Monthly Archives: February 2016

THE GUEST ROOM: GET YOUR FICTION FIX HERE

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The Guest Room
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday (2016)
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 314 pages
Source: Personal Copy

Five Reasons to Get Your Fiction Fix With The Guest Room

1. A compelling page-turner. A story you may stay up all night to read.
2. Amazing writing with different voices and points of view.
3. Well-researched.
4. Brings attention to the subject of human trafficking.
5. If you like the unexpected, this tale is for you.

Quote from Doctor Zhivago as epigraph: “I don’t think I’d love you so deeply if you had nothing to complain of and nothing to regret.”

Three cheers for author Chris Bohjalian. He’s done it again!!!

TULSA TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS

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Tulsa Z00

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Granddaughter loved the train and so did I.

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These flamingos win the color of the day award.

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This zoo has black rhinos, but they stayed far from viewers so the sculpture will have to do.

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This docile goat was one of many in the farm petting area which was a hit with my small granddaughter

McAlister’s Deli
Lunch at McAlister’s famous for baked potatoes and sweet tea among many other good things to eat. This place is terrific and it’s a chain. I discovered two in Michigan. The website shows locations all over the east, south, Midwest and a few in western states, not California.

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University of Tulsa

A great place for a walk with granddaughter on a sunny warm Tulsa day. I started her young in the library. Loved the stone buildings.

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Tulsa is a city of many universities.

The best Tulsa Highlight is my granddaughter and her family. Thanks for a great visit!

FIVE WAYS TO DEAL WITH YOUR DOWNTON ABBEY CRUSH

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On March 8 the final episode of the much-loved Downton Abbey Television Series will end. For enthusiasts, and we are many, it will be tough to say good-bye. How to shrug off our crush and still retain our fondness for the Downton Abbey world?

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1. Try some time with this delightful book. Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the real Downton Abby by the Countess of Carnarvon. I found this book, recommended by blog reader Bernie Mainzer, a swinging, ringing read. Juicy details of running a high house and the lives of the real family who lived at Highclere were mostly mesmerizing.
Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
Author: The Countess of Carnarvon
Genre: History/social life and customs
Publisher: Broadway Books (2013)
Paperback Edition 324 pages with Reader’s Guide and Bibliography
Source: Personal Copy

Also written by Fiona, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon:
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
The Last Legacy of Highclere Castle

2. Rewatch some of your favorite recent episodes. Episode 8 aired this week and is worthy of another look, performances so vivid and story so intriguing. Certainly, you have a favorite episode.

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3. Learn everything you can about Highclere Castle and the British Aristocracy. Is a Marquis higher than an Earl? And Higher at what or where or how? The above books contain bibiographies, PBS has several documentaries, or browse you local library.

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4.Watch the movie Gosford Park. This 2001 drama directed by Robert Altman and written by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton, is a must see. Fellowes won the Oscar for best writing and received other nominations and awards. It stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillipe, and a long list of well-known actors. No doubt you will see one of your favorites: Kristin Scott Thomas and Kelly MacDonald are two of mine. Find it at the library, on DVD, Netflix, or at my house, one of the few DVD’s I own. Come on over.

5. Make a big bowl of popcorn and binge watch a new series. See if that is the cure? Not sure what to recommend. A British Series Death Comes to Pemberly available on Netflix is fun.

A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL

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A Wreath for Emmett Till
Author: Marilyn Nelson
Illustrated by Philippe Lardy
Genre: Poetry, published in this format for young readers
Paperback Edition includes historical notes, sonnet notes, and artist notes
Source: Personal copy

“Forget him not. Though if I could, I would”

Marilyn Nelson is a poet whose work I have come to love more with each passing year. I first discovered her when I worked for a time with literature for K-12 students. Now that I try to write poems, I am in awe of her writing.

Any month is a good time to read the history of our country as it includes people of color. But the designation of February as Black History month reminds some of us to focus attention on the experiences of people of color in our nation.

The line at the opening of this post is from A Wreath For Emmett Till. Emmet Till was a fourteen year-old boy who was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was dragged from his uncle’s house, beaten and lynched. Some accounts claimed he had whistled at a white woman. The sonnets Marilyn Nelson has written are more than a tribute to Emmet Till, more than a description of what happened, they challenge readers to better understand our world.

The sonnets are interlinked making one long poem. The last line of one sonnet becomes the first line of the next one. This group of poems is often referred to as a crown of sonnets. The author has written that the structure of the poems helped her deal with the pain of the subject.

“Emmett Till’s name still catches in my throat,” This line ends #3 and begins #4 sonnets.

“Let me gather spring flowers for a wreath.
Not lilacs from the dooryard, but wildflowers
I’d search for in the greening woods for hours.” From #10
She shares with us that she uses natural elements in these sonnets to contrast with the horror of what happened to this boy in 1955.

Reading this sonnet enables the reader to feel some of the emotion surrounding this young man who is part of the representation of unnecessary, tremendous loss of people of color in American history. Isabel Wilkinson writing in a opinion piece in a recent New York Times reminds us that in the years preceding the migration of southern blacks to points north “a black person was lynched on average every four days.” Today according to FBI statistics “an African American is killed by a police officer every three and a half days.” These ideas are difficult to comprehend.

A Wreath for Emmtt Till is a moving elegy, a way to honor those lost and in a strange way comforting to this reader. I love the words, the images, the rhythm and the illustrations in this book, a wonderful addition to any home library.

H IS FOR HAWK BOOK REVIEW/FLYING WITH A GOSHAWK

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H Is For Hawk
Author: Helen Macdonald
Publisher: Grove Press (2014)
Genre: Memoir
Hardcover Edition: 283 pages
Source: Personal copy

Reading Helen Macdonald’s book is like flying with a goshawk––beautiful, terrifying, dynamic. She takes readers tramping the English countryside, tells us the names of the grasses, enables us to see the colors of the chalk formations, the bright of a cock peasant in “bronze and bottle green, all rackety tail and sharp primaries”, the dreary tangled brambles and hedges. We soar above it with Mable the goshawk Ms. Macdonald is training.

She is reeling with grief after the loss of her father. She is lonely and determined. Sometimes she feels like she is “wading through treacle.” Her vocabulary is so learned and vivid that a dictionary is helpful.

In tuning herself and the reader to the natural world, patience is learned at several levels and in different keys. This book is unique in my reading experience and in its excellence. It is the winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, named Costa Book of the Year, and one of 10 best books by the New York Times Book Review. She writes in a manner that allows the reader to feel the viciousness of a hawk, and hence, the danger. But the life and death struggle the predator engages in is not the whole of the story. Instead there is tenderness, caring, wariness and learning to name a few of the emotions aroused by this experience.

Ms Macdonald’s prose is most beautiful. Her poetry is next on my list. She uses history, medieval falconry and the work of T. H. White to guide her study and harness her obsession. The clarity she achieves is so often like watching through clean glass.

You can see a photo of Mabel in all her frightening glory at www.allaboutbirds.org in a review of Macdonald’s book by Tim Gallagher from March 3, 2015. Mabel is remarkable. Macdonald’s book is beyond remarkable. It is a not-to-be-missed reading experience if you like nonfaiction stories of bravery, and reading about the natural world. You don’t need an interest in hawks to pick up this book.

All you need is to respond to the thrill of learning and an appreciation of a talented writer telling a true story. ( I say it is true because as a child I saw the bright beauty of pheasants in the wild. I have never forgotten the sight and still consider it one of the most beautiful seen in my lifetime. I wonder if Ms. Macdonald thinks the same, but then she has seen Mabel.) This is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. It pierces the heart and soul. The reader will feel Mabel’s sharp yellow talons and the beating of Ms. Macdonald’s strong heart.

TEN REASONS TO SHOP AT WHOLE FOODS

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1. Fresh, hot pizza, irresistibly delicious.

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2. Look at the flowers! Aren’t they beautiful?

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3. Fresh vegetables-lots of organic choices.

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4. Beef. When has it looked better? And plenty of info. You will know what you are buying.

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5. Fresh fish. All questions answered. Tremendous variety.

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6. Any kind of grits or polenta your tastebuds might crave.

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7. Bread to die for. As Oprah says, “I love bread.” A favorite is Ancient Grains.

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8. Cheese heaven. There is no better selection to be found.

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9. The dairy case offers my favorite yogurt, FAGE, and so much more.

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10. More flowers and lots of other good stuff as well as helpful service!

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THE BEST LAKE PERCH I’VE EVER EATEN

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Here’s a shout out to West Bloomfield Red Coat Tavern. (also a cozy, famous location in Royal Oak)

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A few days ago I ate the best lake perch ever. The place is known for possibly the best burgers in town, though I also like Michael Symon’s B Spot burgers.

Lake Perch is a good fish to eat in Michigan. The fillets are small and often sautéed or lightly fried. The fish is local and usually quite good, though I have had bad luck at expensive up-north locations and local fish restaurants. But I’ve eaten lake perch at Red Coat before and it’s always been good. This time it was out-of-this world great!

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What’s to like? Not at all fried or fishy. It was like eating a cloud with the slightest crunch, perfectly seasoned. I kept thinking did they use beaten egg whites or what? I don’t know. I just know the fish was so light it was incredible. Every piece the same, equally delish! There is something sublime about eating perfect food.

Lots of other foods at Red Coat, most notably the burgers, but other trimmings, clam chowder and coleslaw are very good. If you are local, you know the place. If you are visiting, it’s truly a taste of Detroit.

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Lake Perch is Michigan food at its best, when well-prepared. That’s always the catch (pun intended). But Red Coat in West Bloomfield knows how to do it. Both locations are usually very busy, so whether it’s perch or burgers or some other food they do up right, try to avoid peak times, maybe opt for late lunch or early dinner. You can check their menu on the internet or find them on Facebook.

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET

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SIMPLE PLEASURES

Last Stop On Market Street
Author: Matt De La Pena
Pictures: Christian Robinson
Genre: Children’s Literature
Publisher: G. P. Putnam Sons 2015
Source: Personal Copy

This book is the winner of the 2016 Newberry Medal, awarded for the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children. It is also a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, a New York Times Bestseller, and winner of numerous other awards.

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The story finds beauty in unexpected places. Nana takes CJ walking through the rain to the bus stop, and they ride the bus to the last stop on Market Street to help feed others at a soup kitchen. Nana helps her grandson to see things differently than is his first inclination. When they meet a blind man she tells him, “some people watch the world with their ears”. During their adventure CJ enjoys music and other simple pleasures. Readers go right along with CJ learning to see the world through the eyes and ears of Nana and people they meet along the way.

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Author De La Pena has said his goal is “to show the grace and dignity on the wrong side of the tracks.” I think he shows his readers grace and dignity as can be found in many places if we only look carefully. Find out more about him and his books at www.mattdelapena.com. Take a few minutes with this simple book and like CJ you will say, “I’m glad we came.”

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ANNOUNCEMENT

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Readeatlive/blog needs more reader involvement!

This is an open invitation to all blog readers to submit content concerned with reading, writing, travel, books or food. Book reviews, recipes, opinions, and information are all welcome. Maybe you have visited a particularly interesting place, or a favorite restaurant? Tell us about it.

E-mail your content to me or comment that you would like to submit something (usually 300-500 words) and I will contact you. Pictures are nice but not mandatory.

One blog reader can read my mind and recently sent a recipe for some Easter season cookies. I’ll be posting it in a few weeks. So I invite others to join in by sending along a piece about what interests you.

As added incentive to seeing your by-line, your name will go into the pot for a drawing for a free book in the genre of your choice: poetry, memoir, fiction, non-fiction.

Thank you for spicing up the blog. I look forward to hearing from you! Blog Readers are ready for some variety!

VOTING FOR THE OSCARS/WHO DID OSCAR OVERLOOK?

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Can’t decide on a title for this post. You choose.

I love the movies. I love to go to the movies or watch at home. I have opinions about the movies. And you do too. We all like being critics. Please comment and let us know what movies you loved.

Movies I enjoyed over the past months (In alphabetical order).
Beasts of No Nation
because it is an important story, child soldiers in Africa. Idris Elba was outstanding in his role as was the young boy who played the lead, Abraham Attah.

Oscar Notice: none

Oscar Miss: Idris Elba for best actor. I thought photography and editing were excellent. And all the children did well as actors so the director must share some credit.

The Big Short
because it’s a complicated story well-told and well-acted.

Oscar Notice: Nominated for Best Picture, Christian Bale nominated as best actor in a supporting role, this picture nominated in the directing category and also for film editing and for adapted screenplay.

Oscar Miss: Oh, I don’t know.

Bridge of Spies
because Tom Hanks performance is cagey and warm pulling the viewer through the story, told in a tight, skillful script. The only thing warm in cold, snowy Berlin is the bond between spy Rudolf Abel played by Mark Rylance and Hank’s lawyer James Donovan.

Oscar Notice: Nomination for Best Picture, Nomination for Actor in a supporting Role for Mark Rylance , also original score, production design, sound mixing and original screenplay.

Oscar Miss: No nomination for Tom Hanks. I thought he was terrific and commanded the movie.

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Brooklyn
because Saoirse Ronan’s performance is luminous and supporting players as well as those in small roles give memorable performances. One of my top favorite movies this past year.

Oscar Notice: Nominated for Best Picture, Saorise Ronan is up for Best Actress and she is my pick. Nick Hornby is nominated for his adapted screenplay.

Oscar Miss: What do you think?

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Far From the Madding Crowd
because Cary Mulligan is fabulous in this role. Loved the costumes, the cinematography and everything about this movie. I’ve watched it more than once and that is rare for me.

Oscar Notice: none

Oscar Miss: Everything. Oscar has a short memory. The movie was released in May, 2015.

Joy
because I’d watch Jennifer Lawrence in anything. This year I also saw her in Mockingjay Part II. She’s something else.

Oscar Notice: Lawrence is nominated for Best Actress

Oscar Miss: This time they got it about right.

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Mad Max Fury Road
because I wondered what all the fuss was. Charlize is a favorite.

Oscar Notice: Nominations in the following categories: Best Picture, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects.

Oscar Miss: I like Charlize’s performance much better than the costumes. The men were outfitted in many layers and the women wore wispy pieces of muslin. Makeup was determined Charlize would not be beautiful.

The Martian
because I heard how good it was.

Oscar Notice: Nominated for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Damon is my pick but I have to admit I haven’t seen the other nominated performances), Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay.

Oscar Miss: Best Director for Ridley Scott. Come on, a science movie both exciting and fun, even tender.

Sicario
because I love Emily Blunt and I heard she was terrific in this, and she was.

Oscar Notice: Cinematography, Original Score, Sound Editing

Oscar Miss: Benicio del Toro, Actor in a Supporting Role. He was completely believable and mesmerizing in a quiet role: acting at its best. And of course Emily Blunt for Best Actress. She carried the film.

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Spotlight
Because others told me how good it was. My pick for Best Film, so persuasive and so real.

Oscar Notice: Best Picture, Mark Ruffalo for Actor in a Supporting Role, Rachel McAdams for Actress in a Supporting Role. Her quiet performance gave this film heart and heft. I couldn’t take my eyes off her when she was on screen. Also nominations for Directing, Film Editing, Original Screenplay. I’d also give the Oscar to Ruffalo as well as McAdams.

Oscar Miss: Michael Keaton for Best Actor – so much better than his Birdman performance last year.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens
because I wanted to take my son. Knew he would love it. Surprise! So did I.

Oscar Notice: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects.

Oscar Miss: The young actors were awesome; Daisy Ridley was especially outstanding. I’d give her the nod over Brie Lawson in Room any day. Harrison Ford was very good. I loved the costumes and I give a nod to the director and the script. The story was exciting and easy to follow.

A Movie I watched and enjoyed less
Room

because the acting and the story seemed flawed to me.

Movies I’m searching for the opportunity to watch:

Carol
because I expect Cate Blanchette to be wonderful. I’ve never seen her in a role I didn’t like.

Creed
because I think young Michael B. Jordan is a terrific actor. Remember him in the television series Friday Night Lights.

Forty-Five Years
because I often admire Charlotte Rampling’s work. She recently was outstanding in the British television series BroadChurch which has aired on Netflix.

Woman of Gold
because of Helen Mirren

Perhaps eventually I’ll have to cave and see Revenant, this year’s Oscar Favorite.

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If you are still reading, thanks for your patience. Sorry this is so long. I’m a movie nut.
Now. Tell us about your favorites this past year.