Category Archives: READING

WHAT’S IN YOUR BOOKSTACK?

That bookstack beside your bed or next to your favorite reading chair or wherever it piles up changes and surprises.

Here’s what mine suddenly looks like this week.

Neverhome by Laird Hunt
The story of a female serving as a soldier in the Civil War. This is my second reading and provides prep for my new writing project. It is a most interesting read. I have no trouble reading it a second time.

The Other Einstein, a novel by Marie Benedict.
Reading right now for my Michigan book club. So far it seems a bit predictable, but too early for such a conclusion. Must keep reading. The mystery is at least in part: How could anyone fall for Einstein?

Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
For the Florida book club. A transgender girl’s coming-of-age-story. This is highly recommended and I’m not sure why it keeps falling off my stack.

The Alice Network, a novel by Kate Quinn
If I’m not mistaken this was sent to me free from Amazon in my last order. According to the cover blurbs a spy network in the First World War and more of the story decades later in 1947. It does look like it might be my cup of tea.

In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America 1859-1863 by Edward Ayers
Will this be helpful for research prep for my writing project? Not sure. It promises ground level social history but not sure it takes me to the right part of the country.

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko
Loved Pachinko so much I couldn’t resist ordering this one.

The Floating World, A Novel by C. Morgan Babst
Class, race and trauma in post-Katrina New Orleans: Seems to be a time and place I find fascinating. This is another one that is highly recommended by some. I shall see.

History Lover’s Cookbook: Over 150 full-color photos inspired by nineteenth century recipes, anecdotes, and the Civil War by Roxe Anne Peacock
More historical info. People have to eat wherever they are.

Blood In the Water by Heather Ann Thompson
This one is still anchoring my stack, nonfiction about the Attica Prison uprising.

Leave a reply and share what is new or still lurking in your stack.

PACHINKO IS A GAME OF CHANCE

Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback Edition: 479 pages plus Reading Group Guide and Author Interview
Source: Personal copy

In the very early years of the twentieth century, the young daughter of a poor, crippled fisherman in Korea becomes involved with a handsome wealthy stranger. When she discovers she is pregnant and her lover is unable to marry her, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle minister passing on his way to Japan. Her new life in Japan is different than the reader imagined it might be.

And so a complex and stunning story of life as an immigrant family unfolds. Never before has it become so clear what the struggle and sacrifice of immigration can be, not only for the first generation who live in a new country, but for the generations that follow. The clarity of this story, and what it takes to survive as a member of a persecuted minority takes the reader by surprise.

The fact that so many are not aware of the history between Korean and Japanese peoples heightens the interest and emotional complexity of this story. This book is a National Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Award and easily the best book of the year for many. Certainly this author is among the finest novelists you will ever have a chance to read.

Every character a work of art, a setting so carefully and totally brought to life, conflict both exciting and sorrowful, all this and more fills the pages of this addictive family saga. More than any other read in my personal experience, Pachinko enables me to begin to know and feel more than I ever thought possible about the immigrant life and how one group of people discriminates so horribly against another. Perhaps it seems instructive in this regard because to many readers it is a new perspective on a situation that plagues humans with more cost than the rampant illnesses from the middle ages.

It is a book that reminds us how family members demonstrate love for one another, over and over, through difficult times. Next time dear reader that you shake your head about the inhumanity people show for one another, read Pachinko. Your faith in your fellow humans will begin to be restored. You are likely to have a new respect for the meaning of human endurance.

A few years ago I wrote about the experiences of my Scottish foremothers transplanted from Scotland to the unsettled prairies of Iowa. I thought how they just continued keeping-on, endurance played the keynote of their lives. They must tip their bonnets to Koreans who live in Japan and to ever other immigrant group who find themselves denigrated by those who live around them. Here in the United States we often blame our fellow humans with a skin color different than our own for some of the grave difficulties that beset their lives. We think those from other ethnic groups can easily go back to where their parents and grandparents once lived.

Pachinko informs not just the head, but also the heart; the reader cannot stop thinking about the issues, all the while with a heart filled to bursting with multiple emotions. It is quite simply a wonderful story. It took this reader to places I did not know I wanted to go. I cannot remember when I have been so affected and so jubilant with the reading a story, especially one filled with so much sadness. It may prove to be my favorite of all time.

WHICH OF THESE TEN WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO YOUR BOOK CLUB?

(all book blurbs lifted from the nearest convenient source – first time ever not to credit, but some simply not available.)

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amer Towles
In 1922 Count Alexander Rostov cannot leave his hotel.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
A powerful meditation on what immigrants sacrifice to achieve a home in the world. A story of Koreans in Japan in the twentieth century.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Spiced with unexpected magic, this imaginative love story follows a young couple who join a wave of migrants as their city collapses.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
A captivating story of three women and their secrets amid the ashes of Nazi Germany.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
An unusually well written and emotionally satisfying page-turner beginning with a 12-year-old in depression-era New York City.

The Dry by Jane Harper
A mystery and so much more set in Australia.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

A Robotics programmer leaves Michigan for a job in California where she develops her bread-baking technique and soon her sourdough starter seems to have a life of its own.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
The complex story of two families and an adoption scandal in 1940’s Tennessee.

Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (biography) by Caroline Fraser
This fascinating nonfiction of the life of this beloved author honors the 150th anniversary of Wilder’s birth.

TWO HOT SELLING PICTURE BOOKS

Christmas has come and gone and I did not send a book to my 3 year old granddaughter. This situation must be remedied. After all if her book shelves overflow, her parents can give away some of her books.

So not being in the book store, I ordered two best selling picture books I thought she might like. Maybe I’ll send one along to her now, and save one for later.

Dragons Love Tacos
Authors: Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
Genre: Picture Book
Hardcover Edition
Source: Personal Copy
www.tacocave.com

This story is presented with color and humor. It sticks to the topic and is filled with adjectives kids will love. It also includes topics for discussion among the primary set such as: tummy troubles, all about dragons, how to make tacos, what happens when you eat hot peppers and more.

Would you like to keep dragons in your back yard? Are you planning a taco party? I’m guessing primary age children could talk about this book for quite a while.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Authors: Andrea Beaty, with illustrations by David Roberts
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013
Genre: Picture Book
Hardcover Edition
Source: Personal Copy

Rosie, blond hair hanging over one eye, dreams of becoming a great engineer. Readers follow Rosie as she creates from cast off gadgets and gizmos and hides her machines under the bed. Rosie is inspired by her great-great-aunt Rose. And this story has a lesson (as so many do). “the only true failure can come if you quit.”

This book will be enjoyed by a large range of ages from 3 year-olds to 10 year-olds. The illustrations are one of the reasons. They include so much material that will continue to interest youngsters who love to invent and dream as they get older.

One reviewer had this to say: “Written in delightful verse and filled with sneaky histories of women in aviation, it’s perfect inspirational material for young makers.” And from Publisher’s Weekly, “comically detailed mixed-media illustrations…keep the mood light and emphasize Rosie’s creativity at every turn.”

Which book is going in the mail to Jessica? Probably Rosie since Jessica, too loves to build and dreams of being an engineer; and she has blond hair that swoops over her eve on one side of her face. I hope she likes this book and the crazy, coloful pictures by David Roberts.

TIME: BOOK COMMENT ON A WRINKLE IN TIME

A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1962, 2007
Genre: Science Fiction, Children’s Literature,
Paperback Edition: 232 pages, plus an interview with the author and the author’s Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech
Source: Personal Copy

This classic, a Newbery Winner, was published in 1962. According to an article in a recent Smithsonian, Wrinkle has sold more than ten million copies and been turned into a graphic novel, an opera and two films. The new film from director Ava DuVernay is expected in March. Among others, starring roles feature Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey. It was a hard-to-categorize novel that took some time to find a publisher. Many hated it until the prestigious Farrar, Straus and Giroux took it on.

These stats don’t tell of the many young woman who have enjoyed the book and been inspired by Meg’s finding her own bravery. Fantasy has never been my favorite genre. I usually avoid it. But there is more to this book than any category can describe. This tale is also more than a coming-of-age story of one young girl wondering how to get along in the world. Meg Murry goes on a search for her absent father traveling through time and space with the help of her brother Charles Wallace, her new friend Calvin, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.

Author Madeleine L’Engle believed that “literature should show youngsters they are capable of taking on the forces of evil in the universe, not just the everyday pains of growing up.” (Smithsonian). The famous quotes that are sprinkled throughout the text are great fun for those of us of all ages! And there is much philosophy to ponder, so the book is not all science. I share a strong belief with L’Engle. She once wrote: “If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children.”

I believe the lines of age disappear when we read and discuss literature, whether a picture book, a chapter book, or a so-called adult novel. With that in mind and to prepare for the movie, I reread and re-enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time.

I hope you will too.

WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING TO READ AS 2018 ROLLS AROUND?

Do tell what books are sitting in your stack waiting. What books are rolling around in your head? What titles call to you from the library or the media and you can’t wait to get your hands on them. This is your post.

Reply to this post or on Facebook and I will add what you say to the Word Press readeatlive post.

The books pictured are just to get your juices flowing if they aren’t already! Please tell us what you hope to read in the new year or is already in hand with pages turning.

THE WEIGHT OF INK: A PERSONAL LOOK AT THIS BOOK EXPERIENCE

THE WEIGHT OF INK: A PERSONAL LOOK AT THIS BOOK EXPERIENCE

The Weight of Ink : novel
Author: Rachel Kadish
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
Genre: Historical fiction
Hardcover Edition: 560 pages
Source: Personal copy

This is a book with a beautiful dust jacket, so attractive that it played an important role in my decision to purchase the book. And then too, the subject matter seemed weighted with an intriguing tale.

This novel is the story of two women for whom intellectual pursuit is everything, or nearly so. In the year 2000 Helen Watt is a researcher nearing the end of her career and one who has seemingly had a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents dropped into her arms. The study of these documents, with the help of Aaron Levy an American graduate student, soon reveals that quite possibly they were scribed by a woman, though given the sex role constraints of the time, this would be thought impossible.

I began to read this book in late summer and soon put it aside to turn my reading attention elsewhere. The book was a dense and difficult read; it seemed perhaps a better time would come along to tackle it. But as the weeks passed, the character Helen Watt nagged at me and later in the fall I began again. I was captivated by the romance between a young Helen and Drot in a camp in Israel where volunteers and soldiers shared space though I never fully understood their tasks there. They were both people with deep feelings.

At the Thanksgiving holiday with a houseguest and then a trip to Oklahoma to visit family, I again put this book aside because of its heft, impossible to travel with. On Dec. 8 I began reading again. Now committed to Helen and her assistant Aaron and understanding something of their task with these historic documents, I was determined to better know Ester, the young woman from the seventeenth century who was willing to be an outcast, if only she could continue to work with the blind Rabbi on intellectual pursuits.

I relate this because the on-again-off-again reading was very likely part of the reason I found the book so difficult. In addition, I lacked prior knowledge of the restoration period in English history, and knew very little of Jewish history in that time and place. Yet both of the women were intriguing characters, attempting to break the bonds of their time period and still accomplish an important historical task and write about it.

The tale has a satisfying ending. Both woman and the character of Aaron are multi-dimensional people who are laser focused on their work. As expected this complicates their lives. Along with characters that make the reader feel deeply, this author has created suspense amid the rivalries of the academic world. Those of us who love to read historical fiction are often drawn to daily life in another time and place. As a reader I came to understand what it was like to live in the home of a seventeenth century rabbi in London and something about how things were in that household. Likewise I learned somewhat less about work in an important historical research library. This author has accomplished much with her convoluted tale and her excellent and sensitive prose.

Ink can be heavy on a page in a number of ways. In this novel that is certainly true. Complexity is not a bad thing. Both protagonists show great determination as they strive to unravel the mysteries before them. They are rewarded and so, I believe, will be any reader who shows like determination in completing this read.

This may be the challenging read you would like to take on in the new

REE DRUMMOND COOKS: COME AND GET IT

Yes, I gave myself an early Christmas present this year. I never can resist one of Ree’s cookbooks, and I actually use them.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! does not include a holiday section, but here are some recipes in this new cookbook you may like for you holiday cooking through the New Year . Many are also available on the internet.

Pimento Cheese p. 67
Love this stuff and especially Ree’s recipe which is both beautiful, luscious, and oh, so festive!

Tortilla Pinwheels p.76
Red, White and Green paints your Christmas table!

Roasted Red Pepper Soup p. 104
This color is a holiday favorite whether we are talking food, or color schemes. What a great way to start a holiday meal or buffet.

Steak with Chimichurri p. 146
Best quality steak probably doesn’t need this festive and flavorful sauce, but how can it hurt? Pile up sliced steak next to a bowl of this bright green sauce and let your buffet guests serve themselves.

Citrus Salad with Vinaigrette p. 236
The colors and flavors, especially if you can find blood oranges are just right for the holidays. Use Bulgarian feta if you can find it and you are more than ready to enjoy this addition to any holiday meal.

No-Bake White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake p. 352
Fresh and light and the color is right!

More about this cookbook in an upcoming blog. It contains some beautiful and detailed pictures of the Merc in Pawhuska. But on this blog you’ll have to make do with my pictures instead. They will inspire you, all the same. Hope you can visit soon! And try one of these recipes. The citrus salad is truly beautiful and makes my mouth water1

BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR?

What kind of boring world would we live and love in if we all agreed on the best books. Best Book Lists for 2017 are starting to appear.

One reader’s take-away from a current well-known list….

YES, CERTAINLY WORTH A READ:

The Dry by Jane Harper.
This is a dazzling page-turner of a novel, little noticed. The fiction is great. It’s a thriller set in a parched part of rural Australia. Enter the title in the search box and read more about this one if you like.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan.
Book Comments on this one appeared earlier this year on this blog. Just type the title in the search box if you’d like to know more. Here’s what the professional reviewer said,” You don’t read this book; you breathe it.” I totally agree.

Camino Island by John Grisham.
Set in Florida this is a must read, especially if you enjoy a good mystery, and quite possibly this is one of Grisham’s best.

YOU DECIDE…..

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Biance Bosker.
Reviewed on this blog, just type the title in the search box if you want to hear more about this one.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This rather uneven novel by a celebrated writer was commented on in this blog.

Grant by Ron Chernow
You need to be a history buff. It is very hefty.

I DON’T THINK SO…
No book read by this blogger appearing on this particular list is a complete waste of time.

CAN’T WAIT TO TRY…MAYBE…..

Sunshine State: Essays by Sarah Gerard.
Based on the summary, this collection from different writers may not be all fun and games.

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham.
Inside the complicated lives of unaccompanied alien children.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
She is a beautiful writer, but this is another study of sadness and broken lives.

LIBRARIES CHANGE LIVES

TULSA CITY COUNTY LIBRARY

The newly renovated library is truly a 21st century library with an attached parking garage and a Starbucks inside.

The impressive Peggy V. Helmerich Staircase serves as a backdrop for the Peggy C. Helmarich Distinguished Author Award and other large-scale programs.

The Children’s Area is large bright and colorful, filled with books and inviting developmental activities.

My three year old granddaughter was nearly beside herself with excitement describing the level and entry she wanted us to use to access the library. And when she was inside, oh my! She could not be contained.

And, yes, there is much more!