DRINKING COFFEE ELSEWHERE: A REVIEW

ZZ Packer’s 2003 publication, a collection of short stories, is as important and enlightening today as the year it was published. It makes a good pick-up-and-put-down read as do most short story collections, but it has a quality about the writing that makes it special. In many of the stories “That Old-time Religion,” beloved by many of our grandparents and beloved still in many predominately African-American churches is presented through the author’s beautiful story-telling style. As Alex Hailey expressed in a quote from Roots, included in the book,

“Join me in the hope that this story of our people can help to alleviate the legacies of the fact that preponderately the histories have been written by the winners.” The people in Packer’s stories are not losers; they are the over-commers. Some stories end happily, some sadly, but all are dealing with awakenings and the power they have over the individual, who, in turn, gains the power to overcome.  The stories teach us that prejudice comes in many forms; that loss of faith is a searing loss; that friendships and sisterhood can help us overcome almost anything; and that Civil Rights deal with everyone’s rights.

Some of my favorite stories were “Speaking in Tongues”; “Doris is Coming,” which dealt with the predicted end of the world New Year’s Eve 1961 (I remember well that prediction.); and “The Rapture.”

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Every Other Sunday (Evening) Post

Yes, yes, I know it’s Saturday evening, not Sunday, but I’m going to have such a full Sunday (and Monday, and Tuesday) that I thought while I had a minute to breathe, I’d do so while posting a catch up on what I’ve been reading.

Finished over the past two weeks:

News of The World    This is the Third Tuesday Book Club’s October selection, which I read by mistake, but enjoyed greatly.  Read the recent review of this fine western/historical fiction novel about Texas on this blog.  I believe this fine novel is the Gulf Coast Read for this year.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which will be reviewed early next week.

Lilac Girls, a WWII novel of sisterhood which includes the Holocaust from both the Polish and German point of view along with the fall of France and its liberation.  This novel will also be reviewed soon.

Continuing to read:

Wizards and Glass Book IV of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower Series.”  I believe this is my second favorite in the Dark Tower Series, the first being Wolves of the Calla, Book V. (Yes, I read them out of order.)

Our America: A Latin American History of the United States

Began this week:

Debbie Mcomber’s non-fiction, anecdotal book, One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity

Rules of Prey by John Sanford, reminiscent of “Criminal Minds” on TV, but with a single investigator, not a team, working on the bizarre case.

I obviously have a great deal of good reading to continue until I write this post again, but my reading time is limited. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are chock full with church and a student session in the afternoon, a doctor’s appointment and errands on M and a Sunday School coffee here after class on Tuesday.  Wednesday is my full day at the university ; then Thursday after class I hope to spend some time with friends (mother and teenage daughter) whom I haven’t seen since pre-Harvey.  It seems like everything is measured in terms of before and after Harvey these days.  Hopefully as the streets are cleared of debris and we begin to accept our “new normal,” the nightmares of Harvey will fade, and we will begin looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, the semester’s end, and Christmas.  Sometimes it’s nice to look ahead…

 

Jones Creek Tough

A Scribbler & A Shutterbug

So thankful for these Jones Creek folk who looked out for their neighbors and their neighbors’ animals. Click on the link to watch Bailey’s video of their efforts. The music is pretty perfect, too.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbailey.fairchild%2Fvideos%2F1661105780575359%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Video credit: Bailey Alexandra Fairchild

From Bailey’s FB page: Finally got this video done! Most of these are CR 400 on the Jones Creek side. My family and I got to help 5 kids, 17 horses and a few steer out of the water. I can’t express to you how proud I am of our little community. Home is where your heart is and my heart will always be in Jones Creek, TX! A huge thanks to all the people that worked with us including some of the owners and a family from Florida that drove down here just to lend a hand. I know it’s long but I had a lot of pictures I…

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THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY: A Review

This 2016 publication by Genevieve Cogman is a fantasy novel, the first in a series. It has been called, “… a stunning work of art that has me absolutely begging for more…” by The Fantasy Book Reviewer. I have to agree that it left me begging for more, and I have already ordered the second book which came out in September.  I cared about the characters and would certainly like to continue following them and their adventures/misadventures.

Irene, one of the protagonists, is the daughter of Librarians and a “professional spy for the mysterious Library”, which is an organization that collects important works of fiction from all the different realities. 

Kai is Irene’s assistant, and the mystery as to his secret/identity left me reeling as I read.

The two are assigned to an “alternate London,” whose world is “chaos infected”–meaning the laws of nature are bent by “supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic.” Irene and Kai are sent to retrieve a special book, but when arrive, they discover it has already been stolen.  Mystery upon mystery and calamity upon calamity occur, including mechanical, giant alligators and the sticky business (literally) of a massive silverfish invasion which starts underfoot and climbs the walls and anything (including Irene and Kai) that gets in its way.

Beset by “sinister secret societies,” the pair learns more about their alternate world, the motivation and politics behind their mission, and each other.

This is a perfect opportunity to get in at the ground floor of an exciting, spectacular series.

A TRIBUTE/SHOUT OUT TO AN AMAZING BLOGGER: Ritu Bhathal

When first drew me to “But I Smile Anyway…” Ritu’s blog was a picture of a little Spiderman, sitting crosslegged, meditating.  He appears every week in “Spidey’s Serene Sunday” a feature of the blog. Each Sunday, Ritu and her muse, Spidey, put forth a quote then elaborate and comment on it. For example, Sunday, September 10th featured this quote:

“Don’t worry about failures.  Worry about the chances you miss if you don’t even try.” These “Musings and Memories, words and wisdom…of a working family woman,” the subtitle of her blog, are insightful, helpful and downright inspiring.

As are her poems. I ordered from Amazon a copy of Poetic Rituals, and enjoyed it immensely.  Many poems I have shared with others who welcomed their wit, humor, and wisdom.  Poems range from the humorous( a “label” for a chocolate cake, assuring the consumer that there are no calories in it, just cocoa, sugar, flour etc.  I attach this label when I take a shut-in a chocolate cake, and it always makes them smile.) to profound musings on love, real love. Family situations like the loss of a first baby tooth and the first day of school make every reader smile in a wistful way.

Ritu Bhathal is a wife, mother of two, teacher, and poet extraordinaire , specializing in the haiku in a weekly presentation. As a blogger, she has 5,789 followers, has received the Versatile Blogger award at one point, and was voted Best Overall Blogger of 2017. She is available on Twitter and posts marvelous pictures of her healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) eating adventures. There is only one thing I do not understand about Ritu and her blog.  She refers to her followers as “Peeps.” Must be a British thing. LOL

NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles: A Review

Paulette Jiles is a San Antonio poet, novelist, and memorist.  In this 2016 publication, she describes in poetic, vibrant wording the realities and hard times of the western frontier.

She tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, aka “Captain” and “Captain Kidd,” a “reader of the news” of the world. Captain Kidd travels from frontier town to frontier town  in a wagon bought from a snake oil salesman, which has the faded letters, “Curative Waters” on its side. Captain brings news of the world to each town, reading from newspapers from New York, London, and other hub cities.  He censors and edits his performance readings depending on the politics and conditions found in each town. My Oral Interpretation professor would certainly have given him an A+, for he keeps his rough, uneducated audiences spellbound by the sound of his voice.Early in this page-turner, he takes on the task of returning a ten year old white girl, held captive by the Kiowa since she was a tiny child to her relatives in a small Texas town.  He accepts this assignment on moral grounds as well as for the few pieces of gold coin that he is given. However, Johanna, the child, wants nothing more than to remain a Kiowa, having no memories of her life as a white child. Eventually, early childhood memories and language begin to surface, and she comes to call Captain “Kantah,” Kiowa for grandfather.  Their relationship is the focus and theme of the book.

A sub-theme is dimes, silver dimes. This is the price of admission for Captain’s readings.  They eventually save Captain and Johanna’s lives when they have to use them for ammunition. A memorable encounter in the middle of the novel is when Kiowa braves appear, and Johanna is faced with the strongest decision of her life.  Will she choose to go back to the Kiowa with the warriors? Captain faces his own decision as well: What would be best for Johanna?

The epilogue is most satisfactory. Loose ends are tied up and the reader feels good with outcomes, the decisions made, and what happens to characters he/she has come to love.

This is definitely a 5 out of 5 points book, which has action, excellent characterization, and an appeal that will keep you up late reading.