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Thursday, May 24, 2018

As I read "Still Me" by Jojo Moyes I was surprised how easily I could pick up the third book in the series and understand all the relationships. This is a story of Louis Clark from the U.K. who decides to take a job in Manhattan as a companion/assistant to the young new wife to an older extremely wealthy man.  She soon leans that the woman, Agnus, is very unhappy and stressed by the demands of a highly philanthropic man. He wants his trophy wife to show up at the charity events looking beautiful and happy. But, the second wife is rejected by society, seen as a gold digger and a home wrecker. But this is not that simple. She had been a hard working Polish immigrant who caught the eye of her employer, and she made him happy. How can Louisa help Agnus find happiness in her new life? She can help by being her friend. Louisa Clark learns a lot about friendships and relationships during this year abroad. She has some things to work out between her boyfriend in the U.K. and the grumpy neighbor in her apartment complex. This is a good read and I enjoyed the character of Louisa Clark.

Monday, April 9, 2018

I just started reading Citizen Reader's blog. Quite interesting stuff here. I like this quote about nonfiction readers:

"How do nonfiction readers differ from fiction readers?
From Neal Wyatt*: "Reading nonfiction, even highly narrative nonfiction, is a different experience than reading fiction." She calls this the Learning/Experiencing appeal.
From Catherine Sheldrick Ross**: NF readers often read NF and F; exclusive NF readers like the "real'"; readers pick NF when they expect interruptions; they read to be entertained AND "to take something away"; they are avid readers in general
A personal definition: Not so much escapist readers as involvist readers" Sarah Cords

I used to find that I would read a fiction book and then a nonfiction book, just to change things up a bit. I do like to learn new things. I also like to read nonfiction books about the subject matter of a fiction title. Last year I read " The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War by Lara Feigel." I had read so many books about World War II that this was an interesting idea, what it was like for certain writers in the London Blitz. Graham Greene would use his experiences in the Blitz to write his famous novel, "The End of the Affair" in 1951. I remember this book that I've read many years ago and watched the movie also. 
Need to Know: A Novel by [Cleveland, Karen]I just finished a realistic book, "Need to Know" by Karen Cleveland, a former CIA analyst. It's her debut novel and is quite the thriller. Hard to put down. All I kept thinking, this can't end well. But I am glad that I read it and I probably will remember this one for a very long time. Very plot driven action, movie-like drama. The nonfiction book that I read about CIA operatives was " The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story by Robert and Dayna Baer."  That one was interesting. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Julia Spencer-Fleming

“We none of us get what we deserve, thank God. We get what we’re given. Love. Compassion. A second chance. And then a third, and a fourth.” This comes from a blog that I read: Cakes, Tea and Dreams. I am so comforted by these words, that's grace: we don't get what we deserve. Thank God. It has been a long time since I've read Julia Spencer-Fleming novels, but I did like them all. The last one in the sereis, "Through the Evil Days" was published in 2012. The series is called Clare Ferguson/ Russ Van Alstyne, a mystery series, part police procedural and part amateur detective. I wanted to re-read this one to fully remember what I liked so much about this series. It was a fast read, with just enough setting to make you feel you feel you were there. Been through plenty of bad snow storms, always like to read about the atmosphere of a snowstorm. Not enough of Clare's real job in this one, she's a priest in the Episcopal church. The mystery is wrapped up too fast to be believable. I liked the drama of the two main characters being on the outside where no one believes them, and no one trusts them. Falling in love over the course of the first four books, they are coming to terms with what that really means for them and the people they love. Part love story, part mystery thriller, good idea to start with the first in the series, In the Bleak Midwinter.
book cover of All Mortal Flesh

Sunday, March 11, 2018

     Checking all the alfresco dining in my area. Spring ahead daylight savings means I can start to think about sitting outside again in the twilight and catching a few rays. Panera Bread was my go to last summer. May have to try Smith's Boathouse here in Troy. For my birthday my daughter's took me there for their Sunday brunch, was delicious. We also like A & W Rootbeer. La Fiesta has a nice outdoor patio. Ah, many selections, or opportunity spaces. May even set up my own porch space for eating out, or having that first cup of coffee in the morning. I do look forward to the warmer season.
      Thinking about and Joe Hall on the Queen Victoria as they head to England this week. I'll bet they do a lot of eating on deck.
      Listening to "In This Grave Hour" by Jacqueline Winspear.
Had to visit Briget Jones's Diary again, in all its forms. Watched the movie on Netflix with all the wonderful actors. Listened to the audiobook and read the hardcover copy of the book. Reading about chicklit in Library Journal and this book was the first notable book of that genre. Great article by Rebecca Vnuck. Running through my head is the song by Van Morrison, "Someone like you" with the great YouTube  montage photos from the movie with Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth falling in love. Didn't know Helen Fielding used Pride and Predjudice as her inspiration. Loved everything about this movie. Funny but it even appeals to this 65 year old romantic.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Susan Branch and Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams

Reading "Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams" by Susan Branch was a real delight. Enchanting, to use her word. I thought I knew the story of her discovery of Martha's Vineyard at the time of her divorce, but there was so much more to the story. She goes through her old diaries and re-creates her landing on the island in 1982 with hand-written pages and her lovely watercolor paintings. She tells us all about her friends and her visit from her dad, and how she decides to live alone on the island and follow her dream of writing a cookbook. I love how she takes us through the painstaking process of stepping one foot in front of the other as she creates her first cookbook one page at a time, water coloring each page and her trip to New York and to Boston to get a publishing deal. It's all there, more exciting in her own words. I love how she writes about her walk that she goes on to the beach every day, knowing that she is still doing this today. I love her perseverance and audacity, just the whole believing in herself. I love how she has her own style of writing and painting, staying true to herself the whole time. Her paintings have only gotten better through the years, but she was an original talent from the beginning and Little, Brown and Company believed in her, too. Her many fans attest to her talent and charm.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Product DetailsI have read 60 books in 36 weeks for 2016. I have gone over my goal of a book a week. This latest "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande is being considered by The Big Read Dayton as a book for 2017. It's a very good book. As I read it, it became easier to read. I hope that others who start reading it give it the chance that it needs. The book is about end of life care by doctors, and the ability to ask the questions of patients. I am going to quote from the Epilogue on questions that need to be asked of patients as they face the tough decisions of their care at the end. "What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcome? What are your fears and your hopes? What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make? And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?" The author walks us through various people's last days and what their desires are. I only hope that when my time comes, that I can communicate to my family my end of life wishes beyond my 'do not resuscitate' DNR that I already have in place in my living will, that I don't want unnecessary efforts if I am dying. The author makes a good case for Hospice, for a variety of reasons, one being that most people want to die at home. It is a good book to start a conversation between relatives before the end is upon us.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Commonweath by Ann Patchett

Just finished reading Ann Patchett's latest, "Commonwealth." She is always a joy to read. I think I read that she based some of this on her own life experiences. From reading her other books, I know that her father was a policeman in LA. She had four step-siblings. Her mother and her step-father moved to the eastern part of the country from LA. Her mother and her step-father divorced after many years together and her mother remarried. I think the rest of the story is made-up. This was an excellent novel by one of the best writers around.
  The story begins with Fanny's christening in LA. Her future step-father is a DA, and he is at the party of an LA policeman. He falls in love with the policeman's wife and moves her and her small children to the commonwealth of Virginia. Fanny has an older sister, Caroline. Their father sends them the Kaplan LSAT to encourage them to study to become lawyers for Christmas while they are in high school. Their father is now in law school in LA. Every summer their step-siblings come to Virginia for the summer to live with them. Makes for interesting summers. This book is the story of the blended families, their parents and future generations.    

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is the story of two sisters, separated by years and responsibility, as they navigate through the German occupation of France and the steps they took to honor their long held beliefs and morals. One sister, Vianne, is a mother and a wife to a prisoner of war. She is best friends to her Jewish neighbor, and she tries to make decisions that honor that friendship. She loses her job as a teacher and faces depredation as the Germans take all the food that the French can provide. She is fighting for the life of her daughter and the young boy that she shelters from the Nazis. Her impulsive sister fights for a place in her family as she has been shunted off the boarding schools for years and has little in common with Vianne. She decides to fight for the Resistance and guide downed airmen over the French Pyrenees to Spain and back to Britain. She is young and in love and fighting with all abandon to help free France from the occupation of the Germans. The story is told from the women's point of view and the struggles they had during the occupation, and the lack of men in their country. Young men were rounded up and sent to Germans work concentration camps, and no one was sure of the future. It is a good story, based in part on actual documentation of a French woman's fight to save the downed airmen who ended up in France and fleeing from the Nazis by guiding them over the French Pyrenees, a mountain range between Spain and France. The plot and the characterizations are the driving force behind the novel. The bravery of the women tell the real story. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech is about a boy in school who doesn't think he likes poetry and even less doesn't believe he can write poetry. Through his journal entries we learn about the poems that he is introduced to in school. Slowly his writing takes on the appearance and tone of poetry. He is fascinated with a poet, Walter Dean Myers, whom his teacher is able to plan a visit to the school by this poet. That fascinates the boy and his poem about his dog Sky is influenced by Myers' poem, "Love That Boy." This is a book recommended for reluctant readers in the 4th to 6th grade level. I am glad I read this novel and was impressed by the method of introduction to poetry for the teacher's students.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Reading Agatha Christie

I keep telling myself that I am going to read all of Agatha Christie in order by publication date. I have made a start but haven't gotten that far. Here is an introduction list I should try to remember:
 The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Secret Adversary
Murder on the Links
Poirot Investigates (short stories)
Poirot's Early Cases (short stories)
The Man in the Brown Suit
The Secret of Chimneys
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The Big Four
The Mystery of the Blue Train
Black Coffee (play novelization by Charles Osborne)
Partners in Crime (short stories)
The Seven Dials Mystery
The Murder at the Vicarage
The Mysterious Mr Quin (short stories)
The Sittaford Mystery
Some of these I read many years ago, but I think I should just start over and watch the progression of her work by reading them in order. From this list I don't think I've ever read " The Big Four." Once I tried to read "A Caribbean Mystery" but just couldn't get into it. "The Sittaford Mystery" always grabs me on the first page and draws me right into it. I do like a good mystery.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Too Bad To Die by Francine Mathews

Francine Mathews has written a spy novel in Too Bad To Die. She recreates the drama around the Cairo Conference with chief players Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In her fictionalized version she has Ian Fleming working as a Naval Intelligence officer becoming involved in the protection of the three players that are to meet in Tehran, Iran in the coming days of 1943. It is Franklin D. Roosevelt's first meeting with Joseph Stalin. Word is out that there is an assassination plot to kill all three in Tehran as Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin work out the details of the western invasion of Europe to conquer Htitler. The thriller suspense novel is excellent, the pacing is suburb and the details of the locale all standout to make an excellent novel. Many characters are drawn in the drama, some fictitious but many are drawn on real players at the time. Churchill is traveling with his daughter in-law, Pamela Churchill and his daughter Sarah Churchill Oliver. He also has his communication specialist who helps Ian Fleming send and receive messages to Alan Turing, who has broken the Enigma Code. Ian Fleming learns there is a spy among the American and British entourage and he goes undercover to learn the identity and protect Churchill. "Absolutely marvelous! This novel masterfully weaves fact and fiction into a high-pitched thriller that keeps us spellbound from the very first pages. Great plotting, exotic locales, and historical characters who positively come alive on the page, with some delightful sly winks along the way." Jeffrey Deaver, New York Times 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor

Stephanie Barron has written a series of Jane Austen mysteries and "Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor" is the first one. This is for Jane Austen fans and readers of historical fiction. Many footnotes explain the traditions of the times as the author unfolds her story. The pace is slow, the story is full of rich details, with a good description of the characters. There are many characters to keep up with, two brothers I kept getting confused, Tom and George Hearst, one a Lieutenant and one a man of the cloth. Intriguing court case toward the end of the book as Jane's friends are accused of murder and have to stand trial. A good mystery. Stephanie Barron also writes as Francine Mathews.  

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

Billie Breslin starts her new job as a assistant to the editor on the food magazine, "Delicious". She starts to work at Fontinelli's Italian cheese store in New York City. She has an extraordinary palate that recognizes flavors. The magazine closes and she is kept on to honor the guarantee, working in the building all by herself. She discovers the locked up library to do research for her clients. She and Sammy the traveling correspondent for Delicious discover a secret room in the library and make an amazing discovery. The story reveals that she has a secret about her sister and it hold clues why she doesn't cook any longer. A good fresh story about a cook and her past. Reichl was the editor of Gourmet magazine for ten years before they closed their doors and stopped publishing an old magazine due to the downturn in publishing in general. Writing is her forte and this is her first work of fiction. Well done

Sunday, March 6, 2016

All Things Wise and Wonderful

In "All Things Wise and Wonderful" James Herriot tells about his time with the RAF during World War II, but mostly his memory goes back to his veterinary practice and his wife Helen. I usually like the stories about the Farnon brothers the best, although there is the tender tales of Helen which I also enjoy. His son is born while he is away. He doesn't share much of his RAF days, but he does tell of an operation that he had which made him unfit for flying after all his training. He sits out the war at various duties with the RAF, but not combat duty. He goes absent without leave when he worries about Helen and her pregnancy, but slipping away reassures him of her health and makes the trip home on the bus worth his risk. The continuation of the trials of a country vet are heartwarming. He is humble in the retelling of his early years as a country vet in the late 1930's. These books were bestsellers in the 1970's.    

Saturday, February 20, 2016

All Things Bright and Beautiful

"The warm and joyful sequel to All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot, the Yorkshire Dales veterinary. This book takes place after his marriage to Helen and before he is posted to the Royal Air Force in World War II. He reminisces about his various cases, often sharing more about the farmers than about his patients. He shares about his courting of Helen and about his luck at finding the perfect wife. I especially like the part where he advises that one study the relationship between your choice of mate and her father. Helen dotes on her father after the death of her mother, and Herriot is the lucky recipient of a doting wife. Herriot makes all his characters come alive with his rich and homey descriptions. He writes more than once that he loves his work and despite the hardships he is a happy man with his choice of work. The world was lucky to have such a man write his memoirs for the vast audience that accepted and loved his books.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

All Creatures Great and Small

Sometimes I just want to read a sure bet, something good and wholesome. It has been a while since I've read some of James Herriot and decided to read the first of his series on veterinary practice in England in the 1930's. It was a best seller when it first came on the scene in America in the 70's, and for some reason or other I never got around to reading it until I became a librarian and I read it to my patrons at the nursing home. It's a perfect read aloud for that audience, short chapters with little connecting them so that if a patron would miss a week or so, he'd be able to pick up the story just fine. Also I live near the farms in Ohio and I think the elderly could relate to the stories, although I think James Herriot's stories can appeal to most. Just the other day my hairdresser said she read them in her youth while watching the television series with her mother. I tried to get my daughter to read the first in the 80's or early 90's but I can't remember if she made it through the book. I see that there is talk of another filming of the James Herriot stories, but I think they couldn't improve on the BBC series with Christopher Timothy and Robert Hardy.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Foreign Correspondent by Alan S. Cowell

This story begins as the narrator, Ed Clancy, tells about the Nonstop News Desk, NND, in Paris with his old friend and abettor, Joe Shelby, to post the Internet news in the wee hours of the morning, before New Yorks papers were up and running. Joe Shelby's job was to call the bureaus in foreign cities and verify the stories coming in over the wires, and then to write the copy and Ed is to post it on the Internet. Early in the story Shelby makes a mistake and covers it up and this comes to haunt them in the end. The beginning of the book lays down the character of Joe Shelby, a foreign correspondent, filling in the details of his past loves and past secrets. He is avoiding the women from his past, but they too are in Paris now. Ed Clancy has settled down in Paris with the love of his life, Marie-Claire Risen, and he doesn't want Shelbys interference. It is the story of the demise of print, "that great, gorgeous, messy alchemy of ink and hot type and whirring reels of paper and working stiffs in stained coveralls." This is an action adventure story, with the drama of love spicing things up a bit. It's a story of revenge, and justice, told with a literary bent. A good read if you hang in there through the set-up. "Alan S. Cowell is a senior correspondent for the New York Times based in Paris."

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Plainsong by Kent Haruf
This was such an excellent book. Amazed that it took me so long to find it. Literary, character driven, with a real sense of place. I savored the book as the prose was beautiful. I see that it was recommended for YA, but I would say the upper grades of high school would be better. Some serious issues were addressed. Basically it is the story of a father, his two sons, a teacher, a pregnant student, and two older bachelors whose lives intersect to create an extended family. They all grow up in the novel as they face new challenges and become much deeper for it. I especially liked the story of Victoria Roubideaux, the pregnant teenager dealing with the rejection of her mother. She has to sort out how she really feels about the father of her child and how she is going to care for this child that she anticipates with joy and fear. She is wise beyond her years. Tender is the adjective that I would use to describe the author's attitude toward his characters. A good story, with further stories in his later books about Holt, Colorado..

Monday, January 11, 2016

Here is a link to the greatest mysteries that need to be read:

Goodreads 2016

On Goodreads I posted that I want to read fifty books in 2016. Just what I did in 2015, but I am going to read from the Adult Reading Round Table suggestions in various genres in my study of Readers Advisory in the library setting. NovelistPlus ( a database found on most library websites) had a list in the Readers Advisory Toolbox called ARRT Popular Fiction List under especially for Readers Advisory that I am going to read from, to familiarize myself with new authors.  I think I will read a different genre pick from their list and then a book from my own bookshelf. I really do need to read the books that I own. From my shelf I am going to read "The Paris Correspondent: a novel of newspapers, then and now" by Alan S. Cowell. Sound like a literary novel of which I usually enjoy the most. I read that to help a reader interested in literary fiction go to the awards websites and their lists should satisfy most readers of literary fiction. I am going to post a few websites here:
The Man Booker Prize "The Man Booker Prize promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world's most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and publishers."
National Book Awards "The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America."
Pulitzer Prize "Established in 1917 and endowed by Joseph Pulitzer, the noted Hungarian immigrant newspaper publisher, the Pulitzer Prize categories included here recognize distinguished works of fiction and nonfiction published in book form by an American author, preferably dealing with American life."

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Christie Caper by Carolyn Hart

The Christie Caper was a Death on Demand mystery featuring Annie and Max Darling. They have planned a conference to honor the 100th birthday of Agatha Christie, with a treasure hunt, a ball, and Christie trivia all through the story. The book was written in 1991 and is the seventh in the Death on Demand series. The conference attendees did not anticipate a murder to take place, but it did, getting Annie and Max and their friends in the sleuthing. A light-hearted cozy mystery that promises to keep you guessing till the end. I am always reading a Christie mystery and this only wanted me to read more of Agatha Christie. It helps to be a Christie fan when reading this novel.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Philip Roth wrote " The Plot Against America: a Novel in 2004. The narrator is himself at the young age of seven, living in Newark, New Jersey, Roth's own childhood home. Many of Roth's books take place in Newark, but this is a novel of alternative history. Charles A. Lindbergh has been elected as the Republican President of the United States instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt for his third term in October 1940. His platform is American First, promising to keep America out of the European War that started in 1939. Roth's premise is that Lindberg is Anti-Semitic and fears that the Jews that are in power in government and the media are pressuring the nation into World War II. Philip's family include his father, an insurance salesman, his mother, homemaker involved in the PTA, and his older brother Sandy, who has a talent for drawing. Young Philip is seen absorbing all the fears and terrors that result in the Jewish population of Newark becoming weakened by the displacement of their numbers. I liked the rich detail of the Jewish family in the 1940's located in a Jewish community in Newark, New Jersey. Rich characterization of Philip and his family add much to the story. I recommend this novel to those who like historical novels. In the back of the book Roth lists books that provided him with the history of the times, and also an accurate account of the real characters mentioned in the book such as Fiorello H. La Guardia and Walter Winchel, gossip columnist.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah

Hercule Poirot meets a young woman in distress at Pleasant's Coffee House in London on a Thursday evening. He goes there because they have the best coffee in London. He worries about Jennie all through the book, sure that she is tied to the murders discovered at the Bloxham Hotel, the case of Edward Catchpool, a policeman friend of Mr. Poirot's from Scotland Yard. Catchpool is the narrator of the story. Poirot helps the investigation by asking all the right questions and by using his little gray cells. All through the book he is trying to educate Catchpool in the ways of detection. Three people are murdered in the Bloxham Hotel, all from the same small village, all found in their own rooms, poisoned. Hannah does an excellent job of recreating the 1930's London so familiar to readers of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mysteries. It was a good read and had me guessing to the end.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I always enjoy a historical fiction based on real people's lives. This was a surprise to me as I thought when I started it that the book was all fiction. I liked how Sue Monk Kidd told at the end what parts she re-imagined and what parts were based on actual facts from letters and journals. As she was writing about authors from the 1830's this helped to make the story more authentic. Slave narratives are difficult for me to read, but the story was well-written and I kept up with the story, even though I had wanted to quit when the story became too gruesome. It's amazing how abolitionists became women suffragettes, fighting for the rights of women and slaves both. Amazing that these women wrote about slavery before Uncle Tom's Cabin was published. I liked reading about the bravery of these two sisters. This would make a good movie.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Borrowing from another blog

In Autumn by Winifred C. Marshall

They're coming down in showers,
The leaves all gold and red;
They're covering the little flowers,
And tucking them in bed. 
They've spread a fairy carpet
All  up and down the street;
 And when we skip along to school,
They rustle 'neath our feet.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett is the story of a woman in love with a gay man, the magician Parsifal. She lives in the house that  Parsifal and his gay lover, Phan lived in. After Phan dies of AIDS Parsifal marries his long time friend and assistant, Sabine. Sabine inherits the house and most of his assets when Parsifal dies in the first chapter of the book. She learns form the lawyer that Parsifal had indeed had a family, which he had kept a secret from her for over twenty years that they were close. She learns more about his past from this family which she chooses to visit in Nebraska. Ann Patchett's writing is magical itself. I listened to the audio by performer Karen Ziemba. Beautifully done. Highly recommended.~

From Publishers Weekly

After working as his assistant for more than 20 years, Sabine marries her beloved boss, Parcifal, knowing that he's gay and has just lost his lover. What she doesn't find out until after his death from AIDS is that Parcifal was actually Guy Fettera from Alliance, Neb., and had a family he never spoke about. Karen Ziemba creates an appropriately light tone for the narrator, despite some dark events that Sabine discovers when she visits Parcifal's sweet, dysfunctional family. She crafts clear, flat Midwest accents for the magician's mother and sisters and her pace and annunciation are excellent. Ziemba's men all sound alike, but they play minimal roles. She is an experienced and professional reader with just the right stuff for Patchett's 1997 novel, which probes the complex motives of Parcifal and his assistant. A Harcourt paperback (Reviews, July 14, 1997)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

West of Sunset

After reading about the Great Gatsby this summer and then re-reading the novel, I was surprised to find a new novel written by Stewart O'Nan about the last years of F. Scott Fitzgerald in "West of Sunset." F. Scott Fitzgerald in the middle of the 1930's was broke as he had large bills paying for his daughter Scottie's boarding school and his wife's mental illness and the sanitarium that took care of her. He hadn't had much luck writing short stories or novels; at one point in the story he receives a royalty check for under two dollars. "The Great Gatsby" was not a financial success, it came out to mixed reviews. So, he heads to Hollywood lured by a set salary for working on various screenplays. The book gives a good idea of the work schedule that Scott kept, and the difficulties he had with various Hollywood types. The frustration was great as the studios would take him off a job as they would make a decision that would stop production and send him off onto a new project. As soon as the studio would move him it was expected of him to turn over his writing on one project and start on another one in short order. One could say, his work was not his own, that it belonged to the studio as long as it was paying his salary as a scriptwriter. Included in the story is his various friendships with other writers and actors and his affair with Sheliah Graham, the Hollywood columnist. He meets her early in the Hollywood years, and she keeps him company off and on as she tries to get him to stop drinking, and nurses him in his final days. F. Scoot Fitzgerald died December 21, 1940 at the age of 44.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

I just finished reading, "The Wright Brothers" by David McCullough, published 2015. Living near Dayton, Ohio I think this is a necessary story that should be known by the Dayton population. In an era where so many things were being discovered and manufactured in Dayton, OH, there was much speculation and disbelief in the ability for man to fly in 1900. But, the Wright brothers were unique in that their parents supported their experiments and encouraged their research. Brought up in a home with many books, both Wilbur and Orville Wright were curious by nature. Without the support of their parents I don't think they would have accomplished all that they did. Everything they touched as children was carefully picked up by their mother and put on a shelf until they could get to it later. This in a house of five children. Even when Wilbur failed to go to college after such promise, they patiently let him think his own thoughts and try his own hand at business. The companionship between the two brothers was another great asset to their quest for knowledge. They talked over everything, with little competition between them. Being so able to work together side by side for so many years helped them accomplish their amazing work. This was a fascinating look at the lives of the whole Wright family. I even learned that the Wright Library in Oakwood, OH is named for their sister, the teacher and college graduate, Katherine Wright who was also a huge asset to their work, as the three of them lived in the family home while the Bishop, their father, traveled all over the country in his work. Their mother had died earlier. I learned that they spent many years perfecting their "Flyer" as they called it, taking it to many countries to demonstrate their invention. There were many Flyers as improvements were made.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

Image result for the astronauts wives club
I read “The Astronaut Wives Club” by Lily Koppel after I saw part of one episode on this season’s ABC program called the Astronaut Wives Club. As much as I like to watch TV, I always feel a book is better. I remembered that the book had come out in 2013 so I decided to look into that. Once again I wasn’t disappointed. I knew some of the stories because I recently read Jim Lovell’s book, “Lost Moon,” after I saw the Apollo 13 movie. I liked the way Ms. Koppel told the stories in quick bursts, but sometimes she jumped right over important events and didn’t elaborate on them. On page 275 when Rene Carpenter was with the Bobby Kennedy campaign, Ethel asked Rene to: “please help Bobby.” Ms. Koppel writes that “Rene came in and saved the day,” but never explained what that meant. Two paragraphs later “Bobby Kennedy was shot in the Ambassador Hotel,” and John Glenn and his wife Annie were taking five of Bobby’s eleven kids to their home Hickory Hill.

                The growth of the space program took place from 1959 to the present day, but they had their disappointments such as Nixon cancelling the Apollo program, even as two rockets had already been built. This was the time of empowerment for women with the start of NOW. These conservative women and their star-struck men had to grow with the challenges to their beliefs and life style. The support that the Astronaut Wives Club offered to the women was important. From the book we learn that Marge Slayton considered it “a lifetime membership.” They still hold reunions and consider it a privilege to be on-call to their friends from the space era. I recommend this book.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to be and Why it Endures" by PBS Fresh Air book reviewer Maureen Corrigan is a delightful book. Ms. Corrigan teaches a class on "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald at George Washington University in Washington, D. C. and presents programs on the book for The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts promotion on classic books around the country. From this latest book of hers we read about her absolute passion for the greatest novel in American Literature, and she does take passion to a whole new level. She takes her research into obscure rare book and special collections in various libraries around the country to research why "The Great Gatsby" continues to be the great American novel even though at the first printing it was a flop, selling a measly 23,000 copies for Fitzgerald and leaving a mass of remainder copies at Scribner's. Her question is how it has remained one of the top novels read in high school English classes around the country and stays on some of the syllabi of various colleges in the United states. The book was published in 1926, and one accounting of the poor readership was the onslaught of the great depression in 1929 that left little taste for the flamboyant lifestyle presented in the Great Gatsby, a life of booze, bootlegging and marital bed swapping. Fitzgerald was known for his wild drinking and bizarre behavior in the 20's. His novel came out when he was just 26 years old himself, living the good life that many people could not relate to in the ensuing years. One thing Ms. Corrigan uncovered was that after his early death in 1940, Fitzgerald had his handful of literary critics who felt that his effort was to be applauded and kept the American people from forgetting his name. She also uncovered the effort during the war to replicate great novels for the American servicemen in paperback to accompany them into battle and prison of war camps. The government issued copies were called Armed Services Collections, a total of 1322 titles that were printed in small paperback form, "nearly 123 million books were distributed to U.S. troops overseas." p.230 If you love "The Great Gatsby" then you'd love to read how it has remained in publication for many years, with several movies being made for good measure.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading

I just finished Maureen Corrigan's 2005 memoir on reading. She is the book reviewer on NPR's Fresh Air and has been since 1989. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and daughter. She is also a literature instructor at George Washington University. Maureen Corrigan has a PhD. in literature from the University of Pennsylvania, and I found the beginning of the book a little off-putting. Maybe because I haven't read all the great English literature she was writing about and making the comparisons with. She writes a lot about the "women's extreme-adventure stories" and this was a new genre to me.  But I learned and isn't that what you are supposed to do when you read. Because she is such a voracious reader she keep talking about why we read. I am very interested in that because I read so much also and often ask myself that question. For me, reading jars my memory in a way that is comforting to me; that I can remember and that I find myself in my reading. She also has a new book out, " So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures." Because I think that "The Great Gatsby" is one of the finest books in American literature I am finding this a very interesting book to read also.
    Back to "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading" I was excited to get into the part of the book that she writes about her love of the detective series. That's where we hit a common thread. Since leaving the library I have been free to read just for myself and I keep coming back to the detective series for pleasure. I like to start at the beginning of a series that has the same character and read in the published order of the books. I find that FantasticFiction does an excellent job of listing the books in order in an author's series. Some series must be read to follow the story line, others are written so that if you jump right in anywhere you get the gist of the storyline and you can enjoy the books that way. The alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton don't have to be read in order. For example her book "W is for Wasted" has her living in the same apartment with the same landlord and time just seems to standstill at 1986. I have jumped around in that series without missing a beat. But Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley moves the characters along in their own storyline apart from the mystery, and I think they are more enjoyable read in the order they were published. That is just my personal preference. In the back of Maureen Corrigan's book is a list of Recommended Reading and I think I will be reaching for my book for this list in the future.