Sunday, December 20, 2015

Two Youth Books Worth a Read

Sandwiched in between Benjamin Franklin by Carl van Doren (an amazing and very long biography...see my Goodreads review) and a couple of other books I have already reviewed here, and a couple I haven't yet, I read these two youth books and enjoyed them very much!

A review I shared a few months ago by Stewart Monckton of a "sequel" to The Wind in the Willows ( The Wild Wood by Jan Needle--see that review HERE) made me realize I had never read The Wind in the Willows! So I set out to remedy that omission!  The original book, by Kenneth Grahame is a charming and wonderfully well-written book that any age can enjoy.  It isn't meant to be an allegory, but there are some lessons one can learn from Toad, Badger and Rat.  I really enjoyed it.  In reading the original I also realized that The Wild Wood would not be a sequel I would be interested in.  In an afterward to the book there was a list of sequels that might be enjoyed:  The Willows in Winter, Toad Triumphant, The Willows and Beyond, and The Willows at Christmas are all by William Horwood.  Of The Wild Wood, by Jan Needle the writer states "In a Marxist twist, Needle retells The Wind in the Willows from the point of view of the working-class weasls, stoats and ferrets that populate the river community.  The proletariat heroes of ....take over Toad's manse and rename it Brotherhood Hall, an event that transcends the simple politics of The Wind in the Willows and demonstrates that there are two sides to every tale."  Not my cup of tea!  I like the simplicity and charm of the original book.  Just thought I'd get you all up to speed on that.

I also read An Independent Spirit, The Tale of Betsy Dowdy and Black Bess by Donna Campbell Smith.  This is a delightful historical novel about the young woman who alerted General Skinner in North Carolina to the burning of Norfolk, Virginia by Lord Dunmore and the moving of British troops toward Currituck, burning homes along their way.  It is a delightful little book based on an actual event of a young woman riding her beloved pony alone and with great haste, completely unknown to her parents or anyone who might have tried to stop her in her mission.  Her bravery should be known to those of us who owe our country to such acts.  But the life of Betsy is fictionalized by necessity because almost nothing is known about her, except for the fact of her lone ride.  The tale would greatly appeal to young women looking for heroines during the Revolution.  It has a horse-loving element and a romance element that often appeal to young women.  I had bought the book to give to our grandson and after reading it realized he would find those aspects of the story un-appealing.  Still, I would recommend it to we adults who wish to know more about many unsung heroes. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

New Contributor

We have a new contributor... Kenna. Very anxious to have her join us as she is a very talented writer, artist, film maker ... I could go on and on. How do I know all these things? She's my niece and a sweet one at that. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Two Favorite Christmas Books

I wanted to do this post at this time to share two of my absolute favorite Christmas books with you.  The first I read many years ago, by Truman Capote.  I bought a lovely little volume in a slipcase that contained two short books, memoirs of Capote's about growing up with his aunts.  One was called The Thanksgiving Visitor and the other was A Christmas Memory.  I adore Capote anyway, and found these two wonderful stories to be absolutely delightful.  I read them several times during the holiday season over the years.

Capote as a child shown with his favorite aunt

The second book I came love quite late in my maturity, deciding to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to our grandson about five years ago.  Oh, I'd seen every version of that story known to man, all on my TV screen.  But I had never read the book!  I must say, if you have not had that pleasure, you are missing something HUGE.  Because as we read the wonderful tale, I began to realize that Dickens was TRULY a literary genius, and it is no wonder the story has been told and re-told on every stage and screen imaginable.  But not a single play or TV version does the writing of the tale justice.  The book is just THAT good!  So, treat yourself to the original Dickens work, and you will not be sorry.
Both books are marvelous and are worth the time to curl up in a favorite chair wrapped in a comforter, maybe in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cider or tea or cocoa.  Immerse yourself in these beautiful stories this Christmas season and it will be a gift you give yourself that will last a lifetime. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

On Writing

I thought I would end 2015 with one more book review. I've been reading a lot of writing and publishing resource books this year and this one floated to the top. Reading On Writing was like talking with an old friend over a couple martians. (martini's to Jack in the Shining) A friend who just happens to be a famous author. You're having warm and fuzzy fun. You're getting a little tipsy, talking about old times, reliving past triumphs and epic failures and occasionally being offered a real heartfelt literary gem. That is what the book is like. It's more like a biography with some stiff teachable moments.

 Whether or not you're a fan of Stephen King, if you're a writer, this book will offer inspiration. Stephen King said when you're writing, to visualize at least one person that you're writing for. For him, that is his wife Tabby. Now, I like to imagine I'm writing for Stephen King. He's my new shoulder mentor. Although, if he was reading over my shoulder he'd probably tell me what a bunch of hooey I just wrote. He'd definitely tell me to go back and re-read the boring, The Elements of Style. Yawn. Because of my appalling punctuation and sentence structure crimes. Well, I'll probably never meet him, but I picked him all the same.

Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Stephen King 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

I picked up this book at one of our cute little neighborhood lending libraries this Fall. It spoke to me. "You know you like the cover. Take it. Just take it!" yelled the book. So I did.

 Where'd You Go, Bernadette turned out to be an unusual and charming read. The story is told through the unique voice of emails, messages and letters. The central character Bernadette is a fiercely intelligent and reluctant Seattle Mother. She goes missing. And her super smart daughter Bee back tracks through all the above mentioned correspondence to locate her beloved and wayward Mother. Then there's the husband. Another techie smartie pants. Everybody is as smart as a whip! You'll like these characters.

 I get the feeling that the author, Maria Semple, is a real life Mensa wannabe herself. Because she weaved together such a complex and intriguing tale. It was a great book for an aspiring writer (like me) to read. Ultimately, the characters end up in Antarctica. She sounded like an expert.  Now that's research. 

To check out my writing works in progress visit The Chorus of the Crows

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Good Neighbor

I was all set to give a glowing review of this book by A. J. Banner. And, personally, I still think it was a good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. HOWEVER, upon reading a few of the reviews on Goodreads I found that some people had issue with it. "It didn't live up to it's hype", "bad editing" and so on. Guess I hadn't seen the hype and I am not the grammer/editing police so I did like it.

It was touted as a psychological thriller (maybe that was the problem). I found it to be an easy read, less than 200 pages long, so it was quick and I could move on to another book on my growing list. The mystery wove itself in and out of the main character's 'normal' life which ended up being anything but normal.

Sarah Phoenix grows distrustful after a house field kills her two neighbors. Sarah manages to get inside the burning house and rescue their little girl. The fire also burned Sarah's dream home that she and her husband had just begun to enjoy.

Who could have set the fire? Was her own husband involved? And who are these women who seem to have a strange connection to her husband? As Sarah grows more and more uncertain and afraid, the mystery takes on strange twists and turns. And, of course, it has a surprise ending.

Amazon gave it a 3 1/2 rating out of five. Goodreads had 1, 311 reviews (which the few that I saw were mixed). It gave it a rating of 3.29.

So, I liked it....