Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gather Her Round (Tufa #5) by Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe got me hook line and sinker with his first novel of the Tufa The Hum and the Shiver. With each subsequent Tufa tale, he reels me in further. There are so many elements about the series which keep me reading: the backstory, the setting, the depth of the characters, not to mention the incredible story arcs that weave and wander between the books creating a tapestry that delights, surprises, and satisfies. When I read a Tufa novel, the plots of each book engage me, but the writing-- oh, the writing! In a seemingly effortless, unpretentious, uncluttered way, Bledsoe brings the sounds, smells, and sights of Cloud County to vivid reality in my own imagination. I am transported to walk among the characters he has created, a silent observer, watching the good, the evil, and the in-between create the paths of their lives. These are stories that ring with song, those rich ballads from ages ago, and new ones filled with love, longing, and a touch of magic.

Kera Rogers set out one afternoon to practice her music at a favorite spot in the woods.  A text conversation with her boyfriend abruptly cuts off and Kera is believed to have fallen victim to the wild hogs, led by a monstrous, seemingly supernatural one. When the young man she was seeing behind her boyfriend's back is the next to die, the plot, as they say, thickens. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this tale was the telling: the split format of an adult Janet at the Smoky Mountain storytelling festival, relating the tale while intertwining her music and the basic narrative unwinding the memory of a happening in her girlhood.

If you've read any of the Tufa series, you may see characters you've met in other books, but if you've never come to Cloud County in your reading before, this, as with any of the books in the series, gives an easy glide in, without a preponderance of fill-in to catch you up.

Bottom line: thank you Alex Bledsoe. You keep writing; I'll keep reading.

Thank you to Tor Books for this copy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip by Hitha Palepu

My business travel days are over, but that of my children is just beginning. I figured this book might be good for the latter for business, and maybe help me pare down for my few travels. There are some good suggestions, but it is very female oriented (makeup, cosmetics, heels vs flats, types of bras, etc). I was also struck by the use of "hair ties" to hold rolled clothes and for another use or two, assuming everyone would have them on hand and need to be travelling with them. I liked the illustrations from an artistic point of view, but they aren't as helpful, for me as photos or more detailed drawings from a packing and finding new assistive point of view. I have an important trip next month, and will put these suggestions to the test to see if it helps.

Thanks to Blogging for books and the publisher for sending me my copy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Frog Who Was Blue by Faiz Kermani

This lovely little book was written to support the World Medical Fund (WMF), a medical charity working in Africa, which focuses on the regions most vulnerable children. It is a simple story of Malawi, who comes from Lake Ticklewater, deep in the heart of Africa. All the frogs there, including Malawi are blue (which, of course, got "I'm in Love With a Big Blue Frog" running nonstop through my brain). However, when Malawi gets accepted to Croak College, he finds out that no other students are blue, just him. The green frogs tease him and shun him, and poor Malawi is broken hearted. But things happen, as they often do in stories like this, giving children a chance to be exposed to the message that being different is not necessarily a bad thing.

As a retired pediatric nurse, who worked with disabled children, this was a common occurrence for the children and families to get through. Kids who look different, have equipment to help them walk, talk, breathe, pee, eat, write, talk, can all be treated like blue frogs. It's not always an easy fix, and though this book is a nice beginning, I found myself remembering Digby Wolfe's poem, Kids who are Different.

Here’s to kids who are different,
Kids who don’t always get A's,
Kids who have ears
Twice the size of their peers,
And noses that go on for days.

Here’s to the kids who are different,
Kids they call crazy or dumb,
Kids who don’t fit,
With the guts and the grit,
Who dance to a different drum.

Here’s to the kids who are different,
Kids with a mischievous streak,
For when they have grown,
As history has shown,
It’s their difference that makes them unique.

Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the author for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Some of the pysanky I have available still are listed here. If interested or desiring more information, please contact me (picture row and position of pysanka from the left would help). Thank you.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rejoice the Ides of March or The Bard Can be Wrong

Long story short, today is our wedding anniversary. Javaczuk and I were married 33 years ago, on the eastern shore of Maryland. We also were married 33 years, 4 days ago in Washington, DC. And if you want to get technical, we also were married 20 years ago in Charleston.  I told you, it's a long story.

The first was the family wedding, but for those long-story-short reasons, suffice it to say we needed to be married again to make it legal. So we were. On our honeymoon. 33 years ago today. With my mother and siblings present.

The third was actually in the Catholic Church-- the sacrament of marriage, 13 years after the original ceremony. Our son and my mother were our picks for best man and matron of honor, but since one was 7 and the other not a Christian, our pastor asked us to pick witnesses who were both adult and Catholic. So we did, but in my heart, I treasure my mother standing (well, sitting in her wheelchair) for me, and our son by his dad's side, as I wed my sweetheart, once again, though this time with the Church's blessing.

We were telling the story of our weddings to our daughter, and she decided we needed to renew our vows. After all, it had been over 20 years since we did so. It would be easy, she told us. She could perform the ceremony herself, since she is a Notary Public. So, with our daughter as officiant, and granddaughters as maid of honor and best girl, with me clutching my iPhone with a picture of flowers I'd drawn, with the man I gave my heart to all those years ago, she said the words, and we replied "sure, why not?" and "you bettcha". We sealed the deal, once again. He's stuck for good.

Life is nothing if not contradictory. The Ides of March isn't always a date to beware. And the Bard can be wrong. The course of True Love sometimes does run smooth, 33 years and counting.

Pictures below:

March 11, 1984 At the Calvert Collection, in Washington DC, because if you can get married in an antiques and art gallery, why wouldn't you? (We call this our fake-aversary, because the marriage wasn't legal)

March 15, 1984, St. Michael's, Maryland, by the courthouse, where we'd just gotten hitched by a judge. (That's my kin gathered round us.) This is the one we recognize as our true marriage date.

March 15, 1997 Cathedral of St John the Baptist, 2 pictures

March 11, 2017 South Carolina Lowcountry

Sunday, March 12, 2017

One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals from the Oven to Your Table by Molly Gilbert

Two years ago, we moved into a new home where 3 out of 4 burners on our stove were kaput, and our oven unreliable. Though we're in the process of renovations now, I became an expert on one pot cooking, since essentially, I only had one working element with which to cook. This is a nice collection of full cooking, from breakfast through all mealtimes and on to dessert. The few recipes I've tried so far have been tasty, though some were a little bland for our tastes, but I'll follow my instincts when cooking them next to add some of our favorite spices to kick flavors up. All in all, a fine addition to the shelf.

Thank you to Blogging for books and to the publishers for sending me my copy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

Warning: If you are approaching your "golden years", and/or you've lost someone you love who was elderly and had memory problems, and/or two of your biggest fears are that memory loss/illness will take your beloved before your or that you will lose all you love along with your own cognition/memory, don't read this book. Cathleen Schine is a skilled, fabulous writer, and she paints a picture that will rip across your heart, reviving all of your deepest fears, reawakening all of your darkest moments. This is not a book for the lighthearted. I can imagine that for those still in the light of health, having never lost someone they love, this could be the "hilarious novel" written about on the back cover. For me, all it made me want to do is curl up and cry. I can't rate it because I can't separate the excellent writing from the black despair of the emotions it evoked.

From the publisher:
From one of America’s greatest comic novelists, a hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love

The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days. And they didn’t count on Joy herself, a mother suddenly as willful and rebellious as their own kids.

The New York Times–bestselling author Cathleen Schine has been called “full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to [ Jane] Austen’s own” (The New York Review of Books), and she is at her best in this intensely human, profound, and honest novel about the intrusion of old age into the relationships of one loving but complicated family. They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a radiantly compassionate look at three generations, all coming of age together. (less)

Tags: 2017-read, an-author-i-read, at-least-the-writing-was-good, don-t-want-to-rate, everyone-else-liked-it, good-but-made-me-sad, great-title, made-me-sad, made-me-uncomfortable, places-i-have-been, read, thank-you-charleston-county-library