Friday, 17 November 2017

"Longbourn" by Jo Baker

    "Pride and Prejudice:  The Servants' Story"

"There could be no wearing of clothes without their laundering, just as surely as there could be no going without clothes, not in Hertfordshire anyway, and not in September.  Washday could not be avoided, but the weekly purification of the household's linen was nonetheless a dismal prospect for Sarah".

   This opening paragraph drew me in to a story about the servants at the home of the Bennets.  Mr. and Mrs. Hill care for the Bennet family, along with the housemaids Sarah and young Polly.  A new man servant was hired, James, and he is very important to the story for obvious and not obvious reasons.  The obvious reason is the love story between Sarah and James.  But there are twists to this story.
   With the background of the Bennet family, I was enthralled to read about the minor details of laundry, candle-making, butchering, cooking and baking, etc. etc.  The life of the servants followed the rhythms of the seasons and the needs of the growing Bennet family.
   This author was able to bring to life, what it was like to live in the early 1800's.  Her writing was spectacular with such detailed description.
  I was loving this book so much, until page 224.  James, a man of mystery, joined the army.  Then I was not so interested in the descriptive writing. The horrors of war did not seem to fit in this novel. In fact, I skimmed 36 pages.
  It never got back to any rhythm, as the story appeared disjointed with members of the Bennet family getting married, moving here and there. But what about the servants?  Isn't that the theme of this book? 
   Some years passed, "Mr. Hill was mouldering in his grave", when James reappeared- ON THE LAST PAGE!  He is with Sarah- is that a baby with them?  Sorry, the book is ended!

Monday, 13 November 2017

"Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance

   This is a memoir of a man who identifies with the poor, working-class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree, living in the Appalachian Mountains.
   J.D. Vance was able to graduate from Yale Law School, and he wrote this book because he feels that he has accomplished something not really extraordinary but quite ordinary.  It just doesn't happen to kids that grew up like him. This is how he grew up: "Seeing people insult, scream, and sometimes physically fight, was just a part of our life.  After a while, you didn't even notice it".
   So he wrote this book to explain the challenges he experienced. He loves his neighbours, family, and friends, but he needs to avoid some to keep his sanity.  Some are murderers, abusers, addicts, but he sees them as "a ragtag band of hillbillies struggling to find their way.
        Subtitle:  a memoir of a family and culture in crisis.
From Goodreads:
  "At times funny, disturbing, and deeply moving, this is a family history that is also a troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large portion of this country".
I was surprised to see that this book is number 6 on the New York Times bestsellers list.
But perhaps other readers chose it for the same reason that I did.  It really helped me understand the change in the political scene in the U.S.A.

The title is so appropriate.  "Elegy" is a poem of serious reflection, a lament. This book is serious and sad.  It shows the condition of the white working class in U.S.A. It is a memoir, but also a history of this culture as well as a social analysis. A lot to accomplish in one book.
Fascinating and sad.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Time for a change!

I was ready for a change!  Something completely different.  And here it is!  My friend had just finished reading this book and I latched onto it.

   It was just what I needed.  I was able to forget about all the seriousness of life and delve into the fantastic- fanciful, non-sensical, unbelievable, absurd!
  Under the title, is a summary of the book: "A road trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama".
  Just look at this cover.  The 'vestments' of each are hung on the sides of the window and they have escaped into the outside world. And the title is perfect! Being famous may have lost of perks, but being ordinary has lots more!  Just the opportunity to enjoy nature (through that open window) without an entourage.
  The Pope's cousin, Paolo, and Paolo's ex-wife, Rosa, organized this 'escape' at the Pope's request.  What fun!  The two spiritual leaders, who have been stifled by tradition and responsibilities, are like two little boys having an adventure!
  However, there is a lot of 'spiritual talk' in the book.  Paolo and Rosa had lots of questions for these men, and kept calling them by their title most of the time.  So they couldn't completely leave behind their roles in life, but what an interesting concept.
Roland Merullo
  I got caught up in some of the interesting comments, such as, "Worrying is a form of control- a desperate attempt to bend reality to fit an imagined picture in our minds".
  There are bits of Catholic theology and Buddhist philosophy in the midst of this imaginative story. How wonderful if the religions of the world could learn and share from each other.

  Roland Merullo has written a variety of unusual books.  I have read "Golfing with God", and "A Little Love Story", but "The Delight of Being Ordinary" is my favourite.

Monday, 6 November 2017

"My Secret Sister" by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith

   I bought this book a couple of years ago, because it was "Heather's Pick" at Chapters book store.  I thought that I would enjoy this biography because I lean towards books about women surmounting difficult situations.  And there are great challenges in this book.
   However, I kept avoiding it because of the cover.  Actually, the cover does reflect the heart of the story.  So, why did I keep avoiding it?  I cannot answer that.   
  The information under the title tells the story- "Twins separated at birth.  One sister abused, one loved. A powerful true story".
   Helen and Jenny Lee were born in England in 1948.
I believe that the mother, who gave away one twin and kept the other was not mentally stable.  She married a man with uncontrollable anger.  He was abusive to both the mother and her daughter, Helen.  Helen grew up with an adored older brother who tried to protect her.  But she did not know about other siblings.
   Jenny Lee was adopted and believed that her adoptive parents were her birth parents.  She knew nothing about siblings.  Her father died when she was 12 and she discovered her adoption a few years later.  At that point, she became determined to search out her birth family. Twice her biological mother, Mercia, refused to see her.  But one day she arrived at Mercia's door with her husband and three children so Mercia let her in. That was the only time she saw her biological mother.
Jenny and Helen in 2012
  Then, in 2001, Jenny Lee began a successful search for her twin sister, Helen, and the two have been inseparable ever since.
 Together they searched out all the convoluted details of their family, found another sister who did not want contact, discovered who the father was for each child, and pieced together Mercia's distorted life.

Update on the twins:
Helen became a nurse, then trained as a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist.  She is now retired, has a husband and two children.
Jenny Lee was a professional golfer in Europe.  She has a husband and three children and breeds dogs.

   This book is very well written, alternating between Helen and Jenny Lee.  I wondered at the consistency of the writing, but then I discovered the secret on the title page- a ghost writer (Jacqui Buttriss).  A most interesting biography.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

book covers

   I am fascinated with the covers of books.  I think that  a really good book cover 'invites' you into the book.  It should give you the 'flavour' of the book.  I am often convinced to read a book because of the cover.
  I read "Blindness" many years ago completely because of the cover. I saw it at a book store, bought it and read it immediately. The cover told me that the novel was about serious visual confusion.  But it was also about social and moral blindness with religious symbolism.  A fascinating novel! I am grateful that the cover pulled me in!

   This month, I read "Orphan Train" for the third time.  Just look at this cover!  The hinges and the door knob show that this little girl is behind the door and that is significant. She is powerless! Her facial expression is so poignant, as well as the hair, the dress.
   I love everything about this cover.  The colours and shading, as well as the reflections on the window all help to set the mood.
  I also read this book because of the cover.  I was choosing books for the retirement home when I found this book in the large-print section of the library.  I knew that I had to read it.  And what a delight it was!

   I would never have chosen to read "Orphan Train" if it had this cover.  This cover focuses on the train and not the child.  The train was filled with children and the personal story of one of the orphans on the train is at the heart of this book.  
   This cover does not 'invite me in' and does not go to the heart of the story.

Monday, 23 October 2017

"Mary Coin" by Marisa Silver

    Marisa Silver was a Hollywood producer, when she decided to change careers and began writing short stories.  She has written 2 books of short stories and 4 novels.
   This novel had the feel of three connected short stories.

Mary Coin was a migrant worker in 1936 in California after her young husband died, leaving her with 6 very young children.  She took her children from farm to farm as she searched for work, living in the car or a tent in extreme poverty.
Vera Dare was a photographer on a quest to document migrant labourers.  She left her 2 children with another family while she travelled to search out subjects.  Her photograph of Mary with some of her children became famous.
Walker Dodge was a present-day professor whose ancestors owned the orchards where the migrant workers had struggled to survive.  He searched out the story of Vera's photograph and discovered a genetic link to Mary's family.

  The writing was exquisite!  In fact, at times, I felt that it overwhelmed the story.  I kept stopping to appreciate the author's descriptive metaphors and similes.

"She knew her death was near because time had begun to fold like a fan so that the past and the present rubbed together in ways that made her feel supple and porous, as if time were moving through her body and not the other way around."

"Trevor was a good son and a loyal man, a quality that had kept him with women who loaded all their unhappiness onto his broad back like he was a mule and then left without collecting their baggage."

   The idea for this novel came from the story of a famous photograph "Migrant Mother".  
   Dorothea Lange took that photo in Nipomo, California in 1936.
  And that photo, "The Migrant Mother" is used on the cover of Marisa Silver's novel, "Mary Coin".

Monday, 9 October 2017

Zadie Smith

   A book club choice for this month is "Swing Time" by Zadie Smith.  As I was reading it, I was reminded of reading another book by this author.  "White Teeth" was a satire on a multicultural community.  There were interesting characters. The writing was good- not great in my mind.  However, in 2001, I was attending a lecture series at the University of Toronto, where Robert Adams expounded on novels, and "White Teeth" was one of those novels.

Robert Adams
   My friend, Terri and I loved these lectures.  We took the bus to Toronto, had a lovely walk down University Avenue, enjoying the sights and sounds of the 'big city'.
   We were mesmerized by Robert Adams.  He had been a literature professor, but he also had some stage experience.  So his presentation was dramatic, exploring the novel in detail.
  His love of this book was obvious. He believed that Zadie Smith was a very good author.  In fact, he said, "If she produces a second book of this quality, I will label her a genius." Wow!
   So, I had to look really carefully at this book.
   The main theme of "Swing Time" was the friendship of two girls while growing up in a disadvantaged section of London, England. They were obsessed with dance- especially Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and watched many, many dance videos.  The novel followed them into later life as they went in different directions.  It was interesting to see how their childhood friendship affected their lives.
  There was a subplot of a famous entertainer building a girls' school in Africa.  There were some thoughts about being a benefactor in another culture. Are you really making their lives better or making their lives what you think they should be?  I could have really loved this book.....However, the storyline 'danced' all over and it was hard to follow.  Another reader called the storyline  "rickashay".  Is this a new word, or an alternate spelling of "ricochet"?  Whatever!  You get the message.  The storyline is all over the place.
  Also, the narrator was nameless.  Shouldn't bother me, but it was harder to relate to her.
  The themes of class, race, culture and friendship were fascinating and the writing would have been good if I could have kept track of where we were as it bounced from London to New York to Africa, with different characters coming and going.

   And I need to look carefully at this author also.  Zadie Smith was
Zadie Smith
elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and in 2004 she was named among the top twenty most influential people in British culture. She has won many awards, and "White Teeth" was listed in the 100 best English-language novels from 1923-2005.

She is obviously a well-respected author, having written 6 novels as well as essays and anthologies.  But reviews tell me that none of her books have been received as well as her first novel, "White Teeth", written in 2000.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Breakfast at the Exit Cafe

  After reading Wayne Grady's book "Emancipation Day", I looked up other books that he has written and I found a gem that he co-wrote with his wife, Merilyn Simonds, who is also an author.
  This couple live near Kingston, Ontario. Merilyn had been the writer-in-residence at the University of British Columbia for three months in 2006.  Rather than driving across Canada to return home at the end of December, they decided to take a road trip down along the Pacific Coast, across the Southern states and up the Atlantic seaboard. And, of course, a book grew out of that experience. 
   Since  John and I have made many road trips into the United States, I was deeply involved in this book.  Such a delight to read about another couple driving the roads we have driven, visiting the towns that we have visited, and interacting with maps and tour books, as well as books that you want to read along the way.
  Each chapter alternates reflections by each of these interesting people.
  They research areas of interest as they are driving, but often their interests are different from our interests.  I was searching for ruts from the Oregon Trail and insisted on climbing the Astoria Column.  They were searching out the wineries in the Willamette Valley.  Different interests but we all enjoyed the Redwood Forests in California. 
   Wayne and Merilyn had planned to have Christmas dinner at the Grand Canyon, and had made a reservation in the El Tovar Hotel dining room, but had no room reservation.  When they arrived at the canyon, they discovered that Christmas at the canyon was more popular than expected.  Busses and busses- lots of people from out of the country.  They tried all the cheap, chain hotels around the canyon and finally found one room, but it was so small, musty and unsatisfactory that Merilyn ended up sobbing at the thought of spending Christmas night there.
  They went for their Christmas dinner at the luxurious El Tovar and thought they would just take a chance that there was a cancellation in the hotel.  The clerk laughed at first because there was a crowd in the lobby waiting for that very thing.  But just as they stood there, a cancellation came in and they grabbed it. But..there is no description of the room or the dinner in the El Tovar, just a description of going back to the discarded room and discovering that they wouldn't have to pay for that room. They also mention the breakfast in El Tovar before heading out.
  I would have written pages on the joys of spending Christmas on the edge of the canyon in a fabulous hotel!  At dinner, they had a table for two by the window with the snow falling gently...oh, my! I love the Grand Canyon and didn't feel that they gave it enough respect.
   When I was there with my friend Joan, staying in a motel near the canyon, I convinced her to get up very early and walk to the canyon in the dark, in order to watch the sunrise over the canyon.  It is a very special place!
   Merilyn and Wayne arrived in Selma, Alabama in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, involving a church service and a march.  This was meaningful because Wayne's family had refused to acknowledge the family's black roots.

  As I read of their drive up the Eastern Seaboard, I was reminded of spending time in the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my friend Terri, joining a group of Bookwomen, exploring the coast and discussing literature of the area.

  This book brought back many memories of travelling in the United States of America.
  I loved it!

Friday, 29 September 2017

"Emancipation Day" by Wayne Grady

   On the left is the cover of the book that I read and I thought the picture  was interesting.
   But, there is another cover that is more interesting. 
   Unfortunately, the top of the picture is cut off a bit.
   The photo on the right recognizes the importance of jazz music to the story, which takes place mostly in Windsor and Detroit in the 1940's.
   I am fascinated by the fact that it took 20 years for Wayne to finish writing this book, which is based on his family.  His father was born of black parents but was very light -skinned and passed for white- didn't even tell his wife.  She discovered what her husband was hiding shortly before Wayne was born.
  I had no idea of the racial tensions in Windsor and had never heard of the race riot in Detroit in1943. I found this information very interesting.
  Wayne's mother was from Newfoundland and was very naive.  Jack's father was a sailor (also a musician) and was very suave.  Quite a love story.  

Monday, 25 September 2017

One Book One Community- Waterloo Region

   I have been a big supporter of One Book One Community since it began in 2002.  I still think of the first book as the best
   "No Great Mischief" was a great book and the author Alistair MacLeod was a fascinating man.
   Meeting the authors is one of the benefits of O.B.O.C.  Alistair died in 2014.
  Another of our authors that has passed is Richard Wagamese.  They were two of my favourite authors.  Meeting these authors makes their books come alive in a special way.
   Unfortunately, there is not a venue that accommodates the author presentation in a comfortable way.  A larger venue is needed.
   I love to remember the books that have been chosen in the past and each spring I anxiously wait for the announcement for the coming year.
   Last year, the book that was chosen was a memoir.  You can read about it here.
   The book for this year is a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  It began 20 years ago as a family story, but became, after 22 revisions, a novel.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Big Stone Gap

   After reading such a heavy classic, I wanted to cleanse my palate.  And this book surely did the trick!   A small community in the mountains of Virginia.  What an interesting collection of people!
  The protagonist is an unmarried, Italian  pharmacist.  
  Right on the first page, there is a passage about the local Bookmobile.  I loved this:
   " The Wise county Bookmobile is one of the most beautiful sights in the world to me.  When I see it lumbering down the mountain road like a tank, then turning wide and easing onto Shawnee Avenue, I flag it down like an old friend.  I've waited on this corner every Friday since I can remember.  The Bookmobile is just a government truck, but to me it's a glittering royal coach delivering stories and knowledge and life itself.  I even love the smell of books.  People have often told me that one of their strongest childhood memories is the scent of their grandmother's house.  I never knew my grandmother, but I could always count on the Bookmobile."

   I got a chuckle out of Otto and Worley- the town handymen who drive around town on an open flatbed truck, picking up people's discards.  In some parts of town they are known as "Are Yo'all Using That?"  Worley said, "I like sleeping and eatin'.  Workin' wears me out.  Wind up all tarred and ferget how I spent the day".
   Simple characters, simple language, nice mountain setting, and,  don't forget that single pharmacist. Of course, there is a love story there.  Good for cleansing the palate.

This book was made into a movie starring
 Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg. 
 Looks good!

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Tenant of Windfell Hall

   "The Tenant of Windfell Hall", written in 1848, is about a woman who arrived at Windfell Hall with her son and a servant.  The house had not been lived in for years and stories circulated in the farming community about this quiet, beautiful, young woman. 
    A local farmer, Gilbert Markham, fell in love with her and tried to stop the rumours. Helen allowed him to read her diary and that is where we get her back story of domestic abuse.
   The stories of Helen's husband and his 'buddies' were thought to be too graphic and disturbing for the times.  They were a group of misogynistic, alcoholic brutes, a story that is always disturbing.  
   But Anne Bronte's answer to these arguments was this:
When we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear.  To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers?"

   Anne's sister, Charlotte had the last word.  
   After Anne died, Charlotte prevented republication of her sister's book.  
   She felt that it violated not only the conventions of the times, but also violated the law.  That is, leaving her husband was against the law, not the abuse.
  The novel certainly reminds us of the difficult life of women who lived a hundred years ago.   
  In fact, the book was written under an alias- a man's name, of course (Acton Bell).
  And you can see from the cover, that it was written in three volumes.  I loved the language, and learned many new words, such as "poltroonery".  But my word for Anne is VERBOSE!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Bronte family

I am reading a novel by Anne Bronte, 
so decided to reacquaint myself with the Bronte family.

   The father, Patrick was a minister who loved poetry and published several books.  He was married to Maria, who died in 1821, at age 36, leaving six young children.
  He moved the family to a very gloomy parsonage that overlooked a graveyard.  The children wrote stories to entertain themselves.

   The three oldest girls, Marie, Elizabeth and Charlotte were sent away to an all-girls' school, where the living conditions were poor and a typhoid epidemic swept through the school.  Both Maria and Elizabeth got very sick and were brought home, where they died- the same year.  They were aged 10 and 11.

   The 3 sisters who were left, all wrote novels, each publishing under an alias.  
   Charlotte wrote 3 novels: "Jane Eyre", "Shirley", and "Villette".  She died at age 38 perhaps of tuberculosis, although she was very sick from her pregnancy.  She had only been married for a few months.
   Emily wrote only one novel, "Wuthering Heights" and died at age 30. Her death was also attributed to tuberculosis, although there is much written about the harsh climate and the unsanitary conditions of their home - water that was contaminated by runoff from the graveyard.  Many coughs and colds.  Poor food.
    Anne wrote two books: "Agnes Grey" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall". She died at age 29, the same year as her brother died, again attributed to tuberculosis.
   Brother Branwell ( the only son) died at 31 after a life of alcoholism and wild living.
   In spite of the poor health of all the children, the father outlived them all, dying at age 84.    
   So much sadness in this family, but their writing lives on.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A New Kind of Christianity

    It seems strange that our views on spirituality have not changed much over the years- just become more embedded.
   This author suggests a different reading of scripture- not from a constitutional approach but as a library of stories, that can teach us about the nature of God.
  He ends up with a loving God rather than a judgmental God.  He does not see the purpose of the church to 'save' people and get them to heaven.  His vision is a church that develops Christlike people.

His thoughts will be accepted as a fresh approach to Christianity by some, heresy by others.
   Brian McLaren was a pastor of an non-denominational church for many years and has developed what is being called an 'emerging church'.  He is now writing full-time and has written many books since 2000.
   He certainly doesn't deal in 'doctrine' but asks questions and sometimes suggests another way to look at an issue.
  It has been 500 years since the Reformation and perhaps this is a new awakening of the church.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10

    When I deliver books to the retirement home, I take requests from the residents.  One woman has been waiting for "The Woman in Cabin 10" for months.  It is very popular with a long waiting list.  The library informed me that the book was waiting for me to pick up, but I am not due for a retirement home visit yet, so I decided to quickly read it before delivering it.  I wanted to see why it is so popular.
  I am certainly not one to review a murder mystery.  I have never understood the fascination with murder- in books, movies, or T.V. show.  But many people love this genre.
   The protagonist, Lo Blacklock, a journalist, is given an assignment on a luxury cruise.  Sounds lovely, right?
  Well, Lo was an emotional mess, having experienced a home invasion as well as a romantic tangle before boarding the ship. Too much for one woman and by the time she boards the ship, she is dependant on booze and drugs.  So..  How reliable is her story of seeing a body pushed over the side of the ship?
  One reviewer said that she would have liked to have pushed Lo over the side of the ship.  I didn't say that...remember, I don't like anything about murder.  But....

Saturday, 2 September 2017

eclectic reading

   Last week I realized that I was involved in a strange assortment of books.  That is not surprising because, at one time, I belonged to a classic book club, a modern fiction book club and a non-fiction book club with spiritual relevance.  So every month I read a variety of books.  But I don't often have three books 'on the go' at the same time.  
   After a few days, I decided to finish one at a time- easier to appreciate each one and put all my thoughts into that book.
  These are the books that I was reading:

    Many people are thinking that we need a change of focus in the Christian church.  The Reformation was 500 years ago.  Is there a need for another shift?   


A murder mystery that is on everyone's reading list this year.  Why?

  We all know the novels of Charlotte and Emily Bronte.  But what about their sister Anne?

  Can you guess which one I decided to finish first?  The murder mystery was definitely not my favourite, but you have to keep reading in order to keep all the 'clues' in your mind.  Got it finished first. Then the religious book.  It was heavy, and I needed to stick with it to appreciate the whole picture.  And now I am enjoying the classic.  Love Victorian literature!  The words!  The words!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Buddha in the Attic

   Some of us will like this book .  Some of us won't.  Some of us will find this way of writing irritating, because there is no narrative.  Some of us will enjoy the content and will stick with the book.  Some of us will just drop the whole thing from irritation.  Some of us will want to discuss this book with friends.  Some of us will never want to hear of the book again.  Some of us will not enjoy this type of writing. 
  I was one! And the preceding paragraph shows how this book was written.

  "The Buddha in the Attic" was strongly recommended to me and I must admit that the subject matter is certainly interesting- picture brides brought from Japan to San Francisco a hundred years ago.    
  From their journey on the boat, wondering about their future life, to their wedding night, to the backbreaking work, to the birth (and sometimes death) of babies.  And then the treatment of the Japanese in the war.  Great content.
   But the style of writing did not work for me! 
  There were no specific characters and no plotline.  For some people, this was a creative method of presenting this history of Japanese picture brides.

  These same issues are dealt with in another book that I enjoyed-
"Honolulu" by Alan Brennert.
   There are several 'picture brides" in this novel, but Jin is the central character, taking the name "Regrettable".
  This novel has great character development. You can read about it here.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Anita Diamant

   In 2003, I read "The Red Tent" for a book club.  This is the review that I wrote then:
   This Jewish author is a fabulous storyteller!  The story is told by Dinah (Deenah) who says in the prologue; "I am so grateful that you have come.  I will pour out everything inside me so you may leave this table satisfied and fortified.  Blessings on your eyes.  Blessings on your children.  Blessings on the ground beneath you.  My heart is a ladle of sweet water, brimming over. Selah."
Dinah is the Biblical sister of Joseph and the daughter of Jacob.  This book gives a different perspective from the brief Biblical account.  It is a woman's perspective and it is fiction.
From the small details of life in Bible times to the catastrophic events, they are all woven into a spellbinding story- including Dinah's experience of her own death.  The introduction peaks your interest and the conclusion weaves in all the loose threads.  A deeply satisfying story!
"Blessings on your eyes and on your children.  Blessings on the ground beneath you.  Wherever you walk, I go with you. Selah"
It is a passionate and earthy story portraying the continuity and unity of women.

Anita Diamant
   Anita is an American author who has written 5 novels as well as 6 guides to modern Jewish practice.  I just read another of her novels, "The Boston Girl".  It has not been as popular as "The Red Tent" but there are still many good reviews.
   However, this is one of those times when I don't necessarily agree with the popular opinion.
   I found the book a disappointment.  

   Eighty-five-year-old Addie Baum is being interviewed by her granddaughter with the question: "How did you get to be the woman that you are today?"  The whole book is the answer to that question and it covers the years 1900-1985.
   It seemed like a recitation to me.  Growing up a Jewish daughter of immigrants in Boston, she had total recall of all the events, but the telling was too sterile for me.  I never really got into Addie's mind.  It was a portrait of one woman's life in a generation of women finding their way in a changing world.  Addie was spunky and interesting, but the events of her life were skimmed over and left me unsatisfied at the end.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek

Jane Myers Perrine majored in English and Spanish during her university years.  She became a Spanish teacher and also an ordained minister.  Then she began to write and has written 10 books in the Christian romance genre.  
One of the main themes is matchmaking.  The setting in this book is a small town in Texas, where a young minister has arrived to take over the responsibilities of the local Christian church.  Three of the women in the church run the social life of the congregation and try to control the new minister, Adam Jordan.  Miss. Birdie even wants to decide on the hymns (all the old ones), and tell the minister when he needs his hair cut.  But the three ladies meet often to discuss who is sick and who needs help.  They would provide childcare, furniture, anything needed - always lots of fried chicken, cakes, bread, etc.
  I thought the focus would be on the minister, but there is a young Afghanistan vet who has lost a leg.  He falls in love with his physiotherapist, who has two young boys.  And most of the story is about him trying to get his hands on beautiful Willow.

   Two lovely covers for this novel.
There is a follow-up book called "The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek", where the church ladies work on getting a wife for the pastor.

A nice small-town story with interesting characters.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Seven Sisters: Book Three

The third book in the Seven Sisters series arrived and I read most of it at the beach.
You can read about the second book here.
Each book deals with one of the sisters, raised by a  multimillionaire in Switzerland.  When Pa died, each girl was given clues to her heritage.
The third sister, Star, is quiet and thin.  She has spent her life enveloped in the life of her sister CeCe.  They were always together.  Star could write but not speak well.  Her sister had dyslexia, but spoke loudly and clearly for both of them.  And so, it was difficult for both of them, having been co-dependant for the first twenty years of their lives, when Star attempted to make some space between them in order to search for her heritage in London England, specifically in a book store.  Star got a job there and, through the owner, Orlando, she learned the story of several generations of her biological family.  It included the King of England and the writer Beatrix Potter, oh, and she also met her biological mother. And, of course, she fell in love.
   Once again, there is great complexity to the long saga.  It continues to peak your interest in the adopted father, Pa Salt. Who was he, and how and why did he adopt these girls?
  I admire this writer for the huge task she has taken on.  There are so many themes and storylines, that as soon as I finish, I want to start again.  But... another whole year before the next book will be released!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The death of reading threatens the soul

This article in the newspaper caught my attention. 
The picture is very appealing, but I was also interested in the author.
Philip Yancey is a well-know author of books concerning spiritual matters. 
 Now he is concerned about the lack of reading.
Yancey believes that the internet and social media have trained the brain to read a paragraph or two and then start looking around.  He is speaking from a personal perspective.
I used to read three books a week.  One year, I devoted an evening each week to read all of Shakespeare's plays.  Another year I read the major works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.  But I am reading many fewer books these days , and even fewer of the kinds of books that require hard work."
Explanation:  When we learn something quick and new, we get a dopamine rush-MRI brain scans show that the brain's pleasure centres light up.  E-mails satisfy that pleasure centre as well as Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat.
   My only experience in social media is this blog and e-mails.  I don't have a cell phone, even though it would be very convenient at times.  But, I am not willing to give up my personal space.  I do not want to be available every minute of the day.  I need time to think my own thoughts and, to be honest, I don't want to hear every detail of anyone's life.  People can find me if they need me.  I still find the house  telephone a disruption- especially when many calls are advertizing.  I need to find a way to turn off the ring.  It disrupts my plan of the moment.  That's why I love e-mail, where you can answer when you wish- or not!
   A 2016 Neilsen report discovered that the average person spends  more than 10 hours a day with media- radio, TV, and all electronic devices.  Not much time left for reading!
   It appears that discipline is more important than ever.
Bill Gates reads 50 books a year
Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks.
Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day.
Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours every day.
Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours a day.
These busy people make time to read and so can we.  It's important!

"Books help define who I am". (Philip Yancey)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

"The Bookshop on the Corner" by Jenny Colgan

   What a cheery cover!  I  picked up this book while travelling.  I enjoy reading 'books about books'.  This book has been compared to "The Little Paris Bookshop" which I wrote about here.
  But I realize that I really enjoy non-fiction 'books about books' more than fiction- books like "Read for Your Life" by Joseph Gold.  The theme of books in a novel seems like a good thing, but doesn't necessarily make the book "a great read".

   Nina Redmond, 29,  was a librarian in England, who lost her job because the library "was going to compress the library services into the centre of town, where they would become a "hub", with a "multimedia experience zone" and a coffee shop and an "intersensory experience".  
   This caught my attention because I have complained about the changing concept of libraries.  Check it out here.
    Nina decided to follow her dreams and moved to Scotland, bought a van, and filled it with books that had been discarded from the library.  She would make her living selling books.
   A cute concept for the book but there were so many aspects that just weren't realistic.  I could never visualize this van, because it had a table and chairs, shelves of books and a chandelier.  At one point she mentioned "lots of families started to crowd into the van". And she drove this van from town to town.
   Perhaps the most unrealistic aspect was the effect on the town- "And as Nina looked around the little village in the sunshine, she couldn't help but notice something.  Everyone was reading.  People out in their gardens.  An old lady in her wheelchair by the war memorial. A little girl absent-mindedly swinging on the swings.  In the bakery, someone was laughing at a book of cartoons, at the coffee stand, the barista was trying to read and make someone cappuccino at the same time.  Nina was amazed.  It couldn't be- surely- that she had turned an entire town into readers.  It seemed that she had".
  Well, not only did she perform that miracle, but she also discovered a very poor family with a disabled mother, and she completely changed their future.  
  The title of this book in the U.K is "The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After".  Perhaps that is a better title?

   I do love librarians- here is a blog that I have written about unusual ones.  Click here.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Jeff Shaara

Three generations at Gettysburg
  My husband loves Gettysburg!  And the Civil War - mostly the strategy of battle.
  In 2010, he went for his fourth visit to Gettysburg- this time with our son-in-law and grandson.  
  On this trip he was introduced to Michael Shaara's book "The Killer Angels".  The cover of that book says, "A novel about the four days of Gettysburg". That was an important moment for John.  He has always been interested in warfare, especially the Civil War. This book provided the opportunity of getting inside the heads of all those involved in the war.  The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and was later made into the movie "Gettysburg".
   Unfortunately, Michael Shaara died and his special way of storytelling in the middle of battle was gone.  Then his son Jeff decided to try to continue his father's legacy.  And what a success!
  Twice I have surprised John with a gift of Jeff's books.  The first one was in 2015.  You can read about it here.  John enjoyed those books so much that I ordered more the next year.  Click here.
  Well, the first books were a gift for our 55th anniversary, so this year, for our 57th anniversary, I had a better idea.  We went to visit Jeff personally at his book-signing in Pookeepsie, New York- a two day drive that we made into a six day holiday.

 John was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing his favourite author up close and personal.  Jeff gave a great talk and signed many books.
  His wife was so friendly and gave us a great deal of attention.  She realized how important this visit was for John.
Note from John:
Occasionally, in life, we are privileged to have a 'mountain top experience'. This was an exceedingly great one for me!
Thank you, Jeff!