FRIDAY FIRSTLINERS

Friday First Liners are found in the first line of a book you are currently reading or are about to start on a Friday. According to the meme’s originator, The Purple Booker, readers are to copy the first line or two of a book and supply the title and the author for those of us to add to our never-ending list of TBRs.

I was looking at my copy of Darien Gee’s Friendship Bread, which was the first selection for our Third Tuesday book club, ten years ago next week, and I am going to copy the beginning of a good book and a great book club.

Chapter One

“I HOPE YOU ENJOY IT.

Julia Evarts looks up from the paper in her hand and studies the gallon-size Zip-lock bag. Inside is a substance that reminds her of drying wall compound, except it’s much pastier and filled with air bubbles. It would have gone straight into the trash had Gracie not been standing beside her, eyes wide with curiosity.”

Not only was this a wonderful book to start a book club with, but the author, Gee, was available for a Skype session as we ate our friendship bread (made from a recipe given in the book) and asked her about writing books . The meeting ended with each of us taking home a “starter” in a plastic tub. And, no, I no longer have a starter in my fridge, but I am seriously thinking of starting up again. LOL

HERE’S TO FRIENDSHIPS AND BOOK CLUBS!

SIMON THE FIDDLER by Paulette Jiles: A Review

When our Third Tuesday book club read Jiles’ News of the World, which was the Gulf Coast read that year, we all enjoyed it so much!

One of my best reads ever, and My Better Half agrees

Simon the Fiddler was published in 2020, and we “jumped on” picking it for our May selection like a chicken on a June bug. Because it was the first time we had met in person in over a year and were combining our meeting with a going away party for two of our members who are moving, we didn’t give Simon the time due it. However, although we all said it was ok (Our minds were on other things.), we all agreed it was nowhere near as good as News.

The novel is set at the tail end of the Civil War (when both sides were seeking deserters). After a fight at the tavern where they are playing, A “rag tag band of musicians”, with Simon, the Fiddler as its leader, are conscripted into the Confederate army , and although Simon was only 23 and not interested in serving, his life as a soldier included “cushy” jobs thanks to his skill with his fiddle. After walking away from a battle, Simon and two army friends are hired to play at a party for a Colonel’s daughter that Simon meets and falls head-over-heels for her Irish lady’s maid (indentured servant), Miss Doris Mary Dillon. It was love at first sight.

Captain Kidd from News of the World makes a short, cameo appearance in this second novel.

The story becomes a “captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to to to fulfill his heart’s yearning.”

After a brief dance at the party, Simon and Doris are separated, he hitting the road to escape Confederate troops looking for deserters; she traveling to San Antonio with the family who “owns” her. The scraggly band members join Simon, and traveling together, the men have many adventures and some misadventures as well. My favorite was Simon dealing with a huge ‘gator on his river trip to San Antonio to reunite with Doris. After a letter exchange begins, Simon realizes Doris is having to deal with the drunken, lecherous Colonel, and he can’t get to her side fast enough.

Jiles’ second book is good, but not good enough to measure up to her first. However, Fiddler is a fine read on its own.

READING IN BED by Sue Gee: A Review

If a book is about books or reading, it hits my TBR pile or folder. Reading in Bed’s cover grabbed me immediately, as did its title–something I do frequently.

I started this book during Dewey’s Readathon in April and finished it a few days afterwards. I never reviewed the book, however, and it deserves at least that for being a “darned good read.”

Georgia, recently widowed, and Dido have been best friends for years. The novel opens with the two women returning from a book convention/fair/retreat. As they separate and return to their homes in different towns, each re-evaluates their everyday, “normal” life apart from the literary world they have just left. Georgia is lonely, odd-friend-out at all gatherings, struggling with her relationship with her daughter; and Dido finds “evidence” that her husband of so many years may be having an affair. Through all the details of their lives, their connection with each other remains sturdy and strong.

Georgia has a side-plot, an eccentric, elderly cousin of her late husband”goes completely off the rails,” and it is up to Georgia to step in and “do something.”Dido also has a side-plot, the marriage and family life of her children and grandchildren, and shockingly, the true story behind the “assumed” affair of her husband. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to titillate the most demanding reader. Both women find themselves “…turning to a well-loved book or a true friend” to get through the situation.

As one critic cited, Reading is “an insightful, witty book about life, friendship, and love.” I loved the book and everything about it, making it a darned good read!

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!

WORLD ART DAY: April 15, 2021

Today celebrates the arts, worldwide.

Today the world celebrates Art, but until recently, I had no solid foundation as to what was classified as “Art.” ( See review on PWR of book, But Is It Art.) According to those in charge of World Art Day, art is “something that is created in visual form.” This includes painting, sculpture, music, writing, performance art, films, and many creative things.

I am celebrating “art” by listening to an audiobook about an art-restoration specialist, A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay. It is an interesting novel which gives much information about painting and art in many forms.

What are you doing to celebrate World Art Day?

TUESDAY TEASER

The Purple Booker created the Tuesday Teaser for bloggers to “tease” someone into reading their current read by quoting a few lines.

My teaser for today comes from Matthew Dick’s Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, a library book I finished last night. Here are a few lines from page 235 three fourths of the way through the story. Three imaginary friends are talking here:

” ‘ How did you know my name?’ Oswald asks…[This] might be the fairy’s chance to turn things around.

‘Baldo is my friend,’ the fairy says,’ I don’t want you to hurt him…Baldo needs your help, Oswald.’

I will not let him hurt the fairy like he has hurt me. But as I reach over to grab him…she shakes her head ever so gently. She is telling me to stop. Or to wait at least.

I obey.”

Max Delaney is an autistic little boy who has made up an imaginary friend named Baldo, from whose point to view the tale is told. As readers we see the physical/real world of Max, but we also see the world of imaginary friends Baldo comes to know as he aids Max in the perils of everyday life. This is definitely a unique story.

WEDNESDAY, What I’m Reading

Here it is Wednesday of Spring Break. Some of my Advanced Writing students are traveling; some are trying to work ahead. I have enjoyed my time “off” and have kept busy with projects and have managed to have some social contact with friends. The reaction to our second Covid shot is done, and by the 23rd of this month, I will be “fully protected.” PTL!

I recently finished this fine novel.

This novel is definitely a nominee for my best read of 2021. Lily King knows her topic: the lives and loves of aspiring authors. Published in 2020, the novel follows the life of Casey, age 31, whose mother has recently died, and who is facing a mountain of debt. It is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1997. Casey had been a child prodigy in the world of professional golf, but she hasn’t played in years. Her father, with whom she has a complicated relationship, was her manager. She rents a tiny room, attached to a garage, which was formerly a potting shack, and the room smells like it. She has spent the past six years writing a novel and is currently supporting herself and making minimum payments to her creditors by waitressing. Desperately “balancing the conflicting demands of art and life,” Casey meets two attractive men at the same time of her lonely life.

King writes with “humor, heart, and intelligence,” describing what it means to be a writer and what it means to write. The book was a Read With Jenna selection, promoted on The Today Show on NBC.

I can’t believe my Spring Break is halfway over!

Yikes

READ AN E-BOOK WEEK, March 2nd through 8th

In honor of Read an E-Book week, I bought and read this E-book:

I enjoy Ebooks a great deal.

Queenie Malone is a flamboyant character, and her hotel and its occupants are as outrageous as she is. Reminding me of the line from the movie AI, “I see dead people,” we meet Tilly, the daughter, and explore her relationship with her mother (who in real time has recently died). Chapters vary from those told by Tilly, the child, then Tilda, the adult. As the book opens, Tilda comes “home” to deal with her mother’s estate. She meets well-drawn interesting characters, but also can see characters that others in the real-time story cannot. She also has a disturbing habit of lighting matches which grew out of a childhood obsession of playing with fire. The story is tinged with the supernatural, and family mysteries appear and are resolved as well.

The themes of mothers and daughters, “choosing” one’s family, and the “disappearance” of fathers round out a riveting narrative. As in Hogan’s other novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, the reader learns that, “It’s never too late to write your own happy ending.”

The surprise at the end is less of a revelation than a gradual, “Oh, that explains so many things” as the reader nears the finish line. Queenie is an exceptionally well written book, and I highly recommend it.

TUESDAY TEASER

THE AIM OF THIS MEME IS TO TEASE SOMEONE INTO READING SOMETHING YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING. (Header courtesy of the Purple Booker.)

Copy a few lines from your current read into the reply box below. I often get great ideas for my TBR list from this source.

I am about halfway through.

Casey, a wannabe writer and currently a waitress at a popular, upscale restaurant is telling a co-worker about her recent date:

“I tell Harry about the date at lunch the next day.

‘Good heavens,’ he says, ‘Is that what it’s like with you writers? [He uses] the word ‘snug ‘ and you’re mad in love?

‘I’m not in love.’

‘The man is in his forties with two bloody children…’ “

Yes, this is a romance, but it is so much more. Struggling writers, loss of parent, mother-daughter relationships–it’s all there laid out by the author for the reader’s perusal. The writing is lovely, the dialog witty, and it has the potential to be a “darned good read.”

MISS BENSON’S BEETLE by Rachel Joyce: A Review

I have an admission to make. When I chose this book, all I remembered was I had read “something” by Rachel Joyce before and enjoyed it. Looking at the title, my thoughts went to a schoolteacher who owned a Volkswagen. When I discovered it was about an old-maid home economics teacher who had been an entomologist looking for an undiscovered golden beetle, I lost patience after the first twenty pages and put it down.

Fortunately for me, blogger Deb Nance of Readerbuzz read and mentioned it in a post; our tastes in reading are closely aligned, so since she liked it, I decided to give it a “go.” I’m so glad I did.

When I read the afterpages, I discovered I had read and truly delighted in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, The Love Story of Miss Queenie Hennesy, and The Music Shop–all novels by this same author.

Miss Benson, fed-up with her uninteresting, mundane life, decided to do something about it–something that fueled her passion for beetles. She planned a scientific expedition to New Caledonia, the other side of the world from her home, where the rumored beetle was “likely” to be discovered, if anywhere. Hiring Enid Petty, a “floozy,” as my grandmother would describe her, as her assistant, Margery Benson soon was enmeshed in the adventure/misadventure of her lifetime. Joyce even throws in a madman of sorts, who after being turned down for the position of assistant, stalks the two women wherever they travel. One can expect humor and warmth from Joyce, and this book delivers them in spades.

Joyce explores the theme of women’s friendships, and the ending is quite extraordinary. In the back of the book the “Acknowledgments”and “Afterwards” only add dimension to the reading experience. There are insightful discussion questions in the “Reader’s Guide” and a charming “Interview”of the two main characters by the author–something I’ve never come across before. Like the author titles this section, “In Fiction Anything Is Possible.”