Wednesday, December 31, 2008
This is one of the final books for 2008, and how I wish I'd waited for 2009. It is rare that I don't like a book, but this one was like Real Housewives of London, and I just don't have any patience for that kind of thing.
The book follows various women who live in a suburb of London, Arlington Park, through a day. Some work and some are stay at home moms. The one thread that ties them together is that none of them is satisfied with their life. They all feel that life has passed them by, that everything is just too, too hard and that their husbands just aren't pulling their weight in the marriages. They all have children, and treat them as an afterthought, little people that just add more work to their existence.
ARGH!! This is exactly the kind of person I avoid like the plague in my life. I have an optimistic outlook on life, and little patience for the poor little me attitude. If you don't like your life, change it? Or, as I often say, if everyone in your life is causing you problems, it's not them. You need to change yourself. I hate to end the year with a book I can't recommend, but this one was not for me at all.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Wow, I can't believe I've finished reading this book. I started it several months ago and put it down due to its denseness and the push to read more accessible texts. I was determined, however, to finish it, and Christmas break gave me the chance to do so.
Robert Hughes has created a masterpiece about this Spanish city. Fact upon fact tumble from the pages. History, food, music, art, science, inventions, political parties and philosophies, famous citizens, politicians, architecture, banking, world fairs; all are covered in intense detail. Hughes must have spent years researching this book. I've learned a ton about Barcelona, but would need to read the book at least once more to retain many of the details.
This book is recommended for those interested in how a great city came into being and how its citizens define themselves. The only disappointment I had was with the ending. The entire last chapter, devoted to the great Spanish architect, Gaudi, ends somewhat abruptly in the 1920's. It seems that if one devoted the time and energy to write such a massive tome, that the years since would have been written about as well. I'm very glad to have read this book and learned so much from it.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
As the book progresses, Edgerton fills in Henry's prior life. His father was killed when Henry was a baby, and his mother left him and his sister with relatives. He grew up surrounded with family, Aunt Dorie, Uncle Jack, Uncle Samuel, his cousin Carson and sister Catherine. Family and religion shaped his life. As he moves around the South, Henry meets new people. Marleen is his first serious love, and the Finley sisters welcome him into their home.
But, all is not well. In his new life with Clearwater, Henry starts to realise all is not quite right. There are strange men who seem unlikely to work for the government, night trips that can't be mentioned, and soon the work progresses from taking cars to taking safes from houses. Along the way, Henry keeps his sweetness but starts to question and put hints together. The book builds to a revelation of murder and resolution.
Edgerton is a master at portraying Southern life. This book illustrates life in the South in the time period from the 1930's to the late 1950's, that last generation before television, electricity and cars became commonplace. Family and religion made up a large part of most people's lives. People lived close to the land, growing gardens, hunting and fishing. Moral codes were rigorous and enforcement was a community affair, where your neighbor was as likely to correct a child as the parents.
The other strength of the book is character development. If the reader is from the South, they immediately recognise the characters, as they grew up with people who were just like the ones Edgerton describes. The description of food, entertainment, religious beliefs and attitudes towards life are familiar, and the book feels like coming home and slipping on comfortable clothes. This book is recommended for those looking for reading entertainment and a fond look back to another time.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
As the story opens, Eva has gone missing and Towner returns home, drawn by this family crisis. Towner seems to be the catalyst that causes old relationships and secrets to reemerge. Cal Boynton is back in town where he has reinvented himself as a religious leader of a cultlike following. A young girl, Angela Rickey, who is pregnant with Cal's child, also disappears. Towner's old love, Jack, is still in town and anxious to resume their relationship. In addition, a town policeman, Rafferty, also falls in love with Towner. Towner starts to untangle the mysteries that have haunted her life. Why did her twin commit suicide in front of her and Jack? What is the fixation that Cal has with the Whitney women? Towner slowly reveals the truth, sometimes reading lace to find patterns. The book rises to a page-turning climax where the truth that has formed this family is finally revealed.
The Lace Reader is a compelling and satisfying read. It explores the issues of sexual and physical abuse. The mindset of those who enter cults is investigated. Suicide and mental illness are other themes, along with lost love and the yearning to hide in the past. While it covers depressing material, the book is not a depressing one overall. Rather, it leaves the reader with a message of hope and the realization that the truth must be faced in order to lose its power to skew lives. Not easily forgotten, this book is recommended for all fiction readers.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Covering subjects as diverse as Labor Day, the state of Ohio, Katherine Hepburn, pro hockey and a myriad of other topics, the book is divided into sections. These include famous people, exceptional places, historic happenings and civics, holidays and traditions, everyday objects and remarkable inventions, space and the natural world, sports, entertainment and a miscellaneous section. Within each section, each subject is formatted the same way. The subject starts with a few fact-filled paragraphs about the subject. Following that are a series of questions, most of which you know you should know but can't really answer. That's not a problem, as the answers to the questions are on the back of the page.
For example, in the Labor Day subject, the reader learns who was the driving force behind the holiday, and the date on which it was signed into law. The date that holiday falls on annually is given. Then, the questions are items such as what was the first minimum wage, what percentage of workers belong to a union, what union was thrown out of the AFL-CIO for corruption and why is Frances Perkins famous? All of these are answered on the following page.
I found this book to be a delight. It is a great way to pass some time, and to learn facts. I can imagine families playing trivia with this book as the foundation, or parents using it as a fun method of educating their children. This book is highly recommended for all readers. Everyone can learn something new from the book, and will have an interesting time doing so.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
WOW! If you're a fantasy fan, this book will amaze you. It is a rollercoaster ride that grabs the reader immediately and refuses to let go until the end reveals all secrets.
Boo Taylor has been away from his home, Sweetpatch Island, for twenty years. He left behind old secrets, family intrigues and an epic romance gone bad. Things were happening on the island that were more than he could bear. Fires, murders, racial tensions, curses, hints of old intrigues and tangled family relationships. It finally became more than Boo could handle, and he went away to try to build a life elsewhere.
But the island constantly tugs at his heart and spirit. When his father dies, Boo returns. He plans to only come for the funeral but quickly gets pulled into the old intrigues and mysteries. And he finds his lost love, Gussie again. Who are really his ancestors? Who has committed the murders and set the fires? What secrets hide in the old ruined mansion from which the island was ruled in days of slavery?
This book is highly recommended. It is easily one of the most memorable books I've read this year. The language is amazing, twisting and turning the tension, pulling the reader further and further into the secrets that make up Boo Taylor's life and which, if undiscovered, will kill him. Scott Fad has pulled off a masterpiece.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
The events covered start in the 1930's with the Hindenburg explosion, and end with the Iraqi war, Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech massacre. Scores of noteworthy events are covered, from Pearl Harbor to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the space program, the Kent State massacres, the Berlin Wall destruction and the political disgraces of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. The short histories of each event were fascinating. Reading them, I was shocked at how many facts I had forgotten about these events, or had never known.
Adding to the interest, there are CD's included that give the reader the actual words of the broadcast interruptions for various events. Being able to hear the news stories while reading about them made the events seem even more lifelike.
This book is highly recommended. It would be a great holiday gift for anyone who has lived through the events described, or for those who want to learn more about them. I can't remember a book that I've enjoyed more lately and I'm very glad I read this one.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The book is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter talks about brain development and what a healthy brain needs to develop after birth. Attachment to the parents and its' importance is covered in chapter two. Chapter three talks about language development, while chapter four covers vision development and chapter five covers audio development. Motor skills are covered in chapter six and temperment in chapter seven. The final chapter talks about how to prepare for a doctor's appoinment and what the appointment should cover.
Each chapter has a glossary of terms. I found this book a quick read and extremely interesting. Feelings about development I had with my children were scientifically proven or disproven. I especially liked the specifc exercises that a parent could do to stimulate and develop each area of the brain and the baby's development. My main feeling after reading the book was regret I hadn't had this book when my own children were babies. I would definately recommend this book to new parents and grandparents.
Monday, November 10, 2008
China has been called 'the sleeping giant'. If so, the giant is awakening, and it is unclear what effect its' stirring will have on the rest of the world. Rob Gifford, an NPR correspondent, spent six years living in China. When he decided to leave, he spent two months traveling across China on Road 312. China Road is the story of that journey, and his predictions about how the future will unfold there.
The biggest change visually is the major push for industrialization. China has 49 cities with more than a million people. Thousands of people every year are moving from the farms to the cities to work in factories. These factory jobs have long hours and wretched working conditions, but workers can make more in a month than a year's work on their farm would bring. The massive number of factories and the low worker wages means that more and more Western jobs are moving to China. Pollution is extremely high, and recent events have brought into question the safety of such products.
More interesting to Gifford is a less visible change. The Communist takeover and the subsequent Cultural Revolution wrenched the Chinese people from their moral backgrounds. Confuscism and Buddism were targeted, moral codes were scoffed at and their followers were persecuted. History was seen not as a treasure, but as a burden. Gifford sees that this has resulted in a China adrift without a moral code, and it is unclear how society will exist and emerge without a common societial background of agreed upon values. He also sees possible problems arising from the various provinces where minorities are the dominant population. Those minorities are often resentful of the Chinese rule, and that resentment could easily turn into revolution and attempts to break away. That is the major contradiction in China. In order to retain the tight control on its' people, China must employ recessive tactics. Such tactics don't fit well with the need for the technology required for growth. How this dicotomy will play out over the coming years is China's main challenge.
I enjoyed this book. It was interesting to read about the different areas of China, and the people who lived in each. From the macro level, it was fascinating to see how governmental action has changed the average life and common beliefs so completely. One example of this would be the 'one child' policy and the lengths to which the government will go to insure this policy. There were also lots of interesting facts; I would never have guessed that a large portion of the world's ketchup comes from Chinese tomatoes. I'm glad I read this one, as China will be a major player on the world scene in the coming decades.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I'm a huge fan of William Faulkner. Whenever I open a Faulkner book, it feels like coming home, like one of the hometown ladies has invited me to sit a spell and have some cool sweet tea. He gets the characters and language of the locality spot on, and I recognize characters as types I meet every day here in the South.
Intruder In The Dust was a Faulkner I had not read before. It covers a weekend following the reported murder of a white man by a black man back in the 1930's. There is concern that the local inhabitants may rush the jail and lynch the man before he gets to go to trial. Lucas Beauchamp is the black man in question. He tells his version of the events to the sixteen year old son of the local doctor, a boy nicknamed Chick. The book follows what happens when Chick attempts to check out Lucas's story, and how the locals react and whether they believe rumors or attempt to base their decisions on facts.
On top of the Southern setting and the true-to-life characterizations, the other thing I particularly like about Faulkner is his writing style. His sentences are stream of consciousness, and one sentence can meander on for a page or more. It is reminiscent of the way Southern people talk, and how anything can serve as a stimulus for a story.
Intruder In The Dust is a true classic. I'm extremely glad I read it, and I highly recommend it.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Francine has had a rough start to life. When she is seven, her mother is murdered by a man who comes to the house, and Francine escapes by hiding under her bed. Teddy has had a rough childhood also. His parents were shocked to have him, and were too self-centered to pay him any attention at all. In Ruth Rendell's A Sight For Sore Eyes, Francine and Teddy find each other and form a relationship.
Characterization and plotting are hallmarks of Rendell's style. In addition to the two main characters, there are several other women who play large parts in the plotlines. Julia is Francine's stepmother, and tries to keep her a baby because of her early trauma. Harriett is a rich woman, married to a man who no longer loves her and going through a series of young lovers. Both these women share the self-centeredness that seems to move the book forward.
I can't remember ever reading a Ruth Rendell that I didn't enjoy, and this one was no different. Rendell's plotlines are tight and the evil that happens seems inevitable with the characters involved. For fans, this one is highly recommended.
The first section is titled Understanding Spiritual Laws. In this section, Ms. Walker tells her story and how she came to believe in these ideas. She talks about concepts such as how we come to understand truth, that we are led to those who can help when we are ready for such help. She discusses the power of words, and how having the right attitude can change the way a life unfolds.
The second section is titled The Spiritual Laws. Ms. Walker devotes a chapter to the following laws: The Law of Oneness, The Law of Vibration, The Law Of Attraction, The Law of Polarity, the Law Of Action, The Law of Rhythm, The Law of Cause and Effect, The Law of Asking and Receiving, The Law Of Increase,The Law of Compensation, The Law of Transmutation, The Law Of Relativity, The Law of Reciprocation and The Law of Forgiveness. Each law is interpreted through the filter of Christian concepts and Bible verses are used throughout to illustrate the principals. Each chapter ends with various affirmations the reader can use when practising the law.
The last section is titled Putting Spiritual Laws Into Practice. It covers topics such as prayer, meditation, thanksgiving, praise, affirmations, visualization, dreams, miracles, light of the world, and angels. The same format is used; each topic is explained with either a short parable or Bible verses or both. I found the indexing of angels into various groups very interesting. The book ends with recommended reading and a glossary of terms.
The audience for this book would be either a reader who is interested in the Christian faith, or one who is searching for answers to make sense of their life. Readers in those categories will find this book informative and helpful.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Natsuo Kirino does not write about pleasant people or situations. A few months ago, I read her book, Out, that takes as it's subject matter three factory women who band together to commit a murder. She explores this territory further in her latest book, Grotesque.
Kirino explores the relationship between two sisters, and their classmates at an exclusive girl's school. Yuriko is the most beautiful girl in the school by far, so beautiful that she is considered almost monstrous, as no one can relate to her. Her older sister, intelligent but average looking, chooses to distinguish herself by becoming the most malicious girl in the school. Her main target is Kazue Sato. Kazue is intelligent but hopelessly awkward, and is teased and humiliated by the others. The top ranked girl, Mitsuri, drifts between cliques, but befriends the older sister.
Years later, these women have turned out differently than might have been expected. Mitsuri, after becoming a doctor, gets involved in a religious cult and is imprisoned for crimes she committed out of devotion to the leader. The older sister lives a life of quiet desperation, stuck in a dead end job and with no human contact or warmth. Both Yuriko and Kazue become prostitutes, and both end up murdered by the same man.
This is not an uplifting book. There are no characters that I'd like to know better, and the book is very bleak. I was left wondering if Japanese society is really as depressing for women as the book portrays. In particular, the prostitutes were willing to degrade themselves in any way requested, without even knowing themselves why they did so. I'm not sure I would recommend this book to others.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The expedition to Burma was a scientific and politcal breakthrough. Burma is one of the last remote places where scientific surveys have not been systematically conducted. This is due mainly to the despotic government as well as the ruggedness of the terrain with the attendant difficulties of exploring. Joe's expedition included scientists researching birds, reptiles, insects and plants, in addition to the snakes. Several new species were discovered. Joe stuck his hand into a collection bag and was bitten by a krait, the most venomous snake in Asia. The story of how the expedition members attempted to keep Joe alive is detailed, along with the fact that Joe knew exactly what would happen to him and discussed his death and the stages of his reactions in detail with his campmates. A krait bite is not an instanteous death; Joe lived for over a day after the bite.
The book is arranged in chapters, and each chapter starts with a description of a different snake. Along with Joe's story, there were lots of facts about snakes and reptiles. For example, I learned that all snakes are venomous in some degree. Another interesting note was that there is a worldwide decrease in the number of frogs and other amphibians. The information about Burma and the inside look at how research expeditions are mounted and how they work was also interesting. This book is recommended for those interested in nature and those whose work includes categorizing the world around us.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Title: Death's Half Acre
Author: Margaret Maron
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Deborah Knott, district judge in a small town in North Carolina, is concerned about the changes taking place in her area. The old farms are being broken up and ritzy housing developments are growing up everywhere. Along with the new houses come outsiders who think their money trumps the family relationships and trust built on generations of local families.
As worrisome as the new money is, things get dramatically worse when Candace Bradshaw, chairman of the county commissioners, is found murdered in her big new expensive house. Allegations of political misconduct and insider corruption abound. Deborah's husband, who is a sheriff's deputy, investigates the case, and Deborah finds herself getting drawn in. In addition, her dad, patriarch of one of the old families and a former bootlegger, is acting strange and Deborah is worried about what is going on with him.
The fourteenth mystery in this series is a big hit for Margaret Maron. Those readers who have followed the series will be pleased to come back for another visit with Deborah and her eccentric family. Those readers for whom this is a first read will be quickly drawn into the series and immediately go look for earlier books in the series. I especially liked this one as I live in the area and could relate to the locations and the social relationships outlined. A solid win for Maron.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
When a parent has a problem adult child, there are certain steps that must happen in order for things to change. The first is that the parent must accept and take responsibility for enabling the child. This could consist of paying their way rather than having them get a job, providing legal help, cashing in retirement funds so that their child can avoid consequences, or a myriad of other ways parents enable rather than help their child. Once the parent accepts their enablement and the consequences of it, they are ready to let the child face the consequences of their choices, even when it causes pain and embarrassment to the parent and the family.
Allison Bottke has formed a group to help parents in this situation. Called Sanity Supports, it serves as a safe place for parents to come and share their anguish, as well as having a support group to help them make the tough decisions and stick by them. The website for this group and the principles shared in the book is www.SanitySupport.com . Sanity is the acronym she uses for the six-step program she lays out. These steps are:
S = Stop enabling, stop blaming yourself, and stop the flow of money
A = Assemble a support group
N = Nip excuses in the bud
I = Implement rules and boundaries
T = Trust your instincts
Y = Yield everything to God
The book is written from a Christian standpoint, and while there is much valuable information for everyone, it's unclear how those of other religious faiths or those who are agnostic would receive the book. However, this is Bottke's experience, and separating God from the other steps she took is not possible. In addition to the six-step program, there are also valuable resources throughout the book. She lists many other books and authorities that parents in this situation can research. This book is recommended for those parents who are facing this difficult life situation.
There were also good things in the past week. Rex put a new lock on the back door, and it is one of those that uses a digital code rather than a key to lock and unlock. That is so much easier for April, and it eliminates the issue of locking yourself out of the car.
April started taking piano lessons this week. I think she'll really like them, but we did have to give up Girl Scouts. There are just so many hours in a week and you can't do everything. This leaves her with dance, GA's at church, and then piano. In January, we'll add cheerleading on Saturdays. In addition, I'm trying to find some cooking classes that work with our schedule as she really enjoys those.
This was a banner week for new books. I received the following: The Snake Charmer by Jamie James, Death's Half Acre by Margaret Maron, Bad Seeds In The Big Apple by Patrick Downey, Good-bye And Amen by Beth Gutcheon, The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton, The Road Home by Rose Tremain which is the 2008 Orange Prize winner, King Of Nod by Scott Fad, Loving-Living-Party Going by Henry Green and The House At Riverton by Kate Morton. I finished a self-help book named Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children by Allison Bottke, and my review is on this page.
We had a very social Saturday. We have friends that have been in our lives for 20 years or more, and they are great people. They have three adult children, all married and with children. We've retained a relationship with all of them over the years. Yesterday the youngest child had a birthday party for her baby and husband. The baby just turned one, and the husband hit the dreaded forty. It was so much fun to go to this cookout and catch up on all their lives. Then Saturday evening a neighbor had a birthday party for their twin daughters, who turned eighteen. They are special girls, and April looks up to them as mentors and friends. Another fun time but too much food and cake!
Today is catch up time. April has a bug project due where we had to catch various categories of bugs and now have to mount and label them. Since she is scared of bugs, you can imagine how much fun this will be. I want to get a kitchen catchall drawer cleaned out, and I brought home some work from the office. There's laundry, grocery shopping and errands to be done, so this should be a busy day. See you all next weekend when I post the weekly digest. Hope you have a grand week.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Author: Ellen Meister
Genre: Women's Fiction, Family Relationships, Humor
Reviewed by: Sandie Kirkland
Bev Bloomrosen is having a midlife crisis. She's 35, and hoping to change careers and start teaching art, hopefully moving from New York to Las Vegas. She's divorced, unattached and still embroiled in sibling rivalries with her two sisters. Clare, the oldest, is known as "the pretty one" and is married with two children, perfectly happy as far as Bev knows. Joey, her younger sister and "the talented one", is a former rock star and drug addict. That leaves Clare in the middle, known as "the smart one" but wondering what to do with her life.
While she waits to hear about the Las Vegas job, her summer gets complicated. First of all, there's the issue of Kenny Waxman, the boy next door who broke her heart in high school. Kenny is living in his parents' house while they try to sell it and also at loose ends waiting to hear about a job. Bev finds him just as appealing now as she did twenty years ago, but should she take the plunge and get involved again with him? Then there is Clare, whose marriage is not as happy as it seemed and who is contemplating an affair. Bev feels she needs to stop this and gets involved with the man she suspects is the one Clare is attracted to, her contractor, Leo. Joey is mysterious, disappearing for days then back involved in family matters. To top things off, the sisters make a grusome discovery, an industrial drum stored under the Waxman's house which contains a pregnant woman's body. Who is responsible for her pregnancy and death?
While this all sounds grim, Ellen Meister writes about these situations in a lighthearted manner, making them seem like normal family issues and bringing them to a successful resolution. The characters are well-defined and believable, and the reader soon begins to cheer them on as they encounter difficulties. The writing is light and breezy, and draws the reader along to the end. Readers who want a light read with lots of romantic action and resolution of family difficulties will find this book very enjoyable.
The first school project is an insect identification. April has to locate bugs in six of eight categories, glue them to a sheet and identify them. For a girly girl who hates to admit bugs share the world, this is quite a challenge. We've been looking in corners and inside light fixtures to find bugs that have already met their demise.
I finished reading Heir to The Glimmering World (see review) by Cynthia Ozick this week, and The Smart One by Ellen Meister (review to follow). In progress is Barcelona by Robert Hughes, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I hope to read in Suns this weekend.
The weekend should be low-key. I do have laundry to do, of course, but no big obligations. Rex is working on getting his Sea-Doo charged and started as he is selling it. I need to go get a haircut, and I'm determined to clean out one closet or drawer, and have April empty one dresser top or closet floor. We'll see if I'm successful.
I also need to get busy with birthday gifts. Ben, my son, will be 28 this week. His wife, Katie, has a birthday on September 15, and Rex's birthday is September 10th. In the biggest news, Alex the Wonder Baby, will be one on September 8th! I can't believe a year has gone by, and it breaks my heart they are so far away. Then I have a birthday party next weekend given by one of Ben's good friends, Julia, the daughter of one of my best friends, Janet and Gordon. Her little girl will also be one, and her husband wil be 40. The girls next door have their 18th birthday next week also; it's a busy time of year!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I spent the day doing laundry and getting ready for the new school year. It's hard to believe that's it's time for the kids to go back. I'll still need to go shopping for school supplies this week.
I haven't read anything except email. I have two books in progress. The Smart One by Ellen Meister, is a review book. It's a murder mystery/chick lit/sister relationship book that's light and amusing. Heir To The Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick, is a book about a young girl at the turn of the century who finds herself in a household as an assistant to a Jewish scholar. The writing is luminous, and I'm really enjoying that one.
Outside of that, I've been shopping online. I bought makeup from Avon, some things on Ebay, clothes from Lands End to finish out the summer, and an order to Coldwater Creek for work clothes. That one has a $25 gift certificate that I need to use.
I talked with my son today. My grandson had tubes put in his ears this week, so that should help with all the ear infections. In the next two weeks, I had birthdays for my DH, my son, my DIL, my grandson, my twin next door neighbors, another friends baby and husband, and another friends 2 year old. Lots of shopping and parties coming up!