Saturday, January 26, 2013

Water by the Inch - Herbert V Young

subtitle: Adventures of a pioneer family on an Arizona desert homestead

I picked up this gem at a book swap at one of my reading groups.  The author was born in Arizona in 1887 on his parent's homestead  near what is now Camelback and 107th Avenue in Phoenix.  It's a memoir of growing up in the desert, raising cattle and potatoes and getting into all sorts of scrapes and dangers that a mischievous boy could find.  He tells tales of day to day living; Sundays going out to see wildflowers, all the chores on a small ranch, the flora and fauna of the desert, learning values from pioneer parents.

It's hard to imagine people striking out for Arizona to homestead just from a sense of adventure and opportunities to be explored.  I was impressed that they were not seeking gold or running from hard times but made a choice to try to make a home in the Arizona territory.  Both parents were well educated and schooled their five children in respect for others and self-reliance.  I would have liked to have met the author.

Published: 1928  Read: January 2013  Genre: Memoir

Sunday, January 20, 2013

All Different Kinds of Free - Jessica McCann

**spoiler alert to my first Monday's reading group**

In 1837, a free black woman in Pennsylvania and her children were kidnapped by a bounty hunter and taken to Maryland.  She and the state of Pennsylvania sued in a case that reached the United States Supreme Court and launched a disagreement on state's rights that contributed to the start of the Civil War.

This book takes the historical facts and weaves a fictional story of what Margaret Morgan's life may have been like before and after the kidnapping.  Its a fascinating account of life before the civil war in both Pennsylvania (my home state) and Maryland as well as the state of the nation.

I found myself rushing through the chapters to see how her life would turn out, knowing from the beginning that even the fictional account would be heartbreaking.  Being separated from your children like cattle is hard to grasp over 175 years later.  The treatment of women of all color was marginally better than that of the slaves.  

I read this for one of my reading groups and look forward to our discussion on it.

Published: 2011  Read: January 2013   Genre: Historical fiction
Winner Freedom in Fiction Prize

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

My sister recommended this as her favorite from 2012 and it is a winner in my opinion.

A man looks back on this life and tells the story of his first love and its consequences as he remembers it.  All the while, he is wondering what is memory?  What is reality?  The story examines the uncertainty of what we think is true.


" But I was wrong about most things, then, as now."

[on personality] "...God knows you can have complication and difficulty without any compensating depth or seriousness."

"History isn't the lies of the's more the memories of the survivors  most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated."

"It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent difference pasts for others."

"I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded--and how pitiful that was."

I finished the book in one sitting and went back and read parts of it again immediately.  The story makes me ask myself - what do I think I know?  What do I think I remember?  How different would my life be is I knew a different truth?

I like books that make me think.  This one will be on my mind for a while.  Thanks, sis.

Published: 2011  Read: January 2013   Genre: Fiction
Winner 2011 Man Booker Prize

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rise and Shine - Anna Quindlen

I enjoy this author.  I enjoy how she writes, not too much, not too little, just right.  In this novel she tells the story of two sisters, one a mega-star network TV host, the other a social worker.  They are very close, having lost their parents when they were very young.  Their relationship is authentic to me and I smiled more than once at their back and forth conversations, just like sisters.  A quote I noted:

"And yet as I spoke, all I could think of was how much we lie to one another with all the best intentions, how nearly every conversation has somewhere within it, often throughout it like veins in marble, obfuscation or avoidance or the kind of shading that shave off the hard edges of the truth   Kindness and custom have turned us all into cowards."

The story of a big change in their lives (I won't give it away) unfolds over several months and wraps up a little too hastily for me in the last several pages.  The contrasts in their lives, the pictures painted of the New York life style both from the top and near the bottom are well done.  If your a fan, you'll enjoy this book.

Published: 2006  Read: January 2013  Genre: Fiction

*ask me if you'd like my copy

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Being Good - Simon Blackburn

Subtitle: A short introduction to ethics

A couple of years ago when a dear friend of mine passed, I received many of her and her husband's books.  This little primer addresses the basics of ethics, a sort of introduction to the philosophy of morals.  It provides an overview of theories that question the need or existence of ethical behavior, examines the ideas addressed with ethics and the foundations of ethical thinking and philosophy.  While short (150 pages) it provides some rich food for thought and contemplation.  I may have to re-read it before I grasp even this simplified presentation.

Published: 2001  Read: January 2013  Genre: Philosophy, non-fiction

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Going Somewhere Soon - Brian Andreas

Subtitle: Collected Stories & Drawings

This charming Christmas present from my BFF is written by storyteller and artist Brian Andreas.  He became interested in telling short (very short) stories and illustrating them on found materials (barn siding from his native Iowa) with line drawings.  His art pieces (see here) are brightly colored and eye-catching.  His poetry/stories are humorous and poignant, funny and touching.  In 2012 he launched a collaborative storytelling website called tumblecloud.

Published: 1994  Read: January 2013  Genre: Art/Poetry

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

Magical.  Spellbinding.  This story was both of those and more.  A young man, rescued from a orphanage and a magician's daughter are put to a challenge that unfolds at a night circus. Set in the late 1800's, reading was like unfolding a multi-wrapped present. The detailed descriptions and images painted a picture for me of the settings and people.  I was impressed and more so when I discovered the author was a young woman and this her first novel.  Following are some quotes I enjoyed:

"...wishes on sheep appear to work no better than wishes on stars."

"...she has an innate distrust of anyone whose occupation involves telling people what they wish to hear."

"I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark."

"Love is fickle and fleeting...It is rarely a solid foundation for decisions to be made upon, in any game".

"You cannot stop can only be prepared for them to happen."

I would recommend this book.  There's already a move option on it, it'll be interesting to see if they can pull it off.

Published: 2010   Read: Jan 2013   Genre: fiction