Monday, March 28, 2016

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I've tried to describe this novel to a number of people and failed miserably. Then I read Jill's review on Goodreads, and she says it better than I ever will. Read her review. Then, read the book. You won't be sorry. Plus, it's got Shakespeare, courage, a really cool sounding graphic novel as part of the plot that I wish was available to read, and a dog (or two) named Luli.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I've been Hexed (A story nearly a decade in the telling)

Once upon a time, I fell in love. It was clearly meant to be. I saw a picture and knew that was for me. Never mind that I was madly in love with my husband, a devoted mother to offspring and caregiver to a parent. I was hit hard. And it wasn't one sided either-- but six. No, the object of my desire wasn't polyamorous, but was a simple hexagon, crocheted and colorful, waiting for me.

It was a time in my life when the intermittent nerve problems I have in my hands was quiet, and I could crochet for hours. Hats, bags, Amigurumi critters all tumbled off my hook with colorful abundance. It was on flickr that I first noticed a afghan done in hexagon pieces, rather than granny squares. The pattern charmed me and I decided to take it on.

Koigu yarn stash
I found my hexagon lover while seemingly complex, actually rather simple to get along with.  I could crochet along, only half paying attention to what chained from my hook. The pattern was pretty intuitive, and easy to replicate. It was just a matter of time. In December 29, 2007, I took some lovely Koigu yarns left from various projects (even frogged* a piece I started in 2006, if I recall) and began my hexagon afghan.

I had such fun working on the afghan. It accompanied us as we travelled to our cabin in the mountains. It wrapped around me, as I yakked with my mother, and with my brothers and sister in laws and other relatives when they visited. It absorbed the happy companionship of our home. I still remember one of my sister in laws looking at it and saying that she couldn't believe she knew someone who made something this beautiful. tIeven wore it, as a shark, but in reality a work in progress, when we went to see and hear our family friend James Moody when he came to Charleston in 2008. (That's me in the center, still carrying my prednisone weight, and growing our my hair at my granddaughters' request, to give to Locks of Love. They made a special point of telling me that LofL took gray hair now, Hmph.) It was lovely, a happy time. Each stitch was a reminder of what my mother often said-- an afghan is a way to give a hug to someone you love when you can't be with them. Her afghans were made for people she cherished, and carried armfuls of love. 
January 2008
With James Moody and Al Fraserr (author and Dizzy Gillespie's Cousin

But ultimately, it was time that fled from me. After successfully hosting an International BookCrossing Convention in 2007, in early 2008, the Charleston BookCrossers were asked to host the US BookCrossing UnConvention, and moved into high gear, planning in 3 months what we had done in 3 years for the 2007 event. Then, a few months after that, my beloved mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I immersed myself in that challenge, vowing with her to face the days with courage, laughter and love. Her courage never left her, but mine collapsed in June 2009, as I held her hand and whispered goodbye. I thought that perhaps to heal, I'd pick up my hook again, as I had learned to crochet from my mother, and it was an activity, along with reading and sharing stories, that we liked to do together. After her memorials (one west coast, one east), I headed off to the mountains of Georgia for some R&R, accompanied by a manuscript I was determined to revive, and my hexagon afghan WIP**. But it was not meant to be. Shortly after settling in, I turned around and went home to sit vigil for my elder brother and sister-in-law, horribly injured in a home invasion in India. When my brother died, I put the yarn away, unable to face it, remembering the hours I'd worked on it while both he and my mother sat nearby.The hexagon project surfaced a few times in 2011 and 2012, but my hands acted up and it was tucked away. Then we got involved in readying our home for sale, showing the house, moving, settling in to a new place. 

A few weeks ago, I pulled the afghan-to-be out of storage, and discovered it looks beautiful in our library/office space. I took inventory of what needed to be done to complete it, and guess what? Today I tied off the last bit of yarn on the afghan. It's small-- more like a lap throw or small coverlet, perfect for snuggling up under on the couch, rather than a bed spread.It still needs to be blocked. But know what? When I tuck it around me, I feel the arms of those I love.

Tucked around me tonight as I write 

*translation: Rip it (Congratulations, you now have a words in yarn-speak)
**translation: Work in progress (You now have now doubled your yarn-speak vocabulary)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Life and Other Near-death Experiences and also The Art of Forgettingboth by Camille Pagan

Dang it! I meant to write a review of this much sooner. I enjoyed Life and Other Near-death Experiences in a light-reading-but-still-touched-on-deeper-issues kind if way. Plus it had a little Puerto Rico in it. The author did a good job dealing with the art of denial, particularly with regards to medical issues, and while things didn't tie up in a pretty bow (because that would be another book), she tied a firm square knot and left the reader hopeful. 

I loved the twin relationship in the book, too, both for the fraternal twinness and the sibling interaction/support. And, I liked the book enough to seek out her first book, which I have just finished.  

As for The Art of Forgetting, I had more difficulty getting caught up in the story. I've known a number of people with head injuries (enough so that I wore a helmet riding my bike long before it was fashionable or easy to find.) I've experienced first-hand the subtle and not so subtle changes that can occur in an injured brain (someone else's, not my brain, though at times I've wondered if I was the damaged one,beefing the world in a weird slant because of the vehemence of reactions thrown my way.) it's hard, truly. But my issue with the book is that the peri jury relationship between Marissa and her best friend Julia had weird pathologies without a brain injury.  There were a few moments I really liked (like the conversation about swans never forgetting wrongs done them, as opposed to human, who do, which led to the title of the book), or some of the ways the author chose to exacerbate and explore conflict and resolution. 

I'll keep my eye open for future books by this author.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A few weeks back, I read a book by Fredrik Backman, which I picked up strictly because of the title. While I was not as enchanted as I'd hoped, the writing and concept appealed to me. I found out that Backman's first book, A Man Called Ove, was a bit of a sleeper surprise-  it rose to acclaim by word or mouth in Europe, and the cover blurb interested me enough to seek it out.

A Man Called Ove is now read and is on that shelf of books I'm really glad I read. Ove, a curmudgeon, alone, judgmental, set in his ways, is set on his ear by the arrival of a boisterous group of new arrivals in his life: new neighbors who totally upset all the rules with which he defines his world. To top it off, there's this scraggly cat that keeps coming around, and other happenings and mishappenings in the neighborhood.Talk about a heartwarming story. Wow. Told with alternating glimpses of Ove's life already lived, and his present life, the author really draws this character throughly for the reader to see: a man of character, who stays true to his values, but learns to let his firm beliefs reshape themselves. Beautiful.

If you want a book of grand scale, high action, and great tension, go elsewhere. But if you want a book of heartwarming humanness that might even make you smile, come check out this grouch and his world. If you drive on over, make sure it's a Saab, and you obey the neighborhood signs.

Tags: 2016-reada-favorite-authordidn-t-want-to-put-it-downfirst-novel-or-bookfunnyi-liked-itreadsatisfyingthank-you-charleston-county-librarytranslatedwill-look-for-more-by-this-author

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

The craft of story-telling woven around a engaging story in itself, told with the skill and poignant eye of Joshilyn Jackson. Characters a bit more broken than usual, but every bit as engaging. Good writing, good reading. (And I liked the "reveal" on the title of the book.)

tags: 2016-read, a-favorite-author, great-title, i-liked-it, read, satisfying, set-in-the-south, thank-you-charleston-county-library, will-look-for-more-by-this-author