Where I’ve been and what I’ve read

No excuses for not posting except — and it’s a big except — I was gutted by the US election result and continue to writhe like an eel on a spike with every tweet, headline, and cabinet pick. When I can’t deal with reality, I escape to other worlds in books. So the good news is that I’ve been reading a lot in November and December. The bad news is that I’ve not been commenting much about those reads.  This doesn’t bode well for my blogging life in 2017 either. People say they are glad to leave 2016 behind, but I’m afraid 2016 was only the beginning of scarier and sadder times ahead. I suppose I’ll get used to it, but I’ll confidently increase my reading goal next year nevertheless.

Still, I started this blog with the intent of keeping track of my reading and impressions. So here is a short list with “lite” (or simply shallow) commentary on what’s been keeping me away from the headlines and semi-sane for the past few weeks. Continue reading

Four Shorties

HHhHHHhH by Laurent Binet

Told in a distinctly postmodern style, the novel explores the assassination of Reinhart Heydrich, the Blond Beast of the Third Reich and mastermind of the Final Solution, by two Czech men. I’d never heard of Heydrich, but then again, I am not encyclopedic on Nazis or WWII FAQs in general. Still, after completing this book, it seems that Heydrich should be at least as well-known as Himmler or Goring (the title stands for the phrase, in German, Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich). Continue reading

Catching Up

The last month has been one of the most hectic ever. My husband was offered a new job and suddenly, we are moving to another state this summer. It’s been a mad frenzy of getting the house on the market, traveling out of state to find a new home, packing, cleaning — all while still working and, oh yeah–reading too. But not getting much blogging done, nor will I likely over the next few months. For this summer of upheaval and change, the mini-review is going to be the way to go.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the light we cannot seeI try to avoid buying every hot new title, but I am nevertheless frequently curious to take a peek to see if it might be worth the hype. So I’ve taken to requesting books like this from the library. Usually there are several hundred requests before mine. When I get an email that the book is waiting for me, it’s like a nice surprise. Continue reading

My First MOOC: On Laura Ingalls Wilder & Her Works

LIW A writer's lifeLike so many young girls over the past 80 years or so, I was completely enamored as a child with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I always felt the books were extra-specially mine, as both the character and the author are my namesake and I was born and raised in Kansas. When people have asked me what I enjoyed so much about them, I have often said that I loved reading about how people lived and made things in the 19th century. I still do attribute my love of hand sewing, patchwork, pickling, and so forth to my reading of these books (though in reality, it is probably the influence of my mother, a crafting whiz) as well as my fascination with the prairie and the wide open skies of the west.

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The Big Sky

The Big Sky“Serena  Claudill heard a step outside and the squeak of the cabin door and knew that John was coming in.  She kept poking at the fireplace, in which a hen was browning. “ – The Big Sky, A. B. Guthrie, Jr.

Why have I not read this book before? The Big Sky could be considered, in my humble opinion, a contender for the status of the Great American Novel. I am surprised it is not more widely read or referenced. Where Lonesome Dove is described by many as the ultimate novel of the wild American West, McMurtry definitely owes a debt to Guthrie who perhaps launched the genre with this much grittier, atmospheric, and perhaps literary song to the lost wild places and people of this country. The Big Sky is set decades earlier than LD, in the 1830s when the northwest part of the US was the territory of the Crow, Blackfeet, and Sioux.  The only white men in those parts were a few mountain men and trappers. Continue reading

The Sisters Brothers

the sisters brothers“I was sitting outside the Commodore’s mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.” – The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt

I finished this book and have strangely little to say about it. I think I will remember it as an enjoyable and light read, but not really with much substance.

The Sisters brothers, Eli and Charlie, are a couple of hired guns in the old west who work for a man called the Commodore. They have a deadly reputation and are quite feared. But in reality, they are oddly bumbling, except when it comes to killing. They are swift, precise, and matter-of-fact with their guns. Continue reading

The Son

The Son“It was prophesied I would live to see one hundred and having achieved that age I see no reason to doubt it.” — The Son, Philipp Meyer

Seems I am still wandering around the west this year in my reading.  The Son is a story of the colonization of Texas and the transformation of the landscape and its people over the span of about a 100 years–roughly 1850 to 1960. It’s told from the points of view of three different members of one family, the McCulloughs: Eli the patriarch in the mid to late 1800s, his son Peter in the early part of the 20th century, and his great granddaughter Jeanne Anne in the middle part of the 20th century. Each character narrates his/her life and the story of the McCullough family in rotating chapters.

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Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove“When Augustus came out on the porch,the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake–not a very big one.” —Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

I finished this book a ridiculously long time ago—back in early August. I picked it to keep me entertained on a couple of long Pacific flights. It was just the ticket–substantial and engaging, with memorable characters in a setting that I love.

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