Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TWO novels ~ about Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette: The Journey ~ by Antonia Fraser, 2001, fiction (France)
France’s beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous "Let them eat cake," was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death.  She has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history.  Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history.  Antonia Fraser’s lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, but also in the unraveling of an era.
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette ~ by Sena Jeter Naslund, 2006, fiction (France)
Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France.  Coming of age in the most public of arenas — eager to be a good wife and strong queen — she warmly embraces her adopted nation and its citizens.  She shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in so doing is unable to give what she and the people of France desire most:  a child and an heir to the throne.  Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle, and apart from the social life of the court, she allows herself to remain ignorant of the country's growing economic and political crises, even as poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge.  The young queen, once beloved by the common folk, becomes a target of scorn, cruelty, and hatred as she, the court's nobles, and the rest of the royal family are caught up in the nightmarish violence of a murderous time called "the Terror."  Naslund makes a bygone time of tumultuous change as real to us as the one we are living in now.
Both of these novels were donated to the library here at the Crown Center where I sort and shelve books as a volunteer.  Both were written by excellent writers, though I haven't (yet?) read either book.  But there's only room for a limited number of books and we have to make hard decisions about which ones people are likely to choose to read.  Knowing books isn't enough; we also have to know our readers, who all live at the Crown Center for Senior Living.  Keep one?  Both?  Neither?  Abundance by Naslund went on the shelf because it's less than a decade old, but the other was deemed too old and didn't.

I read and reviewed The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson (2005), which I considered excellent.  Maybe someone will donate it to our little library some day.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Meditating on the world's wisdom ~ Taoism

76.  Hardness

My twin great-grandsons at 3 weeks old
Living people
are soft and tender.
Corpses are hard and stiff.
The ten thousand things,
the living grass, the trees,
are soft, pliant.
Dead, they're dry and brittle.
So hardness and stiffness
go with death;
tenderness, softness,
go with life.
And the hard sword fails,
the stiff tree's felled.
The hard and great go under.
The soft and weak stay up.

This translation is from Ursula K. Le Guin's 1997 book, Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way.  She added notes for some of the 81 chapters, which she calls poems.  I meditated on what she wrote about this one.

"In an age when hardness is supposed to be the essence of strength, and even the beauty of women is reduced nearly to the bone, I welcome this reminder that tanks and tombstones are not very adequate role models, and that to be alive is to be vulnerable."
I started my meditations on several versions of the Tao Te Ching because of this article which quoted Lao Tzu's #76. By checking this online site, I decided she quoted Stephen Mitchell's translation.  It's much easier to check online than to page through each of my hard copies of many translations of the Tao Te Ching, some of which are still in boxes.

Day Two ~ banned classics

According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.  For more information about this list, read this ALA post.

1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son, by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
38. All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
40. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
45. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
53. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
57. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
64. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
66. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
73. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
80. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
84. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
88. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
97. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Cross-posted on my Banned Books blog.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Banned Books Week ~ Sept 27 to Oct 3

It's Banned Books Week, so what are you reading?
Cross-posted on my Banned Books blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Caturday ~ bird watching

Yesterday morning, Bonnie took a picture of me watching a flock of birds flit from limb to limb of the trees below our window.  Maybe I'll call this my new hobby.

Three days ago, she caught me climbing through the blinds, which she had not yet opened for me.  I figured out how to use my paw to separate the blinds and step through because she keeps leaving me here alone to find something to do while she goes visiting or whatever she does to have fun when she's not at home.  What's a cat to do?  Explore, that's what.

Clawdia, 'til next time   >^. .^<

Friday, September 25, 2015

Beginning ~ in the river's current, drowning

The Good Neighbor ~ by A. J. Banner, 2015, fiction (Washington), 8/10

Opening lines of the Prologue
I'm drowning.  The river's current is tearing me apart.  I've kicked off my boots, but my heavy jeans cling to my legs.  My chest burns with the need for air.  Where is she?
Opening line of Chapter One, Two Months Earlier
That early October evening, everything on Sitka Lane was still perfect.
Summary of the book
From a phenomenal new voice in suspense fiction comes a book that will forever change the way you look at the people closest to you.  Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about — quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors.  That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald.  But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception.  And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.  Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives.  As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true — about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage.  With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?
I joined the group "One Book One Facebook," discovered they have already started discussing the first chapters of this choice for September, and immediately downloaded the book to my Kindle.  I'm discovering how dangerous it can be for a "bookie" like me to have a device that immediately satisfies my desire for another book, and another book, and another........  Yeah, that.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Foodies Read Challenge 2015

A "food book" is any book which is centered around food and/or drinks. It could be a cookbook, a food biography or memoir, a novel in which food plays a major role, or a book of nonfiction focused on a specific food, wine, chef, or restaurant.
Decide how many books, and pick your reading level.
  • Short-Order Cook:  1 to 3 books     ✓   (my choice)
  • Pastry Chef:  4 to 8 books
  • Sous-Chef:  9 to 13 books
  • Chef de Cuisine:  14 to 18
  • Cordon-Bleu Chef:  more than 19
Blog about each book you read.

Post the link to your review under the book's category:
  • cookbook
  • memoir/biography
  • fiction
  • nonfiction
  • challenge wrap-up post
  • The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2015.
  • You don’t need a pre-selected list of books.
  • It’s okay to cross over with other challenges.
  • Any book format is allowed (print, audio, ebook).
List of food books I've read in 2015
1.  Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice ~ by Peggy Lampman, 2015, fiction (Georgia), 8/10.  This one is #53 on the Foodies fiction list.

List of other food books I intend to read
1.  Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions ~ by Kate Lorig, Halsted Holman, David Sobel, Diana Laurent, Virginia Gonz├ílez, and Marian Minor (4th ed), 2012, health

2.  Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food ~ by Megan Kimble, 2015, health

3.  Voices of the Food Revolution: You Can Heal Your Body and Your World — with Food! ~ by John Robbins and Ocean Robbins, 2013, health
I chose "Short-Order Cook: 1 to 3 books" as my category because I'm starting 3/4 of the way through the year.  Maybe I'll be promoted to Pastry Chef (the next level) before the end of the year, but I'm not pushing myself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Library Loot ~ picking and choosing

The Sorrow of War ~ by Bao Ninh, 1993, fiction (North Vietnam)
Bao Ninh, a former North Vietnamese soldier, provides a strikingly honest look at how the Vietnam War forever changed his life, his country, and the people who live there. Originally published against government wishes in Vietnam because of its nonheroic, non-ideological tone, The Sorrow of War has won worldwide acclaim and become an international bestseller.
The photo below shows the library at the Crown Center, where I live and where I'm one of the library volunteers.  Residents, friends, and neighbors donate books, and we sometimes get five or six LARGE boxes of books at a time.  The shelves are full, so we have to limit books in some way.
  • Novels more than a decade old are usually donated to other organizations, unless they — or the author are still popular and talked about.
  • This is an old book, though still in good shape (another criterion for whether to keep it).
  • It's rated 4/5 on Goodreads, so lots of people like it.  That's a good sign.
  • The sub-title is "A Novel of North Vietnam."  I'll read it and decide whether it's good enough for my list of books set in the countries of the world.  I don't yet have one for this country, so that's one point in its favor.
  • Then I'll decide whether to shelve it here, donate it to my church (I also volunteer there and know it has a "multi-cultural" section), or donate it to the annual book sale we support.

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Linda @ Silly Little Mischief that encourages us to share the names of books we checked out of the library.  See what others got this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TWO ways to get books ~ on a TWOsday

I've bought four books in less than a week, so far.  And these are just the "one-click" books for my Kindle.
1.  Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most ~ by Marcus J. Borg, 2014
"And the future, including what is beyond our lives?  We leave that up to God" (last sentence of this book).  He died on January 21, 2015.
2.  Between the World and Me ~ by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015, memoir/sociology
Read an article about how Ta-Nehisi Coates's letter to his son — this book about being black in America — became a bestseller.  "Coates’s book is a profound and angry address to a nation that refuses to prosecute police officers who kill innocent black men and women; that pursues a policy of mass incarceration hugely weighted towards its black population; and that routinely seems to think nothing of it."
3.  The Girls, Alone: Six Days in Estonia ~ by Bonnie J. Rough, 2015, memoir/travel narrative (Estonia)

4.  The Good Neighbor ~ by A. J. Banner, 2015, fiction (Washington)
I also brought home books from the Crown Center's small library on the ground floor where I live.  Being one of the volunteers who works in the library to sort and re-shelve books means that lots of books go through my hands.  Yes, I do bring some of them home with me.  From top to bottom in the photo above, these are the most recent:
5.  The Other ~ by David Guterson, 2008, fiction (Washington)
6.  Snow in August ~ by Pete Hamill, 1997, fiction (New York)
7.  The House I Loved ~ by Tatiana de Rosnay, 2012, fiction (France)
8.  The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living ~ by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, 1998

Friday, September 18, 2015

Beginning ~ with an important dream

The Girls, Alone: Six Days in Estonia ~ by Bonnie J. Rough, 2015, memoir/travel narrative (Estonia)
Opening lines
When they awoke next morning, she said, "I had an important dream last night.  I dreamed that the old mother had left the house, and that the girls were alone."
— F. R. Kreutzwald (trans. W. F. Kirby) from "The Gold Spinners," an Estonian folk tale
That's a quote.  The short prologue, which helped me understand what that means, ends with these words:
Estonia had taught me a thing or two. ... the key word of my trip turned out to be the one I'd always known:  vanaema.  It meant "grandmother," but the literal translation was "old mother."  Before I went to Estonia, my idea of "old mother" represented two things:  the character I feared becoming, and the heritage I was missing.
Summary of the book:
A resurfacing writer hits the sauna, bares it all, and learns the true meaning of saga.  In her latest work, the award-winning author separates from her family for a surprising journey into the difficult past and precarious present of Estonia, the former Soviet state of her heritage.  Embarking on a journey to learn the fate of her great-great-grandmother Anna, she encounters World War II ghosts, Vikings, crones, recycled meat, a seven-ton prehistoric bull, gray hairs, and the ultimate librarian, but finds no bully bigger than Putin — or is it her own self-doubt? — in an adventure that delivers surprising lessons from her foremothers about happiness, autonomy, women’s legacies, and the writer’s life.

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Five ~ I can see clearly now!

Today's Friday Five suggestions are from 3dogmom:
"My husband had cataract and corrective surgery this week, and he is giddy with excitement as he experiences restored vision.  Listening to his enthusiastic proclamations related to his sight made me think about our senses, and what excites us about the experiences we enjoy through them, inspiring today’s Friday Five."
1.  A sight or view that brings me continual pleasure
My new kitty looking out the window or napping in the sun.  That's her in the photo above, sitting in the window AND in the sun.

2.  A sound that brings me joy
Mozart's Bassoon Concerto.  Although no concert band or orchestra I was in performed this one, I did play bassoon once upon a time.  The solo begins 1:55 minutes into this video.  If the video quits working, view it at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=36&v=lnqexXheK98
3.  A taste that I savor
Fried okra the way my mother used to make it.  I have okra on my grocery list right now.
4.  A smell that brings me comfort
Hyacinths.  When we moved into my grandmother's house after she died, my dad built our sandbox beside hyacinths my grandmother had planted.  When I smell hyacinths, I'm transported back to that spot, remembering my grandmother, the old family home, and the feeling of warm sand.
5.  A tactile experience that surprised me
"Surprise" is the key word here for me.  I can think of lots of things I like to touch, like the soft fur of a cat.  But something surprising?  The only thing that comes to mind is when I first touched a snake.  I was a child, so I only remember being surprised its skin was not slimy or scaly.  Just smooth and soft.