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March 29, 2019

Looking Back - The Road from Coorain

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 Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
Nonfiction - Memoir
1990 Vintage (First published in 1989)
Finished in June 1998
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:


Jill Ker Conway tells the story of her astonishing journey into adulthood—a journey that would ultimately span immense distances and encompass worlds, ideas, and ways of life that seem a century apart.

She was seven before she ever saw another girl child. At eight, still too small to mount her horse unaided, she was galloping miles, alone, across Coorain, her parents' thirty thousand windswept, drought-haunted acres in the Australian outback, doing a "man's job" of helping herd the sheep because World War II had taken away the able-bodied men. She loved (and makes us see and feel) the vast unpeopled landscape, beautiful and hostile, whose uncertain weathers tormented the sheep ranchers with conflicting promises of riches and inescapable disaster. She adored (and makes us know) her large-visioned father and her strong, radiant mother, who had gone willingly with him into a pioneering life of loneliness and bone-breaking toil, who seemed miraculously to succeed in creating a warmly sheltering home in the harsh outback, and who, upon her husband's sudden death when Jill was ten, began to slide—bereft of the partnership of work and love that had so utterly fulfilled her—into depression and dependency.


We see Jill, staggered by the loss of her father, catapulted to what seemed another planet—the suburban Sydney of the 1950s and its crowded, noisy, cliquish school life. Then the heady excitement of the University, but with it a yet more demanding course of lessons—Jill embracing new ideas, new possibilities, while at the same time trying to be mother to her mother and resenting it, escaping into drink, pulling herself back, striking a balance. We see her slowly gaining strength, coming into her own emotionally and intellectually and beginning the joyous love affair that gave wings to her newfound self.


Worlds away from Coorain, in America, Jill Conway became a historian and the first woman president of Smith College. Her story of Coorain and the road from Coorain startles by its passion and evocative power, by its understanding of the ways in which a total, deep-rooted commitment to place—or to a dream—can at once liberate and imprison. It is a story of childhood as both Eden and anguish, and of growing up as a journey toward the difficult life of the free.


My Original Notes (1998):

I really enjoyed this book, although the last couple of chapters were somewhat boring. The first chapters reminded be of Teresa Jordan's Riding the White Horse Home. Similar landscape and hard work ranching. The isolation and loneliness, particularly felt by Conway's mother, reminded me of Beret in Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag. Beautifully written.

My Current Thoughts:

Goodness. I don't recall enjoying this book as much as my notes imply, but I guess at the time, I did. I met the author in 1998 at a small book conference in Cleveland, which is why I probably picked up her book. 

March 28, 2019

The Red Address Book



The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
Translated by Alice Menzies
Fiction
2017 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finished on March 24, 2019

Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:


For fans of A Man Called Ove and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared comes a heartwarming debut about 96-year-old Doris, who writes down her memories as she pages through her decades-old address book. But the most profound moment of her life is still to come . . .

Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny--her American grandniece, and her only relative--give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colorful past--working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War--can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris's life?

A charming novel that prompts reflection on the stories we all should carry to the next generation, and the surprises in life that can await even the oldest among us, The Red Address Book introduces Sofia Lundberg as a wise--and irresistible--storyteller.


I wish I could give this a higher rating, but I really didn't like it and only finished because it wasn't that long. Maybe something was lost in the translation, but the dialogue was simplistic and awkward and the relationship between Doris' grandniece and husband was predictable and sappy, spoiling the narrative for this reader. I discovered this book through several blogging friends, many of whom enjoyed it quite a bit better than I. I like reading about aging characters, and loved Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman, but this one left me wanting something a bit more substantial. 

March 27, 2019

The Library Book



The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Nonfiction
2018 Simon & Schuster
Finished on March 19, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

The Library Book is sure to be a favorite of any lover of books and libraries. I couldn't put it down! I was very impressed with the amount of research that went into this work and marveled at Orlean's skill. She was able to take the two threads (the fire and the history of the library) and weave them into a compelling narrative, which piqued my curiosity, sending me to Google for images and more facts about the Los Angeles Central Library and its architect (the same individual who designed the state Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska). To borrow another reviewer's statement about a different book, The Library Book is "broad in scope, intimate in detail." The majority of my book club enjoyed Orlean's book and if my sister-in-law, who now works for the Lincoln City Libraries, and my book-loving firefighter friend, haven't yet read this, I highly recommend it to both! I would love to hear their thoughts on this compelling account of the Los Angeles Central Library fire. I'm also eager to hear my husband's thoughts, as he grew up in L.A., although he and I were both living in San Diego when the fire occurred. Surprisingly, neither of us remember hearing anything about it, but now knowing the story, I would love to visit the library if we're ever in the area on one of our road trips.

Favorite Passages:
The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.
and
A puff of outside air wafted in and down the hall. Then, in an instant, people poured in--the hoverers, who bolted from their posts in the garden, and the wall-sitters, and the morning fumblers, and the school groups, and the businesspeople, and the parents with strollers heading to story time, and the students, and the homeless, who rushed straight to the bathrooms and then made a beeline to the computer center, and the scholars, and the time-wasters, and the readers, and the curious, and the bored[...]
and 
All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.
and
The library is a whispering post. You don't need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen. It was that affirmation that always amazed me. Even the oddest, most peculiar book was written with that kind of courage -- the writer's belief that someone would find his or her book important to read. I was struck by how precious and foolish and brave that belief is, and how necessary, and how full of hope it is to collect these books and manuscripts and preserve them. It declares that stories matter, and so does every effort to create something that connects us to one another, and to our past, and to what is still to come.
and
I have come to believe that books have souls—why else would I be so reluctant to throw one away?
and
It seems simple to define what a library is—namely, it is a storeroom of books. But the more time I spent at Central, the more I realized that a library is an intricate machine, a contraption of whirring gears. There were days when I came to the library and planted myself near the center of the main corridor and simply watched the whirl and throb of the place. Sometimes people ambled by, with no apparent destination. Some people marched crisply, full of purpose. Many were alone, some were in pairs; occasionally they traveled in a gaggle. People think that libraries are quiet, but they really aren't. They rumble with voices and footsteps and a whole orchestral range of book-related noises—the snap of covers clapping shut; the breathy whisk of pages fanning open; the distinctive thunk of one book being stacked on another; the grumble of book carts in the corridors.
and
I loved wandering around the bookshelves, scanning the spines until something happened to catch my eye. Those visits were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn't like going to a store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I wanted and what my mother was willing to buy me; in the library I could have anything I wanted.
and 
They formed a human chain, passing the books hand over hand from one person to the next, through the smoky building and out the door. It was as if, in this urgent moment, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library. They created, for that short time, a system to protect and pass along shared knowledge, to save what we know for each other, which is what libraries do every day.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and look forward to trying more by Susan Orlean. Any recommendations? The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin both sound wonderful.

March 26, 2019

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry



My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Fiction
2015 Simon & Schuster Audio
Read by Joan Walker
Finished on March 19, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

It's been almost four years since I read A Man Called Ove (reviewed here), which I adored and will read again. I wasn't as enamored of Backman's novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, so I was somewhat hesitant to try this novel. It took me several chapters (and I almost gave up) before I finally became engrossed in Elsa's story, but once hooked, I found every opportunity to continue listening, even going out of my way to take longer walks in order to hear one more chapter. I'm so glad I didn't quit, because this turned out to be quite a gem! And, I'm glad to have a copy of the book in print, so I can read it again. Now that I know the story, I think reading the print edition will be less of a challenge. It all felt so confusing at the beginning, but once the pieces fell together, it all made sense. 

Final Thoughts:

I wiped away my tears as I listened to the final chapters, remembering a similar feeling when I completed the audio book of The Elegance of the Hedgehog (reviewed here). Backman's poignant tale and lovable characters (particularly, Elsa, who is wise beyond her years) will remain with me for years to come. I look forward to reading his more recent books; next up, Britt-Marie Was Here.

March 25, 2019

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food



Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food by Ann Hood
Nonfiction - Memoir
2019 W.W. Norton & Company
Finished on March 17, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From her Italian American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal. Growing up, she tasted love in her grandmother’s tomato sauce and dreamed of her mother’s special-occasion Fancy Lady Sandwiches. Later, the kitchen became the heart of Hood’s own home. She cooked pork roast to warm her first apartment, used two cups of dried basil for her first attempt at making pesto, taught her children how to make their favorite potatoes, found hope in her daughter’s omelet after a divorce, and fell in love again—with both her husband and his foolproof chicken stock.

Hood tracks her lifelong journey in the kitchen with twenty-seven heartfelt essays, each accompanied by a recipe (or a few). In “Carbonara Quest,” searching for the perfect spaghetti helped her cope with lonely nights as a flight attendant. In the award-winning essay The Golden Silver Palate, she recounts the history of her fail-safe dinner party recipe for Chicken Marbella—and how it did fail her when she was falling in love. Hood’s simple, comforting recipes also include her mother’s famous meatballs, hearty Italian Beef Stew, classic Indiana Fried Chicken, the perfect grilled cheese, and a deliciously summery peach pie.

With Hood’s signature humor and tenderness, Kitchen Yarns spills tales of loss and starting from scratch, family love and feasts with friends, and how the perfect meal is one that tastes like home.

I loved everything about this highly readable collection of culinary essays by Ann Hood! I have so many Post-It flags marking recipes that I'd like to try that I've decided I need to own a copy of this book. Here's a sample of some of the recipes that have piqued my interested:
  • Indiana Fried Chicken
  • Glamourous Curried Chicken Salad
  • Chicken Salad Veronique
  • Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
  • My Perfect Spaghetti Carbonara
  • Michael's Whiskey Sours
  • French Scrambled Eggs
  • Never-Fail Souffle (really more of a strata)
  • Sam's Potatoes
  • Mary's Peach Pie
  • Jill's Tenderloin and Roasted Tomatoes
  • Gogo's Swedish Meatballs with Ikea Gravy
  • My Roast Chicken
  • Michael's Overnight Chicken Stock
  • Tortellini en Brodo
  • Perfect Grilled Cheese
  • Laurie Colwin's Tomato Pie
This list is mainly for my future reference, but it gives you an idea of the broad variety of recipes Hood includes in her memoir. Granted, most of the recipes are not exactly on a clean-eating menu, but we're all allowed to indulge once in awhile, right? Moderation in all things! 




A friend had given me Betty Crocker's Cookbook for my college graduation the year before, and I methodically worked my way through those recipes, ruining more dinners than I can count. Soon I was clipping recipes from the newspaper and buying other cookbooks--Moosewood, Laurel's Kitchen, The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet. Over the next few years, I taught myself to cook. Sometimes I reached too far--stuffed pork chops with apple compote, whole wheat pizza that I could have used for a doorstop. But slowly I learned how to make an omelet and scramble eggs, use leftover chicken for curried chicken salad, make stock from the chicken bones.
I remember doing the same with my first cookbook, Sunset: Easy Basics for Good Cooking, which I wrote about here.

A few favorite passages:
I realized as, over the years, I wrote essays about food--Laurie Colwin's Tomato Pie, my father's mac and cheese--that as M.F.K. Fisher said, writing about food is really writing about love. When I write an essay about food, I am really uncovering something deeper in my life--loss, family, confusion, growing up, growing away from what I knew, returning, grief, joy, and, yes, love.
and
I have read that Virginia Woolf's earliest memory is of a close-up view of the pattern of flowers on her mother's dress on a train trip to St. Ives. The Scottish poet Edwin Muir's first memory was of his gold-and-scarlet baptism suit. American historian Henry Adams remembered the yellow of a kitchen bathed in sunlight. Tolstoy's first memory is of being swaddled and crying out for freedom. Me, I remember fried chicken.
I love Hood's writing and conversational tone, which brought a tear to my eye as often as it made me laugh out loud. Her final essay about Laurie Colwin's Tomato Pie had my eyes brimming with tears and I hugged the book to my chest as I read the final page. Kitchen Yarns is as delightful as Laurie Colwin's culinary memoir, Home Cooking, which I wrote about here and they both belong on my keeper shelf for future readings.

March 22, 2019

Looking Back - Children of God

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.




Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
Science Fiction
1998 Villard Books
Finished in May 1998
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Mary Doria Russell's debut novel, The Sparrow, took us on a journey to a distant planet and into the center of the human soul. A critically acclaimed bestseller, The Sparrow was chosen as one of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of the Year, a finalist for the Book-of-the-Month Club's First Fiction Prize and the winner of the James M. Tiptree Memorial Award. Now, in Children of God, Russell further establishes herself as one of the most innovative, entertaining and philosophically provocative novelists writing today. The only member of the original mission to the planet Rakhat to return to Earth, Father Emilio Sandoz has barely begun to recover from his ordeal when the Society of Jesus calls upon him for help in preparing for another mission to Alpha Centauri. Despite his objections and fear, he cannot escape his past or the future. Old friends, new discoveries and difficult questions await Emilio as he struggles for inner peace and understanding in a moral universe whose boundaries now extend beyond the solar system and whose future lies with children born in a faraway place. Strikingly original, richly plotted, replete with memorable characters and filled with humanity and humor, Children of God is an unforgettable and uplifting novel that is a potent successor to The Sparrow and a startlingly imaginative adventure for newcomers to Mary Doria Russell's special literary magic.

My Original Notes (1998):

This started out very, very good, but about halfway through, it lost steam. I got very confused with all the new characters and couldn't keep their names straight. It was also difficult to keep the two separate species straight, especially as the generations expanded. It lacked the humor that was so abundant in The Sparrow. The end of the novel gained speed, but still fell short. I was fascinated with the language aspects of the book. Ms. Russell basically created a new language!

I'll still read more by her, if she continues to write fiction.

It was nice to learn more about Sandoz's experience on Alpha Centauri and to discover what happened to Sophia.

My Current Thoughts:

I have read The Sparrow multiple times and I know I will read it again, but Children of God was such a letdown that I know I will never read it a second time. Thankfully, Mary Doria Russell has gone on to write several other novels, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As a matter of fact, she has a new release coming out in August. It's called The Women of Copper Country. I'm looking forward to reading it!

March 20, 2019

Spring on the Oregon Coast







Click on image for full size view.

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

March 18, 2019

New Braunfels, TX

Friday, September 28, 2019
New Braunfels, Texas
Linda & Bob's Hacienda

We finally arrived! After 24 days, traveling through 6 states and driving 2,722 miles, we reached our dear friends' home in New Braunfels, Texas. 

After a lazy morning and breakfast, Linda & Bob took us out for a personal tour of their area. (San Marcos, Greune, New Braunfels, etc.) We had a delicious lunch at Baja BBQ Shack on Canyon Lake and did more exploring after we stuffed our bellies. Sadly, Rod was beginning to show signs of having a head cold and wasn't feeling 100%.


Brisket enchiladas!
Baja BBQ Shack on Canyon Lake

 Guadalupe River


 Retired Life


 Live Oaks


 Miss Linda's beautiful kitchen.






Our dear friends and gracious hosts, 
Bobby and Miss Linda.

March 17, 2019

San Angelo & New Braunfels, TX

Thursday, September 27, 2018
San Angelo to New Braunfels, Texas
Distance: 281 (60 of which were unnecessary!)
Linda & Bob's Hacienda
Duration: 4 nights
Weather: Hot & humid

The sun came out and we had a very pretty morning as we prepared to head southeast toward our good friends' home in New Braunfels. The GPS wasn't in agreement with our route on RV Trip Wizard and so we wound up heading southwest, which added close to 60 miles of extra driving to the day's drive. We also took the back roads from Fredericksburg to New Braunfels, along the Devil's Backbone, which was a lot of fun in our Miata 20 years ago. It's very curvy, slow and long in an RV! Again, more unnecessary miles. We didn't reach our final destination at Linda and Bob's until after 6pm. Live and learn, I suppose.


Pretty sunrise.






Yeah, not in an RV.


Texas Highway in the Hill Country.

March 16, 2019

Instant Pot BBQ Ribs

When I first learned to cook ribs, I used a recipe (probably from an old Sunset Magazine cookbook) that said to start them off in the oven in a 9x13 pan with a little bit of water and covered with foil to seal in the moisture. Many years later, I switched to a crockpot, which has been my go-to method without fail. However, the other day I came upon a recipe on Taste and Tell that requires an Instant Pot, so I decided to do a taste-test comparison using both the crockpot and the Instant Pot. I cooked one rack of ribs in the crockpot as I usually do for 8 hours and the other rack in the Instant Pot for 35 minutes (not including the time it takes to build up and release the pressure). Not only did the Instant Pot save me 7 hours of time (and electricity), but the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender! Another Instant Pot winner thanks to Taste and Tell's super easy recipe.


Instant Pot Ribs

1 rack baby back ribs (about 4 lbs.)
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3/4 cup barbecue sauce, divided

Rub:

2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, mix the salt, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, pepper and cayenne pepper.

Cut the ribs into four equal portions. Rub both sides of the ribs with the spice mixture.

Place the trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Pour the water, vinegar and soy sauce in the bottom of the pot and place the ribs on top of the trivet, stacking them up in a teepee shape. You don't want them lying on top of each other.

Lock the lid in place and make sure the vent is closed. Select Manual High pressure and set the time to 35 minutes. When the time is up, naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure.

While the ribs are cooking, line a baking sheet with foil. When the ribs are finished cooking, turn the oven broiler on high. Place the cooked ribs on the baking sheet and brush with 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce. Broil the ribs 4-6 inches from the heat until a crust has formed. Watch closely, as this doesn't take long!

Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce.


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March 15, 2019

Looking Back - These High Green Hills

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.



These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon
Mitford Series #3
Fiction
1996 Penguin Books
Finished in May 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In These High, Green Hills we're once again in Mitford, a southern village of local characters so heartwarming and hilarious you'll wish you lived right next door.

At last, Mitford's rector and lifelong bachelor, Father Tim, has married his talented and vivacious neighbor, Cynthia. Now, of course, they must face love's challenges: new sleeping arrangements for Father Tim's sofa-sized dog, Cynthia's urge to decorate the rectory Italian-villa-style, and the growing pains of the thrown-away boy who's become like a son to the rector.

Add a life-changing camping trip, the arrival of the town's first policewoman, and a new computer that requires the patience of a saint, and you know you're in for another engrossing visit to Mitford--the little town that readers everywhere love to call home.

My Original Notes (1998):

Wonderful! I truly enjoyed every word. I feel as though these characters are not only real, but my friends. Charming and inspiring.

My Current Thoughts:

I'm looking forward to rereading this one. I recently started reading At Home in Mitford and it's just as good as the first time I read it.

March 12, 2019

Lubbock & San Angelo, TX

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Lubbock to San Angelo, Texas
Distance: 189 miles
Campground: San Angelo State Park
Duration: 1 night
Cost: $28
Weather: Overcast and warm

46 degrees and still raining when we woke up. (Yes, we eventually fell asleep!) After a mediocre breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we were on the road by 10:30 and arrived at San Angelo State Park a little after 3:00. We made the decision to camp in San Angelo, rather than keep our original plans to boondock at the Eola Brewery (another Harvest Host). 


The view from our boondocking spot at Cracker Barrel.
It rained all night.


Lots of "nodding donkeys" (pumpjacks) along the way.


We also saw a lot of flare stacks in the fields.

The campground was decent with water & electric at our site and a dump station near the entrance. Our gravel pad was fairly level and we had a nice picnic table, but we only used it to grill our dinner since the rain returned. Nothing fancy, and not nearly as nice as some of the Oregon and Washington state parks, but the sites were well-spaced, so we had quite a bit of privacy. It was very quiet and we had a restful stay.




We had the whole place to ourselves.


 Closest neighbors were in a loop further on down the road.




My happy camper.

March 10, 2019

Clovis, NM & Lubbock, TX

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Clovis, New Mexico to Lubbock, Texas
Distance: 118 miles
Cracker Barrel - Boondocking
Cost: Free
Duration: 1 night
Weather: Rainy

The carbon monoxide alarm went off right after we finished breakfast and we couldn't figure out what was wrong. I reset it and after a few minutes, it went off again. It eventually stopped, so we think it was from the exhaust from one of the RVs near us in the Walmart parking lot. At least we know it works. (And it will definitely wake us up in the middle of the night!)





It was cloudy and 80 degrees when we drove out of Clovis.  It only took us a couple of hours to get to Lubbock, but our next destination was almost 200 miles further, which is really too far to drive in an RV. (RV 2-2-2 Rule: Never more than 200 miles, stop by 2 pm, stay at least 2 days.) No relief from the heat in Texas, which didn't surprise us.



We found a coffee house (Yellow House Coffee) in Lubbock and got a couple of drinks while we used their WiFi for uploading pictures, drafting blog posts, etc. It could have been a nice place, but like the spot we visited the day before, it was too noisy. So far, the quietest coffee house we've found on this trip was in Flagstaff. We loved that place!







We had originally planned to stay at a Harvest Host winery, but with torrential rain on the horizon, we didn't want to park on their dirt road (which they said gets very muddy) and wind up getting stuck, so we found a Cracker Barrel for another night of boondocking. It turned out to be a very dark & stormy night!


Parked near these railroad tracks, 
but no problem with train noise.

What a night! It was very windy (25-30 mph gusts) and then the rain began. It howled and roared like a summer storm in the Midwest. The RV shook and the rain thundered down on the roof All. Night. Long. It was a little scary and I couldn't sleep, so I moved out to the couch (which was surprisingly comfortable). I dozed on and off, but it was really an awful night. Rod didn't do much better. Everything is much louder in an RV than a house, so it sounded like someone was pounding on the roof the entire night. If we were fulltimers, I would have driven to a hotel!

March 8, 2019

Looking Back - Here on Earth

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.




Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
Fiction
1998 Berkley Books (first published in 1997)
Finished in March 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

After nearly twenty years of living in California, March Murray, along with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, returns to the sleepy Massachusetts town where she grew up to attend the funeral of Judith Dale, the beloved housekeeper who raised her. Yet returning to her hometown also brings her back to Hollis, March’s former soul mate and lover. March’s father had taken the teenaged Hollis, an abandoned child, and the product of a series of detention homes, into his house as a boarder, and treated him like a son. Yet March and Hollis’s passionate love was hardly a normal sibling relationship. When Hollis left her after a petty fight, March waited for him three long years, wondering what she had done wrong.

Encountering Hollis again makes March acutely aware of the choices that she has made, and the choices everyone around her has made—including Mrs. Dale, who knew more of love than March could ever have suspected, and her brother Alan, whose tragic history has left him grief-struck, with alcohol as his only solace. Her attraction to Hollis is overwhelming—and March jeopardizes her marriage, her relationship with her daughter and her own happiness in an attempt to reclaim the past.


My Original Notes (1998):

This book sure kept my interest. I read it in one day! I really enjoyed it, but hated one of the main characters - Hollis.

My Current Thoughts:

I wonder if this is the first book of Alice Hoffman's that I read. (It was either this or Turtle Moon.) I probably picked it up after hearing about it on Oprah. I vaguely remember the plot and am impressed that I read it in a single day, especially since we were in the middle of moving to Texas! I've gone on to read a few more of Hoffman's books, but she isn't one of my favorite authors.

March 7, 2019

The Brutal Telling



The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5
Mystery
2009 Minataur Books
Finished on March 4, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

So far, this is my favorite book in Louise Penny's popular Armand Gamache series. The mysteries continue to improve and impress and this unpredictable installment kept me guessing until the final page. I appreciate that Penny doesn't feel the need for a happy ending with each of her books. Her characters are flawed and fully realized and life isn't always rosy in these character driven stories. The atmospheric tension is almost palpable and I couldn't put the book down. This is a series on which I'm happy to binge!

Interesting Facts:

The painter referenced in this mystery, Emily Carr, is a real person and we share the same birthday. I love her paintings and am surprised I've never heard of her.


Metchosin, 1935 Oil


Yan, Q.C.I, 1912 Oil

Totem Forest, 1930 Oil

Favorite Passages:
In the kitchen Gamache’s German shepherd, Henri, sat up in his bed and cocked his head. He had huge oversized ears which made Gamache think he wasn’t purebred but a cross between a shepherd and a satellite dish.
and 
Not a spoon clinked against a mug, not a creamer was popped, peeled and opened, not a breath. It was as though something else had joined them then. As though silence had taken a seat.
and
What came out surprised them all. A Celtic lament left the bow, left the violin, left the agent. It filled the cabin, filled the rafters. Almost into the corners. The simple tune swirled around them like colors and delicious meals and conversation. And it lodged in their chests. Not their ears, not their heads. But their hearts. Slow, dignified, but buoyant. It was played with confidence. With poise.
Agent Morin had changed. His loose-limbed awkward body contorted perfectly for the violin, as though created and designed for this purpose. To play. To produce this music. His eyes were closed and he looked the way Gamache felt. Filled with joy. Rapture even. Such was the power of this music. This instrument.
and
Their main courses had arrived. A fruit-stuffed Rock Cornish game hen, done on the spit, for Gamache; melted Brie, fresh tomato and basil fettuccine for Lacoste; and a lamb and prune tagine for Beauvoir. A platter of fresh harvested grilled vegetables was also brought to the table.
Gamache's chicken was tender and tasty, delicately flavored with Pommery-style mustard and vermouth.

I think it's time Louise Penny wrote a cookbook!