Friday, January 24, 2020

Beginning ~ with a soulless room

"The young policewoman stood in the corner of the room.  Plain whitewashed walls, a heavy door, a wooden table with two chairs, and one small window with frosted glass rendered the room soulless."
Pardonable Lies ~ by Jacqueline Winspear, 2005, mystery (England)
In the third novel of this bestselling series, London investigator Maisie Dobbs faces grave danger as she returns to the site of her most painful WWI memories to resolve the mystery of a pilot's death.  A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.  As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never accepted that her aviator son was killed in the Great War, a torment that led her not only to the edge of madness but to the doors of those who practice the dark arts and commune with the spirit world.  In accepting the assignment, Maisie finds her spiritual strength tested, as well as her regard for her mentor, Maurice Blanche.  The mission also brings her together once again with her college friend Priscilla Evernden, who served in France and who lost three brothers to the war ― one of whom, it turns out, had an intriguing connection to the missing Ralph Lawton.
Yes, I'll keep reading.  There are (so far) fifteen books in this series, which can be read separately as stand-alone novels.  This is the third, and all of the series are on the shelf in our little Crown Center library.

Would the first few lines of your book make you want to read on?  If you want to share the first lines of a book you are reading, click on the link and visit Gilion at Rose City Reader.  Browse today's Linky to find interesting books for your own reading list.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

"I wanted to explore the journey of those young women who lost the men they might have married.  They were an extraordinary generation who had to redesign — if you will — the notion of what it meant to be a woman on her own — a spinster."
Those men were lost in the Great War of 1914-1918 in Europe.  This quote is from page 4 of a "conversation" with the author at the back of Jacqueline Winspear's 2004 novel Birds of a Feather.

Winspear's books are bringing back memories from my own life as I read about life between the First and Second World Wars.  This line makes me think of my Aunt Bonnie, whom I'm named for.  She was a "spinster," born in 1904, and thus at the exact age Winspear is talking about.  In 1930, when this book is set, she would have been 26 years old.  I remember hearing Mother telling someone that her sister had turned down a fellow who asked Bonnie to marry him, not knowing he'd be the last to propose to her.  The reason she rejected him?  He didn't have indoor plumbing.

I realized, on reading that line above, that she didn't have as many options as I did, or even my mother, who was 13 years younger than her sister.  The photo shows Mother's family:  father, mother, six brothers, and two sisters.  Their parents are on the left, my mother is the girl on the front row, and Bonnie is behind her.  Mother was 12 when her father died in an auto accident in 1930, so this photo has to be earlier than that, obviously.  Bonnie went on to work (and support herself) by working for Mark, the brother on the far right in this picture, who owned a coal company on Main Street near Ridgedale.  She ran the office and dispatched the trucks delivering coal to their customers.

By the way, they are standing in front of the house I wrote about yesterday, the house on Fifth Avenue where I lived from 1943 to 1949.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Write with me ~ about memories

Write a list that begins "I remember."
(Why a list?  Why not just write about a memory?
Okay, do whatever you like about "I remember,"
and maybe write a paragraph in the comments?)

I remember the stove in the living room of our house when I was a little girl.  My experiences with that coal stove came to mind when I read this line on page 204 of Jacqueline Winspear's novel Birds of a Feather (2004):
"Maisie prepared her bath, opened the door to the fire and settled down to soak before embarking on the rest of her day."
When I was three years old, my mother's mother died and my family moved into her house with my Aunt Bonnie Reynolds.  The coal-burning stove sat in front of the closed-in fireplace, where the stove pipe vented.  It looked something like this one I found online, but our fireplace was still there behind the stove.  Our stove wasn't as boxy as this, but had more rounded corners.  Beside it was the coal shuttle, shaped like this one.

That little stove was the only heat for the whole house (not counting the kitchen's oven), and I'd run to the living room on cold mornings to warm myself — front and back — at the open door of the stove.  Maisie, in the novel, opened the door of her stove for the fire's warmth, just as we did.  Both bedrooms, where I lived, opened onto the living room, the one where I slept with Auntie at the front of the house and the one where my parents slept at the back of the house.  Between the bedrooms was a connecting bathroom, with a clawfooted tub and a big closet.  I probably would have welcomed a warm stove near my bathtub, as Maisie did.

Modern technology enabled me to "visit" that house again by googling the first address I ever memorized; I lived on Fifth Avenue in East Lake.  The open lots on each side are still there, but the big tree in front of the house is gone, replaced by a smaller tree on the other side of our front yard.  Grandma's two beautiful crepe myrtle trees are missing from the side yard.  Ah, well, everything changes, doesn't it?

I googled that address for a 2013 post, where I also mentioned the changes wrought by the decades since I lived there.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Teaser ~ a memoir I recommend

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio ~ by Peg Kehret, 1996, memoir, 9.5/10
"Why were you out of bed?" ...
"I was doing the hula," I said. ...
"The hula?"
"Alice didn't know what the hula is," explained Renée.
"So Peg was going to show her," Dorothy added.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Willie helped me into bed and warned me to stay there.  "In all my years of nursing," she said, "I've never had a polio patient try to dance the hula" (p. 102).

Peg Schulze became Peg Kehret when I married Carl Kehret.  We have two children, Anne and Bob, and I wept for joy the day they got their first polio vaccinations" (p. 172).
I saw this on Donna's shelf, borrowed it, read it straight through in one sitting, and have already returned it to Donna.  Here's what the book is about:
In a riveting story of courage and hope, Peg Kehret writes about months spent in a hospital when she was twelve, first struggling to survive a severe case of polio, then slowly learning to walk again.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dancing the snow away

The offices closed early, along with the Café and dining program.  We are expecting snow and icy road conditions this afternoon, so people were sent home from work and schools.  Some of us continued to sit around and talk after we ate, and Toni came in with "Alexa" and plugged "her" in near our table.  Drenda and I got up to dance to the music, as you can see in this photo.  Gotta get this posted quickly, so I can get down to our Fitness Center in time for our group to exercise together at 3:00 p.m.  It's really great that we don't have to leave the building to do our thing, whether dancing or working out.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Craziest books I've ever seen

Bathroom Guest Book: Please Sign In While Sitting Down ~ by Knock Knock, (no date), humor
No ordinary guest book, Knock Knock's throne-room tome offers provocative prompts and ample doodle space to help your guests express themselves for posterity.  Unique housewarming gift becomes a one-of-a-kind keepsake.  Amazon has a video showing possible doodles.
Here are some of the pages, just for laughs.  Click to enlarge pages for easier reading.

Oh, my!  When I looked up this book on Amazon, I learned that people who buy this book also have bought others like it.  Really?  And I never knew such books existed?

The Bathroom Guest Book ~ by Jack Kreismer, humor, 2000
This one has "Privia" to read, like this:  "The Scott Paper Company, makers of the toilet tissue, once conducted a survey which concluded that more than two-thirds of people holding master's degrees or doctorates read in the bathroom."
Our Restroom Guest Book: Something to Do While You Do What You Do ~ humor, 2012
Each page includes hilarious checkboxes including  things like:  favorite name of bathroom, rate your experience, and check all that apply.  I like the "How do you hang yours?" question about toilet paper:  Over, Under, or Lazy.
Do I plan to buy any of these?  No, but they are good for a laugh today.