Monday, February 21, 2011

Miss You Most of All

"I think I'm going to miss you most of all" was what Dorothy told the Scarecrow at the end of The Wizard of Oz. It is this quote that the title of Elizabeth Bass's first novel comes from.
The quote also figures in the story line of a book about two sisters trying to make a go of Sassy Spinster Farm near a small town in Texas.
Laura is barely holding on to their father's farm when Rue and her 11-year old daughter, Erica, come to live with her after Rue's divorce. With Rue's encouragement, the sisters turn their homestead into a tourist destination where guests can learn how to raise their own fresh food. In addition to the income from the paying guests, they also market produce through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes and the local farmers market.
Things become interesting when their onetime stepsister, Heidi, shows up looking for a place to hide out from her mobster boyfriend. The sisters didn't get along with their younger stepsister when they were teens and Laura and Heidi still hate one another. But Rue is more mellow. She and Heidi become friends.
There is much to laugh about in this book. It seems a realistic depiction of life, love and family - including the squabbles and sibling jealousies. Bass does a credible job of exploring the meaning of family, especially when Rue's cancer returns. I so wanted this elder sister to beat back the disease one more time. Not only did the author not write that happy ending, she wrote the most beautiful, poignant, believable ending possible. I really enjoyed this first time novelist.

Sharyn McCrumb has been a favourite author of mine for many years. Her "ballad" novels are my favourites, though I've liked everything she has written including her "Nascar" novels. The Devil Amongst The Lawyers is her latest novel. It falls in her ballad series and while she doesn't have a large part, we meet Nora Bonesteel when she was still a young girl. (Nora has the Sight. She and her ability to see things figure in many of McCrumb's Ballad books.)
"In 1935, when Erma Morton, a beautiful young woman with a teaching degree, is charged with the murder of her father in a remote Virginia mountain community, the case becomes a cause celebre for the national press." The book is a fictionalized version the real 1935 murder trial of Edith Maxwell, which took place in Wise County, Virginia.
I always like novels based upon true events, especially when they are handled as well as Sharyn McCrumb crafts hers.

Love, Lies and Liquor is the 2006 M.C. Beaton Agatha Raisin mystery. I have not been able to read these books in order, but that does not diminish their appeal.

Beaton writes another mystery series in which her character, Hamish Macbeth, is a Scottish village constable. Death of a Witch is the first book I've read in this series. These mysteries are also quick reads, like the Agatha Raisin mysteries. I'm still partial to Agatha, but I'm sure Hamish will grow on me as I read more of these entertaining little mysteries.

(Blogger's Note: This will be my last post for a few weeks as I recuperate from shoulder replacement surgery. I'm not very good at one-handed keying.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Newton's First Law of Motion

"Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it." (Sir Isaac Newton 1642-1727)

Inertia: The resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest.

Laziness: A disinclination to an activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so.

Procrastination: Replacing actions of higher priority with tasks of lower priority in order to put off doing the higher priority items. (Finishing a book instead of doing the dishes?)

Guilty, guilty, guilty. I have always been one to put off doing anything I didn't like to do until someone/something made me do it.

Pain and lack of use of my left arm have compelled me to have shoulder replacement surgery. I thought scheduling the surgery and the knowledge that "things could go wrong" were enough to make me "get my affairs in order" just in case.

Old habits die hard. Instead of sorting, donating and throwing out, I have opted to believe all will go well and I will still have plenty of time to figure out what to do with my 'stuff' later. Besides, trying to decide who gets what was keeping me awake at night. I did get rid of so much before we moved, but I still have way too many things.

And too many of the things that I feel are most important to impart are the ones that no one in the family knows the history of or the value I place upon them. (A ring that was given to me by my Grandmother Lynam that was given to her by her Grandmother Richardson. The blanket box that belonged to my Great Grandmother Means. The 'Water Lily' quilt my Mom made before her marriage and her diary and pen. Dad's 'shoe' knife. My baby bank. How do I decide which of my children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews will be the right one to entrust with which heirloom? It is so much easier to decide the giving of jewelry, china and collectibles I have acquired than it is the items that belonged to my parents and grandparents.

I may still write down some bequests before my surgery - "just in case". But what I really need to do is find the will or external force which will make me do all the sorting, donating, throwing (and story telling) after I recover from my surgery and my arm is working again. It may be the denial that life is finite that keeps me from doing what I need to. i.e.: As long as I don't do anything, I will still have the time to do it.

The biggest fear is not dying. It is the "not knowing" what happens in the lives of my loved ones after I am gone. Live long. Love well.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No Night Is Too Long

I began reading Ruth Rendell's novels when I became a huge fan of Minette Walters and her writing was compared to that of Rendell.
The first couple of books I read of hers were okay - just not as good, in my opinion, as Walters. But I read a couple more and then a couple more after that until I decided I do like Rendell almost as much as Walters. (It is going to be interesting to see if my opinion of Walters has changed any when I go back to read the last two unread books I have of hers.)
In the meantime, I decided to try a couple of Rendell's books written as Barbara Vine. Somewhere I read that Rendell began writing as Vine in order to "take a more human, personal viewpoint". I also read one review which says No Night Is Too Long is Rendell/Vine's only true love story.

This book is a bit slow getting into and if you are the least bit homophobic, and began reading the book unknowingly, you will most likely stop reading around page 37. I am always in awe of male authors who can write convincingly of female emotions and vice-versa. I found myself wondering how a straight, female author could write such an erotic, emotionally charged scene between two males.

Way back in my early "I want to be a writer" days, I learned that you have to grab your reader on the first page; write something so attention getting that the reader can't put your book down.
Vine doesn't do that. She makes you read awhile before you realize she has sinuously pulled you into a plot with enough twists and turns to keep you reading and surprised.

I once had an in-law who was rather disdainful of some of the authors I liked because their books were "telescoping" - meaning you knew what the ending was going to be long before you got there. I suppose one of the reasons I like mysteries so much is because I do enjoy trying to figure them out before the ending. No Night Is Too Long contains several surprises - one of which had me gasping - "I didn't see that one coming!"

I read two Vine novels this month. The first was Grasshopper, which was very good; very entertaining and well written. But if you only have time to read one of these two, I recommend the former. Our library has four more Vine novels which I will definitely be checking out.

Another Agatha Raisin Mystery, The Vicious Vet, by M.C. Beaton and an Aurora Teagarden Mystery, Last Scene Alive, by Charlaine Harris were my two "read at the Y while on the stationary bike" books this month. I love both these women characters as well as the authors who created them. I believe it is my daughter who refers to these little treats as "popcorn books" because they are entertaining little reads you can enjoy just like a bag of popcorn.

Lastly, another one of those books I chose for its cover: The Unplowed Sky by Jeanne Williams. (The cover depicts a tractor moving through a wheat field with a farmstead and large silo on the horizon.) The cover made me pick up the book, yet another Kansas setting and a storyline of a threshing crew in the 1920's, made me check the book out. Williams is a Golden Spur and Levi Strauss award winning author. I would probably read more of her books. They would be calming between two Rendell/Vine books.