Nothing has been quite the same since that first evening. Every opportunity I have I continue to curl up on the very same couch and read during the evenings until my eyes refuse to see for even one more word. As the winter approaches and the evenings grow longer, I can't help but share a few of the titles I have found so enjoyable during the past months. All you'll need to add is a few minutes of quiet time and perhaps, a cup, or two, of Moon Struck hot chocolate:
"Dead in a Ditch: Growing Up in Texas and Other Near-Death Experiences," by Jody Seay:
A most fun, sensitive, poignant and humorous memoir shared by Ms. Seay, highlighting the ability of her siblings and parents to live through countless dangers, real and some quite imaginary, lurking at every turn as they lived and grew up in their home state of Texas. Ms. Seay's ability to fend off snakes remains unparalleled to this day. Chapter 27 is one I still read when thoughts of my own mother fill the evening. With tears in my eyes, I chuckle and am moved as I read Ms. Seay's account of saying good-bye to her mom. This is a beautiful story of a loving family who just happened to be blessed with a witty and quite funny daughter,
"Girlchild," by Tupelo Hassman:
A novel of hope, A young, impoverished girl, living with her mother in a trailer park, tries her best, in part with the help of the Girl Scout Handbook, a spelling bee, and a grandmother who means well, to survive the life that is their's. Ms. Hassman's writing techniques are as unique and creative as any I've read and although there were scenarios beyond despicable, and times I actually felt my shoulders drop from sadness, I found this book moving, filled with childlike optimism and a picture of reality that was most memorable.
"Gothic Spring," by Caroline Miller:
A beautifully and sparingly written Gothic mystery which explores the effects of repression on the mind of a young girl, Constantine, during the Victorian era. This story contains elements of good and evil, faithfulness, love, affection, anger and betrayal, yet the eventual outcome is in no way, predictable. These elements are woven together so tightly there are no loose ends left, leaving the reader stunned at the finish, but satisfied. Am looking very much forward to reading this mystery, again this winter, curled up in front of a warm fire. In addition to this novel, Ms. Miller has written, "Heart Land," a lovely, heart warming fictional memoir that creates vignettes as captions to photos in a treasured family album. The story takes place in rural Ohio during the 1930's and 40's and each chapter reminds us gently, and often with humor, of earlier times in America when families were held together by a shared history, values and love, qualities we continue to cherish, today. "Trompe L'Oeil" is Ms. Miller's third novel. Set in France, this is a story of intrigue and mystery, following the journey of a young graduate as she becomes immersed in the task of renovating a deteriorating chateau. The characters come to life as suspense, hidden tunnels, and loyalties are challenged. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel and am secretly holding out hope for a sequel.
"Land Sharks," by S.L. Stoner:
Portland, Oregon has a somewhat torrid and unseemly past. S.L. Stoner has done a most wonderful job researching and writing about our history--the good and the unscrupulous, in a series of historic novels set in the early 1900's highlighting, in part, the trials and tribulations associated with the early days of creating Unions. Sage Adair is the main character and "Land Sharks," the second book in these highly regarded mysteries, deals with the seamy practice of shanghaiing unwary men. Tunnels still exist in Portland, today, that were believed to be used for this very purpose. "Dry Rot," "Timber Beasts," and "Black Drop," Ms. Stoner's latest historic mystery, allow Sage Adair to continue his mission to find the truth and stop tragedies before they occur. Actual historical events lie at the core of these books and Ms. Stoner truly brings history to life through her characters, images, and events. Looking very much forward to reading "Black Drop," and discovering more about President Theodore Roosevelt's historical trip west from Washington, DC to Portland, OR. and how an assassination attempt on his life was thwarted.
"Perfume," by Patrick Suskind:
Someone wrote that not everyone will like this novel, but everyone should read it. When I finished this book, I was breathless. How could anyone fill 255 pages writing about the desire for and the lack thereof of scent, smell, stench, aroma, fragrance, pungency, and odor? I've closed this book convinced Suskind must be a genius. It was an amazing adventure, albeit, an obsessive one, written so that the reader was carried effortlessly from one page to the next as the hint of perfume is carried on a breeze. A horror tale of sorts, but Suskind has made it impossible, I feel, for the reader not to empathize with Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the perpetuator. A most memorable, odiferous story, for sure.
"Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness," by Dominque Browning:
At one time during her career, Dominque Browning was the Editor-in-Chief of the now defunct "House and Garden" magazine. Having worked most of her life, she unexpectedly found herself adrift in the land of unemployment when "House and Garden" was published no longer. This book is a journal of her journey. Inspirational in parts, but what I found more charming and encouraging was her sense of humor and ease of sharing. I admit, I didn't always understand some of the choices Ms. Browning made, but are there any of us who haven't made questionable choices only to see them more clearly, later, in the light of experience and age? Ms. Browning has also written, "Paths of Desire, The Passions of a Suburban Gardener," another book I enjoyed very much. With warmth, wit and wisdom, she writes of the reconstruction of her urban garden and in doing so, discovers the joy in rebuilding her life. Compelling and humorous, I also found this book to be most uplifting.
"The Red Tent," by Anita Diamant:
This book by Ms. Diamant will always hold a special place in my heart. I had learned about this book after reading a review by Caroline Miller on her blog site, and remember being very happy to find a copy in our lending library, At the time, my mother was days away from beginning the hospice program and while I had grown accustomed to caring for her, I had never ventured to contemplate the history of women caring for one another. This novel shares the story of Dinah, a woman in the Bible, also known as the daughter of Jacob and the sister of Joseph. Little is known about Dinah, but Ms. Diamant has expanded her story, including the presence of the red tent which, in this novel, was used by the women in Jacob's tribe during the period of time they were in their cycle each month, giving birth, or looking for mutual support and encouragement from the other women in their families. That we care for each other is part of who we are as human beings, that we want others to feel comforted, loved, and nurtured, is an inherent quality that has been handed down through the centuries and we, as care givers, are doing exactly what women did for their mothers, daughters, sisters, hundreds of years ago. I found comfort reading the stories of the lives of the women in "The Red Tent," especially during this time that was so precious with my mother. Being reminded that caring for a loved one has occurred since the beginning of time gave me a sense of being part of a greater picture which I found comforting in itself. I believe both my mother and I benefitted from the opportunity I had to read this book.
"The Rosie Project," by Graeme Simsion:
Being quite the fan and admirer of both Bill and Melinda Gates, I was happy to read his recent list of 6 favorite books for the summer. They all sounded great--enlightening and very interesting, but also a tad bit more technical, scientific and theoretical than I am accustomed to reading. He laughed when he reviewed "The Rosie Project," adding that it was a suggested read from his wife and what he would consider an intellectual beach read. What a fun book this was. Humorous, well written, thought provoking, creative, just really a fascinating look at behaviors associated with Asperger's syndrome. Not sure I really ever understood Rosie, but I really enjoyed Don and he grew to understand Rosie, and that's what really mattered. Enjoyed this book very much. Number 6 on Mr. Gates list? "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," by Elizbeth Kolbert. Naturally, I'm reading this next.
"The Silver Star," by Jeannette Walls:
This is the second book written by Ms. Walls. You may be more familiar with her first book, a memoir, "The Glass Castle." In this most recent novel, she creates a 12 year old girl, Bean, who, with her 15 year old sister, Liz, travel across the country to find their relatives after their mother drives off in search of a little alone time and doesn't return for weeks. Seen through the eyes of a 12 year old, this story unfolds; a testimony to the courage, strength, fortitude, youthful innocence, and hope children cling to even during the worst of times. I've been blessed with a spunky 'tween' granddaughter, and once again, I'm reminded how important it is to teach our children to be strong in who they are, to be aware of all that happens around them and to trust their instinct. I'll read this book, again, but this time with my 11 year old, Emily.
As I'm sure happens with most everyone, my stack of books is growing more quickly than I can read. I've set aside quite a few titles, hoping to be able to read these books well into the spring and am looking forward to having a few more titles to share by summertime. Once you've finished reading a book, favorite, or not, I'd like to encourage you to go to Amazon, or Good Reads, or any other site where, after writing just a couple lines, you can leave a review. With so many thousands of books flooding the market place it's difficult at best for our favorite authors to be found and writing a review is just a small way we as readers can make a difference. Trusting you, too, are looking forward to these winter evenings, a sip, or two of hot chocolate, perhaps, a fire in the stove, and sharing a few moments with a very good book ...