Monday, February 8, 2016

Two Book (well...1 !/2 really) Weekend

Fans of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or anyone who likes books about books may want to check this one out.  A pen pal relationship brings Sara from Sweden all the way to Broken Wheel, a dying town in the middle of nowhere with less than nothing to offer.  And, Broken Wheel isn't the only death in question.  Sara arrives just in time to attend the funeral of her pen pal, Amy.  For years, Amy and Sara shared thoughts about their favorite books, relating characters and plots to their own lives.  In that respect the book reminded me of 84 Charing Cross Road, a book that consistently makes my top 10 list of books to read and re-read.  Broken Wheel is a book about stories - reading them, telling them and being in them.  Predictable - yes, but still fun.

The real winner of the weekend turned out to be our book discussion selection for February and believe me, I was dreading this one. Something about the airplane on the cover suggested this would be a war story of sorts. Wrong.  Apparently I should have known who Beryl Markham was but that's one more piece of cultural literacy that has eluded me.  First surprise - Africa.  Oh, how I love books and movies set in Africa.  Second surprise - this isn't a chronological biography but more of an episodic memoir, almost stream of consciousness at times.  Surprise number three - beautiful prose...and number four...this book garnered high praise from Ernest Hemingway.  

Markham' storytelling skill drew me from page one and every couple paragraphs I find myself muttering "My life is so boring!"   Then again, would I really want to be flying a prop plane in the dead of night with no visual guidance, or stalked daily by an obsessive zebra?  Probably not. Vicarious living...not such a bad thing.

 Beryl Markham is  self-deprecating, funny, bold and poetic.  I am reading slowly to make the book last longer.

Monday, February 1, 2016


Before I get going on Ove...a short PSA

Due to the predicted snowstorm, Heart-A-Rama auditions scheduled for Tuesday, February 2 have been rescheduled for 7:00, Monday, February 8th at the Capitol Civic Centre.  Those unable to attend the audition can contact Bev Denor by Friday, February 5 at or call her at LaDeDa Books & Beans (682.7040) during regular business hours to schedule an alternative audition time. 

Book trends.   For a while, we were all reading teens in trouble books - Defending Jacob, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Generally, there's a rich kid, a doctor or lawyer parent, and some unspeakable crime that everyone tries to cover up as the world twists around them.  Sometime a surprise ending sneaks up on us as it did in the horrific final scenes of Defending Jacob.  As horrible as the ending was, it left no room for discussion.  The author led us to the exact conclusion she wanted, summing it up in one simple action taken by a desperate parent at the 11th hour.

Before that litany of titles, we had adults behaving badly in Fifty Shades of Gray and all the spin-offs. Written at an embarrassingly junior high level, these tawdry tales spawned far too many offspring for my taste.  There are just not enough synonyms for "throbbing" to keep things interesting.

After that we moved on to the red-herring, missing and or crazy wife stories.  Gone Girl begot The Farm which begot The Good Girl and then The Girl on the Train.  It appears we have grown tired of all  the begettin'   - now we wait for all the movie versions.

Someone stole my baby.  My daughter has been kidnapped/murdered/sold.  Children and the holocaust. they all had their day.  What's trending now?

Cantankerous old men.  A Man Called Ove lit up the European bestseller lists before word of mouth brought it the same notoriety in the U.S.  Written by a Swedish author, the story, the characters and the tone just scream SCANDINAVIAN.  Everything is tidy and functional.  The language is simple,unadorned bu teffective.  Some might say the style is bland - others would call it elegantly understated.  Current publisher catalogues burst with the "next best seller" title about and old, cranky man."  Publicists promise we will laugh, cry, be amazed, and fall in love with the old fellows.

I'm not far enough into Ove to say if any that is true, but the number of customers requesting the title because of friend recommendations tells me this could be a satisfying read.  I have been enjoying all the pronunciations of the title character's name.  OOOOve.  Ohvie. Ave.  And my personal favorite -Oivey.  Of couse I looked up the correct pronunciation, but I'm not telling.  

I'll cut this short so you can get to the store and pick up your bad weather gear and soup makin' ingredients.

Thanks for stopping.
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Remains of the Day

Until he sets off on a six day trip through England's West County, Stevens hadn't considered the idea that his years of dedicated "service" have left him lifeless.  His career caring for the Darlington Hall residents robbed him of family, love, individuality, humor, emotion, opinions - all things that make us human.  In a most telling scene, Stevens leaves the bedside of his dying father to tend to the needs of a group of Nazi supporters meeting at the estate.  The dying wish of the elder Stevens is to talk with his son - to get assurance that he had been a good parent.  Instead, the younger Stevens politely excuses himself, promising to return in the morning.  When his father dies soon after, it is the rest of the downstairs staff that hold vigil, sharing tears and offering prayers until Stevens finishes his butler duties.  

Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize the upstairs/downstairs dynamics as Stevens narrates his story.   But, unlike Downton, there are no fancy fashion parades, spirited dinner parties, or spicy, clandestine affairs. Instead, Stevens experiences humiliation by a group of Fascists who taunt him to reveal personal political opinions. Instead, he maintains the dignity expected of a butler, and continues to assume the position of invisible manservant.  His sad dedication to his master also results in unrealized love and the knowledge that the remains of his life will be spent in much the same way - quietly betraying his own wants for the desires of others.   

Politics figure strongly in Ishoguro's novel, but the profound story of unspoken love is a heart breaker. Funny, our book discussion group recently read The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, a fairytale like offering with a similar theme.  We all agreed that this theme has been done better, with greater significance in works including The French Lieutenant's Woman, Memoirs of a Geisha, and (to the chagrin of my friend Karen) Love in the Time of Cholera.  Now I can add The Remains of the Day to the  growing list a sad, but not sloppy love stories.

Reading this book made me wonder why so many people gravitate to heart breakers.  I suspect that people who have grown up on that genre began with Charlotte's Web, moved on to Little Women, perhaps Jane Eyre or just about anything Dickensian.  If these readers have discovered John Fowles, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, there's a good change we won't find any Danielle Steele on their bookshelves.

Thanks for stopping by

Monday, January 11, 2016

An Observation, a Rant, and a Review

Until today, I have maintained media silence concerning the Netflix docu-drama blatantly asserting wrongdoing on the part of several local law enforcements agencies and our judicial system.  While I will not pill more atop what has already been said by many and read by more, I need to say something about the sad and frightening disrespect show in numerous posts.  Hard to believe, but there are those who have taken a "Blame the victim" stance, a stance which is beyond reprehensible.  Others has taken bold and threatening shots at anyone and everyone involved.  Although these comments may be aimed at a single individual or organization, their impact reaches far beyond.  There are children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers who  will read and be affected by these illogical assumptions.  Believe what you want about what happened, but common sense, compassion and consideration of the far reaching consequences should always be considered before releasing inflammatory words into the permanent world of cyberspace.

Mini rant - After work on Saturday, I ran around with a friend collecting props and costume items for a children's play at UW-Manitowoc.  I was deposited at Goodwill while Chris went to Menard's to spend quality time on a heavy gauge wire hunt.  He apparently got sidetracked by other scintillating hardware items, and so I waited in the outer lobby of GW for him to return.  That store sure is busy.  But, here comes the rant - in the span of 20 minutes, I watched eight people push their carts through the checkout lane, load their items onto the counter, push their carts beyond the end of the counter and walk out.  Fifteen more steps to the left and they could have put the carts back where they got them.   Instead, the always cheerful, young wheelchair-bound cashier spun himself out, maneuvered into a position where he could comfortably reach the cart handle and, little by little, steered it into place.  After the first two, I took over for him until my ride arrived.  I thought about saying "Did you forget to put your cart back?" as each of these able-bodied ninnies left, but then I remembered that we now have concealed carry in Wisconsin.

You know what?  All eight of those inconsiderate shoppers were women.  Five had mullets!  I guess I shouldn't be too judgemental.  I ran around all day with one of my socks inside out.

I'm on the fence about our book discussion selection for Friday night- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.  The Kirkis Review warned that readers who like Nicholas Sparks and Elizabeth Gilbert will like this book.  Those sweet words dripped like honeycomb, and indeed, this sappy story has all the right ingredients.  There's a bitter wife, a long-suffering (albeit brilliant and successful) husband, the chip off one of the other old block daughter, misfits in love, and plenty of philosophical questions.  The trouble is that, embedded in  rambling monologues, the author tells us what questions we are to ask ourselves as we travel through our days.

The flip side?  It's a parable and as such, it has other-worldly, and  at times, fairy-tale nuances.  I don't know how else to describe it other than to say this is a story told in whispers - gentle little moments in the lives of two unlikely protagonists.  Overtones of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha crept in, taking me back to my college days where, for a short period of three of so years, the school offered a Philosophy minor.  Those were the days when everyone discovered Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Hope for the Flowers and had an occasional brush with The Velveteen Rabbit.  Everyone was introspective. Questions were more important than answers.  But, we PH minors, all seven of us, were hard core.  We were studying Marx and Lenin, reading Plato, and measuring our goodness against standards set by Kohlberg in his Moral Reasoning thesis.  We were all dressed up in our togas and  thinking about stuff! Although I don't miss college, I miss those classes and that, I suppose, is the reason this book will land in the LIKE column of my 2016 reading list.

For those who may doubt my mission to make 2016 the "Year of the Mystery" I can assure you, there is mystery here.  We need to know why the unsettled father travels to Burma without a word of good-by to his family. Why has he been silent about the first twenty years of his life?  Why did he marry such a b%$#&?Yup, there's lots to be resolved - and I plan to finish the last frothy forty today - giving me sufficient time to ponder universal questions before going to rehearsal tonight.

Thanks for stopping by
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, January 4, 2016

Back at It

Don't go thinking that since I haven't posted for a couple Mondays, I haven't been reading.  On the contrary, the holiday weeks have been filled with some challenging books - two in particular kept me in the land of weird for while.

On the Run with Mary frequently popped up on rather obscure suggested reading lists.  I like those lists.   In this case, I think the interest stemmed more from what could have been rather than what really is. Jonathan Barrow, promising writer and artist, was killed in a car accident along with his fiance two weeks before their wedding. Barrow was 22.  In an unsettling passage in the book, the narrator witnesses a wedding turning into a funeral.

The narrator of this Catcher-in-the-Rye-Goes-to-the-Dogs story runs aways from an elite boarding school.  In a subway station he meets an unlikely companion, a trash talking dachshund named Mary.  In addition to having a colorful vocabulary, dirty Mary is an alcoholic, nymphomaniac drug addict.  Your read correctly - Mary is a dog - a talking dog with a posh British accent.  

David Mitchell of Cloud Atlas fame has given us Slade House, a Hotel California meets Escher mash-up. Honestly, this book jumped, scurried, hid and surprised too often for me.  Literary vertigo.  Like the Mary book, this takes place in an English working class neighborhood.  The hard to find Slade House beckons only those who are different - the lonely, the precocious, divorced, shy. Slade House residents invite a new person into their midst every nine years.   What happens inside at first excites, but soon the reality hits that no one ever gets to leave.

From there I moved on to a book less challenging for my pea-brain.  After the success of 2015's "Year of Hemingway" I decide to once again declare a theme.  2016 will be filled with mystery starting with Caroline Graham who created DCI Tom Barnaby, the lead detective in the PBS Midsomer Murder series.  Quite a collection of eccentrics live in and around the picture perfect English village of Badger's Drift - the bumbling local doctor, the gardening spinster, and the creepy funeral home worker As in the TV series, numerous people drop dead before the final nail is in the coffin.  Not a cozy mystery by any stretch, Graham peppers this novel with clandestine love affairs, spicy language and plenty of innuendo.  Thanks to Caroline Graham, my year of mystery is off to a jolly good start.

Next up - our book group selection, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Trip to Trinidad (and a minor rant)

When was the last time I was tempted to blow off other responsibilities in order to keep turning pages? Olive Kitteridge, perhaps.  Or maybe The Road.  My fondness for books set in exotic places drew me to 'Til the Well runs Dry, and my common sense told me not to even read the blurbs or I'd be hooked and nothing would get accomplished until I finished the book.  I keep the store open longer if needed during the holidays to be sure that everyone who needs a book for Christmas gets a book  Then, what about all the other holiday prep fun (I wouldn't call it prep work, because it isn't that, it rally is prep fun for me).  No time to sink into an involved story.  If you're thinking that I must have hit the snooze button on my common sense alarm, you are correct.  

What I discovered was another one of those hard to put down stories - beginning in 1940 Trinidad and focusing on the strength of then 16 year-old, Marcia Garcia. Strong-willed smart-mouthed Marcia protects a family secret with a passion that leads to threatening entanglements and political misbehavior.  

These characters are stunning and the author lets us experience their physical and emotional evolution over twenty years.  Marcia's four children, her fair weather husband, ruthless uncle and the manipulative obeah woman all twist and turn in Marcia's life on an island "rich with laughter, calypso, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews...".  

This book mesmerizes and transports.  Putting it down to do play adult for a day or so isn't so bad.  It makes the reading last longer.  My friend Pat once told me about a book that made her happy just looking at it and touching the cover.  I understand that now.

Extra bits....I seldom (if ever) comment negatively about people with whom I interact.  But, here's a big, bold, Grinchy message to the sales rep who just left tyring to sell me advertising's not a bright idea to open your pitch with "I suppose there aren't many people beating down the doors to buy a book theses days."  FYI fellow, book sales were up 6% nationally last month.  There has been consistent growth throughout 2015 and numerous indie bookstores have opened their doors or expanded. Here at LaDeDa we have felt the resurgence of interest in small, independent business, and thanks to loyal customers and gracious, personable staff, we are thriving after nearly twenty years.  Oh, guess what, I may have just talked myself out of needing your services.  

Please excuse that outburst.  The rest of my world is filled with unicorns.

Thanks for stopping by.
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dear Santa

Some letters are torn. Others are stained (peanut butter being the most popular), folded, crumpled, creased into paper airplanes.  They are written in crayon, marker, pen, pencil and on computer.  Some have been illustrated and some have been given an assist from mom or dad.  The grammar is often atrocious and the spelling worse - but one thing is for sure, these letters are loaded with charm.

Head Elf, Pat Koch sifted through thousands of letters to compile this silly and often heartwarming collection of letters from the 1930-'s through the present.  Pat lives in Santa Claus, Indiana - yes, that is a real place. In 1930, her father began helping the Postmaster of SC, Indiana answer each and every Santa letter that passed through the local office.  When he grew too ill to continue, Pat moved home and took over without missing a single jingle.  Lucky for us she has generously shared the joys of her work.

Whether the envelopes come with stamps or without, are addressed to "The Big Red Guy on Jingle Bell Lane" of simply "To Santa", for over 100 years, millions of these letters have poured into Santa Claus, Indiana from all parts of the world.  The are candid, warm, whimsical, and often blunt.  One child hopes to make life better with a time machine. An adult woman asks for a man.  

I have two personal favorites.  A boy asking for his own elf at first agrees to return the little  guy to the North Pole after a pre-determined length of time. By the end of the letter, he has reconsidered that offer and says it would be best if he just kept the elf and gave Santa updates every three months or so.  

Flipping through the book I stopped randomly on a letter from the 90's.  This kid is probably a CEO in some Fortune 500 company by this time.  He gives Santa some advice in his letter which I'm paraphrasing because if I start to hunt for it again, I'll get lost reading and not get back to this post for a while.  Basically, he advises Santa saying "You've got a big night ahead of you.  Don't eat a big meal; that will slow you down.  Your'best course of action is to get in, leave the gifts and get out."  CEO material, right?

This is definitely  a keepsake book.  And, who knows, maybe you'll find your letter to Santa inside.  

Thanks for stopping by
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, November 30, 2015

Short Stuff

Not much to say...full weekend...0 reading!

But...I watched a fascinating PBS show on the history of British crime novels ans writers.  Truth - I have never read an Agatha Christie mystery.  I will do so soon.

That's all I have for you today.
LaDeDa Bev out!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Place of Thanks

Several years ago, this book was being read on NPR's "Chapter A Day" program.  I heard part of one episode before my radio began to crackle and pop, but I knew I wanted to read the book.  Of course, that day was the last chapter and the Internet lacked content in those olden days, so there seemed to be little chance of figuring out the title. When I spotted it recently at Goodwill, I just knew - this is it.  I grabbed it and ran - apologies to my more visual readers.

Lots of people trace their bloodlines and make fascinating, shocking, and heartwarming discovers along the way -but  the genealogy of a house? What a crazy idea.  The folks who owned James Morgan's house included a soft-drink bottler, VA loan officer, a secretary of a U.S. congressman, a civil engineer, a housewife, a theatre director, medical technologist, Medicare system analyst, teacher, entrepreneur gone bust, and two writers.  Morgan spends painstaking hours uncovering each story and recounts it with energetic detail and dignity.

Of course this got me thinking about my own house.  Three owners, a pair of sisters (I'm counting them as one), a hospital administrator and me.  That's about all I know.  Sure, there are things I want to know like why did the administrator dig up all the scrubs and cart them away when he moved, and who planned the beyond illogical kitchen layout?

Even more unexpectedly, my thoughts turned to my store, my funny looking, cobbled together building where so much has happened.  People often ask me how much longer I plan to stay in business.  Who knows?  The thought of not coming here every day saddens me.  Heck, how can I even think of closing when I have customers who worry about me when I am gone for more than two days in a row?  And what about my blogsters -Lauran who gets concerned when a post doesn't appear until Tuesday, or Pat, who advises that even when I have nothing to say, I should at least write one paragraph?  

 On days when bookish things are not happening, I sometimes think of this space as a giant office where I "twiddle and resolve" (to quote a line from one of my favorite musicals). Heart-A-Rama work gets done here, as well as other theatre and writing projects.  Other times LaDeDa a warm, funky drawing room where I greet guests.

This is the place where old friendships have been renewed and strengthened, and new friendships have evolved.  It is here where Colleen's five children would make their annual Christmas stop, lining up in age order to give me a holiday hug.  It is here where former students find me and we catch up; and yes, some have even apologized for creative challenges offered in my classes.  LaDeDa was Mimi's first stop on her way home from the hospital days after being born, and where her her cousin Walter sang a rousing version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in the middle of July.

Lovely Fran.  Puny James.  Exuberant Amelia. Steve the wordsmith.  World's best pasta sauce maker - Lisa...I've met them and so many more  because of this quirky building.  They entered as customers.  They became friends.  So many faces, so many families.  

I can't forget my dog pals who drop by and know exactly where the treats are stored.
Jose (accent over the e, please) , Trixie.  Bella. Charlie. Sydney. Ella.  

Employees.  There's not enough time or space to honor each by sharing what they have brought to my life. Some stay for a short time and move on.  Others stay forever - connecting when and how we can - always moving forward but not forgetting the times we shared here.

This store, the job earned me the first nickname I ever had...
LaDeDa Bev is thankful for this life.  

Eat turkey (except for Becky who will eat something foolish like tofu.)

Thanks for stopping by.