THOUGHTS FROM THE INTERIOR — HUMP DAY — SEPT. 28

Let's Chat with Coffee!

 

Last night was one of those restless ones…I kept thinking about what I wanted to do today.  Planning, making lists…it’s hard to sleep when that’s going on.

So now it’s Hump Day, and we’re nearing the end of September.  It’s officially Fall, which is my favorite season—and not just because my birthday is coming up in October.

I love the new TV shows unfurling themselves for us to enjoy.  A new season of Castle; another season of Parenthood, which I feared would not return, since the shows I love are often cancelled; and a really exciting new show called Ringer, on the CW.

And one of my all-time favorites that didn’t return this season is enjoying a new life of reruns on Soap Net (Brothers and Sisters).

These are just a few favorites, and I’m very happy to have a DVR, since I’m often too wiped out to watch them all at night.

This week is Banned Books Week, and we’re reflecting on those books that have been banned/challenged over the years, and telling those folks (whoever and wherever they are!) that we’re not going to stop reading them!

I’m rereading The Handmaid’s Tale, which is on the list…and I just finished Cat’s Eye (review), another book by this author.  Fabulous!

Today I’m reading something entirely different (and not banned) about the New York real estate market (Hot Property).

Later on, I should go to the gym, since I missed yesterday…sigh.  But I’m feeling lazy.  Maybe I should just put in a round on my exercise bike while watching Castle and Parenthood.  What do you think?

What are you planning for the day?  I’d love to have you stop by and chat…bring some coffee (or a Mimosa!).

 

LIBRARY LOOT

In this weekly meme, alternately hosted by Marg and Eva, we get to share our ecstasy over our library books.

Libraries have been a special place for me since I got my first library card at eight years of age.  That library shared one-half of a building with the old Post Office in the little country village near my childhood home.

Over the years, I remember so many of those libraries.  There was the one in a west Fresno County town, out in the middle of nowhere, that stood like a beacon of civility in an otherwise arid land…both physically and culturally.  That particular library was actually very nice, which surprised and delighted me.  It was even open on Sundays!

Nowadays, I live near a wonderful library, built in recent years.  I had gotten out of the library habit, though, having purchased so many books over the past few years that I now have TOWERS of unread books, otherwise known as my TBR Stacks.  But after discovering this wonderful meme, I have returned to my roots!

Here’s what I found today:

Magnolia Wednesday, by Wendy Wax, was a book I requested, which got me to the library.  By the author of An Accidental Bestseller, this book tells the story of a woman, fighting to make it in investigative journalism, who is side-lined by a bullet won during an expose…and then forced to take what she considers a horrible job for a suburban paper in her hometown in Georgia…

Then I discovered two more books:

The Greenlanders, by Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize winning author, who has created a saga about a sprawling, multi-generational, heroic Norse family…

and The Sweetest Dream, by Doris Lessing, the author of The Golden Notebook, et. al., tells about a family in the sixties…set against the backdrop of the decade that changed the world forever…a riveting look at a group of people who dared to dream—and faced the inevitable cleanup afterward—from one of the greatest writers of our time.

What treasures have you plumbed from the depths of a library near you?  Hope to see your comments and links!  Happy reading.

EXPLORING MORE BERLIN WALL IMAGES

Today’s featured blog header is another in the series of Berlin Wall Reconstruction Photos by Craig Robinson.

Because the images are “cropped” to make the header, I like to showcase the full image in a post, as I have done here.  As you can see, the somewhat stark images are beautiful, in that they show the “torn down” barbed wire, which is symbolic of the destruction of that old barrier to freedom.

Reconstructing the wall was not done to resurrect any old barriers, but to symbolically celebrate that freedom.

Images of freedom are celebratory, and these were created during the twenty-year anniversary in November 2009.

Here’s to freedom, and may it live forever!

PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES — A Review of “Skylight Confessions”

The story begins with an introduction to the character Arlyn Singer, who at age seventeen has just lost her father. And as she stands on the porch after the funeral, gazing outward, she vows that the next person walking by will be “the one.”

Then a stranger stops by, asking for directions, and they are drawn together. Even when circumstances appear to step in and interrupt what has begun, Arlyn persists. She follows John Moody, the architecture student, to his university and waits. Then she goes to his family home, The Glass Slipper, meets his parents, and makes their destiny happen.

Years later, they are living in The Glass Slipper with their unusual son Sam. And they are miserable. But they persist (or at least Arlyn does) in the belief that they are living out their destiny.

Each individual’s destiny unfolds, including that of Sam, the brilliant explosive artist. Then comes little sister Blanca, the bookish “good” girl. Her destiny is to keep Sam out of trouble.

When a tragic twist of fate takes them all off the course they had envisioned for themselves, their lives seem to spin off, flying into some other self-destructive pathway.

Watching the devastation as it shimmers and spins, like a legacy of broken pieces or a mysterious puzzle—it is like watching some kind of train wreck.

Much later, we see evidence of ghostlike visitors who leave behind broken glass, soot, and feathers.

Hoffman weaves this family tale in and out through the generations, until finally we reach a kind of resolution.

I was completely swept away by the plight of the characters—almost obsessed. And through it all, the imagery (glass house, broken glass, birds flapping) formed a haunting backdrop for lives gone awry.

If I could, I would give Skylight Confessions a 6 or 7 star review.

NEW ADVENTURES TO EXPLORE

Welcome to my Blog, and welcome to February!

This month is one of my favorites, for lots of reasons.

First, even though it doesn’t have the same celebratory feeling as it used to have—back when I was working at a full-time career—we have the President’s Day holiday.

Then, my two granddaughters (my only two!) have birthdays this month.  One on the 13th and the other on the 21st.  The same year, too!  Imagine that.  Dedicated to these two, I have a blog called Snow Impressions, which features a photo of them taken in the snow during a vacation at Big Bear (near LA).  The two girls were seven that year (and this year they’ll be thirteen!).

How time flies!

One of the girls lives here in Fresno, and the other lives in LA.  A couple of summers ago, I had the two of them visiting me during the same week.  That was fun!

With their busy lives, there is less and less time for these occasions.  But the blog and the header featuring them helps me remember those special moments.

Oh…and the other thing I like about February is how short the month is…less time between paydays!  LOL.

Because there would be no other reason for me to celebrate the galloping of Time.  Certainly not at my age when I have so much more to do yet!

Another blog here is my go-to site for documenting my progress through my TBR stacks, which is moving right along, BTW.  That blog is CURL UP AND READ.

Now I must get back to reading…and later, I’ll be working on my manuscript.

Hope you’ll stop by and share your own explorations.

SPOTLIGHTING FRAN LEWIS

Today I have had the pleasure to spotlight another blogger/author, Fran Lewis, whose story is told as a Guest Blogger.

Fran describes in detail her journey toward her career as a writer, which came together for her when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In this process, she also shares her experiences growing up, and the challenges she faced.

What Fran has to tell is her own “coming-of-age” tale, as well as her mother’s journey toward memory loss and the unique tragedy that brings.

Memories are Precious reveals much about that voyage.

A MAGICAL JOURNEY — A Review of “Whale Song”

From the talented author Cheryl Kaye Tardif we are given a poignant and haunting tale—a coming-of-age story of a young girl transplanted to an island culture that combined Native mysticism with the beautiful animal world of the whales.

When Sarah Richardson’s family moved from Wyoming to Vancouver Island, she was not happy. Leaving behind a life of familiarity and comfort, including her best friend, she could not imagine ever experiencing joy again. Her parents, however, immerse themselves into their new lives—her mother resumes her art and her father, his marine biology.

But soon enough, she finds herself seamlessly drawn to the island, the ocean, and eventually to a new best friend—Goldie Dixon—and a wise old woman called Nana, who instilled Native Nootka mysticism into her new identity.

Unfortunately, as she begins a new school year, she becomes the victim of racism meted out by another young girl and learns what it’s like to be bullied. In the process, however, she discovers the other girl’s secret abuse by her father, and during a school field trip, when she saves the other girl’s life, they become fast friends.

As life begins to settle into some kind of normalcy, Sarah is happy— she even has experienced her first crush on Adam, a young boy in her class.

But then life takes a tragic turn, as she learns of her mother’s terminal illness. Then in a horrible and devastating moment that dramatically alters all of their lives, something happens in that hospital room; something that Sarah cannot remember—hysterical amnesia, the doctors report. Because her father is the suspect, he is sent to prison for murder…for allegedly turning off his wife’s life support.

Through the horrible aftermath, Sarah clings to Nana’s words: “When wolf walks by her, she will remember.”

What finally emerges, years later, will set them all free.

A powerful tale of mystery, drama, coming-of-age, and Native mysticism, Whale Song: A Novel was like a magical journey…I couldn’t put it down!

A MAGICAL TAPESTRY OF LIVES UNDONE — A Review of “Sing Them Home”

singthemhomeIn 1978, in the small town of Emlyn Springs, Nebraska, a tornado has ravaged the community, swirling through its ranks and taking the wife of the small-town physician, Llewellyn Jones.

Before her final “ascent,”  Hope Jones had already begun to descend into physical deterioration through Multiple Sclerosis; being whisked away by a tornado might be seen as a kinder, gentler journey.

But the aftermath of the tornado leaves much more than the usual detritus. In the wake of its devastation, the three children of Dr. and Mrs. Jones each carry the emotional waste with them into adulthood. Larken, an art professor, comforts herself with food and protects herself from relationships with an extra layer of flesh; Gaelen, the esteemed TV weatherman in Lincoln, Nebraska, keeps himself physically fit through bodybuilding and protects himself from long term relationships by his womanizing behavior. And the youngest, Bonnie—described as Flying Girl by Emlyn Springs residents because she was found, with her bicycle, in a tree after the tornado—collects bits and pieces of people’s lives, like artifacts, hoping to make sense of it all and find meaningful connections between these treasures and the lives of those who have gone on before her.

Alvina Closs, who was Dr. Jones’s nurse and his mistress for many years, carries the pain of how her relationship with the doctor – even while his wife, her friend, was alive—might have damaged Hope in some way. She seeks meaning in her life that suddenly veers off track when Dr. Jones, now the mayor of Emlyn Springs, is struck by lightning and killed one day while playing golf. She attempts to pick up the pieces of a solitary life and makes Dr. Jones’s vision, the one that included joining forces with a “sister city” in Wales, her own.

The community—one that mirrors the Welsh one in many ways, in its traditions and heritage—bands together to enjoy a special event called Fancy Egg Days, which features a performance by several students and the crowning of Little Miss Emlyn Springs.

Throughout the book, we follow the lives and loves of the three adult children—interspersed with passages of Hope Jones’s diary from the 60s and 70s—and come to admire and cheer them on as they struggle with the foibles they have inherited (in part due to the devastation wrought by their mother’s passing), and also the unique heritage of their small community.

And then, as the drama of Fancy Egg Days draws to a close, another devastation is visited upon the town residents. Will they pick up the pieces of their lives again? Will they somehow turn devastation into triumph?

A compelling read, Sing Them Home: A Novel, introduces the reader to a treat—an exploration—into the lives of characters that become so real that they feel like our own neighbors in some small town community we know. In the end, we long for the story to continue.

JOY: IN UNEXPECTED PLACES — A Review of “Joy School”

Joy School“Young as I am, I know now that everything is about to come. Jimmy will be the place for me to learn the real happiness. He will be my Joy School. My joy. Mine.”

These words sum up this story, about a 13-year-old girl, Katie, transplanted to Missouri after her mother’s death, and subject to the mercurial moods of a stern, inaccessible father; she finds solace in the housekeeper and in her two friends—Cynthia, who is odd and whose grandmother actually interests Katie, with her loud, Italian ways and her penchant for cooking pasta in the middle of the night—and Taylor, a shoplifter, who introduces Katie to her larcenous skills and to make-out sessions at the drive-in theater.

And then there is Jimmy—a 23-year-old married man, who comes to her rescue one day when she has fallen through the ice while skating—and who pays her the kind of attention she is sorely lacking in her everyday life.

This coming-of-age tale skillfully describes a young girl who is out-of-place in her world—a world set in the fifties or sixties—and who searches for some kind of kinship with the cast of characters placed in her path.

We connect with her, in that the author paints a picture of this isolation in such a way that we can relate. We think—Oh, yes, I know what that feels like. And as the story comes to an end, we can feel the hope—just as she experiences it.

Joy School (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) is memorable, hilarious and heartbreaking.

MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL…

IdenticalIn Ellen Hopkins’ Identical, identical twins Kaeleigh and Raeanne share a complicated, traumatic history.

Some of this history is revealed in pieces as the book progresses, showing us the twins as mirror images of each other, with Kaeleigh bingeing and cutting herself and Raeanne abusing drugs and engaging in sexual acting-out.

With their parents as pillars of the community—their father is a judge and their mother a member of congress—their lives would seemingly be picture-perfect. Certainly the external accouterments would suggest that.

But behind closed doors, ominous forces are at play—a father who sexually abuses his daughter and a mother that looks the other way—and the mirror image twin who observes and notices and protects in the only way she knows how.

Unable to reach out for help, the twins limp along, surviving as best they can.

And then, startling information comes out—at the hands of their paternal grandfather—revealing something of their father’s history that explains a lot.

A final revelation startles the reader while finally allowing the light to shimmer in…And now, healing can begin.

As I read this book, I was put off at first by the style of the text, but came to admire the creative arrangements of the words on the page—reflections of the emotion portrayed—and the original design of Kaeleigh and Raeanne’s voices as “mirror images” on opposing pages when transitioning from one voice to the other.

I will not forget this book for a long time.