Friday, September 30, 2011

New Years Resolution 2011: September Update

A photo of me reading while on vacation at Warner Springs Ranch in California last year.

The books I read in September:

The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald (library)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (library)
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (library)
A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (library)
Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman (library)
Buried Prey by John Sandford (library)
The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen (library)
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (library)
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (library)
In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard (library)
Lost in Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff (library)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (library-the Lydia Davis translation)
Mockingbird: A portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields
Deadly Housewives ed. by Christine Matthews (short stories)
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (library)
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson (library)
Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go by George Pelecanos
The Four Million and other stories by O. Henry (short stories)
The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (library)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children read a lot like a YA novel. (I saw it in Barnes and Noble in the Young Adult section, so I guess it IS a YA novel!!) Young Boy adrift... his parents don't understand him, his grandfather ( who he idolizes and loves) dies under mysterious circumstances and he must find the truth of what is going on and in the process discovers things about himself ( strengths that he did not know he had, etc.) It is totally set up for sequels also. I would love to find out what happens next.

Pretty Little Liars, more YA, this one was made into a TV series and is the start of a series of 8 books. I don't know if I will read more of them....maybe. And I don't have any interest in seeing the TV show either.

Want to go Private? Again with the YA theme (Young Adult for those who have been wondering what YA means). This one is every parent's nightmare, and pretty disturbing to read if you have kids I imagine. From the point of view of a 14 year old with poor self esteem. She is groomed by a pedophile in an online chat room and ends up running away from home with him. A formerly straight A student, supposedly the Smart One in the family. Want to Go Private tells the whole story from the young girl's seduction by the pedophile to her friends and family feeling guilty for not seeing the signs that she was vulnerable to this kind of predator. Very serious subject matter, I would think great for book clubs and moms to read with their daughters (and sons).....

Buried Prey is the latest in the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford. If you read these, you know that Davenport is now in his 50's and has a wife and a couple of kids. So it is getting kind of odd having him run around on no sleep, beating up the bad guys and then have him come home in time for dinner with the wife and kids. Sandford solves this problem by having most of this book exist as a flashback to Davenport's early days on the police force when he was the kick-butt king and a crazy womanizer to boot. The Prey novels are generally about serial or spree killers and this one is no exception. The bodies of two young girls are found, that had been buried for 20 years. Davenport was a young cop on the case 20 years ago and was never satisfied with the outcome of the case. Now he gets the chance to revisit the crime and finally solve all the loose ends to his satisfaction, running down the serial killer who got away with it.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett is about a researcher who dies in the Amazon and his colleague who goes searching for the truth about his death. The research team in the Amazon has found a tribe of women who never go through menopause. They continue to have babies into their 60's and 70's. A major drug company is funding the project to study this tribe and find the secret to their fertility. The project is shrouded in secrecy and the head of the research team never wants any contact with the outside world, other than taking the money that the drug company provides for their work. This book reminded me a lot of stuff like Hot Zone by Richard Preston or some of Michael Crichton's stuff. So if you like that kind of thing, you might pick this one up.

The Summer of the Bear is the story of a family whose diplomat father dies mysteriously during the Cold War. They have retreated to the mom's childhood home on a lonely island in the Hebrides. It was kind of depressing. Lots of stark, cold war imagery and their retreat to a remote Scottish Island does not bring them together after the death of the father, but seems to isolate them from each other as well as from the rest of the world.

The Tragedy of Arthur has an interesting premise. The protagonist (Arthur) is given a previously unheard of, unknown Shakespeare play by his father. (The Tragedy of Arthur)This is a coup for the publishing and theater world. However, Arthur's father is a conman and forger who spent most of his life in jail. Does Arthur trust that this could be a real Shakespeare or is it just another incredible forgery from his conman dad? An interesting read if you are a fan of Shakespeare. The entire play, The Tragedy of Arthur is included!!

InZanesville, was one of those books where I did not want it to end, I just wanted to go on living in that world that the author had created. It is a coming of age story, much like Are you there God, It's Me Margaret. Just a slice of 1970's life in a small town in Illinois from the eyes of a 14 year old girl. I loved it and am going to read more by this author. Maybe it spoke to me because I was that age in the 70's? There is a nice Nancy Drew reference for you Nancy Drew fans!!

Stories I Only Tell My Friends. I had been waiting to read Rob Lowe's memoir ever since I read an excerpt in Vanity Fair Magazine. Quite enjoyed it and now have to dig out my DVD's of About Last Night, Outsiders, Oxford Blues and St. Elmo's Fire

Lost in Shangri-la is another story of WWII survival. Very entertaining. A group of WAC's and service men on an aerial sightseeing tour over the New Guinea jungle crash and there are only 3 survivors. Their story of their encounters with the native tribes (known for their violence) and their rescue by paratroopers (FilipinoAmericans!) is the basis of this book. There are lots of great photos of these true life events.

Madame Bovary, a favorite classic that I have already read a couple of times. This translation by Lydia Davis is very nice. If you are a fan of the book you should definitely try this translation.

Mockingbird is a biography of Harper Lee. I found it interesting. I might be the only English Major in the world who doesn't love To Kill A Mockingbird. I think it is okay, but not something that I want to read again and again. Not that fond of the movie either.

Deadly Housewives is a collection of short stories by mystery writers, featuring housewives. Some of my favorite writers are represented. Sara Paretsky, Nevada Barr, and Nancy Pickard

The Year We Left Home is a nostalgic novel. Great for those of us who have Protestant Work Ethic and Guilt about leaving our hometowns and doing something different than what our families expected. It follows a Lutheran, Iowa farm family from the 1970's til present day as the siblings grow up, change, move away, stay at home, and deal with their family. I enjoyed it because I identified with it.

George Pelecanos writes thrillers/mysteries set in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. He is most famous as a writer for The Wire on HBO. I like his stuff and read it from time to time. This one had a great mystery and features an alcoholic detective in DC.

The O Henry short story collection was great, it contains The Gift of the Magi which is always a favorite and of course we love O Henry because he is from North Carolina!

Going along with my theme of reading English WWI-WWII era fiction here is another one. The Return of Captain John Emmett is a mystery set in Post WWI England. I'm only part of the way through and will finish it tonight. For fans of Ian Rutledge and Maisie Dobbs, you might want to put this one on your list as well.

19 books read (reading)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday's Postcard: Graceland

Whenever I say the word, Graceland, I hear that Paul Simon song in my head. But of course, it is the touristy home of Elvis Presley. I visited during a Memphis layover early during my flight attendant career. 1989

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday's Postcard: Costa Rica

This card is from a 1990 trip that I made to Costa Rica with my sister and parents. Unfortunately, this was the best view we ever got of the volcano. We drove up to view it, but the fog never lifted and we could barely see a few feet in front of our faces. We were there during the rainy season and had pretty dismal weather the whole visit. I went back to Costa Rica in 2002 with Ryan and hit the rainy season again!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday's Postcard: Manzanar

If you are not familiar with this period in American History, then you really need to read up on the Japanese Internment during World War II. Manzanar was one of several internment camps around the country. There is a wonderful museum there, I highly recommend visiting. Plus it is really a gorgeously stark landscape as you can see from the postcard.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wild Card: Pittsburgh, PA

On 9/11/2001 I was on a layover in Pittsburgh, PA. I got stuck there for 5 days while the planes were grounded. But the hotel was wonderful, and the weather was terrific. Not such a bad place to be stuck! You can see the hotel on this postcard :-)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Monday's Postcard: Madison, GA

When I was working in the film business in Atlanta, GA, we went on a location shoot to Madison, GA. I think we actually used the house on the postcard, if I remember correctly. This is the Hunter House and an example of "Gingerbread" Victorian Architecture. And I think the commercial was for mayonaise.

Friday, September 02, 2011

New Years Resolution 2011: August Update

This photo of me is in front of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. I was there in 2003 for a Nancy Drew convention and we visited the Stratemeyer Archives at the library. Lots of interesting information about the creation of the Nancy Drew series and many other children's books by Edward Stratemeyer.

As most of you know, I was participating in the WTA Hike-a-thon during August and I spent a lot of time hiking, when I might have been sitting around reading! A BIG THANK YOU!! to everyone who donated for Washington Trails. Anyway, here is what I read in August:

Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb
The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (library)
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West By Dorothy Wickenden, (library)
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (audiobook)
The Red Door by Charles Todd
Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer (audiobook)
The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker (library)
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (library)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (library)
Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen
Untold Story: A Novel by Monica Ali
The Memory of All That by Katharine Weber (library)
Payback at Morning Peak by Gene Hackman (library)
When the Killing's Done by T. C. Boyle (library)
Zombies of the Gene Pool by Sharyn McCrumb
Darker than Amber by John D. MacDonald (library)
Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie
The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb (audiobook)

Bimbos of the Death Sun is a fun murder mystery set at a ComicCon style convention for SciFi/Fantasy fans. I have read this book several times (and the follow up, Zombies of the Gene Pool) and love it every time.

The Masque of the Black Tulip is a continuation of the Pink Carnation series that I started last month. The action moves along during Napoleon's time, but the present day story is yet to be resolved. I will have to read more books in this series to find out what happens to our modern day heroine!!

The House at Riverton was really good. I had watched Season One of Downton Abbey and loved it and this book is very reminiscent of that TV show. The book concerns a great house in England during the time between WWI and WWII. The Upstairs/Downstairs aspect of life was coming to an end with the advent of WWII.

The Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell was great fun and I think I liked it better than her book about the Pilgrims that I read earlier this year, "The Wordy Shipmates".
Assassination Vacation was about her road trip to see sites relating to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Ryan and I had been to many of the Lincoln sites and I was able to relate to the tourism aspect of poking around cemeteries and whatnot. Plus I learned a bunch about Garfield and McKinley that I was not aware of before! I think Garfield is now my favorite president. Just because he loved to read and he made a wonderful commencement speech at a college graduation extolling the value of leisure time!!! What a guy! I listened to this as a book on tape because I was spending so much time driving to trailheads this month for the Washington Trails Hike-a-thon. Sarah Vowell reads the book and her voice is high and squeaky like David Sedaris. Sometimes I would think it was an 8 year old girl reading to me! I wasn't sure I would enjoy it, but like David Sedaris, her observations were often quirky and fun, so it turned out alright.

The Red Door by Charles Todd, first of all, Charles Todd is a mother and son who write these books together. They are set in the aftermath of WWI, the same time period as The House at Riverton and the Royal series by Rhys Bowen. So I have been reading tons about that time period in England. The protagonist of The Red Door is Ian Rutledge who has returned from the war and is plagued with "shell shock" We get to see how this is effecting him, his personal life and his job (he is a police inspector). And these Charles Todd books are mysteries, my favorite, if you haven't figured that out already.

Nothing Daunted was great fun. Two society girls from New York State travel to Colorado to teach school. It is a true story and a wonderful look at that time in the "wild west". (early 1900s) I think the author did a great job of bringing this story to life. It could have been really dry and boring. It reminds me of bits of the Anne of Green Gable series when she goes off to teach school in those small one room school houses.

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer is the tale of George Mallory, the mountaineer who may have summited Everest before Hillary. It is a fictionalized account of Mallory's life and what led him to Everest. I listened to this one as a book on tape, while driving to trailheads for hike-a-thon this month.

The Watery Part of the World, I thought I was going to like this one, it is set in NC along the Outer Banks and has some interesting true history interwoven into the story, and it is pretty compact, around 250 pages. But I just could not get interested in the characters. The only reason I even finished the book and did not throw it down was it was the only thing I had to read on my flight to work the other evening. It was this or the USAirways magazine and the USAirways magazine only occupies me for about 30 minutes and that is if I do the suduko. So I do not recommend it. (this book or the USAirways magazine!)

Divergent by Veronica Roth was a great YA book, much like the Hunger Games. So I can't wait for the next ones in this series. I must say, I liked the Hunger Games series and this, Divergent much better than Twilight, maybe because not so much romance --although there is a little bit of romance, but Twilight was just all about Edward and how gorgeous he was all the time, Ugh--that got old fast. These definitely have more "girl power" in them.

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen: Another of the Royal series by Rhys Bowen, this time Georgie is in Transylvania! Vampires?! Now I have to wait for Ms. Bowen to finish another book as this is the last of the series to be published!!

Untold Story: A Novel by Monica Ali is a fantastic premise, what if Princess Diana faked her death and has been living a normal life in the USA after plastic surgery? I totally enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Unfamiliar Fishes is another book by Sarah Vowell, this one is about Hawaii from the time the missionaries arrived to annexation by the USA. Very funny and interesting and I learned a lot of the history of Hawaii that I did not know before!!

Payback at Morning Peak by Gene Hackman, Yes, THAT Gene Hackman, "American Film Icon" as it says on the back of the book. If you like westerns, you will enjoy this one. It is a classic formula western. But nicely done. It did not suck (my new catch phrase)

When the Killing's Done by T. C. Boyle was a good book too. Environmentalists clash over the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. This is fiction and I just love Boyle's descriptive passages. She was describing a ship wreck in the beginning of the book and it was making me seasick just reading it!! The colors of the landscape, the smells, sounds, the feelings in the air are all made very real by his prose.

More Agatha Christie and John D. MacDonald, always good.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane is a ghost story and very spooky. Lots of hours in the car this month back and forth to trailheads! :-)

Only 19 books read this month, but I hiked 50 miles, went on my first ever backpack overnight and raised $1250 for the Washington Trails Association.