Friday, May 29, 2015

Beginning ~ with a statue

Run ~ by Ann Patchett, 2007, fiction (Massachusetts)
Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle's living room asking for the statue back.
I've heard good things about this book and am finding it's as good as Randi said.  If you've read this novel, please tell me what you thought about it.  Here's a summary of the story:
Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father.  As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared.  But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard cares about is his ability to keep his children — all his children — safe.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Armchair BEA ~ library love


Introductions are "an Armchair BEA standard" so we can make friends and meet new people.  Choose five questions to tell us a bit about yourself:

1.  How long have you been blogging, where are you from, and how did you get into blogging?
I've been blogging since January 2007 so I could talk about books with interesting people.  I'm "from" Chattanooga, Tennessee; but I now live in St. Louis, Missouri.  As a matter of fact, I missed Armchair BEA in 2014 — even though I participated in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 because I was in the process of moving to St. Louis.  But this year, I'm baaaack!
2.  What is one book everyone should read?
There's no such thing, but I can recommend one to people whose interests are similar to mine.  I recommended the 2014 novel Goodnight June by Sarah Jio to my church's book club, and I'll find out next week if they agreed with me or not.  I finished it in a couple of days and rated it a 10 out of 10 because I couldn't put it down.  If you want to read more about it, I shared the book's first lines, here.  I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoyed the beloved children's book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.  The author imagines a bookstore owner who was "Brownie's" friend and the inspiration for her moon book.
3  What book are you reading right now?  What is the top book in your TBR pile?

Reading now:
Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions (4th edition) ~ by Kate Lorig, Halsted Holman, David Sobel, Diana Laurent, Virginia Gonzalez, and Marian Minor, 2012, for a 6-week class that I'm taking.  The sub-title of the book is "Self-Management of Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Depression, Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema and Other Physical and Mental Health Conditions."  It encourages us to set eating goals and plan appropriate exercises.  I'm learning a lot.
Next book from TBR pile:   
Run ~ by Ann Patchett, 2007, a novel recommended by an acquaintance.  Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father.  As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared.  But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard cares about is his ability to keep his children — all his children — safe.
4.  What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?
Participants were given "Big Books" bookbags this week at the kick-off of the summer reading program at the University City Public Library.  This summer's "big book challenge" is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877), which is 923 pages long.  On the blue bookbag are the words:  "I like BIG BOOKS and I cannot lie."  Well, to tell the truth, I rarely tackle books this long.  I did borrow a copy from the library, but I've decided to put the free version on my Kindle to read because it won't be as heavy to hold.  Do you like long books?
5.  If you were stranded on a deserted island, what author would you want to bring with you?  Why?
Jodi Picoult?  Barbara Kingsolver?  Madeleine L'Engle?  (Yes, I know L'Engle died, but we're imagining aren't we?)  Someone who has written about how to survive in the wilds?  Or maybe I would rather have my best buddy there and we'd write our own novel in all that time with nothing else to do but survive.  (Donna, are you up to being stranded with me on a deserted island?)
Share a picture of your bookshelf.  (Whoever set up these questions called it my "shelfie.")  This is one of four tall bookcases in my apartment, each six shelves tall.  I actually need more.  Many of my books are still in boxes, almost a year after I moved here.  I have, at least, been slowly weeding out my books.  Unfortunately, I have also been adding books.  Surely, all you book lovers understand that dilemma!

Library Love

Librarians are awesome. Not only are they helpful, they're very fun to talk to and give great recommendations. Show your library some love, and the wonderful men and women that run it. Why is your library fantastic? Got any funny stories? Feature your library on your blog? Do an interview with a librarian?
Let me tell you about Donna, who is one of the Crown Center librarians.  After renovations, the library was ready to be restocked so it could be opened.  Donna, a book lover and former English teacher who had also worked for several years as "the bookmobile lady" for schools, volunteered to help.  You can see in the photo what she and Larry, another resident of the Crown Center for Senior Living, produced.  Books are all donated, the work of sorting and re-shelving is done by volunteers, and books are checked out on the honor system.  We sign out a book and bring it back whenever we're finished with it.  No problem.  Thanks to volunteers like Donna, we enjoy a variety of novels, biographies, thrillers, mysteries, and large print books.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Beginning ~ all wrong

All That Matters ~ by Jan Goldstein, 2004, fiction
It had all gone wrong, of course.
I can guess what went wrong, since I've read what's on the back cover.  The main character is suicidally depressed, and her feisty grandmother enters the picture.
Jennifer Stempler has nothing left to lose.  The love of her life left her, her mother died in a senseless car accident, and her Hollywood producer father started a brand-new family — with no room in it for her.  So, 23-year-old Jennifer decides to pursue (permanent) oblivion — in the form of Xanax and tequila — on the beach near her home in Venice, California.  But Jennifer's depression is no match for her nana's determination.

Gabby Zuckerman refuses to let her granddaughter self-destruct.  With her trademark feistiness, this force of nature whisks Jennifer back to her home in New York City, intending to prove to Jennifer that her life cannot possibly be over yet.  In fact, it has just begun.  Through jaunts in Central Park and road trips to Maine, Gabby tries to teach Jennifer how to trust and hope again.  But when Gabby reveals a secret — one that challenges Jennifer with a haunting and heartbreaking truth — Jennifer must find whether she has it in her to provide the final gift only she can give.
As a sometimes feisty grandmother myself, I look forward to this story.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

TWOsday books ~ two by two

TWO historical novels

Jazz ~ by Toni Morrison, 1992
In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death.  At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse.  This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.  The novel forms the second part of Morrison's Dantesque trilogy on African American history, beginning with Beloved (1987) and ending with Paradise (1997).
The Dante Club ~ by Matthew Pearl, 2003
1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses puts the finishing touches on America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and prepares to unveil the remarkable visions of Dante to the New World.  The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante out — believing that the infiltration of such foreign superstitions onto our bookshelves would prove as corrupting as the foreign immigrants invading Boston harbor.  The members of the Dante Club — poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and publisher J. T. Fields — endure the intimidation of their fellow Boston Brahmins for a sacred literary cause, an endeavor that has sustained Longfellow in the hellish aftermath of his wife’s tragic death by fire.  But the plans of the Dante Club come to a screeching halt when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only the members of the Dante Club realize that the style and form of the killings are stolen directly from Dante’s Inferno and its singular account of Hell’s punishments. With the police baffled, lives endangered and Dante’s literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find a way to stop the killer.
TWO Star Trek books

Star Trek: The Motion Picture ~ by Gene Roddenberry, 1979
The writer-producer — who created Mr. Spock and all the other Star Trek characters, who invented the Starship Enterprise, who gave the show its look and its ideals — put it all together in his first Star Trek novel.  Their historic five-year mission is over.  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and all the crew have scattered to other jobs or other lives.  Now, they are back together again on a fabulously refitted U.S.S. Enterprise as an incredibly destructive power threatens earth and the human race.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock ~ by Vonda N. McIntyre, 1984
No one on the Enterprise can believe that Mr. Spock is gone.  As the crew grieves for Mr. Spock, the awesome Genesis Device, now controlled by the Federation, has transformed an inert nebula into a new planet teeming with life.  But Genesis can also destroy existing worlds.  The creators of the Device want it given freely to the Galaxy.  But Starfleet Command fears that it will become a force for evil.  And the enemies of the Federation will not rest until they seize it — as their most powerful weapon in the battle to conquer the Galaxy.
TWO mind and body books

The Te of Piglet ~ by Benjamin Hoff, 1992
In which a good deal of Taoist wisdom is revealed through the character and actions of A. A. Milne's Piglet.  Piglet?  Yes, Piglet.  Tigger is impulsive, Eeyore is gloomy, Owl is intellectual, and Pooh is lovable, but it's Piglet who here demonstrates a very important principle of Taoism:  The Te — a Chinese word meaning Virtue — of the Small.  In other words, the author and the characters from the Pooh books engage in dialogue elucidating the Taoist principle of Te, the Way of the Small.
Perfect Weight: The Complete Mind/Body Program for Achieving and Maintaining Your Ideal Weight ~ by Deepak Chopra, 1994
One of the two launch titles in the Perfect Health Library series by bestselling author Dr. Deepak Chopra, Perfect Weight focuses on Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, to help readers conquer their weight problems.  Looking through the book, I found several charts, including one showing "all six tastes" (pp. 106-111):  bitter, astringent, pungent, sweet, sour, salty.
TWO books on death

Mortality ~ by Christopher Hitchens, 2012
On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his bestselling memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens was stricken in his New York hotel room with excruciating pain in his chest and thorax.  As he would later write in the first of a series of award-winning columns for Vanity Fair, he suddenly found himself being deported "from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady."  Over the next eighteen months, until his death in Houston on December 15, 2011, he wrote constantly and brilliantly on politics and culture, astonishing readers with his capacity for superior work even in extremis.  Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open.  In this riveting account of his affliction, Hitchens poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us.
Beyond Birth and Death ~ by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1979
Is there life after death?  India's most renowned Vedic authority presents startling evidence of the soul's incredible journey after death.  Srila Prabhupada tells how the soul travels from body to body, and how we can end the cycle of birth and death by reaching Lord Sri Krishna's ultimate abode.  An excerpt:  "The simple process of chanting the names of Krishna will reveal what one is, what God is, what the material and spiritual universes are, why we are conditioned, how we can get out of that conditioning — and everything else, step by step."
TWO books on Buddhism

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind ~ by Shunryu Suzuki, 1970
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."  So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books.  In a single stroke, the simple sentence cuts through the pervasive tendency students have of getting so close to Zen as to completely miss what it's all about.  An instant teaching on the first page.  In the forty years since its original publication, this book has become one of the great modern spiritual classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen.  Suzuki Roshi presents the basics — from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality — in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page.
Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening ~ by Stephan Bodian, 2008
Bodian, nationally recognized expert on meditation and spirituality and former editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal, reveals that spiritual awakening is not some faraway dream — or overly complicated to achieve — but an ever-present reality that is always available here and now.  Based on his own experience and over 30 years of teaching the direct approach to spiritual awakening, Bodian has broken down the awakening process into five overlapping, loosely sequential stages:  seeking, awakening, deepening and clarifying, embodying, and living the awakened life.  This book guides you through every stage of the journey, from the process of seeking through the often prolonged and challenging process of integrating the awakening into everyday life.
TWO "why?" books

Why Worry? : Stop Coping and Start Living ~ by Kathryn Tristan, 2012
Kathryn Tristan’s hands-on, solution-oriented book empowers you to break free from constant fear, worry, and anxiety.  She shows how to eliminate automatic doomsday thinking and take back control of your own life.  This no-nonsense approach draws from a variety of disciplines to offer a comprehensive guide for rewiring your brain that includes restructuring how you think, easy relaxation exercises, simple lifestyle changes, and transformative spiritual practices.  Through personal anecdotes and inspiring true stories, including self-assessment quizzes and the latest science, you’ll discover the secrets to a worry-free existence, including how to:
• recognize and eliminate inner trash talk and negative thinking;
• create outlook makeovers to slash stress and worry;
• master sure-fire worry busters;
• and discover calm during chaos.
Why Faith Makes Sense: Reasons You Can Believe God Is Real ~ by Will Davis, Jr., 2008
While the Bible declares, "The fool has said in his heart that there is no God," our culture has turned that statement on its head.  The mantra of today's intellectual crowd is that the fool is the one who believes in God.  Sadly, some Christians are starting to believe this, too.  Will Davis Jr. says this is nonsense.  You don't have to stop thinking to be a Christian.  In fact, faith is the logical, natural progression of good reasoning, and it is less foolish to believe in God than not to believe.
I was going through several big boxes of books someone discarded, to be donated to a book sale if we couldn't use them in our small library in the retirement center where I live.  These are a few of the books I had to decide whether to put on the shelves, whether anyone here would likely want to read any of these or whether we should let them go because we don't have shelf space.  Some of the books were too old, some were too torn up, and some were not likely to find readers, since most of the elderly residents who check out our books prefer novels and memoirs.  The shelves in this photo are the whole library.  At most, we have a shelf and a half.

What would you recommend about any of these books, if you were doing my job?  Which should I shelve?  Which should I toss aside?  And please tell me WHY you would make that choice.

Later, I'll tell you in the comments which ones we put on our shelves and why we didn't keep the others.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Salon ~ books and boys

BOOKS ~ coincidences?
Body Surfing ~ by Anita Shreve, 2007, fiction (New Hampshire)
At the age of 29, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed.  Trying to regain her footing, she has signed on to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage.  But when the Edwardses' two grown sons arrive at the beach house, Sydney finds herself caught up in a destructive web of old tensions and bitter divisions.  As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened.
Having found another bookstore here in the St. Louis area this afternoon, I came home with this novel.  It's a used book, and tucked inside was the original receipt for the books.  On May 3, 2007 — exactly eight years ago today — someone bought this copy of the novel in Louisville, Kentucky.  I love "coincidences" like this, that I bring home the same book on the same day, years later.  What are the odds?

I've read several of Anita Shreve's books, so I didn't hesitate to pick up this one as soon as I saw it.  I'm reading some nonfiction books right now, but this is likely be the next fiction for me.  Other recently acquired books include another "used" book.  I wonder how much I'll actually learn from this one, since I went to seminary, have a Master's degree in theology, and taught religions of the world (as an adjunct) for over a decade.  But I was curious, and the price was right.

Don't Know Much About the Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book but Never Learned ~ by Kenneth C. Davis, 1998, religion
With wit, wisdom, and an extraordinary talent for turning dry, difficult reading into colorful and realistic accounts, the creator of the bestselling Don't Know Much About®, series brings the world of the Old and New testaments to life as no one else can in the bestseller Don't Know Much About® The Bible.  Relying on new research [it was new back in 1998] and improved translations, Davis uncovers some amazing questions and contradictions about what the Bible really says.  Jericho's walls may have tumbled down because the city lies on a fault line.  Moses never parted the Red Sea.  There was a Jesus, but he wasn't born on Christmas and he probably wasn't an only child.  Davis brings readers up-to-date on findings gleaned from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Gnostic Gospels that prompt serious scholars to ask such serious questions as:  Who wrote the Bible?  Did Jesus say everything we were taught he did?  Did he say more?  By examining the Bible historically, Davis entertains and amazes, provides a much better understanding of the subject, and offers much more fun learning about it.
BOYS ~ my great-grandsons
Bloggers gather in the Sunday Salon — at separate computers in different time zones — to talk about our lives and our reading.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Beginning ~ with three dead languages

Shosha ~ by Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978, fiction (Poland)
I was brought up on three dead languages — Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish (some consider the last not a language at all) — and in a culture that developed in Babylon:  the Talmud.
Besides the fact that I've read other books by Isaac Bashevis Singer and like his writing, I learned "three dead languages" when I was younger.  My three, however, were Latin (when I was in high school), Hebrew (when I was a young mother), and Greek (in college and seminary).  Just for the record, I also took college German, and it isn't a dead language at all.  That may sound like an odd reason to "adopt" this discarded book from my library, but I admit that I'm a bit odd.  Here's the story line:
Aaron Greidinger was an aspiring young writer and son of a rabbi growing up in Warsaw between the two world wars.  He struggled to be true to his art when faced with the chance at riches and a passport to America.  Should he go to New York with the only two people who could guarantee his safety and success?  Or should he stay in Poland and face the Holocaust with his people and with Shosha, his childhood sweetheart, who had never really grown up?
UPDATE on 5-3-15:  I should have specified koine Greek, the version of Greek spoken in the first century.   I also studied classical Greek.  There are, of course, still Greek speakers in the world today!

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.