Monday, September 25, 2017

What I'm reading this week (9/25/17)

Last week I finished:

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions is the third in the Kopp Sisters series, books based on the life of the first New Jersey female deputy sheriff, Constance Kopp, and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette. In this installment, Constance is put into service working on behalf of two young women who were arrested on morality charges. I didn't know this was ever done. Young women were arrested for running away from home, cohabiting with men, and other "wayward" behavior. The girls differ greatly, one wanting only to earn money to help with the World War I war effort. The other just wants a different life than the one she lived with her parents, and she'll do whatever she has to in order to have it. A simultaneous plot is Fleurette skipping town to join a Vaudeville troupe, which doesn't quite turn out the way she'd planned. I think this is my favorite of the series so far. They are all very cozy, low-key novels, all well-written with nothing extraneous. The sisters are all very different from each other and independent and funny in their own ways. I was concerned that this one was getting too preachy in favor of the relaxing of morals, but it didn't veer too far into that category. All in all, this was a very enjoyable read, and I liked all of the characters. If you haven't tried one of these novels, I highly recommend them. They don't have to be read in order, but that doesn't hurt either. My rating: 4 stars.

I've been wanting to find a good decorating book for awhile--even though I'm approximately 1,295,637 issues behind in my decorating magazines subscriptions and probably could find some  (free) inspiration there. I'd never heard of James T. Farmer III, but I really enjoyed his newest (released in August), A Place to Call Home. And now I'll be looking up his previous books. Farmer's expertise is the southern style of decoration--a traditional style, with an emphasis on family pieces, things that display local pride, and natural elements. The writing was cheerful, and it's obvious that he loves what he does. Granted, tastes in home decorating vary greatly, but if you enjoy the traditional style, I highly recommend this book. It's one of the few decorating books I've found in the last few years that I loved. My rating: 4 stars.

This week I'll finish:

I am within 100 pages of finished Bess W. Truman, and considering this one is 430 pages, and considering I've been reading it in small chunks, it feels like more of an accomplishment than most. I'll post a full review next week, but suffice it to say I'm not necessarily in love with the book.

I'll also finish Louis Jenkins' Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970-2005 this week. This has been fun, but I've felt rushed having started it well into the month, and that may have taken some of the enjoyment out of it. Full post next week.

And then I'll begin:

I've had this one planned for well over a year. I've wanted to read a classic "horror" novel in October for years now, and I'm finally going to pick up Frankenstein. I'm so nervous that I won't like it, though I love the (original) movie. I'd hate to have waited this long to read it and then not like it.

My audiobooks

Because the library took so long to deliver Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid from another library, last Saturday found me scouring the audiobook shelves for something to start while I waited for it. I chose The Oregon Trail which has been near the top of my TBR for ages. It's been a lot of fun to listen to, but the narration leaves something to be desired--and there's a ton of swearing. I'll post a full review next week. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is finally in at the library (yay!), so I'll be starting it very soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

25 books I've added to my TBR

Here is what I've recently been excited to add to my To Be Read list.


I guess I'm on a default mission to read all of Agatha Christie's mysteries. I've added two more to my reading list: Death on the Nile (because I'm kind of on an African kick lately) and 4:50 from Paddington (because it was a good Kindle deal).

I've been wanting to try a Richard Russo book, and I'd been kicking around which one when I ran across Empire Falls at Savers the other day. Guess I'll start there.

Because I so enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible, I've added Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior and Prodigal Summer to my reading list, too.

I recently bought The Dry after Anne Bogel raved about it. I have yet to open it, though.

And I've long wanted to read something by Rosamunde Pilcher, so I finally settled on The Shell Seekers.

And added to my list of "some day" reads, is Anna Karenina and Lonesome Dove. A library student told me once it was her favorite book, and that intrigued me so much I finally bought a copy. Now to actually sit down and read the big ole doorstop.


After reading The Spirit of St. Louis recently, I was reminded that I had two unread (I think) books by Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's daughter Reeve. One is a memoir of growing up in the famous household (Under a Wing), the second is a memoir of her mother's last days (No More Words), and I hope to read them in order to get to Forward from Here where she discusses her father's multiple families. None of these is long, but I have been carrying around the first two for years.

And because I just adored Homer Hickam's memoir Rocket Boys, I've added the follow-up memoirs The Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone of my TBR. I can't wait for these!

And for something a bit lighter... I think I remember a copy of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small (stories from a country vet) and Paper Lion (a man attempts to become a pro quarterback) on my father's bookshelf growing up. Both sound like fun to me. And I'm also including Jonathan and Drew Scott's memoir It Takes Two: Our Story. The Scott twins are HGTV celebs.

I picked up a copy of Elie Wiesel's Night at Goodwill the other day. I've been circling the chair on this one for awhile, being about living through a Nazi concentration camp, but maybe it's time to read it.

And for some reason I skipped right over Michael Perry's From The Top, a set of essays (I think). It's ridiculous that I haven't read this one yet.


American Fire came out recently, but although it's on my list, I have yet to pick up a copy.

Since I enjoyed Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor, I've bought copies of both How to Read Novels Like a Professor and Twenty-Five Books That Shaped America.


When I finished Pablo Neruda's Odes to Common Things recently, I wanted more, so I bought All the Odes, over 800 pages in both English and Spanish. That oughta do it. 

I also ran across a number of Louis Jenkins poems recently that I really loved, so I've added both Before You Know It and North of the Cities to my wish list.

And last but not least, I recently snapped up a copy of William Yeoward at Home. No, I don't know who William Yeoward is, but I do enjoy his decorating style, and I'm dying for some good decorating books again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (fall 2017 TBR)

This week the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking for the Top Ten books on Your Fall TBR List. For this I've made a list of (more than 10) books out this fall that I'm most excited to read. But that doesn't mean I'll get to them all before New Years. I'm really making a concentrated effort to read some of my older books the last few months of 2017. Rest assured, though, that I'll sneak some of them in.
(arranged in order of release)

Michael Perry
Danger: Man Working: Writing from the Heart, the Gut, and the Poison Ivy Patch [Aug. 15]

Jonathan Scott, Drew Scott

It Takes Two: Our Story [Sept. 5]
Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard
Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence [Sept. 19]
Denise Kiernan
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home [Sept. 26]
William A. Ewing, William Wegman (Photographer)
William Wegman: Being Human [Oct. 3]
Laura Izumikawa
Naptime with Joey [Oct. 3]
Max Garland
The Word We Used For It [Oct. 11]
Amy Tan
Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir [Oct. 17]
Chip Gaines
Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff [Oct. 17]
Ree Drummond
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives [Oct. 24]
Michael Perry
Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles through Philosophy [Nov. 7]
A.J. Jacobs
It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree [Nov. 14]

Monday, September 18, 2017

What I'm reading this week (9/18/17)

Last week I finished:

My, what a reading month September is shaping up to be. I've been tearing through books at such a clip I've had to add books to my original reading list. The first book I added was Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library, the second of her Miss Marple mysteries. This is one of my favorite Christie books yet. A body is found in the Bantrys' library, but neither of them had ever seen the girl before. While the professionals investigate, Mrs. Bantry invites her friend Miss Marple to see if she can get to the bottom of things. This one is full of folks with motive but sufficient alibies and no alibies but no motive. While I didn't guess the killer, I did guess how it was done, so I feel pretty smart. This was a nice quick mystery, which I quite enjoyed. My rating: 3.5 stars.
I bought a copy of Homegoing for my brother for Christmas last year because he loves literature about Africa. Shortly after, I bought a copy for myself. It had been on so many best of 2016 lists that I had to know what the hype was about--and whether it was warranted. I have to tell you, I resisted this book for quite awhile. It was so full of violence and hatred and dark themes. Also, it seemed like it was going to be hammering home a racial agenda, and a book with agendas is something I just can't stomach. Here's the plot: two half sisters are born in Africa in the 1700s. One marries a British officer and the other is sold into slavery and makes her way to the United States. The book follows several generations of descendants of both women, in Africa and in America. Each chapter is about a new character, and on audio it was a bit challenging to remember who was whose child and what events came before. Although the narration was very, very good, that was one downfall of listening to this one. Another thing that bothered me was all the sex. There were numerous sex scenes that, though not terribly explicit, seemed a bit more graphic than warranted. Overall, though, I grew to really appreciate this book. The characters were well-imagined and the situations were real and original to each character and era. While it was not a very cheerful read, nothing in it was too far off the historical mark. I grew to care about the characters and their struggles (they all struggled), and I eased my resistance a bit. I do think that white people, with the exception of a very, very few were portrayed in the worst terms, but so were a fair number of the blacks. I was gratified that Gyasi wrote about the role black Africans had in the slave trade, overtaking other tribes to sell them into slavery. This is something I certainly never learned in school, and I'm not sure if it's taught yet. I think it's an important fact that must be discussed when we discuss the horrors of the slave trade and slavery in America. This would be a wonderful book for book clubs, and it's one that I may even revisit sometime despite its darkness. I found it quite well done. My rating: 4 stars. 

Morningstar by Ann Hood is a book about reading. What can be more gratifying than that? It's short, less than 200 pages, and it kind of hit the spot. Each chapter is an essay about a life lesson that reading a particular book taught her. It's part memoir, part readerly wonder, and I really liked it. While I haven't read most of the books she discussed, she told enough about the book to bring me into the discussion. Throughout the book I would ask myself: what are the touchstone books for you if you wrote such a book? It was a lot of fun to think about. I liked Hood and I liked how she wrote. This was a cozy little book. I might have to investigate her novels. My rating: 3.5 stars.
I've shared my love of Maddie the coonhound and her human Theron Humphrey before on my blog. Maddie was rescued from the pound a handful of years ago, and together, Humphrey and Maddie have had a lot of adventures and road trips (some of which was featured in his previous book, Maddie on Things). Maddie Lounging on Things shows the chill hound at her serene best. I. loved. this. book. I was so touched by the photos. I can't explain why other than they just captured so perfectly this particular dog. I love it when art is able to get to the very essence of something. These photos do. You really feel that you get to know her through the photos. I dare you to look at almost any one of them and not smile like a lunatic. Don't miss the toughing introductory essay to get a feel for Humphrey and his relationship with Maddie. I loved this even more than the first Maddie book, and I know I'll be returning to it again and again. Favorite photos include: Maddie in the guitar case and Maddie with a white sheet tucked around her outline. This would be the perfect gift for a dog lover. My rating: 5 stars.

I also finished my third re-read of the book that changed me life and daily informs my spirituality, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. This is the textbook of Christian Science*, a companion to the Bible, and an explanation of how to heal the way Jesus did. Please contact me if you would like a free copy of this book.
*Christian Science is a Christian religion and is in no way related to Scientology. 

This week I began:

I was so excited to finally begin the third (final?) in the Kopp Sisters series, Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions about Deputy Sherriff Constance Kopp and based on actual events. I love these books.

My nighttime reads:

I'm working my way through Bess W. Truman 15 pages at a time. FDR has just passed on, and Harry Truman is about to be sworn in as commander-in-chief.

This week I began Before You Know It, prose poems by Louis Jenkins. I'd originally planned on reading Laura Kasischke's Where Now, but when it finally arrived, it was much longer than I'd anticipated, and I knew I'd never finish it this month. I recently discovered Louis Jenkins, and I really like his poetry.

My next audiobook:

I'd planned on listening to Endurance about the Shackleton voyage this month, but that audiobook is checked out at the library, so I've swapped in Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I might be able to get to both this month, but we'll see.