Friday, April 26, 2013

More Book Reviews

It seems as if my eclectic, mish mash of a blog is turning into a book blog.  I guess that is because that is what I am doing most of the time these days.  Besides, who blogs about laundry.  Yeah.

So, in the past couple of weeks I have enjoyed three books, one being an audio book.  While I am using the audiobooks to make my commute more pleasant, I am also trying to work through my personal library which has many more unread books than read books.  I am discovering that, while I always thought I had to keep every book that found its way across my threshold, I don't.  I have come across several that will be going to my local used bookstore even though I will probably only get about 30 cents for them.  Maybe I should just donate them to the library -- that sounds like a better thing to do.

I digress.

The first book that I have added to my list on Goodreads is "Garden Spells" by Sarah Addison Allen.

I have had this book on my shelves for a long time and is one of those that I purchased for the cover -- yes, I actually do that -- my bad.  At one point, last year,  I decided to alphabetize my shelves by author so this book was at the very top, sort of hidden.  When I decided to start at the beginning and just read my way through the shelves, this is where I started.  I am not too much of a fan of the paranormal because if it isn't done right it just becomes stupid (read "Bramwell Valley") and I didn't know what to expect of this work -- it could have gone either way in my opinion.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bevy of great characters, a storyline that wasn't too bizarre and a happy ending.  The story centers around Clare, an attractive yet reclusive young woman.  Never feeling like she fit in she built a world around herself, allowing herself to live in the small town yet be apart from it.  Her sister, who left home at an early age, turns up on her front porch on day with a daughter in tow which was a surprise to Clare because she had no idea what her sister had been up to for the last ten years.  She soon found out as bits and pieces of her sister's life surfaced, along with a very angry, ex-almost-husband.  There is romance, drama, a bit of the mystical all woven into an entertaining story.  Like I said, it could have turned into a silly witch hunt but it didn't.  It progressed well and ended well.  Again, the paranormal genre is not my favorite but I did enjoy this book and would recommend it.

Pawleys Island is the second audio book I have listened to by Dorothea Benton Frank.  The first won my rave review because it was so excellently read, or rather performed, by Robin Miles.  This one didn't have the advantage of exemplary reading -- it was adequate but not the same experience -- but the book was very enjoyable anyway and I would recommend.  It centers around Rebecca Sims, her brute of a husband and their two children.  Rebecca has retreated to Pawleys Island after her abusive husband has soured her children against her, tried to declare her an unfit mother, taken her house and sued her for divorce.  Upon her arrival at her friend's condo, she obtains a job as a framer in Huey's art gallery and meets Abigail Thurmond, a ruthless divorce attorney trying to recover from the loss of her husband and only son.  As the book progresses Abigail and Rebecca become good friends, Abigail replaces Rebecca's hapless attorney and turns her husband every which way but loose, romances are rekindled, new ones started, children are returned home, new beginnings, etc, etc,.  It was good even though I am beginning to see Frank's books as being very formulaic.  This would make a good made-for-tv movie -- I see Judith Light as Abigail Thurmond and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Huey.  It would be very entertaining.  My next audiobook is another of hers, also read by Robin Miles, "Porch Lights".  I will review when I have listened to it.

The final book for this review I just finished this morning -- "The Runaway Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini.  This is the fourth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series and deals with the question of quilts being used during the Civil War as signals in the Underground Railroad.  Of course, that isn't the whole of the story -- this tale delves into the background of Sylvia Compson's family -- the Bergstrom family.  Sylvia is the descendant of Hans and Anneke Bergstrom and the sole heir to their homestead Elm Creek Manor where she operates her quilt camps.  As a child she fell heir to a key that opened a hope chest belonging to her great-aunt Gerda Bergstrom.  The chest was somewhere in the attic and not thought  of until Sylvia was approached by a woman at a quilt lecture who was looking for help in identifying a quilt that she felt was connected to Sylvia -- possibly connecting the families. Key in hand, Sylvia searches for and finds the chest and begins to explore the contents -- three very worn quilts and a journal.   The quilts in the hope chest were a mystery that Sylvia hoped would be solved by the journal. After much genealogical research, the origin of the quilt in question was discovered and several questions raised by Gerda's journal were answered as well except for one --  is Sylvia Bergstrom really a Bergstrom at all.   This book is a great escape for quilters and genealogists (i.e. me) and it was so enjoyable I couldn't put it down and then regretted it being finished.  This is a definite recommend -- I might even read it again.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Musing Mondays is hosted by Miz B at  Should Be Reading.  Today I am going to tell you all about my recent book purchases.  There are quite a few.

As I have mentioned in a past blog, I recently listened to "Folly Beach" on audio book and there were several mentions of "Imitation of Life" by Fanny Hurst.  Now I have seen the Lana Turner/Sandra Dee version of the movie many times but never thought about reading the book.  However, it being mentioned in this book sparked my interest so I ordered it from Barnes and  Noble.  At the same time I purchased "Aunt Dimity Next of Kin".  This is the next book in my Aunt Dimity queue and I haven't been able to find it locally so I ordered it as well.  I happened upon a gift card that I didn't know I had so I used it to purchase "The Runaway Quilt" -- the next in the Elm Creek Quilt series.

I have been listening to audio books on my commute and I like to buy them used so I visited Half Price Books close to my daughter's house.  I have bought the ones I have at other branches of this same store but there wasn't a lot of inventory.  However, there were several offerings at this particular store so I hit pay dirt.  I bought "Austenland", "Life Class" by Pat Barker (BBC audio) and "A Christmas Blizzard" by Garrison Keillor.  The set of CD's by Keillor originally retained for $27 and I got it for $6.99 and it is brand new and unopened so....always check the used bookstores FIRST.

So, that is my recent acquisition!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson has always been one of my favorite authors.  I have read "The Haunting of Hill House" and "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" which was my favorite of the two.  When I read about "The Lottery" being the scariest thing probably ever written I had to read it so I obtained a copy.  It is a compilation of short stories by Jackson, the last one being "The Lottery".  Well, I had to read that one first to see if it was the most horrific thing ever written and I have to say -- no.  I don't think so.  In fact, it seemed really familiar to me -- had I read it before or seen a movie or something along these lines?  Can't remember but it wasn't frightening.  In fact, the entire book is a bit of a disappointment -- so much so that I won't be finishing it.  Each short story is vaguely written with a twist.  All that I had read were depressing and extremely "psychological".  Honestly, it was very Twilight Zone-ish.  I was not impressed.

I usually don't give up on books -- I  try to only buy books that I know I will like and since I have always been a fan of Shirley Jackson, it never occurred to me that I  wouldn't like this.   However, I don't and I have a huge stack of books in my library to read so I will be putting this one  aside.  Maybe one day, when I have caught up, I will revisit but not right now. 

Why ...

I have always been an anxious person.  I was raised in a home that did not shield me from the things of life -- deaths, fires, accidents, job losses, friend losses, rejection, tornadoes -- you know -- everyday life.  Perhaps these occurrences contributed to my lifelong anxiety, they probably did (especially in the case of fire) but my parents always tried to use these things as a learning opportunity and I have to say that I think I am a stronger person and I never once felt that I wasn't being protected by my family. 

And then...

there were the disaster drills at school, in the 50's, when we were supposed to  was crawl under our desks in the event of a nuclear disaster.  I remember my mother telling me that if anything happened when I was in school and I looked outside and saw a big cloud that looked like a mushroom, don't go outside.  Really?  Don't go outside?  Get under the desk?  All of a sudden I felt very unprotected -- my parents couldn't protect me from THAT! People were buying bomb shelters and having them installed in the yard.  I wanted one and I never wanted to go to school again and I found myself looking outside at the clouds -- a lot.  I was officially a nervous person.

The next time I felt completely out of control of my existence was during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.  With good reason I was pretty scared.  Home was San Antonio which was also home to five military bases -- a pretty significant target.  Schools were closed, we stocked up and stayed in with the tv going.  I was looking out the windows at clouds.  We were fine except for the bit of innocence lost.

As I ventured into high school and college we were in the Viet Nam era with all the political ramifications of the times.  I remember one of my high school dances having to be moved due to bomb threats and there was one sociology class that was finally cancelled because we never had a class that was uninterrupted by a bomb threat and evacuation.  I remember one such evacuation, we were told to leave via the stairwells and not the escalators -- ha! I went down the escalator and was reprimanded by a cop who had been a high school friend -- I told him that I would rather get blown up on the escalator than  get trampled to death on the stairs -- oh, did I mention he was very cute.  He shall remain nameless.  Was I afraid?  Well, initially, yes but after so many times it is like crying wolf.  Besides,  this was the 60's -- great music, great clothes, great dates -- who had time to worry about stuff like that when  we were, after all, invincible.

Then came the 70's and I was grown with babes of my own and my first huge fear was of a meteor or space junk that was supposed to hit the earth someplace.  I was pregnant.  My OB-GYN thought I was crazy and actually laughed at me.  I was petrified.  It didn't fall on me -- in fact, I don't really remember what happened -- but I was unscathed and a bit ashamed of the actual fear that had come over me.

Life has gone on.  I have lived through much more of the "life stuff" and I have seen so much more.  Am I afraid?  No, not any more.  I am, however, disgusted.  Really so disgusted.  What in the world is wrong with people?  Why don't people appreciate what we have in this world?  Why are people so hell bent on destroying everything? It makes me sick.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays hosted by Should Be Reading has sort of expanded their format with lots of choices to blog about.  So, I am going to go with it.  I have developed a new "reading" habit -- audio books -- which I blogged about previously.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book so I went out and acquired another by the same author, "Pawley's Island"  .  I am currently listening to it on my daily commute and I am enjoying it as well except.....

The first novel  was ready by actress Robin Miles and was completely enjoyable.  The second is being read by the author and I have to say it is not the same experience.  Oh, it is a wonderful, engaging book and Dorothea Benton Frank is a very talented author but....

Not such a great reader. 

She is adequate and I am enjoying the book but I am wondering how it would be with another reader.  When I  purchased the cd's, I was raving to the salesman about the first book and how I really enjoyed it and he said, yes, but it depends on the reader.  I now know what he means. 

However, I am really enjoying this author and will continue to enjoy her books whether they are in printed form or audio.  I recommend her highly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Yes, indeed, wow!  As you probably know, I have a long commute each day and, being the anxious soul that I am, I am always looking for ways to make it easier or more enjoyable.  In my youth I loved to listen to rock and roll music and sing along in my off key, monotone shrill, preferably with the windows up so my teased, sprayed "bubble" do wouldn't move an inch.  Or a quarter of an inch.  Anyway, those days are gone.  No, I don't sing any better but the love of rock and roll music has diminished and the hair has revolted and taken on a life of its own.  I still  like the music of the 60's as much as I ever did but it sets my teeth on edge to listen to the "oldies" station and only hear music of the 90's.  There is a station -- KAAM -- that plays REALLY old music, like from my babyhood, but the reception isn't so great.

So, I moved on to conservative talk radio.  Yes, I am conservative in my political views, for what political views I have.  I am pretty much blah about it all but I thought maybe listening to "talk" would be easier to listen to than "squawk".  WRONG.  Oh, listening to it was fine but by the time I got home I was either so depressed or so angry that I discovered that it wasn't helping my commute at all.

What to do?  Well, my son used to listed to books on CD so I thought I would give it a try.   Off to my neighborhood used book store to score a copy of something.  I looked at what they had to offer -- not a bad selection but my goodness -- the price on those puppies, even used! My eyes rested on a "copy" of "Folly Beach".  I had looked at the book in B&N many times, only to put it back.  Then I looked at it on the sale table at B&N, only to put it back but I took a longer look at this little box of CD's.  Mostly at the price.  $4.99.  Yep, I thought it looked like a great introduction into audio books.

I was right.  I don't know what it was but this was a fabulous experience.  It was read by Robin Miles, an actress who has devoted much time to reading books for the blind.  Her voice, with her soft, flowing southern accent reminded me or Werther's Original caramel candy.  Her voice changed with the characters so there was never any trouble following the storyline.  She didn't read this book, she "acted" this book.  It reminded me of old time radio programs.  It was so smooth and so entertaining that I was sad when it ended. 

The story was actually two plots in one -- the story of Cate Cooper and her rise from the ashes of what was her marriage after the suicide of her philandering husband, Addison Cooper  and the story of Dorothy Heywood, wife of Dubose Heywood, and her collaboration with her husband and George Gershwin in the writing of "Porgy and Bess"  --as written by Cate Cooper.  Technically I guess this could be called historical fiction because the story about the Heywoods and Gershwin, was true.  Dorothea Benton Frank did  a fantastic job of weaving the stories of these two women together -- one fictional, one real -- and bringing all the lush scenery and atmosphere into play as well.  Add in a few "characters" like Ella and Aunt Daisy, a bit of controversy like Ella and Aunt Daisy, an annoying daughter-in-law Alice, neurotic daughter Sarah and introduce a bit of  sauciness to Cate  and you have all the makings of a great "southern" novel.

So, I was in B&N the other day and there it was, this glorious piece of fiction, on the sale table again and I really wanted to buy it for my personal library but I put it down, yet again. I decided that my CD's would have to go on the shelf instead because I don't think reading the book would have the same impact as listening to Robin Miles' beautiful voice.  This is one I might actually have to listen to again!

BTW -- it was a wonderful solution to my travelling problem -- I don't think Mark Levin will miss me, do you?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Recent Purchase

I buy the oddest,most random most unusual, interesting things online.  This is my latest purchase -- a wool dust mop made in the USA.  Most of my floors are bare, which I like, and I have a lovely vacuum cleaner but there are sometimes when I just don't want to drag the lovely vacuum cleaner all over the house so I decided to channel my mother and buy a dust mop (she loved her dust mop).  Yes, I have a swiffer but those things are just too tiny and they  don't cover enough space at one time.  This mop is 11 X 18 and just about makes short work of dusting up the floor.  Of course, it won't pick up big stuff like twist  ties, runaway olives, and general junk (i.e. leggos) like a vacuum will but I consider it exercise to bend over and pick up the big stuff.  I was very pleased to see the colorful mop head and for some reason it reminded my of my substitute grandmother -- I have no idea why.  The head is 100% wool and the whole thing was made in the US which made me happy because I always try to buy domestically if I can.

I was impressed with the dust mop enough to run out and buy one of these

I used to own several of these but they got thrown out during a move and I never replaced them.  So, off to Ace Hardware I went, came home and took the little duster to the shutters and I was thrilled.  I actually enjoyed doing this little chore and it didn't wear me out like having to hold a heavy vacuum cleaner wand up in the air.

So, all this travelling back to cleaning methods of my youth has me rethinking the laundry airer I had looked at months ago.  If I thought my hubby could hang it up without destroying the ceiling  I would have one in a minute.  I might have to revisit this idea because there are just some clothes I prefer to hang. 

Ok, off to surf the net looking for airers.  I am so easily amused.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Reading Update

It has been a very good week (or so) of reading.  I have finished three books for two challenges.  I am participating in the Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge and the 2013 Pre-1960 Childrens Book Reading Challenge hosted by 

I don't know whether I am just reading faster or if I am just choosing books that are quick reads but I have been truckin' right along with the 2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  This go around I finished The Cross Country Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini, Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday by Nancy Atherton and The Bobbsey Twins at London Tower by Laura Lee Hope.

The Cross Country Quilters is the third in the Chiaverini series about the Elm Creek Quilters.  I like how the first book was about the beginning of the Elm Creek Mansion and all the back history and the books expand to include the stories of the campers at the quilt camps held by Sylvia Compson and her friend and substitute daughter, Sarah McClure.  Each of these individual stories start at Elm Creek Manor, the idyllic home of the Elm Creek Quilters and the camp, and take the reader away from the camp into the environment of the characters and they all end up back at the camp at the end.  While the reader might not identify with every character and their situation, there is always one that comes home in the readers mind.  These are great books, very comfortable yet thought provoking, set in a wonderful setting that takes you to another place for a little while as you watch the characters deal with and solve contemporary problems.  Great reads, for sure.

The next adult book I read was Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday by Nancy Atherton.  This is part of the Aunt Dimity series and followed true to the series.  The main characters are Lori Shepherd, her husband Bill Willis, Emma and Derek Harris and their children and, of course, the sweet, loveable, brilliant yet slightly dead Aunt Dimity.  This book follows the tale of Derek Harris who is the slightly mysterious owner of Anscombe Manor -- well, he wasn't so mysterious until his wife Emma discovered there was another side to him  -- and another name! Yes, well, that is all that  I am going to say except that this episode in the series involves children's nurseries, poison-pen letters, secrets and burning bushes.  Yes, it was good -- read it for yourself and see.

The book that I read for the childrens book challenge was The Bobbsey Twins at London Tower.  My copy wasn't this colorful version but rather the faded green fabric of all my other BT books.  However, I think they might have had dust covers which I believe this is a photo of.  I chose to use this photo as it is a bit more colorful and I think my original copy might have been this one.  In any event, it was published in 1959 and I received a copy right off the presses.  I was an Anglophile even back then and absolutely inhaled this book.  Reading it as an adult I enjoyed it but I was a bit taken aback at the adult responses assigned to the elder twins.  I was also a bit befuddled at the Bobbsey adults' dismissive reactions to their children running all over London with children they didn't know confronting criminals -- yes, yes, I know -- this is fiction not to be confused with reality but, in reading these books as an adult, it is surprising to me the "adultness" of the children that I didn't catch when reading them as a child.  Hmm..maybe I thought I was just as grown up!  In any event, the Bobbsey family finds themselves going to England with their father who is going on an impromptu business trip.  Before leaving, however, the elder twins find themselves embroiled in a petty theft at a local collectible shop and the mystery follows them across the great pond and finally resolves itself in London.  Unrealistic, yes, but it was written very cleverly in that the mystery was entwined with the Bobbsey's visiting the historical sites and the countryside and meeting new friends and it didn't come across as being contrived at all -- well, except for the aforementioned things.  All in all, it was an enjoyable re-read.  It meant more having now been to the UK and visited the places the Bobbsey's visit.  While the storyline is a bit unbelievable, it was still a bit magical for me.  Who knows, I might read it for a third time!

Each of these books were good in my opinion.  I would recommend them and intend to continue reading each series myself.