Friday, March 31, 2017

March Book Report

Lots of cloudy, rainy, cold, not fit to work outside days in March and lots of books read - sixteen! Oops! I see I managed to get Racing the Devil into two of the photographed stacks. So let's start with it.

Racing the Devil by the mother/son writing team, Charles Todd. These two are among my favorite authors. I don't know how they collaborate, but the results are always well done. This is the 19th Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery set just after the end of WWI. I love the old-fashioned detective work sans instant communication, data bases, DNA, etc.

A Piece of the World by Christine Baker Kline is a novel based in fact about the life of the woman in Andrew Wyeth's famous painting, "Christine's World". Very interesting and informative.

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie is her newest (#17) London police mystery featuring Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. Excellent, as always.

Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie is one of the older books in this series. Gemma's friend, a refugee from Nazi Germany, learns that one of her father's famous pieces of jewelry, which disappeared during their flight from the Nazi's, is being put up for auction in London. What is another word for excellent?

Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen is the tenth, and, I think, best of her Royal Spyness series. Ms. Bowen is one of my favorite authors, but when I began reading this series I felt the character, Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the throne, was too 'cutesy'. But either I have grown to appreciate her, or Georgie is solving more interesting crimes.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman was my least favorite read this month. I could not identify with the 40-something, over-achieving, over-worked, NYC wife/mother/editor. She needed to learn to say NO and ask for help - which she finally did after suffering a heart attack.

Death of a Ghost by M.C. Beaton is her 32nd Hamish Macbeth mystery. I don't seem to tire of these little mysteries. Maybe it is their Scottish Highlands settings.

Goldberg Variations by Susan Isaacs is about a successful, self-made, woman, alienated for years from her family, who invites her three grandchildren to visit her in order to decide which one will inherit her business.

Past Perfect also by Isaacs was a little more interesting. It is about a young woman who fifteen years ago was expelled from her CIA job with no warning and no explanation. She has never been able to let go of the 'not knowing' so when the opportunity to learn 'why' appears, she goes for it, which leads to murders, cover-ups, etc.
I started reading Isaacs after somewhere learning about her and in need of a new author to follow. Her books are written in first person which I do not care for, but for now, I'll continue reading.

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen was one of this month's favorite reads. Quindlen is one of the authors I will always read. This book is about a family whose farm, which has been in the family for generations, is going to be flooded by a new dam and reservoir. People in the valley affected try to stop it, but can't.

Some of the passages about the main character, a young girl growing up on the farm in the 1960's, were so beautiful and evocative. They made me feel just as I did about being a farm girl during the same time period.

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott was another good read which took me back to an era of my youth - Hollywood in the 1950's. Not because I could identify with the young girl, but because it reminded me of how interested I was in what was going on with the stars at that time. References to movie magazines recalled for me my Grandmother's interest in them and how we would read them together and talk about the celebrities. And I remember so well the scandal surrounding Ingrid Bergman and her affair with Roberto Rossellini which much of this book is about. But it was Alcott's writing about McCarthyism, the Red Scare and the Black-listing of the Hollywood Ten that got my ire up. It smacks too much with what seems to be going on today.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter was my other favorite read this month. This is her first book and while it is a novel it is based on her Jewish family and what they experienced during WWII. The parents and five adult children were living in Poland at the beginning of the war. What they all went through, how they were separated, not knowing if the others were dead or alive, and how they all survived is remarkable. Excellent read.

As Husband Go by Susan Isaacs about the mother of triplets whose husband is found murdered in the apartment of an 'escort'. Despite the woman's shady reputation, the wife does not believe she was the killer and sets out to learn the truth. Entertaining read, but hardly believable.

And Justice There Is None by Deborah Crombie. Luckily the Corning Library had another Crombie's for me. Unfortunately this is the last one unless I can get ahold of some of her really old ones. This is the one where Duncan and Gemma begin living together along with their respective sons in a house in Notting Hill. They work together solving the murders of two antique dealers when they realize the cases may be related. This is also the book where Gemma miscarries their baby. Crombie is such a good writer and I really like these characters. Now I just have to wait for another new book while watching out for some old ones.

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg. I had really been looking forward to reading this latest from Flagg and was not disappointed when it started out with a Swedish immigrant buying a farm in Southern Missouri in 1889. Once his farm is established and other Swedes settle nearby, he decides it is time to marry. As there are no likely candidates nearby, he advertises in a Chicago newspaper. The mail-order bride works out. They build up a dairy herd and start a dairy, help build a new town, etc. I lost my enthusiasm for the book when the author started trying to cover too many years, giving a few pages and snippets to each decade all the way up to 2016. There were too many characters and no really defined plot line by then.

The Lighthouse by P.D. James. This is another of my favorites for the month. I have lamented before about discovering this author too late. Luckily, the Corning Library still has a few of her titles. She is such an intelligent author and master plotter. I love her main protagonist, Commander Adam Dalgliesh, and his team. One thing this author never does is 'write down' to her readers.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Life In A Fishbowl

I would hate being famous, or even moderately well-known, and feeling as though I were always being watched (and judged) by others. I can't even imagine being an artist or politician especially in this day of instant images and sound bites being broadcast all over the world. Life in a fishbowl; not for me!

I'm referring to real fish; actual fishbowls. I remember those prizes you could win at a carnival.
Not that I ever won any because Mom wouldn't let us try - but I always wanted to. I thought having a goldfish would be great.

Eventually my Mom did have a goldfish bowl with two goldfish in it. I'm thinking by the time my little brother came along she relented and he either won some or she bought him some. He also had a turtle or two which he kept in a dish/bowl and caught flies for.

What I remember most about her fishbowl, long after we were grown and gone, was how scrupulous she was about changing the water and keeping the bowl clean.

An all-time family favorite photo was this one of my nephew, Michael, trying to reach the fishbowl.

In later years Mom had an even bigger fishbowl. I remember her telling us that the fish would grow larger if you put them in a bigger bowl. She had some beautiful fantail goldfish.

She never cared about living life in a fishbowl, either.

Friday, March 3, 2017

To Travel By Shanks' Mare

The older I get, the more I have trouble remembering things. Like this morning I have been trying to remember if the five and dime store was on the east side of main street (not capitalized because the real name of the street where most businesses were located was Davis Avenue - we just called it main street) north of the Candy Kitchen before it moved to the west side and a block south.
I have a distinct memory of going into the store and buying a sleeveless, melon colored, cotton blouse for $l.00. Yes, one dollar. I remember a yellow one, two, but the melon/coral one was my favorite.
I also remember a fabric store on the west side of the street across from the five and dime which I remember as being "Rittel's". I recall it being operated by a husband and wife team and her name was Audrey. The 1957 Corning Centurama book helps me out on this one - the store was the C.R. Anthony store with W.W. Rittel its manager. It also lists the P.M. Place Store under 'Department and 5cents to $1.00 Stores'. Unfortunately, it doesn't give the address for either.
And a Google search tells me that the Anthony stores were headquartered in Oklahoma with 300 stores in 20 states. Also that they were department stores selling clothing and shoes, too, not just fabric.

I found this photo online of one of their fabric departments (not the one in my hometown). It looks like fabric might have had a big share of the floor space, maybe that's why I thought they were a fabric store.

None of this has anything to do with shanks' mares - that was just another memory that popped into my head this morning - something I hadn't thought of for years but heard often as a child, usually in relation to walking to school.

Most days we were out of the house and on the road about the time our neighbor came along taking her boys to school and she would stop and pick us up. But once in awhile we missed that ride. Which is when we tried to get Mom to take us to school. Rarely did she do so, telling us instead to go by shanks' mare - which means we had to walk that mile to the one-room school. Or, as I thought of it, trudge my way up the road.

Thinking about walking to school made me remember the time my older brother went by shanks' mare and walked all the way to town - a distance of five miles! I don't remember why he did that. I wonder if he does? Maybe he did it just to be doing something.

I wonder if he remembers Place's being on the East side of main street when they first came to town?