01 September 2017

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge

We vacationed in August and I had a very good month of reading!

I always tell people that I rarely reread books, but I've been rereading a lot recently, and so my happiness is to be expected, since I'm rereading books that I previously enjoyed. You'll see my reviews reflect the weight of most of these being old favorites.

I read 7 books; 4 were rereads, 3 were new to me.

I’ll post my reviews separately.

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale
by Lynda Rutledge

A reliable friend recommended this book to me when I was seeking a humorous book to read. I continued to wonder why for quite a long time. Stick with it; there is a punch line.

Set in Texas on New Year's Eve of 1999, this book explores the long-standing broken relationship between a mother and daughter. Relationships are mended, and restarted as a mysterious set of events unravels alongside the mind of the sundowning matriarch of the Bass family.
I like to imagine books as movies, and I enjoy playing casting director. For this cast of
characters I would pick Diane Lane to play Claudia Darling, Dulé Hill as John Jasper Johnson, and Dina Spybey-Waters as Bobbie Ann Blankenship. Faith Darling would obviously be played by Cloris Leachman.
A friend just told me that this IS being made into a movie; I can't wait to see it.

When our oldest son was a junior in high school, he took English Literature AP. It wasn't his favorite subject, by far...in fact it may have been his least favorite. Hubs and I, however, felt he needed to gain the discipline and growth which should be the side effects of taking the class. We've since changed our mind about this particular class. Our oldest two children have supported their argument that our high school's teacher of this class elevates her status as an AP teacher and revels in making her class hell for the kids, compared to the professors at our junior college. Hubs and I have attended curriculum nights at our high school, and just this week we concluded that we would pull our current junior out of the class because this teacher directly tells parents that her class is more important than any of the kids' other classes. Enough said. If a teacher has no compassion for her students, she shouldn't be teaching.

I should let my readers know that my fascination with books and words and editing has only been alive since adulthood. I was not a reader in school. One day, in high school, I remember it vividly...I was b.o.r.e.d. Algebra 2 or Trigonometry class; I'd finished my homework already, like the good girl that I was. I looked around to see what others were doing to prevent themselves from falling alseep. I saw that a few of the smart girls were reading books. They were reading books...for pleasure.

I had to get to the bottom of that.

I decided to look at the titles of the books and do a bit of my own research. The next time I was near a bookstore I popped in and bought myself my first paperback. I read it and actually enjoyed it. (It was V C Andrews' Flowers in the Attic.)

As an adult I began homeschooling our first two children when they were ages 2 and 3. Just before that I was inspired by a dear friend I am still close to. Tami was telling us about a book or books she'd been reading. I commented in disbelief that she could find the time to read as a mom who was also busy running her husband's business from their home. (She's gone on to do even greater things and continues to inspire me.)

Her reply to me was my inspiration to begin reading as an adult and also my inspiration for this blog:
"Ang...you find time for the things you love."

Since then I've been reading and loving it.

So...back to the point of this post.

What makes a good reader?

Our son's teacher asked them to read this:
Good Readers and Good Writers by Vladimir Nabokov

I want to discuss Nabokov's thoughts. I approach my discussion of his wise words with the fact that for the past few months I've been developing a particular belief or thesis of my own. "Why is good writing lauded and revered whereas good reading is ignored? Do not both have their virtues? Good writers can not exist without good readers."

I love that Nabokov sums up his response as being a sort of "Kindness to Authors". I have decided that as a reader it is easy to be negative about a person's writing. I think that writing, and no less~ reading~ are very personal endeavors. It's easy to be a critic. I try very hard to keep my blog positive. I post mostly positive reviews. I want to share what I feel are really great books. I want to discuss them at depth. I want to hear how they affected other readers.

 I previously had little appreciation for fiction. I considered it fluff; twaddle, as Charlotte Mason would have labeled it. In fact, my homeschooling is what changed that impression. The curriculum we mainly used, Sonlight, is based on literature; fiction, historically-based fiction, and non fiction. Those stories drew me in and created, for me, the ability to develop an appreciation for adult fiction. I like to think of them as stories for adults, for that is what they really are. Some days I just want to be lost in a good story. I want to suspend reality and all the natural laws that go with it. Nabokov says that preconceived notions are detrimental. I agree. Of course a book is about a particular main topic but it is also about so many more little things too. Nabokov points out that all writing creates a new world. I think this is so true, especially in fiction. I found that I did that very thing when I read The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. My Review of The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett I feel we should respect the fact that the world created by a writer doesn't have to follow the laws of real life. This is most true in fictional writing of course.

We are asked if we can ever rely on the image painted of a time or place in a piece of writing. All I can say is that from my experience living in England I am swayed to believe that Miss Austen, in particular, knew something about her subjects. Even if it wasn't everyone's reality it was her reality. It was life the way she saw it. Even while we were living there I could still see things that were obvious outgrowth of their social system and mores in the Victorian era. While I think we must be careful of believing that everything we read represents truth, especially historical fiction, I also think that we can discern some truths from it.

I love the way he compares the differences between geniuses and minor authors! A genius writer is able to create something someone else has never imagined; able to cause you to imagine a form of it too! I want to be the "happy reader" atop that mountain embracing the "master artist", together viewing the masterpiece!

Nabokov asks readers to pick from ten attributes the ones they believe make a good reader. I chose the exact ones he wanted his readers to choose. As I made the choices I tried to envision what my answers might have been if I were a young, inexperienced student, sitting in one of his lectures. I believe my life experiences and the fact that I read for pleasure and not from a sense of coercion enabled me to decide upon those attributes with a firmness I'd have not possessed back then. Today, even if he disagreed with me I'd have been able to substantiate my choices by backing them with clear and concise reasoning. As a reader I possess imagination. I enjoy trying to catch the author's vision. As far as memory is concerned, I regularly try to improve my memory. Since I own an ereader and use it for most of my reading I don't have to dog-ear the pages of my books or take copious hand-written notes; instead, I bookmark the passages that have great meaning to me and I type my notes in so that I may return to them later. My NOOK has an inherent dictionary. In fact, I am not that impressed with it. I have found many words that are not in the dictionary used by Barnes and Noble. I have voiced my concern over this issue, asking that they align with a more comprehensive dictionary. Artistic sense? I think I possess that attribute. I am certainly very left-brained but I still attempt paintings when the mood possess me, as well as trying to pull together a household atmosphere that, I hope, evokes one of comfort for my husband, our five children, myself, and occasional guests. I think artistic sense sort of goes hand in hand with having an imagination.

We are told that the first reading of a book is a process and that the brain is the only instrument we possess which can interpret it. Having lived in Europe and at the same time taking painting classes, as well as possessing a strong attachment to the Impressionists I feel that I tend to spend more evaluating a painting than he believes most first-time viewers do. Still, the amount of time it takes to digest a painting is far less than the amount of time it takes to ingest a written work!

Nabokov firmly believes that a book can make such an impression as to change the demeanor of a reader. If one is not changed by that which he reads, what then is the point I ask? I love that he asserts that a reader should use his imagination in his efforts to read, equal to that of the effort put forth by the writer. This is how I generally read. I take, at times, copious notes. I want to be able to refer to them and know what went through my mind upon reading meaningful passages. I find it incredibly interesting if different passages speak to me upon rereadings.

It is imperative to read in a manner that is both aloof and involved all at the same time, according to Nabokov. He wises for readers to read with a slight bent toward science while also possessing the imagination that is practically diametrically opposed. I feel that I do this most of the time. I used to struggle with watching films that involved time travel. I would sit and watch the film while inwardly arguing with myself about the impossibilities of the concept. (Case in point, the Back to the Future trilogy.) Upon reading The Time Traveler's Wife, however, I was so drawn into the world created by Audrey Niffenegger that I pushed myself to forget the impossibilities and live in the moment. No...if I am honest, I actually, probably did not even have to push myself that hard. Niffenegger drew me in so deeply that I found that I actually began to wonder...what if there really were a genetic disorder which could cause displacement in time! Yes. I became a believer. For a moment. That's all that is really necessary; even a brief reprieve from reality.

It is implied that the art of literature occurs when something unexpected in fact occurs. Deception, according to Nabokov, is the hook that draws us in. The character in the story can even take on a life of his own and be the one who appears to grab the attention of the reader.

I agree with Nabokov that a writer must possess three abilities, those of: storyteller, teacher, and enchanter with enchanter needing to be the strongest ability for genius to show through. Truth can be beheld but one can be mesmerized at the same time if the story is woven with just the right ingredients.

The ideas expressed by Nabokov ring expressly true with me. They resonate in my innermost being. Yes, as in many readers, there is that part of me that believes there is something that is supposed to be written by me. Sometimes I believe that it is my story of how one can manage to quite happily move a large family across an ocean. I would love to share the details of that in order to help others. Conversely to that, though, I am happy to be a good reader; the best I can be.
Colossians 3:23
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

28 October 2015

I'm sorry I've not been around here lately.

Our daughter Marlo is now 19. In 2011 she was diagnosed with a rare disorder, CRPS. She went into remission the falll of 2014, and her pain was manageable for about a year. 

October 2013 her pain sky-rocketed and she began having all sorts of crazy, seemingly-unrelated symptoms. Eventually I found answers. I requested testing be done by a particular lab; no one listened to me.

Fast-forward to last week...Marlo was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and Bartonella, a co-infection of Lyme. She is now on two antibiotics. Lyme and Bartonella often take months or years to eradicate; the longer one has had them, the longer it may take to heal.

We do not know what our insurance may or may not cover for her treatment. So far, in treating her pain disorder (CRPS) we have spent no less than $30,000 this year. 

If you would consider donating, it would bless us. If you can't donate, your prayers for healing are very much coveted.


02 March 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: a Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley 2.5 *Buy the book through Amazon Prime(Click here to view the book through Amazon Prime)

I have pretty much loved all of the previous six books in Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce book series. This seventh book fell flat, though.
Upon closing the book and going to sleep I was left thinking, "What? What just happened?” I could not reconcile how he had chosen to wrap up the story. I was bewildered by many points.

So, Flavia is thrown into life at a boarding school in Canada. Relationships among the girls never develop; neither do great antagonisms, though one would expect both. The Headmistress is never fully fleshed out either, I suppose in an attempt to keep up the mysteries of The Nide. But, here Flavia is to begin her training. Shouldn’t we learn something about the mysterious society? Wait a minute…shouldn’t FLAVIA at least learn something about it?

 I had difficulty understanding how three different people were involved in the dead woman’s untimely demise in two different and separate instances (at least that’s how I am understanding it). Are we to believe that no one smelled the body as it decayed? There was a murder. No one was up in arms over it. Are we expected to care about it?

Brazenose’s disappearance and her undercover return amongst her schoolmates and sister were perplexing to say the least and I still can’t figure out the reason for any of that. Are we to believe that her sister didn’t recognize her voice, her features; that no one I the busy boarding school ever happened upon her with her makeup removed?

Bradley didn't develop any of Flavia’s mother’s amazing history though he could have. A foray into her mother’s past would have given him the ability to weave an engaging story within a story. As it is, the torch was never really passed to Flavia. We are left with her feeling unusually insecure and with the thought that she will be returning to home in England. 

None of this fits with what I’ve come to expect from Bradley’s writing. I am disappointed.

31 December 2014

Here we are at the end of the year 2014.

Did you read any great books?

I may actually still finish one or two books tonight but here is my list for the year:

27 books, total

7 - 5.0*
4 - 4.5*
9 – 4.0*
7 - 3.5*
8 Memoirs
4 Adult
5 Non
4 Young Adult Fiction
1 Children’s
4 graphic novels

Findings: I really don’t like graphic novels. I still enjoy a well written Young Adult novel. I love memoirs.

January 2014

Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?, Billy Crystal 4.5* 

What's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life, Tim Conway 4.0*

February 2014

Cave Paintings to Picasso: The Inside Scoop on 50 Art Masterpieces,
Henry M Sayre, 5.0*

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel, Alan
Bradley, 4.5*

March 2014

Mouseton Abbey, Nick Page, 4.0*

April 2014

The Life and Times of Call the Midwife: The Official Companion to Season

One and Two, Heidi Thomas, 5.0*

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times,
Jennifer Worth, 5.0*

May 2014

Greetings from Nowhere, Barbara O’Connor, 4.0*

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth, 5.0

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End, Jennifer Worth,

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children), Ransom
Riggs, 4.0*

The Potty Mouth at the Table, Laurie Notaro, 3.5*

July 2014

Lessons from the Mountain, Mary McDonough, 4.5*

August 2014

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden: A Novel, Jonas
Jonasson, 4.0*

I Kill the Mockingbird, Paul Acampora, 4.0*

Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past,
Ransom Riggs, 4.0*

September 2014

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye, Robert Kirkman, 3.5*

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, 4.5*

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us, Robert Kirkman, 3.5*

The Walking Dead, Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars,Robert Kirkman, 3.5*

October 2014

The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart's Desire, Robert Kirkman, 3.5*

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes, 4.0*

November 2014

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford Novel (A Mitford Novel), Jan Karon, 4.0*

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir), May Van Wagenen, 5.0*

The Word Snoop, Ursula Dubosarsky, 3.5*

December 2014

Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, Jim Lovell, 5.0*

Who is Tom Ditto?, Danny Wallace, 3.5*

This was actually my second time reading Lovell's memoir. I read it with our 13 year old son over the course of a few years. His retention is remarkable so it is fine that we read from it only a couple times a month. I highly recommend it.

21 October 2014

The science of comprehension as it relates to reading actual books versus ebooks...

I just read an article about comprehension. A couple years ago I think I would have been skeptical of the findings. These days I am thinking that I agree with the article.

I do find that my vision pattern is not the same when I read an article on my iphone. I find that my reading is very "skippy". I don't track well. Why? My theory is that I am looking for "just the facts, Ma'am". I want instant gratification from online articles.

I haven't paid much attention to how I read an ebook on my Kindle or nook ereaders though. Lately, the books that I've been reading are from a favorite series or they are titles that I anticipate wanting to keep or wanting to lend and so I've been buying and reading actual printed books and not ebooks, for the most part.

I've also found that my brain power has ebbed a bit the past couple of years. I do not think it is a coincidence that I have read less the last couple years. We will choose not to pay heed to the fact that time rolls on and I have a birthday tomorrow. I'm sure age has nothing to do with it. 


What say you?

01 October 2014

Outlander (book 1) by Diana Gabaldon

I was aware of this series of books for a long time. I don't recall why I didn't begin reading them while we were living in England. So many of my friends have read them. 

The Starz network just began airing a television series portraying the events of the books. That got my attention. I knew I needed to read the books before watching the series. Time to get started!

I wanted to hurry up and begin so I bought the Kindle eBook and received an offer to buy the audiobook at a reduced price. I'm so very glad I bought the audio version. It was fantastic to hear the Scottish reader's accent and pronunciation as I read along. The ability to listen along whilst driving was a boon as I had many appointments this month. 

Claire is the main character of this series. The book opens by introducing us to her. She lives in England in 1943. She and her husband have spent the past five years apart, both serving in the war effort; him as a commander and her as a nurse. Finding themselves suddenly back together they head off on a getaway to get to know each other again. 

On the trip, her husband plans to continue some research of his family's history. One night the two of them venture off to secretly observe a midnight ritual at the stone henge in Craigh na Dun, Scotland. The next day Claire returns to the henge to gather some unusual flowers. As she does so she touches the main stone and is inexplicably transported though time. She ends up in 1743 and the story brings along Jamie Fraser. That's where things really become interesting.

I really enjoy a good story. This one has great depth; I can already tell that some seemingly small things that have happened in the book are going to turn out to have great significance later. 

I plan to continue reading this series, and watching the show. The filming of it is spectacular but the portrayal of the characters is even better. Caitriona Balfe plays Claire and Sam Heughan is Jamie. The chemistry between the two of them is spot on. (Parental Guidance recommended) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, available at Amazon

05 August 2014

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick van Dyke

Ahhhh...Dick van Dyke. He makes me swoon. Looks and laughter all packaged together. I find it interesting that Mary Tyler Moore is the celebrity crush of one of my brothers. 

Dick manages to tell his story without really telling tales for the most part. The things he does tell seem to be common knowledge, at least of certain people, if not myself. 

He starts from his earliest memories. I like a memoir that does that. It gives one the sense for how a life has changed over time. He grew up in the same general area where my dad grew up. His story carries on through the date of publishing, which was 2011. 

There is only one facet of his life that made me sad. He had an affair while still married to his first wife. He never exactly states that it was absolutely a wrong thing to do, either. I think he realizes that it was. I think he also must realize that he'd never have had his second (happier) marriage though, if things hadn't happened the way they did. Perhaps that is why he never comes out and says he regrets his actions exactly. 

Following the end of his book, I am aware that he has since married a makeup artist. She is many years his junior but they seem to be very happily married. I wish them many happy years together.

27 July 2014

Lessons from the Mountain by Mary McDonough

When I was a child our family often gathered to watch Hee Haw and The Waltons together. I've been watching The Waltons with a couple of our kids recently, thanks to Netflix. 

As for books, I love memoirs and autobiographies. After reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim, Mary McDonough's book Lessons from the Mountain came to my attention. 

The book happens to have reached me on two very different levels. The first, of course, has to do with the part of her life during which she played Erin Walton. The second has to do with her fight against Lupus. One of our children is fighting a neurological disorder, and  is struggling with some additional issues also. I was fascinated by both parts of the book. 

The Waltons' cast seems to have been a rare one that really got along as if they were family and loved each other. Mary grew up on the show. Fortunately, she avoided many of the typical pitfalls that many actors succumb to. 

I'm glad I read her book. I'm also glad to be watching the show again. We are in season three of nine. I'd like to visit the Walton's Mountain Museum someday: http://www.waltonmuseum.org/

02 December 2013

Are you looking for an eReader for yourself or someone else this Christmas?


I just saw this great deal pop up on my Facebook. It is the NOOK that includes the adjustable reading light. This eReader can, therefore, be used in sunny conditions or in darkness. Sounds like a winner to me though I haven't actually seen this version in person.

$49 is a great deal.
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