TIS Bookshelf

 

A fellow book geek and I have commented to one another that the piles of books by our beds continue to grow at an alarming rate. Good intentions.    Whenever I actually get around to finishing one of the five books I am reading right now – and have been reading over the past year and a half – I’ll tell you what I think.  Since I never got my brain back after having kids, I’ve broken them into two categories that you can find on the right:  Stuff you need your brain for and All the other stuff.  Feel free to send me your own comments, ideas or corrections.

 

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt

by Priscilla on April 4th, 2013

My brother (the Super Smarty one – oh, wait, that’s all five of my older brothers) describes himself as a denominational harlot when it comes to all things Protestant church.  He’s tried them all.  I  feel the same way when it comes to reading books except I’m going to use stronger language – I’m a Genre Whore.  That’s right.  I love most all literary genres, and I try them all out depending not always on my head but sometimes on my feelings at that moment whether it’s walking into a library or downloading an audiobook.

This week I was looking for a book with which to do life.

What do I mean by this?  I was looking for a book to be my companion as I worked at all the minuscule, mundane activities that make up the life of a mother who stays at home, but who is staring at  the bridge to Return to Work Land and ready to cross over again.  I wanted a book that provided companions for me as I washed the dishes, made the lunches, sorted the laundry, paid the bills, painted the bathroom, set out the bird feeders, walked the dog, vacuumed the stairs and readied the deck for painting.  In short, I was looking for friends to keep me company.

Beth Hoffman offered me those friends and more in her novel Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt.

Right off the bat the reader realizes that twelve year old Cee Cee has few things going for her.  1.) Her mother, a former Southern beauty queen, suffers from mental illness.  2.)  Her father can’t cope with this truth and escapes on business trips for long periods of time leaving Cee Cee to do the heaving lifting.  3.)  (And this is purely personal)  Cee Cee has the misfortune to live in Ohio.  I know, I know, my sweet Ohio friends, I love you.  I miss you.  I understand that you love your state, but four years of college there were enough for me.  Not that Indiana is Shangri La, but at least we have a winning basketball team…oh…wait a minute…well, we have Peyton Manning…wait….we have limestone.  Lots and lots of limestone that is pretty darn famous worldwide.

Cee Cee’s mother ‘s tragic death leads her father to shirk his parental responsibility, and he passes her onto a great aunt, Tootie, who resides in a glorious old home in Savannah, Georgia.  It is here that Cee Cee learns not only from Tootie, but from wise, old souled, Oletta, to take grief by its hand and walk with it into a new chapter of her life.  I think this is the truth I appreciated the most that Beth Hoffman shares through her characters’ words and actions.  Anyone who has experienced a shocking, tragic death learns that this is how grief must be dealt with.  It is not to be ignored. It is to be embraced and shaped into new steps leading to a new path to a different place we may not have expected, but that can be good nonetheless.

Humorous situations arise as Cee Cee spies on one neighbor, Violene with another neighbor Thelma Rae, giving her a new creative outlet to pursue with the camera Aunt Tootie presented her as a gift, but along with the humor comes reality. It is the South in the 60’s and racism rears its ugly head on more than one occasion – something a twelve year old from Ohio has never experienced first hand.

My only complaint – and it isn’t even a complaint even,  just an observation – is that the climax of the story which takes place at a garden party thrown in Cee Cee’s honor doesn’t really work for me.  The scene is resolved in a fashion that I find unbelievable, but I’m okay with that.  Partly because I’ve never written a book ,and I think drawing all things to a close must be one of the harder jobs an author must face, and partly because the two characters involved are both a little over the top ridiculous so maybe things just might unfold in the manner Ms. Hoffman allows them to.

If you are looking for a beach read or a book that provides and uplifting escape, I’d recommend this one.  If you’ve followed me for a while you know I have a group of ladies in my life that I refer to as My Oaks, and you also know that we  lost a dear member of our group along with her two beautiful children in a horrific tragedy.  Listening to this work made me think of all the wisdom we gained walking through that dark time together, and I wrote to them and told them about the book.  One group member wrote me back this note, Priscilla that happens to be one of my all time favorites. A few years ago I bought a dozen of them and gave as gifts !!!!!

Cee Cee Honeycutt is wise beyond her twelve years, and with the help of the older ladies around her she realizes she is beautiful, talented, smart and worthy of the love and friendship that is offered to her – a message I believe all women should be sharing with the young ladies in our lives.

Addendum:  Jenna Lamia, the reader of the audio version is brilliant.  She also read The Help among others.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

by Priscilla on February 9th, 2013

I can’t even remember why I picked this book up almost a year ago.  I think I was in an All Things Southern kind of mood, and Fannie Flagg never fails me. I didn’t want to read an simple story filled with mammies and good hearted white folks.  I wanted a lighter tale, but I still desired quality characters and real depth.  Baby Girl! delivered.

Like all books, the back cover is filled with glowing reviews.  People said, Satisfying…{Flagg’s} faith in the healing power of small towns and family are refreshing.  Reading the book, I couldn’t imagine why that quote was chosen to describe this work because it’s so much more than this somewhat flippant blurb.  Instead, Southern Living’s observation of Rich….intriguing…a cast and a place every bit as memorable and touching as those at her Whistle Stop Cafe…[Flagg] was put on this earth to write… hits the mark in its description.

The book centers around the rising star of Dena Nordstrom, a New York newswoman climbing the network ranks in the early 70’s.  Determined and focused, she doesn’t realize it, but she is lost.  She doesn’t realize it because she’s never stopped to ask herself some hard questions about who she is until she suffers a panic attack and finally deals with some buried memories with the help of a wheel chair bound, black female psychiatrist.  These memories lead her to unsuspecting places and almost unbelievable stories of her families’ history, and while difficult and disturbing, they also lead her to peace and complete connection to the seemingly simple people in her life who love her with a pure and unselfish love with no strings attached.

Flagg tells this story bouncing back between and forth between various decades and various viewpoints using characters whom you enjoy and despise, giggle with and cringe at, and she writes it all as if her endeavors were effortless.  I couldn’t agree more with Southern Living’s take on this one.  Flagg, indeed, was put on this earth the write.

It’s a book one can either sit and read large chunks of at a time or simply take in a few pages before falling asleep every night.  Either way, it’s a great read.

 

 

Two British Cozy Mystery Series I Like

by Priscilla on January 15th, 2013

I know, I know, I should write individual pieces on individual books, but I’ve got a mound of laundry staring down at me, a dog whining to be walked, groceries sitting on the countering staring at me in wonder as to why they aren’t in the frig yet and as I’m writing this, I’m staring out a large front window that looks as if an army of munchkins and their dogs have paraded past touching ever single glass pane like my favorite OCD detective, Adrian Monk.

So I’m not going to write individual pieces because, quite frankly, there are a lot of very good comments on these books at sites like Amazon and Good Reads.  I just want to acquaint you with them.

First of all, if you are looking for blood, and sex and suspense, these aren’t the books you are looking for. I’m talking about the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton who also penned the Hamish MacBeth Series as well as the Aunt Dimity Series.

I remember my friend and coworker, Hope, telling me before I had children that once she had kids, she just couldn’t stomach some TV crime series and movies.  At the time I didn’t understand, but then I had kids, and I don’t know what happened, but I now no longer care for some suspense and mystery writers I used to like.  I don’t think they have gotten worse, I’ve just changed my taste a little as a reader, and for now like a more kinder, gentler mystery, and I love all things British so  I found myself in the library a few years ago in the mystery section and discovered these two series and fell in love…or like.  I love Agatha Raisin.  I like Aunt Dimity.

I love Agatha because she is one old big hot mess.  She is not sexy.  She is not young. She is not all together.  But she hangs in there and figures out who the bad guy is all while trying to be sexy.  Trying to woo a man.  Trying to look younger.  Trying to keep it together.  She is professionally feisty and on her game but personally a train wreck, and I laugh out loud at some of the problems she creates for herself.  MC Beaton creates a great cast of characters around her who only bring out her strong personality even more – the kindly vicar’s wife who understands her and doesn’t judge, the vicar who can’t stand her and who does judge, the husband who becomes the ex husband who might become a husband again, her former assistant who shows up whenever there is an adventure to be had, but never amounts to much help, and all the various and sundry characters she adds to her Cotswold’s detective agency as the series continues.    The characters are what makes this a fun series in my view, and the murder mysteries are exciting enough to follow without all the description of blood and gore and human depravity.  Yes, yes, murder is the ultimate of human depravity, but when it’s solved by a woman who is always shoving herself into body shapers and dabbing on copious amounts of eye cream in order to look good while solving the murder, then it’s fun.

The premise of Aunt Dimity is a young lady, Lori,  from Chicago (I believe, I can’t remember and am too lazy to go look) finds herself the owner of a diary that belongs to her mother’s friend from England whom she has never met.  In fact, she didn’t know she ever existed.  She thought Aunt Dimity was a made up character that her mother invented for the purpose of rousing bedtime stories. One event leads to another, Lori meets a great guy and inherits Aunt Dimity’s charming cottage in the English countryside.  Turns out the diary is magical, and Aunt Dimity writes in it from beyond the grave and helps Lori solve mysteries that pop up on a regular basis.  Now, I have to admit I do some eye rolling b/c Lori is the mother of twin boys and never seems to be tired or angry or in need of Lexapro. (I’m a mother of twins, and I don’t care how many many nannies one might have or how helpful and understanding your independently wealthy, loving husband is, you just don’t do a lot of mystery solving with little ankle biters around the house.)  She just dashes around meeting interesting characters and solving crime or long ago crimes. But hey, sometimes literature just offers us a chance to escape, and sometimes I need to escape.  I don’t need a lesson or a great epiphany.  Sometimes Aunt Dimity tries too hard to offer a lesson, and that can be a tiny bit annoying, but not enough for me to put the series on hold.

Agatha = A Dimity = B, B-.

Both enjoyable.

Spencerville by Nelson DeMille

by Priscilla on December 12th, 2012

I used one of my monthly Audible.com credits for this, and I’m so glad they have a “if you don’t like it, you can exchange it program.”

I like Demille.  I’ve read his other stuff and enjoyed the suspense and pace and strong characters, but this one completely bored me, and quite frankly I was surprised by how bad it was.  I kept wanting it to get better, but instead it was like listening to Guiding Light or Days of Our Lives on end.

High school sweethearts Keith Landry and Annie Prentis reunite in their hometown of Spencerville, OH after years of separation.  He’s been gone 25 years with the military and government work.  She returned home after college and married Cliff Baxter, who is now the town police chief and Grade A jackass, physically and mentally abusing Annie and tormenting townspeople.  Enter – dum, dum, dum, DAH – Keith Landry.  Mr. Here I Am To Save the Day.

As a woman I was completely baffled by how someone as educated and well traveled as Annie would return home to marry this neanderthal, Baxter,  and as a reader, I was offended by the predictability and juvenility (is that a word?) of the conversations between all the characters who are all in their mid 40’s.  Lots of John/Marsha! John/Marsha! types scenes and, of course, the Jack Ass Police Chief is bound and determined to ruin this love affair brewing under his watch.

Someone has to die.

Cue….dum-dum- DUM background noise.

I got through half of part 2 of the three parts.  I really gave it the old college try, but in the end, life’s too short to finish books that bore me. Sent it back.

Next!

A Year of Biblical Womanhood - Rachel Held Evans

by Priscilla on November 29th, 2012

I liked it.  I’d recommend it.  Short and simple.

There’s a lot of to-do about this book, and quite frankly I don’t know why.  Well, I do know why, but I guess I should say I really don’t understand why.

Here’s what the book isn’t.  It is not an exegesis on the Bible.  It is not a Sunday school story.  It is not a paper, a prophecy or a pragmatist’s view of Scriptures.

It’s a curious woman’s honest effort to try to make sense of the Bible, and for those of us who are Christians, it’s not wrong to admit that there are a lot of things in the Bible that don’t make sense, and that it is our responsibility to ask some tough questions (the story of Jepthah’s daughter) about this God we love and serve and about the book we follow.

Rachel Held Evans started with a simple  question: What would happen if I lived biblically for a year?  And so she did, and as luck would have it, Rachel is also a gifted writer and storyteller and invited us readers to join her on her sometimes fun, sometimes unnerving adventures.

Along the way she met women – lots of women.  Women who grew up Quiverful families (think the Duggars), Jewish women, Quaker women, Amish women, Bolivian women all of whom played a part in her different months of biblical living (She divided her various projects into months and in turn her chapters are written according to her months, which makes her various efforts easy to follow.) She asked questions, she studied Scriptures, she remained silent and she cried.  There’s a lot of crying particularly on her kitchen floor.  Who wouldn’t cry when you are wrestling a fake baby, teaching yourself to sew, studying the ethics of the coffee and chocolate trade, residing in a monastery, contemplating sex and the Song of Solomon, camping out in a tent during your period and cleaning the leaven out of your house for Sabbath all within one year’s time?

Rachel Held Evans did all of this and should be praised on the project alone.  Just as intense her project, so too is her writing.  It’s witty without being pithy.  It’s questioning without being disrespectful.  It’s honest without being doubtful.

So much touched me personally as a now 40something woman raised in an evangelical church.  I mean what are nephilim and why are they even in the Bible? Where did Cain’s wife come from? (Evans doesn’t tackle the nephilim, but my point is that there are a lot of questions in the Bible that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask outright and discuss and wrestle with both singularly and corporately without large Christian denominations telling us how things are.  Period.  We have spoken.  Follow it.) What does the Bible really say about marriage and motherhood?  Like Evans, I really struggled with that one. My husband and I waited nine years to have kids, and quite frankly, I never once had a longing or urging to be a mom.  Thank goodness for a wise older woman at church telling me my feelings were normal after being told by church people my whole life that I needed to be fruitful and multiply.  Whenever I’d hear that verse thrown around, I’d reply  that was God’s directive towards Adam and Eve not Priscilla and Tony.  Some people didn’t like my interpretation.  They’d tell me so.  I’d tell them we just liked practicing at being fruitful so we could get it right when the time came.  That would shut them up.  Nothing shuts up people at church like telling them about your sex life.  We even went and talked to our pastor about whether or not to start a family.  Our pastor gave us some great advice – pretty much telling us the decision was between us and God and to do some soul searching and Scripture studying.  We did and, viola, Twin A and Twin B.  I don’t think our pastor laughed so loud as when I told him what was coming down the pike for us after my first visit to the women’s clinic.

But that’s our story.  It may not be your story. After all, the Bible is full of single people and married people and mucho married people. (Helloooooo Solomon.)

I digress.  Ignore all the naysayers out there in the blogosphere – from the atheists claiming Ms. Evans is repressed for following this idea wherever it took her  to the Christians swearing she is mocking the Holy Scriptures.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s a great read.  It’s an intelligent story.  It’s a guffawing adventure.  It’s an honest search.  It’s a teary tale. It’s a lot of heart and soul and love for God within the cover of a book….kind of like the Bible itself.

(Oh, my, my last sentence may get me in trouble there.  People will accuse me of heresy or some such, but I am reminded of the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila that Rachel shared that is helping me in my writing: Let nothing upset you. Let nothing startle you. All things pass; God does not change. Patience wins all it seeks. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone is enough.)

Eshet Chayil, Rachel, and thank you.

The Big Burn - Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America

by Priscilla on September 22nd, 2012

I don’t know if this book is for everyone, but it was for me.  I like to read about big historical events that I know nothing about.  I like larger than life characters that are not a figment of an author’s imagination.  I like drama.  I like  the Republican president with which I, as a Republican, can identify. I like all things nature.  So it’s pretty simple to see why I liked Timothy Egan’s account of the Fire of 1910 that destroyed over 3 million acres of the great mountainous West.

I listened to this book instead of reading it since my life consists of a lot of mowing, painting, dog walking, toilet scrubbing, kid hauling work that must be done – lots of mundane tasks that mothers perform that I’m sure Mr. Egan was not thinking of while researching and writing this work.

Lots of people are given great characters in their research but not all authors can spin a good tale.  Mr. Egan made me want to learn more about these history makers of whom I’d never heard- Gifford Pincot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, Ed Polaski, one of his assistants whom was thought to be dead after being trapped in a mine trying to save others during the fire, Senator Heyburn, a jackass and I’ll leave it at that and Pinkie Adair, a single frontierswoman, daughter of a doctor who found herself working as camp cook for the prisoners used to fight the fire. The list goes on, in what seems to be the long standing battle between conservation and capitalism.

Parts of this book were hard to listen to, quite frankly as it is about a massive forest fire that claimed close to 100 lives.  Horrific tales of both heroes and idiots being burned alive.  Listening to the tales of Italian and Irish immigrants  as well as an all black Army brigade doing all the dirty work yet being shunned and taunted by those who had been here for awhile, I couldn’t help but think of country’s present situation and how history seems to be doomed to repeat itself on the immigration front.  But that’s another book.

About ten years ago, I left teaching to take a research job in a conservation office.  It was there that I met and worked with biologists, archeologists, foresters and ornithologists who changed my views on all things environmental, and now I see the wisdom in setting apart large tracts of land as common wealths – gifts to hand down from generation to generation – something all Americans can view and share.  This is the story of the beginnings of the US Forest service -it’s fight for funding with an East Coast congress who didn’t understand West Coast living.  There’s political infighting between the Republicans of Teddy Roosevelt’s camp (wealthy conservationists) and Howard Taft’s camp (wealthy robber barons.) There’s the US government’s ignoring of the heroes who fought the fire and paid the price physically and mentally.  There’s even a man who was visited by his long deceased fiancé years after she ventured into the great beyond.  It’s Falcon Crest meets National Geographic.

Two thumbs up if you like this kind of thing.

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

by Priscilla on September 14th, 2012

Loved it.  Listened to the audible.com version while working on a painting project, exercising and shuttling kids around.  This book is storytelling meets brain science, and I need the storytelling to understand the brain science.

I’m not going to retell what Mr. Duhigg does so well, but he covers good habits, bad habits and changing habits starting with a story of an American Army officer Iraq who was brought in to figure out how to quell night time riots.  He watched, and watched and watched, and his call for action?  Eliminate the food vendors (as in pay off not take out)  so people would go home at dinner.  Once they were home, they’d stay home.  Habit.  It worked.

The inventor of Febreeze almost lost his job because although his product worked, no one was buying it…until he noticed a small habit among the women who would buy it again and again and again.  It changed the entire marketing strategy, and we all know where Febreze is today.  In fact, I just picked some more up this morning. It does work, but I’m one of these people who had to be convinced.  Now it’s a habit.

We all have cues and routines and we all need rewards.  Duhigg explains the looping of these.  How we can identify our cues and how we can reward ourselves….it’s more than this, but I’m giving your the basics.

From Pepsodent to civil rights movements, Tony Dungy to Target and pregnant women Duhigg covers this science thoroughly and enjoyably.

My takeaway?  I have some bad habits that can better be combatted by tweeking a few morning routines.

Why does AA work for millions of people?  Why do some quit gambling for a few years and then find themselve right back in the mess they dug themselves out of?  The science of habit has some pretty  definitive explanations including why Michael Phelps could break the world record in the 200 butterfly in the 2008 Olympics despite the fact that his goggles filled up with water leaving him virtuously sightless the entire swim. It all comes down to habit.

Informative. Fun. Lots of history. Lots of marketing strategies for those of you trying to avoid marketing strategies and even the story of Saddleback Church and how Rick Warren did a lot of leg work studying up on the habits of the people in the area before he even started his church.

And as they say, much, much more.  Not a self help book.  A great science book that isn’t written for scientists but for poor schlubs like me.

The Call

by Priscilla on September 7th, 2012

I picked up The Call over a year ago when I attended Covenant Church in West Lafayette, Indiana. Reading the back cover, I didn’t know if I was ready for thought provoking or challenging – words the reviewers used to praise the book.  Our house was on the market during a bad time for a house to be on the market.  My husband was gone overseas a lot with his job which meant it was up to me to keep the house looking Pottery Barn fresh for any showing which wasn’t easy with two seven year olds, two giant geriatric dogs and a cat dying of cancer. 

But I like a challenge at least intellectually.  Let me make this clear.  I do not consider myself smart.  I didn’t even break a 1000 on the SATs, but my mind is always at work.  My own mother has accused me of thinking too much, and sometimes she’s right.  But a lot of times my mind is swirling around about God-related things, and I’m always thankful for a safe place-  be it a church or a book –  that allows me to ask these questions without feeling like I’m a heretic.

I’m now finally in a place in my personal life to devote the kind of time this book needs because it’s a read and chew book.  I took close to two months on this one.

Os Guinness writes about a person’s call to Christ.  Not Christianity.  Not a political organization.  Not a church or a parachurch group. Not a movement. Christ.

 It’s about the questions Why am I here?  What is my purpose?

The book starts right where I spent my childhood, that is, describing how well- meaning people in the church sometimes equate The Call to Full Time Christian Service.  FTCS for those of you who don’t know church-speak means your vocation is all things God related.  You are a minister…or a minister’s spouse. You are a missionary.  You are a Christian school teacher.  Even as a little girl, I didn’t like this admonishment.  My parents seemed very busy doing God’s work here on earth and it had nothing to do with planning a sermon or translating a Bible into an unknown tribal language. I was pretty sure that I was not on track to head off to the mission field, and believe me the thought of my marrying a pastor….hahahahahahaha! So where did someone like me fit into God’s plan?

Vocation is not The Call.  Jesus is The Call. 

And it’s hard.  This is no Joel Osteen let’s all hold hands and feel good about Jesus book.

This is a book designed to challenge our way of thinking and acting. It’s the story of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, despite his well-connected family and friends, chose to answer the call, follow Christ and publicly stand up the church in Germany which had turned a blind eye to Hitler and his atrocities because they shunned the Scriptures. Ultimately, Bonhoeffer was martyred for this opposition.

This leads me to the point that the Call is not only individual, it is corporate, and we as a body of Christ must recognize and pursue this idea. It admonishes us to be the peculiar, alien people God intended us to be, not people who demand that our rights as Christians be honored as so many of us cushiony Westerners act out.

There are 26 chapters with discussion question pages in the back with so it can be used individually or as a group.  I used mine as a devotional.

 I am a lover of history, especially history with which I am not familiar, and since Mr. Guinness studied at Oxford, the book is peppered with history relevant to the case he makes.

I recommend this book to those desiring a deeper level Christian read.  If you aren’t a Christian, this might interest you as it gets to the heart of what it means to answer the call of Christ, not the stuff than unfortunately some Christians have decided need to be front and center in our discussions as of late. The tone is respectful not frantic.  There is not big revival type call the action.  He simply ends each chapter with the simple but profound words Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call.

I wish I could do this book more justice than I am right now. It’s one I’m keeping on my shelf to re-read when I get distracted with the activities I think I need to be doing.

Shel Silverstein, Old Ladies, Young Ladies and Fifty Shades

by Priscilla on September 4th, 2012

This weekend I had the opportunity to catch up on listening and reading as well as discuss some things with the Mother/Daughter duo mentioned in my latest blog post.

Here’s the rundown:

About a year ago one of my older sisters gave me  A Boy Named Shel by Lisa Rogak knowing my love for his collection of writing for children…and their parents. Creative types fascinate me especially their process.  The book chronicles his life from his childhood in Chicago to his death in Key West, and I’m happy to say I learned a lot I didn’t know already- which is the whole point of reading bios, right?

Here’s my list – maybe you knew this stuff, but I didn’t:

  •          He got his start writing/cartooning for the Stars and Stripes when he did a stint in the military. Like so many others who started the same way, even though he didn’t fit into the military way of life, he was grateful for the opportunity and discipline it afforded him to hone his craft.
  •          He wrote the lyrics to A Boy Named Sue.  Sue was inspired by his friend, humorist, Jean Shepherd, who complained about growing up bearing a girl’s name.  He also wrote a favorite of mine, The Cover of a Rolling Stone and about 800 other songs.  Seriously, I had no idea. (And feel kind of stupid for how ignorant I was about his list of accomplishments)
  •          He wrote many years for Playboy.  Hugh Hefner gave him a job writing travelogues.  They remained lifelong friends.
  •          He lost his only daughter suddenly when she was eleven and subsequently stopped writing for children for years until he fathered a son.
  •          He was always, always, always creating and surrounded himself with creative types and challenged his friends to branch out.  For example, he encouraged his buddy, singer, Kris Kristofferson to try his hand at acting.  He had no use for pretentious types and celebrities who wanted to be known and noticed.  He loved to create for the sake of creating not to be loved and adored, and he hated the dreaded question What did you mean by this?
  •          Shel loved him some women, and the author seems to like to remind the reader of this every single chapter.  She kept repeating the fact that he enjoyed the company of women but was never going to commit to one and told women this fact from the get- go.  I understood this explanation the first time, but she seemed to need to remind us readers over and over and over, and it got really old.  She also drew out tragedies with bad foreshadowing at the end of several chapters….he had no idea that the worst was coming…..and then she’d continue on with his life and work for a few more chapters.

There’s a lot more.  I underlined paragraphs and folded down pages that I thought to share, but in the end decided if you like Shel and are curious about how he wrote and why he wrote, this book is a solid choice for you.

Miss Julia to the Rescue

This is a fun series about a modern, Southern Miss Marple, and I’ve enjoyed reading it.  This latest venture takes Miss Julia, our heroine, to a church full of snake charmers in West Virginia on her way to break out her friend, Mr. Pickens, from a rural hospital in the hills.  Back home there are some major remodeling projects she’s trying to finish before her second husband, Sam, returns from a tour of the Holy Land.  Unfortunately, her carpenter falls prey to the luring of a local cult who worships whatever it is they worship through self-mutilation. 

I like Miss Julia because the young girls aren’t the only ones with chutzpah, and Ann B. Ross puts her Letitia Baldridge type main character in middle the most unlikely of scenarios . However, Miss Julia is smart, resourceful and most of all Southern lady and manages to get the job done without passing judgment on her friends a lot of whom could hail from Peyton Place.  Fun, breezy listen. 

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty

I wanted to like this one by Joshilyn Jackson.  After all, I‘m a fan of Southern lit old and new, and the premise drew me in.  Three generations of women in one house watched one morning – from different locations – the granddaughter, Mosey,  was supposed to be at school but was spying with her buddy – as a workman removed a long adored willow tree to make room for a swimming pool. The matriarch, Ginny, started the pool building project  in order to aid the therapy of her stroke victim daughter, Liza, but in the process the remains of a baby were uncovered and a long buried family secret comes to life.

But there was a lot of sex – and you know me and sex – get to the mystery will you! After all, we all know how sex ends; I tuned in to hear a riveting mystery.  Lots of stereotypes as well.  A mean bunch of Baptists throwing a pregnant teenage girl out of their midst.  Creepy high school coach who preys on young students.  Bitchy, rich coach’s wife who will be damned to be humiliated by a white trash family.  Blah, blah, blah.

You might like it, but it was another that I returned to Audible.com

This leads me to my last review Fifty Shades of Gray (No link because you have to live under a rock to not know what I’m talking about.)

I was sharing my thoughts on A Grown Up with my Mother/Daughter Friends and told them that it got good reviews so I was frustrated because I’d listend to those five star reveiwers.  Daughter Friend told me it is her practice to skip all the glowing reviews and get to the bad ones because it usually takes a discerning mind to write a bad review, and she finds more honesty in them, so I’m going with her way from now on. (She and her mother also concurred with my observations of Ken Follett and sex.  In fact, Mother Friend is on CD #13 of the Fall of Giants and is feeling the same way that I felt about its dragging.  I told her it wasn’t going to get any better and not to feel bad if she quits.  She and I are rule- followers and quitting books for us is something akin to committing the unforgiveable sin.)

This discussion transpired while our kids were scaling a climbing wall, and we were there to watch and encourage.  Instead we were gabbing about books. Daughter Friend told me all the nurses were carrying 50 Shades around the hospital where she worked which annoyed her since mommy porn doesn’t exactly scream Hey, I’m a Professional Care Giver!  But she was curious so she downloaded it…and carried it around discreetly on her phone.  She handed me her phone, and I got through about five sentences.  My response?  I laughed and laughed, and then laughed some more.  Good grief, people this stuff is AWFUL.  I know as a Christian I’m supposed to be offended with a capital O (no pun intended) and rail against its breaking of our sex rules, but I’m more put out by the terrible writing and the fact that so many people out there are exchanging their hard earned cash for this drivel.  And then I just laughed and laughed some more.  In fact, I’m laughing while I write this.  Unzipping.  Throbbing.  Pressing.  Clenching.  Gasping. Seriously,  I didn’t know if I was reading about sex or a lesson on gerunds.

My next listen is The Big Burn Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire the Saved America,  and I hope finish up the Power of Habit this week as well.  So far no gerund lessons.  Whew!  I really don’t need a grammar review from the President.

The Unexpected Journey of Harold Fry - Rachel Cook

by Priscilla on August 28th, 2012

I’m a moody reader.  I’m also a moody mother, a moody exerciser, a moody cook, a moody grocery shopper.  You get the idea.  Sometimes I lose all sense and let my mood dictate my decisions…this can lead to great fun like unexpected road trips to see girlfriends,  while times it can wreak havoc on my body like when my bad mood exerciser collides with my great mood grocery shopper.

Lately, I’ve been in the mood for some kinder, gentler literature.  Not easy or “potato chip for the mind” literature, but something a little more nice or at least told with a nice voice.

So, when I added The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaff and Annie Barrows to my Audible.Com wish list upon the recommendation of a nice-book liking friend, the title The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, popped up in the “you might like this one too” box,  and upon examining  the reviews both by the professionals and the customers, I decided Harold  fit my reading mood.

A good way to picture Harold might be as the twin brother of Mr. Morton, of School House Rock fame who educated us as to the roles of subjects and predicates in sentence structure.  Nice simple guy, living a simple life who feared sharing his feelings of amore with a certain attractive neighbor lady.  I know – sweet huh? I got the idea of the similarities between the two characters when my daughters came home with parts of speech homework, and I dug out my old teaching videos while trying to cook dinner and listen to this book all at one time.  Such is the life I lead…along with many of you, I’m sure.

British Harold Fry is a retired employee who spends his life keeping his head ducked down, performing his professional duties and playing the role of compliant husband and father until the day he receives word that a former coworker, Queenie Hennessy, whom he has not seen for years, has cancer and is dying.

Thus he embarks on the journey by foot to see her.  Yes, he could drive his car, but for some inexplicable  reason, he believes his walking will cure her.  Along the way he encounters people from walks of life very different from his own, and shows great compassion and understanding towards them –  their stories, their endeavors, their shortfalls and triumphs; and it is to some of these characters that he opens up to share his own life’s story and the true reason behind his trek.    Unwittingly, this journey affects his marriage in a way that surprises both he and the wife to whom he has always been faithful but for whom he feels little.

If you are looking for a read that depends on outrageous action and thrilling exploits of beautiful people to keep your attention,  keep looking.  If you’d like to meet some well-developed characters whose creator reveals their true selves and stories a little at a time you’ll enjoy Harold Fry.  While Harold is a nice book, Harold’s life is not without wrenching pain; however, Rachel Cook has a knack of taking a solemn situation and adding dashes of humor.  For example  the press gets ahold of poor Harold and all of the sudden his simple act of friendship turns into a national movement inviting a cast of characters that at times astonish Harold with their silly ideas (but he, of course, is too nice to say anything to them.)   I see Dr. Bob Hartley in the middle of an Occupy rally.

I don’t know how authors come up with their ideas and keep our attention.  I really don’t know how someone writes a tale about an older gentleman walking to see a dying friend and covers 336 remarkable pages doing so, but  Rachel Cook succeeded , and I recommend this one.

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