Archive for the ‘reading’ Tag

Three’s a Charm   5 comments


Thanks WordPress for letting me know this is our third anniversary. I don’t have a book or restaurant to review right now, but I did make my 275th post earlier this week.

The traditional gift to commemorate three years is leather. Hhmmm. Sounds like I need to get a book to celebrate!

Thanks WordPress, but more importantly, thank you readers! It’s nice to know I have followers who aren’t related to me, although I am very grateful to those who are for being so consistent in your love and support. I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading. Here’s to three more — at least!

A Book Blind Date   Leave a comment


As I was leaving my neighborhood library, the Old Colorado City Branch of the Pikes Peak Library District, two shelves with books wrapped in newspaper caught my eye. They were near the backdoor in what seemed an out of the way location for a holiday display, although I realized it’s far too early to be in that mindset. Then I saw the sign: “Blind Date With A Book.”


The concept is to check out a wrapped book without knowing its title. I was intrigued. I picked up a couple of books/packages in much the same way I’d consider which gift to open first on my birthday or Christmas. Did I really want to commit to something I knew absolutely nothing about? What if it was one I’d already read?  Yet, in a way, starting a book is very similar to a blind date anyway; there’s always a sense of the unknown, of possibilities and disappointments.

I considered another blind date. It’s how I met my husband, and that’s turned out very well. So, I decided to take my chances.  I was paired with Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury. I haven’t read anything by Bradbury since my high school days, but this book contains two previously unpublished novellas: Somewhere a Band is Playing and Leviathian ’99.

I laughed when I opened book. It was dedicated to two women, which didn’t strike me as a very auspicious way to begin a date.

I’ll review the date, I mean, the novellas in a separate post.

Midlife Journeys — A Memoir   Leave a comment


Living Out Answers – Twelve Trips of a Lifetime by Dave Jackson, is one of two indie books I recently read for pleasure (others I read for one of my few paid writing gigs). In the interest of full disclosure: I almost know the author. We’ve never met, but Jackson’s the father of a good friend who gave me the book as a gift.

This is a memoir based on trips, yup 12 of them, that he began taking when he turned 50 in 1979. He kept journals of the adventures which are the book’s foundation supplemented by recent afterthoughts. The trips include finding a way to spend time on the Mississippi River, to working for a circus, to learning about coal mines in West Virginia, along with nine others. He hitchhiked, hopped trains, hiked, rode in the cabs of big rigs and developed sea legs on boats.

Nearly as interesting is how the book evolved: Jackson’s granddaughter was prompted by a photo which led to discussions about the travels. Others entered the picture offering advice and encouragement. Although the book became a family endeavor of sorts, the stories are Jackson’s.

Jackson embraced the new opportunities and experiences no matter how exciting, frustrating or unpleasant, but there was always the safety net of a comfortable lifestyle awaiting him after each exploit. What’s most impressive is that Jackson made these journeys at a point in his life where many think self-reflection is either unnecessary or inconvenient. He demonstrates neither is the case.

Living Out Answers – Twelve Trips of a Lifetime

Three and a half bookmarks
Brokey’s, 2012
281 pages

The Very Model of a Proper English Novel   Leave a comment

Major Pettigrew
Easy to visualize characters, plots driven by class conflict, issues of the heart (or both) and a very proper sense of, well, what’s proper are what make English Lit so appealing to me. Yes, the above could easily refer to classic British literature, but it also applies to Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – a very contemporary work.

Simonson’s novel begins with a chance meeting between the Major (his first name is Ernest, while apt doesn’t fit him as snugly as his military title) and Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper. Although their paths have crossed in the past, this encounter comes at a vulnerable point in the Major’s life: he’s just learned of his brother’s death. What follows is the evolution of a friendship based on a passion for books and widowhood.

Both characters are thoroughly engaging. The Major in his stilted, decorous yet sensitive manner has appeal, and Mrs. Ali is an exceptionally intelligent woman burdened by a certain sadness associated with being considered an outsider in her home country. Simonson portrays people we know or would like to; they’re well-defined individuals with foibles, principles and dreams. The cast of lesser characters, including Roger, the Major’s obnoxious status-seeking son, enhance the story.

The novel moves at a leisurely pace as the Major and Mrs. Ali embark on a relationship that puts a spark in their step and ultimately has tongues wagging throughout the village. Simonson clearly enjoys thumbing her nose at what’s considered suitable or not.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Four Bookmarks
Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011
358 pages (not including the Reader’s Guide)

Mother’s Pride, Indulge Me (Please)   11 comments


When our boys were little, and not so little, we read to them. Often, that wasn’t enough for our middle son, Tim, who insisted on a special story as he was tucked into bed each night. These were the Tim Stories, and each one always began the same way: Once upon a time there was a little boy named Tim whose parents loved him very much…

I don’t remember when the Tim Stories stopped, but the reading aloud continued for many, many years. We read at night. We read in the car on road trips. We read on camping trips, in tents when it rained or by the campfire with the help of a flashlight when it was clear. We read series written by C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket and J.K. Rowlands. Heck, we had a book we read during dinner for a while. It was a fun one about manners (Do I have to Say Hello by Delia Ephron). We read a lot out loud.

Reading has always been hard for Tim. Although he struggled with it in school, he developed some great strategies. He is an excellent listener, he discovered books on tape, and he learned to ask questions for clarification, for help. He studied with tutors. He worked more than his brothers, harder than his friends or anyone else around.

This week Tim graduates from college — early. And, he still knows a good story when he hears one: Once upon a time there was a young man named Tim whose parents love him very much…

Enjoying Margaret Atwood — For a Change   1 comment

Usually, I’m not  a Margaret Atwood fan. She makes it so difficult, through depressing stories and odd characterizations, to appreciate her wit, imagery and intellect. Reluctantly, I read The Year of the Flood. It was the choice for my book group, and the All Pikes Peak Reads 2012 selection. As part of the APPR festivities, Atwood spoke about sustainability and survival: two prevalent themes in her works.

Surprisingly, once I started reading I was anxious to continue. Although Atwood dismisses claims The Year of the Flood is a post-apocalyptic tale, nothing better describes it. The story takes place in a time when mutations, genetic engineering and an order of fear prevail. The flood refers to an unknown deluge caused by man’s errors and destructive predispositions. It is not a natural phenomenon; it’s a “waterless flood.”

God’s Gardeners is a small cult with a foundation in Christianity that celebrates the lives of such people as Rachel Carson and Euell Gibbons, among others, for the contributions they made to saving the environment. The Gardeners strive to protect nature and prepare for (and later survive) the flood. Within the cult, Toby and Ren, represent maturity and youth, respectively. Their narratives move the story forward. Atwood said she purposely incorporates multiple voices in her works because “I don’t like everyone to sound the same.” Toby is represented in third person, while Ren offers a first person perspective. The sermons of Adam One, the Gardeners’ leader,  begin each chapter using second person voice.

I’m glad I read this and even more pleased to have heard Atwood speak. It provided insight into her work, but mostly served to demonstrate her keen sense of humor, which fortunately surfaces in this novel. A novel, by the way, which has, as Atwood stated, “A ray of hope.”

The Year of the Flood
Four Bookmarks
Anchor Books, 2009
431 pages

God, Golf, and Growth   3 comments

I am not sure I would have chosen Corinthia Falls off the bookshelf on my own,
but I volunteered to judge a competition. Kim Hutson’s book is what I received in
the mail, along with a list of reading criteria. It was entered in the Fiction Category,
but that should’ve been amended to Christian Fiction. There’s nothing wrong with
that genre, I just think it warrants a heads up. Or maybe I should have paid more
attention to the photo of a church on the cover.

The book gets its name from the small town in Oklahoma where most of the story
takes place. The first two-thirds is narrated by 18-year-old Timber Oaks who has a
strong sense of faith, a group of best friends, loving parents, and an impressive golf
game. The town is full of the requisite eccentric characters, many of whom initially
don’t get along. An itinerant evangelist arrives to help the Corinthia Falls Church,
the townspeople, and Timber fully realize the presence of God in their lives.

The book’s final third begins 30 years after Timber’s narrative ends. Priscilla Luke,
a long-time journalist and, as it turns out, Oaks’ family friend takes over as narra-
tor. This change in voice is interesting. Pris brings the reader up to date on the
major changes many of the characters have experienced, and tells Timber’s story
from the outside looking in.

Some editing and grammar issues distract from what is otherwise a story strong on
faith with occasional lapses in believability.

Corinthia Falls

Three Bookmarks
Outskirts Press, 2011
404 pages

Sorry for the delay in posting, but the wildfire here in Colorado Springs was a major distraction this weekend. We still need some rain.

Posted June 24, 2012 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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