Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What I'm reading this week (5/30/16)

Hope you all had a nice long weekend. We spent Sunday at my nephew Aaron's high school graduation party. Seems only yesterday he was a four-year-old dressed in a little tux at our wedding; now he's a handsome six-foot baseball star ready to go off to college.

It was a rainy a lot lately, so I got to do a fair amount of reading (can't do any yard work in the rain! Yippee!).

Last week I finished:


Last week I finished four books. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the first in Laurie K. King's Mary Russell series. In it, Mary Russell befriends Sherlock Holmes, and they become partners solving crimes and escaping a plot on their lives. This was not quite what I was expecting. First off, it was INTENSE. (Between it, Harry Potter, and the presidential assassination stories I've been reading, I've had some nasty dreams at night.) There was definite danger, intrigue, and intense scenes in this book, and it was not a light read with its English prose. It was a very intelligent book, and I'll read at least the next in the series, but for now, I'm not looking forward to 15 more of these. Not to say I didn't like it--it was so well-written--but my mind does need a rest.

And I finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This, too, was intense. It seemed there was never a chapter where Harry was not in turmoil or downright danger. I'm surprised so many little kids loved these books for that reason. But, I did like the writing a lot (didn't talk down to kids), and it gave kids credit for intelligence and doing what was right in the face of trouble. I think I'll try the next in the series someday, but I'm, not sure I can see myself finishing it.

I'm glad I finally got to Five Days in November. I listened to this on audio, and the audio was quite good. It was short (only 4 CDs), and of course it lacked the accompanying photos the book provides. Luckily, I own a copy of the book, so I could go back and look at them. I highly recommend this book to history and president buffs. Likely, if you're into that sort of thing, you'll know the details of the Kennedy assassination, but what this book provides that others don't is a first-hand witness of the events by someone who knew the president well but had no leanings toward idolatry. The book very much takes away the agendas other accounts have, in presenting the facts as only a secret service agent could. Of course, the book goes beyond the fateful Dallas motorcade, and Hill talks about the hospital where Kennedy is pronounced dead, Air Force One where Johnson is sworn in, and the funeral. He talks about what he felt in those five days, but keeps mostly to his duty. It's heartbreaking to me that Mr. Hill carried around for fifty years the agonizing guilt of not having been able to save President Kennedy's life. I hope these books are able to work as a balm to those terrible feelings.
     I know some folks may think Mr. Hill is profiting on the Kennedy assassination and his relationship to Mrs. Kennedy by writing these books, but I feel very strongly that instead he is setting down a historical record that would have been lost had he not. No one has the information or feelings Mr. Hill had at the time or in the decades since. I think this makes writing the books an act of patriotism. It couldn't have been easy revisiting those events.

And I finished my re-read of Jordan Matter's Dancers Among Us. I'm sad to see that the book didn't have the same effect as it did the first time I looked through it. The phenomenal captures didn't have near the awe-value. But as disappointing as this was for me, it excited me to see just how much the first time of anything can mean. I found this fascinating. It makes me want to pay closer attention to the phenomena of life. P.S. I just found out that Matter has a new book coming out in October which gives me another opportunity to slow down and SEE.

Last week, I started:

I have been so excited to begin Clint Hill's Five Presidents. As you can see from the above paragraphs, I'm a huge fan. I was able to sink my teeth into the book this weekend, and I am not disappointed.

I was also excited to read some Sharon Olds poetry, and her Strike Sparks is a compilation of poems from about a half-dozen of her books. I'm finding some I've never read before.

This week I continue with:

I'm really enjoying The 50 States. I wish someone would write a book like this for adults. As much as I'm geeking out over this kid's version, I'd swoon for an adult one.

My current audiobook:

With all the intense fiction and nonfiction I've been reading lately, it's been quite the switch to listen to Jan Karon's third Mitford novel. These High, Green Hills. It's so quiet and soothing, and much slower than most other fiction. I was concerned that I'd have forgotten some of the characters and relationships from the first two books, but Karon does a good job of reminding the reader (it's not entirely subtle, but it's forgivable) who's who and what happened in the previous novels. I don't even know the plot of this book, I'm just letting it carry me along.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What I'm reading this week (5/23/16)

Last week I finished my 50th book for the year. Time was, I couldn't imagine finishing that many books, but over time, I believe I've become a faster reader (I must have, though I don't feel I have). Also, I've learned to become intentional about what I read together. I've also learned that I love having four books going at once, so I'm always finishing or starting something, which really gives a boost to my reading overall.

My husband asked me last week if I ever enjoy reading a book as much as I enjoy finishing one, which made me bristle. I don't talk to him much about what I read, mostly because it changes so much I'd be dominating conversation with book talk. I don't like to talk much about myself and my interests, even to him. Maybe that's going to have to change!

Last week I finished:

I was forced to leave Australia when I finished In a Sunburned Country. I loved that book, and while I'd never had a desire to visit the country-continent before, I do now. Bryson is so skilled at giving a comprehensive overview of a place, then bringing the conversation down to the human level with interactions with locals. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Australia or traveling.

I also breezed through Killing Lincoln which means I've read all five books of the O'Reilly/Dugard  Killing series. This is one of my favorites, right behind Killing Kennedy. I remember studying the Lincoln assassination in school (perhaps grade school?), but it's been so long ago, I only remembered the basic details: John Wilkes Booth, Ford Theatre, rider-less horse. I'd forgotten that the Lincoln assassination was part of a larger assassination plot that failed on all other accounts--the Vice President and Secretary of War lived. These books read like thrillers and are chock full of well-researched facts and trivia. This was a great refresher on not only the assassination but the Civil War as well. Recommended.

And I finished the poetry collection Risking Everything. It's always fascinating to me how poetry anthologies are put together. I've always wanted to create one myself. Roger Housden has put together a number of such anthologies, and while I've enjoyed some an not so much others, I don't know that I'd call him a great anthologizer. (For that, the honors go to Garrison Keillor and Kevin Young, whose books I can't recommend highly enough.) This book contains 110 poems, but only 48 poets; some poets were presented as many as six times. That seems sloppy to me. Also, there was a lot of use of ancient and foreign poets, that while not offensive in a collection, got a little tiring. It felt like half of the poems were in translation, which feels suspect to me. All this makes it sound like I didn't like the collection, which is far from true. It didn't hold the same magic for me as it did years ago, but it's still a strong collection that uses many of my favorite poems.

Last week I began:

Almost the moment I finished Killing Lincoln, I reached for The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first in the Mary Russell mystery series (now 15-ish volumes strong) about the relationship between Mary Russell, a bright teenage feminist in WWI-era England, and Sherlock Holmes. I'm enjoying it so far. The writing is dense and English-y for a mystery novel, which makes it much more like literature than a mystery. I've not gotten to the mystery itself yet, so I can't comment on that.

I'm re-reading (re-looking at) the photography collection Dancers among Us, which is superb. If your library has a copy, and you need a pick-me-up or a moment of wonder, check it out. The photos are of trained dancers striking a move in public. Some of these feats are jaw-dropping. It's not quite as remarkable on my second perusable, which is disappointing, but I encourage you to check it out.

On a whim, when I finished my poetry book this month, I decided to check out The 50 States, a children's book that provides loads of information on each of the 50 states. It's a large book, and each spread includes a map of the state, pertinent information, key dates, six famous or important figures from the state, and fun facts and pictures. It's a chaos of information, and I'm actually learning a lot. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a kid. So would my big brother.
Quick Quiz: Which two states border eight other states? (Answer below.)

My audiobook:

Last week I also started a new audiobook. I'd wanted to read the book Five Days in November, Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin's second book about Hill's days as Mrs. Kennedy's secret service detail. He was there that fateful day in Dallas when President Kennedy was assassinated. (In fact, the famous photo of the agent on the back of the car is Clint Hill.) Hill & McCubbin's third book, Five Presidents, was just released and I'd really wanted to read this one before the next, so I found it on audio. I have the book at home, so I look at the accompanying photos in it. Go through two presidential assassination books in as many weeks is kind of a kick to the spirits, but it just kind of happened.

And I continue with:

Okay, Harry and I are kind of becoming friends. I'm up to the chapter on the first quidditch game. I marvel at Rowling's ability to create the Hogwarts universe. She must have had a blast doing it.

I'm unsure what's next. I should finish most of these books before the long Memorial Day weekend, and I'll likely move on the Five Presidents, my chunkster book for June.

 ((Which two states border eight other states? Missouri and Tennessee.)) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What I've added to my TBR

There are so many books coming out right now that I'm interested in that I'm having trouble keeping up. And it seems like each of them leads to another book I want to read. My TBR shelves are groaning. But if you hear a hint of complaining in that, you don't know me very well!


I love all things White House, so you can bet I bought All the Presidents' Gardens just the minute it left the presses. And I've been dithering on Inside the White House for awhile now, so I finally bought a copy. Then there's In Julia's Kitchen, because I seem to share the book industry's fascination with all things Julia Child. This won't be released until Nov. 1.

I happened upon Good Dog on a blog recently, and you can bet I added it to my wish list. This is a collection of essays about dogs written by writers I've actually heard of. Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable was something I ordered for the library recently, and I decided I'd like to read it, too. I like Tantaros' intelligence and tough-girl fierceness.



Bill O'Reilly finally announced the next in the Killing... series, Killing the Rising Sun, about the United States and Japan at the end of World War II. I also added The Day Kennedy Was Shot and The Day Lincoln Was Shot to my list when Brady Carlson recommended one of them. I expect them to be very similar to O'Reilly's Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln.

And because I can't get enough of World War II stories, I've added So Close To Home about an American family's fight for survival after a U-boat attack.

I also added Juan Williams' We the People. I am quite familiar with Juan from Fox News, and I enjoy his moderate liberal stance, even if I don't always agree with it. This tome deals with the American heroes since the founding fathers, folks like Eleanor Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Billy Graham.


(Color-coordinating optional.) I finally, and enthusiastically, added The Nightingale to my list after Swapna gave it a glowing review on her blog. I've also added the war story Everyone Brave Is Forgiven to my list hoping to relive a little of the feeling I had when I read The Summer before the War (though they are about different World Wars).

I also added the first Maisie Dobbs mystery to my list, just to see if it's a series I'd like to explore.

The Sport of Kings is another novel I was asked to order for the library that intrigued me. Ever since Seabiscuit I've had a soft spot for horse racing, and here's 550 pages of it.

Memoirs and Biographies

I was on IMBD the other day when I stumbled across the next Meryl Streep movie (if Meryl's in a movie, I'll watch it, no questions asked), Florence Foster Jenkins, also staring Howard from The Big Band Theory. The book is out in July, and the movie is out in August, I believe. It's the true story of a woman who couldn't sing but did anyway and developed a following and boosted morale during WWII.

While reading Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell My Friends, I was inspired to look into a Cary Grant biography (Lowe dated Grant's daughter, Jennifer, and Grant was very kind to the young actor), and I found one written by his wife, Dyan Cannon (Dear Cary), and one written by his daughter Jennifer (Good Stuff). I plan to read both.

Books on the Table, a very thoughtful book blog, posted an author interview with Betsy Lerner, author of The Bridge Ladies recently, and it sold me on the book. It's sort of a true-life Joy Luck Club with Jewish ladies instead of Chinese ladies and bridge instead of mahjong. (There's nothing about that sentence I don't love.)

I also finally looked into Only in Naples, because I've been hankering for a foodie memoir, and I think this one will be very satisfying (though I'm not sure how foodie it is).

And because I read most any Kennedy biography that comes out, I was excited to see Jean Kennedy Smith will be releasing a memoir about growing up Kennedy called The Nine of Us in October.

Ever since watching the magnificent movie 42 about Jackie Robinson, I've wanted to read his autobiography, I Never Had it Made. The man fascinates me. I'm also dying to see the Ken Burn's biography of him recently released.

When my father was in the Navy in the 1960s, my grandmother enrolled him a book-of-the-month club. One of those books he brought home and parked on a shelf was Papa Hemingway. I remember looking at it when I was a kid and just loving the photo of Ernest Hemingway. I always thought I'd like to know what was in that book. Well, all these years later, I think it's time to find out. The book is written by a biographer friend of Hemingway's, so presumably the stories are first-hand and intimate.


At the rate I'm reading poetry, I'll have no problem reaching my goal to read 1,000 poems in 2016. I'm adding new titles to my list of poetry books all the time. Recently I added Roger Housden's Dancing with Joy; I've enjoyed many of his other collections, and I'm kind of a sucker for joy books.

I've eagerly awaited the new collection of lost Pablo Neruda poems, and I bought a copy right away. He's known for his love poems and his odes to ordinary things like onions and socks.

I've added Billy Collins' Nine Horses, The Apple That Astonished Paris, The Art of Drowning, and Questions about Angels to my list to finish out my goal of buying and reading all of Collins' work.

Lastly, the last volume of Philip Levine's poems, The Last Shift, is due out in November. I've long enjoyed Levine's work.


I've wanted to read something by Kate DiCamillo for awhile now, and I think I may start with her newest book, Raymie Nightingale, as I read in a recent interview that it's partly autobiographical.

I've read that Wolf Hollow is the new To Kill a Mockingbird, and I've definitely got to check out that assertion.

Ever since The 50 States came into the library, I've wanted to read it. When I was little, my brother had a book called Fabulous Facts about the 50 States that he read (and quizzed me from) until it fell apart. I was the only kid going into my fourth grade class knowing her state capitals. Though The 50 States is for younger kids, maybe I can find something to quiz my brother on.

I'm also eagerly awaiting Ken Burns' Grover Cleveland, Again! due out in July.

And because I'm loving How to Build a Car, I've added How to Build a Plane and How to Build a Motorcycle to my list of books to read. I love kid's book where I learn something.

Whew! That was quite the list.

What books are YOU looking forward to this spring and summer?