Monthly Archives: August 2016

ANTICIPATION: WHAT WILL YOU READ THIS FALL?

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You may wonder what you will be reading this fall? Lots of interesting books are new on the market. It is an exciting time to contemplate your choice. Here are 15 titles, varied topics, mostly from popular authors. Maybe one of these will find a place in you book pile, calling “read me, please.” Do let us know which one calls to you.

Swingtime by Zadie Smith – A novel that explores the friendship of two young women over time.

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes – Coming in October, a novella and 8 other stories.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – Five decades with a big family.

I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb- In this new novel the author stands up for women while telling the story of one of his characters readers have previously met, Felix Funnicello.

The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell – Expected in Nov. this is the next installment in his series about the making of England and the basis for the new television series The Last Kingdom coming to Netflix this fall.

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins. Poems. Is there a more readable poet than Billy Collins? This is Collins latest.

Grief Is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter – This novel is out in paperback.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson –Woodson returns to Brooklyn with her new adult novel. The reader encounters young girls growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

Surrender, New York by Caleb Carr – A crime novel – This time Carr’s writes a contemporary procedural that is about more than the case.

The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead – Fiction – The author imagines actual tunnels and tracks as a young woman escapes slavery.

American Heiress: The Wild saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin – Nonfiction

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward – Anthology of essays.

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Phillippa Gregory – This novel tells of three sisters who will be queens and their effect on Tudor Rule in England.

Trail Angel by Derek Catrin –Characters travel the Bozeman Trail in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – In this novel three couples face turning points. Currently #3 on the NYTimes Best Seller List.

High on my list of hope-to-reads: Trail Angel, Three Sisters-Three Queens, The Fire This Time, and Commonwealth.

ANOTHER GEM OF A MYSTERY FROM LOUISE PENNY

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The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
Author: Louise Penny
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Thorndike Press, 2015
Hardcover Large Print Edition: 677 pages
Source: Library copy

Characters eat memorable food in the village of Three Pines in Quebec. Would the reader like ham, apple and brie sandwiches, parsnip and apple soup with fresh baquette, crepes stuffed with apple and drizzled with syrup alongside maple bacon? Often, tantalizing food smells seem to emanate from the pages of this book.

Each character Ms. Penny creates comes to life, rising from the pages in frantic fantasy. Readers feel relief that this is a story and not real life. It is a crazy mix of comfort and fright. How could such things happen in the idyllic village of Three Pines?

Ms. Penny creates what some might call escapist fiction at its best. She’s great with first lines. “Running, running, stumbling, running.” Her crazy character Ruth with the pet duck Rosa returns to play an important part in this tale. Often true in the tales Penny conjures, drama fills the screen of the reader’s mind.

It’s a joy to read how Gamache and his community of players work together to solve a particularly scary and horrid tale. There is plenty of the unexpected. And yet compassion and caring rule the day. Hence the tale brings comfort and charm to soften the horror.

Louise Penny’s newest book is released this week. The critics have nothing but praise for A Great Reckoning: A Novel. So if the reader cannot bear to leave Inspector Gamache and Three Pines, the new book is waiting.

CELEBRATE: THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB

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The End of Your Life Book Club
Author: Will Schwalbe
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Genre: Memoir
Hardcover Edition: 326 pages
Source: Library copy

This book celebrates much worthy of true celebration. It celebrates books and reading. It is a giant toast to lives spent reading. It holds motherhood in high esteem, and it is a lasting tribute to a woman of tremendous energy and successes, Mary Anne Schwalbe.

It is also about parents and their children when life is ending for a parent. So it is about family ties. It is full of caring and kind advice, that doesn’t sound at all like someone giving advice.

The experience of reading this book is a celebration in and of itself.

Reading this book, I marveled at the closeness of this mother to her children and enjoyed the chronicle of the mother and son relationship, since son Will is the author of the book. I was amazed at the work she carried on throughout her life with persons in need in countries around the globe, especially at her work with the Woman’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, which she helped to found. I told myself I must find out more about this organization and I intend to do so. Mary Ann Swalbe reached out to others in need while raising her children and holding demanding paid positions, often in the education community.

The website for Women’s Refugee Commission is www.womensrefugeecommission.org

This organization also has a page on Facebook

The easy-going and natural style of the book make it a joy to read, comforting in spite of Mary Anne’s trials with the therapies for pancreatic cancer. It’s not that the author shies away from this part of the telling, but there is so much joy in his mother’s family ties, reading, helping others, and organizing for the greater good that the reader is filled with inspiration.

There is, too, the joy of all those books they read and discussed, mostly classics, but some contemporary attention-getters, as well. The reader will no doubt enjoy being reminded of many beloved books. For this reader, authors Elizabeth Bishop, Geraldine Brooks, and specific books such as The Kite Runner, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gilead, Crossing to Safety and most especially Esther Forbes’s Paul Revere and the World, originally written for young people. There are many more. The author kindly includes a list at the end of the book. Kindness is what his mother always tried to practice and to teach. Readers are the better for it.

For those reviewers who claim this memoir doesn’t stab and slice at family and others as it should, I say, they were not raised by Mary Anne Schwalbe. We should all hold kindness in such high esteem.

Mary Anne’s courage and grace even in the worst of circumstances shine in this book. So does her son’s tremendous love.

Often, in this blogspace, I preach about how personal reading rightly should be. What to read is a personal decision. We are all different. I am prone to pontificate on the subject. We will not all like the same books. And we do not.

Now hear this: This memoir has much to offer, especially for those who are life-long readers and whose interest in women and children around the world is strong. There is so much to learn from Mary Ann and her son about interactions with people, near and far away. Open the page. Begin to read. I expect you will keep reading with gratitude, until you have reached the last page. As you are reading think about how you can connect with this book.

As with every reading experience there are barriers to understanding with this one. You may not be familiar with many of the books Will and his mother read, often while she is receiving treatment. You may not easily identify with this highly educated and affluent family. However, I urge you to explore this read. See what barriers to understanding you might overcome. Give Mary Anne, Will and their families a bit of your time. I know this. I am very glad I did. This reading experience not only taught me much about life and living, it changed my outlook on life, making it brighter and more hopeful. For that, I am very grateful.

The Two-Family House: What’s More Complicated Than One Family? Two.

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The Two-Family House: A Novel
Author: Lynda Cohen Loigman
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2016
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 290 pages
Source: Library copy

Note: For book club readers who have yet to read this book, these comments contain NO spoilers.

This spellbinding story reminds any reader that we must live with the decisions we make as best we can. Some things from the past cannot be forgotten for those who know such truths. It is a beautifully written novel, so real, that every moment of the read feels like events are happening to people you know and care about. The characters are carefully and completely imagined and realized. It is an intense story touching the deepest part of the reader’s heart.

Complex, yet completely readable, the pages fly by. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this book.

It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel because the author is so skilled. The multiple viewpoints enable the reader to know all of the players in this family. And, the author handles the multiple viewpoints as well as any author I’ve read. Her website is interesting and includes some of her other writing: essays, blogs etc. Check it out. I think you’ll be glad you did.

lyndacohenloigman.com

While it is true, some reviewers don’t share my enthusiasm for this novel; at this point, having recently finished the read, I take no steps back. There’s heartrending sadness, and pure joy to pull the reader through the suspense. What else can one expect from a family saga?

Hope you like it as much as I did.

REIMAN GARDENS: GARDEN DISPLAYS AND LEGO ART BY SEAN KENNEY

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This place is an oasis, amid Iowa’s fields of corn and soybeans, located at the edge of Iowa State University, and offering respite from the business of daily life. In my case they offered a breather from the busy college road trip demanding hours of travel by car through five states.

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Located in the central Iowa city of Ames, Reiman Gardens host garden displays, an indoor Conservatory, a Butterfly Wing and more. At the time of our visit the Art with Lego Bricks Exhibit was scattered throughout the gardens.

Here’s a peek.

Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly

Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly

Gardener and Grandchild

Gardener and Grandchild

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In the Butterfly Wing

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So much natural beauty. A big thank you to the cousins who gave us a personal tour!

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LOVING THOSE BLACKBERRIES

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Recently the Detroit Free Press ran a terrifically informative piece on blackberries, complete with recipes. Check out www.freep.com for Thursday Aug. 11.

Here’s a quick look at loving blackberries:
1. Highest antioxidant count per serving
2. 1 cup=62 calories
3. Protects against dementia and enhances cognitive function.
4. The pigment that produces the deep color prevents some diseases
5. 5 B vitamins means energy
6. 8 grams of fiber slows digestion
7. Promotes cardiovascular health
8. Thought to lower blood pressure
9. Helps oral health
10. Lots of vitamins including C to decrease inflammation
I don’t know about you, but I plan to eat more of this berry. I thought they tasted a bit bitter; little did I know they are a powerhouse of health!

What I really love about them is the deep purple-black color. Somehow, more beautiful than night or eggplant.

Here’s the recipe I’m headed to the kitchen to prep right now.

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BLACKBERRY AND NECTARINE GALETTE
1 ½ CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1/3 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR
¼ CUP CORNMEAL
¼ TEASPOON SALT
½ CUP COLD BUTTER, CUT INTO SMALL PIECES
½ CUP BUTTERMILK

FILLING:
3 cups blackberries
2 cups sliced nectarines
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg white
1 ½ Tablespoons turbinado or granulated sugar

Prepare pastry: The Free Press suggests using a food processor. I tried without it. Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal and salt with whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add buttermilk just until dough forms a ball. Press dough into a 4- inch circle on plastic wrap or parchment, cover. And chill 30 minutes.

much used pastry blender because it is very old

much used pastry blender because it is very old

Prepare filling: Combine blackberries, nectarines, sugar and flour with lemon juice. Toss to coat.

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Assemble:
Preheat oven to 350.
Place chilled dough on sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 15 inch circle. Place the dough and parchment on baking sheet.

Arrange fruit mixture in the center of the dough leaving a 2 inch border. Fold edges of dough toward center. Press edges to seal. Leave center open.

Whisk milk and egg white and brush mixture on dough. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake on lower rack for 1 hour or until pastry is golden brown.

Remove from oven. Let stand 30 minutes before cutting into wedges.

This is what I love about making a galette. It is suppose to look rustic. Perfect circle and edges are not important. (Impossible for me anyway, so there you have it.)

I enjoyed this dessert. Not too sweet. Feel free to use refrigerated piecrust but this cornmeal crust is tasty if a bit hard to handle; if you are all thumbs like I am.

More recipes using blackberries upcoming on the food page. Watch for them. Reading readeatlive.com can be valuable to mind and body! Yes, pure hype, but thank you for reading.

15 THINGS TO THINK ON while READING Susan Meissner’s Arresting Novel A Fall of Marigolds

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A Fall of Marigolds: A Novel
Author Susan Meissner
Publisher: Penguin, 2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback Edition, 364 pages plus Author’s Note and Readers Guide
Source: Library copy

1. What are the reaction of persons you have known to shocking tragic and violent loss?
2. How does Meissner weave together two stories of violent loss. Is she fair to each story? Did you like one story better than the other?
3. Did the beauty of the scarf that ties these stories together provide some balance to the strong and violent events that set the stories in motion?
4. What is the primary emotion this novel arouses in the reader? Were you touched, inspired or sickened as you read of the personal journeys of these two fictional characters?
5. What comparisons do you find yourself making between the two central characters, Clara and Taryn?
6. Would you recommend this book to others? Why or Why not?
7. Do you see the book as a different kind of romance novel?
8. What universal theme or keynote keeps this book on track, e.g. history, keepsakes, moral dilemmas or extraordinary circumstances?
9. What further study does this book suggest to you as a reader?
10. Do you count this among the memorable novels you have read in the last few years? Why? Or Why Not?
11. What new thinking does this novel bring to the fore for you as a reader?
12. What part does the rather convoluted plotting of this duel tale play in the pleasure or displeasure of your read?
13. What might you describe as some of the author’s most inspired choices?
14. What are you as a reader enjoying most about this novel? Or are you having another reaction?
15. One of Meissner’s most acclaimed previous books is titled The Shape of Mercy published in 2008. Do you think you will read another of her books?

Find out more about this author at www.susanmeissner.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter@susanmeissner

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN BOOKSTORE

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As you might expect, Campus Town near the UW-Madison campus hosts at least one independent local bookstore. Come on in for a short visit.

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Quite a selection as you can see.

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I find the sign “More Books” comforting and I want to stay even longer!

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I just love to look at books. This is the place to do just that.

Mail order is available at www.roomofonesown.com
Follow a Room of One’s Own on Facebook

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Numerous staff picks. Such a variety of books. Check out the website!

COLLEGE ROAD TRIP – PART III

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HERE WE ARE IN EAST CENTRAL IOWA. We are taking a good look at the corn and beans on the farm.

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Granddaughter examines the soy beans up close. Leaves, pods what is going on?

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In Ames, Iowa we spend part of the morning at Reiman Gardens. Thanks so much to the cousins who give us a private tour. (Watch for an upcoming post featuring this wonderful place.)

Then on to Iowa State University, also in Ames.
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This is my beloved Union where I spent many hours in my college days working, studying, playing cards and other types of mischief. Under construction, of course. Improvements everywhere, but the college prospect thought the place looked old. Wonder why?

On to Omaha and Creighton University
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Above is a picture of the large arena near our hotel in downtown Omaha, very impressive.

The brick buildings at Creighton were very beautiful. But time to head home, driving all across Iowa to spend some short but quality time in Galena, Illinois, a favorite place. My first time to drive from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River in one day. The next day driving home to Michigan. We thought of Jerry every day and stopped at the lovely country cemetery where we said another good-bye and thanked him again for all he had taught all three of us about midwest road tripping.

COLLEGE ROAD TRIP – PART II

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WALK ALONG THE LAKE ON THE UW-MADISON CAMPUS

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OR ENJOY THE VIEWS AT THE NORTH UNION UW-MADISON

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UW-EAU CLAIRE
Very quiet here between summer and fall sessions. Everything closed on Friday night and Saturday. Lots of construction going on.

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ANOTHER VIEW UW-EAU CLAIRE

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MY AMAZING TRAVEL COMPANIONS AT THE AMAZING MALL OF AMERICA IN MINNEAPOLIS

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TIME WITH THE FAMILY FROM MINNESOTA WHILE AT MALL OF AMERICA

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THIS IS IOWA. CHECKING THE CORN CROP ON THE FARM.

LONG DAYS. EXPERIENCING EMOTIONS AND MEMORIES. SIMPLY PRICELESS!
TOMORROW A NEW DAY. MORE TO COME!