Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Saints and Sinners of Okay County

"By the time Aletta realized the bitter smell drifting out her front door was burning kolaches, it'd been too late to save them. Inside the house, two sheets of blackened fruit-topped pastries emerged from the veil of thick smoke like a magic trick. She plunked herself down on a bar stool, a dish towel still dangling from her fingers, and watched wisps of smoke rise off the kolaches. She couldn't help but draw unkind comparisons to her own life-singed beyond recongnition, stinking to heaven's pearly gates, and most likely irretrievable. The kolaches had been a shot at making a little cash, but this was the third batch she'd ruined, the first dying from a baking powder overdose. She still wasn't sure what had gone wrong with the second."
~Dayna Dunbar

This was charmingly written first novel by Dayna Dunbar. The author tells the story of Aletta Honor, mother of 3, pregnant with the 4th, whose alcholic husband, Jimmy, has left her and the kids for greener pastures, though he shows up periodically wanting his family back. It is the summer of 1976 and Aletta is trying to hold her family together, and decides to offer her services as a psycic to the residents and visitors of her small Oklahoma town. Aletta has had her gift since she was a small child, but learned early to keep it hidden from the rest of the world. Her small bible-belt community doesn't take well to the gift she has been given and tries to shut her down, calling her work that of the devil. Throughout the story, we see glimpses of Aletta's childhood, also overshadowed by alcholism, which plays a big role in this novel. It is a touching story of one woman reaching deep within herself and coming up with the power to face head on the problems of her world and being the stronger for it in the end.
I'm off to pick up the sequel "The Wings That Fly Us Home"

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

"Tom!" No answer. "Tom!" No answer. "What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You, TOM!"

This delightful adventure opens with Aunt Polly searching for the mischeveous Tom Sawyer, which sets the tone for the entire book. Tom is your typical young boy, wanting to explore his world instead of spending his time in school and church. We meet Tom in the famous fence-painting scene, setting under the shade of a tree after convincing the other neighborhood boys that there is nothing better than white washing a fence. The story moves on to many other adventures which include Tom and Huckleberry Fin witnessing a murder late at night in the graveyard and wrestling with the right and wrong of telling what they've seen, but being scared to come forward and having the murderer (Injun Joe) find out that they were there that night.
Tom meets Becky Thatcher and falls head over heals in love, resulting in the two of them getting lost in a cave during a school outing. We experience, right along with them, those feelings of being alone with your crush in those young years.
I read this book to my kids as a bedtime story when they were young. They all enjoyed it then and I got as much pleasure in reading it to myself this time around. It is a classic novel that surpasses time. Any young boy can relate to these timeless adventures of Tom Sawyer. A must read for one and all....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wuthering Heights

"1801- I have just returned from a visit to my landlord-the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist's Heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolution between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name."

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was my 4th read in the Winter Classics Challenge and boy was it a challenge. I have, of course, always heard of Wuthering Heights and what a romantic dark figure was Mr. Heathcliff. Not so, in my opinion. This book is definately a tragedy in my eyes and not a romance. Heathcliff is a tyrant and needs to seek the help of a mental health counselor. My goodness does that man have issues!! The story is told through the eyes of Mr. Lockwood, a tenant at the Grange and through the housekeeper and family friend, Nelly Dean. Catherine and Heathcliff grow up together as brother and sister after Catherine's father rescues homeless Heathcliff from the streets of the city. They are inseperable as children, but when Catherine's father dies, her older brother takes over the running of the household, is tryrannical in his behavior and Heathcliff becomes little more than just a servant. As they grow older, Catherine begins to have other suitors and ultimately marries her cousin, Edgar Linton, throwing Heathcliff aside because of his lack of education and status. Heathcliff is mad with jealousy and rage and grows ever more insane with the passing years. The characters and story line are complex and ripe with emotion. This is a classic and quite the story, but not one that all readers will enjoy. I believe you have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this one.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Anne's House of Dreams

Thanks be, I'm done with geometry, learning or teaching it," said Anne Shirley, a trifle vindictively, as she thumped a somewhat battered volume of Euclid into a big chest of books, banged the lid in triumph, and sat down upon it, looking at Diana Wright across the Green Gables garret, with gray eyes that were like a morning sky.

My 3rd book in the Classics Challenge was "Anne's House of Dreams", the 5th book in the Anne of Green Gables series written by L.M. Montgomery. I had tried to read this series as a teenager, but couldn't seem to make it through the first book. I picked Anne of Green Gables up at a yard sale last summer and thought I'd give it a go again. Totally, completely enjoyed it this time around, so straight over to Amazon I went to get the rest of the series. This 5th book finds Anne preparing to leave Green Gables as the wife of young Doctor Gilbert Blythe. They marry in the shade of the old orchard trees then began their new lives together on another part of Prince Edward Island known as Four Winds Harbor. We meet Captain Jim, the old lighthouse attendant who has many tales of his seafaring days and Leslie Moore, a beautiful young wife with her own tragic tales who quickly becomes Anne's best friend. There are many more characters to meet in book 5, and adventures to follow with Anne and Gilbert. I have yet to tire of this series and can't wait to begin book 6.

For now I'm off to visit "Wuthering Heights" ~ the 4th book in my Classics Challenge.