Monday, April 25, 2016

I've Been Duped


A glass house deep in the woods.  Limited access due to snow.  Old friends mysteriously reunited.  Ouija board.  Dead telephone lines.  These are the bones of one heck of a thriller - or perhaps a lighter, Agatha Christie-ish mystery.  No!  Total disappointment especially in light of learning that Reese Witherspoon has purchased the movie rights.  Reese Witherspoon can do no wrong where I'm concerned - but this could just bump her down a few notches on my list of favorite actors.

Really.  Four women and one man gather for a "hen" party at a remote home in rural England.  The bride to be set off alarms for me on page one, and well, there was nothing to from that point but follow my nose to the end.  Seldom do I figure out a who-dunnit and I took no great pleasure in solving this transparent crime as quickly as I did.  The clues were laid out like Hansel and Gretel's bread curmbs, and the narrator talked me right through the motive, means and opportunity of each character so early on that one by one, each was  ruled out.  Perhaps the fact that the narrator was suffering from partial amnesia should have thrown me off, but not even that could cast doubt on the perpetrator of this revenge plot.  

You all know how I felt about Gone Girl; this book makes Gone Girl seem like a work of art.  I can find no redeeming qualities other that it somehow tricked me into reading to the bitter end.  To be fair, I might be a little cranky from lack of sleep since Heart-A-Rama opens Thursday.  Maybe I'll give this book a second go when I more awake.  After all, I did change my mind about Ove so.....

Sadly, I had two play scripts on my desk to consider for all at UW-Manitowoc and I passed them by to wander through a dark, dark wood.

Oh well......
Thanks for stopping...don't forget....get your Heart-A-Rama tickets and help save lives!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Baby Girl

Everyone has a story.  Some stories are about beginnings, others - endings.  Some are happy, -others not so much.  Yet, each story inhabits a place in someone's personal history, moving them, directing them and shaping them.  Baby Girl is one of those stories.  

You know from past posts that if I were to list my least favorite characteristics in fiction, sentimentality and inspiration would top the list.  But when a friend handed me this book and announced that it is her story, those characteristics paled in light of the bravery and resilience shone in the main character. 

 Let me explain.  Although the author clearly identifies and thanks the local woman whose life became the road map for this book, I will refer to her only as "C".  C wandered into my store years ago; it might have even been in our former location.  She was bright, exuberant, and gentle even though the tiny glimpses she gave me into her life had me shaking me head and wondering how she had risen above her challenges.  At the time, C was living in a totally unorthodox dwelling, but she made it seem special, almost exotic.  Little did I know hoe much angst that "home" represented, nor did I have any inkling of all that led to her living in that awkward space.

Baby Girl is about losing and finding.  Giving up a baby girl for adoption marks the mid-point of C's sorrows, but also makes the beginning of C leaving her inner baby girl behind and growing into a strong, confident woman.  The path C takes to get to today tricks her, trips her and sends her spinning in a million directions.  Still, she beats down the enemies one by one with wit and intelligence.  Throw in a nice dose of stubbornness and you've got the perfect mix for success.  And whether she believes it or not, C is a success.  
I have to be honest here and say that the writing style is quite simple... without a lot of artistry.  However, the succinct word choice and linear plot development are solid.  The important element in the book is the main character, a fictional representation of my friend C.  Betty Lee Crosby allows that character to shine through the darkness.

C, thank you for trusting me enough  to share this with me.  I hope you are proud of who you are.  I am happy we are friends.

Thanks for stopping by.
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Bit of Nastiness


Admit it.  You saw the movie  Heathers and in a cringe-worthy sort of way you enjoyed the dark comedy about high school cliques.  It seems not much has changed in the twisted world of  popularity where the social leaders are both loved and feared.  A catty word thrown in the right direction, or a dubiously raised eyebrow can destroy reputations.  Not all campaigns of destruction are that subtle, however. Let's not forget about the power of rumor, both real and fictional, friendship betrayal and overt bullying.  All of that sounds horrid and dicey, but that movie is so campy, it's hard to turn away in disgust.

Eating the Cheshire Cat is Heathers for the new generation of readers who may have themselves been scorned by the high school royalty and who now, older, wiser and distanced from those days, love to laugh at the transparent feats some people went to to remain the focus of everyone's attention.  In this book, even the mom's get into the picture.  Remember the bizarre case of the Texas cheerleader mom who tired to have her daughter's main cheer competitor killed?  People like that really exist - who knew. 

Helen Ellis's book takes us to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where we see the lives of three girls and their mothers collide.  Sarina wants it all - so much so that in the opening scene, her mother fills her with whisky to numb the pain of breaking her daughter's misshapen pinkie fingers.  Nicole is not only Sarina's best friend, but she is obsessed with her.  Killer obsessed, perhaps.  I'm not far enough into the story to say that for sure, but there are surprises on every page and I wouldn't doubt that a failed murder plot will bubble soon.  

I can't forget Bitty Jack Carlson, the bed-wetting camper who, for some reason always winds up in the top bunk much to the chagrin of the lower occupant.  Bitty, a nice girl, gets caught between the two "pretty' girls, and after a lengthy romance with a sideshow star billed as Johnny Iguana, she inadvertently falls into a relationship with a college boy who years earlier had been manipulated into bits of naughtiness with Sarina.  

Fast and furious.  That's all I can say.  Ellis's writing sometimes confuses with an overuse of pronouns, but the plot snaps along like a fresh and finely tuned soap opera.  You can tear through this book in an afternoon and not be disappointed with the time you spent with this dark, diabolical and ridiculously unethical cast of southern socialites.

I haven't yet figured out what the title or the cover image means.  I'm guessing it has something to do with falling into a rabbit hole.....

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ove Again




Seldom do I change my tune about a book.  My initial reading of Ove left me cold; basically, the utilitarian style annoyed me.  I found the writing rigid , lacking rhythm or any sort of dynamic variety.  Also, the story relies heavily on flashbacks, a technique I don't care for in movies and find it equally as distracting in novels.  
When our book group chose toe read this book, I decided to concentrate on the character rather than the trapping, and guess what?  I am enjoying the story of the ersatz crabby old man.  If you're a fan of PBS's Doc Martin, you have a pretty good idea of what Ove is like.  His straight forward manner borders on bully behavior, but (gotta admit it) those flashbacks inject information about how and why he honestly came by his ways.

Ove is frustrated by planned obsolescence, over-specialization and technology.  He believes that people should own and do "just enough."  Any more than that complicates one's life.

A point comes in Ove's life where we begin to see him loosen up.  He shares more.  He is quicker to react and to reach out.  At that some point, the pace of the writing quickens, making this a more enjoyable read for me than it was in the first 100 or so pages.  The author sprinkles the story with clever lines - mainly in  meta type unspoken thoughts seen through the eyes of an omniscient narrator.  And there's symbolism in the most unexpected forms - a cat and a pregnant woman.  
  
About 150 pages to go.  With Heart-A-Rama getting closer, I'm not sure how consistently I will be posting but stop back anyway.

Chatter - on Friday night my friend, Mary, and I took a risk and went to one of the painting with wine sessions.  OK - we didn't paint with wine, we were offered wine while we painted.  The facilitator, Amy Zander, was knowledgeable and patient.  She had us paint a Kandinsky inspired work.  Of the twenty plus people there, I'd say about five pieces were quite impressive, including Mary's.  We were pleasantly surprised to find Angie, another book club member there painting as well.  We always knew that Angie has art in her soul, and her painting rocked.  Mine will not be hanging in a gallery anytime soon.  But, it was fun, and - watch out Amy- I might be coming  back!

Thanks for stopping by
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, March 28, 2016

Missoula


Allison Huguet was raped.  Her rapist, longtime friend, Beau Donaldson, enjoyed a stellar reputation as a high school and college football hero...a hero, who, in the eyes of many, could not have committed such a terrible act.  Allison's story twists and turns through the justice system, challenging the victim's stamina and questioning her recall and intentions.  The details of the process baffle especially as Krakauer cites case after case not unlike Allison's.

This is the text from the bottom of the front cover, "Missoula, Montana is a typical college town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police.  Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities.  In this, Missoula is also typical."

Krakauer, noted researcher and author of Under the Banner of Heaven, uses a four year period in the social history of  Missoula University as a case study from which to draw frightening evidence of college campus rapes and the systemic dismissal of these crimes.  Although he highlights the experiences of only five young women, Krakauer's relentless digging uncovers the mortifying reality that the Missoula campus is not an anomaly.

At times I felt as if I were reading a script from Law and Order SVU, but then I had to remind myself that these true accounts scream of a scourge of disrespect, violence and dishonesty toward women.  The Anita Hill case raised the consciousness of our nation and many people, at least in voice, chose a more sensitive  way of interacting each other.  Now I wonder if those old habits - the name calling, the badgering, the belief that some people are less and deserve less than others - simply burrowed underground for a while.

Although not an easy book to read from an emotional perspective, I would suggest that any parent sending someone off to college read and discuss this book with their son or daughter.

Now back to A Man Called Ove.  I'm not enjoying it any more than I did the first time around, but I am finding much to admire about Ove.  And I'm taking notes, arming myself for our April book discussion meeting.

Thanks to Steph K. for telling me about Missoula and...
Thanks for stopping by.
LaDeDa Bev

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baby Bunnies In Cups...Happy Easter...Turn up the Sound...There's Fun Music

Hopefully you noticed that  I avoided the temptation to say "Hoppy" Easter.  The bunny owner assures everyone that no bunnies were harmed while making the video.  In fact, these five are featured in several adorable posts on YouTube.

What am I reading?  My friend Connie suggested House of Sand and Fog, and older book with an Oprah sticker on the cover.  Dogs on the cover, weather conditions on the cover, Oprah sticker on the cover - nope!  Not reading those books.  Thank you to Connie for reading this on her most recent exotic adventure which included margaritas and beaches.  I am savoring this book and can't wait to discuss it with her.  When I'm done, it's round two with A Man Called Ove.  Ove and I didn't hit if off the first time I read the book, but it's our book club choice and I will read it again and happily discuss!

Chocolate eggs are calling you name, aren't they?
Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Two Books and a Funny Letter

Because I broke one of my reading rules, I was not able to post last week. You see, I attempted to read two books at once - OK, not simultaneously, but I did have two books in progress over the past weeks, and that just doesn't work for me. Consequently, I had not read enough in either one to say anything substantial.  But YAY me...I have finally  finished both of these challenging works.

I read Jubilee for the first time in college. I wonder how I made it through this novel considering I read slowly and surely faced other copious reading requirements at the time.  If you have read Gone with the Wind or have seen the movie, you'll have a reference point from which to approach this civil war novel. The difference? This is told from the slave's point of view. We all learned about slavery in high school, but Walker's book shows the reality of how people were treated because of something as arbitrary as skin color with an intensity that just didn't come across in history books.  Walker tells the story of Vyry - a story she knows all too well because it is the story of her great-grandmother who was freed from slavery exactly 100 years before Walker finished her manuscript. This book made me angry, embarrassed, and sadly forced me question how much society's attitudes have changed.


A Deadly  Wandering was gruelling in totally different ways.  Rather than me trying to capsulize...this is what the back of the book succinctly tells us.....Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist, Matt Richtel interweaves the cutting edge science of attention with the tensely plotted story of a mysterious car accident and its aftermath to answer some of the defining questions of our time:  What is technology doing to us? Can our minds keep up with the pace of change? How can we find balance?  Richtel parallels the accident information with leading edge scientific findings on the impact of technology on our brains, showing how these devices play into our deepest social instincts. This is a book that can change - and save - lives.

Now, on to lighter fare.  I get all sorts of new book promos. Those coming  from established, reputable publishers  are tastefully done, accompanied by skillful marketing materials.  Not so much for the little letter from Lord Christian Halliday, touting the glories of his book, Memoirs of a Gigolo.  I'll spare you most of the contents of the letter, but to say it was filled with double entendre would be an understatement. In this book his life will be "laid bare....across the sheets intriguingly bound between two covers."  He teases readers to "expose" themselves to his provocative content.  He ends the letter by encouraging me to pour a glass of wine, light a fire and "enjoy your time alone with me."  

Yup...and his book is the first of a trilogy about his gigolo years.  After that he's starting another trilogy.  I have tried in vain to find a picture of this guy and to uncover his real name.  For all we know the Lord is some little old lady pounding away on her Underwood at her kitchen table in Scranton. 

There will be a fabulous prize for the first person who can find a photo (and no, it will not be copy of his book.)

Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Freezing!

Do you ever have days of being totally unfocused?  That's where I'm at today.  Below zero temps have frozen my storefront door shut.  Who's coming out today anyway?  At least one person is out and about.  I watched her read the sign explaining about the frozen door and requesting that customers round the corner and use the 17th street entrance.  For some reason, she chose not to do that; hopped back in her car and headed off.  

With the potential of few (or no) customers, I made up my "To Be Do" list which included some new and some long neglected tasks.  Nothing, repeating...nothing has been accomplished.  Oh, I got some Heart-A-Rama emails sent, but that's about it.  This lack of focus comes on the heels of a disturbing weekend epiphany.  I've been thinking it's time to cut back on theatre for a lot of reasons I won't go into.  I was happily calculating all the free time I will have when it hit me - I don't sing in a church choir, or any choir for that matter; no one would want me.  I don't play bridge, poker or bowl.  Knitting and crocheting - nope. Rope jumping or anything of that ilk - no thank you.   I whittled the list of things I don't do all the way down to stamp collecting - which I might be capable of, but have no interest in.  So, if I cut back on theatre, what will I do?  How will I get a creative fix?  People close to me know that I am basically a crank, but when the right side of my brain is not getting a workout...well, then "cranky" doesn't begin to cover it.

Reading is always a fine option.  My year of murder and mayhem continues with this novel set in Victorian London.  In 1840, London is experiencing a recession and nineteen year-old Catherine Sorgeriul pretty much stays locked away in her room.  Catherine's the nervous type, and the pervasive feeling of desolation and fear throughout London prevents her from feeling secure - that and a series of murders of young women.  

The graphic details of the crimes are hard to read; Catherine uses the details provided in newspaper accounts and begins writing stories about the victims.  She also writes about the perpetrator and then the trouble begins for her.  

Fast paced and gritty.  Great book for a snowy day or a below zero self-imposed hibernation.

It's Me! I'm Back!


SHHH!  You-Know-Who has been quiet for a few hours now, reading something called Jubilee.  Now's my chance to catch you up on what I've been reading, and believe me, I have read so much since I last commandeered the keyboard - two whole books in less than six month.  I'd call that a triumph.


YKW left this one laying around which I believe was a subtle hint that I should read more.  This author thinks so, too.  He talks all about how sometimes simple things like books with pages and words and pictures are so much better than things with buttons and sliders and beepers.  Maybe I do spend too much time scheming about how to get my paws on YKW's gadgets. The pictures and the little hidden messages made me want to keep looking and looking and then look some more.  It also made me want to meet  up with a couple others from my nation and stroll around and look.  I bet I have been missing a lot and now with spring about to pop, well, I'll do just that.  Looking, smelling, discovering, wondering and then some sleeping to recover from all that thinking and imagining.


This next book was a doozie - I laughed, I cried - there was all sorts of drama.  This book  gets four tail wags and a snausage.   Now, don't judge me because this book was about a bear and some geese.  I know that I usually pick books about my kind, but people, you have to read outside your comfort zone once in a while.
 Bruce the bear loves eggs.  He doesn't like them raw so he looks ups up recipes on the Internet.  He buys organic and shops locally.  Gotta love that bear.  The trouble starts when his goose eggs hatch and those silly babies imprint on him.  Bruce tries to send them on their way, but they love him too much to leave.  He wants to hibernate, but how can he when he has gosling to tend?

 Poor Bruce.  I feel his pain.  I feel his pain every Sunday when YKW isn't at work where she belongs.  9 a.m. is my time to lounge under the dining room table where the sun from the deck doors seeps in and covers my corner of the world with happiness.  What does she do?  She sits down a couple feet away and starts pounding on the piano.  Not a pretty sound.  Sometimes even she hears how ugly it sounds and that's when I learn a few new words. When the sun moves, so do I.  YKW talks to me.  She shoos me around as she creates Sunday chaos.  I place my doo-dads exactly where I want them throughout the week and by the end of Sunday, I have to start all over because she has collected them.  Yes, I know how Bruce feels having his day disrupted and his freedom curtailed.

Today, I will hold a leap day celebration.  I already stopped to visit a neighbor and return some mis-delivered mail.  They had treats!  What a day!  Heading off to the dining room.....

Lots of licks to ya....
GB, the Dog Blogger

Monday, February 22, 2016

Let's Got Cookin'

Last weekend, Christopher Kimball, host of Cooks' Country on PBS talked briefly about cookbooks not so cleverly disguised as product promos.  I knew that somewhere in the basement pile-o-stuff, I would find a few of these - and I did.  The unsophisticated artwork, most done in primary colors, accompany pages of recipes for product related enticements, most of which have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Take this Chiquita Banana recipe booklet for starters.  A fun little rebus opens the book, telling me how to determine if my banana is ripe or overripe.  Throughout, an adorable banana girl dressed as Carmen Miranda points out items of interest on each page. Maybe we could all try ham and banana rolls in  a sharp cheese sauce. Pan fried bananas with hamburger patties and whole carrots, anyone? One yummy recipe follows another, filling all 23 pages.  Page twenty-four warns "DON'T SKIP THESE HOW-TO-DO-ITS".  Here I learned how to buy a banana, ripen it, flatten, slice mash and generally pulverize the fruit.  I also discovered why doctors, children, teens, athletes, slender women and old folks all love bananas.  Thank you to the Home Economics Department of  the United Fruit Company of New York.


Not much can top a banana, salmon, celery and mayo salad, unless it is something you prepare in your new waterless cookware while wearing an evening gown.  Stylish like the model pictured here, this must-have addition  to your cookware collection has a low, sleek profile and the phenolic handles and knobs complement the glowing stainless steel finish.  It seems a lot can go wrong when cooking in a waterless gadget since the trouble shooting section is longer than the suggested recipes.  


These pamphlets will keep you laughing and give you insight into simpler times.  One cook writes to Glabber Girl - the Healthy BakingPowder - saying "At first, I was frightened of Glabber Girl but now that I am used to using it, my husband says he likes my biscuits better each day."  Hmmmmm

Then there's the 10 Cakes Husbands Like Best cookbook courtesy of Spry shortening.  You can bake a Chocolate Rapture Cake or a Hawaiian Lei cake - pun intended I assume.  And what loving wife would not want to spend time with her husband after feeding him spicy prune whip cake moistened  with 1/2 cup prune juice, packed with chopped prunes and glued together with prune frosting?

My favorite is a collection of postcard size recipes, tied together at the top with yarn.  They appear to be Pennsylvania Dutch recipes with hand-written notes alongside most.  Schnitz un knepp is some sort of ham, boiled with apples and smothered in dumplings.  The sidenote says "When it gives schnitz unknepp we eat and eat till it gets all."  At the bottom someone has written "A short prayer and a big sausage" and "Even a bird knows enough to rest after dinner."  

What treasures.  I wonder what other treasures will be unearthed as I continue my basement rejuvenation project.

Thanks for stopping by.