THE BOOK CHARMER by Karen Hawkins: A Review

This 2019 publication is an “unforgettable story about a sleepy southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.” When I saw this “teaser,” I definitely wanted to read the book. Anything that is about the magic of books is right up my alley.

Sarah Dove is the librarian of Dove Pond, North Carolina’s public library, a member of the town’s founding family, The Doves, and the “charmer” mentioned in the title. Dove Pond “has seen better days,” in fact, is dying, and Sarah is looking for someone to save it. The books, who have “spoken” to her since childhood, tell her that savior has arrived.

Enter Grace Wheeler, a “displaced city girl.” Is she the savior that Dove Pond so desperately needs? Can Grace rescue Dove Pond? Does she even want to? Known to some as “The Dragon Lady,” Grace moves into town with her foster mother, “Mama G” and her niece, Daisy in tow, on the same block as Sarah, and right next door to Trav, an unlikely love interest. With this mix and the town’s resentment of Grace as city manager, fireworks are bound to happen!

A BRIEF SUNDAY SUMMARY 1/17/21

Waiting for the semester to start, and trying to stay safe at home, I did a good deal of reading to pass the time.

I Was able to tie up some loose ends by finishing several books I’d started some time ago. (Grunge rubber stamp with word Finished inside,vector illustration)

TO BE REVIEWED SOON ON PWR.

Will probably not review this one. I found it disturbing, especially since it was a speculative “take” on an actual situation.
An especially helpful book–first non-fiction read of 2021

Started and finished this book in the 2 week time period between Sunday Summaries as part of my Madeline L’Engle project for 2021. TO BE REVIEWED SOON ON PWR
Started and finished in this 2 week time frame again. REVIEWED RECENTLY ON PWR
Read in two days, a real page turner TO BE REVIEWED SOON ON PWR

My go-to inspirational reading for daily thought

Panchinko by Min Jin Lee–I have checked this out of the library and just begun it this weekend.

I WILL NOT BE POSTING WHAT I WATCHED THIS TIME, WATCHED WAAAY TOO MUCH!

That’s it for today’s Sunday Summary. Classes begin after the MLK Holiday, so I hope I will be reading as much in the days to come. In the meantime,

HAPPY READING!

THE ART OF PURRING by David Michie: A Review

The second book in a series about the Dali Lama’s Cat

I read this book on my Kindle, and I found that I am enjoying reading electronically almost as much as handling a physical book. That’s progress for me! HCC, His Holiness’s Cat, aka Snow Lion contemplates the question, “What makes cats purr?” As a matter of fact, she meditates on purring, an act of joy, contentment and satisfaction through the whole book. Interestingly enough, there are many reasons cats purr, and HCC enlightens us with anecdotes for all the different ones. As she instructs us, we get to explore Buddhism’s views on happiness.

Told from the cat’s point of view, the story examines the deep-down happiness seen more in cats than in other animals. Michie, through his intriguing plot and developing characters warns us, the readers, about the “perils of self-obsession.” Besides the setting of the Dali Lama’s palace, the author creates The Himalaya Book Cafe, where HCC spends a great deal of her time when the Dali Lama is away and where she discovers a Karmic connection in this second book.

As one critic says, the book is filled with “wisdom, warmth, and a touch of mischief.”

TUESDAY TEASER

TUESDAY TEASER, a meme hosted by The Purple Booker allows all readers to copy a line or several lines from what you are currently reading in order to “tease” another reader/blogger into reading the same book.

Since my March trip to NYC was cancelled, I returned to Elizabeth Gilbert’s (The “G” of my alphabet challenge) to copy a few lines from where I am reading now. The protagonist is describing to a young  relative the scene where she, her mother, and her father received news of her brother’s death during WWIII.

“Walter’s death utterly shocked me.

I swear to you, Angela, I’d never considered for a minute that my brother could be harmed or killed in the war…He’d always been so competent, so powerful…What harm could ever befall him?”

The novel is a fascinating one that begins after WWI and now, on page 346, a great deal has happened to “our girl”, and she is ready to return to New York with her eccentric Aunt Peg, a sadder and hopefully wiser woman.

YET ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT BOOKS

Although my main emphasis for 2020 is to complete Dollycas’s 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge, author edition, ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820to read 20 books in 2020 recommended by fellow bloggers, and to clear my TBR shelves to a manageable number of books (which I have already done), I still continue 2019’s goals of reading more non-fiction as well as Books about Books.

 

The Book I completed tonight is Charles Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale, which is described by the cover as Novel of Obsession. An old-fashioned romance, book-themed mystery, and dramatic who-done-it, aka Agatha-Christie-style, ending, this novel was a fun read. At a little over 300 pages, it alternated chapters between Peter, the protagonist, as a young man; Peter as a bereaved widow; and bookbinders, booksellers, and book forgers who were contemporaries of Shakespeare. Throw in the protagonist with a new love interest trapped in an underground tunnel (that connects two enemies’ manor houses) and arriving the end to be met with a self-confessed murderer aiming a pistol at them, and the reader is on his way to a bang up ending. (Sorry, I couldn’t restrain myself!)

Lovett wrote this book in 2013, but it appeals to readers of all sexes and all ages who enjoy books, bookstores, booksellers, and revelations from those who are obsessed with the authorship and collecting of books. It is an excellent read.

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KDS

During my recent stint as a middle grades first round reader for Cybils, I  read many great books for kids in grades 5-8. The thing that impressed me most about them was how helpful they were for kids who were facing today’s world, dealing with issues I never even knew about growing up in the fifties.

Here are a few books that dealt with such issues:

Up for Air by Laurie Morrison depicts problems specific to eighth graders looking forward to high school and all of its changes and challenges. Because of her outstanding swimming abilities, the girl protagonist must face older teens’ problems when she is asked to swim with them on a city team. She has had her own issues with ADHD and focusing, but has been supported by her adoptive parents from the beginning. When her biological father once again enters her life, the problems and confusion she faces are overwhelming. Add to that the tension and excitement of the swimming matches, and you have a fine, page-turner for older middle-schoolers.

For somewhat younger kids, the 12 year old protagonist in Out of My Shell by Jenny Goebel is a sure bet. A common problem, divorcing parents, compound the anxiety of the young girl, who is passionately invested in saving sea turtles and saving her family as well.

For boys, Camp Average by Craig Battle deals with team spirit, competitive urges, and boys’ friendships. The lesson, “Losers can become winners,” is a major theme of this sports-directed, basketball-focused read.

Finally, a favorite of several of the first-round readers was Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen, a historical fiction novel aimed at middle schoolers.  Dealing with the time period when Lithuania was invaded by the Cossacks, we meet Audra, whose name means “storm.” She is a budding author who becomes involved with book smuggling when books are banned and burned. A well-drawn character, a passion for books, and adventure and perilous trips–what’s not to like in this kid’s novel that many parents would enjoy as well?

Until next Saturday, that’s it for kids’ books. Happy reading!

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS ON SUNDAY MORNING

Yesterday got away from me. Here I have been reading over one hundred middle grade (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th) books for a new project, and I didn’t post a single recommendation of a middle grades book to read. My bad. Here, a day late are some EXCELLENT reads for kids in 5th grade and junior high. They are all 2019 publications.

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya–This story about Emilia Rosa (NOT Emi Rose as her nemesis, Clarissa, insists on)  has “Inattentive ADH,” a condition which limits her ability to focus. She has special considerations in school, but still struggles at times. Especially challenging is Mr. Richt’s social studies project, a tour guide for her home town. Instead of touting the glories of Merryville, Emilia focuses on how the town is divided along class lines, where people from the “wrong side of the track” are treated differently. The resources list (help for veterans, civil rights laws and issues, etc.) provided at the end is very helpful.

Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos introduces Nova, a 13 year old Asburger’s , middle school student who is obsessessed with the stars. When she learns that the junior high she will attend has a planetarium, she is ecstatic. She is anxiously awaiting the event of the Challenger Flight, which of course, ends in tragedy and reveals to Nova a personal tragedy if her own. Interestingly enough the author is on the spectrum, and thus offers an insider’s look into the autistic mind.

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin describes how someone “becomes legend.” Caitlyn, the “new girl” at a small, private school in Vermont , must deal with not only being new to a class that has been together since kindergarten, but with the mystery of who in the world was the glorious, missing student, Paulie Fink. I will review this book at a later date on PWR.

All of these books were a delight to me, and adult, because they included inclusion, bullying, ethnic differences, “keeping up appearances” and so much more than “just” a good plot. Characterization on these three and the development of it due to overcoming obstacles made these three books the deliverers of life lessons middle schoolers will not soon forget. All three receive 5 out of 5 stars.

 

BOOKS FOUR AND FIVE OF THE 2019 AUDIOBOOKS CHALLENGE

Ordinary Grace by Kent Krueger, was a Third Tuesday Book Club selection. I had skimmed the book in large print and recommended it to the group.  When the book was accepted, It had been long enough that I could remember the plot, remembered vaguely that the characters developed and changed as the novel went on, but little else. Ordering the audiobook from our local library, my Better Half and I listened together. This way, I could also count Grace as part of my 2019 audiobook challenge. The story takes place in New Brenen, a real township in Minnesota. Krueger describes the “summer of the dying and the end of childhood innocence.” The first death was Bobby Cole, a schoolmate of the protagonist and narrator, Frank. Bobby, who always was “a little slow,” was hit and killed by a train as he was playing on the tracks. Frank and Jake, two years younger often had walked and followed the tracks. That fateful summer, Frank and others learned about “the awful grace of God.” Frank’s father, a minister, was a man of faith, a veteran, and a praying man. Frank’s mother, far from the typical mother of the ’60s, lived out her thwarted musical ambitions through the musical prodigy in the family, Ariel, Frank’s teenage sister. Gus, who served under Frank’s father during WWII, a family friend lived in and cleaned the church. Add in two murders, a bad cop, a judgmental town, and many prejudices, and you have a page-turning psychological thriller as well as a coming-of-age story. Krueger’s beautifully-drawn characters gain a terrible knowledge that summer and must pay for it at a terrible price.

Book Five is a classic, a novel I’ve always heard of, spoken about in reverent tones by literature professors and critics alike, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’m so glad I decided to listen to this novel. I tried once to read it on my own in the print version, but couldn’t get past the thick dialect and dated “feel” of the novel. Hurston wrote her novel in 1937, but it was reissued and “discovered” for the classic it was in 1975. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple found Hurston’s unmarked grave, derelict and abandoned much like her novel had been. Walker wrote an article which contributed greatly to the esteem in which Hurston is held today. Dealing with “Black Folk Traditions” and African American’s Literary Heritage, Hurston spins the tale of Jane, a “Black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.” After two marriages, Jane finds the love of her life, “Teacake,” who becomes a third husband and an enforcing influence on her life.  Not only is the novel an enlightening description of Black life during The Great Depression, but it is an excellent action-adventure story.  the scenes of the great hurricane Jane and Teacake go through are exciting, suspenseful, and brimming with action. This novel has earned its description of “a seminal novel in American Fiction.”

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS: A Preview

It is Friday again, and time for First Line Fridays. Today’s first line is from blogging friend, Colin Chappell’s and CarolynShelton’s Odessa Chronicles, which I plan to start tonight.

Introduction    We’re Going to be in a Book!

“There was a familiar whoosh-whoosh sound as Odessa flew down from her roof beam, and landed on the floor very close to Jaxon. ‘Where are the others,’ she asked.

Jaxon rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. ‘I told them to be here for an important meeting at seven o’clock this evening.'”

The characters in the book are gathering to discover that Colin and his partner, Carolyn have been observing them and are going to write their stories/Chronicles down for children and their parents everywhere. Colin describes the book of stories about a Barn Owl, Odessa; a magical Jackalope, Jaxon; Dewey, a cat, and a “Manservant,” Joshua, as “a collection of short stories for children of all ages.”

Having followed Chappell’s blog, https://meandray.com for several years now, and purchasing both Who Said I Was Up for Adoption, (Ray’s story told in alternate chapters from the German Shepherd/Rottweiler’s point of view and Colin’s), and Just Thinking, (Collin’s lovely book of poems that make one do just that–think), I was really ready for his children’s book. I have barely opened it, but I am already excited about what is obviously going to be a really good read.

TUESDAY TEASER

Tuesday Teaser is a meme begun by The Purple Booker and one I was introduced to on Brainfluff. The idea is to copy a few sentences from where you left off reading, or at random, so others might be teased to read the same book. Put your blog address if  you have one and post your Teaser. OR place your Teaser (don’t forget the book title and the author’s name) in the response section.

Today’s teaser is from blogging friend’s James J. Cudney’s third novel, Academic Curveball, from the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Book I.  Killan, the protagonist and narrator, is attending the funeral of a second murder victim who was his father’s assistant at Braxton College. He has just run into his grandmother, unexpectedly:

“What are you doing here, Nana D?” I asked crossing to the entrance of the funeral parlor.

“I had a few stops to make downtown today. Just thought since I was in the area, I should put in an appearance,” she said. Nana D was in her standard funeral outfit–a stylish, vintage dress cut just below the knees with a little bit of white trim on the hem. “I also needed to talk to you about Bridget.” (Nana D’s clarinet student who attends Braxton)

“I couldn’t believe how persistent she’d become about finding ways to bring us together but to be so pushy at a funeral service…”

Nana D has yet another clue to the identity of the murderer, “a scandalous conversation” Bridget overheard, one which might be the missing piece in the jigsaw of clues Killan, a substitute professor for the murdered professor (murder #1)  has been piecing together…

I am 74% through the book, and I have speculated many times on who the murderer is. However the novel has so many twists and turns that as sure I am right as I might be, some new information that makes me unsure again, emerges and turns my “theory” on it’s ear. The characters and plot are engaging, and the touches of humor and “typical” family drama between generations is handled awesomely. There are enough nostalgic memories of college life and college towns, with enough new/younger generation trends to keep all ages interested and wanting to turn the page.  Who will be the murderer? I have many clues to evaluate, but I don’t know. As in all good mysteries, “Something just doesn’t add up.” Cudney will surprise me at the end as he always does.

P.S. Book II of Braxton Campus Mysteries has just been published.