Saturday, November 24, 2007

Comfort & Joy

"Christmas parties are the star on the top of my "don't" list this year. Other things to avoid this season: Ornaments. Trees. Mistletoe (definitely). Holiday movies about families. And memories."
This is the first paragraph in Kristin Hannah's Comfort & Joy. I read this as book number one for the Christmas theme book challenge hosted by Susan. It was a very quick enjoyable Christmas read. I like to read a book or two like this every year and I enjoyed this one more than I have any in the last couple of years. It started out as your typical bah-humbug Christmas story ~ Joy had had a very rough year, coming home one day to find her much loved sister in bed with her husband, so Christmas this year was going to be an awful holiday, filled with sad memories and no family to share the burden with. "Sometimes in the last year, , I've thought that my color was washing away in the shower or fading in the sun. I wouldn't have been surprised to wake up one morning and find myself a black-and-white woman moving through a colored world." Coming home the afternoon of the last day of school, (Joy is a librarian at the local high school), she finds her sister waiting for her with a wedding invitation and the news that she is pregnant. Joy speeds off, finding her self at the airport and on a whim buys a ticket on a puddle jumper plane to Hope, somewhere in Canada. From here the story takes an unexpected and much needed twist, holding the readers attention and keeping you reading late into the night. I'm not going to tell more, keeping the twist a secret for those of you who would like to read this one. Pick it up, it is a wonderful, engaging Christmas tale.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mystic Sweet Communion

"What is it about water that makes me dream of it so often? The lapping of the New River against pilings outside the camp, perhaps, sounds that now send me to sleep? Maybe it's the memory of 1896, sloshing through land still saturated by hurricanes, wet toes a constant even in the wagon that should have been dry but never seemed to be with six children scrubbed feet first by south Florida's steamy-water milieu."
Thus starts the prologue of Jane Kirkpatrick's novel, Mystic Sweet Communion. Jane is one of my favorite authors, writing wonderful fiction based on fact stories of historical women who are little known but who have made a great impact on our lives. Jane is a local Oregon author who I have had the pleasure of meeting and we share a close family friend, so reading her books is all the more special.

Mystic Sweet Communion is set in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the early 1900's before it was really even a town. Jane tells the story of Ivy Cromartie Stranahan who gave up her school teaching career to join her husband at his trading post in a little place called New River, (now Fort Lauderdale). Ivy was a very strong willed woman who chose, along with her husband, Frank, to have a celibate marriage in order to not have any children. This decision came about because of a tragedy Ivy experienced when she was very young and watching her mother have 12 pregnancy's and die at an early age from childbirth. Ivy loved children and also had a love of the Seminole people of south Florida, so became a major spokesperson for the Seminole people, teaching them forbidden English and Christianity, not to change them but to help them survive in an every changing hostile world.
This is a wonderful book that takes you right into the world of the 1900's, making you laugh and cry for the lives of these wonderful people. After reading this, I want to rush right down to Florida to visit the Stranahan homesite and museum.

A couple of my favorite passages are as follows:

Advice Ivy is getting from her teacher and mentor as she sets out to take the first school of her own. We could all use this advice in raising our own children:
"Set the rules clearly and sternly, the very first day," Ada had said. "You can always go easy later, but once discipline is gone, you'd more easily wrestle alligators than get it back."

This passage is from Ivy's journal after seeing the proud Seminole people gather at the trading post for the first time:
"It's said that the southern half of Florida is truly just a giant river that flows so slowly south it's inhabitants fail to notice as it shifts from freshwater to salt, from solid ground to marsh. We've come to call it the Everglades with it's two seasons of winter and summer, wet and dry. But it could describe our lives as well, the inexplicable, almost imperceptible, movement and change. The times of fullness and moisture when our thirsts are quenched, followed by dryness when our souls feel cracked open and empty. Each is needed in the cycle of life. Each promises the return of the other. Lessons and guidance come packaged within. Each is recognized as part of our lives, though not awaited with the same songs of expectance."

A truly fabulous book, as are all of Jane's work.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Theme Challenge

I came across this challenge today and just couldn't pass it by. Christmas books, Yes! I'm definately in on this one. It is being hosted by Susan right over here . The challenge is to read just two Christmas themed books in November and December.
I haven't yet unpacked all of our books from our move in August so following are a few I know I have but must find. From these,I know that I'll get two read.

1)Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah
2)The new Debbie MacComber paperback Christmas
3)The Flight of the Christmas Reindeer
4)The Treasury of Christmas
5)Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge
6)Zanna's Gift by Scott Richards

Back To History Reading Challenge

Yep, joined another one. I couldn't resist this reading challenge for the 2008 reading year as I love history and there is so much out there to read. This one is being hosted over here ~
You can pop over there to sign up and read the formal rules and reg's. In a nutshell, you need to read one historical book a month for 2008, a total of 12 books, and you need to mix it up a bit. They cannot ALL be historical fiction, throw a couple of biographies and such in there.
Here is my partial list. I will add to it as I get my other books in line. I hold the right to change this list as I see fit. A couple of these books on my list I don't own yet, which is why the list may change if I can't get them for some reason.

1)Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabablon (Civil War)

2)The President's Lady by Irving Stone (Mrs. Jackson)FINISHED AND REVIEWED 2/10/08

3)Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Civil War)

4)The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (Civil War) hmmm... I'm starting to see a theme here...

5)Night Overwater by Ken Follett (World War II)

6)Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (California Gold Rush)

7)Laura - The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Donald Zochert (Pioneer days)

8)1906 by James Dalessandro (San Fransico Earthquake and Fire)

9)The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Holocaust)

10)Judge Sewalls Apology by Richard Francis (Salem Witch Trials)

11)Life & Times of William I by Antonia Fraser (William the Conquerer)

12)The Truth About Sacajawea by Kenneth Thomasma (Lewis & Clark Expedition)

13)The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand by Jerred Metz (True~ Wyoming "outlaw", 1939) Finished and Reviewed January 6th, 2008.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Whats In A Name? Reading Challenge

I joined this fun reading challenge hosted by Annie at Words by Annie. Below is my list to be read between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008 and all from my stacks of to be read:

1)Choose a book with a color in the title:
THE BLUE CASTLE BY L.M. MONTGOMERY (Finished and Reviewed)
2)Choose a book with an animal in the title:
BAKERS HAWK BY JACK BICKHAM (this one I read as a kid and decided it's time to read it again!)(FINISHED AND REVIEWED)
3)Choose a book with a first name in the title:
4)Choose a book with a place in the title:
5)Choose a book with a weather event in the title:
FOG MAGIC BY JULIA L. SAUER (this one is from my childhood stack, also)
2ND Choice - THE EDGE OF WINTER BY LUANNE RICE (Finished & Reviewed)
6)Choose a book with a plant in the title:

I really enjoyed going through my stacks to find books that met the criteria. It even got me digging through a couple of boxes in the garage that hadn't been unpacked from our move in late August. Jump on over to Annie's blog and join the fun ~ just don't start reading this pile until January. That may be the hardest part of all...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Secret Garden

I have seen many versions of the movie, but had not ever read the actual book. Having our own Secret Garden in our new house prompted me to get this classic on our bookshelves. I love this copy that I found on Ebay. It is a Hallmark Classic Gift Book and is covered in a beautiful red velvet which just adds to the pleasure of the read. The only complaint I have is that there is not any information in the book about the author and the writing of it. Not that it would be hard to find, but still... This wonderful children's classic was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett but I don't know when or when the first publication was.
The story was just as absolutely delightful as many of the movie versions and there was no surprises throughout the book that had been left out of the movie. It is a wonderful story of two rich cousins who are both left to themselves and are mean and spiteful children who know no better. When Mary, orphaned, is sent from India to live in England on her uncle's estate she is once again left to her own devises with not a soul who cares to be bothered by her. From her nursemaid, she learns the story of the Secret Garden and sets out to find it. Days in the sun begin to work their magic upon her along with her friendship with Dickon, the maids young brother. Finding the garden and starting the process of bringing it back to life brings out more and more of the girls natural happiness. One lonely windy night, Mary hears crying in the house and upon searching the corridors she comes upon Colin, neither knowing of the other. The cousins quickly become fast friends and determine to make Colin into a healthy young lad before his wayward father returns in the fall. A beautiful book of friendship and love to be enjoyed by all ages.
Following is one of my favorite passages:

"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happeing until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun - which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by one's self in a wood at sunset andthe mysterious deep gold still slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one's eyes."