Thursday, February 23, 2012

Adopting Turtle

Back in the days of being an Oprah fan, I followed Ms. Winfrey's advice and read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Does anyone else remember that huge book? It was pretty amazing, and if you haven't read it by now, you probably should.

But I recognized Kingsolver's name on another little gem I picked up at the thrift store one day: The Bean Trees. Apparently, this is now standard reading for many college lit classes, so there are all kinds of notes and summaries you can get online-- in case you need to write a paper, I guess. If you just want to enjoy it for fun, it is worth it. I'll give you a quick peek just to get you intrigued.

"Missy" Greer lives in rural Kentucky and her main goal is to finish high school, avoiding pregnancy. She begins to work at a hospital, and after certain unfortunate incidents, she decides to leave town for good. She buys an old VW bug and heads west. She decides that she is going to change her name, depending on the first town she ends up in when she runs out of gas! Thus, her name becomes Taylor after Taylorville. After that, she decides that she is going to settle wherever her car takes her. This doesn't work too well because she breaks down in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. She stops in at a diner to eat, then has a strange occurrence when she tries to leave. A woman shows up, shoves a young child into her car, begs her to take her since her mother is dead, and then takes off. Taylor reluctantly takes the orphaned child with her, and they make it into Arizona, Cherokee Nation. She discovers the child doesn't talk at all as an after-effect of being abused.

This begins the journey of how Taylor bonds with the child, whom she ultimately names "Turtle," and those she meets along the way who become very important figures in her new life. This book is written in first person, and I fell in love with the character of Taylor and her funny perspectives on everyone and everything. Kingsolver writes lines that make you want to repeat them out loud to your uninterested spouse, or write them down to put on your wall, just to read them over again. Take this description, for instance:

The two women were still moving toward us at an unbelievably slow pace. I thought of a game we used to play in school at the end of recess: See who can get there last. Edna had on a red-knit top, red plaid Bermuda shorts, and red ladies' sneakers with red soles. Virgie had on a tutti-frutti hat and a black dress printed all over with what looked like pills. 


We crossed the Arizona state line at sunup. The clouds were pink and fat and hilarious-looking, like the hippo ballerinas in a Disney movie. The road took us through a place called Texas Canyon. . .it was a kind of forest, except that in place of trees there were all these puffy-looking rocks shaped like roundish animals and roundish people. Rocks stacked on top of one another like piles of copulating potato bugs.


The most amazing thing was the way that child held on. From the first moment I picked it up out of its nest of wet blanket, it attached itself to me by its little hands like roots sucking on dry dirt. I think it would have been easier to separate me from my hair. 

Imagine my happiness when I finished this book, and discovered there is a sequel! The adventure continues in Pigs in Heaven.

Find out more at her website. Have fun and let me know what you think!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Luck Had Nothing to Do With It

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 kids in 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan is an amazing story that I love, love love. Terry was one of Evelyn Ryan's ten kids, who discovered a paper trail after her mother died that begged a story to be written. Terry's father was an alcoholic who drank away much of their income, leaving Evelyn with the need to find creative ways to survive. Her solution was to enter contests; not the random sweepstakes kind. The "contesting era" of the 50's and 60's required entries of jingles and poems for everyday products. Evelyn became so good at these short, witty poems that she won over 200 confirmed contests plus many more. These prizes included a Ford Mustang, trips to Europe, televisions, appliances, clocks, and the list goes on. 

What I loved most is that beyond the winning, it was a tale of a mother who was strong despite the obstacles, and she wanted her children to grow up and thrive. She didn't have much but she used her brain, and taught her children that the "greatest poverty is poverty of the mind." The writing itself was wonderful, in that it built up suspense and made you want to root for Evelyn to win every time. I also loved reading about the process she went through to actually write the jingles and then enter these contests. Fascinating!

For picnic or party, Jell-O's a boon —
Made by nine, all "set" by noon —
With taste and shimmer-shake appeal,
Jell-O jollies any meal.
(-Evelyn Ryan's entry)
This book has been made into a movie recently, starring Julianne Moore. As usual, the book is much better, but the movie is decent.

You simply have to check out the website, and especially read the Q&A part with the author. Sadly, it reports that Terry Ryan died of cancer in 2007.

GIVEAWAY TIME! I have had so much fun getting this blog started, and I appreciate all of you who took a risk and took your time to come by. I'm giving away a brand new copy of THIS book, along with a one-of-a-kind handmade bookmark by my daughter. Just make a comment below! (I'd love to hear how you were creative in overcoming an obstacle or if you ever won a great prize!)

Sorry, no winners this time! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gloom, Murders, and Moor

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd recommend a nice Gothic Romance. I read this when I was on a Daphne du Maurier kick. Many of us read "Rebecca" in high school, and much later, I read it again, then searched out her other books. The book for today is "Jamaica Inn," first published in 1936. 

The setting is Cornwall in 1820. Mary Yellan, 23 years old, is forced to live with her Aunt Patience after her mother dies. Aunt Patience and her husband, Joss (who is a large, menacing bully) are the keepers of Jamaica Inn, a gloomy and threatening place out in the moors. Mary soon realizes after arriving that something very strange is afoot when she sees her Aunt living a ghost-like existence. As you get swept into this book, you will come across murderous wreckers (bandits who actually cause ships to wreck to take their loot) a romance between Mary and Joss's brother, Jem, an albino Vicar (talk about interesting characters), a shocking betrayal, and daring rescues. You also get a very nice picture of the moor, which is a marshy pastureland-- but not a pretty place for a picnic. You would never want to get lost there, which is exactly what happens to Mary.

An excerpt:
She lifted the sash and looked out. She was met with a blast of wind and rain that blinded her for the moment, and then, shaking clear her hair and pushing it from her eyes, she saw that the coach was topping the breast of a hill at a furious gallop, while on either side of the road was rough moorland, looming ink-black in the mist and rain. 
Ahead of her, on the crest, and to the left, was some sort of a building, standing back from the road. She could see tall chimneys, murky dim in the darkness. There was no other house, no other cottage. If this was Jamaica, it stood alone in glory, foursquare to the winds. Mary gathered her cloak around her and fastened the clasp.
Jamaica Inn, Ch.1, p.14, Virago (2003).

So have a wonderful Valentine's Day and pick up this book! The other books I enjoyed by Daphne du Maurier were "Frenchman's Creek," "My Cousin Rachel," and "Mrs. De Winter" (the sequel to "Rebecca".)  This links to an official website:

Have you read this or any other good Gothic Romance novels?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Real Readers Sacrifice Sleep

If you are willing to lose a little sleep, you might want to give this book a try. I read this book in its entirety in one evening into the wee morning hours. This is NOT a book that you want to just keep reading and savor; you have to keep reading because you will not rest easy until it's over!

Christine is a woman who wakes up in a stranger's bed-- all because she loses her memory every single night when she goes to sleep. Every day is different and she is trying to figure out the mystery that is her life. Her husband, Ben, and her neurologist attempt to help her put the pieces together, and she uses a journal to write down her new discoveries each day. One day she finds a note to herself that says "Don't trust Ben!" 

There is a great twist in this story. I think I shouted out loud when I figured it out. It's one of those you know before the character does, but it doesn't put a damper on the story at all. The ending is also very satisfying in more ways than one.

What I know about the author: S. J. Watson attended a Writing Academy and this book was the product of it! I love that! But it also means he has no other books yet. I am eagerly awaiting what he comes up with next. Here is a link to the book website:

Let me know what you think! If you've read it, no spoilers please!

First Post- How I Find Books

It seems really daunting to think of the very best book for the very first post. So I thought I'd give a little background into how I choose my books and how I've rated them. I'm sure there are better ways than what I'm about to say, but I usually go to Amazon and look at the newest releases or best books of the month. If something looks interesting, I'll go right to my library online and put it on hold. I do read some of the reviews to determine whether or not I think it will be worth my time. And incidentally, if I have to work too hard to get through a book, I give up on it. It's okay for you to do that! Life is short!

I do hate to admit that I do judge a book by its cover. That is the first thing I look at when I'm browsing shelves. Obviously, if I already know about a book, I don't care what the cover looks like. But it really does make a difference in what I'll pick up. That, and the title.

A few years ago, I started writing down the books I read and the date when I finished them. Yes, it's a little obsessive but if only I had done that all my life. If only. . . So if a book really captured me, if it made me stay up late turning pages, if I was sad but satisfied when I read the last page, then I gave it two stars. I'm going to start featuring those books here.