May 28, 2021

Looking Back - The Kind of Love That Saves You

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.



Fiction
2000 Bantam
Finished on May 16, 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Every now and then a gifted new writer bursts on the scene blessed with rare wisdom, dazzling eloquence, and a deep understanding of what it means to be human, to be alive. Amy Yurk is just such a writer, establishing herself with her enthralling debut novel, a tale of loss, friendship, and the resilience of a woman's heart....

Sarah Strickland and her best friend, Calista, have been like sisters since the first day of kindergarten, sharing good times and weathering crises for more than twenty years. Together they've navigated the terrain of school, friendship, romances, breakups, love, and marriage. Six months after Sarah's marriage to Gavin Strickland, Calista wed Gavin's best friend. Now, holding Calista and Mike's bright and boisterous eighteen-month-old, Sarah longs to follow her friend into the sometimes rocky, sometimes breathtakingly beautiful realm of motherhood.

But in one shattering second the world changes, and the landscape Sarah enters is one she could not have envisioned. And it is one Calista cannot fully comprehend. Now the growing distance between the two women threatens to deepen the devastating sense of loss Sarah already feels. Calista tries valiantly to be her guide through this dark emotional territory, tries to hurry her over the roughest places, but her attempts to help only alienate the friend she loves.

Suddenly, miraculously, someone walks into Sarah's life who understands every twist of the long, heartbreaking path life has set her on. Someone who is capable of guiding her through and showing her that there is a life beyond the pain she feels. But Sarah cannot begin to know if this new friendship, so desperately needed, will provide the healing bond between her and Calista...or become the wedge that will tear them apart forever.

A celebration of life, hope, and the healing power of love, The Kind of Love That Saves You is an electrifying debut, an unforgettable story that will make you smile through your tears...and treasure the loved ones in your own life even more.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pure fluff -- and not even good fluff. Story of a woman who writes to her unborn child about her marriage, losses and friendships. Pure sap. A very quick, mindless read. Wouldn't recommend it.

My Current Thoughts:

I probably read this before I gave myself permission to quit on books that weren't enjoyable. 

May 25, 2021

Poem du Jour - Poem of the One World

 

Poem of the One World


This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this 
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

~Mary Oliver

May 21, 2021

Looking Back - Chocolat

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.




Fiction
2000 Penguin Group (first published in 1999)
Finished on May 14, 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

When the exotic stranger Vianne Rocher arrives in the old French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique called “La Celeste Praline” directly across the square from the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock. It is the beginning of Lent: the traditional season of self-denial. The priest says she’ll be out of business by Easter.

To make matters worse, Vianne does not go to church and has a penchant for superstition. Like her mother, she can read Tarot cards. But she begins to win over customers with her smiles, her intuition for everyone’s favourites, and her delightful confections. Her shop provides a place, too, for secrets to be whispered, grievances aired. She begins to shake up the rigid morality of the community. Vianne’s plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate ├ęclair?

For the first time, here is a novel in which chocolate enjoys its true importance, emerging as an agent of transformation. Rich, clever, and mischievous, reminiscent of a folk tale or fable, this is a triumphant read with a memorable character at its heart.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Don't read this book if you're hungry! My mouth didn't stop watering the entire time I was reading it. Entertaining.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember quite a bit about this book and think it would be fun to give it a second reading. The second book in Harris' trilogy (The Girl with No Shadow) is equally entertaining, but somehow I missed Peaches for Father Francis. It might also be time to watch the movie version of Chocolat again, which includes Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. 

May 19, 2021

The Oregon Trail

 



Nonfiction
2015 Simon Schuster Audio
Read by the author
Finished on
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, Buck is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms in Nebraska, chase runaway mules across the Wyoming plains, cross the Rockies, and make desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axles that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet loveable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey across the plains and whose premature death, many years earlier, has haunted them both ever since.

The Oregon Trail is a majestic, uniquely American journey of a lifetime.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, which my book group selected for our May discussion. I bought the paperback, but when my husband showed an interest in also reading it, I decided to download the audio and go that route. What a mistake! Rinker Buck (or the publisher) should have hired someone else to read this book. Buck's halting narration is not only jarring, but extremely annoying and I was tempted to return to the print edition, although I don't know if that would have made a difference in my overall opinion of this narrative. It is far too long-winded, with multiple digressions, and I was happy when I finally finished. (Remember the whale chapter in Moby Dick? Well, I now know more about mules than I ever cared to know!) I could have also done with out the negative commentary about all RVers, the numerous accounts of Buck's childhood and strained relationship with his father, and the overabundant use of F-bombs (which are easily ignored in print, but not so much on audio). I wanted more about the adventures the two brothers experienced on the trail. Sadly, Buck Rinker had a great story to share, but he is not a great storyteller.

May 18, 2021

Poem du Jour - The Gardener

 

The Gardener


Have I lived enough?

Have I loved enough?

Have I considered Right Action enough, have I

     come to any conclusions?

Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?

Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I'm just thinking it.

     Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,

where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,

     is tending his children, the roses.


~ Mary Oliver

May 16, 2021

Dreaming of the Bones

 


Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie
Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #5
Mystery
2007 Avon (first published in 1997)
Finished on May 14, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

It is the call Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid never expected--and one he certainly doesn't want. Victoria, his ex-wife, who walked out without an explanation more than a decade ago, asks him to look into the suicide of local poet, Lydia Brooke--a case that's been officially closed for five years. The troubled young writer's death, Victoria claims, might well have been murder.

No one is more surprised than Kincaid himself when he agrees to investigate--not even his partner and lover, Sergeant Gemma James. But it's a second death that raises the stakes and plunges Kincaid and James into a labyrinth of dark lies and lethal secrets that stretches all the way back through the twentieth century--a death that most assuredly is murder, one that has altered Duncan Kincaid's world forever. 

Ah, well. They can't all be winners, now can they? I loved Crombie's previous installment in her Kincaid/James series (Mourn Not Your Dead), which I read last month, but Dreaming of the Bones fell short of my expectations and I had to force myself to finish. I found it necessary to create a list of the numerous characters in order to keep them straight, even after I'd read more than half of the book. The transitions between Lydia's letters and the current storyline were abrupt and jarring, adding to my confusion. I spent almost two weeks reading this mystery and was happy to be finished, but I'm still looking forward to reading Kissed a Sad Goodbye later next month. 

May 14, 2021

Looking Back - Summer Gone

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.



Fiction
2000 Crown (first published in 1999)
Finished on May 5, 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Canadian best-selling author David Macfarlane has written a masterful first novel about love experienced and love remembered that flickers with fleeting passions and sudden tragedies, offering an elegy not only for the ephemeral beauty of northern summers but for an entire era.

Summer Gone is about that moment when everything stops. Like skilled canoeists, we briefly hold a perfect balance -- poised between innocence and experience, life and death, discovery and loss, the promise of spring and the melancholy of autumn.

Set among the islands and lakes of "cottage country," this beautifully crafted novel from one of Canada's premier writers explores the stories of three generations of lost summers: the girl in the blue bathing suit; the impenetrable and doomed camp counselor with the shifting features; the wife who comes alive to the rhythms of a cottage summer, wild blueberries, and lake gossip, though who remains blind to the secret that will change her life irrevocably. But the beating heart of this novel lies in the story of a divorced father and a young son separated by the silence of estrangement, and how during one extraordinary night on an ill-fated canoe trip the silence is broken. As the story unfolds and the mystery unravels, tragedy looms over father and son in ways they could never have imagined, and leads to the novel's gripping and startling conclusion. 

Graced by a spare beauty of language and a deeply humane intelligence and wit, Summer Gone is an exquisite novel.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Not the easiest book to follow. Flashbacks overlap, leaving me confused as to which of the characters the author is referring to. I wasn't sure if I even liked what I was reading until I got a handle on the transitions (or lack there of) and then I began to see the beauty in MacFarlane's passages. His writing is very lyrical and it stirred a longing in me for a cottage on a lake with a canoe on the shore.

My Current Thoughts:

In spite of my high rating, I don't remember this book and doubt I'll read it again, given the struggle I had with the flashbacks and transitions. I don't have the patience to wade through something like this anymore.

May 13, 2021

20 Books of Summer - 2021

 



It's that time again for Cathy's (746 Books) 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. I don't expect to read all of these books by September, but I'm certainly going to give it a try. The first selection are the newest additions to my shelves and I've heard nothing but good things about all of them. The second group is comprised of books that I've owned for a long time and I'm looking forward to finally reading some of them. The final set of books is my "assigned" reading. The mysteries are part of my on-going "Deborah Crombie" marathon and the others are book club selections for June, July and August. These six books have priority over all the others, but I'm hoping to read at least 15 of the 20 that I've chosen. Wish me luck! 

Have you read any of these? Which would you skip?

Click here for more details about this annual event.






May 11, 2021

Poem du Jour - I Go Down to the Shore

I Go Down to the Shore


I go down to the shore in the morning

and depending on the hour the waves

are rolling in or moving out,

and I say, oh, I am miserable,

what shall--

what should I do? And the sea says

in its lovely voice:

Excuse me, I have work to do.


~ Mary Oliver

May 4, 2021

A Month in Summary - April 2021

Nehalem Bay State Park
Nehalem, Oregon
April 2021


After a year of feeling like I was trapped in Groundhog's Day, April felt like a fresh start, full of promise and a (safe) return to life as we know it. I got my second Covid-19 vaccination (Moderna), celebrated this milestone indoors with my pod (Mah Jong, cake and Proseco!), had a necessary procedure that I'd put off during the height of the pandemic, and ended the month with a week-long camping trip to one of our favorite campgrounds on the Oregon coast. 

My reading was just as successful and I managed to finish 10 books! Mary Oliver's poems were my main focus for National Poetry Month and I read four of her books over the course of the month. I gave up on two novels, which was disappointing. One had been recommended to me many years ago, but I found it too bleak and didn't care for the multiple POVs. The other book was a reread of a book that I loved 20 years ago, but after 50 pages of boring drivel, I tossed it aside. 



Books Read (click on the title for my review):

Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black (1/5)

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (2/5)

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (4/5)

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (4/5)

Felicity by Mary Oliver (4/5)

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (3/5)

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver (4/5)

Mourn Not Your Dead by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

Testimony by Anita Shreve (4.5/5)

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (2/5)

Abandoned:

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

Five Fortunes by Beth Gutcheon


Movies & TV Series:


Sneaky Pete (Season Two & Three) - I love this show, but Season Three drags a bit and doesn't have the same pizzazz as the previous seasons. 


Strike (Season One) - Enjoyed the first season and will watch more. Cormoran doesn't look at all as I imagined, but Robin is pretty close to Galbraith's characterization.


Atlantic Crossing - We've only watched a couple of episodes, but so far this is an excellent series. Love seeing Sofia Helin (Saga Noren in The Bridge) in a new role. 


Wakefield - Excellent performance by Bryan Cranston! There were several moments when I thought to stop watching, but it turned out to be a very good film.



This Is Us - All caught up!

Puzzlemania:







In the Kitchen:

Photo Credit: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

I am so glad I found this recipe! I've added it to my monthly rotation and plan to alternate between a green and red sauce to keep it from getting boring. I can't wait to stash some in the freezer for our upcoming road trip in June.


As I mentioned, I got my second vaccination at the beginning of the month and had a mild reaction (low-grade fever, chills, muscle aches and killer headache) the following day. I spent the day in the bed, too uncomfortable to read so I slept on and off between watching This Is Us. Other than a lingering headache the next day, I was ok and am so thankful to be completely vaccinated. Science for the win!


PSA - Do you get regular mammograms and skin cancer screenings? How about colonoscopies? I'm of the age that recommended tests are critical to one's health and since we have a family history of colon cancer, I have the pleasure of getting tested every five years. I'd much rather deal with the "nuisance" of the nightly prep than the horrible treatment of radiation, chemo and surgery, so I suck it up and drink my "cocktail." It could be so much worse...


I'm writing this post while sitting inside our cozy RV. We've been camping at Nehalem Bay State Park for the past week and it feels great to get away for a little while. We have another, much longer, trip coming up in June so we'll be busy gearing up for that adventure! I always like to do a lot of cooking in advance of those longer trips so we can enjoy our evenings without having a lot of meal prep (or dishes), especially for those one-night stops enroute. 


I hope you've had a good month! Stay well and thank you for reading (and commenting on) my monthly newsletters. 

May 1, 2021

Dog Songs

 



Poetry
2015 Penguin Books (first published in 2013)
Finished on April 28, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Mary Oliver's Dog Songs is a celebration of the special bond between human and dog, as understood through the poet's relationships to the canines that have accompanied her daily walks, warmed her home, and inspired her work. Oliver's poems begin in the small everyday moments familiar to all dog lovers, but through her extraordinary vision, these observations become higher meditations on the world and our place in it.

Dog Songs includes visits with old friends, like Oliver's beloved Percy, and introduces still others in poems of love and laughter, heartbreak and grief. Throughout, the many dogs of Oliver's life merge as fellow travelers and as guides, uniquely able to open our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection.

Dog Songs is my final selection of Mary Oliver's poetry, which I chose to read for National Poetry Month. While this collection includes 36 poems and essays, only two spoke to me.
How It Is With Us, And How It Is With Them
If You Are Holding This Book

I had hoped for more meaningful (and relatable) poems, but this was a disappointment.