Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks by Patrick Raddon Keefe

Rogue: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks
by Patrick Raddon Keefe
15 Hours, 28 Minutes
Published June 2022 by Penguin Random House

Publisher's Summary:
Patrick Radden Keefe has garnered prizes ranging from the National Magazine Award to the Orwell Prize to the National Book Critics Circle Award for his meticulously-reported, hypnotically-engaging work on the many ways people behave badly. Rogues brings together a dozen of his most celebrated articles from The New Yorker. As Keefe says in his preface “They reflect on some of my abiding preoccupations: crime and corruption, secrets and lies, the permeable membrane separating licit and illicit worlds, the bonds of family, the power of denial.” 

Keefe brilliantly explores the intricacies of forging $150,000 vintage wines, examines whether a whistleblower who dared to expose money laundering at a Swiss bank is a hero or a fabulist, spends time in Vietnam with Anthony Bourdain, chronicles the quest to bring down a cheerful international black market arms merchant, and profiles a passionate death penalty attorney who represents the “worst of the worst,” among other bravura works of literary journalism. 

The appearance of his byline in The New Yorker is always an event, and collected here for the first time readers can see his work forms an always enthralling but deeply human portrait of criminals and rascals, as well as those who stand up against them.

My Thoughts: 
Rachel Maddow says, "Every time he writes a book - I read it." Same here, Rachel, same here. She also reads all of his articles, something I'd never done before. Until now. Rogues is a collection of some of his writings for The New Yorker and now I'm wondering where I can find the rest of his New Yorker back list. 

In this collection, Keefe covers every kind of rogue from murderers (drug kingpin El Chapo, Dutch criminal Wim Holleeder, and a rare female mass murderer, Amy Bishop) to celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain. The essays cover topics from counterfeit wine to the dirty secrets of Swiss banking to illegal arms trading. In these articles, he looks at two different lawyers who defend killers, both for very different reasons. 

Keefe's great skills are his ability to make the articles relatable and readable. He looks for ways to help us understand why people do the things they do. He never tries to make the bad guys look good but he tries to help us understand who they are. And while he has always clearly done his research, his work never feels like he's dumping every thing he's learned into the article, obliterating the story underneath. And the story is the point - Keefe is a storyteller, even if his stories are those of real people and, in this case, their misdeeds. 

Of course, like all collections, there were some stories that struck me more than others. The story of Astrid Holleeder, a lawyer who fears for her life because she fears a notorious killer she helped put in prison for life will find a way to have her killed. That criminal is her brother, a man who became famous when he was part of the kidnapping of Freddie Heineken (yes, those Heinekens). She and her sister had known for years that their brother was a criminal but finally they had enough of living in fear of what he might do to them so they wore wires and got him to incriminate himself. And still they live in fear of what he might do to them. 

Another story that will stick with me was that of Mark Burnett. Burnett, as you know, is the producer of Survivor. In 2002, he leased the skating rink in Central Park to host the season finale. The Trump skating rink. Burnett had already had the idea for another reality show and as soon as he saw Donald Trump sitting in the audience, he knew what to do. He immediately began feeding Trump's ego, cultivating a relationship that would allow Burnett to convince Trump to star in his new show, The Apprentice. Until then, Trump was considered something of a joke in the business community and the building they were set to film in was more than a little worn at the edges. The production company not only made their floor of the building look good, they turned Donald or The Donald into Mr. Trump. Burnett allowed Trump (partly because he knew it would make good television and partly because Trump wasn't able to learn his lines), to let his own personality come through. The show created an image of Trump as a straight-shooting master businessman. It seems almost impossible that Trump would have become president if not for Mark Burnett. And now I have to stop watching everything else Burnett produces. 

Another is the story a lawyer, Judy Clarke who defends notorious killers, the worst of the worst. Amongst Clarke's clients have been Ted Kaczynski and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (the younger of the Boston Marathon bombers). Clarke is a staunch advocate against the death penalty and had never had a client sentenced to death until Tsarnaev. While the death penalty has resulted in the deaths of innocent people, Clarke isn't representing those people. The people she represents are guilty and she doesn't try to present them as otherwise. Still, she fights hard to save their lives. In no small part because, as in the case of Tsarnaev, the families of the victims want that as well. They want to be spared the emotional toll of endless appeals and all of the publicity that comes with it. I didn't come away from this article caring any more about those terrible people, but it certainly heightened my conviction that the death penalty is wrong. 

Finally, there was the piece on Anthony Bourdain. I'm not entirely sure that this piece fits in with the others, although Bourdain would certainly be considered a rogue and a rebel. While Bourdain became famous as something of a punk rock chef and all-around bad boy, in later years, Keefe revels, Bourdain was disciplined and hyperorganized, controlling every aspect of not only episodes of his show but his life as well. He was also a man that didn't have a lot of old friends but who made a lot of friends in his travels. If you're a fan of Bourdain, you'll enjoy this piece. If you're not a fan going in, you may rethink your opinion when you learn more about a man who overcame addiction but never overcame his demons. 

As I've done with Keefe's other books, I highly recommend this collection. I especially recommend it for those who can't face the idea of reading a 500-page book about criminal activity but could manage an essay. You, too, will become a Keefe fan. You may even find your self having the same opinion as Rachel Maddow. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Life: It Goes On - August 28

Happy Sunday! This is my last Sunday to put up this picture of the lake and I can't tell you how sad that makes me. I know a lot of you are already decorating for fall - even looking forward to Halloween - but this girl has not spent nearly enough evenings on the patio. Although I did spend all of last evening sitting around a fire pit with friends and family on my dad's driveway - more on that later. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: This year's Omaha Reads book is Timothy Schaffert's The Perfume Thief which my book club is reading for September. I've already read it and I normally wouldn't reread a book prior to book club. But since I needed a new audiobook and this one was available, I decided to give it a listen. I'm enjoying it a lot. 

I also listened to several episodes of Glennon Doyle's podcast, We Can Do Hard Things - 2 episodes with Cheryl Strayed, 1 with Chelsea Handler, and 1 titled Why Are There No Pictures of Us? I expected that last one to be about us not allowing ourselves to be photographed because we don't like the way we look but it's actually about those around us not taking pictures of us because they don't really see us. 

Watched: Not a lot this week. Some baseball, some football. I wish I hadn't watched my Huskers yesterday; what a disappointment. 

Read: Finally almost finished with Ruth Ware's latest, The It Girl. Compelled to finally get it finished because my sister-in-law is also reading it and I want to be able to discuss it with her. 

Made: This is really starting to get embarrassing. I did make caprese salad the other night...without the cheese because I'd let the cheese I bought go too long. It was still delicious and I may just do it again tonight. 

Photo courtesy of a family friend
 My sister stayed with my dad this past week, helping him get ready for his move, so I took off Friday so she and I could work together. We got a lot of things sorted and did a lot of laughing. Then Saturday I headed back in so I could spend time with her, my brother, and my sister-in-law (not the same one) as we prepared for a thank-you party for the people who have helped my dad this past year and a half. We had a nice group of friends and family stop by to visit and to cook S'mores, enjoy an alcoholic slushee, and to talk and talk. My siblings and I sat out there until midnight (with one of my brother's friends who is like family) before we finally decided it was time to clean up. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: My sister-in-law brought up a lot of peppers and cherry tomatoes so there will be a lot of roasting and freezing going on this week. 

Thinking About: Miss H has been away from home this weekend and was headed home when she discovered a bubble on her tire. So I spent the next couple of hours worrying that her tire was going to blow while she was driving 75 mph on the interstate. I don't think I properly understood how much worrying parenthood was going to entail when I decided to have kids! 

Feeling: I'm keeping my brain focused on what needs to be done to get my dad moved and how the things in his house will be distributed. If I keep focused on it being tasks to be accomplished, I'm able to keep from getting overly emotional about it. But today when I looked at a floral garland my mom had wound around a curtain rod, I cried, thinking of how we are undoing all of the little touches she has added over decades. This is going to be a tough couple of months.

Looking forward to: I haven't even turned the page yet to see what the coming week entails so I don't even know what there is to look forward to this week!

Quote of the week: Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” —Dr. Seuss

Monday, August 22, 2022

Life: It Goes On - August 22

Happy Monday! It is not a beautiful, sunny Sunday as I write; it is, in fact, almost bedtime on Monday. I wish I could tell you that's because I've been so busy I haven't had a minute to sit down and write. But I have; I just haven't had the ambition to walk to the living room and write the post. And that's ok. My body is healing, my brain is racing and I just need to allow myself the grace to just sit when I need to do that. 

I see a lot of you are already thinking of fall. Meanwhile, I'm over here hanging on to summer with everything I've got in me. Two more weeks of this picture on my Sunday posts. Two more weeks before the unofficial end of summer. I love my slow evenings on the patio after our dinners out there. I love the flowers in full bloom all over my yard. I love being outside in short sleeves and barefooted (of course, my friends know that I'll be barefooted outside until it just becomes far too cold). So you can start mixing in some fall touches at your house. As for me, my shells are staying out a while longer. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe Saturday. Such a big fan of his writing. 

Watched: Yep, still football and not much else. 

Read: Where Wild Peaches Grow for the review today and also mixing in It Girl. But I'm in a real reading slump, guys. I just have very little interest in it. 

Made: Absolutely nothing of note. 

 My girl was in town this weekend to go to the wedding reception of her friend, who also happens to be our stylist (and, let's be honest, my friend now, too). The food was amazing, the bride was still glowing, and the bride's mom was so happy to see Hannah again after so many years. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: My sister is in Lincoln, staying the week with my dad, so I'll be spending a lot of time with her (and him!), prepping for his move and a thank you party all those who have helped him this past year and a half. 

Thinking About: Right now it's all about what needs to be done to help my dad be ready for his big move. Trying to focus on how nice the new place will be and how nice it will be for him to not be alone this winter. 

Feeling: So. Much. Better! I'm done with physical therapy and I'm cutting back on pain meds. I'm by no means past this back issue, but I can function with the pain that remains and know that I'm on the road to being pain free. 

Looking forward to: Book club tomorrow night. 

Question of the week: If you could pick one thing to have in your room that was in your childhood home, what would it be? 

Where Wild Peaches Grow by Cade Bentley

Where Wild Peaches Grow
by Cade Bentley
300 pages
Published August 2022 by Lake Union Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Nona “Peaches” Davenport, abandoned by the man she loved and betrayed by family, left her Natchez, Mississippi, home fifteen years ago and never looked back. She’s forged a promising future in Chicago as a professor of African American Studies. Nona even finds her once-closed heart persuaded by a new love. But that’s all shaken when her father’s death forces her to return to everything she’s tried to forget.

Julia Curtis hasn’t forgiven her sister for deserting the family. Just like their mother, Nona walked away from Julia when she needed her most. And Julia doesn’t feel guilty for turning to Nona’s old flame, Marcus, for comfort. He helped Julia build a new life. She has a child, a career, and a determination to move on from old family wounds.

Upon Nona’s return to Natchez, a cautious reunion unfolds, and everything Nona and Julia thought they knew–about themselves, each other, and those they loved–will be tested. Unpacking the truth about why Nona left may finally heal their frayed bond–or tear it apart again, forever.

My Thoughts:
In 1865, tens of thousands of newly self-emancipated enslaved persons fled, trying to get behind Union lines, presumably to be safe from re-enslavement. The Union was not prepared for the numbers of people they were suddenly charged with the care of and, more than likely, very little interest in caring for them. Exactly what happened to those people depends on who is telling the story; revisionist Confederate history would have us believe that the Union army intentionally allowed women and children to starver or die of smallpox, leaving 20,000 of 100,000 dead in a place called Devil's Punchbowl in Natchez, Mississippi. In the years following this, wild peach trees grew in the area but many will not eat the peaches, given how the ground was fertilized. 

Ms. Bentley sets her book in Natchez, with Julia's and Nona's Mamaw living across the street from the Devil's Punchbowl. She takes two pieces from the history of that location: the peaches play a big role in the story (they indirectly cause the death of the Davenport sisters' father) and the idea of revisionist storytelling. In our introduction to Nona, she is teaching her students that "Storytelling is how history was created. But our stories have often been supplanted with deliberate misinformation. Revisionism. Done to tell a different story." She is speaking of how the American South spent decades revising history. 

Nona's (and Julia's) own history is also filled with stories that have been revised to tell a different story, through lies, misinformation and secrets kept. The sisters spend decades living their lives apart because of a misunderstanding and these lies (the lies the sisters have been told, the lies the sisters have told otheers, and the lies they have told themselves) and secrets. But when Nona returns home for their father's funeral, the lies come to light and the secrets are revealed. 

Julia is the sister who was left behind. She is the sister who was left to care for a father that, I must say, was not the kind of man a daughter might feel compelled to spend any time caring for - but then Julia wasn't fully aware of what had transpired when she was younger. Readers are, through peeks into the past, and I couldn't help but feel that the girls were better off without him. 

Bentley tells the girls stories in both the past and present, and from multiple points of view, which allows readers to "hear" the sisters perspective and to know the way their lives were perceived by others. It made for a slow start as readers are slowly introduced to the characters, while also stepping back in time. That's offset by an ending that I only saw coming because there were so few pages in the book left; it felt a bit abrupt but both wrapped things up while leaving some character's stories open-ended. 

I found Bentley's descriptions, particularly those of Natchez and the area, very lovely. There were some unanswered questions, which I wasn't sure was intentional or not. If you're a fan of messy, complicated stories, you'll likely enjoy this book. It's a book that's somewhat out of my usual lane but I enjoyed it, being one of those fans of messy family stories. 

Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. 

About Cade Bentley 

Cade Bentley is a novelist and editor who is also published as Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Abby L. Vandiver, as well as Abby Colette. When she isn’t writing, Cade enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. She resides in South Euclid, Ohio. For more information visit www.authorabby.com.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Life: It Goes On - August 14

Happy Sunday! It's hot, it's sunny; but we're hoping for a lot of rain in the next few days, which, like so many of you, we desperately need. On the plus side, it has been less humid so that nights on the patio (or, as the case was last night, on my dad's front porch) are very tolerable. This week should be cooler so once the rain stops, I'm looking forward to reading on the patio again. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I continue to listen to Patrick Keefe's Rogues, which I'm really enjoying. It's, as I said last week, a collection of his previously published essays and is filled with so many interesting stories of real life criminals. 

Watched: Football!!!

Read: I finished Grief Is Love and continue with Ruth Ware's It Girl. 

Made: The usual summer fare but also pasta carbonara, a repeat from a couple of weeks ago. 

 Time in Lincoln with my Dad yesterday and dinner at a place none of us had been in 40 years. It's like a time warp - looks exactly the same as it has for decades, even has the same level of decrepitude as ever. Followed that up with a drive through long time favorite Pioneer's Park and hot fudge malts at a nearby ice cream food truck. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: After having overdone it last weekend, my back made me pay the price this last week (although it was no where near as bad as it once was) so little got done. This week will be all about playing catch up. 

Thinking About: It's all about what my dad will take with him when he moves and where he will put those things. 

Feeling: I'm starting to get in my feels about my dad leaving the house I grew up in and it's not uncommon for me to have to stop talking about his moving to pull myself back together. But I'm also eager to have him where life is easier for him and where he is nearby. 

Looking forward to: One of my mom's cousins from Denmark is arriving in Lincoln today, where he will be staying with my dad for a few days; so we are looking forward to see him while he is there as we haven't seen him in several years. 

Question of the week: Any other bloggers having trouble with Bloglovin'? It's not working for me at all and I'm missing all of your blog posts! 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Grief Is Love by Marisa Renee Lee

Grief Is Love
by Marisa Renee Lee
Published April 2022 by Grand Central Publishing
192 pages

Publisher's Summary:
 In Grief is Love, author Marisa Renee Lee reveals that healing does not mean moving on after losing a loved one—healing means learning to acknowledge and create space for your grief. It is about learning to love the one you lost with the same depth, passion, joy, and commitment you did when they were alive, perhaps even more. She guides you through the pain of grief—whether you’ve lost the person recently or long ago—and shows you what it looks like to honor your loss on your unique terms, and debunks the idea of a grief stages or timelines. Grief is Love is about making space for the transformation that a significant loss requires. 

In beautiful, compassionate prose, Lee elegantly offers wisdom about what it means to authentically and defiantly claim space for grief’s complicated feelings and emotions. And Lee is no stranger to grief herself, she shares her journey after losing her mother, a pregnancy, and, most recently, a cousin to the COVID-19 pandemic. These losses transformed her life and led her to question what grief really is and what healing actually looks like. In this book, she also explores the unique impact of grief on Black people and reveals the key factors that proper healing requires: permission, care, feeling, grace and more. 

The transformation we each undergo after loss is the indelible imprint of the people we love on our lives, which is the true definition of legacy. At its core, Grief is Love explores what comes after death, and shows us that if we are able to own and honor what we’ve lost, we can experience a beautiful and joyful life in the midst of grief.

My Thoughts: 
I caught just a bit of Glennon Doyle speaking with Marisa Renee Lee about her grief experience and this book and knew immediately that I needed to buy a copy for my sister...and then decided that I needed to read it as well, so I checked it out from the library so that not only could we both read it, but we could read it together. (Whew - that was quite the run on sentence!)

Is it good, you might be asking. Well, let's just start by saying that I haven't put this many sticky notes into a book in a very long time, especially a book this short. 
"Our culture glorifies the idea of just sucking is up, moving on, and being tough. This is part of what makes living with loss keeping challenging."
Which is part of the reason employers give so little bereavement leave. I got three days when my mom died. Three days. Three days were gone before we even got to the day of the funeral. After five days I returned to work. I'd been so busy taking care of my dad and getting things ready for the funeral that I had hardly started to grieve. Afterward, I rarely gave myself permission to grieve. That is one of Lee's primary messages - we must give ourselves permission to grieve, in whatever way that is for us, for the rest of our lives. Because if grief is love, as Lee, obviously says it is, and we loved our person, then we will never entirely stop grieving them. 

Lee talks about the toll grief takes on relationships, gives readers permission to feel joy and laugh and anger even as we experience grief, asks us to give ourselves grace (yeah, that spoke to me, given that "grace" is my word of the year), and tells readers that the death of a loved one should change you, should make you want to live in a way that will be a legacy to your loved one. 
"Joy is a basic right. Don't feel cast aside from your grief; you need to entitle yourself to the joy you deserve. If you are going to live a full life after loss, you have to find your way back to joy." 

"I failed to understand that the death of a loved one, of someone you hold dear, should change you. That is their mark on the world. You are their mark on this world." 

My sister and I have spent a lot of time texting back and forth about different pages in this book; she'll be coming this way soon and I expect that we'll spend a lot to time together talking about it even more. I am certain I will be buying myself a copy of this book to put on my shelf, next to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and Steve Leder's The Beauty of What Remains. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with grief, especially those who are preparing for grief as a loved one is dying or black women (Lee, as a black woman, speaks eloquently about the ways being a black woman makes grief even more difficult to navigate). 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Scent Keepr by Erica Bauermeister

The Scent Keeper
by Erica Bauermeister
Published May 2019 by St Martin's Publishing Group
Read by Gabra Zackman
9 hrs, 34 mins

Publisher's Summary: 
Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world—a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Publisher's Summary: 
This is my fourth Erica Bauermeister book - I missed it's publication but I've been looking forward to enjoying more of her work ever since I finished The Lost Art of Mixing in 2014 (preceded by two of her books in 2011). 

I was so looking forward to what has become Bauermeister's forte - casts of characters brought together to lean on each other to overcome adversity, with each character having their own chapters to develop their stories. I didn't even look at the summary when I requested this book from the library (again!). That preconceived expectation I had going into this book almost certainly colored my opinion of the book, much to this book's detriment. I didn't get my cast of characters in The Scent Keeper or all of their back stories. 

There is also what I would best call a sense of magical realism or fantasy to this book. As you know, magical realism and/or fantasy are elements in books that I struggle with. Sometimes they work for me. Because they do, I wouldn't have dismissed this book out of hand had I read in the summary that Emmeline's father had a machine that could capture scents, which he stored in bottles. Most often, though those elements don't work for me in a book. Unfortunately, this was one of those books. 

Kirkus Reviews calls this book an "artfully crafted coming-of-age story." Lately I've been finding myself agreeing with Kirkus more and more but I'm afraid I have to disagree with them on this one. Even given the element of fantasy in the first part of this book, Emmeline's time on the island with her father, that was my favorite part of the book (although Zackman's reading of Emmeline's father's voice didn't work for me at all). Bauermeister's writing in this really shown, with her sublime descriptions of the nature surrounding Emmeline. Once Emmeline leaves the island Bauermeister seems to lean more on stereotypes and tropes than I've seen before in her work. 

I can't help but wonder what I might have made for this book had I known ahead of time what the book was about. Or had I read the book in print, rather than in audiobook form. Might I have seen Bauermeister's characters as the individuals she no doubt meant them to be? Might I have been more willing to accept the fantasy elements - the machine, Emmeline's ability to "read" people by their scents and the scents they leave behind? Perhaps. For now, I will just look forward to what Bauermeister is working on now. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Life: It Goes On - August 7

Happy Sunday! Hot, hot, hot - it's been so hot here this past week! When the temperature is similar to Arizona's but it's not a dry heat, that's not good! It was finally cool-ish enough Friday evening that we could turn on the lights on the patio and spend some dusk time out there but it was too humid for both The Big Guy and the cat so we didn't stay out long. Between the heat and me not being able to find a chair outside that is comfortable to sit in for any period of time this year, there have been few nights on the patio all summer and I'm feeling cheated! There's still most of August, right?!

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished The Scent Keeper yesterday. Next up is Patrick Radden Keefe's Rogues: True Stories for Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks. It's a collection of his previously published essays. I haven't read a collection of essays in a while so I'm looking forward to it. 

 Quite by accident (in other words, there was nothing else of interest on tv and we couldn't be bothered to pull up one of our streaming services) we ended up watching The Last Night In Soho. No idea when we started what we were in for and when we were finished neither of us was quite sure what we thought of it. 

Read: The same books as last week - I'm still reading only about 30 pages a day, even though I spend plenty of time sitting on my rear doing other things. 

Made: My work team had team bonding afternoon on Friday. We started at a place called The Makery, where we spent a couple of hours creating door hangers. I inadvertently grabbed the wrong cutout word and ended up with a much smaller "hello" than I had planned on having (and didn't feel like paying the extra to add some color to the bow) but otherwise, I'm pretty happy with my result. It was a lot of fun and I'd like to go back and try my hand at another one. 

 I received a card from my sister this week, on the front of which is one of her "doodles" of the two of us. I loved the sentiment contained in the card but I will treasure the drawing - it so represents the two of us! We also got to celebrate Mini-him's birthday finally and were joined by my dad and some family friends from California who we haven't seen in several years. It was bittersweet to see them since the man who had introduced them to us, one of my dad's friends from childhood, passed away a couple of years ago and we always miss him when we were altogether. I kept thinking, too, how much my mom would have loved to be with us. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On bringing up a table to work on - I know I said that a couple of weeks ago but it hasn't happened yet. You know, I had that puzzle to spend all last weekend on! <insert palm to face emoji here>

Thinking About: My dad has picked a place in Omaha and will be moving this fall. This is where the part of my mom that lives in me comes into full play - my mom loved to have something to plan for and organize. I know we will feel her guiding hand as we navigate this process, which is going to be very hard as we say goodbye to the house my parents bought in 1968. The house we grew up in, the place that holds so many memories. I will try to live with that by throwing myself into making this as easy for my dad as possible. I've already printed out the floor plan so I can start graphing out what furniture will fit where and thinking about how to bring as many memories with him as possible. 

Feeling: My feelings this week are mixed. I'm excited to report that my back is doing so much better that I'm able to cut down to one physical therapy session next week and then we'll see where we're at. Concerned for my sister and wishing I were closer to her. Happy that my dad will be so close to us soon. 

Looking forward to: A quiet week, I think. Although I haven't actually looked at this week's calendar yet today. 

Question of the week: If you were going to be making a move like the one my dad will be making, what things would be most important to you to bring with you?

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

I have three book going right now but nothing to review so I figured it was time for another dig in the vaults to see what kind of bookishness (sometimes my brain forgets that a word is a word and I'm surprised when it doesn't light up red!) I can find to share with you!

Ever heard the term "book-wrapt?" This article from the New York Times, How Many Books Does It Take To Make a Place Feel Like Home tells us it's a term coined by computer systems architect turned author of a book about the architecture and furnishing of domestic book rooms. He uses the term to "describe the exhilarating comfort of a well stocked library. I have quite a lot of books (both books I've read and carefully chosen to keep and those that I haven't picked up yet) but I would hardly call what we have a "well stocked library." After reading this article, I really want to find a way to bring all of my books together in one place. Maybe. Or maybe I'll leave them spread out in seven different rooms in my house so that I can take comfort in books no matter where I am in my house. What about you? Do you have a well stocked library? And have you ever been "book-wrapt?"

Restauranteur Alice Waters home. Waters estimates she has approximately 1800 books. 

School is right around the corner but it's not too late to read to your child to help prepare them for kindergarten. Growing Book by Book has this list of 101 Books To Read To Kids Before Kindergarten. If your child is no where near ready to start school than you're really in luck because there are books for all ages up to kindergarten. And let's be serious - most kids want to hear the same books over and over - it's going to take some time to get through 101 books!

From Catapult comes this article titled How Fairy Tales Teach Us To Love The Unknowable. You know how much I love fairy tales (ok, maybe if you're fairly new here you don't, what with the dearth of Fairy Tale Fridays that I've posted in the last couple of years). It's less an article about the unknown in general but more an article about the unknown in romance as seen through the lens of fairy tales. Not so much the kind of fairy tales we typically think of when we think of romantic fairy tales, but more the kind that show readers that sometimes you really have to work for your love and that you don't know what you're getting into when you fall in love. It fits right in with a discussion I had today with a coworker today about how when we marry young, we are taking it on faith that we will grow and mature in the same way. But the truth is, we are really entering into the unknown any time we get married. 

It's late, I'm tired, and I've got those three books going and should probably pick one of them up for a bit so that's it for me this week. Do you have any good bookish articles to share with me?

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Girl In HIs Shadow by Audrey Blake

The Girl In His Shadow
by Audrey Blake
12 hours, 52 minutes
Read by Susan Lyons
Published May 2021

Publisher's Summary: 
Rescued from a pandemic's wreckage and raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft, orphan Nora Beady cares little for Victorian conventions. While other young ladies busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora perfects her sutures and anatomical illustrations. 

Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft's private clinic, Nora is his most trusted-and secret-assistant. That is, until the new surgical resident, Dr. Daniel Gibson, arrives. He never suspects Nora is more qualified than he is, and to protect herself she'll have to play a new and uncomfortable role-a proper young lady. 

But pretense has limits. Confronted by suffering patients, Nora cannot hide her skill, even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she's worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the medical field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice: remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is-even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.

My Thoughts: 
I'm not entirely sure how I found out about the Big Library Read, hosted by Overdrive; but when I did, it felt like just the kind of book I'd enjoy - historical fiction, a strong woman breaking barriers. I think it also, subconsciously, made me think of my mom, a thought that come to me consciously almost as soon as I started listening to the book and stayed with me throughout. Oh how I wish she were still here so that I could recommend this one to her. I'm happy to say, though, that my dad is reading it as well; he has the luxury of not having having the book yanked back from him by the library after two weeks, so he's still reading. But we're enjoying having discussions about the book. Some quick thoughts about the book:
  • While the Big Library Read was meant to be an ebook read, I listened to this one and would highly recommend Susan Lyons' work. She did a fine job with all of the voices, male and female.
  • This book should maybe come with a warning that there are medical procedures which are very detailed. Not necessarily gory; just very detailed. Blake clearly knows what she's talking about, though; it definitely adds credibility to the story. 
  • Blake shows readers the seamier side of medicine, a side as much about legitimate medicine as hacks. Here we can see that a lot of what we owe current day medicine to came by means that were considered distasteful and illegal even in the 19th century. 
  • While I don't think it will be any surprise to any reader what develops between Nora and Daniel, Blake doesn't give readers the traditional happily-ever-after ending, which I very much appreciated. Likewise, another early contender for Nora's affections doesn't turn out to be the pat bad guy. 
  • I'm always happy to read about strong women in history, even if they are made up. Here Nora struggles with finding her place even within the household she lives in but her strength never wavers. 
  • One quibble I had with the book was, what felt like to me, an overabundance of comparisons in descriptions, often comparisons that I found a bit odd. 
  • I couldn't help but compare Horace Croft to Henry Higgins and Nora to Eliza Doolittle (from My Fair Lady or Pygmalion). Again we have an eccentric specialist who takes on a lower class young woman and transforms her (although without the eventual coupling of the two). 
  • This would make a really good book club selection; there is a lot to discuss here. 
Maybe what I liked most about this book was that it felt like my mom was with me throughout. Which may be just what I've been looking for in every book I've read in the past year and a half.