The world has changed in the past couple of weeks. I have found myself with alot of energy (good thing) without focus (not good). One thing about me, I am an AVID READER, I begin every day with a bath and a book, every single day! But – I the words I’m reading have not been sinking in, and I’m restless. So – I’ve taken to the streets and started walking 3-5 miles a day – the length of a good podcast. So – I thought I’d share some podcasts I’ve really enjoyed.
THE MOTH – THE ART AND CRAFT OF STORYTELLING Celebrating it’s 20 year anniversary – there are definitely plenty of things to find here. In their own words, it started as “a whiskey-fueled dream in Georgia to the storytelling movement of today”. There are over 25,000 stories, that people like you and I have shared, always live and without notes. Many of them are very inspirational, some are hilarious, and it is rare not to be moved. Unfortunately the live in Atlanta this week was cancelled.
DOLLY PARTON’S AMERICA Need I say more? Just to hear Dolly laugh always brings a smile to my face. My only complaint is there are limited episodes, but I know I will listen to this series again!
Dolly Parton’s America
DISGRACELAND This is a true crime podcast about musicians behaving badly, starting with the death of Jerry Lee Lewis’ fifth wife found dead. Did he murder her? What happened? Told by Boston musician Jack Brennan – an expert storyteller – you will learn things you never knew.
DISORGANIZED CRIME: SMUGGLER’S DAUGHTER Hosted by non de plume Rainbow Valentine, this is her about her artist mother and “businessman” father were pot smugglers in California in the 70’s and 80’s, something she didn’t know until she was 14!! She interviews both of them, as well as the parents of her friends that were also smugglers. It is very entertaining with interesting history about “pot” thrown in along the way. Just so you know, the word “pot” doesn’t come from something you cook in. It comes from the Latin term “potation de guayana” which means, “drink of grief” and is a traditional Mexican drink made from steeping cannibus buds in wine.
ARTCURIOUS This is a delightful different take on art history. Was Van Gogh accidentally murdered? Is the Mona Lisa you see at the Louvre a fake? Was a British painter actually Jack the Ripper? Each episode is thoroughly researched by art curator Jennifer Dasal.
YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS This is the secret or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century. Episodes include The Hemmingway Curse, Cass Elliott and Fat Shaming (she did not die eating a ham sandwich btw), Esther Williams and the Birth of Waterproof Makeup. Interesting stuff!
There are so many great things to listen to out there – but I’ll stop here! I’d love to have suggestions on podcasts I may not know about!!!
I am currently on a quest to read a book written by an author from each state. I have finally reached Idaho, reading two books by Idahoan authors (yes, I looked up the word Idahoan!)
First – MOUNTAIN MAN by Vardis Fisher, the book the movie Jeremiah Johnson is based on. Sam Minard is a hunter/trapper wandering through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, beginning with Sam coming upon a horrific scene of an Indian massacre, where a lone woman is left alive after her three children are murdered and her husband is kidnapped and scalped. Sam builds her a cabin and get word out to other “mountain men” to look out for her. He takes an Indian Wife, and simplifies her name to Lotus. When it is time for him to leave in the winter to trap fur, he leaves her pregnant in the winter (in the comfort of their cabin). He returns to find his family has been slaughtered most likely by the Crowe tribe. This begins a murderous path of vengeance, vowing to kill every member of the tribe that killed his family. Again, this isn’t for the faint of heart.
Then I found another book that is probably stylistically on the other end of the spectrum! Echoes from the Hills of Idaho by Ruth Butler. This is the humorous, tragic and folksy memoir of Ruth, a girl who lived the first few years of her life on a thousand acre dry farm, which was near the Grand Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone Park was only a few miles away. Surrounded by the grandeur and beauty of the area, she also lived in a loving family. Her heartfelt stories are of growing up during the twenties and thirties. Complete with pictures, it is an endearing memoir and this childhood must have ignited a sense of adventure in Ruth because she worked as an airplane mechanic in WWII, raised a family in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and traveled America solo in her motorhome after retirement. She wrote this book in her 90’s and even though she is in now in a wheelchair and suffers from glaucoma, she writes every days, writing her third memoir!
Idaho is called the “Gem State”, because nearly every known type of gemstone has been found in Idaho.
Idaho is one of only two places in the world where star garnets are mined in significant quantities (the other place is India).
Idaho’s state capital building is the only one in the United States that is heated by geothermal water.
Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls, drops 52 feet further than Niagara Falls
Known for potatoes, Idaho produces one-third of the potatoes grown in the U.S. (it also produces the most lentils).
Hells Canyon, (in the Western portion of the state) is 7,993 feet deep, making it the deepest river gorge in North America (The Grand Canyon is only about 6,000 fee deep).
The state seal of Idaho was designed by Emma Edwards Green, making this the only state seal that was designed by a woman. (The state seal is used in the flag too).
Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition as an intrepreter was born here (and so was Sarah Palin, but we’ll forgive that).
The Salmon River is the longest free-flowing river that flows within a single state.
63% of Idaho is public land
The capital city of Boise was named when French-Canadian trappers arrived in the early 1800s and were so relieved to see the forest and river that they exclaimed “Les bois! Les bois!” (“The trees”)
In 2004, the mayor of Wallace, Idaho, a town with a population under 800 people declared the town as the Center Of The Universe, complete with a manhole cover painted to mark the site.
The Boise State University Broncos play on the only blue football field in the world, known as The Smurf Turf!
I have had a lot going on for the past several months (more about this in another blog), so I haven’t been blogging. I actually wrote this blog the first week of July and never proofed it. I was going to include July here, but I decided to go with the mantra “Progress – NOT PERFECTION” and go ahead an publish this as my 2nd quarter reading.
THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILLY PONDER by Rebecca Wells – This was a nice beach type read. As with Rebecca Wells’ previous books, there is a profound sense of place, and this time it is on the La Luna river in Louisianna, where life is simple, and there is a colorful cast of locals. However, after some heartbreaks, Calla goes to New Orleans to attend a beauty school with dreams of opening her own salon back in La Luna. Here she makes new friends and eventually moves back to La Luna after more setbacks. The book was enjoyable, but I felt the ending, which seemed to go on and on, was contrived and not as good as the rest of the book.
HELP, THANKS, WOW: THREE ESSENTIAL PRAYERS by Anne Lamott – I heard an interview on NPR with Anne Lamott and she touched on this book. When I received a copy of it, initially I was disappointed in how small it is – it can be read in about an hour. But, it packs a punch. I will keep this book to refer back to!
THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE: A WAR STORY by Diane Ackerman – This is a true story set in Warsaw during WWII. Antonina lives with her husband and son in a villa on the zoo grounds – which is well ahead of the times, providing natural habitat for the animals. Then the Nazi’s arrive, along with their total disregard for life. Drunken soldiers shoots animals in their cages for instance. But, the family manages to survive and ends up rescuing Jews and working in the resistance. I would say part of the book is endearing, and other parts horrifying. It is well worth the read (No, I haven’t seen the movie).
I REMEMBER NOTHING AND OTHER REFLECTIONS by Nora Ephron – This is a wonderful collection of essays by Ephron – she apparently wrote them while suffering from leukemia, which her closest friends were unaware of. It is kind of like sitting down and having lunch with a good friend! I will read more by her!
MARRYING GEORGE CLOONEY: CONFESSIONS FROM A MIDLIFE CRISIS by Amy Ferris – On a quest to find books where the heroine is an older woman, I stumbled upon this laugh out loud funny book. Amy Ferris began writing down her stories in the middle of the night while going through menopause. Along the way, she googles old boyfriends, imagines her life with George Clooney, researches obscure diseases on the internet. She tries to get care for her mother, with severe dementia and who has a crush on Jesus Christ. This is a book to share with other women!
WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi – This is not a book to read, put down and forget. This is a story of courage and hope. Dr. Kalanithi wrote this while battling a terminal lung cancer diagnosis. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” He goes from a top-rated surgical resident to a patient and a writer. It is a memoir on how to live a well-lived life while facing death.
MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Carol Dweck – There are basically two types of mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. This with a fixed mindset are those who believe that abilities are fixed – and they are less likely to flourish in the world. Those with a growth mindset are those that believe abilities can be developed. It is interesting – and yes – you can change your mindset.
THE BREAKDOWN by B.A. Paris – good psychological suspense story that is a page turner – I couldn’t put it down. I don’t want to give anything away, but be prepared for anything in the book!
NEW PASSAGES – MAPPING YOUR LIFE YOUR LIFE ACROSS TIME – by Gail Sheehy – A sequel to the previous book PASSAGES, this book goes beyond the midlife crisis to the later stages in life. If a woman reaches her 60’s without any major health scares, she will probably reach her 90’s. This book shows there is still a lot of living to do – that you don’t have to buy a rocker and learn to knit. You can live your “Second or Next Adulthood” on your own terms!
BROKEN OPEN: HOW DIFFICULT TIMES CAN HELP US GROW by Elizabeth Lesser – The stories in this book show how people who have experienced illness, divorce, loss of a job, of loss of a love one have risen up and become stronger and wiser than before. She shows us how to learn to break open and blossom into who we were meant to be. I will keep this book and refer back to it.
THE UNDERDOGS- CHILDREN, DOGS, and the POWER OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE by Melissa Fay Greene – okay – I admit it, I am a dog person – and on top of that, the author is local (from Atlanta). The book is filled with stories of children, that were considered “too disabled” to get a service dog. It is the story of Karen Shirk, who at age 24 was told the same thing. She founded 4 PAWS 4 ABILITY to combat that belief. Over 1000 trained dogs later, the human/dog bond is explored. There is a cast of characters, including felons, scientists, children with disabilities and their parents, and of course the dogs. You will laugh out loud, and you will cry. And you will hug your dog while reading this.
TATTOOS ON THE HEART: THE POWER OF BOUNDLESS COMPASSION by Gregory Boyle – Gregory Boyle started Homeboy Industries, which is a gang-intervention program located in Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. A book of essays, one is constantly reminded that no life is less valuable than another. You will realize there is power in unconditional love. If Gregory Boyle ever comes to town, I will go hear him speak!
ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld – This is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The Bennet’s are facing financial ruin because Mr. Bennet’s has had a heart attack. Liz, a magazine editor in New York, moves home to Cincinnati to help. We meet Chip Bingley, the former star of a Bachelor type show, along with his obnoxious sister Caroline and the seemingly snobby Fitzwilliam Darcy. This was a book club selection and I believe I was one of the few that had read the original Pride and Prejudice, and the members of the book club loved it. It is hilarious and easy to read.
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion – When Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, dies suddenly of a heart attack, while their only child, Quintana, as in a coma at the hospital (with pneumonia and septic shock). Didion calls this time as “magical thinking”. There is the pain of loss, you feel the quiet apartment. But you read about her memories of their almost 40 years today. It is a little painful to read, and as part of the human race, we will all go through losses and heartbreak.
SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult – I didn’t realize when I read this that is was based on a true story. In the fictional version, Ruth, an African-American nurse, has been told not to care for a newborn baby because the white supremacist father has requested it. She finds herself in court because of the events that happen. You get the back story of Ruth, Turk – the white supremacist father, and the public defender who takes the case. Some of the book is a little uncomfortable. I felt parts of it were over researched. But, this is a great book for book club to discuss!
You think I would be congratulating myself, but I’m not. Sometimes I think I need a 12-Step program for book addicts (I actually googled it to see if one existed!) Looking back on 2016, I think reading was the one thing I focused on throughout the year. It was a year of transition, a year of changes. After having a job for 27 years, my office closed at the end of 2015. I thought, whoopee! early retirement! But, life gets in the way. By the GRACE OF GOD, not having a job to go to every day gave me the time to take care of my mother. I became her caregiver and eventually moved her into memory care in April. While that wasn’t the end of it, it has become manageable. I still can’t have a full-time job in the regular sense, but I do have more time to pursue what I want to do. So, 2017 is going to be my year!
To make sense of 2016, I decided to look through the books I read and see if there was any distinct pattern to my choices. There is, and there isn’t. So – I decided to categorize them. The following saying should be my motto!
I also found three Nancy Drew books of mine at my mother’s house and reread them all. I thoroughly enjoyed them! I found this inscription inside THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY. Mrs. Jones was my Girl Scout leader, I was 9 years old. Reading has always been a part of my life apparently.
Also, one thing I said I was going to do since I wasn’t working 9a-5p was join a book club. I joined three that I go to (one meets every other month). Here are some books I really liked that I might not have read had it not been for a book club.
I realized my “go to” books tend to be mysteries. The creepiest book was BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris. I received a free copy of this book through a drawing. A few days after getting the book, I received a letter form a character in the book asking for help. I also received a postcard from a character from New Zealand, which didn’t make sense until I read the book. It is one of the best marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen.
I am in an alzheimers support group, so I put together a reading list for them. You can see that list here.
I read 4 books about making vision boards – and I’m putting together workshops to do just that.
And, there are several books I just didn’t remember – I had to look them up on Amazon to refresh my memory (there were 8).
Where is my reading going to take me in 2017? I will continue reading around the world, with reading a book written by a European next. Also, I will resume my reading around the U.S. – reading an author from each state. I’m up to Idaho for this challenge.
I’m going to read some classics – and top of the list is THE ODYSSEY – which I have somehow never read. I am going to strive to not have non-memorable books in the mix. I want to read deeper. AND – I’m going to try to read only 1/2 hour in the morning, and not read prior to 7P in the evenings M-F.
I’d love to hear about other people’s journey with books. Here is my mom and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I did end the year with a bang – topping 100+ books! Before you get all gushy and start congratulating me, I have decided to read LESS next year. Yes, read LESS. I am going to make an effort to not read prior to 8PM during the week, and only 30 minutes in the morning. I have decided to read a few classics that have eluded me over the years. However, here are the dozen books I read in December 2016.
THE HUNGRY TIDE by Amitav Ghosh – Currently I am in a reading challenge to read a book from each continent, and this was my choice for Asia. Set in the Sandarbans, which is located on the eastern coast of India and Bangladesh (see map below). I’d never heard of this part of the world, and I loved learning about it. Piya Roy, a American marine biologist of Indian descent, and is in search of a rare species of river dolphin. She enlists the aid of an illiterate and proud local fisherman and a translator she met on the train. Reading this book is one of the reasons I love reading challenges, I wouldn’t have found this book otherwise and learned of a new world.
BIRD IN HAND by Christina Baker Kline – On the way home one rainy night, Alison hits a car that ran a stop sign and a death occurs. Everything changes in the blink of an eye. This is a story about four people, two marriages that are changing. It is a page turner.
RECKLESS by Susan Kiernan-Lewis (Mia Kazmaroff Mysteries) – I picked this up as it looked like a quick read set in my hometown of Atlanta. Mia has a paranormal gift and teams up with an ex-detective to solve a mystery. It was a quick read, but pretty much forgettable. Also she had some of the geography wrong for Atlanta – irritating, especially from someone that used to give historical tours of the city.
BASQUIAT – A QUICK KILLING IN ART by Phoebe Hoban – very compelling biography about the artist Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 27. This follows his meteoric rise in the 80’s New York art scene and his ultimate burnout and drug consumption. It covers the graffiti art movement, the crazy world of art auction houses, his relationships with multiple women (including Madonna) and of course, his relationship with mentor Warhol. I liked it so much I continued my journey by watching the movie Basquiat, which is worth seeing if for none other than David Bowie’s portrayal of Andy Warhol (or should I say his channeling of Warhol).
ARTIFICE by Eric Bickernicks – this was a free download on Kindle, and since it was about art, why not? it was enjoyable, but a little silly and largely forgettable.
THINK AND GROW RICH by Napoleon Hill – This was originally published during the depression, and by the time of the authors death in 1970, it had sold more than 20 million copies! It is the product of two decades of research begun when Andrew Carnegie gave Hill he task of organizing a Philosophy of Personal Achievement. Armed with only an introductory letter from Carnegie, he interviewed over five hundred successful people including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and others. This is the result of the research – and the 13 steps to success. It is a book to keep and refer back to.
A LESSON IN SECRETS – A MAISIE DOBBS NOVEL by Jacqueline Winspear – Maisie is working undercover in a university in Cambridge founded by the author of a pacifist children’s book which may have caused a mutiny during WWI. Of course, the author of this book is murdered almost as soon as Maisie arrives. This is a fun series, but I don’t feel this is the strongest book.
THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – I found this on my bookshelf as I was doing my end of the year purge. I don’t know how I overlooked this little gem, after all it is about books and a bookstore! Set in the bookstore Island Books, A.J. is mourning the loss of his wife when his priceless copy of a Poe book has been stolen and a baby is left in the store. Quirky, but also uplifting, it is filled with interesting characters, critiques of classical books, and it is a wonderful book for those that love books and bookstores!
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman – In reading around the world, this was my choice for Australia. This is an incredibly sad tale (soon to be a major picture by Steven Spielberg) about Tom Sherbourne returning to Australia after WWI where he takes the job as a lighthouse keeper on an island about half a day’s journey from the coast. He eventually brings a wife, Isabel, After a few years of miscarriages, they find a boat washed up on shore with a dead man and a crying baby. They raise the baby as their own, but learn several years later, someone has been looking for the man and the baby. Amoral dilemma for sure!
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo – This is the story of Jack and Joy, who have been married for 35 years. Through this time, they have both tolerated their in-laws and have now separated. Reunited at their only child’s wedding. Jack has the ashes of both his parents in the trunk, with his mother talking endlessly to him. Part of the book is quite humorous, but it is not the strongest book by the great Richard Russo.
THE PRINCE OF FIRE (Gabriel Allon Novel) by Daniel Silva – i love the premise of these books, world famous art restorer by day, Jewish assassin by night (kind of). This is the 4th book in the series, and like the others it is fast paced, action packed. It covers a lot of ground, going from Rome, to Venice, Cairo, London, Paris and Jerusalem. Along the way Silva gives a history lesson from 1910 to the present, on the struggles between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Great exciting way to end the year!
I have been giving thought to what I will read going into 2017 – more on that later. Any suggestions? I will continue reading around the world, and continue my journey with authors from each state in the United States.
Obviously, I got sidetracked and didn’t get my October reading blog posted. I’m not going to get into a lot of detail – as there are almost 20 of them! But – here they go!
BOYHOOD: Scenes from Provincial Life by J.M. Coetzee – I was challenged to read a book from each continent, so I started with this book from Africa. The first of a trilogy about growing up in South Africa at the time of apartheid. Strong book. Coetzee was the 2003 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
TERRA INCOGNITA: TRAVELS IN ANTARTICA by Sara Wheeler – As part of the reading challenge, I left Africa and went to Antartica. I realized how little I knew about Antartica!! A women spends seven months in Antartica as part of an artist program. I was so intrigued, I watched a documentary on Shackleton as a result of this. (This is one of two books I read in the past two months that deal with Antartica!)
THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY by Carolyn Keene – This is the 3rd Nancy Drew book, which I found at my mothers house. I had written on the front page “This is my first mystery book. Given to me by Mrs. Jones on 12/22/1966”. Well, I haven’t stopped reading mysteries after 50 years!
THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by Joshilyn Jackson – This book is by a local author and I wanted to love it so much! It was okay – about an cryptic message received from an estrange mother to her daughter, now a high stakes lawyer in Atlanta. Enter a half brother she didn’t know of, and they search for the half sister that was a surprise too. Throw in a little Hindu and mix it with the South.
THE DESCENDANTS by Kaui Hart Hemmings – this was my Hawaii choice as part of my quest to read a book by an author from each state. I will blog about this separately, but if you loved the movie, you will love this book!
START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS by Blake Mycoskie – This is written by the founder of Tom’s Shoes – something I have been buying forever! There are a lot of good points about following your passion. Plus – I didn’t know he was a contestant on The Amazing Race!
MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS by Gerald Durrell – I am hooked on the BBC show, The Durrells of Corfu, which is based on this and the first book of The Corfu Trilogy. I loved this book and will read all three! Based on the writing of the youngest son, it is the adventures of a family consisting of a widow, three sons and a daughter that move to Greece.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris – I received this book in the mail – and in a word – it is creepy! Especially when I received this letter a few days after receiving the book – from the character in the book. In fact, I also received a post card from New Zealand after I finished the book, which didn’t make sense until I finished the book. You can’t put it down.
WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE: A NOVEL by Maria Semple – Interesting format, with part of the book written as emails, letters and even F.B.I. documents. Bernadette is an agoraphobic and the mom of Bee, who has aced her report card. Bee wants her reward to be a trip to Antartica. As they are planning the trip, Bernadette disappears. Humorous and not overly sentimental. (The second book that deals with Antartica!)
Yes, in the month of read a book about an allegory (in a painting), a biography of an author that wrote many books under an alias, and three books about Alzheimers. THE DITCHDIGGER’S DAUGHTERS by Yvonne Thornton MD – This inspiring book was written by one six daughters born to a laborer that worked two 8 hour jobs for 25 years. Donald Thornton wanted all of his daughters to become doctors and be successful independent black women. This is the journey of a family, even becoming a successful band, The Thornton Sisters. Mr. Thornton’s was tough, he was strict, but he gave out the wisest and wittiest advice! All of his daughters succeeded. Did they all become doctors? You’ll have to read it to find out. Here is a little clip of the band.
THE THINGS WE KEEP by Sally Hepworth – This was a book club selection – in fact, I went to an encore discussion that was demanded by members that missed the first discussion. Anna Forster has early onset Alzheimers, diagnosed at age 38, Her twin brother moves her into Rosalind House, where she meets Luke, who is near her age. When their relationship turns romantic, a tragic incident causes their families to keep them separated. Is Anna capable of falling in love? Is she be taken advantage of?
There is a supporting older lovable, but quirky elderly characters. The home’s new cook, Eve, gets involved in Anna and Luke’s story and breaks rules to keep them together. Eve’s seven year old daughter understands some of the older people better than anyone. It is written in a non-linear structure, and this mimic’s Anna’s growing disorientation. But it also keeps you wondering about what really happened. All is revealed in the end. Surprisingly, the book isn’t maudlin, some of it is downright funny. While there is no happy ending today for anyone with Alzheimers, I did feel gratified at the end for the future of Anna and Luke.
STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova – I know – you are probably thinking, wasn’t the previous book enough? Alice, a world-renowned linguist professor at Harvard, diagnosed with Alzheimers at age 50, with a husband that equally as successful. It is written with a third eye, but the story is told mostly through Alice’s point of view. It starts with Alice innocently forgetting things that she thinks are due to menopause and her busy life. When she gets lost and forgets appointments, she seeks help without telling anyone. Of course, the news is devastating and she has to share it. Because you see most of the book through Alice’s eyes, you see her increasing confusion over the course of the book. The climax of the book is a speech she delivers to the Annual Dementia Care Conference.
“Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is like being branded with a scarlet A. But I am not what I saw or what I do or what I remember. I am fundamentally more than that..Please don’t look at our scarlet A’s and write us off.”
The book shows the family adjusting their lives and making compromises. It is told honestly and compassionately. But, there is no happy ending with this disease.
Lisa Genova has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, so she did her research. This is a self-published book which she sent to the Alzheimer’s Association, which endorsed the book.
Yes, I cried. No, I haven’t seen the movie. I will some day, just not today.
THE RED LEATHER DIARY – by Lily Koppel – This was part of a challenge from a group to read a biography by a woman about a woman (of course, I read more than one). Lily Koppel finds a red leather diary locked away in a steamship trunk. It is the the diary of Frances Wolfsen, one she wrote in daily from 1929 through 1934. Not a single day was missed!
Here is a story of a gilded age of the upper West Side. Florence lunched with her friends, went to the nightclub El Morocco at night, shopped at Bergdorf’s, road horses at the Claremont Riding Academy and more. She tells of her first kiss (to a boy), her infatuation with with a famous actress, the starting of a literary salon in her parents apartment. Even though she is a somewhat spoiled headstrong girl, she is also creative and intelligent.
Koppel searched for Florence, even hiring a private detective. She eventually locates her in her 90’s in Florida and reunites her with her long-forgotten diary. It was a fun book to read!
La Primavera – Botticello
BOTTICELLI’S SECRET – by Marina Fiorato – You know you are in trouble when you have to print out the picture of the painting the book is about! This was a book club selection – and it is a book club of women artist’s. It was billed at The DaVinci Code meets The Birth of Venus. But, the painting at the center of the mystery is not the Birth of Venus, but La Primavera. taking place in the 15th century, with prostitute Luciana Vetra posing for the above painting (she is the figure in the center). When Botticelli doesn’t pay her, she steals an unfinished version of the painting. As the bodies pile up, she turns to a priest, and together they go to nine cities in Italy. Are there really secrets embedded in the painting? There has been much speculation about the hidden meanings found in this painting, and this is an interesting take on it. But, the first part is a little tedious, the language profane and explicit. Yes, Luciana’s potty mouth gets tedious, and I found her language a little too modern at times. (I even looked up several words to see if they were used in the 15th century!). And I learned Italy wasn’t unified as a country until 1815.
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT: A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever – The book I often credit with giving me life long love of reading is Little Women. It was also my mother’s favorite book, she tried to name me Jo when I was born (my father said no daughter of his would have the name of a boy). So, when I was challenged to read a biography about a woman, written by a woman, I was delighted for find this one. It is a fascinating portrait about an intriguing time of American literature. Her father was a transcendental teacher. When she was young, the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts. It seems whenever the family had financial problems and had to move (which was often), Ralph Waldo Emerson came to their financial help. Other family friends included Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorn. Louisa went to work early as a teacher and seamstress. During the Civil War, she was a nurse in in Georgtown DC for six weeks. catching typhoid, and while she recovered, her health suffered the rest of her life. Her letters home were collected for her first critical recognition. The family also worked for the Underground Railroad.
The most surprising thing I learned is she published sensational pulp fiction under the name A.M. Barnard, a fact that wasn’t discovered until after her death. Incidentally, she died two days after her father – in fact, they had the same birthday.
Alcott resisted writing the book Little Women. Read here 10 things you may not know about Little Women!
BEFORE I FORGET: LOVE, HOPE, HELP AND ACCEPTANCE IN OUR FIGHT AGAINST ALZHEIMERS by B. Smith and Dan Gasby – This book was recommended to me by someone in my Alzheimer’s Support Group. It is the story of B. Smith, model, restauranteur, author, and talk show host. She is diagnosed at a fairly early age, 65-66. Much of the book is written by her husband, Dan Gasby, along with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shanayerson. It is an honest account of the journey, told by her husband Dan, with portions written by B. herself. But it is also a true love story. It is sprinkled in with hard research, lessons on dealing with, and again love. I’m going to end this with a quote from B herself:
“I know where I’m going. I’m still myself. I just can’t remember things as well as I once did. So on short trips, I work hard not to be confused. I’ll say to myself, What are we going to do? How long are we staying? It’s like I’m talking to my other self—the self I used to be. She tells me, This is what we need to buy—not that. I’m conscious of that other self guiding me now.”
Watch this short video of B. and her husband – it only 2 minutes long.
As you may know, my mother is in memory care now. It is a long journey. The people with the disease need advocates, they can’t speak for themselves. Research for the drugs can run into the billions of dollars.
What can you do? Consider registering with the Brain Health Registry – it is easy, and it is free. And it will help with understanding the disease and hopefully for a cure, because with this disease, no one gets well, no one gets out, at least not now.
My niece Mallory is doing the Walk to End Alzheimers. Consider making a donation, no amount is too small. Click on her page here to read what she has wrote. Think about it, if you haven’t been touched by the disease, consider yourself lucky, for now.
If you have anything to share about this subject, leave me a comment. I will read them all!
I have a quest! I am currently reading a book by an author from each state in the USA – and these are my selections for Georgia, my home state. A bookmark from the library and a book club selection helped me make my picks.
I picked up a bookmark at my local library that lists books Georgians should read. I chose A CLEAR VIEW of the SOUTHERN SKY by Mary Hood, partly because it included a forward by one of my favorite Georgian authors, Pat Conroy. He compared her writing to Alice Munro, George Eliot and Margaret Atwood.
“She blew into my life with hurricane force winds.”
“Indigenous, she is as much a part of that red clay soil as Vidalia onions, Stone Mountain, boiled peanuts, the Bulldog football team, or the burning of Atlanta.”
Well, the book did not disappoint. Consisting of nine short stories, it ends with a novella. How can you put down a book that starts with these words?
“Sometimes you just can’t kill the ones you need to.”
All the stories are about women, moving toward or away from something while searching for meaning and happiness. Within these stories, you will meet a Hispanic woman whose mission was to assassinate a mass murderer. We follow her into prison taking an English as a Second Language class as she looks honestly at her life.
There is also a kindergarten teacher who, when stunned by a student’s question, finds her true vocation. A widow befriends a young neighbor, while a woman trucker contemplates her true love as cell phone messages are sent from tower to tower. Two stories deal with one man and two women. The book ends with a novella “Seambusters” about a factory in rural Georgia where a diverse group of women sew camouflage uniforms for United States soldiers, discovering they are all part of a larger purpose.
I will read this book again, so I can’t complain I had to buy it from the library. Apparently, my dog liked it as much as I did as you can see the remains of the cover below.
A recent book club selection led me to Terry Kay and The Book of Marie, which Kay considers his most important book. Terry Kay can tell you more about this book than I.
What is the book about? It tells the relationship of Cole Bishop, the hero of the football team, and Marie, the caustic, but brilliant girl from the North.. Through her, Cole learns the unfairness of the “separate by equal” system prevalent in the South at this time. The two eventually collude to convince their classmates they are having a great romance. As the valedictorian of the graduating class, Marie gives a scathing speech to “the good white people of Overton County”. She warns them change is coming and they can not stop it.
After this, Marie heads to Harvard, while Cole goes to Atlanta where he writes for the local newspaper, Observing a civil rights protest, a sniper shoots a young black woman, and Cole catches her as she falls. The moment is captured in a photograph that appears in newspapers across the country. Because of this, Cole loses his job and moves to Vermont and becomes a college professor. Marie and Cole maintain a lifelong correspondence.
It ends with the fifty year reunion and shows the changes that have been made.
This is a beautifully written book – as are all book by Terry Kay. He has said
“My problem as a Southern writer is I didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional family, but I produced one.”
He believes writing is not his God given talent, his talent is for hearing and remembering. Other books I recommend by Terry Kay are:
After being forced into retirement at the end of 2015, one of the first things I wanted to do was join a book club where people actually READ the books! Now, I already organize a book club for women artists, but we meet every other month, so I knew I could handle another one. So, I trotted to the local library and found one that meets monthly. Then I found another that meets every other month at a local restaurant (called Pub Fiction). Okay, I thought, I can handle these. I still have my quest going of reading a book by an author from each state (I’m reading alphabetically, and I’ve read through Georgia). Then I found a group on Facebook called Read the World. And, so it goes, I’m up to six book clubs now! I can handle this! I have already read as many books this year as I did all year long last year, and my reading choices have become more varied, and to me more interesting. Here is what I read in July:
SOME LUCK by Jane Smiley: This is the first book in a trilogy (Last Hundred Years trilogy) that follows the Langdon Family in Denby Iowa from 1920 through 1953. Each chapter moves you forward another year. Thankfully, there is a family tree in the front, so it is easy to keep the characters straight. The details about farming life were well researched. By the end of the book, there are six children born into the family, each with a story of their own. The book weaves through the Depression, World War II, and even to Washington D.C. and the FBI. I will continue this trilogy, I want to see what happens to these people I came to care about. (Book club selection)
ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes: This is the third book I have read by JoJo Moyes, and they are all completely different, in story and in tone. Talk about a tear jerker! It is the story of Louisa and Will. Will was quite the daredevil – jumping out of planes, and also the successful, if ruthless businessman. This all comes to an end when an accident leaves him in a wheelchair. Louisa, who has lived a “safe” and boring life is hired to be his companion. After a rocky start to their relationship, Louisa endears herself to Will. Then Louisa learns her six-month contract is based on the amount of time Will has given his parents before he is going to commit suicide. It’s hard to put down, as Louisa sets out to give Will a reason to live, while Will encourages her to grow. It was worth the two month wait to get it from the library, and I think the wait will be just as long for the sequel, After You.
THE GREATS OF CUTTERCANE by Terry Kay: I became reacquainted with Terry Kay thanks to a book club. In fact, he came and spoke to us as he lives right down the road in Athens, Ga. This is a book of short stories based on the people of Cuttercane Georgia revolving around the magical legend of Asa’s Spring. Terry Kay generally writes in a very lyrical voice, but some of these stories are down right funny! They are the type of stories I heard growing up in the South! Enjoyable read.
OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon: It took me awhile to jump on this bandwagon! This is the 600 page story of Claire, a nurse from World War II, who wakes up in 18th century Scotland, where her path crosses that of Jamie Frasier. What follows is suspense, passion, true love, tragedy and more. However, it is not for the faint of heart, as it has it’s fair share of both violence and sex. Jamie and Claire come alive – and I will continue with the series of – how many books now? Eight? There will probably be a 9th one by the time I get there.
THE PUPPY DIARIES: RAISING A DOG NAMED SCOUT by Jill Abramson: I don’t normally read dog books – the dog always dies and I always cry. But, I saw it on the shelf at the library and couldn’t resist that little face. Plus it said on the cover it is a “marvelously entertaining chronicle of a puppy’s first year”. It lived up to that. Abramson wrote a popular column for The New York Time’s website about the raising and training of Scout. it still is a pretty light read. But if you love dogs, as I do, it is enjoyable. Also – I should note – I had a dog named Scout.
THE BOOK OF LIES by Brad Meltzer: This is a twisted tale! Cal Harper works for a rescue mission picking up vagrants that need shelter. He stumbled upon a man who who has been shot, and he ends up being his long lost father. They join forces and begin searching for the lost Book of Cain, and what they believe to be the weapon used in the Bible. His father was shot with a gun that was used in an unsolved murder in 1932 – of Jerry Siegel’s father. Why is this important? Jerry Siegel created Superman. So, you get a bit of both The Bible and comic book lore. And of course, there is a mysterious girl who has befriended his father. I’ve read Brad Meltzer’s books before, but this book kind of jumped around and kind of went into la-la land. But the premise was original I must say. (book club selection)
THE SPARROW: A NOVEL by Mary Doria Russell: I have to admit, I started this book more than once. If it wasn’t a book club selection, I might not have finished it. But, even with the struggle to read it, the pay off was worth it. It is a complicated science fiction book about a Jesuit linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a group of scientists and explorers to the planet Rakhat, where they make contact with two races, the Runa and the Jana’ata. The story shifts between 2016- 2019, when they are on Rakhat, to 2060 at the Vatican. Sandoz is being interrogated after being rescued from Rakhat, returning a broken and mutilated man and the only survivor from the expedition. Did the priest really murder a child and become a prostitute? And, what happened to the other members of the party. It definitely provoked some lively discussion in the book club, leading to discussions about God, moral behavior and exploring new worlds. Plus, I loved the fact they travelled in space in asteroids. Oh, and there is a sequel – Emilio goes back to Rakhat (Children of God), and I miss Emilio.
I will be volunteering at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend. This is one of the largest book festivals in the U.S. I managed to get slots during the lectures by two of the authors I read this month, Terry Kay and Brad Meltzer!!! Woohoo!
What have you been reading, and any thoughts on the books I’ve been reading? In August I will tackle American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and I just might read Winnie the Pooh!