Tag Archives: Reading

TWO MONTHS OF READING – MAY AND JUNE

Obviously, I got a little behind in my blogging, so I’m combining the past two months of readingtogether. In looking back at what I’ve read, I seem to be on a light-hearted spiritual quest.  Also, I started taking my QUEST of reading a book by an author from each state a little more seriously. I’ve got my books lined up until the state of Georgia (which is my home state). Here goes:

BREAKFAST WITH BUDDAH by Roland Merullo: This book follows Otto Ringling six days across the country to North Dakota, where he plans on selling his family home.  When his new age sister decides to give half of the farm to her guru, Volvo Rinpoche, he agrees to let the monk accompany him. Otto is a happily married food-book editor in New York, but he is as big a skeptic as they come. As the two  set off, Otto decides to show the monk America. Along the way, they visit the chocolate factory in Hershey, take in a game of bowling and go to a Cubs game at Wrigley field. While Buddha is in the title, the book is not about Buddhism, but about cynicism giving way to self discovery. I laughed and I was touched. I will definitely read the sequels, Lunch and Dinner with Buddha.

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THE DALAI LAMA’S CAT by David Michie: The opening lines got my attention.

“I began to think that perhaps the time had come for me to write a book of my own—a book that would convey some of the wisdom I’ve learned sitting not at the feet of the Dalai Lama but even closer, on his lap. A book that would tell my own tale . . . how I was rescued from a fate too grisly to contemplate to become the constant companion of a man who is not only one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate but also a dab hand with a can opener.”

The cat, that is called many different names in the book (most notably HHC)  narrates the book and recounts lessons he learns in the monastery in the Himalayas. David Michie has written many books on mindfulness and meditation, and this is a lighthearted look at the teachings of Buddha – i recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about Buddhism, and if you are a cat lover, that is an added bonus. I will check out more books by David Michie. The discourse in the book between the Dalai Lama and a young girl that has been told by a doctor to eat meat really made me stop and think. I have been struggling with eating meat, settling on just fish and chicken. What the Dalai Lama said in the book made me totally rethink this – I haven’t started eating beef yet, but I might!

JOURNEY OF SELF, MY SIX MONTHS IN THE JAPANESE COUNTRYSIDE by Nate Golon: Are you seeing a trend here with the books I chose? This was a free download, but a charming surprise. After breaking up with a girlfriend, Nate sells everything and goes to Japan to teach English, finding himself in a small town in Southern Japan. Of course, he doesn’t know Japanese, he doesn’t know the customs, but even though he is the stranger in a strange land, he finds friendship, adventure and eventually himself.  While it isn’t the best written book I’ve read, it was still interesting.

GIRL ON THE TRAIN, A NOVEL by Paula Hawkins: This seems to be THE book of the summer. If you liked Gone Girl, you will like this book. It follows three women, “Jess” who has disappeared, Rachel who watched Jess  in her house from the train, and a third, Megan, who is married to Rachel’s ex-husband and lives a couple of doors down from the disappeared girl. There are twists and turns and some surprises along the way.  But, I was totally unsympathetic to these characters, they are selfish, shallow and Rachel’s drinking gets in the way of her life. However, it is a page turner. 

OCCUPANT by Edward Albee: Based on the life of artist Louise Nevelson, it is the one act play that tells the story of the artist being interviewed by an unnamed reporter after her death. Edward Albee and Louise Nevelson were friends.  I read this while researching a blog I wrote about the artist that you can read HERE. I’d love to see the play! (Edward Albee wrote Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). 

TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, IN SEARCH OF AMERICA by John Steinbeck:  This is part of my quest to read a book by an author from each state – this is my California selection. There will be a separate blog dedicated to this selection. I will say I enjoyed it so much I have Cannery Row sitting here to read soon.

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That’s it for the past two months – I decided to leave off books I downloaded and read in an hour that I don’t really remember. Currently I am reading my selection for the state of Colorado.

I plan on reading a classic piece of literature every couple of months, concentrate on my quest a little more and read more about art.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

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 – – – – 

 

 

 

 

 

A FAVORITE AUTHOR, FAIRY TALES AND MORE

MARCH READING

March reading was a mixed bag – I read a couple of children’s books, an early novel by a favorite author, what I thought would be historical fiction – and more.  Here goes!

Conrack

The Water is Wide became the movie Conrack

The Water is Wide, by Pat Conroy: Pat Conroy is one of my favorite writers writing today. This is based on his year on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina (called Yamacraw in the book). The year is 1969, Conroy (called Conrack by his students) is a teacher that wants to make a difference.  He arrives on Yammacraw Island by boat (there are no bridges, in fact, there is little infrastructure throughout the island). Even though the island is less than two miles off the coast of South Carolina, the students know next to nothing about the world beyond. They don’t know who the president is, or even what country they live in, many can’t read of write, and even though they are on an island, none of them can swim. So, Conroy has his work cut out for him, but he has one obstacle after another with the other teacher, the school board and often the parents of the children. However, many of the stories are humorous and heartwarming – you root for these kids!  This is Conroy’s 2nd book (he self-published his first), and you can see the writer he will become!  Oh, it should be noted, the book really shows the inequalities in our educational system here in America. Note – it was made into the movie Conrack in 1974.

But Enough About Me, A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous by Jancee Dunn: Another free download on Kindle, this is the true story of Jancee Dunn.  And – I have to say – this book is funny!   Growing up in the 80’s in New Jersey, she has the over-permed, over-sprayed hair, tanning with baby-oil on the beach. But a chance encounter leads her to a job at Rolling Stone Magazine.  Switching between her family and her life at the magazine, and later as a V-jay on MTV and a contributor on Good Morning America, it keeps us entertained. (Her father almost worships J.C. Penney – the man and the store). Hiking with Brad Pitt,  Ben Affleck shows her what is it like to be chased by papparrazzi, eating Velveeta from Dolly Parton, making peanut butter fudge with Loretta Lynn – it surprisingly is a good and funny read!

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Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal: I thought this was historical fiction when I picked it up – and while there are historical elements to the book, it is a mystery. Maggie Hope is brought up by an aunt in the U.S. after the death of her parents in an automobile accident in England. When her English grandmother dies, she travels to London. The year is 1940. Maggie graduated at the top of her class in mathematics, but her skills are in codebreaking. However, she is relegated to being a typist at N. 10 Downing Street (the residence of the Prime Minister). When she goes to place flowers on her parents graves, she discovers there is only her mother’s grave. Is her father still alive? Fun read!

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart: This gothic mystery was written in 1907.  Mary Roberts Rinehart’s work was dismissed by critics throughout her life (1876-1957) as low-brow. But, she had a long profitable career. The story follows a wealthy spinster, Mrs. Innes as she rents a house for the summer in the country, her niece and a nephew follow. But, of course, after a couple of days there is a murder in the house, and there is alot of running around.  It was a fun read, but I got some of the characters confused at times!

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Pines by Blake Crouch: This is the first book of the Wayward Pines trilogy, soon to be Fox television series starring Matt Dillon.  It begins with a secret service agency waking up on a river bank with no identification and very little memory. Of course, Wayward Pines is the perfect bucolic town. He ends up back in the hospital and remembers he was sent there to investigate the disappearance of two other secret service agents and has a wreck upon arriving in Wayward Pines. So- begins the mystery. Think of Twin Peaks meets Lost, with a timeline that doesn’t make sense (it will eventually), and even some mutants. The residents of the town are – – – – well, are they prisoners? Can they get out?

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From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg: Honestly, this was such a fun read, and I can’t believe I never read this as a kid!  Almost twelve-year old Claudia is fed up with her suburban life, so she decides to run away from home. Taking her younger brother with her, off they go to  New York City and take up residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Claudia becomes intrigued with a mystery of a marble statue the museum purchased for only $250 – it is the product of Michelangelo?  Now- the Met has changed alot since this was written (it takes place in 1967), it is no longer free to get in to start with. The staff still get alot of questions about the book, in fact, there is a special issue of MUSEUM KIDS that is devoted to the book.  The movie shown above was a made for tv movie filmed in 1973. There was a big-screen adaptation in 1973 starring Ingrid Bergman – this was the first time the museum closed to accomodate filming! If you are going to a museum with a kid, have them read this book prior to going! And, I bet you think differently of museums after reading this!

The Strange Library

Cover of The Strange Library by Murakami

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: This 96 page book is delightfully strange. It arrived shrink-wrapped – you have to flip the cover up to get to the book itself. The graphics are  designed by Chip Kidd, who apparently has collaborated with Murakami before. I don’t recommend listening to this book, or reading it as an Ebook! The story is about a boy imprisoned in a library, complete with winding halls, hidden rooms, a girl that slips in an out of the bars (yes, the boy is in a jail cell reading about tax collecting in the Ottoman empire), while a man dressed like a sheep keeps guard. This book may get it’s own blog post at a later date!

Paint Me Gone by Molly Green: free download and first book in the Gen Delacourt series. After a painting is found in a thrift store that apparently has the image of a woman missing for 20 years, Gen and her cross dressing friend take on the case. It can be read in an afternoon – and it enjoyable light reading.

So – that’s it for March! Let me know your thoughts!

FEBRUARY READING

A MONTH WITH SERENITY, INTELLIGENCE AND SOME DOWNRIGHT SILLINESS

I am so thankful for Goodreads and Kindle.  I try to record the books as I read them in Goodreads, but sometimes I have to rely on the books I have downloaded on Kindle. The reason? I actually read a couple of books in February that I needed to read the recap in Goodreads to remember them!   February was all over the board! (in categories and quality both).

9YElAAAAQBAJChaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words by John W. Pilley:   Surprisingly, I picked this up at the grocery store while stocking up for a non-existent upcoming winter storm. Who could resist that face?  John Pilley is a retired psychology professor in South Carolina. When he adopts Chaser he begins exploring communication and language with her. In the end, Chaser knows over a thousand words and demonstrates an intelligence that is remarkable. The training is 4-6 hours a day and done in the spirit of play. It will make you look at your dogs differently!  As a dog owner and lover I usually don’t read books about animals. But – Chaser is alive and well in Spartanburg, S.C.  While there is a fair amount of scientific research in the book, I still enjoyed it!

Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham : This was suggested reading for a meditation course I took at the Shambhala center down the street.  Mipham was raised in the West, so the book is written in easy to read idiomatic English. He believes to lead a sane and peaceful life, we need to train our minds, and without doing this we become “at the mercy of our moods”.  There are a few appendices that show meditation postures and give easy to follow instructions. It takes the mysticism out of both meditation and Buddhism. An added treat is the forward that is written by Pema Chodron.  By the way, Mipham is the director of Shambhala International that is over 165 meditation centers (founded by his father). I will keep this book and refer back to it. While I still struggle with meditating daily, I have not given up! I signed up for another class beginning next week – Contentment in Everyday Life.  This is part of the description of the class: 

To be content is to know what is sufficient.

To know what is sufficient we must know ourselves.

To know ourselves we must be willing to look into ourselves.

To look into ourselves we must engage with gentleness and bravery, and

in this manner we make friends with whatever we see.

Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills by Tony Stoltzfus: In 2014, I became a certified life coach, but I’m still in training mode. I recently took on my first “practice” clients (or ally’s as I prefer to call them). To ask powerful questions is one of the two most powerful things to learn (the other is to effectively listen). This is a reference tool I will refer back to. Coaching helps guide one in the right direction, helps them realize their dreams and begin achieving their life goals. After all, we all have the power within us – as one of my favorite quotes below illustrates.

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To Catch a Bad Guy by Marie Astor: This was a free download that I read on a dismal wintery afternoon. I downloaded it because it had a picture of a cute dog on the front. I barely remember the story though – need I say more?

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Still Life with Murder by P.B. Ryan: Set in Boston after the Civil War, there are some interesting elements in this book. It follows Nell Sweeney – born into poverty now working for a very wealthy family. There are two sons they believe died in the Civil War. When the black sheep, also a physician, returns secretly addicted to opium, he is accused of a murder. Nell begins proving his innocence, and it takes you back to the terrible Andersonville. Interesting historical setting and a few twists along the way.

Hollywood Assassin, A Hollywood Alphabet Series Thrille by MZ Kelly:  I love books about the history of Hollywood, and this one promised this. Detective Kate Sexton is being stalked as she puts together the pieces of a 30 year old cold case.  I should have caught the line in the promo (another free download) saying it “has more twists and turns than a car on Sunset Strip with a Hollywood starlet at the wheel.” and by an author named MZ?  I guess that is for MIZZ??? But, I have to admit, I did read it!

For March, I am assembling a better quality of books – that doesn’t mean I’ll won’t read some quick simple download along the way.

July Reading

Lately – I’ve been downsizing and decluttering. July was a pivotal month for me – I gathered up 7 bags of clothes, packed up a set of dishes we don’t use (my husband didn’t even know they existed!) AND – I took in 5 boxes of hardback books to a thrift shop that uses the money for animal rescue. Why was I keeping all of these books?  I don’t need a film encyclopedia that was published in 1996! I am not going to look at 100 years of National Geographic. Nor, I am not going to read Anna Karenina – and if I decide to read it – it is available at the library. Why did I keep paperbook editions of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird? Yes, I’ll reread them, but again, they are available at the library too. Also – I made a goal to read NO MORE THAN ONE BOOK A WEEK for the remainder of the year!

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So – I decided start cleaning out. I decided to seriously look at the books I kept to reread.  I started by rereading The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.  This book held up! I think I got more out of this reading than my initial reading. It is beautifully written, sometimes I just had to stop and reread a passage because it was so beautiful. Covering 40 years, it is the story of Tom Wingo who goes to New York to help a psychiatrist work with his suicidal twin sister Savannah. This is the story of a dysfunctional family (with a capital D) set primarily in the lowlands of South Carolina. I would deem this a modern classic – one of the great American novels of all time! You may know the outcome while reading it, but the circumstances are revealed slowly. The characters are alive, you can smell the salt water, you want to run out and eat shrimp and oysters! This is a FIVE STAR book!!!!  I’m glad I decided to clean out and purge, and I’m glad I reread this book. Now, which Pat Conroy book will I read next that I’ve saved.

A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne – I’ve always liked Dominick Dunne’s style of writing, so I was happy to find this little gem on my bookshelf.  About the wealthy Bradley family, it begins with the lines “The jury was in it’s third day of deliberations”. I was hooked.  The Bradley’s are a large Irish-Catholic family, the patriarch of the family wants his favorite son, Constant, to be president. Sound familiar? Yes, it is a thinly veiled account of the Kennedy family, however, the hook is it deals with a shocking crime committed by Constant and aided by the focus of the book, Harrison Burns.  The crime brings up comparisons to Michael Skakel.  A real page turner!

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist’s Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize and Simplify your Life by Francine Joy  – this was a fun and quick read – dealing with our relationship with “stuff” and getting rid of it. I have to say, the more I get rid of, the more I have a sense of freedom. “Things” just don’t hold that much power over me anymore. This is the journey I am on at the moment.

So – I only completed 3 books in July – this is groundbreaking for me. I did read more blogs, I did paint more, and I did exercise more!

I posted a picture of our wall of books. I will go through them again this month and get of more. I will reread a book that I have kept for that purpose too! I’m on a moratorium, I’m not buying ANYMORE books right now – I have quite the stack to read and reread!

What do you consider the “great American novel”?

Here is a sample of what I have stacked up!

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