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February 28, 2018

Looking Back - The Song of the Lark



Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Fiction
1983 Mariner Books (first published 1915)
Finished in August 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Perhaps Willa Cather's most autobiographical work, The Song of the Lark charts the story of a young woman's awakening as an artist against the backdrop of the western landscape. Thea Kronborg, an aspiring singer, struggles to escape from the confines her small Colorado town to the world of possibility in the Metropolitan Opera House. In classic Cather style, The Song of the Lark is the beautiful, unforgettable story of American determination and its inextricable connection to the land.

My Original Notes (1997):

Another wonderful novel by Cather! Coming-of-age story of a Swedish-born immigrant girl who becomes a famous opera singer. Cather used lots of childhood memories and individuals for basis of story. Later chapters dealing with Thea's career are based on an actual opera singer blended with Cather's own artistic traits. Very good. I loved the scenes in New Mexico. A little too much detail, though, in regards to opera and a singer's career. I liked the first part of the novel better than the second half. I never felt completely connected to Thea as I did to Antonia (My Antonia).

My Current Thoughts:

I think it's time to read this one again!

Wordless Wednesday

Chetzemoka Park
Port Townsend, WA
September 2017



For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

February 27, 2018

The Meaning of Names



The Meaning of Names by Karen Gettert Shoemaker
Fiction
2014 Red Hen Press
Finished on May 4, 2017
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Stuart, Nebraska is a long way from the battlefields of Western Europe, but it is not immune to the horrors of the first Great War for Peace. Like all communities, it has lost sons and daughters to the fighting, with many more giving themselves over to the hatred only war can engender.

Set in 1918 in the farm country at the heart of America, The Meaning of Names is the story of an ordinary woman trying to raise a family during extraordinary times. Estranged from her parents because she married against their will, confronted with violence and prejudice against her people, and caught up in the midst of the worst plague the world has ever seen, Gerda Vogel, an American of German descent, must find the strength to keep her family safe from the effects of a war that threatens to consume the whole world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel and am only sorry I didn't read it sooner. I missed an opportunity to hear Shoemaker speak at our Barnes & Noble, although I did get a chance to talk with her on a few occasions, as she was a regular visitor to our store. I usually lean more toward books about World War II, but this novel about the First World War is a compelling read and Shoemaker is a skilled writer and one to watch. The Meaning of Names would be an excellent choice for a book club.

About the Author:

Karen Gettert Shoemaker is the author of the novel The Meaning of Names and the collection Night Sounds and Other Stories. Her novel was selected for the community-wide reading programs One Book One Nebraska, 2016, and Omaha Public Library’s “Omaha Reads” 2014. Her short story collection received a Nebraska Center for the Book Award in 2003. She is a faculty mentor at UNO’s MFA in Writing Program and founder of Larksong Writers' Place Workshops.

February 26, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


I finished The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett and loved it so much that I think I'm going to have to buy a copy to have when I'm in the mood to read it again. It is such a good book!



My book club is reading The Soul of an Octopus for our March discussion and I'm enjoying it so far, although I'm only about 50 pages in. The author has a speaking engagement in the town just south of us in April, but unfortunately we'll be traveling and won't be home in time to attend.



I've been meaning to try the Neapolitan Series for a couple of years, but couldn't find My Brilliant Friend at the library so I decided to try the audio. I'm not very far and can't decide if I like the story or the characters, but I'll keep listening. I'm only on track/chapter 12 out of 83, so I have quite a ways to go. I am enjoying the reader (Hillary Huber) and love her Italian accent.



I loved Jane Harper's debut novel, The Dry and put this new one on hold at my library as soon as I heard about it. It didn't take too long to arrive and I've been reading it at night before bed. It's quite good, but I'm not sure it's as good as The Dry. We'll see how it evolves, but it isn't as suspenseful as Harper's first mystery. Still, it's well-written and entertaining and I haven't been able to figure out the mystery, so that's something, right?
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

Last Week's Posts: 


Wordless Wednesday - Oregon Lighthouse

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Looking Back - Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen

Olympic Peninsula Trip - Port Townsend


February 25, 2018

Olympic Peninsula Trip - Day Ten

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 (Part Two)
Port Townsend, Washington 
Point Hudson Marina & RV Park


Point Hudson Marina is located behind the RV park and we found ourselves, on more than one occasion, wandering over to admire all the beautiful boats













We spent some time exploring this lovely park, which is nestled behind a residential area, and overlooks the water. Other than a couple of moms with their toddlers, we were the only ones there. The fall colors were pretty, but I'm sure it's stunning in the spring. You can read more about the park here













Click on photos for a larger view.

February 23, 2018

Looking Back - Tell Me A Riddle



Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Tell Me A Riddle by Tillie Olsen
Fiction
1989 Delta (first published 1961)
Read in August 1997
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

This collection of four stories, "I Stand Here Ironing," "Hey Sailor, what Ship?," "O Yes," and "Tell me a Riddle," had become an American classic. Since the title novella won the O. Henry Award in 1961, the stories have been anthologized over a hundred times, made into three films, translated into thirteen languages, and - most important - once read, they abide in the hearts of their readers.

My Original Notes (1997):

Four short stories. Social commentaries. Poor people, racial inequalities, elderly, etc. Quite good. I would enjoy hearing a professor's comments on each essay. Thought provoking.

My Current Thoughts:

I should look for this to reread, as I have no memory of any of these short stories.

February 22, 2018

The Mothers



The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Fiction
2016 Riverhead Books
Finished on April 15, 2017
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett's mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season."

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a "what if" can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

I loved all the Southern California references, especially since I used to live near many of the locations mentioned. The writing is very good and I was surprised to learn that not only is it the author's first novel, but also that she is only in her 20s. She is one to watch for!

Note: I wrote the above when I first finished the book back in April 2017. This is a perfect example of a book that impressed me when I read it, but left no lasting impression after almost a year's passage. I'm sure our move and related distractions are mostly to blame for my lack of recollection of what I considered a very good read.

February 21, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Coquille River Lighthouse
Bandon, Oregon
October 2017


Click on image for full size version.

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

February 19, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?




I finished Need to Know by Karen Cleveland (my print book) and News of the World by Paulette Jiles (my audio book) and have started The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I'm really enjoying this light novella, especially having recently watched two seasons of The Crown. I can hear Claire Foy's voice in my head as I read the Queen's lines and find myself chuckling at some of her thoughts and comments. This is an older book, published in 2007, and one which is certain to entertain bibliophiles, as well as Anglophiles. Now to settle on a new audio book.
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR) is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are, and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at Book Date.

Last Week's Posts: 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Wordless Wednesday - Little Whale Cove

Olympic Peninsula Trip - Day Ten

Looking Back - Not Under Forty by Willa Cather


February 16, 2018

Looking Back - Not Under Forty


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Not Under Forty by Willa Cather
Nonfiction
1988 University of Nebraska Press (first published 1936)
Finished in August 1997
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

For Willa Cather, "the world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts." The whole legacy of Western civilization stood on the far side of World War I, and in the spiritually impoverished present she looked back to that. To that she directed readers of these essays, declaring that anyone under forty years old would not be interested in them. But she was wrong: since its first publication in 1936, Not Under Forty has appealed to readers of all ages who share Cather's concern for excellence, for what endures, in literature and in life.

My Original Notes (1997):

Fair. Essays regarding Cather's impressions on good literature. None of the essays grabbed my attention. One, I couldn't even finish reading.

My Current Thoughts:

No recollection of this book or the essays. I wonder if I would have a great appreciation for it now that I'm over 40. :)

February 15, 2018

Olympic Peninsula Trip - Day Ten

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 (Part One)
Port Townsend, Washington 
Point Hudson Marina & RV Park

The sunrise over the Cascades is breathtaking, but I'm afraid my photos don't do it justice. You'll just have to believe me. It was so peaceful sitting on a large log, listening to the birds calling out to one another, the water lapping gently on the rocky shore and the clang of the buoy in the distance. I could easily spend a month at this RV park!










Here it comes!
















Morning glow on the trailer.


Port Townsend

The view from our bed.











Click on photos for a larger view.

February 14, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
February 2018


Click on image for full size version.

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

February 13, 2018

Lilac Girls



Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Historical Fiction
2016 Random House Audio
Read by Kathrin Kana, Kathleen Gati, Cassandra Campbell and Martha Hall Kelly
17 hours and 30 minutes
Finished on April 2, 2017
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this powerful debut novel reveals an incredible story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline's world is forever changed when Hitler's army invades Poland in September 1939 - and then sets its sights on France.


An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.


For an ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems like her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.


The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens, and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents - from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland - as they strive and sacrifice to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.


In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quests for love, happiness, and second chances. It is a story that will keep listeners bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final moments.


I have become an avid reader of the Holocaust, particularly works of historical fiction. When Lilac Girls first hit the shelves, the cover caught my eye and I was hoping for another book like Kristen Hannah's excellent novel, The Nightingale. Sadly, I felt like the title and cover art were somewhat deceiving. This is not a book about the friendship between three women during WWII, but rather that of three women from very different backgrounds whose lives intersect and overlap as a result of the horrors that took place in Ravensbruck. This is a part of the Holocaust narrative with which I was not very familiar and it was through this novel that I learned about the experimental operations that took place in Ravensbruck. Some of the details of the surgical experiments were very difficult to read. 


It took me a long time to get interested in Lilac Girls, but once each character's story finally merged with the others, I couldn't put it down. The reader for Kasia was excellent, but the one for Herta Oberheuser was disappointing. In spite of my average rating for the novel, it is one that has stayed with me quite vividly.