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Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Beginnings: Here Is Where

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Here Is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll

"Here is where it all began: the Exchange Place PATH station in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan."

What happened there? One night in 1863 (or 1864), Robert Todd Lincoln fell between the loading platform and a train. He was rescued by Edwin Booth. And there is no historical marker to note this amazing historic event. Just as there is no historical marker to mark any of the events in this book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: In the Unlikely Event

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:


In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Synopsis from GoodReads:
When a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within a three-month period in 1951–1952, Judy Blume was a teenager. “These events have lingered in my mind ever since,” says Blume. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.”

Against this background, Blume uses her imagination to bring us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly. But life goes on and Blume digs

deep into her characters—we see them coping not only with grief but with first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between. . . .

Most important, In the Unlikely Event is filled with the same warmth and authenticity that have won Blume the hearts and minds of readers of all generations.

Publishing June 2, 2015 by Knopf.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays: The Girl on the Train

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins p. 26

"I stop at the corner and peer into the underpass. That smell of cold and damp always sends a little shiver down my spine, it's like turning over a rock to see what's underneath: moss and worms and earth."

Great job of setting this scene! I know just what she's describing. I hate those kinds of underpasses as well and avoid them if possible. They're always creepy, no matter what.

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

There's been a lot of comparisons of The Girl on the Train to Gone Girl, and I can sort of see why--they're both thrillers with female protagonists and unreliable narrators--but the parallels are pretty thin. I for one liked it better than Gone Girl. I found it more suspenseful, more emotional, and I liked the unreliable narrators here more (there are three narrators). I felt that they were unreliable in a normal way, like how all of us misremember things, have a slightly different perspective on an incident than the other people involved, rather than being manipulative. True, one narrator is omitting an important detail, without which the book would have been half as long and not suspenseful, but I think an omission is different than a lie. For that matter, I think it was the author, not the narrator, omitting that. That narrator certainly knew who she was talking about, even if we readers didn't.

So every day on her way to work, Rachel's train stops at this one spot on the tracks where Rachel can see into the backyard and kitchen of a particular house. The couple she sees there seem ideal to her--happy, loving, fun. She imagines what their lives must be like--so different from hers. She's divorced, heavily drinking, and actually not really going to work but instead going to wander around London for eight hours so her roommate won't find out she's been fired. Then one day Rachel sees something she shouldn't. And the next day, the wife is missing. She needs to tell someone, but who, and how can she get them to believe her? She gets pulled into the mystery, and it gets much more complicated than she had imagined.

I found the suspense that Ms. Hawkins creates so subtle and skillful that at times I almost didn't want to keep reading, because I was so worried about what would happen to Rachel. But I also was compelled to keep going. I found the depiction of someone in active alcoholism very fascinating, along with the requisite memory gaps. Rachel managed both to have mostly created her own misery, and yet be sympathetic. The three narrative characters were very interestingly drawn, three-dimensional characters, who often looked very different from the other narrator's perspectives. The alternating point of view I found very effective here. Not only did it allow for showing us scenes where the main character wasn't there, but it showed how Rachel (and the others) look to outsiders, how our internal view of ourselves conflicts with how others see us, and how it's so much easier to empathize when you know a person's history. So it an action-packed thrilled, but also a deep study in psychology and messed up people. An excellent escape when you need a distraction, but not fluffy or silly. It's a fast and fun read.

My mother sent me a copy of this book.

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. I am going to be on vacation when this posts so I honestly have no idea what I'll be reading, but I hope it's a lot!

Books completed last week:
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle
How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis

Up next: 
Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Falling from Horses: A Novel by Molly Gloss

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Beginnings: The Girl on the Train

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

"She's buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn."

While the book is full of twists and turns, this beginning doesn't give you much wiggle room to wonder how it's going to end: with a death. Although you don't know of whom or by whom.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning

Ugh. This book was a slog. But I made it through the whole thing.

I get it, there are an awful lot of different types of nonprofits looking for different types of grants, but I was disappointed. The author mostly went after the low-hanging fruit. Every once in a while she'd acknowledge that an organization might not have had previous grants and therefore can't show success, but her only solution is, if you're new, partner with someone. If you're not, you're screwed. That's not super-helpful. All her examples are things like getting funding for a program to improve childhood literacy or getting a grant for a program to feed hungry families in a neighborhood. That's all well and good but what if you're at a nonprofit that essentially doesn't have fundable programs (trust me, this exists. It's the nonprofit I'm trying to write grants for.) What if what you need is money for general operating expenses? She mentions in passing once that getting GOE money is possible, but that's it. No tips on how to do it. No suggestion on what types of grantees to look for. And she's also assuming that the grantwriter is a full-time professional, who has time to make dozens and dozens of calls before and after the grant, not a volunteer doing this on nights and weekends who just doesn't have that kind of time. I also was unimpressed with her admitted dislike of new technologies like online grant submissions.

I did learn a bit and I will use some of the information, but I felt the author had a supercilious tone and didn't seem to understand what this process is like for the little people. In fact, for underfunded nonprofits with no paid staff and no fundable programs, the message of this book is Just give up. It shouldn't be.

I bought this book at Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Do No Harm

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

Synopsis from Goodreads:
With compassion and candor, leading neurosurgeon Henry Marsh reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets and the moments of black humor that characterize a brain surgeon's life. If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft, practiced by calm and detached surgeons, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again.

Longlisted for both the Guardian First Book Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, Do No Harm ranks alongside the work of Atul Gawande, Jerome Groopman, and Oliver Sacks.

Publishing May 26, 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: The Children by David Halberstam

I grew up knowing that sit-ins in Nashville were just as important, if not more so, than the ones in Greensboro, but my friends who were from elsewhere did not think so. In fact, most of them were unaware that anything significant involving civil rights happened in Nashville (sadly, a lot of Nashvillians are unaware of this.) Luckily, when David Halberstam was a young pup reporter of 25, he was working for The Tennessean in Nashville, and was assigned to this beat. Of course his bosses had no way of knowing he'd one day win a Pulitzer Prize and write multiple bestselling history books, but serendipitously, this is who was assigned, so now we have a brilliant book about the students in Nashville from American Bible College, Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State), Fisk University, and Meharry Medical College, who changed the world.

Nashville was known as The Athens of the South, due to its enormous number of colleges and universities (at least 35 and there were more that have since consolidated). It never occurred to me until I moved away, that this was unusual. I thought every big city had these options and had this culture of education. It also didn't occur to me that Nashville had four HBCs (Historically Black Colleges, although to be honest, American Bible College was so small that it never registered.) And again, that didn't feel unusual. But those schools had an enormous impact on the community, due to their efforts, starting with the sit-ins in downtown department store lunch counters, and continuing on to join the Freedom Riders and SNCC and the overall movement.

Mr. Halberstam does a masterful job following more than a dozen main characters, from when we first meet most of them as college students, going back to their background and upbringing to show why these particular students felt strongly about this cause, and then going on to tell us how they participated in the movement, and how their lives turned out. Many were successful, some weren't, one was Marion Barry (not the only famous name in the book but the one I was least expecting.) I'd sometimes have to pause for a moment to remember who a person was, but it was momentary and infrequent. He did a good job of keeping them distinctive and interesting.

I learned so much I never knew about the civil rights movement. For example, this book explains everything leading up to the march on Selma, why it was important, who the major players were, why they chose Selma and not somewhere else (here's a hint: the cities and towns with reasonable mayors and sheriffs weren't chosen because they didn't make for good news stories. But also because a show of support wasn't as needed there.) I found most fascinating the scene at one stop on the Freedom Rides when John Siegenthaler, who Robert Kennedy sent from the Justice department to observe what was going on, tried to save two young women who were being beaten, and was beaten himself. That was a pivotal moment as that finally got the attention of Robert Kennedy, who finally got the attention of John Kennedy, and got the president involved in the Civil Rights movement. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. gets plenty of facetime here, but what's unique is how he's not even the central figure. The Civil Rights movement was so much more than just King, and this book brings to life the many important figures involved, some in the background and some just as important if not as well known, giving a much fuller, more rounded perspective of this moment in history than anything I've ever otherwise encountered on the topic. Thorough, engrossing, and enlightening.

I bought this book at the Friends of the Library sale in Nashville during the Southern Festival of Books. I believe it was a textbook sold at the Vanderbilt University bookstore originally, based on the price sticker.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Children

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Children by David Halberstam p. 129

"Lafayette was amazed by the young people who showed up that day, almost none of whom had been in any previous sit-ins or had attended any of the training sessions. Most of them did not know the leaders personally, they had not been to any workshops, yet when they were warned that the protest was likely to be violent, no one pulled out."

This was a key moment with the lunch counter sit-ins, showing the public that their numbers were growing, that they wouldn't go away, and even if they were all arrested there would be more to replace them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Early Warning by Jane Smiley

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle
Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning

Up next:
Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson
In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me about Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love by Joseph Luzzi

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Beginnings: The Children

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Children by David Halberstam

"Years later though she could recall almost every physical detail of what it had been like to sit there in that course on English literature, Diane Nash could remember nothing of what Professor Robert Hayden had said."

Diane Nash was so distracted in class because that was the last class before she went to participate in the sit-ins in Nashville's lunch counters at the downtown department stores in 1960.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Empire of Deception

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb

Synopsis from Goodreads:
It was a time of unregulated madness. And nowhere was it madder than in Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties. Speakeasies thrived, gang war shootings announced Al Capone’s rise to underworld domination, Chicago’s corrupt political leaders fraternized with gangsters, and the frenzy of stock market gambling was rampant. Enter a slick, smooth-talking, charismatic lawyer named Leo Koretz, who enticed hundreds of people (who should have known better) to invest as much as $30 million--upwards of $400 million today--in phantom timberland and nonexistent oil wells in Panama. When Leo’s scheme finally collapsed in 1923, he vanished, and the Chicago state’s attorney, a man whose lust for power equaled Leo’s own lust for money, began an international manhunt that lasted almost a year. When finally apprehended, Leo was living a life of luxury in Nova Scotia under the assumed identity of a book dealer and literary critic. His mysterious death in a Chicago prison topped anything in his almost-too-bizarre-to-believe life.

Empire of Deception is not only an incredibly rich and detailed account of a man and an era; it’s a fascinating look at the methods of swindlers throughout history. Leo Koretz was the Bernie Madoff of his day, and Dean Jobb shows us that the dream of easy wealth is a timeless commodity.

Publishing May 19, 2015 by Algonquin Books.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

I wanted to read this book the minute it came out, so I was thrilled when my book club picked it! It's right up my alley.

The author lucked out when he met the daughter of Joe Rantz, one of the gold medalist crew rowers from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Not only did she have a treasure trove of clippings, memorabilia, and memories from her parents, but her father was still alive. Naturally, of the 9-member team, Joe is center-stage.

His young life was particularly hard-scrabble, even before the Depression began. His mother dies when he was young and his father took off. Luckily, his much-older brother took him in, until his father returned and remarried (awkwardly, his new bride was the sister of his older son's wife.) Joe moved in with them, but they moves a lot, his father's employment was always iffy, his step-mother was always unhappy, and with each new child, her unhappiness grew. One day she snapped and said Joe couldn't live with them anymore. So his father arranged for Joe to sleep at the schoolhouse in the mining town in Idaho where they were living at that time. Joe was about ten. This continued, with the family moving and Joe living nearby in a rented room or with a friend, until finally when he was in high school, his family moved away and left him in their Washington farmhouse, alone, just at the start of the Depression. Joe however was resilient and very hard-working. There's almost nothing he wouldn't do to get by. And when he starts college, he needs a campus job. The best way to get that was to be a member of one of the premier school sports, and crew was probably the most prestigious. With his height and upper body strength, it seemed a good fit. But crew was such a popular sport at that time that hundreds of boys would try out each fall.

Naturally, we're never very worried that Joe won't make the team, since we know this is the story of the gold medalists, but his spot in the lead boy is always the most precarious. Luckily the master craftsman who made the shells, George Pocock, acted as a mentor and over time, Joe was able to get mastery over himself and most importantly, learn to trust, which was the key to his boat hitting their stride and gelling as one.

Joe both seems to good to be true, and yet also very real. One summer he worked at a dam site where he had to rappel over the side of a cliff face with a 75-lb. jackhammer and hold it up, and work on stubborn boulders, while being mindful of boulders flying down from men working above him. This paid $0.75 an hour, which was 50% higher than the still manual but less insane work he'd initially been offered. He needed the money and he had the strength and the guts to do that kind of work. I am glad he met the love of his life early (Joyce) and that they had a long and stable life together, after his Dickensian childhood.

The material was a little dense, as few readers are familiar with the mechanics of rowing or how the races are set up or what the strategies might be. There's also a large cast of characters, although I found them pretty easy to keep track of. This was a fascinating story about a little-known group of world-class young men who I am proud represented the United States at a pivotal moment in our history (Louis Zamparini of Unbroken fame also competed at the same Olympics.)

I bought this book at Quail Ridge Books, an independent bookstore in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Boys in the Boat

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown p. 50

"To achieve even a reasonably smooth and powerful stroke, they had to learn to execute a series of precisely timed and carefully coordinated moves. Facing the stern of the boat, each boy began with his chest bent over his knees, his arms stretched out in front of him, and both hands gripping the handle of his one long oar."

Rowing crew is quite the workout. It's estimated that a rower burns as many calories in a single race (15 minutes or so) as he would playing two basketball games back to back. It works almost every muscle in the body simultaneously.

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Here is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning
Early Warning by Jane Smiley
Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle

Up next:
A Long Time Gone by Karen White
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning

Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Beginnings: The Boys in the Boat

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

"Monday, October 9, 1933, began as a gray day in Seattle. A gray day in a gray time."

This was the day that Joe Rantz and other wannabee freshmen crew team members gathered to meet the coach and begin the process to hopefully one day be picked for the team at the University of Washington. It's also the height of the Depression. A big reason Joe needs to make the team is that it would open doors on campus to good part-time jobs, otherwise he can't afford to stay enrolled.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Hyacinth Girls

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Hyacinth Girls: A Novel by Lauren Frankel

Goodreads synopsis:
A stunning debut about a young teenager on the brink and a parent desperate to find the truth before it's too late.

Thirteen year old Callie is accused of bullying at school, but Rebecca knows the gentle girl she's raised must be innocent. After Callie is exonerated, she begins to receive threatening notes from the girl who accused her, and as these notes become desperate, Rebecca feels compelled to intervene. As she tries to save this unbalanced girl, Rebecca remembers her own intense betrayals and best-friendships as a teenager, when her failure to understand those closest to her led to tragedy. She'll do anything to make this story end differently. But Rebecca doesn’t understand what’s happening or who is truly a victim, and now Callie is in terrible danger.

This raw and beautiful story about the intensity of adolescent emotions and the complex identity of a teenage girl looks unflinchingly at how cruelty exists in all of us, and how our worst impulses can estrange us from ourselves - or even save us.

Publishing May 12, 2015 by Crown.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book Review: Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

I dithered about whether or not to read this book up until nearly the last second. It was for my book club and it got to the point that I knew if I didn't start it, I wouldn't finish it on time, and I really didn't want to as I am not crazy about books set int he middle east, it sounded sad, and it fulfills absolutely none of my reading challenges for 2015. So I thought I'd just give it a start and see, and if I didn't like it I'd put it down. It starts out with a woman, Azar, a prisoner, pregnant and in labor, being banging around in the back of a cargo van as she's roughly driven (blindfolded) to a hospital in Tehran. That was pretty intriguing, so I read on.

At first I was confused because at the end of Azar's chapter, we get a chapter about three little kids (none of them Azar's) who are being raised by their aunt, Leila, and their grandmother while their own parents are in prison. Then the third chapter was about a man in prison, who also seemed unrelated to the previous characters. Towards the middle of the book (which is a bit late in my opinion), you start to see how they are related (and it turns out they are mostly related, with the three little kids' mothers in chapter two being in prison with Azar, and with the man's daughter in chapter three being a cousin of theirs.) But those relationships are hard to keep straight and there are a lot of characters for a rather short book. Mostly the book jumps between 1983 and 2010. The Revolution of the 1980s has come back to haunt the families who lost years and loved ones in the first Revolution, as a second one seems to be beginning as well. A lot of them emigrate: to Germany and to Italy. Most of the end of the book takes place in Turin, not in Iran, which may be accurate, but seems a curious choice for a book about the Iranian Revolution. At the very end, we do circle back to Azar's daughter, now in her 30s and an emigree, and there's a connection made that is too coincidental to be believed.

The writing is masterful and her turns of phrase are often almost poetic. She does a good job of sketching in that place that many of us have never experienced. But I felt there were too many characters to follow, and not really any plot. One member of my book club described it as a pastoral: you see a vignette of a person's life in a time and place, and then move on to another. That's a good description of this book, but it's not a writing style I like. If there's no plot, a book relies heavily on character development, and then you need to really focus on one or two main characters, not a half a dozen. Then any development is too spread out to be noticed. I know the book has gotten great reviews, and I did appreciate learning more about a place and an event I knew nothing about, but in th end, it was not for me.

I checked this book out of the library.

Teaser Tuesdays: Children of the Jacaranda Tree

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani p. 50

"Azar turned her gaze to Neda, who had fallen asleep, her lips slowly unfastening from her mother's breast. Azar watched and her eyes fogged over."

Azar gave birth to Neda in prison, so that is why she's getting upset over a relatively minor thing.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review: Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Iowa Story by William Anderson

I don't remember when I learned about Laura Ingalls having lived in Iowa and her family having run a hotel. I know the information came to be in drips. First I learned about her skipping over her baby brother who died. That I knew even as a kid. I think I noticed the gap of time between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake and my mother looked into it, or possibly I read it in an Encyclopedia entry or in some children's biography. Later, when I learned about them helping to run The Masters Hotel, I found it ironic that one of the only things that TV show of Little House on the Prairie took from Wilder's life, was a part of her life she'd chosen not to write about. But of course, a detail skipped over is intriguing. I do agree with her decision from a plot and theme point of view, to keep the Ingalls family always moving west, and occasionally diverging from her own actual biography in writing the novels. But still, fans wonder, what happened? So at The Little House on the Prairie a couple of years ago, I picked up this short book.

William Anderson has done his research, and you do get as full a view of what it must have been like for young Laura, in a bigger town than she'd been in before, working in trade instead of farming, being next to a saloon with the inevitable trouble that created. And it's also endearing how the town of Burr Oak has embraced Laura Ingalls Wilder, despite being omitted from her novels. I think I (and I imagine others) wish this could be written like a lost chapter, from Laura's point of view, but that would be wrong. Instead, it's straightforward depiction of what the town was like when she lived there, what remains of that history, who she would have met, who she did later recall (unfortunately, few people asked her about Burr Oak until very late in her life and her memory was failing her, at least of that period, so she had trouble remembering much.) The book suffers from poor production. It is published by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Burr Oak, and I suspect they didn't have appropriate access to book publishing professionals. The font is too close together, the photo captions run into the text, and the way the book is laid out, it appears so short as to be nearly a pamphlet (the book isn't thick enough to put the title on the spine) and yet when I read it, I saw that if it had been formatted differently, it would have made much more sense, been easier to read, and felt more substantial. That's too bad. But formatting errors are not a reason to not read a good book. If you are a Laura Ingalls Wilder completest like I am, this book is worth seeking out, to shed new light on a brief but interesting sojourn in Laura's life.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Children by David Halberstam
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Here is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll
Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning
Early Warning by Jane Smiley

Up next:
Euphoria by Lily King
The Promise by Ann Weisgarber
Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer's Search for Wonder in the Natural World by Leigh Ann Henion

Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Beginnings: Children of the Jacaranda Tree

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

"Azar sat on the corrugated iron floor of a van, huddled against the wall."

At first I thought she was being kidnapped, but Azar is a political prisoner, being brought to a hospital to have her baby.