Monthly Archives: February 2014

A NEW FAVORITE CAPTURES MY PALATE

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The Black Molly Grill
504 W. Geoffrey Street
Cobblestone Village
St. Augustine, Florida
www.blackmollygrill.com

“Come on in” is the way I feel when I enter the Black Molly Grill with its casual, comfortable yet stylish interior. I love the spacious booths, able to accommodate your party or my reading material. It’s open every day at 11:00 a.m. Someone always smiles at me.

So far I’ve had three different lunches, taken my husband along, and quizzed the waitresses and some of the other patrons. I’ve enjoyed shrimp and grits, a seafood platter of red snapper and shrimp, lightly fried with just the whisper of a crisp coating and a lightly blackened fish sandwich (I think it was snapper again, but I had a choice). Jerry had a rib eye sandwich. All of this food was the very best. I understand from quizzing others that the place has top quality beef. I observed a couple eating huge wonderful looking burgers dripping with juiciness. They told me these were the best burgers they had had in St. Augustine. Well, the woman said she didn’t like burgers and this one was delicious.

The place has a full bar and a very nice wine list. Usually, the wait staff is knowledgeable and more than courteous. I love it when they tell me about the different foods on the menu. The salads are crisp and fresh with house-made dressing, or it certainly tastes like it, and I’m fussy about the salad dressing. I’m looking forward to trying the fish tacos, and the burgers. Yes, I plan to go there again.

To my mind, this restaurant serves quickly cooked fresh food with the slightest adornment. No need for heavy sauce or multiple garnish to mask the questionable quality of the food. It’s true I like local fish and Black Molly’s excels in this department as well as others.

The menu includes a variety of chicken dishes, salads, pastas and burgers in five flavors. Appetizers include hand-cut fried mozzarella and other dreamy items. At dinner there are many meat and pasta dishes as well as vegetarian choices. Prices are reasonable.

I love the place. I thank everyone who works there. I hope they keep turning out simple food, well prepared, food that tastes the way the way it should. Yes, the latter is a subjective statement. Still, I’m not after tofu, or chicken smothered in a sauce with five different ingredients and two vegetables on top. Simple meat or fish, cooked to perfection is what I like best.

As you can see from the menu, you have plenty of choice at The Black Molly Grill. I hope you will try it out and tell me what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

A SUMMER THAT STILL HAUNTS US

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From Paulette:
Sometimes the best books aren’t the newest ones. Bestselling books or recently published books are not necessarily the ones we decide to spend our time reading. Sometimes a book grabs us by the throat and takes our breath away. There’s a great big world of books out there as today’s guest blogger Jack Armstrong reminds us.

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The Summer That Didn’t End
Author: Len Holt
Publisher: Morrow (1965)
Genre: non-fiction
351 pages

Post by Guest Blogger Jack Armstrong

I read The Summer That Didn’t End, by Len Holt. He was one of the
organizers of the Mississippi Civil Rights Project of 1964. He wrote
the book the following year, while they were still in the hot middle of
the project.

I’d like to mention two things. First, it’s hard to
appreciate from the perspective of 2013 the enormity of what the civil
rights movement was up against. It wasn’t just the KKK. It was the
POLICE. And the NEWSPAPERS. The civil rights workers of 1964, who
wanted nothing more than to register people to vote and teach people to
read, voluntarily went places that were completely controlled by known
enemies, who had already tortured and/or killed dozens of their
fellows. Although in theory they had some protection from the law, in
fact they had none. The local courts were in full collusion with the
KKK. The state courts refused to hear their cases. Even the Federal
government, which should have been their defender of last resort,
refused to help.

So these organizers went unarmed, with absolutely no
protection but the grace of God. James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and
Mickey Schwerner (whose deaths in June 1964 sparked national outrage)
were not the first civil rights workers murdered by the police. They
were the first white civil rights workers murdered by the police. There
is a summary list in the back of this book of atrocities committed
against the movement – torture, murder, harassment, house burnings,
church burnings. The list is fifty pages long.

Try to imagine volunteering to fight in a war in which the other side
uses guns, knives, baseball bats, bullwhips, sneak attacks in the
middle of the night, and vicious propaganda, and your side uses nothing
but prayer and goodwill. The magnitude of what those people did for our
country, and the courage and self-restraint they showed in doing it, is
just heart-stopping.

The second thing I want to mention is the impact the civil rights
movement had on white America. Here’s a quote, about the white college
kids who came to Mississippi that summer to teach black children:
“Most of the teachers were white and from northern suburbia. Analyzing
their own lives in the North, the teachers pointed out the drastic
shortcomings of the tension-ridden, insecure life of those “middle
class” people (like the teachers’ parents) who would have heart attacks
if a Jew, Negro or Chinese-American moved into their neighborhoods; who
haven’t expressed an honest idea in public since the first payment on
one of their several mortgages; whose ulcerated, psychotherapied,
martini-drenched lives are composed totally of the deadest, sickest
fictions that the most successful Madison Avenue huckster can sell in a
world tottering on the brink of ultimate destruction.” It probably wasn’t that bad in every home, but any white American old enough to remember the ‘sixties will find this description distressingly familiar.

Quite apart from what Dr. King and his compatriots did for themselves,
they gave to white America — to my mother and father; to me — the
greatest gift ever: the right, for the first time, to breathe the clean
air of innocence. So: to Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Len Holt, Bayard Rustin, Ralph
Abernathy, James Earl Chaney, Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, Emmett
Till, Wharlest Jackson, George Metcalfe, Medgar Evers, and a thousand
others, you have my deepest, everlasting gratitude. Thank you all.

About our guest blogger:
Jack Armstrong divides his time between printing
election ballots and helping his wife run the Philadelphia Shakespeare
Theatre. They have two children. Jack grew up in Fort Worth, Texas,
where he spent his time with Boy Scouts, skateboards, books, and
getting in trouble at school. He attended St. John’s College, in
Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM. Before starting the ballot company,
Jack worked as a carpenter, auto mechanic, salmon fisherman in Alaska,
jade prospector in Guatemala, political campaigner in Texas and
lobbyist in Washington.

Thanks so much to Jack for joining the conversations at www.readeatlive.com.

STORIES BUMP AND BOUNCE ACROSS THE WORLD

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And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Novel
Publisher: Riverhead Books 2013
402 pages
Source: Library copy

Every story holds another story, and so it is with this novel. Khaled Hosseini fits together his stories into a beautiful, wise tale of families. He shows us how family members have the power to love and to wound.

He creates an intricate plot with his stories, one story out of many. It is a story to help us understand the breadth and depth of feelings and experiences among people whose lives are disrupted in their home country so they escape that home to live in another place. That new place becomes a home. They strive and endure, building the best life possible in the new place out of past memories and the materials at hand.

One of the interesting things for readers and writers about this book is how Hosseini fits his stories together. He was interviewed in the July/August issue of Writers’ Digest and he spoke about his many stories and how they came to be. As a boy he spent his first 15 years in Afghanistan. Later, he wanted to write fiction, and he was determined to tell stories of people from that country.

When he heard stories of people in his home country selling one child to make a better life for other children, he said, “It struck me as unbelievably sad.” That story set others in motion when he writes of the separation of a young brother and sister who depended greatly on each other. As his stories move and change he gives each character a moment to shine. He referred to his characters like “listening to a choir.” As I read, I felt I could hear the different voices, and yet each helped me to understand another. “I’d follow that character and see where it went and see how their story overlapped or coincided with some of the other characters’ stories, and find connection.” So he described his process.

His novel takes us from an Afghan village to the city of Kabul, then to Greece, France and the United States. He gives us so many places and people to learn about. The book is fascinating. The interview is fascinating. Visit www.writersdigest.com/aug-13 for more about him and his writing process.

For this reader, it was a story with many layers of meaning and as powerful as it was at its beginning, so was the ending. I highly recommend it. He digs deep for meaning, and yet his respect for all his characters is always evident.

SEVEN NEW BOOKS YOU MAY NOT WANT TO MISS

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How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson (Jan. 2014)
This author is one of my favorite poets. I loved her biography in poems of George Washington Carver. She has been a National Book Award Finalist, recipient of the Robert Frost Medal and a Newbery Honor winner. Here her poems tell readers about her development as a young woman and as an artist. I’ve added this book to my library and can’t wait to read more of her powerful poems.

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Jan. 2014)
This novel delivers a fascinating story of brave women who meet life’s challenges at a difficult time in our country’s history. The story is set in the South before the Civil War. There are two central characters and two narrators.

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My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. (Jan. 2014)
According to those who have written about it, this is a book about a book. The author celebrates George Eliot and makes you want to read Middlemarch. It might be described as part memoir and part biography, a bibliomemoir. It was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review by Joyce Carol Oates and sounds to me like a must-read.

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Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. (Jan. 2014)
This novel may well have you thinking about change and second chances. This writer has many fans. She is a prize-winning writer.

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The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart (Jan. 2014).
The author writes a tale set in the Shaker Community in 1840’s New England. A fifteen-year-old girl sets fire to a family farm. She finds shelter with some Massachusetts Shakers. Early reviews and summaries suggest you will find mystery and inventiveness in this beautifully written story.

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Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser. (Jan. 2014)
This book has been described as conversational and insightful. I always think I love to read about reading. Can’t wait to take a closer look at this book.

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Your Life Is Calling by Jane Pauley (Jan. 2014)
This favorite former news anchor and television personality writes about change. And especially, if you are a fan, you’ll find stories of her life interesting. I love how she is always up for what’s next even when she doesn’t know what that is to be.

I do not read all the books I dream of reading. Still, the dreaming is part of the fun. Which of these would you pick up first? Which one have you already read? Do let us know what you think.

READEATLIVE LIST: TEN THINGS TO DO BEFORE FEBRUARY DISAPPEARS

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1. It’s Black History Month. Read a selection to celebrate African Americans, their history and contributions to society. What about Twelve Years A Slave, the book that inspired the award winning movie? Author Rachel Kushner calls it an incredible document. I also recommend The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkinson’s sweeping, readable history of migration of African-Americans from the South to the North and West. If you wish to listen to a more recent voice, Men We Reap by Jesmyn West is an emotional and riveting memoir. (See readeatlive.com posted January 2, 2014 and accessed through the January archives or search by title for Missing Mississippi.)

2. Honor the work of the late, acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman by seeing one of his movies: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Capote (2005), Moneyball (2011) Doubt (2008) or your personal favorite.

3. Read a good romance, perhaps Anna Quindlen’s new book Still Life With Bread Crumbs. This may be the one for you.

4. Enjoy a pizza! Here are few suggestions: Mellow Mushroom, found all over the south and a few are showing up in the West, Pizzalley in St. Augustine, Buddy’s Pizza, numerous locations in the Detroit area, Rastrelli’s in Clinton Iowa or try the latest light pizza in your neighborhood.

5. House of Cards is available Feb. 14 from Netflix. Watch one of the hottest shows on television as much and as fast as you can. Robin Wright is unforgettable.

6. See an Oscar nominated movie you have missed so far: Philomena, Dallas Buyers’s Club, Captain Phillips, Nebraska, American Hustle or the one you most want to see.

7. Read a new book from the bestseller list. What about Sycamore Row by John Grisham or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt?

8. Give a gift to your Valentine: flowers, chocolate, a Starbucks date, a romantic dinner, a trip to your favorite museum or a couple’s workout. A bottle of your sweetheart’s favorite wine and a trip to the beach to watch the stars sounds like an exceptional gift for the occasion.

9. Walk a winter trail or a beach. Climb an Arizona Mountain Trail or hike Saguaro National Park. Try the Riverwalk in Detroit or Tulsa’s River Trail along the Arkansas River. Hit the nearest State Park in Kentucky, Illinois, Florida or wherever you are.

10. Learn more about our February presidents: Washington and Lincoln. These recommended books will be well worth your time. 1776 by David McCullough, George Washington: The Crossing by Mark Levin, Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin P. Johnson, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

READER INTERVIEW

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READER INTERVIEW WITH UPSTATE NEW YORK DAVE
Conducted February 6, 2014

Note from Paulette: This is the second interview in the 2014 readeatlive Interview Series. Upstate New York Dave tells us about some interesting books. I love to listen to him talk books and reading!

Tell us about what you are reading these days.
The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly, Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. River of Doubt by Candace Millard; and A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor. Oh, and I reread The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Did you have a favorite book of the past year, and why did you like it?
Doris Kearns’ Bully Pulpit. She writes detailed history, yet it flows like a novel. She’s a fantastic researcher.

What books would we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Many titles by Robert Parker. His dialogue is witty and I relate to it. He’s a great escape writer.

Do you have a favorite author, or two or more?
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ken Follett, Nelson DeMille. Like Robert Parker’s dialogue, DiMille’s dialogue crackles with wit and sarcasm, but DeMille’s plots are more developed.

What book that you read in the last year or two was a disappointment and why?
I was disappointed in The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I felt the author repeated information which added unnecessary length to the book.

Is there an author you wish more people would read?
Doris Kearns Goodwin. She makes history interesting. Some people have lost an appreciation for history. She can help a reader find that.

What writers would you like to invite for lunch?
Goodwin, Grisham, Follett and Stephan Talty who wrote the novel Black Irish. It’s set in Buffalo, NY. The group would talk some interesting local and global history.

What books are in the waiting-to-be-read pile?
Quest by DeMille, Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.

What helps you decide what to read?
Bookmarks Magazine, newspaper reviews, suggestions from my wife and friends.

Do you have a favorite genre?
I like history, historical fiction, whodunits and scriptural commentary/history like Jesus of Nazareth by Scripture scholar Gerhard Lohfink.

What will you read next?
The Time Keeper.

What do you do with a book after you’ve read it?
I offer it to my wife and then to friends. I often put a mark in the front with an arrow indicating my rating, up or down.

Tell us anything else about your reading that you would like us to know.
I like to underline and annotate which is why I could not get into reading on Nook. I keep a journal of what I read, with ratings on a scale of 1 to 10.

From Paulette:
Thank you Upstate New York Dave. I’m with you when it comes to annotating. I like to keep track of what I read, too. I like the way you keep your journal, writing short reviews of many of the books you read.

And to all you blog readers out there: Isn’t it interesting to learn more about another reader’s reading life? Reading is personal; reading practices vary. It adds a dimension to our own reading when we listen, discuss and think about what someone else likes to read and the habits associated with their reading.

Upstate New York Dave would be glad to answer your questions. I can arrange it. Send them along in the comments section.

TAKE SOME TIME WITH AN EMILY DICKINSON TREASURE

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The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems
Editors: Jen Bervin and Marta Werner
Publishers: New Direction/Christine Burgin (2013)
272 pages
Product Dimensions: 12.7×11.8×2
Source: Library copy

How did she do it? How did she write so many wonderful poems. This book provides a bit of a look at Emily Dickinson and her process.

One of the treasured finds at the library last week was this art book. In December I posted a short piece on the writing page concerning Emily Dickinson and this book. It sounded so interesting. I hoped I would be able to find it. And there it was at the Southeast Branch of the St. John’s County Library.

How to best share this book of illustrations, a book that depends on the visual, using words is the question. The first paragraph of Susan Howe’s preface is helpful. I lean on her words.

This book is an exhibit created by a textual scholar and a visual artist. It presents facsimile reproductions of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. It allows the reader to “look and touch, and turn from one (envelope) to another.” A transcription accompanies each poem. Dickinson’s characteristic handwriting––something like bird tracks––can be easily read.

In her opening essay Jan Bevin tells us something of Emily Dickinson and the “scraps” that are her manuscript. Her writing tools become visual art to hold her text. We can only imagine how one affected the other.

In the largest section of the book the reader is treated to a visual display of envelope shapes and words. Looking, reading and thinking, one feels connected to Dickinson and her time. Marta Werner takes readers on a tour of the visual and the textual in the third section titled “Itineraries of Escape. I am not a Dickinson scholar, yet I want to spend time with this book reading lines of poetry, letters from her life and Werner’s explanation.

There is more. It is a large book. If you love Emily Dickinson’s poems, if you are interested in the process of writing, if you revel in the beauty of visual size and shape, I urge you to take some time with this book. A unique experience is waiting for you.

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