Sunday (Evening) Post

While wandering among blogs this afternoon, one blog led me to check out another until I found myself reading blogs I was not actually following, but had been re-blogged on one I was.  Among my “findings” was a blog entitled “Live to Write–Write to Live.”  Today’s weekend post started with a quote that gave me hope in these broken times:
“Do not be discouraged at the brokenness of the world.  All things break.  And all things can be mended.  Not with time, as they say, but with intention.  So go.  Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.  The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” I hope younger people, especially, will take these words to heart.  They were attributed to L.R. Knost, evidently a children’s and parenting author.

This past week has had many evidences that we are living in a broken world, not the least of which was two “evacuate the building…do not use the elevators” commands which interrupted my last class day last Wednesday.  After the second evacuation and the second climb up and down stairs, we decided to go home.  There was nothing on the local news about any fire or other “trouble,” so it was probably just a drill on a Wednesday afternoon when few classes are scheduled. In a way, it was a good thing; I was able to go home early,  we missed the usual horrendous traffic, and I was spared making a “This has been such a good group, it is hard to see you go” speech, which is especially true this semester and would be hard to get through emotionally. Ok, so I’m an old softie!

So, one of the things I finished last week was the school semester.  Another was the multi-stranded novel Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke, which I reviewed in the post immediately preceding this one.  Today’s jam-packed-full Houston Chronicle, Sunday Edition is also done for another week, and I am up to date on my New Yorkers with the exception of three fiction offerings in three back editions.

What I am still reading (and still bemused by and enchanted with) is How to Be Both, a novel by Ali Smith.  It keeps unfolding and yet re-connecting to the beginning in the strangest of ways with very few stops, pauses, no chapters to speak of, definitely a unique book. This book will certainly require a re-read (or two or three) to get to all the “meat” of the author’s thoughts.  How I will ever review this book presents a conundrum.

What I am still watching:  Up to date on “This is Us” with just the season finale (Christmas episode) left to see; “Poldark” on PBS; “Timeless” which is still timely (pun intended); “The Big Bang Theory,” which will still be funny when the “guys and gals” are Senior Citizens; and “Gray’s Anatomy,” the best soap opera on TV.

What I am looking forward to:  Writing Christmas letters to go in Christmas cards–although I made the mistake of buying “cute”, tiny cards featuring a tiny little songbird which practically requires origami skills to place 8×11 inch letters in such tiny envelopes. That and visiting the newly opened Goodwill Store here in Alvin to look for Christmas baskets to put presents and baked goods (should I get that far!) will be my major undertakings for the week ahead.  I will require one trip back to the university and some yard work replacing all the bulbs/plants I dug up to make way for the new fence (and that has to be done before the first freeze due Friday).  All this will keep me plenty busy in the week ahead.

I hope your week to come is calmer and stress free.  

WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke

This is the first book in the Holland Family Trilogy by James Lee Burke, a new writer to me, but one to whom I will return again and again. The novel has wonderful writing and masterful dialogue.

The story begins in 1934 when 16 year old Weldon Holland sees Bonnie and Clyde camped out on his grandfather’s wooded land and eventually shoots into the back of their departing car “after one of their notorious robberies.” Fast forward 10 years and we meet Lieutenant Weldon Holland again as he survives the Battle of the bulge with fellow sole survivor of their platoon, Hershel Pine from Louisiana. The two find themselves behind German lines where they rescue Rosita Lowenstein “hiding in a deserted extermination camp.”  The two, Weldon and Rosita marry, and with Hershel return to Texas.  They start an oil company together.

Although Weldon, idealist that he is, thinks he has seen an end to evil in the war, he soon finds he must “…[save] his family and friends from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America”– think McCarthy witch hunts, big oil brutality, corrupt cops, mafia influences and Hollywood corruption.

The book is an exhilarating, exciting, sometimes exhausting read, one which keeps the reader turning pages and holding his/her breath to see what happens next.

I can hardly wait to read book two which has just been published.

SUNDAY (EVENING) POST

This will be brief because I have spent the day finishing grading final papers and starting averaging grades for the semester.  Wednesday of this week will be the last time I see this particular group/class of students.  I have become very attached to them and am glad to report that all are doing well.

What I Am Reading:  Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke, which is the first book in his trilogy about the Holland family.  This first book starts during WWII and I am currently in River Oaks, Houston, in the 50’s.  Two buddies from the war have gone into the oil business, one’s wife is a big Hollywood actress and the other’s is being investigated as a Communist during the 50’s Red Scare/Witch Hunts that took place.  Life isn’t easy.

Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean which takes place 4,000 years ago and is my first step into studying/reading Irish/Gaelic mythology.  It is also the first book I am reading on my new Kindle app on my laptop.

Ali Smith’s How to Be Both, which I don’t fully understand but am enjoying a great deal for the wonderful writing, and I’m already planning to read it again when I finish, maybe during Spring Break when it will seem like a brand new book.

The Arthritis Cure by Theodoakis, Adderly, and Fox, which was a totally new concept when published in 1997 (treatment via Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate) which I intend to discuss with my family doctor next week when I see her.  I am in need of relief from osteoarthritis.  (It could be much worse, rheumatoid arthritis, so I feel blessed in spite of the constant pain.)

What I Watched Last week:  Lots of mindless TV for frequent breaks from paper grading and to rest up–My favorites so far are the following: “Timeless,” where I went to the Alamo and was involved in Watergate in two different episodes; “Gray’s Anatomy”, the medical soap opera I think I’ll never give up on; “This Is Us”–It looked good so I taped it.  I have watched three episodes and am so glad I have followed it, excellent acting; “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” which can be summed up in one word–delightful!

I have also started Christmas baking and decorating the house just for the two of us.  Pretty soon I will start in on Christmas cards and letters, for some early birds of our acquaintance send theirs out Thanksgiving weekend–no kidding. I refuse to send ANY until December first. I will probably be sending the last around December 23rd.

I am opening my unfinished, in-progress- house to any PWR members who want to get in out of the shopping hustle and bustle for a few minutes, put their feet up on my sea chest (coffee table substitute) and drink coffee and take a few deep breaths. Mi casa est su casa!

FRIDAY EARLY HOURS

Sated–with food, with fellowship, with parades and sale ads, with reading, with thinking–that’s the kind of day Thanksgiving Day tends to be. And now “they” expect us to shift gears and think about Christmas!

I am going to refuse and be a holdout.  I am going to leave my fabric turkeys and pumpkins on the mantel and on the hearth and use the fall-leaf runner and pumpkin/flower/fruit centerpiece on my green tablecloth with orange candles gracing the table instead of changing the runner and centerpiece on the green table cloth to Christmas trees and holly berries!  I entertained far more than usual from September 26 to Thanksgiving, so again I will holdout and refuse to entertain during the Christmas season except for tea or coffee for two or three at a time. I have a new teapot and saucer/bowls set for tea and snacks and  four kinds of coffee (thank you  Kurig for the best invention since sliced bread).  I will offer my friends refuge from the end of school and shopping madness in my living room as they put their feet up on my sea chest (large coffee table substitute) and sip peppermint tea and eat assorted easy-but-looks-like-you-fussed cookies.  Everyone who leaves my sanctuary will leave with a bag of homemade candy.  I may even glue a pinecone or ribbon on the plastic bag.

Here I said I was going to be a holdout on celebrating Christmas, and where is my mind wandering to now?  Hmmmm.  Guess it’s inevitable.

Sunday (Evening) Post

What I enjoyed this past week: Visiting with friends as I borrowed a coffee pot and card tables and chairs in preparation for yesterday’s brunch.  Having coffee and forgotten cookies (70’s recipe to go with the 60’s percolator coffee pot) with my class  Wednesday as they let their rough drafts for final papers “percolate” in their subconscious for a week and used the first hour of class to peer critique each other’s rough drafts. A necessities shopping trip Saturday with a big enough investment to call it my birthday present. And, the AAUW November brunch, here, Saturday.

The first people arrived at 9:30 and helped set up.  I provided turkey and dressing casserole, and another friend brought sweet potatoes and cranberry/orange relish.  A third friend brought a lovely veggie tray with dip and a fruit plate.  Cookies from Aldi’s (think Sam’s Club) was the assortment accompanied by four kinds of coffee and made a nice, light dessert.  Afterwards, we packed toiletries overnight kits for the Women’s Shelter and although I do not know what the “count” was, it took three shopping bags and two large plastic bags to carry all the “kits” to the delivery lady’s car. The last two guests who were “catching up” did not leave until nearly three, providing a “cool-down” for me. Sunday School this morning put last week in perspective and gave me hope for the week ahead.

What I am looking forward to this coming week: Finishing A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and hopefully reviewing it as well. The tree man coming to remove a pear tree that has never produced a single pear and has lovely blossoms that I am sure are a nuisance to both back and side neighbors’ pools, and the same tree man  trimming the broken branches of the Mungo Pines in the front yard.  I spent a good forty minutes this afternoon harvesting the mini-pinecones and some pieces of greenery before the tree men take the broken limbs away. I will be the most popular supplier of pinecones for the coming Thanksgiving table turkeys and for the Christmas brandy snifters filled with mini-pinecones for the upcoming Christmas season.  A birthday coffee for a girlfriend who will be 82 and who deserves a fete in her honor.  It will be a small group–seven counting me–but the house is already clean, so why not kill two birds with one cleaning? Class Wednesday where final papers will be turned in and some time after the students leave, I’ll remain to get a head start on grading them. A friend’s retirement party as head librarian at the local library, and since our Third Tuesday book club has already given her a party, I don’t have to bake or bring anything!

It promises to be a good week!

Sunday (Evening) Post

Finished:  The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant.  What a delicious, thought-provoking read!  Will probably review it here tomorrow. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, a wonderful graphic novel/memoir (reviewed here yesterday) and the Sunday Edition of The Houston Chronicle my Sunday afternoon “guilty pleasure.” A children’s book, Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris , illustrated by Vincent X Kirsch.  I will review this soon; it is special.

Started: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (author of Rules of Civility).  I am only on page 109, the beginning of Book Two and am already asking, “What else has this author written? I want to read more of his stuff soon.”

Looking at next: 25 reviews of chapters of Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which have to be graded by Wednesday.  Since the students had their pick of one of eight chapters, all eight chapters had to be read first (which was a delight). I have been wanting to “get this in” for several semesters now and finally was able to.  I am not complaining but looking forward to grading for a change!

This was a busy week for us all.  Some “good” busy, some not so good.  The cat, Lena, is upset because she seldom has so many people in and out of her house.  A man’s home may be his castle, but so is a cat’s home, especially when the cat is fifteen years old (that’s 79 in human years–it is figured based on chronological  age and the weight of the cat.)

Before I wax philosophical, I’m going to go start those papers.

 

THE BEST WE COULD DO: A graphic novel/memoir

This unique piece of family history, a debut graphic novel/memoir written and illustrated by Thi Bui was an advance copy I borrowed from a friend’s LFL (Little Free Library).  She often receives books ahead of publication at book conventions and fairs. This book will be published in 2017, and I predict it will educate and inspire many readers.

It tells one family’s story  of its journey from war torn Vietnam to a new home in America.  Bui describes herself in the book’s Preface as “…a product of war.” The writing of the memoir itself is the author’s “…journey of understanding” as she nears the birth of her first child and seeks to understand her mother’s same journey so many times in Vietnam.  In the Preface, she states, “I realized the book was all about parents and children, and it [the title] became The Best We Could Do.”

The illustrative sketches themselves must be commented upon.  When the author is dealing with facts and/or history, the panels are crisp, detailed and strongly drawn.  When she is dealing with memories or perceived, personal history, the drawings are mere sketches, fuzzy-lined, hazy backgrounds.

As the author begins to take on the roles as parent and child simultaneously, her emotions about her new born son intermingle with feelings about the new grandmother, her mother, as well.

It is a touching, fascinating look at a period in history, both ours and Vietnam’s, that is enlightening and moving at the same time, and we agree that Thi Bui’s family did indeed do the best they could do.

Tuesday Teaser//Attn. PWR

Books with a Beat offers a Tuesday Teaser each Tuesday to tempt others to read the book participants are reading.  The instructions are to randomly open a book to a page, run a finger down the page and copy a couple  of sentences from where you are reading, being careful of spoiler alerts.  The reader must also give the title and author, and sometimes I include whether the book is from the library, a book I own (and might be willing to loan out when I finish) etc.

If you write a blog, please include the address of your blog for us to find your Tuesday Teaser on.  THIS IS SOMETHING I WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU (PWR on-line member , friend, first time commenter) PARTICIPATE IN.  Just scroll down until you see the open comment box or click on comments on the left hand side, read others’ comments, and scroll down until you find an open comment/reply box that you can type in.  After you have copied your /Tuesday Teaser into the box, hit post comment. And, voila! You are either there, published or awaiting me to moderate which I will do asap, so your Teaser will be published for all to see.  Perhaps someone will be tempted to read your book! Who will be first to put down her/his Tuesday Teaser.

Here is my Tuesday Teaser from The Thoughtful Dresser  by Linda Grant.

“There are nostalgic items I do not want but do not want to throw away, and there are things that don’t fit, and things that don’t suit me , and things that were always a mistake, and things I meant to wear but didn’t, and the workhorses of my collection…”  Then she gives some examples of these.  Has she been peeking into my closet?  Who knew there was a book about clothes and shopping for them?  It is at the Alvin Library (after me, please, I’m only half way through.

I have a wonderful idea PWR members! Let’s have a clothes exchange like the book exchange we do every so often when we get together. Anybody interested?

Monday Morning Musings

Ok, ok, so it’s afternoon.  We all get a bit behind sometimes, and besides I just fixed the best spicy chicken, black beans, corn , onions, and green chilies tortilla roll-ups for lunch, using up leftover vegetables and giving us an early, well-deserved, healthy lunch.

What I’m musing about today is the fun I have stolen time for to spend on catching up on e-mails and mailings from the blogging world–especially all things bookish and Halloween. The trick or treaters coming tonight are always one of my favorite things of the year.  I love to see the little ones’ costumes with sometimes also dressed up mom and dad taking them into the neighborhood before it is even dark out.  We try to be one of the “good stops” with miniature candy bars, “Yes of course you should take two!” and Skittles, which are always crowd pleasers.  I even enjoy the junior highers who put blood (lots of blood) sweat, tears, and thought into their costumes.  Some will even sweet talk this old grandma-type into giving them more by saying, “Oh, lady you seem so nice; you remind me of my grandma!” Little manipulators!  They are so much fun and that age, and I remember teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth graders for the first twenty of my almost-fifty years of teaching.  I think of them  as my first loves.

Looking forward to reading:  Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.  I’ve read such diverse reviews.  I have it on hold at the library.  The Best We Could Do, a graphic memoir by Thi But, which I borrowed from a friend’s Little Free Library to read tonight. The morning Houston Chronicle, and several back issues from The New Yorker.  Except for the fiction stories each month, I’ve just about caught up with October’s issues and hope to get a start on November’s. I have the bad habit of wanting to read everything because I seem to get interested in everything.  And, after all…if it’s good enough to be published by The New Yorker…

Checked out from the library:  The Thoughtful Dresser, which I’m enjoying immensely and The Gentleman from Moscow, which I’ve admired the cover of and read ABOUT. It promises to be a very good read.

If I know what’s good for me, I’ll stop musing, clean up the kitchen, and unpack the candy for tonight.

 

Sunday (Evening) Post

What I am reading:   Not much.  This week has been filled with grading papers, leaving very little time for reading.  I am continuing to read The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant.  I am taking my time reading one chapter here, another there, making this the perfect pick up and put down book. If I had to make up a title, it would be The Philosophy of Fashions and Shopping for Clothes.

What I am watching:  No time for TV or movies–busy week.

What I want to read soon:  The Trouble With Lexie, a novel by Jessica Anya Blau, The Best We Could Do an illustrated memoir by The Bui (like a graphic novel), and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which I have checked out from the local library.

I still have a lesson plan to finish for Wednesday and two latest issues of The New Yorker to catch up on, so I will wish you Happy Reading and Goodnight.