A Book After My Own Ancestors….

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the premise on which it was written. The author admits it was written and based on a family member that disappeared. She took bits and pieces of the story she knew and mixed them with factual historical details to create a moving, heartbreaking story.  This is something I have personally always wanted to do. In the early 1930’s, my great grandmother, Opal Raider Fulks walked out of her home and never came back. She left behind my very young grandmother, her husband, and her two other daughters.  We have very, very little information as to where or why she disappeared.  In many of my dreams, especially lately, I see her…in fact I AM her…and wonder if the scenes I dream actually occurred. I have considered writing a novel based on what we know and what I’ve seen in my dreams. When I saw the description of The Buried Book, I knew I had to read it. In fact, I reached out to the author on Goodreads, and she was kind enough to answer my question.

the-buried-book

The novel takes place in rural Michigan and begins with a young boy being left by his mother. She takes him to his aunt and uncle’s farm and disappears for a few years. The remainder of the story is of Jasper, the young boy, attempting to find where she went, and if she is even alive. While his father makes the occasional appearance, it only adds to the heartbreak and abject sadness of the entire situation. The only reason I wasn’t awestruck by this novel was that there were parts that were a bit fantastic. A tornado, a sprint alone through Detroit, a lone bus ride, a house fire and a barn fire….at every turn there was something dramatic happening to Jasper, and these made it seem just a little too unbelievable. Otherwise, you could read this book and believe this was a true history of D.M. Pulley’s ancestors.

The novel covers topics of poverty, poor working conditions, misogyny, rape and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, murder, farm life and the mistreatment of Native Americans. Without being overly descriptive about these subjects, the author has created a fairly believable tale of what may have happened to her family member, and how the events of her teenage years affected family members for decades afterwards.

Thank you NetGalley, and always, Lake Union, for providing this novel in exchange for my review. Keep up the fantastic prints.

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The Underground Railroad

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
the-underg-railroad
It is the story of Cora, a pre-Civil War era slave who was abandoned by her mother as a child. She lives and grows up on the plantation where she was born, but having no mother, is considered an outcast and is made to live in the undesirable part of the slave quarters. While she mostly keeps to herself, she will defend her small plot of land or the slave children, sometimes to the tune of her own punishment. When a fellow slave asks her to join him on his escape, she agrees with only a few days hesitation. This is where the book takes off.

This story is a heart pounding and heart wrenching chase throughout. Colson’s literal depiction of the Underground Railroad as a physical underground railroad is just enough of a twist to keep this from being a run of the mill slave escape story. This is exactly how many of us envisioned the Underground Railroad as children, when we first learned of it…and this is what Colson’s imagination ran with. Unfortunately there are many who have read this book that find this twist to be too apocryphal given what really happened, and feel this is misleading and confusing to some readers. (I’m assuming they are side-eyeing ‘the children’, for whom we don’t give enough credit.) To those readers who feel this way, shame on you for forgetting the very simple difference between fiction and non-fiction.

Cora finds herself amazed at the work that was put in to something so large yet invisible…by slaves just like her- an entire network of underground tunnels and rails. She also learns that while things were bad and quickly getting worse at the plantation, that things on the outside are sometimes worse…even for those who are not slaves.

Will Cora find safety in the North? Will she find the mother that abandoned her? Will she forgive her for abandoning her as a child? Will the slave catchers find her and send her home for certain death? This is the thrill of The Underground Railroad.

There’s Enough Whine in the World as it is….

I could not finish this one- A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi.

A House for Happy Mothers

I think the base idea is great…the use of an Indian woman as a womb for those who cannot give birth themselves…but this is just..annoying.

It’s the story of Priya and her husband, who cannot have kids…who clearly can’t even decide if they even want them or not, who then jump the ocean to use an Indian surrogate. The other half of the story is seen through the eyes of this surrogate, Asha- a woman who already has 2 children of her own.

I found all the characters particularly annoying and whiny. The women were worse than the men, who just whined about finances and not getting enough time with their wives…pouting and leaving for weeks on end when they don’t get their way. The women whined about their inability to get pregnant, their annoying mothers, not seeing their kids, getting impregnated for money, what to do with said money…and on and on.

I think a non-fiction book on the subject of surrogates in India would be more interesting…what straights lead these women to decide to give up 9 months of their lives to house someone else’s child?

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the free copy in exchange for my review.

I’m kind of meh, on Anne Tyler…

I have to start this off by saying I have never read Anne Tyler. In all of her corpus, this is the book I chose. So, I’m not sure if this is a good representation of her writing or not. I’d love to hear what others who have read her think about this book, and if it is representative of her writing. If it is, I’m not sure if I will pick up any more of hers.  Not that I hated the book, it’s just not my style.

vinegar girl

Vinegar Girl was written as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project started in 2012 by Crown Publishing. It is comprised of the retelling of many of Shakespeare’s plays/stories in modern times. Other authors include Margaret Atwood (squee!), Jeanette Winterson, Gillian Flynn and Tracy Chevalier, among others. I have not read many of Shakespeare’s plays since high school (and what I did read, I hardly remember *cough* 21 years later *cough).  Taming of the Shrew, on which Vinegar Girl was based, was on the never-read list. So I Googled it to see what the basics were.  Turns out Taming of the Shrew is about a shrew-y woman who is forced (convinced?) to marry a man for whom she has very few feelings. With this as the blueprint, Anne Taylor appears to have nailed it.

Having not read Taming of the Shrew, I still feel like Vinegar Girl is a scene-by-scene reenactment, and maybe that was the point of this project. If that is the case, I’m a bit disappointed, as for me, a modern retelling should switch some things up a bit more than just following the blueprint.  In my mind, only the times and names have changed, because Vinegar Girl is about a woman, Kate, who is convinced to marry someone she has few feelings for. And Kate is shrew-y and kind of a pain in the ass. Now, Taming of the Shrew is supposed to be a comedy, and I did not find myself laughing at Vinegar Girl. At first I was annoyed by Kate, then I felt some sympathy for her for having to marry this droll, nerdy, Russian scientist. At no point was it ever funny. Two chapters in, I could see where the title came from, as Kate seems full of piss and vinegar. She is actually called vinegar girl once in the book.

I typically find myself marking passages that I loved in a book, and this one had none. There was nothing overtly prose-y about it; it’s just a tale that is not all that colorful. Perhaps a more modern retelling would be that the shrew-y MAN had to be convinced to marry the smart, funny, determined WOMAN; that she is the strong one, and not the man, for once. Definitely would have been more of a challenge to write, but also more interesting and relevant given the feminist times we are currently going through in this country.

This was a quick read, thankfully, because I wasn’t sure what else was going to happen beyond the wedding. Or if there was going to be one. There is one scene/moment/chapter involving a pseudo-mystery, but it is solved in less than 15 pages. For the most part, I wanted to slap some sense into Kate, to stop being the victim, to move out of her dad’s house, stop enabling her dad’s behavior, go back to school. She was a titch annoying and not someone I would find myself hanging out with in real life. The epilogue at the end didn’t really do it for me either…it was too sickly sweet.

I did Google Anne Tyler also, as I know nothing of her but that she won a Pulitzer for Breathing Lessons. Interestingly, despite being home schooled for much of her early years, she started at Duke University at 16, and graduated at 19! You go, girl! Now write some stronger women characters!

So, Anne Tyler fans, is this her typical writing style? Are you surprised by this book? Is it outside her norm? I’d love to know before I attempt any others. Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Here I am!

I finally took a few moments away from reading to publish my first post on this new blog.

I hope you all enjoy it.

My plan?

  • To share the books I read and my reviews of them (in a step towards beginning my new literary/library career.)
  • To share the wine I drink and my reviews of them.
  • To share the cheese I eat and my reviews of them.
  • To share the places we travel to and my review of them and the places in between.
  • And of course, to post pictures of my pets 🙂
  • Any combination of the above.

I am a credentialed veterinary technician specialist in emergency and critical care that gave up on that profession after 20+ years of being mentally, verbally, physically and emotionally abused by coworkers, employers and clients.  Yep, y’all made me run for the hills and follow my other dreams. On one hand, it sucks because I was GREAT at my job. On the other, I still have time for a second career, so thanks!

I am a breast cancer fighter. I am only one year into my battle (I refuse to call this a journey- my journeys are FUN-this is NOT) with several years to go.

I am a devoted wife whose goal is to make my husband smile and laugh, the best sound in the world. We have 4 cats and one dog.

I am a world traveler who has only been to a few countries, but whose bucket list and travel journal is long and open wide. I have a case of wanderlust.

I am a lover of wine, of spending time at local vineyards and wineries, supporting local business and my own relaxation. Sometimes doing this involves perching in my backyard with a bottle and no where to go.

I am a lover of fromage, in all forms and flavors. My secret is that I’d love to be an affineur, but until then, I’ll share my faves here with y’all.

And finally, I am a mad bibliophile, with piles and piles of books to read. With more on the way each day (shhhh! don’t tell my husband!). I can’t help it. The smell of an old book, the feel of the paper, the places my mind goes………

I can’t wait to share it all with you!