Far From a Calamity

July 31, 2007 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Amazing Narrator, Books, Childhood Memories, Reading, What's Up | 4 Comments


Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I’m about 75 pages in to this book and it is wonderful and engaging.  It’s quite different from anything I’ve read recently and I’m loving it.


#30 ~ The Kite Runner

July 6, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Amazing Narrator, Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This book was selected for me and I couldn’t be more thankful. It was a book I’ve seen and picked up many times before. Afghanistan . Do I really want to spend my reading time on a topic that is somewhat hard to avoid IRL? That was what I thought before I started reading about it. Now I’m glad that I was “forced” to read it.

This is the story of a boy, Amir, who doesn’t live up to his father’s expectations and that sense of shame is compounded when he chooses not to step in and save his best friend, Hassan, from a vicious attack – an attack that was precipitated in part by Hassan’s loyalty to him. Although it was Hassan who was hurt, Amir can’t stand the shame he feels when he’s around him. He pushes Hassan and his family away until they leave for good. You can’t escape your past forever or remove guilt and shame. Even after moving to the United States , gaining the love of his father, and marrying it haunts Amir. A call from a trusted mentor offers him a reason to return to his homeland and make amends with his past and peace with his own inadequacies – if only he’s now brave enough to do so.

I’ve decided not to go into too much detail and give Judi some time to read her copy. I would encourage everyone to read this book. You will not regret it.

Postponed – Fiction Friday Installment

June 22, 2007 at 9:48 pm | Posted in Childhood Memories, Film, LIfe, Parenting Dilemmas, Religion, Writing | Leave a comment


I am feeling particularly unmotivated today.  I didn’t even think about it last night.  I know that it is Fiction Friday, but I have nothing at this point.  What I have learned is not to leave the writing until Thursday night.  I will post my Fiction Friday for this week at some point this weekend.

Along those lines, I haven’t gotten much reading done this week, either.  No, Judi, it’s not because I want to make you wait anxiously at your mailbox for as long as possible.  I guess it’s been a combination of things.  I live 700 from home.  Much of the time, it keeps me out of any drama that might ensue.  At other times, I get hit with hot magma from a family drama that’s been brewing for a long time.  I’m not sure if it would have been better to know all along or not.

On Sunday I found out that a relative of mine has been in prison for about a month in a county jail for a fourth DUI on a suspended driver’s license.  After having been bailed out on all previous occasions, family chose not to step in.  This family member isn’t that much older than me, but I’m sure that tough love is a hard decision for parents no matter how old your child is.  They have made the right decision; still, my heart breaks for M.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to know that you have gotten yourself to a place like that.  Alcohol has a history in my family and I’m sorry that it has affected my generation.  Other than bales of hay, it’s probably the number one killer (though usually not directly) on my dad’s side of the family.

Ever since I found out, it has been on my mind.  It’s hard to live so far away.  My Dad told me to pray for her, and I do.  Still, doesn’t that seem like a little bit of a cop out?  How is that all that different from Pontius Pilot washing his hands?  Then again, prayer isn’t my “thing.”  I am much more of an action person.  I’m definitely not a meditative person.  I know that there are people who are and I’m thankful for them.

I asked my parents for M’s address and they weren’t even sure of the facility.  Thank goodness for the Internet.  I was able to find her within a few minutes after only one Google search.  I thought about what I would want to hear if I were in her shoes.  I would really be embarrassed.  It’s one thing to hit rock bottom.  It’s quite another to have it happen so publicly.  I wrote her a note telling her mentioning an old picture where I’m nearly strangling her with a hug when she was a baby.  I wish that I could do that right now.  I also mentioned that I loved her and always would.  We both have our own demons.  Mine is food.  Hers is drink.  I told her that we come from strong stock and that we had everything we need to change our situations inside of us.  Most of all, I told her that believe in her.  We all need to hear that from time to time, no matter where we are.

We are readers.  We know how powerful the written word can be.  If there is someone you know who could use a little encouragement, please take the time let them know that you care.  What better way could there be to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love?


P.S.  I have a confession to make.  I love the word incarcerated.  Every time I hear it, I can see the scene from Say Anything where Lloyd Dobler in the prison yard visiting Diane Court’s father, who is nearly spitting in his face, “I’m incarcerated, Lloyd!”  Just thinking about that makes me laugh (because of the tie-back to the pen).  It has been hard for me not to think or say that word this week.  I hope there was someone in prison who is able to make M forget, even just for a second, where she is and laugh.

#29 ~ The Way The Crow Flies

June 19, 2007 at 9:33 am | Posted in Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Parenting Dilemmas, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald


When you sit down to read a book over 800 pages, you know that you’ve committed to a very detailed story. When you’ve challenged yourself to finish every book come hell or high water, that commitment can be very daunting. Thankfully, The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald was mainly an enjoyable read about the unintended impact secrets can have.


Much of this book is told from the perspective of Madeleine, the young child of a happily married Royal Canadian Air Force family, and her father, Jack. As the book begins, her family is relocating to the base in Centralia, the site of the accident that prevented her father from battling the Germans during World War II. She looks up to her father, Jack, as a hero. She loves for him to tell her the stories of his plane accident and how he met her mother, Mimi. Mimi is Acadian and frequently speaks to her children in French. Like many younger siblings (most typically my own), she worships her older brother Mike and would like nothing more than to be in his favor. For a little more than 100 pages, the reader gets to know the McCarthys. They are a typical nuclear family.


Through a connection with his beloved flight instructor and mentor, Simon, Jack becomes involved in a covert mission to move a rocket scientist who has defected from the Soviet Union into the United States. Jack’s mission is to take care of him while he’s located in London, Ontario, waiting for an American soldier to take him over the border. To his knowledge, Jack is the only person in Ontario aware of what is happening. Although he feels guilty about keeping this mission secret from his Commanding Officer, the young American officer who does not know why his family has been stationed in Centralia, and his beloved wife. In the beginning, his little white lies are easy enough to conceal and he enjoys being “in the know.”


Madeleine enters grade four about a month after the move. She’s made two good friends, Auriel and Lisa, made contact with an unconventional family living across the street, has come to dislike a pushy girl named Marjorie, and dislikes her teacher, Mr. March. For the first few weeks of school, her life is what could be expected of a fourth grader. When her teacher begins making her stay after school to do backbends in front of his chair, the entire book picks up and becomes difficult to put down. Madeleine’s happy childhood is over. She is ashamed of what he does to her and no longer feels worthy of her parents, most especially her father. When Mimi senses something isn’t right, Jack takes over and misses the signals that Madeleine is fighting so hard to hide. As a reader, your heart breaks for her and for all of the girls forced to stay “after three.”


Madeleine’s despair eventually leads to a habit of smelling her fingers. She is sure that everyone can smell the disgusting things she’s experienced. On Halloween, Madeleine takes her emotions out by soaping Mr. March’s classroom windows and debarking a tree with her father’s golf club. Her conscience gets the best of her and it is her confessions to Mr. March and the principal that save her from having to stay after school any longer. In addition, she has become friends with Colleen, the oldest daughter of the non-military neighbors across the street. Colleen is a rough and tumble older girl. Eventually, she makes Madeleine her blood sister.


All of this would have been a happy thing for her, except that he chooses the daughter of the American officer to replace Madeleine in the “exercise” group. Claire is a nice girl and Madeleine cannot bare the thought of sparing herself for this to happen. She finds away to protect Claire, but her experience in the “exercise” group with Marjorie and Grace, the two class misfits, has set into motion a string of events that could not be stopped.


After Claire is murdered and Colleen’s brother is implicated, Madeleine’s family loses its shine. At the same time, Jack’s entanglements with the defecting scientist began to interrupt his work and home life. He is forced to choose between being the honest person he has prided himself with being, his family, and his closest friend in Centralia or his covert position and relationship with Simon. His decision changes his future and that of each member of his family. In fact, all of the families that Madeleine has come to know in Centralia make life changing decisions after the murder. Although it is believed that the murderer has been captured, everyone who was due to transfer does so happily. It was as if this mass exodus was a predictor of the eventual dissolution of the Royal Canadian Air Force itself.


As an adult, Madeleine has to come to terms with the abuse she experienced and the unsolved murder of her childhood. Her parents, while still married, have grown apart. Jack spends much of his time watching television while Mimi gets a job and loses herself in volunteer work. The mother and daughter are no longer close. For me, the book slows down at this point. It is interesting to learn of Madeleine’s career and her adult relationships, but the lead up to the conclusion is long and tedious. As many things are not a secret to the reader, the build up of Madeleine’s therapy sessions is anticlimactic.


This book would have been much improved if the first 100 pages were shorted 75 of the last 150 pages were somehow condensed. Also, there is a lead in to many sections that talks about the crows, and what they saw of the murder victim that took me out of the story. Their intended purpose was lost on me. Still, I enjoyed this book and looked forward to learning the fate of all the people we met in Centralia. Unless you’re dying to read a long book, I would suggest waiting for the movie. It ought to be really good.

God Bless the Tigers

June 12, 2007 at 11:03 pm | Posted in Baseball, Childhood Memories, Detroit Tigers, Inspiration, LIfe, No-hitter | Leave a comment

I got a call from my brother tonight. He wanted to tell me about Justin Verlander and his no-hitter against the Brewers – the first no-hitter for the Tigers in almost 24 years. It was the first ever at Comerica Park. Congratulations, Justin! Go Tigers!

Just hearing about Justin Verlander’s game tonight brought me back to the spring of 84. Jack Morris was the last Tiger to pitch a no hitter. My parents made me go to bed before the game was over because it was a school night. Still, I just had to watch the entire game to see what would happen. Even if Morris hadn’t pitched a no hitter that night, I couldn’t very well stop watching the in sixth inning. Pitching with that near perfection for that long is an achievement in and of itself. Thankfully I slept in the basement. Thankfully there was a television in the basement. Thankfully I had no qualms breaking the rules when I didn’t think I would be caught.

I stealthily turned on the TV downstairs and had the volume set really low. I pressed my ear close to the speaker so that I could hear the game being called by the great Ernie Harwell. Let me tell you, the combo of such a great game and such a great announcer was heaven to that 12-year-old girl who was in love with that team. I can’t believe I didn’t get some kind of brain damage for holding my breath so much. I felt jubilant when he finally finished off the White Sox. I was jumping up and down and screaming at the top of my lungs. I don’t remember getting caught, but it’s possible that if they knew I was up that they knew why. It was such an incredible game.

What an awesome achievement. I can’t imagine what it was like for those men to walk out on the mound in the 9th inning to such applause and excitement. I don’t think my stomach could handle anything more than just being a spectator. Do you think that members of the opposing team just give in? Could anyone really have the heart to try very hard to break a no-hitter in the 8th or 9th inning?

I wish I could have watched tonight’s game, but at least I’ve been able to watch one in my lifetime. The fear of being caught by my parents probably even added to the pleasure (I learned that at an early age 😉 ). Maybe I’ll get to watch one with Emma and Allison 24 years from now ~ if we’re all not too busy reading a good book…

Middle Childhood Reading Memories

June 11, 2007 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Books, Childhood Memories, Free, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 2 Comments

Our local library was a little over a mile away from our house and the back roads route made it pretty easy to ride our bikes there during the summer.  I looked forward to the summer book contest every year.  I was a bookworm as a child.  I could, and often did, spend days continuously reading with the exception of eating and taking care of hygiene.  Still, I never won the top prize.  There was one boy who read books of similar lengths who always read a dozen or so than I did.  I suppose that was for the best, though.  It’s always good to know that there is someone out there who pushes the limits of sanity when it comes to any hobby, job, etc.  It makes you all the more normal and all the less obsessed.

Most importantly to me, I didn’t win, because I refused to “cheat.”  There were many kids who read those Choose Your Own Adventure books and counted each and every one of them.  Those were the kids who ended up winning.  Taking a 30 page book and reading only a third to a half of it did not live up to the personal challenge implied by the contest.  I made sure to read only what I considered substantial books.  At that time, anything written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, or any other author whose stories lasted more than 100 pages counted.  Anything or anyone less did not.  So, even when evil girls like Pam or Lisa were announced as the winner at the summer end party, I held my head up high.  I looked at their folders and knew that their summer of reading (assuming they even read those kiddy books) did not live up to mine.  Not by a long shot.

This “the longer the better” attitude toward reading has carried on all the way to this day.  For example, when I had to read a book of the Old Testament for Confirmation, I chose Isaiah, not Genesis or Ruth.  Even within my own 52 Books or Bust challenge, I don’t consider books as “counting.”  Although I enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money, it felt wrong to me to consider that within my yearly tally.  I did end up adding it because it was something out of my normal choices.  I then read book Two and Three.  I did not count those.  That would be cheating.

I was surfing last night and found a reference to a book I loved very dearly at that age: A Girl of the Limberlost, written by Gene Stratton-Porter.  Just seeing the title sent me back to summertime where I would read under the stairs in the basement where it was cool and I felt like I was in my own world.  I thought that this is what it felt like to be an adult on your own.  Those memories are glorious and precious.  Oddly enough, I have no actual recollection of the book itself.  Just the way it felt to be reading it.  I know for certain that I read it more than once.  I enjoyed it nearly as much as the Little Women and Little House on the Prairie series.  So why is it that I can vividly see the cover of the book I read but not its contents?  Does the “if it was important you would remember it” philosophy apply?  Well, I plan to find out.

Danny introduced me to a site that provides free PDF and mp3 file downloads available for books or other documents that are in the public domain or when the responsible party grants permission to do so.  A Girl of the Limberlost is available in mp3 format and I intend to listen to it.  Certainly, I could read it, but I have precious little time to read and, as this book is meant for children and young adults, it would feel like cheating for me to read it and review it for this project.  So, I’ll download it to my mp3 player and listen to it while I take walks.  It will be fun to do that I think.  Maybe it will feel like having someone read me a book.

I will review the Internet Archive in much greater detail after I am able to process everything that it makes available.  I didn’t even look at the section that provides audio recordings.  Danny says that there are mp3s of concerts that sound incredible.  It was as overwhelming for me to look at that website as it was when I walked into the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.  There is just so much you will never know.

#16 ~ The Glass Castle

April 18, 2007 at 3:12 am | Posted in Amazing Narrator, Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Inspiration, LIfe, Memoir, My Life with Books, Secrets and Lies | 1 Comment
Tags: , , ,

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls, her brother, and her two sisters grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who resented any part of the responsibility that goes hand in hand with parenting. Her memoir is a beautiful testiment to the resilience of the human heart and soul. As depressing as the details were about her experiences with poverty, squaller, and absolute hunger could be, I couldn’t think of a better book to read. It made me happy that I had loving parents who enjoyed their children and worked hard to provide for us. It made me happy to be human, like each and every member of Jeannette’s family. Most of all, it made me happy that Jeannette was willing to share her story. In light of recent events at Virginia Tech, it is a relief to know that an underpriviledged childhood full of empty promises and hardship does not have to end in violence.

« Previous Page

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.