Posts Tagged ‘books’

You can’t tell a book by its… title.

Monday, January 18th, 2021

“Two Loaves” starring Shirley MacLaine was based on this book.

Spinster.  Now, there’s a word you don’t hear much anymore.  In fact, it’s a term that’s been out of fashion for my entire lifetime.  Even so, it’s the title of a book I first read in 1960 — just a year after it was published by Simon and Schuster.  It was recommended reading for one of the post-baccalaureate education classes I took in order to get my teaching credential.  It seemed, at the time, to be the most incongruous suggestion I’d ever heard from a college professor.

That’s what I thought then and what I continue to think, even now.  It’s the story (fictional) of a teacher among the Maori of New Zealand.  It’s long out of print — Timberland Library got it for me through inter-library loan from Western Oregon University in Oregon.  My memory of the book is about how, some days, the spinster fortified herself for school with a half a tumbler of brandy.

And I’ve remembered how she captured the hub-bub and enthusiasm of the infant room where she was the only teacher of 70 four-and five-year-olds.  And, for all these years, I’ve remembered her firm belief that children come to school chock-a-block full of experiences and wonder and joy and anger.  We have only to help them unlock it all and put it into context — that’s the sum total of our job as teachers;  The rest will come.

Sylvia Ashton-Warner, 1908-1984

Well, that’s what I remember of the book.  That, plus it’s one of the most important books about teaching I’ve ever run across.  At first, I wondered why it was so strongly recommended to us fledglings… I was probably stuck on the brandy and a bit horrified by it.  Now as I re-read Spinster, I realize that it was Ms. Ashton-Warner who turned my interest toward our youngest learners and that her unconventional thoughts and methods were the underpinnings of my teaching for all those years — though not the brandy part, I hasten to add.

Seen through the broader context of today’s racism and divisiveness, it resonates even more deeply today.   It’s a must read, especially for  teachers — past, present, future.  I urge my readers to track it down and be prepared to see the world differently while you’re reading it — and maybe for the rest of your life.  Don’t confuse it with her second book, Teacher, which is also good.  But not as.

Our Pick For The Season… Maybe.

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

As most of us know all too well, the world is full of wackos.  One of the wackiest (in a good way) is author Carl Hiaasen.  Nyel and I are reading his latest book, Squeeze Me, almost as we speak.  (Nyel is a day reader and a night sleeper; I am a day writer and a night reader…  Don’t ask.)

According to his website, Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, where he still lives.  A graduate of the University of Florida, at age 23 he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper’s weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has pissed off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses.

We met him at a Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association in the mid-’90s.  I can’t remember which of his books had just been published — the number to date is 35 — but we were already fans as were many of our Bookvendor customers.  He seemed like a “normal” sort of guy, although his ready sense of humor had just a bit of a twist to it.

Carl Hiaasen

Without revealing much of anything, I’ll tell you a little bit about his latest.  It is set in Florida (as are most of his books) and opens with the disappearance of a wealthy elderly woman.  She belongs to a group of like-minded 70-and-80-year-olds who have been married multiple times to ever-richer husbands and who have formed a group called the “POTUS Pussies” proclaiming brassy loyalty to the new, crude-spoken commander-in-chief.  The incident takes place at a high-end (so to speak) fund-raiser for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

By the time you learn this much, you are on Page 2… and the 336-page story gets stranger and more improbable as you proceed.  Although… there is enough “reality” to make you wonder,   And, if you don’t already feel a perverse affection/aversion to the “Everglade State” — also called the “Sunshine State.,” The Orange State,” “The Alligator State,” and “The Flower State,”  among others. — your impressions by book’s end are bound to be affected, or perhaps conflicted.

I’m not sure this is the perfect book for reading over the holidays.  It is anything but warm, fuzzy, and nostalgic which are feelings we’ve learned to associate with this time of year.  On the other hand… this year is different.  And here’s a book to match!

 

Jeeves, Pooh, “The Boys” and me

Monday, October 19th, 2020

Don’t get me wrong.  I am delighted that Timberland Library is up and running and even more delighted that they are being mindful to the max — not allowing us inside, quarantining books, double-checking our card numbers. But, when the wait for a book turns into weeks rather than days, I have to revert to our home library which at this point in the Time of Sheltering is getting to be Old News.

Nevertheless, last night, in a bit of desperation, I grabbed a P.G. Wodehouse book — Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves and found it was “just the t.” as Bertie Wooster might say.  Like A.A. Milne’s Pooh books and G.M. Ford’s Leo Waterman series with its improbable cast of wino operatives known as “The Boys,” Jeeves and Bertie never cease to amuse and amaze — no matter how many re-reads they get.

As peculiar as it seems, all these authors ring the same bell for me.  They take a look at human character through an unfamiliar lens and remind me that whatever my own problems are, they are pretty puny (and boring) in the great scheme of things.  And even better right now, they encourage me to look at our own lives in their current situation as a bizarre and improbable story.  I can’t help but wonder if it were in book form, who would claim authorship.  It certainly wouldn’t be my choice for bedtime reading.

 

The Best Book EVER!

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Front Cover

I stayed up until the midnight hour (late for me) last night reading the Author’s Notes and Acknowledgements at the end of Daniel Silva’s latest book, The Order. The protagonist, who Silva admits shares many of his own traits, is legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon and the setting is, for the second time in the series, the Vatican City.

Of the 21 books Gabriel Allon books, I consider it the best yet.  Making such a judgement is not done lightly.  This book is not only topical, but combines current, historical and fictitious information into a seamless whole — a thriller/espionage book that will leave you with questions (and even some answers) that you had never before considered.

Back Cover

I plan to read it again and would have begun it this morning except that it is Nyel’s turn.  I hope he powers through it so I can re-read it and get it back to the library before our two weeks are up!  Meanwhile, I  will order a few of the dozens of books that Silva “consulted” while writing The Order — beginning with Pontius Pilot by Ann Wroe.  I can’t think of a better opportunity, during this Sheltering Time, to being learning more about a topic I’ve always “taken for granted.”

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read The Order, I highly recommend it.  But, if you haven’t read any of the Gabriel Allon series, I suggest you hold off on this one until you have read the first twenty… in order!

 

Aw shucks! I missed it!

Monday, October 5th, 2020

Banned

I guess I’ve been so occupied with other affronts to the thinking public that I entirely missed Banned Book Week which was September 27th – October 3rd this year.  Promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, and celebrating the freedom to read,  the last week in September has marked this observance since 1982.

Apparently, anyone can nominate a botok for banning, but this is most often done by parents or librarians.  (Say what?  Presumably they are not members of the American Librarry Association.  Go figure.)

The process for banning a book seems all too easy.
First: Someone files a complaint with the library regarding a certain book. Within their complaint, they must specify what they found offensive or why they are filing the complaint.
Second:  A committee or board reviews the challenged book to determine if the claim is substantial or unfounded.
Third:  Depending on the verdict of the committee or board, the book is either banned or removed from the library, or is left on the shelves.

The “battle of the book” can escalate to an actual court room where a judge will decide the book’s fate. If one party disagrees with this decision, they can fight to get the verdict overturned in a higher court of law. This fight can potentially escalate all the way up to the Supreme Court, where they will issue a final verdict that cannot be challenged again.
The list of the ten most frequently banned books includes:
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
  • One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Banned

I am happy to say that I have read all of these books, some of them many times over.  Not only that, but I highly recommend all of them and to anyone who is old enought to read them with understanding and to sustain their interest throughout.  I don’t believe you can put parameters on the ability to think and to reason.

Plus, of course, it amuses me to think that, for many of us, knowing that a book has been “banned” is the ultimate challenge to read it!

 

 

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But… have you gone inside!?!

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

If you’ve driven north through Long Beach on the Pacific Hiway, you’ve seen it.  No one could have missed the knock-your-socks-off purple building that used to be the Picture Attic and is now…. drum roll…. BOLD Arts and Coffee.  But…?  Have you been in?

Yes, it’s open.  Softly.  Owners Daneka Ewert and Greg Holmes say, “If the door’s open, come on in.”  They are still adding finishing touches but the coffee machine is up and running (the cafe mocha is delish!!), baked goods are available,  and the artwork is on display!  YES!  Artwork!  At last count, thirty-four (count ’em 34) “local artists and makers” according to Gallery Manager Sue Svendsen.  The names, familiar and maybe not so.  Their works up and priced and ready to go home with you — watercolors, oils, pottery, stained glass, pastels, you name it!  Bring your check book!

PLUS — books by Jan Bono and me (yes!  my ghost book!!) and Jim Tweedie/David Campiche are on display and ready for purchase, as are CDs by ten talented muscians.  There are soaps and candles and teas, bath products and pet sprays — all by local entrepeneurs and… and… and!

Sip and nibble at tables on the patio or in the gallery surrounded by art — social distancing with a BOLD flair.  Framer Pat Fitting is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays to discuss your framing needs and soon the art supply/classroom space will be ready to go!  Check it all out!  It’s a great new place to “shelter in style” and will improve your outlook, guaranteed!

Hooray for Timberland Library!

Sunday, July 19th, 2020

I am SO glad the library is open once more.  Finally, we are beginning to receive books that we’ve had on order since before its closure in March.  Right off the bat we were notified that Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley had come in.  I took no time in going to collect it and found the new pick-up system slick as a whistle.

As for the book — the jury is out, but I’m only seven chapters in.  It came highly recommended by the same friend who sent me Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens — a book that went racing to the top of my all-time favorites.  Right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and 84 Charing Cross Road .  For starters.

So far, though, Sweetness at the Bottom… is a little dark for my tastes.  It centers on an eleven-year-old girl who, so far, I don’t find very believable or engaging but perhaps she will grow on me.  She certainly has been a hit with other readers; this is the first in the Flavia de Luce Mystery Series which now numbers ten, or possibly eleven, volumes.  As I say, my personal jury is out.

With the library closed these last months,  I’ve bought a few books, though I’ve tried not to.  One thing this house doesn’t need is more books!  And, I find that once I have a book, it is really difficult to let it go — even when giving it to a good friend.  On the plus side of that reluctance, however,  I’ve revisited some old friends lately.  I highly recommend the Catherine LeVendeur Mystery Series by Sharan Newman.  Like the Brother Cadfael Chronicles by Edith Pargeter, the LeVendeur stories take place in the 12th century, but in France rather than in England.  If you delve in, do read them in order…

Lay off, Mrs. C.! After all… I’m on your side!

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Blankety Blank Blinkin’ Light

The little internet light on my modem blinks furiously most of the time.  And most of the time I have an internet connection.  But it’s the other part, perhaps the nano-seconds between blinks, that is giving me grief.

I’ve been downloading (or trying to) the possible cover photos for my new ghost story book.  For days. Each file is large — anywhere from 15 to 35 megabytes so my choices for getting them to the publisher come down to using a flash drive or a drop box.  I’ve had good luck with drop boxes before and they seem more secure than trusting a flash drive to the vagaries of mail (sorry Mark S.) to South Carolina.

A Story for Mrs. C.

I began uploading my top choices for the front cover on Friday.  There were seven photographs and it took about twelve hours for them all to upload but, fortunately, only an instant to then share with my editor.  She liked one in particular and asked if I could send a few other versions.  No problem, I thought.  She also suggested that a few of them might be good images for the back cover, as well.  I hadn’t been thinking beyond “front,” and when I did, I realized I had better choices than those already sent.

So it was that Saturday evening I began the process of uploading eight more very large photographic files.  I worked on it all day yesterday.  One by one they “almost” uploaded and then there was a “connectivity failure.”  Over and over and over again.  Maddening!  I finally got seven loaded and got a message that the box drop was full.  I needed to upgrade the drop box size.  For money, of course.  Whatever…

The Haunted America Series – 294 Titles (so far)

Then… home free!  Or so I thought, but try as I might, I could not “share’ the images with my editor.  I emailed my distress and she, somehow, accessed them from her end.  That left one more image that, fortunately, was just under the size limit so I sent it as an email attachment.  The first attempt failed but after loud raging at CenturyLink and a serious talk with Mrs. C., it went the second time.

Howinthehell will I send the 60 equally large files for the book, itself?  Fortunately, I have a week or so to think about it.  Meanwhile, I am reading aloud to Mrs. C.  It’s the chapter about her earthly husband, the unrighteous Reverend Crouch.  I hope she likes it.  I believe I’ll need her help to get this show on the road.

Oysterville: Twixt Hamlet and Tref?

Monday, June 8th, 2020

“The Summer of the Danes”

I’m re-reading Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael Chronicles — or at least the few that we have on our shelves left over from our bookstore days.  As it happens, we are also watching the old Masterpiece Theater Cadfael series right now.  The books are infinitely better.

It’s our first viewing of the TV series and, in some ways,  it might as well be my first reading of the books.  It’s been at least 30 years since I’ve picked one up and I’ve forgotten most of the plots — but not the characters and certainly not the twelfth century world of Brother Cadfael.

The series is “okay,” but the books are glorious.  It’s the  liberal usage of medieval vocabulary and the cadence of the language that make all the difference.    English author Ellis Peters (nom de plume of Edith Mary Pargeter, 1913 – 1995) was a master of both.  Her published works cover many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and she was also honored for her translations of Czech classics.  I don’t know how her expertise with the Czech language might have related to her ear for medieval English, but somehow it must.

The Brother Cadfael Series

Currently I’m reading The Summer of the Danes and from the get-go I am enthralled.  Right away, on the first page of Chapter One, my eye was caught by this phrase:  …and the laity from the princes of North Wales down to the humblest cottagers in the trefs of Arfon.  Trefs??  What in the world is a tref?  A valley, perhaps?  Or in medieval-speak, maybe a dale?

So, I looked it up.  Said Merriam-Webster:  a group or area acting as a single community as regards cattle and plowing, constituting a taxable unit, and consisting typically of nine houses, one plow, one oven, one churn, one cat, one cock, and one herdsman.

Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael

OMG!  Not a landform at all!  And now I know that Oysterville is somewhere between a hamlet (100 to 150 people) and a tref!  In the definition of tref, of course, is the implication that those nine households do a lot of sharing.  I’m not sure that we could find that many people here willing to share an oven and never mind the plow or churn or cat.  The cock, of course is long gone.  We’ll have to find one for sale (or barter?) — perhaps in the nearby hamlet of Nahcotta.

 

Leave It To Maggie!

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

The Perfect Answer to Current Conditions!

Yesterday I received “A Special Message from Maggie.”  Maybe you did, too, if you are lucky enough to be on Maggie Stuckey’s mailing list.  And, if you are even luckier and count Maggie as your friend, her message will delight you but not surprise you in the least!

She begins her message this way:  There has never been a better time to plant a vegetable garden.  It’s the Maggiest sentence ever!  At once it underlines her concern for our present situation — the pandemic and consequent sheltering — and combines two of her passions– food and gardening.  Right off the bat:  Maggie, the quintessential nurturer!

Her message concerns her 2002 book (with Rose Marie Nichols McGee), Bountiful Container, which can help get even the neophyte gardener started on “a small garden plot or a few containers jam-packed with veggies.”  Apparently, the book is unavailable right now and Maggie is offering to fill the void from her own private stash.

Maggie’s Other “Must Have” Book!

You, too, can get a personalized, autographed copy directly from Maggie. To find out how, go to: http://maggiestuckey.com/maggie-stuckey-author/the-bountiful-container/ I don’t know how many she has on hand, but my suggestion is: get ’em while they last!

In our house, the spin-off to Maggie’s book offer has been a serious discussion about having a cement patio poure in the area we jokingly refer to as “the kitchen garden” in order to make it wheelchair friendly.  A few containers out there at the proper height for Nyel would go a long way to satisfying his gardening itch.  The project is under serious investigation, thanks to our friend Maggie-the-Nurturer!