Category Archives: reading

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!

 

 

 

WHAT I READ IN JUNE

June was an unusually light month for me.  Partly, because the first selection took longer than usual!  So, here goes:41A9RTmB7dL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

CLEOPATRA, A LIFE by Stacy Schiff:  Oh, what a life it was! Her story is told by Stacy Schiff, who previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Vera, Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov. But, be forewarned, this book will take some time. What did I learn? First of all, I learned I know very little about the ancient world. And, what did I know about Cleopatra? I knew the story Shakespeare gave us and the face Hollywood gave us (Elizabeth Taylor). However, there is incest, murder, wars and more. Cleopatra married two of her brothers, went to war with one and poisoned the other. Apparently that was not unusual behavior in those days (her parents may have been siblings.) She had children with the two most powerful men in Rome, Julia Caesar and Marc Antony. Speaking nine languages, read also read Homer and travelled all over the Mediterranean. In fact, as the author herself says, Cleopatra has one of the busiest afterlifes in history – and remember none of the early biographers actually knew her!

THE SHIP OF BRIDES by JoJo Moyes:  Taking place after WWII, it tells the story of 600 Australian brides, and their journey by boat to reunite with the men they met during the war. Interestingly, the HMS Victorious traveled from Sydney with 655 brides, and the author discovered her grandmother was among them. This historical fiction novel tells the story of four women from different background that are forced to share a small cabin for the 6 week journey. Good story based on historical events I never knew happened

 

THE LAST OF THE HONKY-TONK ANGELS by Marsha Moyer: I realized after I began the book it is a sequel to THE SECOND COMING OF LUCY HATCH, but that doesn’t really matter.  Lucy has married Ash after a whirlwind courtship. After three months, Ash’s ex-wife dumps their 14 year-old daughter on their doorsteps. Seems as if everybody has a secret in this small east Texas town. A little predictable.

69076ff8fed758f2061220d74117df15-w204@1xDINNER WITH BUDDHA: A NOVEL by Roland Merullo: This is the third book in this fictional series and apparently there is another one expected to come out in a couple of years. Food writer Otto Ringling took his first road journey with brother-in-law Volya Rinpoche eight years before this novel takes place. Otto has had many changes to his life during this time, and now his sister has been having dreams about her seven-year-old daughter. Could she be the next Dalai Lama? Otto and Rinpoche travel through the west, visiting Native American reservations, diners, casinos and more, Not only is mindfulness an important lesson to learn, so is learning gratitude and compassion. Often humorous, always thoughtful, I look forward to the next installment, even though this had a fairly satisfying ending.

CREATING MOMENTS OF JOY FOR THE PERSON WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR DEMENTIA: A JOURNAL FOR CAREGIVERS – Jolene Brackey: I will keep this book and refer back to it, it is a great source of information, as well offering solace and comfort. I made some changes in the way I talk to my mother after reading this book. I have given my copy to other family members to help us with this journey and I’d recommend the book to others. It is very readable, with concrete stories that will make you laugh, cry, but also make you think.

My beautiful mom

My beautiful mom

So – now I have to get back to that other book I started over a week ago that I still haven’t finished. It is due back at the library today, and there is a waiting list for the book so I can’t renew it! I’m almost finished with it, and it too wasn’t the easiest read. I found myself rereading portions of it, but I’m finding the pay off if worth it!  You have to wait until the end of July to know what book it is – but I will say it is often classified as scence fiction (written in 1997).

 

ALICE PRIN – AKA KIKI DE MONTPARNASSE

This is the 16th installment of “Women in Art” series

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Born Alice Prin, she eventually became known as Kiki De Montparnasse. In the 1920’s, Montparnasse, located on the left bank of the river Seine,  became the meeting place for the artistic world – with artists coming from all over the world. Gertrude Stein ran  a salon that was attended by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway. Sylvia Beach had Shakespeare and Company, almost going bankrupt publishing Ulysses for James Joyce.  Montparnasse created some great colorful characters, with Kiki in the middle of it all. She would appear at Le Jockey Bar and sing bawdy funny songs, climb up on the tables and lift her skirts to dance (not bothering with underwear). But, she was more than an entertainer, she was a friend to many, a model to some and a muse to others – most notably to Man Ray.

Kiki de Montparnassee 1926 - Man Ray

Kiki de Montparnassee 1926 – Man Ray

She was raised in total poverty by her grandmother. At age twelve, she was sent to Paris to live with her mother, working in shops and bakeries (She was fired from a bakery for darkening her eyebrows with matchsticks!) By the age of fourteen she was posing nude for sculptors – causing her mother to kick her into the streets.

It was Chaim Soutine that named her Kiki when she was posing for him.

Other artists she posed for included Foujita, Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Alexander Calder, Moise Kisling to name a few.

Kiki by Moise Kisling

Kiki by Moise Kissing

 Her companion for six years (or eight years depending on where you look) was the photographer Man Ray, and his most iconic image was a photograph of her, which was reproduced on the cover of the graphic novel about her life. She also starred in several surrealistic films by Man Ray (see link at the end of the post for a tribute to her)

Le Violon d'Ingres - Man Ray

Le Violon d’Ingres – Man Ray

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She was a painter in her own right, having a sold-out exhibition of her work in 1927 (however, none of these images were available). It is reported her drawings and paintings included self-portraits, dream landscapes and animals apparently painted in an Impressionistic style (which I find interesting as many of her friends were Surrealists).

In 1929 her memoirs were published (at age 28) with an introduction by Hemingway who wrote:

“about as close as people get nowadays to being a Queen, but that, of course, is very different from being a lady.”

For a few years in the 1930’s she owned a Montparnasse cabaret known at “Chez Kiki”.

“All I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red wine, and I will always find somebody to offer me that.”

Her health began to decline in the 1930’s and she also began financing medical care for her mother.  She left Paris in 1940 to avoid the German occupation living mostly in the South of France.

Kik died in 1953 after collapsing outside her flat. She was only 52, suffering from complications from alcoholism and drug dependence.  Her tomb says:

Kiki, 1901-1953, singer, actree, painter, Queen of Montparnasse

The painter Tsuguharu Foujita said that with the death of Kiki, the glorious days of Montparnassee were buried forever.

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This book was apparently banned in the US until the 1970’s. In her honor, a daylily was named Kiki de Montparnasse. There is also a high end sex store that bears her name.

Here is a video of a tribute to Kiki with clips of some of the surrealistic films made by Man Ray.

If you are interested in learning more about Kiki, I highly recommend the graphic novel about her simply titled Kiki de Montparnasse.  I enjoyed researching this, I would like to read more about that glorious time in Paris, so you have recommendations, let me know. I found Kiki was more than just being famous for being famous, there was more to her than that! She lived gloriously for a time, with a tragic ending.

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?