Monthly Archives: October 2014

CATCH SOME TV FUN

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The Mysteries of Laura
Network: NBC
Genre: Detective show with humor
Star: Debra Messing
Time slot: Wednesday at 8:00 p. m. EST

If you want to have TV fun on Wednesday night, if you want to relax and laugh, if you want to watch fresh network TV, may I suggest The Mysteries of Laura. Debra Messing is perfect as a slightly wacky police detective. She cracks cases and lives life with her own zany sense of style. There’s never a dull moment. The supporting cast is equally terrific!

The cast includes Ms. Messing, Josh Lucas, Laz Alonso, and Max Jenkins, all well-cast. The head writer and show runner is Jeff Rake. He adapted the show based on a Spanish series. Darn, I was hoping it was an original idea. Other writers credited are Beth Armogida, Bill Chais, Margaret Easley, Amanda Green Javier Holgado, Laura Putney, Gregorio Quintara, Blair Singer and Carlos Vila.

I love the dialogue and the humor. Most of all I love the small touches that give the show depth. Here is an example. Last week we saw a shot of Laura’s ex-husband on the couch reading The Spirited Child while babysitting their two boys who are portrayed as beyond spirited.

Some critics have been less enthusiastic, even highly negative about the show. But I give the program two thumbs up. I agree with the critic who called this show “a refreshing change of pace.” Among critics we are in the minority. I loved this show before I read a single review. I have watched the first three episodes with increasing enthusiasm. Check it out and see what you think, Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m EST on NBC.

On this blog I have the last word…..until you comment. I say it’s a show that delivers fun and appropriate stories for the early family hour. It may not be the only great show on network TV this fall (Madam Secretary is another), but it is the most fun.

Now it’s your turn to have the last word. Comment on this show or tell us about your new fall favorite..

FINDING KINDNESS

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Lila
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 261 pages
Source: Library Copy

Lila follows Gilead, the book for which Robinson won the Pulitzer in 2005. In Gilead Robinson told the story of John Ames a small-town pastor in southern Iowa. In Lila we read the story of his much younger second wife. Her early life was a hand-to-mouth existence of material deprivation, neglect and abandonment by her birth family, and so she struggles with a new life of basic comfort after she marries the old preacher. Kindness appears in many places and many guises. The currency of kindness changes those who give it and those who receive it.

Lila is a book to be savored at a slow pace. It will not be hurried. There is wisdom to be pondered, some of it from Lila and some of it from John Calvin, not to mention John Ames. According to John Ames, “Calvin says every one of us has thousands of angels tending to us.” When we believe that, practicing kindness becomes easier. Lila’s view of things may surprise. Speaking of the Bible, which she spends considerable time reading and writing out passages to improve her reading and writing, she says, “There’s a lot in there I didn’t expect.” She understands poor as nothing but people trying to get by. This is not to negate the damage done to persons by poverty, neglect and abandonment. Lila’s story shows this damage a clear and present thing. Yet possibly the most memorable character is Doll, the woman who cared for the young Lila in the best way she knew how, a woman who found kindness and showed it when she could, a woman who was wise in guiding Lila as she grew.

This book is not about Iowa and not about the Nishnabotna River, a word that rolls off the tongue and stays in the memory (a familiar river to this reviewer who has written scenes taking place within view and along the banks of its wide flat meander). Rather, it is about faith and goodness. The narrative may surprise the reader with what it has to say on the subject of goodness and kindness as elements of faith and where they may be found. Those that practice this brand of righteousness have a profound effect on others and on themselves. Perhaps the practice of kindness acts as the best defense against the neglect leading to poverty and abandonment.

This story draws no boundaries between past and present, at least in a conventional sense, little definition between living the present and thinking of the past. The character Lila lives in both dimensions, as do most people, when we stop to think about it. Her story and the story of the old man who rescues her seems an amorphous entity as told here, without sections or chapters to assist or impede the reader in finding pathways to meaning. There are many paths and many different meanings, always some left to be discovered.

Mysteries of Lila’s life drive the reader to strive to understand how her life comes to be what it is. How does she come to marry John Ames? Who is she? How can her past life fit with her present one, lived in the Gilead community? Lila’s story, as created and told by Marilynne Robinson, causes a reader to ponder individual beliefs and actions, and it does so in a gentle, yet heart-stopping manner. What more might we ask of any story, the world it creates and the time we spend there?

TRAVEL DOWN A MEMORY LANE OF BOOKS

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Facebook has Throwback Thursday and often Facebook Friends post items with the question: Who remembers this? Books from an earlier time in our reading lives may take us down memory lane. Sometimes rereading is even in order.

Here’s some oldies I found at my house. They reminded me of all sorts of things, mostly hours of pleasure. There’s a joy to being in another world.

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The Man Without A Country by Edward Everett Hale.
This allegorical story delivers lessons on the value of patriotism. It first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in December 1863, but the story takes place some fifty years earlier. My father considered it required reading. Pictured is a 1910 edition handed down in our family.

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Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
The pioneers of the Mohawk Valley during the Revolutionary War struggled with nearly unendurable hardships. I believe this novel was first published in 1936 before most of us were born. My copy was picked up a number of years ago at an antique show on the west side of Michigan. It’s a splendid historical novel, one of my all time favorites. Is there a better frontier story? Name me one.

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Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
I knew joy and excitement when I read this book. It always seemed so interesting. My copy, an inexpensive one handed down in our family, is nearly unreadable. A better edition is available at any library. Will I read it again?

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Green Grass of Wyoming by Mary O’Hara
This third book of her trilogy that began with My Friend Flicka, was an all time favorite for me as a young teen. I have always thought of Wyoming as a romantic place. Horses and young love are an unforgettable combination. My copy was bought at a Marshalltown antiques auction, owned first by someone named Alvena Woehlk , whom I did not know, from Garwin Iowa. It has seen better days, but I hate to part with it.

Teenie Weenie Days Written and Illustrated by William Donahey

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This one might have been my first book love. I think there were several books, a series. I read each one many times. I loved the world of the Teenie Weenies and the community they created. Today in fiction and poetry I write about a community of Scotch immigrants in Iowa one hundred and fifty years ago and I spend time thinking about community, what constitutes community and how might a writer best convey the aspects of community to readers.

AND SO IT IS WE LOVE TO READ…..
REMEMBER SOME OF YOUR FIRST BOOK LOVES.

Let us know what titles from earlier times tug at the corners of your memory. Please comment and share some of your early book loves.

READING GROUP CHOICES: CHECK THESE OUT FOR YOUR NEXT BOOK CLUB SEASON

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Is there an unfamiliar book out there that belongs on your next book club reading/discussion list?

Most book clubs strive to choose reads members will enjoy and find thought-provoking. What conflicts: cultural, familial, religious and societal will start conversations that lead to life understandings and literature appreciation? What are the components of choosing the right book for your group? We are not answering those questions. You know what you think.

The organization Reading Group Choices publishes an online newsletter. Because this is National Reading Group Month, the latest Newsletter is dedicated to the Women’s National Book Association’s 2014 Great Group Reads Selections. Here are the titles with brief annotations.

Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe
This work of fiction tells the story of immigrant life in America through the eyes of a Nigerian cab driver in New York City.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Family members try to understand each other, but cultural and family divisions make it difficult for some who must live in two worlds at once.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Second chances in a changing world are possible. This charming story is set in the world of books.

The Commandant of Lubizec by Patrick Hicks
Here is a story of rebellion and survival in a fictional Nazi death camp.

Where Somebody Waits by Margaret Kaufman
A Jewish family in fictional small-town Arkansas lives a full but not untroubled life.

The World of Rae English by Lucy Rosenthal
In the sixties a young woman recovering from a marriage to a disgraced politician moves from Manhattan to Iowa City to put her broken life back together.

The Promise by Ann Weisgarber
Here is another story of a person who leaves one life for another life a great distance away from the first. Weisgarber is the author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers.

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
This story centers on a character, who may well become one of the year’s most memorable. It is set in rural Mexico where drug cartels are part of life, and yet there is so much more.

What Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins
This literary novel is based on the true-life story of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person to learn language.

Complete information (from which the above is taken) is available at their website, www.readinggroupchoices.com

BOOK GIVEAWAY

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WINNERS

#1 Judith Dawson, Wisconsin
#2 Karen Kozian, Michigan
#3 Alice Reed, Pennsylvania
#4 Bonne Hall, New York
#5 Susan Carter, California

Those who commented named a favorite book read the past year. Here are the favorites in alphabetical order by title.

Island of A Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman
The Resistance Man by Martin Walker
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

Special Thanks to those who participated in the contest. And Thanks to so many of you who viewed this post and other posts on readeatlive.com

When winners send their address via e-mail to Facebook message to me, I will mail their books.

Happy Reading to all!

BOOK GIVEAWAY

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BOOK GIVEAWAY

Because I appreciate all of you blog readers out there!!!
Because it is October and the sun is about to shine!! I hope.
Because we love to read!

I’m giving away five nearly new, or lightly used books. Winners will have a surprise in their mailboxes.

To enter:
Shout out your favorite book read this past year in the Comments Section of this post. Click on “Leave a Reply” under the title. When there are some replies, it says #Replies. Click there and scroll to the bottom of the replies for this post. It is as easy as that to comment.

Rules:
One entry per person. Winners will be drawn from the names of those who comment on the website. www.readeatlive.com (I like to hear from you on Facebook, but that is not an entry for this giveaway).
Entries will close at the end of the third day of the posting. (Wed.)

Note:
Winners will be posted as soon as possible after they have been informed they are winners, and I have received the addresses for mailing. You may message me on Facebook with your address or I will contact you by e-mail.
Books will be mailed to winners at my expense via US Postal Service at book rate.

Don’t hesitate to comment if you need more information. ☺
In addition to a favorite book or instead of a favorite book, you are encouraged to name a favorite post, and/or comment on what kind of posts you wish I would write more often on the blog.
Hope you have fun and like the book if you are a winner.
Hope I have the details worked out and clear.

Thanks for participating in the Book Giveaway!
Happy Reading.

LIGHT UP YOUR READING LIFE

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The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane
Author: Kelly Harms
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books. St. Martin’s Press, 2013
Paperback Edition: 290 pages
Genre: Chick-Lit Fiction
Source: A borrowed copy

Two young women with the same name from Cedar Falls, Iowa enter a contest to win a free house on the coast of Maine. They win; or one of them wins. Which one? And so a tale of friendship begins, full of humor and charm.

The two women are very different. Their personalities see-saw between enchanting and well, attention-getting. Both spend time in the kitchen and learning to help others under the tutelage of beloved, quirky Aunt Midge who moves to Maine with her grand-niece. There’s never a dull moment. Who knew how exciting small-town Maine could be? And, as expected, the views are spectacular!

Though the novel may at first strike readers as a bit frothy, there’s plenty to think about. Book Clubs may find this a good introductory choice for the reading season. A Reading Group Guide is provided in the paperback edition along with recipes and an author interview. Female friendships, romance, the ability to change and dealing with difficulties presented by personalities and living are all part of this story. Yes, there are good-looking guys, too, with their own stories.

This novel debuted last summer. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, Kelly Harms has been an editor and agent. This is her first novel. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and at her website www.kellyharms.com

This fun, and often funny, book reads fairly quickly. So sail away into the land of luck, love, and good food, a delightful place to be. And, when you must leave it, you’ll feel better than when you arrived. Can you say the same for every book you read?

BOOK REVIEW: NEVERHOME

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Neverhome
Author: Laird Hunt
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 243 pages
Source: Personal Copy

Can You To Home Again?

The title and content of this book remind us of the homelessness of those who serve in war. Even for those who are able to return home, there is great difficulty in feeling “at home”. Life irrevocably changes for a survivor of war. Some combat veterans lose whole chunks of themselves, almost as easily as the limbs amputated in the bloody American Civil War.

In this story readers accompany a woman who marches off to fight in the Civil War, leaving her husband to tend their Indiana farm. There is a dreamlike quality to her story, an unreality. Yet who is to say what is real and what is unreal? She is a fierce, hard woman, capable and tough when she leaves, honed and torn by her experiences among fighting men, faced with bloodshed and unspeakable experiences that shred her mind. She walks with stones in her shoes and demonstrates grit doing it. The book jacket promised she would fight her way into the reader’s heart. Perhaps. She does fight until the very last page.

More information continues to come to light about the experiences of women in the Civil War. Mr. Hunt has fashioned a story with mystery, uncertainty, and ugliness. Vulnerability and caring are in short supply, too wounded to make much of an appearance. Lovely sentences lift the reader above the dark truths of what happens to this woman. The author displays skill when weaving this character’s past and present together. Clarity is one of his virtues as a writer. “We shot the pig, got it trussed and hung on a birch pole between us, and made our way back to the meeting point, where after many a rest we presented our pig and made our report.” This may remind the reader concerning the small stature, youth, and lack of good health of many of these soldiers. Moving the pig was a hard job. A woman did not necessarily present as noticeably smaller, weaker, or less skilled than many of the men.

Rereading this story will likely reveal new insights. After the unusual of a woman in pants, masquerading as a man, after certain mysteries of her life are uncovered, layers of meaning may well come to light for a reader. Mr. Hunt shares some of the history books helpful to him in writing this book. Such information provokes thought in fellow writers and historians. But there is little doubt that this story is his creation. The heroine, Ash (Constance) Thompson is her own woman, dependency is not her style nor her goal. Her life events challenged her almost from the beginning. Perhaps a hard adventure comes into being as the logical outcome.

READER INTERVIEW WITH SEGLINDA KELLE-PRITCHARD

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Reader Interview with Seglinda Kelle-Pritchard, Franklin, MI
Conducted August/September, 2014

Another in the continuing series of ReadEatLive Reader Interviews. Thanks to good friend and fellow reader Seglinda for her reader insights and reading choices.

Tell us about what you are reading.
Our women’s book club has been reading a book written by a friend of our church community, Rev. John Bush, a former interim minister from Birmingham, AL. His book, Rebels and Patriots, is about a little-known group of Patriots from the northern Alabama area who were supportive of the Union Army and the challenges this identity gave to their families and communities. It is told in a simple, vernacular style, which however is very engaging and endearing. I have also begun the new work of fiction by Joseph O’Neill, The Dog, which is deliciously written and humorous in its eloquence. Can’t wait to devour it further.

Did you have a favorite book this past year?
Never one to feel pinned down to one choice, I will suggest two books that share parallels in thought. Liars’ Gospel by the British author Naomi Alderman and Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, the renowned Irish writer. These two novels are based on historical characters with whom nearly all readers are familiar; however, these two bring new understanding and humanizing of their characters, pulling them away from their mythology. The abilities of these two authors to deepen my insights into their characters will forever be appreciated.

Do you have a genre that you read more often than others?
I select books that have a spiritual dimension, as opposed to a religious one, underpinning their themes. I think this began when I was a member of a wonderful book club (now deceased) with women from Christ Church Cranbrook, and we made it a practice to select books with a spiritual backdrop to enhance our understanding of the world’s cultural values. A couple of recent books that have been outstanding illustrations would be The Tenth Parallel by Eliza Griswold about the clash of Islam and Christian cultures that are heightened within the boundaries of the 10th parallel of the globe. Another would be Karen Elliott House’s excellent and informative On Saudi Arabia. As a former editor for the WSJ and based in this bewildering nation, she was given unusual access into all aspects of this closed culture throughout her many years of coverage for the Journal.

Why do you read?
I have to say that I DO NOT read for entertainment. I LIKE to be entertained and that would be a plus, but I read for insight and knowledge.

One of my favorite books that never ceases to make my heart beat faster is Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I have read it a minimum of 4Xs and each time it demands that I re-think the ending to determine what actually happened! Oh, I almost forgot another favorite: Jim Crace’s Quarantine–PLEASE read this book. Both are prize-winners.

Tell us anything about your reading habits you would like for us to know.
Several friends have asked for suggestions on books that have been pivotal in helping to SHAPE us to be the people who we are…….here goes:
War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges
Hidden Gospel by Neill Douglas Klotz ( an Aramaic scholar)
Travels with Herodotus and the Shadow of the Sun by the Polish journalist Rysvard Kapuscinski
• The architectural books of Christopher Alexander: The Pattern Language and A Timeless Way of Building
• Any of the books by Karen Armstrong, especially Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein
Tao te Ching by LaoTzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell
Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg

Seglinda, I admire you as a reader for several reasons. One particularly striking reason is that you are direct and clear in your reading choices, unapologetic and brave. Thank you for encouraging me as a reader with suggestions and loans. And thank you for sharing some of your reading choices with readeatlive/blog readers.