BOOKS 2016

heartofthe-country

December 26      Heart of the Country by Greg Matthews    This book was published in 1995 and I’d never heard of it until a few months ago. I’d never heard of the author, either.  It’s going to be hard for me to describe this one… but first I’ll say that this was over 700 pages and felt a bit daunting when I began to read it – but not for a moment was I bored or forcing myself to carry on reading!  No, this was a captivating novel set in the late 1800’s in Missouri and Kansas.  I guess that’s why the author titled it the way he did, as it took place in the center of the country, but I’m going to be honest here…. the title sucks. It sounds like a sappy western romance novel, or maybe a book composed after hearing a country music song – but neither could be further from the truth!  This was NOT a “happy” novel, but it sure kept my attention as we met and followed the life of Joe Cobden. Half-breed; Buffalo hunter; brothel bouncer; son; hunchback. Joe had a rough life and met some pretty rough characters along the way, interesting townspeople, some of which were good to him, many who were not.  The writing in this book was unlike anything I’ve read in a very long time.  I was constantly looking up words and their meanings – I mean, who would expect this from a book about the old west??  Here’s a one sentence excerpt: “The sound of the harps was imperceptible from any great distance, but as the patch was approached became apparent to the ear in gentle gustings and murmurings, a wind-borne sighing of so plangent a tone the listener may well have thought it the exhalations of melancholy dryads, in some ancient glade, the distant reverberations of strings idly strummed by immortal fingers.”  OH MY! I will fully admit that I had to look up “gustings”, “plangent”, and “dryads”. This man writes an interesting, intelligent, and mesmerizing novel, all set in the middle of nowhere. One gets caught up in this book and cannot help but wonder what will happen to “Joe Buffalo” next. This was a fabulous book. Strange and depressing at times, but flat out fabulous. By the way, this is just my theory of course, but if the author would have chosen a better name for this novel, I think it could have really gone somewhere – like to the big screen. The title is so NOT a good description of the content inside. It kinda makes me mad that an editor didn’t suggest a bit more tough or gritty title – because this was one tough and gritty book.

ag6November 6    I decided to combine my review for the 3 final books in the Campion family series by Annie Groves. They are really like one giant book as one picks up exactly where the previous book left off. I really enjoyed this series and even sent away to England to get one of the books (it was actually cheaper to do that than buy the Kindle version).  The first three books were really SO good, and the last two were good but not AS GOOD as the first three. I felt like the last two had a lot of unnecessary verbiage in them – excessive rehashing of stuff that we’d already heard repeatedly. Also, a couple of the story lines were a bit…. well, silly.  Oh well, I truly enjoyed transporting myself back to the war years in England and losing myself in these novels. I think I’ll take a bit of a break from WWII and finish up a couple of books that I’ve been totally ignoring that are on my Kindle.  One thing I’ll say is that I’ve been totally loving the amount of free time I seem to have while we’re here in California. I can sit outside for hours – literally – and read, read, read. Heaven.liverpool2

October 24   Daughters of Liverpool by Annie Groves      This is part two of the Campion family saga as they make their way through WWII. I’m easily sucked into books like this – well written with actual story lines that are true to the historical aspect of the era. In this one we learn more about some of the secret de-coding jobs that people held back then and follow the family (as well as many other characters) through Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, as well as the nightly bomb raids on the Liverpool area. Yes, I’ll be starting book number 3 soon, I’m sure.

acrossmersey

October 15   Across The Mersey  by Annie Groves        Here I go again!!  I’ve just finished the first of a new (to me) series of five books by the wonderful Annie Groves.  This series is set in Liverpool England, before and during WWII (my favorite era). I’m not good at describing why I love this author and her books, but I’ll try.  First off, they are NOT fluffy romance stories. They are stories based on factual events, about fictional people and how they may have lived during this tumultuous time period. She describes the characters so well, without being unnecessarily wordy. You get to know the people in the book SO WELL and begin to really “care” about their welfare.  The main characters in the books seem to be regular people who face the hardships of war sometimes well, sometimes not so well – which I think must have been true in real life. In Across the Mersey, we meet the Campion family – a hard working middle class family  with four teenage kids. We follow along as the older daughter goes into nurses training and the son signs up for the Army.  We meet more family members who live across the Mersey River in a “posh” part of town, and their attitudes to the war effort. There are lots of side stories too, about friends and distant family of the main group.  She weaves a story so well, that as soon as I finish one book, I better have the next handy because I want to jump right in! I’m already on to book two and own book three, so I may have to resort to buying numbers 4 & 5 on Kindle as these UK publications are often hard to find here in the US.

painted-house

September 9    A Painted House  by John Grisham            I went into “retro” mode with this book as I listened to it on audio cassette  over the period of a few weeks. I enjoyed it a lot and think it’s probably worth 4 stars, but – I think I’d actually give it 4.5 stars, with the extra half-star simply for the awesome narrator in this audio book! I like John Grisham but have not read any of his work for a very long time. This one was published a long time ago (2001) and didn’t contain one word about lawyers – which may have been one reason why I was attracted to it. The story takes place in about 1952 in rural Arkansas, on a cotton farm. Life on a farm back then was pretty rough, and this novel does not sugarcoat it. I truly enjoyed listening to this book and the narrator did a fine, fine job depicting the southern accents, as well as different verbalization for each character. A lot happens in this rural community during the course of one cotton picking season… lots of things that little Luke (our 7 year old main character) hears and witnesses. It’s a good story, but I think I enjoyed it even more because it was an audio edition.

lion-feeds

September 6    When the Lion Feeds  by Wilbur Smith          This is Book One in what appears to be a 13-volume saga about a family, The Courtney’s of Africa.  It was back in the 1980’s that someone told me I really ought to read a Wilbur Smith novel…. it only took 35ish years for me to get around to it.  It was a mistake to wait so long — that I can tell you!  I’ve tried to figure out why I drug my feet regarding Mr Smith’s writing, and can only say that I think I thought that he wrote books that would only appeal to men. Au contraire mon frere!  This novel reads like an action-adventure movie! Frankly I’m shocked that no one ever put this series onto the big screen!  It was set in the late 1800’s in Africa (1870-1890ish) – a setting that normally would not appeal to me, but I decided to give it a try, and WOW!  There is never a dull moment in this book and the author describes scenes as though you are really there.  I will most definitely be reading more in this series because I simply have got to know what happens next!!! What more can you ask for in a book?  Wilbur Smith himself is a fascinating fellow. Here’s a short excerpt from his own bio:   “I was born of British stock on January 9, 1933 in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in central Africa. As an infant of eighteen months I was struck down by cerebral malaria, delirious for ten days. The doctors told my parents that it was probably better if I died, because if I survived I would be brain damaged. Despite the primitive medical facilities available in Africa in those days, their prognosis proved correct: I survived and am mildly crazy. Which is good, because you have to be at least slightly crazy to write fiction for a living…..”   Read more here: (it’s terribly interesting!) http://www.wilbursmithbooks.com/meet-wilbur/biography/early-days

If you’ve ever considered reading a wonderful and realistic adventure novel, it’s time to pick up one by Wilbur Smith. Go directly to your library, do not pass GO, do not collect $200, find a Wilbur Smith book and read it! You will NOT be sorry you did!

breath air

breath air1

August 29     When Breath Becomes Air  by Paul Kalanithi      This was a very poignant book, written by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of 36. Beautifully written, you could almost see the author progress through the defined stages of grief.  Some of the writing may be a bit technical for the non-medically inclined, but I actually think anyone would enjoy this book. I certainly did, and would most definitely recommend it. We’re all going to have to face death sooner or later and Dr Kalanithi faced it with realism and grace.

lilac girls

 

August 25     Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly        This incredible book was suggested reading for me from my friend and neighbor, Trish.  She knows I’m a sucker for all things WWII, and this turned out to be a wonderful recommendation. I’ve had it on hold for over two months, patiently waiting for it’s arrival from our local library.  Set during and after WWII, this novel was based on true events.  We follow the lives of three women: Herta –  a young German doctor assigned to the real-life Ravensbruck concentration camp;  Kasia – a young Polish girl who ends up as a prisoner at the camp; Caroline – a New York socialite who became very involved in helping orphans and doing other charity work during the war. This book grabbed me from page one, and never let me go!  I could nit-pick a few (very few)  instances where I think the author misrepresented either the verbiage or other details of the times, but for the most part, she did an excellent job.  It was a well written, sometimes gruesome and heart-wrenching book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  Truly an excellent read. This is Martha Kelly’s first book and I’ll definitely be interested to read more from her.

On a similar note, I’ve read quite a few other books between the one reviewed above, and the one directly below.  I haven’t done book reviews of them, but I certainly have been doing lots of reading this summer. I have also recently re-discovered my old portable cassette player and have been happily listening to books on tape as well. I know it’s old technology but you can so easily stop a tape and restart it when you’re ready to listen again… much easier than trying to keep your place with a CD player.  I can still get books on tape from my online book club, Paperbackswap.com and also from our library. It’s fun to be retro sometimes! 🙂   I’m reading at least 4 other books at the moment, so do be looking for more reviews to pop up on here real soon!

jumpoff

June 12     The Jump Off Creek by Molly Gloss   This book was first published in 1994 and it’s a shame it took me this long to actually read it!  It’s a slim volume – only 186 pages, but chock full of interesting detail about what it may have been like to be a woman alone, homesteading and cattle ranching in the rugged Blue Mountains of Oregon.  Set in 1896, we meet Mrs Lydia Sanderson, a young widow who wants to make it on her own in the wild west. This novel may not appeal to everyone, but as a huge fan of Historical Fiction AND as a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I was fascinated by the story and found it a very pleasurable read. I’ve read other books by Molly Gloss and will undoubtedly read more!

otherqueen

May 22  The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory        Holy Cow.  According to Goodreads, I started this book waaaaaay back in January!!  I had to go back and count – that was 14 books ago.  I think that in itself is rather telling as to how much I liked this book.  It was difficult. The first 250 pages could have easily been pared down to about 150, and the last 150 could have been dropped to about 100 for a total of maybe 250 pages instead of 430. What I’m trying to say is there was a lot (and I mean a LOT) of repetitiveness within these pages. That said, I did learn a lot about Mary, Queen of Scots — and more about Elizabeth the first. Obviously we all know what happened to Queen Mary, but how she came to that end was very interesting, at least to me, a self proclaimed “Tudorphile”. Ms Gregory is in my opinion a very talented author who researches her subjects endlessly.  If you were to read only one of her books, I’d highly recommend The Other Boleyn Girl as her very best. To be honest, this one was my least favorite of the 8 or so of hers I’ve read over the years.  I think I have three or four more by her in my “to read” pile, and this will most definitely not deter me from reading on!

bury

April 30  The Life we Bury by Allen Eskens        Oh dear. I am afraid I’m not going to have much in the way of good feedback about this one. 😦  First off, this was a “mystery” which is a genre I normally am not terribly intrigued by….. so there’s “Strike One”.   “Strike Two” were the characters, two barely twenty-one year olds, which honestly made this more of a young adult book in my opinion.  “Strike Three” was the predictability of the whole thing – and if I can see what’s coming, then anybody can.  A huge disappointment for me, and yet this book is getting great reviews!  For those who don’t know the premise, a young man has to complete an English assignment by interviewing an “old person” and  then writing his/her life story. Well our young man manages to inadvertently find an old, nearly dead from pancreatic cancer, convicted murderer to interview. Our old, dying murderer tells our young man that he’s innocent…. and so the hunt begins to find evidence to exonerate our dying murderer. Then throw in a love-interest, an alcoholic mother, and an autistic brother, and there’s your novel. Just not my thing. At all.   The good news?  I got this from the library.

reagan

April 20  Killing Reagan  by Bill O’Reilly      As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself MUCH more interested in politics than ever before.  Therefore it comes as no surprise that I found this book highly interesting.  One might think that Bill O’Reilly (a Republican) would probably write a real happy book about President Reagan, but this was much more under the realm of “realistic” than highly positive.  I honestly had no idea that there were obvious signs of his Alzheimer’s disease showing up while he was still president, as the author suggests.  There were lots of facts regarding the Reagan presidency that came to light, and also engrossing tidbits about Mrs Reagan, who very recently passed away.  I’ll definitely read more of O’Reilly’s “killing” books.  Hubby read “Killing Patton” and it’s on my bookshelf, so that may be next!

orphan train

April 14  The Orphan Train  by Christina Baker Kline                   This book has over 18,000 ratings on Amazon, with an average of all those ratings at 4 1/2 stars. Hmmmm…. maybe I’m an oddball, but it was only about 3 stars for me.  I was happy (in fact, quite happy) to have borrowed this book in Kindle format from my local library, instead of spending any $$ on it.  Not to say it was a “bad” book, because it was not.  What it was, IMHO, was a book written for a target audience of teenagers – not so much full grown adult women who love their historical novels (AKA: Me!).  It was set starting in 1929 New York City, went to Minnesota in the same time period, and then vacillated between 1929-1942 and modern day.  It seems like I’ve read a lot of books recently (or at least some) that tend to jump around between then and now, and while that type of storyline isn’t all bad, I guess I’m a bit burnt out on it for a while. I don’t think I give much away by saying there was very little history in regards to the Orphan Train itself. The train bit could be summed up in a couple of sentences…. “orphan kids get on train bound for Minnesota”……”kids get off train, find families”. I wish there was more about the actual Orphan Train – as the title would suggest! All that said, it WAS an interesting book, a quick an easy read, but I think I’d recommend it to my teenage granddaughter (if I had one that age), but not necessarily to my middle aged neighbor.

1achristmas promise

April 6    A Christmas Promise by Annie Groves     This was the fifth and final book in the “Article Row” series by Annie Groves.  We learn the fate of our five main characters – Olive, Tilly, Agnes, Sally, and Dulcie as WWII comes to a close. Again, I would have changed the title, as it really has nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the book, but despite that, I admit I really enjoyed this final volume just as much as the others. Things were not all rosy and perfect along the way, as I thought it might be in the finale`. It finally hit me, why I fell so hard for this series. It’s JUST like watching a British “soap opera” – like Coronation Street!  You get caught up in the goings on of all the people, there are actually quite a few different storylines to follow, and you can’t wait for the next episode – to find out what happens next! Time to say goodbye to wartime England for a while, but these books gave me many hours of very pleasant reading, and folks, what else can you want from a novel? 🙂

anniegroves4

March 29  Only a Mother Knows  by Annie Groves     Again, I really enjoyed this book, set in London 1941-1942. This series really hooked me in even though these are quick and simple reads, I still have found them so fun and interesting. This was book number four in a series of five, and the first one not completely written by the original author. The writing style was actually very similar, I’m happy to report.  No surprise, I’ve started the last book today, determined to finally find out what happens to the 5 main characters. Something tells me it’s going to be one of those “happily ever after” endings for everyone involved, and hey – what’s wrong with that? 🙂

1mysweetvalentine

March 23   My Sweet Valentine by Annie Groves     Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m hooked on these “Article Row” books, set in London during WWII. You think they are going to be so nice and sweet and cheesy, and surprise! There actually IS a plot and a story behind each character.  This is book number three in the series of five, and yes, I got book number four today on my Kindle.  I’m to the point now where I need to know what happens to these five women that I’ve come to know so well. If I could change one thing, it would be the title. There was very little to do with Valentines Day in this book… it goes on way past February of 1941, into the summer.  It’s simply a continuation of the four young women and their landlady, and frankly, I think it’s a fairly realistic account of what life may have been like in London during the war.  I was sad to learn that this was the very last book ever written completely by Annie Groves. She died in December of 2011 at the age of 65.  The last two books in this series were partially written by her, and partially by another author who followed the plot line written out by Ms Groves. It will be fun to see if I can tell a difference in writing style in the last two.

midwifesrevolt

March 11   The Midwife’s Revolt  by Jodi Daynard    Okay folks, this was one of those great historical books that I could REALLY sink my teeth into.  First off, one cannot ignore the obvious – yet another “midwife” book.  Ahhh, but this one is different, genuinely different.  There was nothing in this marvelous historical novel, set in the 1770’s, about midwifery. Hence, in my humble opinion, it probably should have had a different title, but please do not ask me what the “proper” title would have been as I’d have to think on that one for quite some time.  Essentially, this was about colonial life New England, Massachusetts precisely, during what was then called “The Troubles” but what we now know as the Revolutionary War.  Our main character, Lizzy Boylston, lives her life as a wife, a widow, a farmer, yes a midwife, and a spy. It was a totally fabulous book, beautifully written in the language of the day.  I’m not sure if this author has written any other historical novels, but if she decides to write another, I’ll be first in line to read it! Really loved this one!!!

anniegroves2

March 7   Home for Christmas by Annie Groves    I’m afraid y’all are going to get sick and tired of me reviewing these Annie Groves books…. but here we go.  This was book #2 in the “Article Row” series, set in London during WWII. Yes, these are easy reads and yes, they seem to suck me in.  I completely enjoyed reading more about our quartet of young women – as well as many others in the book.  Let me confess: I’m already reading Book #3 of this series! Usually I am drawn more towards books that have a bit more sophisticated plot, but for some reason, I’m SO enjoying these stories.  If you like this era set in war-torn London; if you are curious like me as to how women held down the homefront back then and made do with all the rationing, etc then you too will enjoy this entire series! 🙂

Lbelles

March 3   London Belles  by Annie Groves    I downloaded this lovely Kindle book about 18 months ago for next to nothing. Since it was set in my favorite historical era, and written by an English author, I had high hopes I’d really love it.  YAY! I did!  It was set in London (duh!) at the very beginning of WWII. Thirty-eight year old Olive, decides to rent out the empty rooms in her home for some added income.  She has her 18 year old daughter living with her, and took on three other girls, an orphan who works for the Underground, a girl who works at the cosmetics counter in Selfridges, and a nurse.  While it all sounds sort of cheesy, the author really lays out a good story, full of details of life during that time.  I really got to know all the characters very well and was actually thrilled to learn that this is just the first in a series of 5 books, all “starring” the same cast of characters.  I was sorry to learn that Annie Groves died in 2011, but happy to discover that she’s written LOTS of other similar type novels, that I will most definitely sink my teeth into at some point.  And yes, I have downloaded and started book number two in this series 🙂  So many good books…. so little time!  Thank you Dad, for taking me to the library every Friday evening when I was a little kid. You helped instill a life-long love for reading that has offered such pleasure over the years.  Dad died 6 years ago, this month.  Miss you, Dad. So much.

irish doc

February 23    An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea  by Patrick Taylor    I’ve lost track of how many of these Irish Country Doctor books I’ve read… or listened to.  I never tire of these and feel like I know all the characters personally! This one was slightly different, as there was a lot of detail in regards to Dr O’Reilly’s time in the Royal Navy on HMS Warspite.  Some might say there was too much detail about the battles and such, but it didn’t bother me one bit.  This one was divided equally between “modern day” (1965) and war time (1940-41) with each  chapter alternating easily between one era and the other.  Again, I was able to borrow this book from our local library, in audio form.  I so prefer listening to these books, as I just love the narrator and his real life Irish accent, and how he makes every single character truly come to life!  I was happy to learn that there will be another installation in this delightful series, come October!

lucybarton

February 20  My Name is Lucy Barton  by Elizabeth Strout   Oh my.  I had this book on reserve at the library and was so darned excited to dive into it, beings that I love this author….. or I thought I did.  I think I need to change that to –I loved a book written by this author.   Yes, I so loved her Pulitzer Prize winning novel Olive Kitteridge, that I thought maybe I, in turn, loved this author. Come to find out, I really don’t.  Sadly, that’s something this book made me aware of.  Lucy Barton is a short book, but long on depression and dysfunction. I really struggled to find one iota of happiness in here, and pretty much failed.  People rave about Ms Strout’s writing style, but this time I found it to be disjointed and dreary. In this book, Lucy Barton talks a lot about the 9 weeks she spent in a New York City hospital. Not so much about the hospital itself, but she reminisces about her life growing up (very poor, her family ostracized in many ways), her parents (unable to show love and abusive to a degree), her marriage (also not great), her kids (just meh), and so on.  I realize that I’m not a sophisticated reader, and that’s most likely why I didn’t enjoy this book.  Sooooooo…. I now know I am done chomping at the bit to get my hands on more of the author’s work.

secrets of midwives

February 14  The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth    Yes, it’s fairly apparent that I enjoyed The Things We Keep so much that I checked out this author’s first novel as an “E” book from my library.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love my local library? 🙂  Even when we are away for a month or two at a time, I can still get books for my Kindle from our library.  I digress.  I sure enjoyed this book, and in the beginning I wasn’t sure I was going to. It’s about three generations of women – grandmother, mother, and daughter who are all practicing midwives – AND, who all have a secret (hence the title). We jump around a bit from the grandmother’s experiences in England (before she moved to the USA) to the mother’s and daughter’s current experiences in modern day. I’ll admit it, I love reading books about midwives, birthing experiences, and really ‘ate up’ the PBS Series, “Call the Midwife”.  Why? Well, I spent about 35 years caring for newborn infants as a Nursery and Neonatal ICU RN. Heck, I still love babies…. and yet, I’m a tough read.  After attending thousands of deliveries over the years (as the baby nurse, not the midwife or Labor/Delivery nurse), I have a darned good idea about what really happens and what doesn’t.  I’m happy to report that there’s not one thing I can say about this book that wasn’t realistic in regards to the deliveries. Including the description of the breech delivery.  I found myself interested in the dynamics between the three related women, as well as how each of their secrets applied to their lives now – and to each other.  I surprised myself, reading two books back to back, set in contemporary times, and really enjoying them.  I’m impressed with this author and will without a doubt check out whatever she comes up with next.

things we keep

February 5      The Things We Keep  by Australian author Sally Hepworth    Oh my, this is a good one!  I veered out of my typical genre of Historical Fiction and went for a little bit of contemporary chick lit this time.  This was one of those books that I couldn’t wait to get back into after laying it down for a while.  It caught my attention right away and held it throughout.  Have you read Still Alice or Me Before You?  In a way, this novel is a mix of the two.  Thirty-nine year old Anna is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and is placed into a residential care home where she (and we) meet many of the residents, one of which is forty-one year old Luke.  Luke has a similar terminal brain illness – his is not just memory loss but speech loss also. We also meet the Eve the cook, her daughter Clementine, Eric the director, and Angus the gardener…. as well as other interesting folk in this tale of love and life.  A lovely book, well worth a read and just published in mid-January of this year.  Have I mentioned how much I love my library????  🙂  Will definitely reserve & read her other book, the bestseller The Secrets of Midwives.

true sisters

January 31    Just finished reading this excellent novel by a favorite author, Sandra Dallas, titled  True Sisters. I picked it up on a whim at our local library. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction which is based on actual events, and this book fits the bill perfectly.  It tells the story of a real 1856 trip, taken by new Mormon converts from Iowa City, Iowa to “Zion” – aka – Salt Lake City, Utah.  The trip entails over 1300 miles over rivers, prairies, and mountains…. through all sorts of weather, the worst being severe snow storms, and all done by foot.  These folks pulled “handcarts” all this way – no horses, no riding, all walking.  I’d not heard about this rather famous trek, and found it totally fascinating. I was so intrigued that I went online, looking for first-person accounts of the trip, as well as photos showing what a real handcart looked like.  Ms Dallas doesn’t “sugarcoat” this account, telling it like it really was – miserable to the Nth degree.  I read some reviews on Amazon and it appears that this book is being panned by some Mormon women, saying that the author portrayed the men of the Martin Handcart Company out to be much more dominating than they really were.  Well, lets face it folks, back then most men (of all faiths) really wanted to be in control of women.  It’s just the way it was.  Anyway, if you like historical fiction based on factual events, you’ll enjoy this read. I sure did.

spark joy

January 25, 2016   A few days ago, I finished reading Marie Kondo’s latest book called Spark Joy. The subtitle says “an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up”.  Well, I knew I had to read this one, after reading the first.  I found that much of the first book (see below!) seemed to be repeated in the second one. One thing that was different was that there were drawings, showing how you should fold your items, and how they should be stacked properly in drawers. She’s not big on hanging up clothing items, for some reason she thinks they should all be folded and in drawers.  Personally, I like both, and will be keeping my closet with clothes hanging in it as I always have.  The book did continue to inspire me to forge ahead on my de-cluttering quest, however!  She also made the statement that “decluttering is contagious”. So far, hubby has NOT got even a hint of my “disease”!  He daily repeats his mantra: I need everything I’ve got.  We’re in disagreement on that one.

tidying up

January 14, 2016       Yesterday I finished reading the long-awaited book by Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I had this one on reserve at the library for two months.  It took me only a couple of days to read and I probably could have done it in a day, had I wanted to.  First off, this book has over 7,000 reviews on Amazon.com.  Of those 7,000 reviews, 69% are 5-star; 16% are 4-star; 7% are 3-star, and so on.  Well people, pop me into the 7 percent because I can only give this book 3 stars.  I get what the author is trying to say, which is: “clean up your house, and you’ll clean up your life in so many ways.”  I get it, and I agree with it.  BUT, the way in which she says to do it is impractical and virtually impossible for most people.  Ms Kondo suggests that you clean out your home in one fell swoop and plan to discard/donate at least 40 (yes, FORTY) garbage bags of belongings.  I cannot imagine very many people who have the time OR energy to literally go through one’s entire household in the matter of a few days, touching every single object as she suggests, and wait to feel if each item “sparks joy”.  Hey, I’m all for de-cluttering and I’m in the process of it, but I physically can’t do it all in a very short period of time.  The author says you defeat your own purpose if you do it slowly, room by room or drawer by drawer.  She says that if you do it slowly, you’ll NEVER get your whole home clean.  I sort of get that…. but on the other hand, I can’t do it that way. I have to do it room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet.  I hope it won’t take me all year – I really do – but if it does, it does.  The onus is on ME if I am a big enough doofus to expend all that energy, just to start gathering clutter again before it’s all gone in every deep dark recess of my home!

I have other issues with this book.  Yes, I realize that the author is Japanese, and I do believe that some of her suggestions would possibly not be thought of as ODD in other cultures…. but in my culture, it IS ODD for one to empty one’s handbag every single evening on the premise that the handbag (yes THE HANDBAG) has worked hard for you all day, carrying all your stuff, and it needs to rest.  Or, that your socks should not be rolled up in balls together for storage, because they put in a vigorous day’s work between your foot and your shoe.  Apparently they should be folded together so they can relax and breathe.  Oh my.  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

One thing I actually love about the book is that there really is something to be gained from de-clutting your home. By the time you have actually looked through thousands of household items, you have had to make thousands of decisions regarding what to dispose of and what to keep.  As she mentioned in the book, this really does build decision making skills for people.  I do love the thought of a nicely pared down home, and I’m trying to do it, I really am – but I guess I’m doing it my way, and I’m okay with that.  🙂

still life

January 6, 2016    Just finished this library book by Anna Quindlen called Still Life With Bread Crumbs. I think I’ve read pretty much everything written by Ms Quindlen, except maybe the non-fiction stuff, and have enjoyed it all.  This book was not exactly what one might call spellbinding, but it was still quite entertaining.  Rebecca Winter (our main character) is 60 years old and a sort of washed-up once famous photographer who, for financial reasons, moves out of New York City into the wilds of rural New York State.  Having been a city girl all her life, she encounters shall we say, adventures out in the countryside. Yes, life is totally different out there… and while that’s the premise of the book, it was absorbing and very readable.  I truly liked this book and it’s cast of characters. I’d probably give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s