With the first chill of autumn in the air, I carried my warm weather house plants inside that survived the intense Kansas heat. Just one day into cold temps and I am already dreading the long, cold winter. Reading is a respite when the story’s setting is lush and tropical. My latest read is set in the low country of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Porch Lights is Dorothea Benton Frank’s newest. All thirteen of her books revolve around this small town at the entrance to Charlestown harbor and draw you into the laid-back, charm of beach life.
Jackie McMullen has recently lost her NYC firefighter husband to a tragic accident. She takes her ten year old son, Charlie, home to Sullivan’s Island for the summer. Jackie finds a part time job and her mother does everything she can to make Jackie feel at home. Jackie feels over mothered and even pushed into a relationship with the widower who lives next door. Charlie finds friends and distractions from his sadness and wants to stay permanently. The ending is satisfying as they begin healing in the love and warmth of family.
Balthazar and Hebe Jones were very happily married and parents of a small son, Milo,when Balthazar accepted a new job in a very unique place. The family moved to the Tower of London so Balthazar could serve the Queen as a Beefeater.. The adjustments were many, such as adjusting to living in rooms with no square corners only rounded walls with ancient markings left by the centuries of prisoners who were held there while imprisoned. Balthazar is nominated to become the Keeper of the Royal Menagerie. Gift animals given to the Queen by heads of state had been kept in the Tower from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries when they were transferred to the London Zoo. Now they are being returned to the Tower to attract more visitors. Hebe and Bazlthazar are upset over the new responsibilities, but their most difficult problem is learning to deal with their grief over the loss of their son. The curious setting and unique, zany and funny story is actually a very charming love story with much historical interest. Like most historical fiction there is some truth to the story of the Royal Menagerie explained in this link.
Baxter Black shares his dry wit and poetry with us in Horseshoes, Cowsocks and Duckfeet. There is something for everyone in this book by the famous NPR cowboy poet. Those from a rural background will understand each story and those more urban can appreciate most of his two page humorous stories told on NPR in 2001.
He covers rodeos, politics, doing laundry, getting in accidents, all kinds of critters and veterinarian woes with sarcasm and wit. My favorite is on page 125, a family story he shares about his small daughter’s payback for the many times he has scared her. Baxter Black is good medicine for the soul!
Open the back cover of Calling Invisible Women and you will hoot with laughter. The photo of the author, Jeanne Ray, is as imaginative as this story.
Clover Hobart is a middle aged mother of two young adults and the wife of a pediatrician with an insanely busy practice. One day she discovers that she is invisible. As any middle age woman knows, this is not uncommon, however, Clover was actually gone. She could not see her own hands, face or anything else. This crazy situation was being experienced by other women that Clover finds through a newspaper ad she stumbles over while searching the notices. The 10 a.m. meeting at the Downtown Sheraton of equally invisible women brings comfort to Clover and a determination to discover the source of their invisibility. Could a combination of prescription drugs that all of these women have taken actually lead to this result? How are they going to battle a major pharmaceutical company? When will her family actually take notice of her condition?
Jeanne Ray wrote her first book as a retirement project after working forty years as a registered nurse. This New York Times bestselling author has a wonderful sense of humor. I can’t wait to see what else she has written.
Doc Martin is a surgeon that develops a fear of blood! So begins this British television drama that has won numerous comedy awards. Martin Clunes stars as Dr. Martin Ellingham, a brilliant vascular surgeon who must give up his successful career in London. He begins a new career as a general practitioner in the sleepy seaside village, Portwenn, where he spent his vacations as a child with his aunt. Martin is a doctor without a warm bedside manner. His impossibly cold, gruff and no nonsense manner is the mainstay for much humor as he deals with eccentric backward villagers and falls for the pretty, local school teacher. If you like to laugh, you will love following this really funny British series. Manhattan Public Library owns all five television series plus the made for tv movies produced in 2011.
Louise Brooks was a beautiful silent-film star from Wichita, Kansas who began her career in New York City studying dance at the tender age of 15. Her mother arranged a chaperone to accompany Louise to the glitzy, cosmopolitan city. Laura Moriarty’s latest book, The Chaperone, tells the story of Louise Brooks, but centers on the secret life behind Cora Carlisle, her chaperone. Cora leaves her husband to accompany the troubled and talented Louise for one purpose, to find out more about her background and her first memories of a dark-haired women in a red shawl at ‘The Home for Friendless Girls’. Cora was one of the lucky orphans who came west on an orphan train as she was chosen by a loving Kansas farm couple. Now as a proper, society wife her secret is tugging at her very being.
The history of the war years in Wichita when the city was doubling in population at an amazing rate as the center of the air industry is a fascinating part of the story
Jennifer Pharr Davis spent four months hiking the Appalachian Trail after her college graduation. How many women would wear the same pair of socks for days on end while hiking mostly on her own for 2,175 miles, encountering moose, rattlesnakes, armies of bugs, lightning storms, blizzards, rain and hail? Unlike her fellow hiker, Cheryl Strayed whom I wrote about in the review, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Jennifer chose to backpack with a lighter pack getting along without the best equipment. Her trials were similar but her background was far less ‘wild’, coming from a stable southern Christian family. Jennifer’s experiences with people she meets along the way are funny, frightening and an education. Her miles traveled per day seemed nearly impossible to me. The second time she hiked the AT she set the fastest record for men or women on thru-hikes averaging 47 miles per day. This book is a great motivator to get outside and enjoy nature while you exercise!
Cheryl Strayed has written a frank memoir of her life journey as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl chose to hike the 1,100 mile trail after the devastating death of her mother from cancer and her divorce. This remarkable tale of her hike is composed of harrowing and painful experiences such as rattlesnake near misses and hiking in boots that are too small with a back pack, The Monster, considerably larger than anyone else carried. This book is also composed of beautiful discoveries about life and how she wants to live it and helpful, good people she meets along the way.
Oprah chose Cheryl’s book as her first book club selection for her new 2.0 book club in June. She said her thought was after reading Wild, ‘Where is the Oprah Winfrey show when you need to announce and tell everybody about this book?”
Oprah’s 2.0 website
What if Abraham Lincoln, our beloved Civil War president, did not die when John Wilkes Booth attempted to kill him at Ford’s Theatre on Good Friday in 1865? What if he recovered from his wounds and within a short time was once again facing the criticisms of how he handled the war and the reconstruction of the south? Stephen Carter has written an intricately plotted, historically detailed story that captures the time period and weaves a fascinating alternate history.
A young black woman joins the law firm that is representing Lincoln in the impeachment suit. Abigail Canner hopes to clerk at the firm and work toward a law degree but she faces the obstacles of race, age and sex. Nevertheless her brilliant mind begins to impress the firms partners and she is soon embroiled in the court proceedings and sleuthing a murder. Try this alternate history thriller and you will learn much about life in the 1860′s in Washington City and how divided the country was after the Civil War.
Who hasn’t heard of the famous Oklahoma food blogger that has become a successful author and tv personality! Ree Drummond has turned a simple blog titled Confessions of a Pioneer Woman where she shared stories of ranch life, homeschooling in rural Oklahoma and recipes, into a million dollar business. Her books, tv appearances and blog advertising have made her one of the most talked about bloggers of all times. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier is her second cookbook; she also has a children’s book out and a book that chronicles her personal love story with Marlboro Man, Ladd Drummond. Recipes and editorial comments in this lusciously photographed cookbook will tempted you to rearrange your priorities and spend time in the kitchen.
Is a hot July in Kansas getting you down? How about spending a few hours in frigid New England during a December snowstorm? In the Bleak Midwinter is a riveting mystery by Julia Spencer-Fleming set in Millers Kill, a small town in the Adirondacks of New York. This first story begins a series with Clare Fergusson, an ex-army helicopter pilot and rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and the local chief of police, Russ Van Alstyne. A baby is found in a box on the steps of the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church by the new-to-town former Army chaplain and she calls for the assistance of the police to identify the parents. This tough, former helicoptor pilot is a determined and kindhearted sidekick to the chief of police and the sparks begin to fly between these two as they cross paths looking for answers. This chiller is guaranteed to give you goosebumps during the hottest 100 degree July days. There are six books in this series with the seventh due out late 2012.
In the third book of the Corduroy Mansions series, Freddie de la Hay, the devoted canine who attached himself to William French is missing. While visiting William’s old school friend and his wife, Freddie follows the irresistible scent of rabbit and digs himself into trouble which involves a possible new home and life for Freddie. Meanwhile his master is in his own hot water when the wife of his best friend announces her secret long-held love of William. Free-loading Eddie has found someone to take care of him he thinks, but Barbara with all of her inherited money may have doubts. Other quirky characters charm us with their foibles and we continue to anticipate further antics in this London setting.
The Hungry Ocean was published in 1999 and became a New York Times bestseller. Recently I found it while looking for something totally different to read and I was not disappointed. This riveting tale of a woman swordboat captain is the reason I love reading non-fiction. Linda Greenlaw leads such a different life from me and any of my landlubber friends that I can’t imagine she lives on the same planet. What an amazing story of a gutsy lady from Maine who spends her life on the ocean.
Linda Greenlaw is captain of the Hannah Boden, a sister ship of the Andrea Gail, a boat that was lost in the horrible storm of 1991 and portrayed in the movie The Perfect Storm. Captain Greenlaw is in command of five men who spend month-long trips fishing over 1000 miles off the northeast coast in the Grand Banks. She has to fight weather, mechanical failures, close quarters with very little time for personal hygiene, disagreements, illness, and all the decisions of where to fish in order to bring home a full boatload that will pay their expenses. The story of her personal experiences in how to run a complex operation is fascinating.
Alexander McCall-Smith keeps adding to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I keep enjoying the adventures of Precious Ramotswe. This time the difficult situations are a little too close to home for the Precious and her assistant, Grace Makutsi. The best auto repair assistant of Mma Ramotswe’s husband is arrested for auto theft, then Grace and her husband hire a contractor to begin building their home but the builder comes into question when one of his worker’s leaves doubt in their minds. The renowned Clovis Anderson, author of The Principles of Private Detection, comes for a visit and helps them with the terrible trouble of the dismissal of Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Satisfactory solutions result and we continue to applaud the wisdom of Precious Ramotswe and her allies.
I love the way Anne Tyler looks at life and the humor in her books. She can write about serious topics with such tenderness and compassion. The Beginner’s Goodbye looks at the topic of grief through the eyes of Aaron, a middle-aged man, whose wife dies unexpectedly when a tree falls on their home. Aaron tries to return to a normal life and adjust to being single but he finds such difficulties with relationships. Interactions with friends are now so different. He is uncomfortable with his closest friends and neighbors as they extend their sympathy and help. He moves in with his sister who lives in their parent’s home and totally ignores repairs on his home. Finally when the ceiling falls in and he can’t get in the front door he calls a contractor, Gil Bryan. This man, with his own problems, shows compassion for the grief that Aaron is going through and begins a relationship with both Aaron and his sister, Nandina.
The first sentence of the book begins, “The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.” Throughout the story his former wife Dorothy appears and speaks to Aaron as he finds his way through life without her. As Aaron remembers the quirky, problematic relationship he and Dorothy shared, Dorothy reappears to help him work out the regret. This isn’t a depressing book at all, although I found very poignant instances Aaron finally ends this chapter of his life and is able to say the final goodbye reminding all of us to tackle the unfinished business of love.