Thursday, April 11, 2019

From the other blog December 2011 9 Reviews, short




Found this in the draft for this blog and decided to include it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Up to date on Books Read

"When you sell a man a book, you don't sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue--you sell him a whole new life." Christopher Morley

A stack of books grows higher by the week alongside my computer, books I have read from late October until now, books  I have just set aside until I have time to review them for the blog......but as I posted  a week back time is running out and my stack gets taller.   I will have a new blog in 2012 solely to record my readings and my reviews.  For now, to expedite the process and  move books into either  donation bags or, if a keeper,  to the shelf in our home  library, I am borrowing a technique from Kat Mortenson and assigning stars  *****  to rank the books,  with 1 low and 5 high:

5 ***** being a top notch read and a book I loved.  
No * indicates a book I did not finish,  which means it is  really  a poor read and  had no interest for me; oh does this mean I really have a 6 point rating system? 
1 * will mean a book I plowed through under some protest. 

I suppose  that technically I have six ranks from No to *****.   There would be few books with No and few with *****, most somewhere in between. 

It has taken me awhile to learn to discard a book that does not hold my interest, I have so many books to read and so little time to do so that it's not worth wasting my eyeballs on a bad one.  Why did I think I had to plod along when  the pages and words held no interest? 

 What I find enjoyable in reading and which will be my criteria in rating reflect my personal preferences.  I am not a fluff or what I term fiction comic book reader nor do I like science fiction.  I like to sink into a book like a nice comfy leather chair, so a novel has to envelop me.  My first preference is always non fiction or historical, memoir and biographies are first choice.  I look for excellent writing and research, well developed characters who appear lifelike with their tales, a sense of historical accuracy,  historical, memoirs that evoke emotion while reading, or a book that teaches me something.  I am as I have said many times before a life long reader from the time I learned to read as a tot.  I am never bored, lonely, or without something to do to entertain myself so long as I have a good book. 

No I do not e-read nor do I have any desire to do so, being the proud owner or stacks of books and a marvelous home library.   I never pass a book sale without picking up something.  You will see several on the list below that are used, older.  A book does not have to be on a current best seller list to attract my interest.  I have been exposed to wonderful books I might not have found nor read through my local book club where we meet monthly to discuss.

 Title,date published/comment             Author          Rating

Marilyn and Me-Sisters, Rivals, Friends 1992   Susan Strasberg       **               
Almost tedious reading but some interesting  pages
and reverie about the authors famous  parents. 

The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay  2010          BeverlyJensen       *****      
A novel saga over 7 decades beginning in 1916,
sisters from Nova Scotia who immigrate to
America.  Fascinating and humorous in parts. "She was
worn to the shape of a gnarled tree...." describes their
paternal grandmother.

The Knitting Circle    2007 paperback             Ann Hood                           *****
  Our book club selection; a novel with great
characters and their stories and the grief of losing a child.
Based on the author's life.    

Left Neglected                 2011                    Lisa Genova                             *** 
 She wrote "Still Alice" about dementia, which I enjoyed. This
novel is about a condition resulting from an auto accident
where the left side of the body does not respond.

Lit                 2010 Paperback                  Mary Karr                                     **    
Her 3rd memoir and the least interesting despite its glowing
reviews; about her days in  alcoholism.  Dreary

The Quilters Apprentice    2000 Paperback     Jennifer Chiaverini                ** 
A ho hum novel, my curiosity about the process of learning to quilt
 dragged me along.  First book in the Elm Creek Quilt Series.

Our Story: The Quecreek Miners     2002     told to  Jeff Goodell                 ***
 Concise, true tale of these PA coal miner
 spent trapped underground for 77 hours

The Seventh Life of Pauline Johnson   2001        Katy King                 No stars
  If this isn't the dumbest book it is close to it. The author
hawked it at a craft show; it has been on my shelf for years
to be read.  Supposed to be a  mystery/ recipe book.

Blind Your Ponies         2011 Paperback           Stanley Gordon West             *****
Our book club selection.  Outstanding novel about  a high school
boys long time loosing basketball team, and their town. 
Excellent characters and writing by a MN author. Selection of the title
and what it represents is a story itself.  Will read more of his books.

Prince of Darkness by Shane White

Front cover
Published 2015, 316 pages, of which I only could slog through 100 before giving up reading further.  This sounded like an interesting historical  tale, but  was very tiresome reading.  Each of the 13 chapters has an interesting title to introduce the story, based on pg 12, "material drawn from the records generated by his serial court appointments."  The author appears to have a solid background in literature and history of the times and includes interesting tidbits, as an effort to deposit the knowledge accumulated researching the main character. 

Back cover
 The opening was enticing, Chapter 1, The Invisible Man, page 1, "It was still dark when the reporter slipped into the Halls of Justice on Center Street, an architectural disaster known on account of its misguided inspiration as the Egyptian Tombs, or simply the Tombs, and glanced at the previous night's watch returns.  His eye fixed on the entry for a small time criminal who preyed mostly on other blacks in and around the Five Points, by the early 1840's, the best known slum in the world.  In truth there were scores of black con men just like him, living off their wits and a glib tongue."  .. "What had caught his fancy was that this African American had taken the name John Jacob Astor."  Page 2, excerpt,  "Astor was one of the earliest  individuals to whom contemporaries attached the novel description"millionaire".  By the 1840's the word first used by Lord Byron in 1836, was well on its way to becoming an American label."..."And the joke worked because a black John Jacob Astor was an oxymoron."  The author explains the book in  the first 14 pages.  Perhaps another author with greater story telling abilities could have written this with the limited facts in such a way to keep me reading.  As I noted, lots of information scattered here and there, historical tidbits, but just could not hold my attention.  

Pages 67-69 describe slaves and indentured servants  in New York City, "typically in the city, husband and wife had different owners--meant it was not at all unusual for one or more family members to remain enslaved for some time after their kin had achieved freedom...." Page 70 describes how court records detail, "involvement of very young African American females in violence against their owners.  ...December 1811, an eight year old black servant girl having been whipped by her mistress, used a burning log from the kitchen fire to try and incinerate her owner's stables."  .."arson was among the most atrocious of human offences."  

To me the book was very disappointing, lacked coherence and  flow and I decided not to read further, too many other good books to read. Too bad, but it did not work trying to piece a tale from legal and court records.   I give this only 1 *, and have donated it to the library sale.  

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Matters of Chance by Jeannette Haien

Front cover
I picked up "Matters of Chance" by chance at a booksale and  finally took it off my to read shelf.  Published by Harper Collins in 1997, it is a nice fiction story, almost an adult fairy tale, decent writing, almost lyrical in parts, decent characters, who display mixtures and blends of integrity, endurance, persistence, achievement inspiration, how to put on a good front,  and yet it took me a while to completely read all 439 pages.  To me it moved along smoothly but very slowly. Jeannette Haien, the author, was unfamiliar to me,  but apparently she is known as a concert pianist and teacher and has also written "The All of It" according to the back cover.  

I enjoyed the opening with the Thomas Hardy poem, "Afterwards"poem.   This saga of an American family begins in November 1925 in Ohio and follows over the years. Page 1, " Away from home for the first time at a boarding school he did not (then) much like, Morgan Shurtliff was a shy, lonely, fourteen year old dreamer, a bright though erratic student, a passionate reader."  We meet Morgan at the start, main character and while this could have been titled the Tale of Morgan and Maud, there is much more woven through the fictionalized family through World War II and the post war years, their adoption of twins and the efforts of  Miss Zenobia Sly, the administrator of the orphanage where  Maude and Morgan will adopt their twin daughters Julia and Caroline and someone with whom Morgan will keep touch throughout life.  It was intersting to read about the Liberty ships during WWII and Morgan's service on them.  

Page 15, " To read of the lot and destinies of others and of the tests they were put to and triumphed over or failed at made him feel about his own life less amazed, less anxious, less--(he shied from the word for its hint of betrayal to Maud, but it persisted in his thoughts)--hermetic."     

Back cover
I was drawn into dates in this fiction story, when  I noted on page 183 the date "Friday, November 12, 1945"  I was born November 13, 1944, so I thought that if  that date was a Friday, the year before it would have been a Thursday making  November 13, 1944 a Friday.  I had never heard that I was born on a Friday the 13th, so I googled to learn and verify that November 13, 1944 was a Monday!  Phew, relief to me and this miscellaneous trivia.  

Page, 267, "...they would linger over coffee and ruminate outside of Time about nothing much at all, lik two very old people about to pass away--a communion of souls.  Their friendship had become an entity that capable."  

Page 317,  is a lyric tribute to the transition from train travel to airplane.  Morgan will be traveling between Ohio and New York with is law firm. "He thought that from now on, the plane would be the way to go, speed now, the great impulse; the great thing.  No more the train, that old important earthbound prolonger of expectation.  Think how the train had once been hailed.  How Victorian, saluting the wonder of it, had dubbed it "the Iron Horse."  Hail now the plane, celestial, way up there, ripping through the clouds, still ascending.  Angels of Heaven, beware."  Page 318 describes Morgan's widower stage of life after Maud's sudden tragic passing, " Give me a sense of purpose.  .....I hit trouble.  Trouble in the form of myself...I ran into myself coming down the road fom the opposite direction and I saw myself in disarray, without much hope of a future of much value.  I can't think of a better way to say it......".  Page 319 is interesting details about the growth of law firms in the 1970's to address the proliferation of government agencies, regulations, tax policies, "  After  the experience with days and dates, I wondered if this were true, although it does make sense and today we have I feel excessive numbers of lawyers, lawyers on every corner.  Has the solution to a perceived problem become the problem itself?  

I give this book 3 stars, ***, it is a good simple read.