite books of all time! It did not disappoint!

THE AMERICAN HEIRESS by Daisy Goodwin – I actually found this book on my bookshelf while I was cleaning out. At that time, I was enthralled with Victoria on Masterpiece Theater, which is based on a book by Daisy Goodwin. This is the story of an American heiress going to England to marry into a titled family (this takes place 20 years before Downtown Abby). While it was fun, I like Queen Victoria better!

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer –  This was a reread for a book club – and I enjoyed it more the second time around! This epistolary novel begins in 1946 at the end of World War II and the German occupation of the Channel Islands. I loved these characters and I want to go to Guernsey!

HOUSE RULES by Jodi Picoult  -A teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome is accused of murder. It is a page turner, but it is overly researched, so it gets a little bogged down. As in all her books, there are two sides to every story and nobody is 100% right or 100% wrong.

IT ENDS WITH US by Colleen Hoover – This is an emotionally charged book about the pain of love sometimes dealing with a difficult subject that was extremely personal for the author.

CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McClain – Historical fiction about the fascinating Beryl Markham – a record setting aviator, who falls in love with Denys Finch Hatton and is friends with Karen Blixen (remember them from Out of Africa?)

MEMORIES OF MY MELANCHOLY WHORES by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – On the eve of the unnamed character’s 90th birthday, he visits a brother and falls in love with a young girl that sleeps through his visits. As beautifully written as it is, and as much as I enjoyed it, it is not for everyone.

PIANO GIRL – A MEMOIR by Robin Meloy Goldsby – This is the story of a girl who makes a living playing the piano in lounges – it is a fun and quick read. I kept wondering if that could have been me – as I played the piano for chorus throughout high school!

THE OTHER EINSTEIN by Marie Benedict – I won this book in a drawing and this is a story about Einstein I didn’t know.  Mileva – Einstein’s first wife, was a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the theory of relativity is questioned. There is definitely room for only one genius in this marriage! When their marriage coming apart, Einstein thought they should stay together for the sake of the children, if she would adhere to the following list:

“CONDITIONS
You will make sure:
that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
my sitting at home with you;
my going out or travelling with you.
You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
you will stop talking to me if I request it;
you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.
You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.”

She accepted them, but ultimately left him in Berlin and relocated in Zurich. I realized how little I know about Einstein’s personal life!

That’s it for now! I hope you find something of interest here! Let me know what you think! and what you are reading!

 

 

 

MY READING QUEST TAKES ME TO HAWAII

No, my quest (at this time) is not to visit the entire United States, but it is to read the United States. So join me  in my journey across the nation as I read a book by an author from each state. Today I am visiting Hawaii – and the book I chose was The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. When I saw the movie, I knew I had to read the book!

 

This was originally published as a short story (The Minor Wars” from the book House of Thieves).  The main character is Matt King, a descendant of Hawaiian Royalty and American missionaries, sounds like aperfect life. But, his luck has changed. His wife, Joanie, is in an irreversible coma, following a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support.

But, before this happens, he wants everybody to have the chance to say goodbye to her, and in contacting everyone he finds she was having an affair with a real-estate broker. Is this the person that the apparent adrenaline junkie Joanie ever truly loved? To make matters worse, his cousins are pressuring him to sell the valuable landholdings for development, which to him would be the last link to their past of their native Hawaiian ancestry.

All of this compels Matt to travel, and reconnect, with his two daughters – smart mouthed 10-year old Scottie and 17-year old Alex, a former model and also fresh from rehab. They go from Oahu to Kauai to find Brian Speer, the real estate broker Joanie was having an affair with.

Sounds pretty terrible – right? However, this DEBUT gentle novel is also funny. You can read it in a day. Frankly, I was sorry for it to end. I actually downloaded the book of short stories this originally came from. One interesting fact in the book, the daughter Scotty is sporting a George Clooney t-shirt – remember, he played Matt in the movie.

Here are some interesting facts about Hawaii:

The word Hawaii is from the Polynesian word hawaiki which means “face of the god” or homeland.

Hawaii is the only state that is not geographically located in North America. It is the only state that is surrounded by water and it does not have a straight line in it’s boundaries.

Because Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, he is the only president from outside the continental United States (oh yea, he was born in Kenya).

Hawaii is the only state to have increasing land area. Why? volcanic eruptions.

No other state grows coffee or has tropical rainforests.

The astronauts trained for the moon voyages by walking on Mauna Loa’s lava fields.

Hawaii is the only state to honor a monarch, celebrating King Kamahameha Day since 1872.

Hawaii 5-0 was the longest running police drama until Law and Order (shocking, I know). While the show was, and is,  about the state police department, Hawaii doesn’t have a state police department .

The hula was originally a form of worship performed by men.

Surfing, or as it is known in Hawaiian, heenalu, was invented thousands of years ago by the Polynesians, who first settled Hawaii.

My next stop is Idaho!

Is there anybody else doing any kind of quest?

 

 

 

 

A TRIP TO THE SUNSHINE STATE ON MY QUEST

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.

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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!

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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.

SOME FACTS ABOUT FLORIDA

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

 

 

 

 

THREE MONTHS OF READING – JULY THROUGH SEPTEMBER

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?

 

 

APRIL READING – CLASSICS, MYSTERIES, AND A LITTLE HUMOR

 

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THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Arthur Conan Doyle: The game is afoot!  I’m a big fan of Sherlock! I love the BBC show, I love the CBS show. This is 11 “adventures”, ending with the The Final Problem – as Sherlock Holmes and the evil Dr. Moriarity fight at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Doyle wanted to kill off Holmes, but public outcry was very loud. Written in 1894,  It is a free download on Kindle – click here.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SIGNS by Maya Angelou: This is part of my quest – which is reading a book by an author in each state of the union, and this is my Arkansas selection. Read about my quest here.  This is the first of seven books about Angelou’s life. I will write it’s own blog soon! By the way, excellent book!

THE FAT RULES by Misti Mosteller: A free download, a quick and easy read. The story of Maddy, overweight since childhood and now in college trying to be invisible. It is interesting to see the pain through her eyes. Because of an event involving a family meal, Maddy decides to take control of her own life. Remember, this is in literary land, so she loses the weight in a year and exacts payback where needed. Even so, it is both funny and touching.

PLAY DIRTY by Sandra Brown: I picked this up in a thrift store. A pretty good mystery, but not very realistic. It follows Griff, a disgraced football player recently released from prison. A paraplegic billionaire approaches Griff for a job, which involves the billionaire’s wife and the dream of having a child.  This is job is further complicated when an older murder resurfaces that Griff is suspected of committing. I couldn’t put it down, but that doesn’t mean it is a great book, but it is a page turner.

PINK BALLOONS AND OTHER DEADLY THINGS by Nancy Tesler: Carrie’s husband leaves her for a much younger women, and when she is found dead, of course Carrie is a suspect.  A cute page turner, but I found Carrie, who is a bio-feedback therapist, unsympathetic.

THE GODFORSAKEN DAUGHTER by Christina McKenna: Having read a previous book by this author, The Misremembered Man, I quickly picked this up (okay, I downloaded it!). It is the third book in a trilogy, set in a small town in rural Ireland.  It is the story of Ruby, who was happy working the farm with her father. When he dies, she she is forced inside and cares for her critical mother, who coddles her younger twin sisters. When she finds her grandmother’s suitcase in the attic containing a mysterious but empowering book her mother believes Ruby is going crazy. Enter a kindly priest, a psychiatrist who has his own secret, and the local bachelor farmer (who appeared in the previous book). It is an interesting book, dealing with loneliness, friendship, empowerment and also people going into hiding because of The Troubles involving the IRA. I enjoyed this book, but I enjoy reading about life in Ireland.

 

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EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY by George Mahood: This book is funny!! And, in it’s own weird way, education all!  George decides he is going to celebrate a different holiday everyday. Every chapter is devoted to a different holiday – as he goes out of his way to celebrate them all in his own way. Along the way, he eats ham every day for a month, he punches holes for an entire day to have hanging chads (for Dimpled Chad day on January 4). There are so many “official” silly holidays out there, and George finds one for each day (this book covers six months). By the way – as I write this on May 2, which is the first Saturday in May. Lo and behold, the first Saturday of May is  World Naked Gardening Day – how do you plan on celebrating it?

TRUE STORY, MURDER, MEMOIR, MEA CULPA by Michael Finkel: In watching a news story about the recently released movie True Story, I was intrigued, so I immediately downloaded the book and devoured it. Crazy crazy story. Christian Longo kills his wife and three kids and is found in Mexico impersonating a recently fired New York Times reporter, who wrote this book. This is the book about their relationship. I couldn’t put it down, damn those instant downloads sometimes!

MAISIE DOBBS by Jacqueline Winspear: Thank you all! Several of you pointed me in the direction of this wonderful character and now I will read more of this series! Maisie was a maid in an upscale London home at 13. Her employer, a suffragette, becomes her benefactor, after recognizing Maisie’s intelligence and intuition. Using these skills. Maisie hangs out a shingle as a private detective. Her first case seem innocuous at first, a husband wondering if his wife is having an affair. When she finds graves with only the first names of men that were shattered in WWI, she learns more is going on! It was good, dealing with a decent mystery, as well as social reform needed for those returning from war with disfiguring wounds and suffering from depression.

And, in ending, I read another book, dutifully wrote down the title. When I googled it to link it,  I found several books with the same title. I couldn’t remember which one I read! That must have been  rainy Saturday afternoon read – maybe I should have taken a nap instead!  Lately my dreams have been more interesting than this unnamed book – – –  like the dream with the elevator – – and a plane that took you to all the floors above the 40th floor – – – –