Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Finds (2/27/15)
Hosted by MizB. Click on the picture to link up!
Is it just me, or did this week just fly past? February is over soon, and spring is around the corner. Hopefully.
Just a couple things to share this week.

I have an admission to make. I've never read the Little House on the Prairie books. I've seen every episode of the TV show (more than once), but I've never read the books. I think it's time to remedy that, so I've added all of them to my TBR. I've only included the first one (Little House in the Big Woods) here.
Marmee &Louisa has been on my list of books to check out for awhile now, and I've finally looked into it, and I think I'd really enjoy it. It's about the relationship between Marmee (of Little Women) and her mother, written by a descendant using primary sources.

And for personal reading, I'm adding both volumes of the newly revised and expanded We Knew Mary Baker Eddy series. I'm not sure that I'll blog about these, as they're very personal to me, but if the spirit moves me, I might share. Mary Baker Eddy is the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, the religion I practice.

And that's all for this week. What have you added to your pile recently?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (heroines)
Click to link up!
This week the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking who our literary heroines are. Since I don't read as much fiction as nonfiction, my list includes a little of both.

First, for a few feisty pint-size characters:

Of the Olivia picture books. Olivia has a style (and personality) all her own.

Of the classic Eloise books. I think you'd RAW-ther like Eloise.

Clementine tries hard, but things don't always go her well-intentioned way.

Next, a couple young ladies who couldn't be more different:

Scout Finch
Possibly my favorite fictional heroine of all time. Scout couldn't have been written better. And the part of me that has always imagined what Scout would grow up to be with be satisfied this summer!

Beth March
I know you're supposed to identify and love Jo March for her determined dreams, but sweet Beth was always my favorite March sister.
A couple of grown up heroines:

Elinor Dashwood
The more practical of the Dashwood sisters, she nonetheless yearns for the same things as her impulsive, naïve younger sister.

Katie Nolan
When it comes to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I can't really decide between Francie Nolan or her mother Katie. After my first reading, years ago, I would have chosen Francie without giving her mother a second thought. Returning to the book, however, I think the plot is as much Katie's as Francie's.
And lastly, a few nonfiction heroines:

A wonderfully written memoir with an Olivia-like (see above) character. Even if the stories of her childhood are embellished, Haven Kimmel has created a lovable, quirky characterization of her younger self.

Lillian Gilbreth
After her husband's death forces her to raise her 11 children on her own in the early 1900s, this marvel of motherhood never loses her cool head or warm heart.

Evelyn Ryan
Raising 10 kids with an alcoholic husband and limited means, Evelyn supplements her family's income with cash and prizes won through contesting and jingle-writing. Her faith in herself is inspiring.

Who are your literary heroines?

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's Monday! (2/23/15)
It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
Last week I finished two books, Nora Webster and A Homemade Life. Nora Webster was not a good fit for me. As you know, I'm not a huge fan of fiction, but I tend to enjoy a good character-driven novel from time to time. While Nora Webster is a character-driven novel, it was lacking in other aspects, and I didn't really care for it.
A Homemade Life was a comforting read, but not much above average as far as foodie memoirs go. I felt like I'd read it before. I enjoyed Molly Wizenberg's 2014 release, Delancey, much better.

I'm continuing with By the Book, which is interesting even though I know little more than the names of the authors interviewed.
I'm also making slow headway with Middlemarch. By the time I finish all 25 CDs, the narrator's voice will be burned into my brain for life.

Next up is Coming Clean, something that's been on the TBR list for months. And that will probably close out February.
What are you reading this week?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Finds (2/20/15)
Hosted by MizB. Click on the picture to link up!
A little bit of everything this week: children's fiction and nonfiction, multimedia poetry, adult nonfiction and fiction. Nothing beats a long winter like a variety of "getaways."

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! and The Family Romanov are recent ALA award winners that sound especially good to me. And I've never read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I've been wanting to hear some poetry being read lately, and I remembered that Robert Pinsky had edited a collection that came with an audio (DVD) component. Many people have said the DVD is stellar, so I think I'll give An Invitation to Poetry a shot.
While reading By the Book recently, someone (forget who) talked about Just My Type, a book about fonts. I love oddball little books like this. And any book that takes a stance against Comic Sans has my approval.

I've been wanting to read a book by James Michener for years now, but I think the sheer number of options always made it impossible to choose. In his By the Book interview, Colin Powell talked about Michener's Tales of the South Pacific. When I looked into it, I saw that it won the Pulitzer Prize, so that's become my choice for a Michener read.
In my quest to read more books that everyone else has, I'm adding Freakonomics to my TBR. I imagine it's a little like a Malcolm Gladwell book.
 What have you added to your book pile this week?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Westminster Dog Show 2015

2014 Westminster Best in Show winner, a Wire Fox Terrier named Sky
Photo credit: US Weekly

It's that time of year again! The Super Bowl of Dog Shows! The two-day event that leaves me laughing at doggy antics, memorizing canine trivia, and smiling from ear to ear.

Bring on Westminster!
For two nights every February, Madison Square Garden becomes home to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The show is televised on CNBS (Monday) and USA (Tuesday) from 8-11pm (Eastern time), hosted by the wonderful David Frei. Westminster has been happening since 1877!
I'm terrible at making winner predictions. I've watched the last four years, and each year has been a surprise. I tend to cheer for the spunky little dogs, but I love them all. Maybe's it's the year for a winner from the Non-Sporting group (Dalmatian, Poodle, Chow Chow, Boston Terrier, Bulldog etc.)? Those pups never seem to get any Best in Show love. And the Golden Retriever, one of America's favorite breeds, has never won. You've gotta cheer for the under dog, you know!
It's no secret that I love dogs, and that I love books, and if you love dogs and love books, you're gonna love dog books. I shared a number of my favorites last year, and I'm back with another stack of pooch stories.
One of my absolute favorite books about dogs and one of my favorite picture books of all time, Ball is an absolute riot. Dog loves ball. Dog chases ball. Dog plays with ball. Dog dreams about ball. Dog lives for one thing: Ball. 

Chaser is a Border Collie who is trained by his human in word acquisition. She comes to recognize over 1,000 words and can fetch the toy that corresponds with the toy's name. It's an interesting look at dogs, language acquisition, and psychology. And the author, John Pilley, Ph.D., is a very kind, compassionate, and enthusiastic learner himself.
I haven't read Where the Red Fern Grows since third grade (actually, Mrs. DeJarlais read it to us), but it's stuck with me all these years as the saddest book ever written about dogs, period. It's about Billy and his hunting dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann. Old Yeller and Marley and Me might be competition, but this one affected me for life.
I realize that's ending on kind of a downer, so I Googled "best dog joke" and found this:
Why don't dogs make good dancers?
Because they have two left feet.
What breed would you cheer for?

It's Monday!
It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
Plugging right along through February. February always seems like a whistle-stop month to me. I mean, it's small and unassuming and really, just another January--only shorter. But I've been enjoying the month so far. Mostly because the books I'm reading are taking my mind off the weather.
This week I finished In Cold Blood. My goodness. What a ride. It will definitely be on my Top Ten at the end of the year.

This week I'll be finishing Nora Webster. It's not quite as good as I was expecting. The writing is very utilitarian and plain, and some plot points aren't discussed at all. It's kind of strange, like I might have missed a couple chapters.
I also started By the Book last week. I like to have a book that I can pick up and put down in addition to my "main" read. This book is perfect for that. It's a series of interviews that first appeared in the New York Times Book Review in which various writers and other famous folks talk about what they read.
And I'm continuing with Middlemarch. I'm "reading" it on CD, and I'm officially 3/25 of the way through the book. I can tell you that it's likely not a book I could get through in book form, but I'm enjoying the story overall.

When I finish Nora Webster, I'll pick up either A Homemade Life or Coming Clean, both from my TBR.
What are you reading this week?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

They're in Looooove!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

I don't read romance novels. I'm not big on love stories, per se, but I do love to hear how other people fell in love and what they do to stay that way.

So I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite love stories.

How I love this love story. I don't need a "Which Jane Austen character are you?" quiz to tell me that I am a complete and total Elinor.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, tells about her romance with her Marlboro Man (who later becomes her husband). She never thought she'd wind up on a ranch, married to a cowboy, but she's followed her choice all the way to the bank. This one is a little steamy, though they never do more than kiss passionately.

Heaven is Here is not a romance, but it does tell the story of a husband and wife and how they deal with personal tragedy. Their already strong bond strengthens even more as they face the aftermath of a plane crash that leaves them with burns over most of their bodies. Their strong faith in God and each other pulls them through.

I Love You, Ronnie is a collection of letters, cards, and doodles from President Reagan to his wife Nancy. She tells the story of their romance to highlight his romantic, fun, and witty offers through decades of marriage. This one will make you go "Awwwww."

What are your favorite love stories?


Thursday, February 12, 2015

41, George W. Bush

41: A Portrait of My Father

George W. Bush

Category: Nonfiction: Biography; Washington, D.C.; Families

Synopsis: President George W. Bush presents a biography of his father, President George H. W. Bush.

Date finished: 11 December 2014 

Rating: ****

Okay, so if Jeb Bush runs in 2016 and wins the presidential election, we would have a President Bush 41, President Bush 43, and President Bush 45. I thought I’d throw out that bit of trivia just in case you’re as enamored of dumb presidential facts as I am.


George W. Bush calls this book “a love letter to my father.” And it is. Never does he criticize his father and seldom does he bring up criticism about him. But then, Bush Senior didn’t have many enemies and had a pretty clean record as Commander in Chief. While he led us into war in Kuwait, it wasn’t as hotly contested as his son’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn’t deal with the financial woes of the current president. Nor were there any scandals or crises on his watch as there have been with previous and subsequent presidents.

Prior to becoming president, President George H.W. Bush was: a Navy aviator in World War II, a congressman, an ambassador to China, ambassador to the United Nations, Republican Party chairman, CIA director, and two-term Vice President. He is a humble, servant-hearted man who always tried to do the right thing with strength and courage. He is the only contemporary president to not write a memoir. Bush 43 brings an intimacy to stories we both know and don’t know about Bush 41. It’s a nice, uplifting read about a man whose character permeated his work no matter how he was serving his country. How can you not love a man who jumped from an airplane on his 90th birthday (as well as four previous birthdays)?

The one gripe I have about this book is just how much “W” there is in it. Now, I don’t mind “W,” in fact, I rather like the guy. But I’ve already read his memoir. There were times when inserting himself into the story made sense, and times when it was charming and heartwarming, but there were also times when it was annoying as heck.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

You might also enjoy:
Decision Points (Bush 41’s memoir)
Spoken from the Heart (Laura Bush’s memoir)
An American Life (Reagan’s memoir)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Serving Victoria, Kate Hubbard

Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household

Kate Hubbard

Category: Nonfiction: Biography

Synopsis: Hibbard highlights the lives of some of Queen Victoria’s servants.

Date finished: 6 December 2014

Rating: ****

It would be lying to say that I read this book because I wanted to know about Queen Victoria’s servants. I read this book to learn about Queen Victoria. Who her governess or lady-in-waiting or personal physician were was kind of secondary. And frankly, any book about her servants will be overshadowed by Queen Victoria herself. Overshadowed though she was a diminutive little soul (under 5’ tall).

This book gives a good portrait of the Queen while focusing on the staff members of the royal household. It really is win-win. Hubbard focuses on a handful of the hundreds of servants in the palace at any one time. We meet the royal children’s governess, and the Queen’s maid-of-honor, chaplain, and personal physician, among others. Through the letters they wrote home during their time on duty (the Queen’s ladies worked for a month at a time, several times per year), we gain a deeper understanding of who the servants are, but also who the Queen is. The servants are as loyal as the Queen is demanding, as humorous as the Queen is literal, as practical as the Queen is compulsive, as steady as the Queen is self-indulgent. As Hubbard says, “The Queen, it seems, inspires devotion and exasperation in almost equal measure.” (page 4)

While at times the book did lag a bit and was overall a bit longer than it should have been, the writing was top notch, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes. Anyone interested in Queen Victoria, royalty, or servitude would like this one, I think.

You might also enjoy:
Elizabeth the Queen

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Monday! (2/9/15)
It's Monday! is sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.
It's going to be a great year of reading. I can feel it. Last week I finished Charlotte's Web, and I can see it being on my Top Ten list at the end of the year. "The Death" didn't shatter me like it did when I was in second grade, and I'm so glad I gave it a second chance.
I'll be finishing Truman Capote's In Cold Blood this week. Talk about Top Ten books! I'm amazed at how much I like this book. It was an "out of my comfort zone" challenge that I've enjoyed more than I ever imagined I would. The writing, the details, the pacing, and the dialogue, are all top notch.

When I reluctantly finish In Cold Blood, I'll be moving on to Nora Webster. A nice character novel sounds good right now.

What are you reading this week?