Monday, September 25, 2017

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I miss bread. Warm, yeasty, fragrant bread with that soft inside and hard crust that cracks when you bite into it. Bread with fresh butter melting into the pockets and crevices left from the baking. Bread that holds your sandwich fillings, whether it's slightly rare roast beef with a touch of horseradish or garden warm tomatoes and mayo, tucked in among tender lettuce leaf. Bread to sop up a stew with, wiping up the very last drop. An allergy to wheat means that bread, real bread, is no longer on my menu. My body can't process the stuff, and I swell like the Michelin  Man, and can weigh as much as 3 pounds heavier for eating half an English Muffin. But sometimes, that weight gain is worth it, like at The Mill in San Francisco, or if I were to come upon bread made by Lois Clary, from her magical and mysterious sourdough starter in Robin Sloan's Sourdough.
 Set in San Francisco (sallowing me to visit one of my favorite places without taking a 6 hour flight), Sourdough is filled with the real and the imaginary, exploring the world of foodies (as opposed to the also delightful Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by the same author, that delves into the world of book lovers.) One of the things I like about Sloan's book are the odd array of truths thrown into it (like the fact that there is a world-wideLois Club, that I might not have known about, had I not had a good friend named Lois when I was growing up.) It's a slim book, but a good one. And if I happen to look like Bibendum, from a wheat overload, I blame Robin Sloan.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

If music be the food of love...

 IIf you're thinking of sending birthday greetings in a couple of days, how about helping me update my playlist, and recommending a song you love instead. 

Let me know the Title/artist and I'll do the rest. Thanks. A playlist from suggestions made by friends makes my heart happy.

The best way to get your suggestion to me would be to put it here in the comments or email it to me. Other social media might work, but I'm erratic in checking it. (Please do not use the Messenger App. I don't have it.) 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cathedrals Of Glass A Planet Of Blood And Ice by A.J. Hartley

Well done, Mr Hartley. When night fell on Charleston, during Hurricane Irma's visit, and the electricity was out, I picked up my trusty iPad and crashed  into that strange, cold, and dangerous planet Valkrys, along with Sola and her shipmates. The irony of sitting in my 21st century home, curled up with an electronic device, reading about teens from a distant future, whose lives are pretty much spent in a society where the infonet provides all social interactions, and the world is climate controlled did not escape me. I, however, had more than nutritional supplements and protein bars to sustain me while I read. (I believe that even in heaven, I might be able to sip an aperitif and nibble dark chocolate whist I invest myself in a book.)

But back to the book. A group of teens, who have each broken the rules of Home, are sent to a futuristic sort of juvenile detention/rehab center on a nearby moon. Only, the autopilot directed ship deviates from course and crash-lands on a planet nearby that is uninhabited. Or is it?

The group, both diverse and somewhat dysfunctional, with each member declared deviant for unsocial behaviors, must learn to interact, as well as survive. And soon enough, they learn there is danger beyond the frigid planet for them, both outside the ship and inside as well.

Science fiction and thriller, this book gripped me. I only stopped to sleep, and in the morning to find a way to make coffee without electricity. (Luckily, I'm a little handier, and a bit more knowledgeable and prepared than Sola and her shipmates, so that went well.) Don't be fooled by a YA label. This book was a good read. As usual, AJ Hartley does not disappoint.

From the Publisher:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Steeplejack and co-author of Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows with Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge, comes a "smart, gripping and atmospheric" science fiction thriller—the Cathedrals of Glass saga…

“Deviance is unattractive and jeopardizes all we hold dear…”

Ten teenagers broke behavioral law. Sentenced to be reeducated on the moon of Jerem, they were placed in stasis on the automated ship Phetteron for their six day journey. They never reached their destination.

“Home looks after its own…”

Thrown off course by a computer malfunction, the Phetteron is damaged in an asteroid belt and crash lands on the uninhabited ice planet of Valkrys. Having spent their lives in temperature controlled environments, consuming nutrient supplements, and interacting with people mostly through the infonet, the teens are unprepared to depend on each other to face the harsh, hostile, and hellish landscape. Home will send a rescue party long before their meager supplies run out.

“No contrary positions are viable…”

Sola was a roamer. She wandered the city after curfew, reveling in the freedom of being disconnected from the techgrid and embracing the joy of physical activity. For those actions, Home declared her deviant. But on Valkrys, her deviance is an asset that may be the teens’ only hope for survival.

As Sola explores their strange new world, she discovers that she and her shipmates are linked by something more frightening than their subversive behaviors—and uncovers a truth about the planet the authorities at Home wanted buried.

Valkrys is not uninhabited. And what lives there is predatory…
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The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

I knew I'd want something entertaining and slightly mind-distracting to read during Hurricane Irma, and grabbed this off the shelf, mostly for the high ratings and promise of an different sort of love story.(When I first picked up the book looked like Irma was going to make landfall here. It didn't, but we got quite the tropical storm, with some absolutely stellar flooding, thanks to the trifecta of the storm's winds/rain, storm surge, and high tide.) The book both fulfilled and failed my needs. It was interesting, but in no way mindless, opening a dialogue as to what is appropriate in today's world for ages in relationships. For millennium, it's been okay for ancient men to marry near infants, but even in 2017, there is a negative stigma attached to older women dating younger men. (Momentary applause and hat tip to Brigitte Macron, and her husband, Emmanuel. )

So, here's a story where a 39 year old mother takes her 12 year old daughter to see a boy band, and said mother ends up in a steamy relationship with the lead singer. Steaminess aside (and there is some steam in there, lots of fingers, mouths, and other boy and girl bits) Robinne Lee does tackle some of the issues of divergent age in a relationship. It helps that the guy is both mature intellectually and emotionally, and that the gal has not been sitting on the couch eating chips and slugging back beer, but even so, the problems and concerns the characters have are realistic-- one that even chic, beautiful gallery owners and stunningly handsome boy band musicians might have. Add in the public factor of his chosen career, and the emotional maturity of boy band followers, and the thick plottens, so to speak.  It's unconventional, all the way through, even the end.

Not a bad read for a stormy day, when your building is completely surrounded by water, the power is out, and the winds are howling.

From the publisher:
When Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of a prestigious art gallery in Los Angeles, takes her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band, she does so reluctantly and at her ex-husband’s request. The last thing she expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things.

What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s disparate worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways. And for Solène, it is as much a reclaiming of self, as it is a rediscovery of happiness and love. When their romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her new status has impacted not only her life, but the lives of those closest to her.

Friday, September 8, 2017

How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Quite the quirky book, about a quirky boy, who is the odd duck in a quirky intellectual family. I think that part of the reason I didn't engage fully in the book is that I kept forgetting the narrator (eleven year old Isidore, called Dory by his family, when he really longs to be called Izzie) was a boy. Things would happen, and I'd assume the teller was female, and then be brought back suddenly.  It has its moments of humor, mostly brought about by the frailty of human nature, and explored some bleak experiences with a candid hand.  All in all, I liked the book, but just can't join in on the "I loved it" bandwagon.

Many thanks to the publisher and Blogging for books for sending me this copy.


Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn't quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist--she's already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle's Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don't, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them if he doesn't run away from home first.

Isidore's unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

There's obviously a bit of Marvel canon I have missed, but luckily I found this book about a black/Puerto Rican Spiderman, Brooklyn, bad guys, good guys, friends, family, and poetry. And that's a pretty good combo to find.

Many thanks to Kirkus for the review that made me go out and find this book.


From the publisher: "Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you're on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew hustling was in his veins."

Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He's even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he's Spider Man.

But lately, Miles's spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren't meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad's advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can't shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher's lectures on the historical "benefits" of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.

It's time for Miles to suit up

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

An advanced reader copy of this came my way about a month after the book came out. I put aside two other books to read it, since this had come courtesy of Library Thing's Early Reader program and it was a new release.

I know there are reviews out there from people who loved it-- that's a bit of a stretch for me, to say love, or to go beyond the 3/5 stars rating I gave it. Some points intending to create tension seemed beleaguered to me as some of the twists and turns seemed telegraphed. But still, it was better than some I've read and a worthy effort for a first novel. (Would someone tell me why there are so many books with 'girl" in the title? Almost as many as the something-or-other's wife or daughter.)

tags:

2017-read, advanced-reader-copy, early-review-librarything, everyone-else-liked-it, first-novel-or-book, ok-but-not-great, read, suspense-thriller-mystery

From the  Publisher:
Someone knows where she is…

The old Victorian pier was a thing of beauty until it was allowed to decay. It was where the youth of Oldcliffe-on-Sea would go to hang out. It’s also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier disappeared eighteen years ago.

Francesca Howe, known as Frankie, was Sophie’s best friend, and even now she is haunted by the mystery of what happened to her. When Frankie gets a call from Sophie’s brother, Daniel, informing her that human remains have been found washed up nearby, she immediately wonders if it could be Sophie, and returns to her old hometown to try and find closure. Now an editor at a local newspaper, Daniel believes that Sophie was terrified of someone and that her death was the result of foul play rather than “death by misadventure,” as the police claim.

Daniel arranges a holiday rental for Frankie that overlooks the pier where Sophie disappeared. In the middle of winter and out of season, Frankie feels isolated and unnerved, especially when she is out on the pier late one night and catches a glimpse of a woman who looks like Sophie. Is the pier really haunted, as they joked all those years ago? Could she really be seeing her friend’s ghost? And what actually happened to her best friend all those years ago?

Harrowing, electrifying, and thoroughly compelling, Local Girl Missing showcases once again bestselling author Claire Douglas’ extraordinary storytelling talent.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Great NAdar: The Man Behind the Camera by Adam Begley

The blurb on this book quoted a recent French Biography, "Who doesn't know Nadar?" Well, I didn't. And I thought his accomplishments fascinating: photographer, balloonist, entrepreneur, artist. Nadar did indeed lead a fascinating life, mingled with luminaries of the day, and in his way was the forerunner of the celebrity cult of today. His portraiture included in the book was a plus, enabling me to see some historic figures who have intrigued me. All in all, while the book was interesting, it didn't inthrall me, but I'm glad I read it.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books and the publishers for sending me this copy.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Racing Destiny by L.R. Barrett-Durham

Though at one point in my life I was enamored of the likes of Rosemary Rogers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss, I rarely intentionally pick up a true romance these days. (ha! See what I did there?) I'll read books that have love stories in them, but that's about as far as I go toward Romance-- unless one is recommended to me.

A few months back, I read (or tried to read) a novel that proclaimed to be a mystery, but delved heavily into what I would call, without hesitation, bad romance. My remarks on the book expressed that, which caught the interest, and greatly amused, a friend of mine, who is both a prolific author and talented artist. She challenged me to read one of her books, and I accepted. Did I mention her name is LR Barret-Durham?

Racing Destiny is indeed a romance, but it is also a science fiction novel, set in an Atlanta of the future. The world the author has created overlays nicely on the Atlanta I know. It is also a world where Hover Craft racing has capture the hearts and imagination of the entire population (enough so that popular racers are recognized wherever they go.) Rayna Jones was born to race, like her father before her. And her arch rival, Draven Prestage, was also born to race, and born to beat Rayna. There's that old sexual tension pre-race, and a steamy bet between the two drivers.  Then Barrett-Durham mixes it up a bit, and steps beyond the usual romance frission, to add some interesting twists and turns to the plot. While I honestly kinda skimmed over the scenes involving passion, and have a pet peeve about the use of the word "sexy" (show me, don't tell me) in any book, the story kept my attention. I liked finding the similarities and differences in my Atlanta and the Atlanta of Racing Destiny. It was a science fiction world, but not so far removed that it became unfamiliar. The writing was clean, fast paced, believable. And I was entirely delighted to see Easter eggs in there from things I know are passions in the writer's own personal life and knowledge base, presented in such a fashion that they were informative without being didactic or out of place. Bottom line? I'm still not a romance fan, but I've already downloaded one of LR Barrett-Durham's fantasy novels to see how she does there. If I like it, there are lots more, because this is one prolific author.

Review from Amazon:
 Author of the International Indie Sensation, The Trust Series, L R Barrett-Durham delves into yet another genre and takes us to heights we never knew imaginable. FOUR SECONDS That’s all that stands between Rayna Jones, and her egocentric arch rival, Draven Prestage, as she competes in the Thirty-Second Annual HoverCup Championship, to defend her title as victor, and to secure her second HoverCup in the most dangerous sport on the planet. Convinced that Rayna’s rookie year victory was only beginner’s luck, Draven is determined to show his saucy little minx of an adversary exactly who is boss. As they're about to hover back out onto the racetrack, they make a private wager. If Rayna wins, Draven takes a season off. If Draven wins, he'll have Rayna at his mercy for an entire week. Rayna has no intention of letting Draven outdistance her, or use her for his plaything. She may only have a four second head start, but for her... it's a lifetime. “L.R. Barrett-Durham switches gears from fantasy to sci-fi adventure with deceptive ease. Her romantic heroes continue to ring true, yet still take us by surprise. Racing Destiny is a stellar achievement.” -- Martin Powell, author of The Halloween Legion™

Monday, August 14, 2017

We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

You know that satisfied feeling you have after reading a book that just pulled you right in? That was me when I finished readingWe are the Ants. There were so many moments where the situation, or the author's way with words just pulled me in and held me close. I'm not a teenage boy, being raised by a single mom. My boyfriend didn't commit suicide. I'm not having a rough time at school. My brother and his girlfriend aren't expecting a baby. My grandmother isn't losing her memories. I'm not periodically being abducted by aliens. It's not up to me to save the world. But dammit-- I was right there with Henry, every step of the way.

And lest you think I'm kidding about the way I got sucked into the words on the page, try this one on for size:
 "Dreams are hopeful because they exist as pure possibility. Unlike memories, which are fossils, long dead and buried deep."

I'm definitely going to look for more by this author.

From the publisher:
There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

West of the Moon by Margi Preus (2014)

I really enjoyed this book. It's one I found on a book exchange shelf, and consider myself lucky to have done so. It's a wonderful blend of story, myth, and folk-lore, weaving the three elements together pretty seamlessly. It's written for the younger set, but be forewarned that the bogeyman is real, and there could be some scary, which also has plusses for many. But the best part? At the end of the book, is an author's note, explaining that the idea from the story, and various bits and bobs within, came from a diary kept by her great-great-grandmother. How cool is that? Preus includes more notes from the diary, a photo of her great-great-grands, as well as some sketches. There's also a section with some further information on elements in the story, a glossary, and bibliography. My bookish heart is happy.

From the publisher:
Astri is a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America. After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.

Brief thoughts on Into The Water, by Paula Hawkins

Well, Paula Hawkins can write. This is the second of her books I've read and while in didn't grab me by the throat and not let go the way her first did, it was still engaging. (The first was The Girl on the Train; I didn't see the movie.) The story was told from multiple points of view, which, for me, was a bit cumbersome, because I find it less easy to flip back to review who is who on an e-book than in a book-book. Still, it told its tale well enough, even if perhaps a tad transparent at times.

From the publisher:
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Saga of Medical IDs and Fitness Trackers

I have an allergy to natural rubber/latex.* While this comes as no surprise to many, it just might come as a surprise should I be somewhere, with a medical need, and unable to speak. For years, I wore an ID bracelet associated with one of the larger alert systems. It briefly told my medical condition, and then gave a phone number to be called to get more extensive information. The bracelet was clunky and stark, a big red Staff of Asclepius, and though it wasn't as obvious to others as to me, I always felt that it was some sort of a brand, labeling me as a health failure. I remember the joy I had when my husband, for a birthday gift, got me a smaller, rather pretty bracelet that fit my wrist better. While it was still from the medical alert company, it worked well with jewelry, when I wished to add something else to my wrist. But someone still had to call a number to get the health information needed, should I not be able to supply it. Plus, I was charged a yearly fee for the privilege of having my private information stored with the company. We eventually found another medical alert bracelet that was again non-clunky, made of silver (a metal I wear a lot in jewelry) and had the back engraved the back with my allergies. I've worn it many years. The engraving is wearing down a bit, now.

At some point, I learned about a company called Road ID. They make a product that is geared toward runners and bikers, should they become incapacitated out on the road. It is a superb medical alert tool. My Road ID had my name, my allergies, and my emergency contacts-- no need to call some company. The band could be changed to different colors, and though it was not recommended necessarily by the company, I often slipped the tag onto my watch for an alternative to a silicone. Wearing it gave me confidence to walk more on my own, knowing that should something "not good" happen, my needs and next of kin could be found. Even better, I could wear it swimming, an activity I love and was eager to resume.

From top: Road ID (wrist slim) , Buddha's head, Spire, Generic Medical Alert

About the same time I found Road ID, I began delving into the world of fitness tracker. My first was a simple Fitbit Zip, which I loved, because it told me my steps, and was much easier than the pedometers I'd tried. Eventually, my guys got me a Spire, which is good for someone who has a respiratory condition. Spire has served me well. Mine was one of the original devices when the company started, and they recently upgraded me to a newer model. It's a really cool instrument for monitoring activity, breathing, tension, focus, calm, etc. I am very happy with mine for those reasons.

Things change, or maybe they progress, or expand. While my spire and Road ID worked in combo, I also needed to monitor my heart rate. (At last check, Spire was working on this, but it had not yet been added to the devices bag of tricks). I decided to try the FitBit Alta HR. It tracks heart rate, steps, can give visual feedback for those things to me from my wrist, phone, or computer. (Yay!) It comes in a bunch of pretty colors as well as metal bands for a dressier look, all easily interchangeable. (Another yay!) It doesn't contain latex. (This one gets an Alleluia!) And, Road ID makes an ID that fits it specifically. (They have a whole link to IDs for wearable devices on their webpage.)


Fitbit Alta HR with Road ID in place

My Road ID for my Alta HR arrived today. And yes, I am a happy gal.






* other stuff too, but the latex allergy is why I started wearing an ID bracelet

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante's Naples to Hammett's San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World by New York Times

What a stupendous collection of columns from the New York Times Travel section! It's a literary tour around the world. The first thing I did was to peruse the table of contents to see which of the books I had read. Some of my favorites are there, so it was an added delight to enrich my impressions with more details of location, author, and story. Some of the columns I'd read in the Times, other were new to me. Additional bonus? I was able to add a couple of books to my "want to read" list.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books, the publisher, and the travel writers and editors of the New York Times for providing me with such marvelous armchair traveling.

From the Publisher:
Before Nick Carraway was drawn into Daisy and Gatsby s sparkling, champagne-fueled world in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald vacationed in the French Riviera, where a small green lighthouse winked at ships on the horizon. Before the nameless lovers began their illicit affair in The Lover, Marguerite Duras embarked upon her own scandalous relationship amidst the urban streets of Saigon. And before readers were terrified by a tentacled dragon-man called Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft was enthralled by the Industrial Trust tower-- the 26-story skyscraper that makes up the skyline of Providence, Rhode Island. 
Based on the popular New York Times travel column, Footsteps is an anthology of literary pilgrimages, exploring the geographic muses behind some of history's greatest writers. From the "dangerous, dirty and seductive" streets of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante's famous Neapolitan novels, to the "stone arches, creaky oaken doors, and riverside paths" of Oxford, the backdrop for Alice's adventures in Wonderland, Footsteps takes a fresh approach to literary tourism, appealing to readers and travel enthusiasts alike."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Small Admissions by Amy Poppel

Took me a little longer than usual to get into the story of this book, but I'm glad I stuck it out. Some moments of amusement and also insight, such as the picture below from about 3/4 through the book:

"At every meal in Deutschland they ask if you want your water flat or "mit gas."  You, my dear, are flat. Kate has gas. We need both kinds. We need loan analysts as well as carbonated people who jazz around. the bubbles may look out of control, but ultimately they know in which direction they're going."

I like to believe  I'm the latter type.

From the publisher:
One admission can change your life...forever.

When ambitious grad student Kate Pearson’s handsome French “almost fiancé” ditches her, she definitely does not roll with the punches, despite the best efforts of family and friends. It seems that nothing will get Kate out of pajamas and back into the world.

Miraculously, one cringe-worthy job interview leads to a position in the admissions department at the revered Hudson Day School. Kate’s instantly thrown into a highly competitive and occasionally absurd culture, where she interviews all types of children: suitable, wildly unsuitable, charming, loathsome, ingratiating, or spoiled beyond all measure. And then there are the Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

As Kate begins to learn there’s no room for self-pity or nonsense during the height of admissions season or life itself, her sister and friends find themselves keeping secrets, dropping bombshells, and arguing with each other about how to keep Kate on her feet. Meanwhile, Kate seems to be doing very nicely, thank you, and is even beginning to find out that her broken heart is very much on the mend. Welcome to the world of Small Admissions.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel by Hannah Tinti

I'm remiss in writing my thoughts on this book. Let me say, though, that it is a remarkable tale, one that kept me reading well past the time I like to go to sleep. Samuel Hawley's past is told through the 12 bullets he's taken over the course of his life. He's a man who has done some things perhaps he shouldn't have. He's also a father, dedicated to keeping his daughter Loo, who he has raised by him for as long as she can remember. Told in alternating segments until past and present collide, and the reader is on pins and needles, waiting for that last bullet.

Favorite quote? "The past is like a shadow, always trying to catch up."Hawley to Loo, p 340

Friday, July 21, 2017

Passing Strange

I admit it. The cover of this book is what drew me in. Little did I know it would play a pivotal role in the story. It is absolutely haunting, beautiful, and alluring. Kudos to Gregory Manchess for the art and Christine Foltzer for the design. I didn't realize, when I snapped it off the shelf that the book would take place in a city I love, nor that it was written by an author I've read, or published by one of my favorite houses. These surprises, plus learning that Klages has written before of a magic-infused San Francisco, and will seek out more on this.

But to the book: the story is primarily set in the 1940's, and is a beautiful love story. In today's world, San Francisco is a stronghold for the LGBTQ community. In that time, though, queer life was forced even more underground. (I'd never heard of the 3 piece rule, for instance, though the internet tells me it was still being used, even in this century.) The story, which involves everything from art, to cross dressed torch singers, to Chinatown, held my attention. That there was magic thrown in, also helped, but to be honest, the magic was more of a bookend plot device than a true element of the story. The real magic was the love these friends had for each other, lasting decades, and the love between an artist and a singer in a long ago San Francisco.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Woman in the Photo

When I was a kid, my dad was offered a position in Johnstown, but turned it down, despite a good salary, because, to him, Johnstown meant "flood". This was in the 1960's. The flood was May 1889, and though it was associated with heavy rains, the cause was completely man-made. Still, Daddy couldn't move past the cultural memory and turned the job down. 

I read this book simply to learn more about the flood. The story (or rather both stories, because there's a past and a present one) was incidental. I like the historical photographs that were included as well as refreshing myself on Clara Barton. What a fascinating image to think of the Johnstowners looking up into the mountain sky, and seeing sailboats there from the killer lake that rested behind the South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Mission Walker: I was given three months to live by Edie Littlefield Sundby

It's a funny thing about courage-- it has a malleable nature, and can be applied equally to the mother who lifts a car off of her child or the soldier who who risks his life to save the rest of his unit from enemy fire. Courage is the woman who helped get 2500 Jewish children safe from Nazi-held Poland in WWII, or the 17 year old girl, lone survivor of a plane crash in the wilds of Peru, who followed creeks and rivers, past the piranhas and crocodiles, to get back to civilization. Courage is countless moments in human survival and endurance, against great odds, and incredible hardship. Courage is the fight against disease, and a terminal diagnosis to hold onto your life.  Courage is Edie Littlefield Sundby.

Imagine yourself a strong, vibrant, intelligent woman, physically fit, an avid walker, and practitioner of yoga. You are 55, and have just returned from volunteer work in India with one of your daughters. The abdominal difficulties you experienced while there could easily be attributed to the change in diet, but they persist at home. It is then you discover you have stage 4 cancer of the gall bladder. The prognosis is grim. But, you are Edie Littlefield Sundby, and you are determined to fight, determined to live.

The Mission Walker is Edie's story, told in her own focused voice. Edie guides the reader through the early days of her diagnosis, into the maze of medical treatment, in which, in her determination not to let cancer claim her quickly, she blazed new trails. She blazed past the predicted three month survival. She kept seeking new options, holding fast to her faith and to her family; through multiple chemotherapy rounds, surgeries, through fighting tumors in different parts of her body, and fighting the side effects of the treatments to save her. And then, in remission and in gratitude, she decided to try to walk the California Mission Trail, grateful, thankful to be alive, hoping to light a candle at each of the 21 missions along the way, and thanking God with every step. Edie recounts the amazing journey of following the bells, not knowing how far she would go, leaving that to God, but determined to try.

Yet there's more to The Mission Walker. Edie was determined to walk the portion of El Camino Real that stretched into Mexico, starting from its beginning in Loreto. The mission trail there was not maintained like the one in California; the journey would be very different and very difficult. As she made her plans for this trek, two years after the start of her first walk, her cancer came back. In a three month window between a repeat scan after radiation and  surgery, armed with all the information she could find, a well-crafted trail kit, determination, and faith, Edie began the walk that would complete her trek of the mission trail. It's an incredible story, an eye opening journey, also faith filled, but additionally a story of strength of every sort. It is just one more example of Edie's courage.

I have to add a disclaimer here: I know Edie. We met in 2012, and though we only spent one day together, it was a joyful one, celebrating the milestones of our children with our families. Edie and I didn't speak much that day. I knew a little of her story, but now realize where in that incredible fight she was. I was preoccupied, fighting my own medical diagnosis, focused more on the precautions I need to take daily to keep safe than on another's needs (which is a little embarrassing to admit, as I am a nurse, so my career has been focused on helping others with their health.) In the intervening years since we met, I followed her following the bells, but still didn't have a real grasp of the scope of her journey. It took this remarkable memoir to bring the journey, the strength of faith and character needed, into focus. Walk on, Edie. You walk strong. You walk with God. Thank you for letting us walk with you.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The meeting (redux)

I posted a picture of my mom and dad, the weekend they met 80 years ago next week, on this, the 8th remembrance of her passing. The picture seemed to have struck a cord with a lot of folks, so I am reposting (from my old blog) this account (approved by my mom when she read it) which was originally posted July 6 2005.

It was 1937.  July 4th weekend, Mount Freedom (New Jersey, I think). A resort of sorts. She was 16.  He was 18.

She was there with her brother and his friends as a thank-you for helping out in his office while his assistant was on vacation.

He was there with his buddies, Harold and Phil, part of an irrepressible boyhood trio that stayed friends to the end of their days.

She was watching some boys play ping-pong.  Her brother asked if she wanted to go along to watch some tennis.  "No", she said.  "I'm going to stay here and beat this boy at ping pong."

They played.  The ball bounced from side to side.  Quips and laughter also bounced between them.  The game ended.  I never learned who won.

She joined her brother for lunch.

He found his buddies.  Years later Harold told her that he pointed her out to his friends at lunch.  "Which one?", asked Harold.

"That one", he replied and pointed to her as she walked away with her brother.

"Ah," said Harold.  "The girl with the resonant buttocks."

It must have been quite a walk she had when she was young.

Later that day, she went swimming.  Suddenly, he popped up in front of her in the pool.  He'd done a stealth approach, swimming up underwater, to surprise her.  They spent the afternoon together, but he didn't show up at the dance that was held that night.  There is a picture of him with another girl he knew from that weekend.  Nearly 70 years later, she recalls that he never told her where he was that night and why he didn't come to the dance, but she suspects it had to do with the other girl.

The next morning she packed up to go home to Brighton Beach.  While her brother was checking out, she stood alone.  He came and joined her and asked if he could call her.  She gave him her phone number.  She was 16.  He was 18.  When he died, 44 years later, that scrap of paper with her phone number was still in his wallet.  "I still have it somewhere", she muses.

He did call.  And took the train forever and  a day from The Bronx to Brighton Beach.  They walked with friends along the boardwalk.  As they strolled, they met her father and uncle, coming back from their morning walk.  It was the only time he met her father.

He wrote her letters.  Beautiful letters.  A love poem that was a parody of The Raven.  She saved it for years, but then got mad at him one time and threw all his letters out.

"Are you sure you want to do that?", her younger brother asked.

"Yes!", she replied vehemently.

"You may marry him some day." her brother said.

"Never!" was her response.

Her brother retrieved the love letters from the trash and copied them in his own hand.  Sent them to the girl he would marry--who once confided to her that Her younger brother was such a good writer and a poet.  Did She know that  Her brother written a love poem based on The Raven?

She was furious.  "It was good stuff." her brother told Her.  "And you didn't want it.  Why should it go to waste?"

Their second date, they met at Cousin Ethel's house rather than him having to make the long train trip out.  And their third date, too.  After that, she knew him well enough to meet him in the city.  They dated on and off.  She went to College--Brooklyn College.  He took time off between college and starting Medical school to go to Albany.  He asked her to meet him at the train to see him off.  His whole family was there.  It was the only time she met his father.  "If I'd have known his family was going to be there, I wouldn't have gone!", she now confesses.

She was 16, he was 18.  They dated on and off, and she would get mad at him and tell him to go away.  He was too fresh.  But he always came back.  One night her aunt complained to her mother that she was sitting out on the stoop too late in the night with that boy.

"Mama," she said.  "Do you know what we were talking about?  We were discussing the dorsal dissection of a cat."

She'd send him packing.  He'd come back.  Other boys wooed her.  They didn't win her.  For, suddenly, one day, she realized she loved him dearly.  And couldn't live her life without him.  When he'd hear her tell the story, he'd smile.  He knew, you see.  He knew from that first day.  When she was 16 and he was 18.

Pictures from the Mt Freedom Weekend. She made the sundress she was wearing. He probably threw the game to talk to her some more













Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan

Exquisitely written, but for me, exquisitely unsettling. Goodnight Boy is the story of JC, who was separated from his family at a young age, separated from life as he knew it when the earthquake shook his world in Haiti. He comes to the US as the adoptive (sort of) child of an American couple, whose own world was shook, and destroyed, not by an earthquake, but by the happenstances of life.

Told in flashbacks, and current musings, by JC to his Dog (named Boy) as they are locked together in a kennel by JC's adoptive father, the story unfolds in stops and starts, the writing varied on the pages.  It is haunting, it is heartbreaking, and in it's own way, it is beautiful.

Thank you to the publisher and to librarything for sending me this copy.

From the publisher:
A tale of two very different worlds, both shattered by the loss of loved ones. Tragic, comic and full of hope, thanks to a dog called Boy.
The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family, the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.
When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.

Just Kids from the Bronx: Telling It the Way It Was: An Oral History by Arlene Alda

My dad grew up in the Bronx, initially on Hoe Ave then later in Grand Ave. He was a child star on vaudeville, and later in the silent movies. Played stickball on the street, and broke his leg one day when he slipped because he was wearing new leather shoes. Went to Townsend, and graduated City College at the ripe old age of 14. In 1932, when he went for his interview for Medical School, he looked so young that the dean at Long Island School of Medicine told him to "come back when you're wearing long pants." He did. He also fell in love with a girl from another country, one called "Brooklyn".  He was afraid to tell his folks he was dating a girl from so far away, and when he got home late from seeing her safely home, would to tell them he'd fallen asleep on the subway, and missed is stop. Most of my memories from childhood visits to New York center on the more boisterous Brooklyn clan. My father's family was wounded, and we spent much less time there. I've been going through old papers of my dad's and wanted to find out more about his world, so picked up this book.

It's a good collection of oral histories, progressing from people born in my father's era to the 1990's. I was more drawn to the earlier ones, and wished my dad, who died in 1981, could have been around to contribute. I'd probably read anything that included excerpts from Carl Reiner, Mary Higgins Clark, Jules Feiffer, andNeil degrasse Tyson, though.

Favorite quote: This is my life. Art chooses you. You don't choose art. You become possessed. This is my commitment and I've never deviated from that. Milton Glaser in "Just Kids from the Bronx: Telling It the Way it Was, An Oral History: By Arlene Alda

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) by Rachel Caine

Oh joy! A new series that, if it continues in the vein of the first book, may be fun to read.  Set in an alternative history of our world, Ink and Bone depicts a world where there is a central library (with satellite sister libraries all over the world.) It is there where all the books are housed. Forget your home libraries, the joy of browsing a musty bookshop, or running your hands along the spines of a collection of your favorite tomes. Possession of a book outside the library is illegal. However, the Great Library, through harnessed magic, has been able to create codexes (think e-readers with the ability to connect to any book, anywhere, which is what folks use for reading. Personal journals are allowed, but at the death of the writer, they are swallowed into the collection of the library. There are those that oppose the Library's power, and those that believe books can and should be shared with the people. Both, the Great Library views as heretical and must be stopped at all costs.

Our hero, Jess, is the son of a book smuggler. It's been his family's trade for generations. He loves books, but not the stealing, hiding, illegal aspects of the family business. Jess is able to win a coveted spot to become a candidate for a spot in the library's service. Though his family views this as a unique opportunity to have a spy and book thief within the system, Jess finds he is pulled many ways, both by his family and by the friends he makes. My writeup sounds boring, but the book has many tangled loyalties and situations, moving things along.

I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series, as I digest the reverse debate of our own world-- where books could destroy a system of the equivalent of ebooks rather than debating if  ebooks destroying books.

Many thanks to Blogging for Books, and to the publisher, for sending along a copy to me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Courage, Caring, Laughter, Love

Eight years ago today, an essay I wrote was published in the Charleston newspaper. It's not that I remembered that specifically, but thanks to the wonders of social media, I received a reminder this morning and a link to the essay. Only, when I followed the link, the article was gone. Apparently, the Charleston Post Courier thought it too hard, in this digital age, to maintain all those digital files, so retired some, including this particular article, about my mother. Luckily, I still have a copy of it, and dug it up to re-read. Their title was Memories of a Life Still Lived.

Courage, Caring, Laughter, Love: A Remarkable Journey
Amy Nadel Romanczuk

I am a stowaway on a remarkable journey. The main traveller is my mother, Ruthe Nadel, born 87 years ago on New York's East Side. In her four score and seven years, she has done both remarkable and ordinary things. But she did them all with true joy and immersed in love for the world. Whether it was being teaching assistant to Abraham Maslow (yep, the fellow of the Hierarchy of Needs theory in Psych 101) or discussing Jane Austen, she has a style all her own. She’s loved one man, raised 3 children (10 dogs, 5 birds, a few dozen guinea pigs and a assorted other critters), adored her grandchildren and great-grands. She has won hearts around the world with her spirit, courage and humor. She did all this while almost completely deaf from young adulthood, and while living with Multiple Sclerosis for nearly 50 years. For the past year, breast cancer has also been in the health mix.

Our "Bumma" (the nickname given to her by our son) sailed through initial treatment and surgery under the wonderful care of MUSC’s Breast Cancer team. In March, Bumma had a sudden, vicious recurrence. Because of the extensive scope of the disease, she opted for palliative treatment. She told me she'd had a good life, but that she had only one regret: “When the inevitable comes, I am sorry I will not be around to read the letters people send you about me.”

I looked at this tiny woman with the enormous heart, and thought “I can do that for you. And you don't have to be gone for me to do it. It can happen now.” With the help of my brothers, we have reached out to people she has known over her lifetime, inviting them to send a thought, wish, memory or whatever, to her now, before she's gone from us. What started out as a whim has turned into a life affirming, joyful celebration for and of our mother.

Emails started coming in immediately, followed by cards and letters. Friends worldwide sent care packages, stuffed animals, handmade gifts, photographs, drawings, poems, musical recordings. She received a beautiful comfort afghan from the nonprofit HeartMade Blessings. There is even a site online where a candle can be lit for her. As people shared their hearts with her, she shared their responses with us.

Our childhood friends recalled coming to our house just to look at her, because she was both beautiful and she talked to them, never down to them. Or how she demonstrated making a french twist, then shook her hair down like the proverbial librarian throwing off her bun and glasses and letting her inner tigress loose.

She showed one child to do wheelies in his wheelchair by demonstrating in hers. A busy executive remembered she helped him learn to take time from his urgent work priorities to cherish the here and now. Jazz greats at the Stanford Jazz Workshop would tumble like puppies in their eagerness to be in her company. The image of her zipping around on her mobile scooter, orange flag waving on the back, is a memory for many.

She has a huge following of people online, especially at www.bookcrossing.com, a book-lover's website she joined at the young age of 82. Her candor and unique style are adored around the world. She is a sweetheart: strong willed, outspoken, loving and generous. A true “oner”.

Our family is a family of storytellers. We thought we knew our history pretty well, but have been astonished to find so many acts of kindness attributed to Bumma. This experience has opened avenues to explore and learn, new stories for the grandchildren to pass on to their children, someday, about a remarkable woman. Our days are extra poignant as we learn more about this woman we love through the lives she's touched. And it has meant an enormous amount to her, to see that she has indeed helped lives and made a difference in this world. She and I made a pact in March: we would face this with Courage, Caring, Laughter and Love. She's kept her part of the bargain. I’m trying but am sometimes blinded by bittersweet tears.

I encourage others to do this same project with your own loved one, should the opportunity arise. Help show the wonder of how they have made a difference on this planet. One need not be famous to be extraordinary. I have learned that, and so much more, from one little woman I am honored to have as my mother.
Ruthe Nadel,on the way back from first Radiation Therapy 2009


Amy Romanczuk is a retired pediatric nurse, active BookCrosser , blogger and pysanky artist here in Charleston, SC. She, her husband and son, have shared a home with their beloved Bumma for the past 20 years.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

An Artist's View

The following post was prepared at the request of the JordanCon Blog before this year's Art Show. It will be shared at some point to the JordanCon family via the blog, but I thought maybe it should be shared more generally as well, particularly after several recent discussions on art, folk art, and inspirations.

Art and music, color and sound, have been a huge part in my life since childhood. I have a bit of synesthesia, where one sense triggers a response in another. For me, colors and patterns trigger music and vice versa. A print of Van Gogh's Starry Night hung in my childhood bedroom, and I used to stare at it, transfixed by the sounds that the colors and brush strokes created in my head. It wasn't until years later, singing in a choir, that I realized, to me, Starry Night looks the way Mozart's Ave Verum sounds. Patterns and repetition, colors and sound all work through me when I create. I have found inspiration in the patterns around me, both in nature and in human creations. For as long as I can remember, I've had a physical need to find a way to express the designs that filter through my brain, and have done so using a multitude of mediums over the years.


The means of creative expression I may be most known for comes from the folk art of pysanky, the intricately decorated eggs often displayed at Easter-time. Pysanky (a word derived from the Ukrainian word “to write”) are created using a wax-and-dye resist process similar to batik, though on eggshell instead of cloth. Though my family comes from Ukraine, writing pysanky was not part of my cultural heritage, although it was for my husband Alan's family. I had long loved the patterns and intricacy of the designs but figured I was incapable of creating such beauty. With encouragement from a Master pysanky artist, I picked up the kistka (the tool used to apply the wax) in my 40's, and have yet to stop. Writing pysanky is a form of meditation for me, the meanings behind the symbols and the music in my head becoming a sort of prayer as I work on each egg. Writing pysanky was a way for me to relieve stress after working long days with disabled children and their families as a clinical nurse specialist. And when I became ill myself, it was a huge part of my healing and acceptance of the changes one takes on with chronic illness. I only began to feel comfortable with the title “artist” after I had several of my pysanky accepted into the collection of the Kolomyia Museum in Ukraine. To this day, I am more likely to describe myself as a folk-artist.


Taking the pysanky art from eggshell to paper and ultimately to interactive art such as Patterns of the Wheel, a coloring book based on The Wheel of Time (Tor, 2016), is entirely due to the JordanCon family. Without the encouragement, enthusiasm, and a bit of nagging, I'd still be only working with eggshells. My art, in all its forms, reflects the wabi-sabi concept of Japanese art (before I became a nurse, I received a degree in history, anthropology, and Asian studies, and embraced some of the cultural ideas I encountered, particularly from the Far East). These ideas reinforce the folk vs formal aspect of my art. I also incorporate aspects from some of my favorite artists: the Impressionists, whose paintings color my memories from childhood visits to museums; Utagawa Hiroshige's marvelous prints and drawings; Warli, Kalamkari, Mehndi, miniatures, and even the painted trucks of India; indigenous creations from all over the world; street art, local works, and artistic friends. Lately, the art of Nigerian-born Victor Ekpuk, both for his designs, and for his exploration of nsibidi (a traditional pictorial writing of his homeland) has been calling me.  The similarities between two arts using pictorial language and a transient format (chalk/eggshell) is a thrilling find, as are his artistic talents.


Wheel of Time-inspired art ranges from elegant, elaborate fantasy creations to simple stick figures. Individual taste and perspective guide the way artists approach their craft and the way in which viewers assess the result. One can glory in the art of Michelangelo, whose realistic depictions of the human form captured every nuance precisely, yet also delight in Marc Chagall, whose folk-art style featured casually drawn people and cows seen floating in colorful skies. One artist was a genius whose technical skills were flawless; the other recreated the art of commoners for a totally different purpose and effect. Luckily for me, there is room among the extremely talented Official Wheel of Time artists for a folk artist to explore the world Robert Jordan created. One of my most treasured memories is talking about pysanky with Jim Rigney, and his fascination with the symbols and language of pysanky. His interest in both the history and the art-form, and Harriet's encouragement, is what led to my becoming one of the licensed Wheel of Time artists. I am still astonished and grateful that my folk-art is in the company of such amazing art and artists.
Pysanky and Pysanky-inspired designs artist Amy Romanczuk, with a guitar she hand-decorated.




Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner--And Make-Ahead Lunches, Too by Editors of Food52

Who needs a book about salads? I do!
Salads have come a long way from that hunk of iceberg lettuce with mayonnaise (or, shudder, Miracle Whip Salad Dressing) of my childhood. And this is the perfect season to get some salad inspirations-- which is what this book is for me: inspiration. I look at the recipes and the ingredients, and it helps me regroup my mind to plan a meal. I can't say that I've followed a recipe exactly, but I've used them as launching points, substituting when I don't have something or someone is allergic to an item, skipping things neither of us enjoy, adding in some other favorites. This is a lovely collection of ideas for using leafy greens, fruits, veggies, proteins, grains, and more. These are salads with biceps (I'd say guts, but that implies heaviness and extras you don't want to carry) strength to carry a meal but also the ability to take a minor role in a different menu.

Bottom line, for me is this is good inspiration for when I can't think of what to do with what's on hand. Thank you Blogging for Books and the wonderful Food52 for sharing this with me. Happy table; happy tummies.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Because You're Mine by Colleen Coble

Oh please. Not only was this transparent from the get-go, but ridiculous in many aspects of premise. I read it only because it was supposedly set in Charleston and a nearby plantation. I'll give the author credit for getting Hibernian Hall as a conceivable location for an Irish performance, though it's not a theater, and she didn't have John Corless mentioned.  She also got that there can be blackwater within 20 miles of Charleston, but not much else realistic about the setting of the "decaying mansion" where Alanna and her new husband reside. My eyeballing was so evident as I was reading the book, that my husband, sitting across the room from me, thought I might be having seizures. I think I actually slammed the book shut when she had a characterstuff his face full of "bennes" (meaning benne cookies, or benne wafers) and come from the kitchen holding two more. The problem is "bennes" are sesame seeds and distinctly different from benne wafers. And let's not even get into some of the medical stuff that happens... full body burns healed completely, enough for final facial reconstruction with no scarring within 6 months? Knife wounds and other miraculous healings? Even a willing suspension of disbelief and a deep faith in powers beyond human couldn't sustain me.

I recognize that the author has many, many books to her credit, but now realize there's a decided difference between a USA Today best selling author and a New York Times bestselling author. 

PS Don't feed alligators marshmallows.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Beartown by Fredrick Backman

I've heard people say that this is a departure from Fredrik Backman's norm, but I disagree, somewhat. Sure it doesn't have the quirky humor of A Man Called Ove,  the magical realism of My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, the hope of Britt Marie was Here, but it has the depth, compassion, and the compelling story found in all his books. This, more than all his other novels (and the novella), pushes the setting into a character, for Beartown interacts with all the other characters in unique and memorable ways. If you're looking for Ove, this isn't the place, but if you want a really fine read, pick this up-- and remember, your actions, both good and wicked, created repercussions not just in your life but in the world.

From the Publisher:
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.