Reading list

I don’t update this blog anymore, so I’ve decided to keep a simple monthly reading list here. For convenience, I’m using Amazon links and my own rating system.

Nook books
The Last Child – John Hart **** – kept me turning the pages
Full Dark, No Stars – Stephen King ** too gruesome for me – read only the first two stories
Stiltsville – Susanna Daniel *** sounded promising, but turned out to be too much romance
The Weird Sisters – Eleanor Brown – *** interesting concept, but just okay for me
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin  **** I thoroughly enjoyed this southern mystery – excellent characters, a page-turner
Half Broke Horses – Jeannette Walls ****1/2  Not as bizarre as The Glass Castle, but a darned good story – highly recommend as the backstory to Glass Castle
Emily and Einstein – Linda Francis Lee – *** – chick lit, but I liked the characters and concept – recommend for light reading
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party – Alexander McCall Smith – the latest installment in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency proves as engaging as all the others. I adore these characters and this series. If you’re a fan, you will not be disappointed. Yay for the tiny white van!
Rosewater and Soda Bread – Marsha Mehran – **** Sequel to Pomegranate Soup. I enjoyed it immensely. Yummy reading!
The Peach Keeper – Sarah Addison Allen – My favorite of hers so far
The Language of Trees – Ilie Ruby – debut novel. Excellent!
Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire – Margot Berwin
The Moonflower Vine – Jetta Carleton
Among Others – Jo Walton
The Butterfly’s Daughter – Mary Alice Monroe
Violets of March – Sarah Jio
The Bird Sisters – Rebecca Rasmussen
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O-Farrell

The Red Garden – Alice Hoffman – ****1/2 read in two sittings. Loved as much as Blackbird House.
The Lost Summer of Lousia May Alcott – yay!

The Sunday Philosophy Club – Alexander McCall Smith *** Not bad, but not as good as The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Will not pursue this series.
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls – ***** one of my favorite memoirs ever and first 5-star this year
Off Season – Ann Rivers Siddon – ??? – I was impressed by the writing, but confounded by the ending. Not sure how to rate this one.
At Home – Bill Bryson – **** Bill covered everything and more this time, but it became tedious at times.
Blessings – Anna Quindlan – **** – Good story, characters I cared about, perfect reader
Life Lessons –
Portrait in Sepia – Isabel Allende
Any Place I Hang My Hat – Susan Isaacs – the most tedious, obnoxious book I’ve ever read or heard, but I was stuck with it in the car for a few days.


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Audiobooks: When the reader makes or breaks a book

I have almost finished listening to This One and Magic Life by Anne Carroll George.

Anne George (c.____ – 2001) was the Agatha Award-winning author of the Southern Sisters mystery series which culminate in Murder Boogies with Elvis, publishing in August 2001. Like Patricia Anne, she was a happily married former school teacher living in Birmingham, Alabama. Ms. George was also a former Alabama State Poet and a regular contributor to literary publications. During her lifetime she was nominated for several awards, including the Pulitzer. Being a true lady of the Old South, her date of birth will forever be a mystery.

Anne was a dear personal friend. She sent this book to me shortly before her death. She told me that she felt that it was her best work and referred to it as her book about forgiveness. It has been a very long time since a book has moved me so deeply. I recommend it highly. Don’t expect to find the wonderful, silly Southern Sisters anywhere in these pages. DO expect to find grace in all its guises– as beauty, as elegance and, yes, Anne, as forgiveness and redemption. It grieves me that we lost this magnificent writer before she could write more books like this one. DO read her poetry, as well. (review from Amazon)

I had never heard of the author. I found the above information after checking out the audiobook. And I found this, too.

The book was among our nearest  library branch’s very limited audio offerings. And I’m sure it is a wonderful read, but as an audiobook? Well. Here’s the beef.

Why can’t anyone nail a southern accent? Or better yet, why are actors and actresses called upon to narrate these works, when a native could do SO MUCH BETTER?

The reader may as well be Vivian Leigh trying to play many parts. Good lord, all southern women do NOT sound alike.  The men in particular sound just plain ridiculous.

Every single character sounds fake – at best, either drunk or half-asleep. I have to struggle to hear the fine writing behind this pathetic rendering. The book has its magical moments, but personally, picturing the dark-skinned, 10-year-old May (Mai?) from South America talking like mealy-mouth Melanie in GWTW is a bit much.

So to all of the audiobook producers out there: Get some readers with authentic accents to deliver these books. My sister has a good speaking voice and just enough of a southern accent to do the job. C’mon! Do justice to these fine works.

Thanks. I feel better already.


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Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon.comI’ve been reading poetry on this first day of the Celtic New Year, or the Day of the Dead, or whatever it’s called in other cultures. I think I’m safe in saying that it’s a holy day for many people around the world. I’ve duplicated this post on my journal blog., but my reading blog is where it belongs.  I cropped some of my own photos as illustrations.
altarAutumn Movement by Carl Sandburg
I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.

The Autumn by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.


Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

As Summer into Autumn slips by Emily Dickinson

lureAs Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
“The Summer” than “the Autumn,” lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved —

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life’s Declivity.

To Autumn by William Blake
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

‘The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

‘The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.



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Inside their heads

Have you read anything lately that is entirely introspective? You know, all of the action takes place inside the characters’ heads or in their conversations.

I ask because I am listening to such an audiobook, and I want to scream – DO something! GO somewhere! Get in trouble, for crying out loud! Make SOMETHING happen!

I am by no means a fan of action-packed fiction, and I generally love following the thought processes of characters. But when that’s ALL there is, well, I get bored.

Anyone else tired of an author’s navel gazing?

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Sunday Salon: Genre Jumping

The Sunday

Fall arrived here in NC sometime yesterday evening, accompanied by the Harvest Moon. She was beautiful. Temperatures dropped about 10 degrees today, and the air was crisp. Just perfect for reading on the front porch – although yesterday was also lovely.

This weekend I read Stardust by Neil Gaiman. What a perfect way to begin the month of October, which ends in a night full of ghosts, goblins, mischief, magic, and mystery, all of which are present in abundance in this so-called fairy tale for adults. The fact that the moon figures prominently in this short read enhanced my experience, I’m sure. I’m not a big fan of the faerie genre by any means, but I loved this little gem. It was the perfect antidote to the Gothic pulp that is The Angel’s Game.

Now I’m reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.  Although I have finished only the first three of the thirteen tales, I can already tell that this will be a favorite. I love books that are constructed this way – a series of stories with a linking character or element. Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman remains at the top of my most-loved books. But in Olive Kitteridge, the character, not a house, is the uniting theme, and this character is promising indeed. (Wendy, if you happen to check in, I think you would love this book.)

The year that followed – was it the happiest year of his own life? He often thought so, even knowing that such a thing was foolish to claim about any year of one’s life;  but in his memory, that particular year held no thoughts of an end, and when he drove to the pharmacy in the early morning darkness of winter, then later in the breaking light of spring, the full-throated summer opening before him, it was the samll pleasures of his work that seemed in their simplicities to fill him to the brim.

This year, I’m not mourning the passing of summer as usual. Seasons change, and so will I, as the song goes.

Happy reading by the autumn fire to all.


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Changed my blog name

…because it reflects my reading tastes, and also because the former title was lame.

So, lately I read The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I do not recommend. But that’s just me, and I don’t review books. I just say if I like them or not.

As a measure of how much I did not like this book, I read the last few pages over about three nights. We’re talking 50 pages to go – an easy one-hour stretch.  In other words, I didn’t care what happened to the protagonist. Never cared for him from the beginning.

On the listening  front, I finished The Floribama Ladies Auxiliary and Sewing Circle. And although the title was never explained in the book – or in any review for that matter – I identified more with the characters. I cared about them, as I did not care about David Martin (of The Angel’s Game).

I do care about this poem. I wanted to read it for a dear friend’s memorial service yesterday, but I lacked the confidence and talent. Here is one of my favorite authors reading the poem I want when it is my day.


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I read many of the book bloggers, but I haven’t seen this question yet:

What book features your favorite ending? Please provide a spoiler-free answer.

Being a Southern gal, I am Gone with the Wind:

After all, tomorrow is another day.

What is your favorite final line?


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