Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Dystopic literature has not usually been my genre of choice, but I find myself reading a handful of those books recently: Cloud Atlas, The Handmaid's Tale, The Road, and I'm currently reading 1984 on my phone's Kindle app.

After a long hiatus (over a year!), I finally picked up The Road again and resumed reading it. It is a disturbing, depressing, yet mostly gentle account of a post-apocalyptic world where every living thing - plants, animals - has perished, except for a small number of humans who are left scrabbling for existence, some attacking others, some helping others, and many just trying to avoid others. The plot centers on a man and his young son, called "Papa" and "the boy." We find them traveling a deserted road. The world is bleak and dark, overshadowed by clouds of ash that block the sun. The nights are dark and cold, and often rainy. Winter is approaching, so the pair are traveling south, where they hope it will be warmer. They find just enough canned food in abandoned houses and underground bunkers to keep themselves alive. We are not told what happened to destroy the world, but there is evidence of massive fires, rumblings of earthquakes, and the possibility of volcanic eruptions. The relationship between the father and son is the most hopeful part of this sad, melancholy tale; it is one of genuine love, caring, and trust. As I read, I hoped that there would be a good outcome for them, but feared that there wouldn't be. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Rivers West, by Louis L'Amour

I have found that I enjoy Louis L'Amour's western novels. He is a good, descriptive writer, and captures the settings and the emotions of his characters very well. His plots are interesting, and keep me turning the pages to see how they will end.

Rivers West was no exception. Rather than a typical "western," this one dealt with the early days of the United States of America, soon after the Louisiana Purchase during Thomas Jefferson's administration.

Jean Talon, a French Canadian boat builder, was exploring the wild country of the new nation, with the plan of traveling to Pittsburgh to build river boats needed by the explorers and settlers of the new American West. He accidentally stumbled upon a recent murder, one so recent that the victim had not yet perished, and was able to give Jean some information about his attacker.

As he traveled, he met up with Jambe-De-Bois ("Peg Leg"), a former pirate who became his traveling companion and confidante, a beautiful young lady in search of her brother, some inn-keepers, and a couple of shady characters. He also learned of a nefarious plot to seize the Louisiana Territory and make it a kingdom in opposition to the U.S.A.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, by James Breakwell

James Breakwell is famous on the internet for his jokes and cartoons on family life. He has a large following on his Twitter feed, and is also on Facebook, known by his screen name, Exploding Unicorn, on both sites. Only Dead on the Inside is his first book.

If you have a family and need to keep them all safe and alive from zombies, this is your book. Buy it now, read it and keep it for reference. It could also be useful for hurricanes, earthquakes, and ordinary human bad guys. It is packed full of helpful drawings, charts, and lists, as well as general parenting advice and philosophy. And humor - good for stress relief! Stock up now on diapers, umbrella strollers, and at least one minivan. Read the book and you'll understand.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The singular "they" controversy

This is actually more about writing than reading, but it's connected. If there were no writing, there would be no reading, after all.

I found this article on Facebook:
The Linguistic Turf Wars Over the Singular 'They'

I will say right now that I am in favor of the singular "they." I resisted it for a while; I was taught the generic "he." However, I see the value of "they" as opposed to the clunky and cumbersome "he/she."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

What can I say about Pride and Prejudice?

***Spoiler warning -- proceed at your own risk ***

Mr. Darcy! What woman wouldn't like to have a man like Mr. Darcy in her life? Seemingly aloof, haughty, prideful, and scornful, he turned out to be the hero of the day, sincerely loving Elizabeth regardless of her family's lack of wealth or reputation, and in fact, doing all he can to salvage their reputation, for her sake.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Proverbs 31

On this date, the beginning of Mother's Day weekend in the U. S., I see that the daily selection of scripture from Bible Gateway (on the upper left corner of this blog) is from Proverbs 31, the famous description of the "ideal wife." I will quote verses 10-31 of this chapter:

"A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions
for her female servants.

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.

In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household and
does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

This is a busy woman! No idler, she! And she is certainly not a meek, "submissive" woman, as submission is defined to today's culture. She is a go-getter, a Super Mom. She works day and night; she spins and weaves and sews, and sells clothing. She has her own money; she is not dependent on her husband for finances. She shops and cooks. She deals in real estate, and she plants and grows crops. She is generous to the poor, and she is a provider. She is a wise woman; people listen to her. She is respected at home and in the community. Her husband must be a sort of judge or community leader, but all he seems to do is sit at the city gate, while she does all the work.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ma Speaks Up: And a First-Generation Daughter Talks Back, by Marianne Leone

Book cover

This book spoke to me concerning my relationship with my mother, although my mother and I are very different from Ms. Leone and her mother, in culture and in temperament. I enjoyed reading this from cover to cover; I smiled, laughed, and cried. She did not hold back from telling the hard truths about her mother's background and experiences, and their relationship as it changed through the years.

An Early Reviewer book from the publisher, Beacon Press, through LibraryThing. Received on April 12, 2017 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

I'll be thinking about this novel for a long time. It was such an unusual story.

Everything came crashing down suddenly - a crisis, then the complete destruction of American government. Without warning, all women's bank accounts were frozen; their credit cards were no good; they had no money, no way to support themselves. Things went downhill from there.

The story was told in flashbacks, and sometimes a little hard to follow. It told of the central character's life before, when she had a husband, a child, and a job; and their desperate attempt to escape to Canada; and of her "training" with other women to her new life as a "Handmaid" - an Old Testament style surrogate childbearer for a leader of the new society and his wife. (Think Abraham and Hagar)

She is known only as "Offred" ("of Fred," the Commander whose household she serves). She is a quiet, unassuming woman who only tries to keep her head down (literally) and not make waves. Information comes to her through unexpected sources, and new opportunities are presented, until finally, her life is changed again, and again she is running for her life.

A Bookcrossing friend sent me this book, for which I am very grateful. Dystopian literature is not my genre of choice, but I found this enthralling.

Editing to add a NPR Weekend Edition transcript that I heard Sunday, April 23, 2017: The Handmaid's Tale Is Among a Resurgence of Dystopian Literature

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, by Jennifer Ryan

Amazon book cover

An excellently written novel of women in a war-torn English village bravely carrying on, uniting as part of the Home Front. The plot was driven by a series of journals and letters, as the main characters each wrote of her own personal challenges, triumphs, and setbacks, and gave her own unique perspective on the events they all experienced. The Ladies' Choir was begun as a response to the absence of most of the men of the village, due to World War II. They did surprisingly well - even surprising themselves when they won a regional contest. Other complications to the plot included two infants born on the same day; one to the schoolteacher whose husband was in the military, and the other to the wealthy family whose only son had recently been shot down and killed in battle. It was very necessary that they have a son to carry on the family name and fortune. A newcomer to town raised suspicions. An artist, he had no visible means of supporting himself, and engaged in some very dubious dealings with shady characters. Two young girls, sisters, come of age in these perilous times, and learn about love and loss. A middle-aged widow, whose only son has just gone off to war, agrees to host one of the Senior Staff of the nearby War Center. A Jewish child refugee is housed with the Winthrops.

This is one of my favorite books, and I plan to keep it awhile and reread it. I highly recommend it, and I will look for more books by this author. This book was sent to me as part of the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing. I was asked to provide an honest review in exchange.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Pearl, by John Steinbeck

This is a small book, easily carried in my purse. I've had it for over a year, and finally got around to reading it this afternoon while waiting for my car to be serviced (oil change, tune-up, several belts and various fluids changed).

A classic story about rich and poor, good and evil, and how unimaginable fortune can change a family's life forever, for better or for worse.
Kino, the pearl fisherman, has found the Pearl of the World - the marvelous, beautiful, great pearl that pearl fishers search for all their lives! He has magnificent dreams for this fortune; he will sell it and marry Juana, his common-law wife and educate his little son Coyotito.
However, there is danger in the pearl. It is both a symbol of evil and of great fortune. Bad men want to steal it from Kino and his family. Evil men scheme to cheat him of the wealth it will bring.
Near the beginning of the short novel, the sting of the scorpion presages disaster for this family.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My goodness!

I didn't realize it had been more than two months since I've posted here! Of course, I have been reading, but I must confess it's been mostly Facebook and internet news articles. (Slap my hand, bad me!)

I have started a few books, but haven't gotten very far in any of them.

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World is a bit more technical than I had expected, but the historical and personal part is interesting to me, so I'll plug on.

Pride and Prejudice (ebook) is on my phone, downloaded to my Kindle app. I have read it before, about 40 years ago or so, and am reading it when I'm stuck in a waiting room or somewhere without a "real" book.

Heart-Stirring Stories of Love compiled by Linda Evans Shepherd, is a collection of inspiring short stories, mostly only a page or two in length. A friend loaned it to me, and I'm reading a story or two almost every day.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan is an Advanced Reader's Copy I received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program. It is enjoyable, about a group of ladies in an English village who are determined to continue the church choir after most of the able bodied men of the village have gone to war (World War II). A major obstacle to their efforts is the decision of the church vicar to discontinue the choir for the duration.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lighthouse: A Novel, by Eugenia Price

Lighthouse, Saint Simons Island, GA

I thought I had read all of Eugenia Price's novels years ago, at least 30 or 40 years, but I did not remember this one as I was reading it. It is one of a trilogy of novels from colonial and Revolutionary American times through the American Civil War, mostly in St. Simon's Island, Georgia (near Savannah). My friend Carol loaned it to me, as we traveled with a group from our church to Savannah, St. Simon's Island, and Jekyll Island, and saw the lighthouse up close. It was not the one Mr. Gould built, though. That one was destroyed by Confederate troops as they retreated from the island, to prevent it aiding the Union Navy.
St. Simons Light

Lighthouse is about an historical figure, James Gould, who built the St. Simon's Island lighthouse and was its first lightkeeper. Copied and pasted from Wikipedia: "Lighthouse is a 1972 novel by Eugenia Price, the third and last of St Simons Trilogy. Previous two were- The Beloved Invader (1965) and New Moon Rising (1969).[1][2] The story centers on a man James Gould- founder of the Southern dynasty. He dreams to leave the cold New England hills where he was born and want to make better life for himself in the magnificent, untamed, post-Revolutionary south. How Gould pursues his strange ambition, the exotic people and places he encounters along the way, and especially the beautiful and strong willed young girl who comes to share the dream and the life he has chosen, make up the core of this novel."

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is an ebook that I received from Amazon for my Kindle app on my iPhone. It is the Anne of Green Gables Collection, including most of the books in the series, from Doma Publishing.

I finished the first book of the series, Anne of Green Gables, today, Aug. 3, 2016. An old-fashioned children's book, but this 70 year old grandmother found it absolutely delightful!

Eleven year old Anne Shirley came to the home of Matthew and Matilda Cuthbert, a middle aged brother and sister, a bachelor and a spinster inexperienced in the care of children. They had intended to adopt a boy from the orphanage, to help Matthew with the farm chores. A mistake was made, and they ended up with a precocious, imaginative, chatterbox girl instead.
Neither has the heart to send her away, and soon come to love her as their own. Anne grows up to be a kind and thoughtful and very smart young lady. As the book ends, she has finished school plus one year of teacher's training, with a scholarship to a four year college.

Finished the second book, Anne of Avonlea, today, Aug. 10, 2016. A continuation of Anne's life in Avonlea, as a school teacher, still living at Green Gables with Marilla (Matthew has passed away). They take in a distant relative's orphaned children, six-year-old twins who prove quite a handful! Anne succeeds in teaching the one room school and is involved in the village improvement society.

Third book: Anne of the Island, August 20, 2016
This one is about Anne's four years in college, Redmond College in Nova Scotia. Some of her school friends from Avonlea join her, and the girls decide to rent a house together beginning in their second year. The aunt of one of the girls serves as housekeeper/chaperone/confidante, and a new friend joins them as well. The years pass quickly and for the most part happily. Several of Anne's friends are getting married, but Anne has not yet made a commitment, though not for lack of offers.

I had to buy another series of Anne Shirley books, an 8-book series, as the first 12-book series did not include Anne of Windy Poplars nor Anne of Ingleside.

Fourth book: Anne of Windy Poplars continues the story of Anne. She is engaged, and has accepted the position of Principal of the school at Summerside while she waits for her fiancé to finish medical school so they can be married. Anne's sweet disposition and usual cheerful nature assure her happiness wherever she finds herself. Although she is a little homesick for Avonlea and Green Gables, she makes the most of her time in Summerside, making new friends and winning over potential enemies.

Fifth book: Anne's House of Dreams
Anne marries Gilbert Blythe, her old school "friendly enemy" who became more than in a friend in college and after graduation. They settle in a cute and beloved little cottage by the sea near Glen St. Mary, where Gilbert begins medical practice with his uncle. They meet several new friends: Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia, and Leslie among them, and their first child is born, a little girl they name Joyce, called Joy. Sadly, little Joy fails to thrive, and dies days after her birth.
Leslie's story is mysterious and intriguing, with a surprising development that leads to happiness for her after all. Captain Jim's memoirs of seafaring life are made into a best selling book, and their housekeeper Susan become a beloved part of the family and a confidant.

Sixth book: Anne of Ingleside

Anne and Gilbert had to leave their dear little honeymoon cottage, their "House of Dreams" for a larger house, called "Ingleside", as their growing family needs more room. There are six living children: Jem (James Matthew), Walter, twins Nan and Di (Anne and Diana), Shirley (a boy), and baby Rilla (Marilla). Gilbert's relative, Aunt Mary Maria has joined the household as well. Anne experiences some stresses and challenges, but of course manages to overcome them, eventually.

Seventh book: Rainbow Valley

After a period of insecurity on Anne's part leading to physical illness, and after her recovery, the Blythes take a sort of "second honeymoon" trip to London. This book begins upon their return home. The Presbyterian church has a new pastor, John Meredith, a widowed father of four. He loves his children, but distracted by his grief and immersed in theology and study of Scripture, he fails to notice their problems. His elderly Aunt Martha is housekeeper and "nanny" but is not very efficient at either. The children's behavior and the state of the manse (parsonage) become a topic of gossip in the village, but the Blythes see the goodness in them. They are smart, clever, and good-natured children. The Blythe children and the Meredith children spend many happy hours playing in "Rainbow Valley" between their homes. During one of their escapades, the children discover a runaway orphan girl, cold and hungry in a neighbor's barn. They take her in and eventually find her a good home with Miss Cornelia (now Mrs. Elliott).

Eighth book: Rilla of Ingleside

This is the last of the Anne of Green Gables series. I finished it September 17, 2016. As the title suggests, this book focuses mainly on the youngest of Anne and Gilbert's children, Bertha Marilla, called Rilla. At the beginning, Rilla is not a very likable character. She has been petted and spoiled all her life, and it shows. She refuses to continue school after high school, and doesn't want to do anything useful. She only wants to socialize and go to parties.
However, at the end of a party in August, 1914, someone runs in shouting the announcement "England has declared war!" As a British dominion, Canada was brought into the war at that point. As the older sons of the Blythe and Meredith families enlist, everything changes. Anne and Rilla become active in the Canadian Red Cross, and Rilla starts a junior Red Cross chapter. Rilla begins to grow up, accepting her duties responsibly. A surprising addition to the family is an underweight newborn "war orphan." Rilla finds him while she goes house-to-house soliciting donations for the war effort. The two-week old infant's mother has just died, and his only caretaker is an alcoholic woman who is paying no attention to his screams. The child's father is off to war. Rilla doesn't like babies at all, but she realizes that she cannot leave the child there. She brings him home in a large soup tureen, the only container she can find in the house that the baby can fit in for the ride in a horse-drawn wagon. Responsibility for the baby is all Rilla's, as her mother and Susan are busy with the household and Red Cross. With the help of a book on child care, she succeeds in keeping little "Jims" healthy and thriving.
Another heart-breaking episode is the saga of Jem's dog, Dog Monday. When Jem and his brothers and friends go off to war, Dog Monday accompanies them to the railway station, but adamantly refuses to come home with the family who has gone to see them off. When they bring him anyway, he is loudly miserable and they let him return. Dog Monday stays at the railway station in a box made for him, enthusiastically greeting each train, then sadly returning to his box for the duration of the war, until Jem returns home.
Unlike the others in the series, this book was of a darker tone. After all, the world was at war, and it was a very serious and dreary time for everyone who lived through it.

I learned this from the Wikipedia article: "Rilla of Ingleside is the only Canadian novel written from a woman's perspective about the First World War by a contemporary.[1] The novel is also groundbreaking as it is one of the first non-Australian texts to mention the Gallipoli campaign and the sacrifice made by the ANZACs." (Rubio, Jen (2015). Introduction to Rilla of Ingleside, annotated edition. Oakville, ON: Rock's Mills Press. pp. vii – x. ISBN 9780988129382)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit

An ebook, free from Amazon for my Kindle app. An old book, now in public domain. A sweet, old-fashioned children's book. It features three upper middle class British children, Roberta ("Bobbie"), Peter, and Phyllis ("Phil"), who live comfortably in a London suburb with their mother, father, a cook, and one or two maids. Life is good until one evening when Father is suddenly called away. He does not return, and some time later the children and their mother move to a small house in the country, with no servants. They no longer go to school, and their mother no longer has the time to play with them, nor tell them stories or make up sweet and silly poems for them. At first she tells them they must play at being poor, and as time goes on, she tells them they are poor. They all miss their father, but no one mentions him and the children are in the dark as to why he disappeared. They entertain themselves by waving at the trains as they pass by near their home, and visiting the kind porter at the railway station. One adventure leads to another; they save lives; they prevent a train wreck; they rescue a boy who has broken his leg in the tunnel. They are polite and respectful and kind to everyone they meet, and everyone is charmed by them. As one might expect from a children's book, it ends happily; Father is reunited with his family, but they have grown stronger, braver, and wiser in his absence.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

As Good As Gone, by Larry Watson

For book review
(my photo)

This is an Early Reviewers book, which I received from Algonquin Books, asking nothing but an honest review.

I enjoyed the storyline and the characters, got really involved in it, and kept reading to see what would happen. I did not much care for the strong language and sexuality, but the language was in keeping with the nature of the characters.

A tough, rangy old cowboy, now living almost as a hermit, is asked by his son to come stay with his grandchildren, who are strangers to him, for a few days while the son takes his wife to another city for surgery. The town, which as a former real estate agent, he helped build has also become strange to him, but the widow next door remembers him well.
His son and daughter-in-law have left some situations unresolved, and as attention is needed to sort them out, "Grandpa" delves in with knife and pistol and fists and tries to settle them the old-fashioned cowboy way.