Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Life Goes On"

I am from the South!! From Alabama, North Alabama to be exact. So, when I saw this book advertised and that was written by a gentleman from North Alabama, I had to read it.

Come to find out, Rick Watson (the author) is from the county I was born in and lived many, many years in. His articles appear presently in "The Daily Mountain Eagle", our local newspaper when we lived there.

The book is tales of the journey of the folks I am familiar with, the places I went to, the experiences I have had. It was like 'going back home' again.

Rick's newspaper articles are in several southern newspapers and now he has books. If you like just good ole life at it's best, then you'll thoroughly enjoy Rick's writing. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Two More For Fledgling America

During my recent early American history jag, I read two wonderful books that were both very interesting.  The first is about the spy ring set up by George Washington during the war:  George Washington's Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade.  It is an easy read, well-researched and fascinating!  There are so many interesting facts that lay unknown in our American history for many, many years.  Because the secret was so well kept, even the "players" in this fascinating drama were not even known until recent years (and the one female participant is still not definitive).  But without this brave group of people who believed in our Cause, the war for our independence would likely not have been won!

The second book is a wonderful biography our first First Lady!  Because Martha Washington destroyed all the correspondence between she and George when he died, there was little known about her for many years.  Yet, in Martha Washington: An American Life, by Patricia Brady, much that was buried in correspondence with other friends and family, and in other documents not well known, has emerged to tell the story of this remarkable woman.  Loved her!  Excellent book!

If you aren't used to reading history, give these a try...neither are very long, and both are awesome!

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Dead Lands

The Dead Lands is first and foremost, a re-imagining of the journey West by explorers Lewis and Clark. This time, in a post apocalyptic future, the expedition is led by Mina Clark and Lewis Meriwether. These characters didn't earn my love or reading devotion throughout the book. They seemed one dimensional, leaning on the harsh side. But since they were on a journey of survival, they were written in a singular way. The characters had little time for anything but staying alive. My favorite character was the psychopath Slade. He collected odds and ends from unlucky victims and adhered them to his mannequin collection. Delightfully wacky.

But it was an enjoyable and expansive story. Inventive, interesting and wildly creative. The book begins in the dusty, captive world of the Sanctuary.  Formally known as St. Louis. As the journey West unfolds, the reader flips back and forth between the struggle West and the trials of life in the militant Sanctuary.  If you think Trump would be a bad president, the character Thomas, Mayor of the Sanctuary, would be ten times worse! 

As an aspiring writer, I'll never forget the author's line, "...her teeth chattered a skeleton's song." That isn't an exact quote, since I couldn't find the passage. But the character was cold. And the sentence described it beautifully. 

This book isn't for everyone. I read it because I don't have a particular or preferred genre. I love them all. And Benjamin Percy is a Minnesota author endorsed by Stephen King. You can't beat that.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Honey in the Horn by H.L. Davis

Reminiscent of Mark Twain at times, and of Mari Sandoz...if you like that older style of writing, you will enjoy this delightful novel of a young man in early twentieth century Oregon.  It won the Harper Prize in 1935, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1936.  Read my Goodreads review below:

Honey in the Horn by H.L. Davis was a delightful journey through an era and a geographical place that I will not easily forget. This classic has been reprinted at various times throughout the years and I happened to catch one of the new re-printings which acquainted me with a truly unique tale. Davis's prose reminds me of Mari Sandoz but maybe more so of Mark Twain. The book is filled with colorful characters and some chuckle-inspiring moments. You have the sense of sitting around a campfire one autumn night during your trek out west and hearing about all that happened to young Clay Calvert. It covers a complex string of events, and follows Clay across miles and miles of Oregon back country from the high desert plains to the ocean, as he finds work in at least a half dozen different occupations from the early 20th century, and meets probably one hundred interesting characters in the process. He is running from something, but also eventually finds he is running toward something even more. The book is rich with detail and leaves the reader with a sense of what life was like "way back then." Loved it!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Without Reservations and Packing Light

I seem to be in a 'traveling' mood with my reading lately. Perhaps I long for the days when traveling was easy and exciting for me and so I am living vicariously through the pages these authors put down of their own experiences. Whatever reason, I have two books to share with you today.

I read first 'Packing Light' but I want to start with the book that grabbed my heart. That was

 'Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman'. 

I love Europe and would love to go back and just wander to my heart's content and this book sated those yearnings I've had for so long and will never do in person. 

It's a true story, written by Alice Steinbach, a former newpaper reporter for the Baltimore Sun. When the book begins, Alice is a single mom, an empty nester, alone, stuck in a job where she realizes that to satisfy the demands of her career she has become the person everyone else expects her to be. That good mom, that reporter who meets deadlines regardless, the clock-puncher, the schedule-keeper. She doesn't like that person. It isn't her..

And, so she takes a years leave, packs her bags and flies to Paris. I loved her tales of wandering through the streets of Paris, soaking up the very existence and essence of the life there. I so wanted to be her! 

She travels to other counties, England, Italy... places where she has no agenda, just joy. The places she describes, the feeling she pens down, the friendships she made. It all sounds so wonderful. You just get caught up in every moment. I loved every single word. 

And, then there was the book I read before 'Without Reservations'.  It was:

     'Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life With Less Baggage'

It, too, is a true story. What's with me and true stories lately? I do love the real thing. Anyway, Allison Fallon is a school teacher, in her twenties. She's always had these dreams of the life she would have, a wonderful husband, kids, that perfect house, that perfect life. But, none of this is happening. It seems to me she is a bit impatient but who knows, she evidently didn't think so. 

When an acquaintance invites her to go on a trip to all fifty states she accepts. She quits her job, gets rid of a lot of her belongings, stores the rest, packs some bags and the two of them start on this journey. She is trying hard to 'find herself' but it isn't as easy as one might think. There are trials and tribulations along the way. She loses the guy she's left behind, the car breaks down, they run out of money. And, they are constantly trying to downsize what they have packed in the car. 

It teaches us that we have way 'too much baggage' in our life, real and imagined. And, it teaches us that we are stronger than we think we are. 

I had trouble with the book in places, just couldn't connect my thought process to what was happening but when I finished that last page, the one word that came out of my mouth was "WOW". 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Two Irish Tales

How awesome we are having more participation right now!  I wanted to jump in here with two reviews of books written by Irish authors, one set entirely in Ireland, and the other partly in Ireland, and partly in America.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is contemporary fiction set during the financial stresses of 2008.  The language is rough at times and also it took me a while to get a firm handle on the time frame it was set in.  But what was really fascinating about the book is that each chapter was written in the first person of one of the characters.  I have never seen a book take that voice, if you will.  It was interesting because you learned more about previous characters that had already spoken, by hearing what someone else was saying later, and the story came together in that way.  The spinning heart is small iron bauble on Bobby's father's rusted iron gate.  Bobby and his Dad were never fact from Bobby's perspective, his Dad was a loser and doesn't deserve his respect.  He goes to see his Dad every day however, somehow hoping to find that the old man has finally passed on.  Things get complicated when Bobby's Dad is found murdered by someone who is sure he saw Bobby leaving his Dad's place right before.  It was interesting to see how each character's life entwined with other's lives and to observe the way the financial difficulties affected each one.  I would certainly recommend this book.  It was different and kept the reader's interest.

The second book, however, is now one of my all-time favorites!  If you are looking for happy endings, On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry won't be for you.  But, it was such a beautiful, sad tale of one woman's life.  It begins in Ireland where Lilly's Dad is a high ranking police official in Dublin (a Royal position) and she becomes engaged to a member of the Black and Tans (a Irish Independence group).  Because of something that occurs the young man and she are forced to leave Ireland, and receive help from her father in doing so.  In the course of Lilly's long life, she can never quite escape what happened back in Ireland.  Lilly begins by losing her home, but has many losses in the years that follow.  The book is a series of "memoirs" she is writing down that tells about everything that she went through.  It is beautifully written, and Lilly becomes a friend as you read it, someone you care about and wish better things had happened to.  It's like finding old letters about someone that breaks your heart as you read them.  Or as I said in my Goodreads review, it's like unravelling a finely woven Irish shawl, and as each strand comes apart, more is revealed until all comes into full view.  I loved it! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The More of Less

Do you want more money, more time, and less clutter and stress?  Blogger Joshua Becker's The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, published this year, may be the book for you.
Winning The More of Less in a giveaway at Cheryl's blog, Homespun Devotions, came as a big surprise.  I had commented on her giveaway post about minimalism without giving it much thought, so when Cheryl wrote to say I had won, I did a double-take! "Wait...I entered a giveaway?!  Oh, come to think of it, I guess I did."  A few days later, I received it in the mail.  I was a skeptic, but decided to read it through.