Books and other stuff I feel like discussing
By education and experience - Accountant with a specialty in taxation. Formerly a CPA (license has lapsed). Masters degree in law of taxation from University of Denver. Now retired. Part time work during baseball season as receptionist & switchboard operator for the Colorado Rockies. This gig feeds my soul in ways I have trouble articulating. One daughter, and four grandchildren. I share the house with two cats; a big goof of a cat called Grinch (named as a joke for his easy going "whatever" disposition); and Lady, a shelter adoptee with a regal bearing and sweet little soprano voice. I would be very bereft if it ever becomes necessary to keep house without a cat.
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2010-10-15 7:19 PM
I promised a second installment a few weeks ago, but it didn't happen, so here's a summary of my reading which should bring me up to date.
SISSINGHURST, AN UNFINISHED HISTORY by Adam Nicolson
Nicolson is the grandson of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, who took over the delapitated estate in Kent about 59 years ago, and left it to the National Trust at their deaths. The arrangment made it possible for family members to continue to maintain homes there, and after the author moved in with his wife and young children, he became intrigued with the history of the property.
When he realized that it once had been a working farm, he became dismayed with its current state primarily as a tourist attraction, and began to work to restore the productive use of its fields.
After I read a joint biography of Vita and Harold, written by their son (and Adam's father) Nigel, I had a powerful urge to visit, and was able to spend an afternoon there in May of 2003. Perhaps a reader who is unfamiliar with the history of the place would not enjoy the book as much as I did. But, if you're interested, look for PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE by Nigel Nicolson. And then read this book. Vita and Harold were very unusual people, to put it mildly. But especially Vita's devotion to the property and the lovely gardens created something of value which many come to enjoy. I think she would be pleased at her grandson's aims for the future of her home.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
I continue to work my way through classics. Vonnegut was a prisoner of war, being held in Dresden at the time of the fire bombing in the early months of 1945, and wrote this fictionalized memoir. I find his writing style quirky, to be sure, but thoughtful and compassionate.
FAIR BALL by Bob Costas
The sports broadcaster wrote this critique of the current state of baseball from the point of view of a fan, not a professional observer. I've heard recent interviews in which he says he's changed his mind about some things in this analysis. But I always enjoy a book about baseball!
ON MONSTERS by Stephen Asma
This was a book discussion group choice - a historical summary of our attitudes towards monsters, beginning in Biblical times and prior. Perhaps not the most engrossing read, but it prompted a lively discussion!
STILL MIDNIGHT by Denise Mina
Mina is one of the group of writers producing "Scottish Noir" When a group of hoodlums invade a suburban home and kidnap the elderly father, the police at first conclude it was a case of a wrong address. Yet small details don't add up, and a persistent officer begins to uncover the truth. I always enjoy Mina's books and won't stop reading them, but I think she made the eventual resolution a little too complex in this one.
COLOSSUS by Michael Hiltzik
The history of the construction of Hoover Dam in Nevada. I was fascinated!
YALTA: THE PRICE OF PEACE by S M Plokhy
Now that many formerly secret archives are open to researchers, historians are churning out books about the early days of the Cold War. Although FDR was very ill on this trip, and died about three months later, the author makes a persuasive case that he was successful in many of his aims. He presents very intriguing analysis of the different approaches of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin in resolving problems as WWII drew to a close.
MURDER IN GRUB STREET by Bruce Alexander
I commented on the first book featuring Sir John Fielding in my last update. In this second installment, Fielding confronts and outwits a group of religious bigots responsible for several gruesome murders.
GRAVE GOODS by Ariana Franklin
Franklin's protagonist, Adelia Aguilar, is a skilled medical professional. Unfortunately, in England at the time of Henry II, women weren't supposed to hold skilled positions of that type. Yet Henry needs her skill, in more than one situation, and manages to thwart her desire to return to her home in southern Europe.
A pair of graves have been opened in the aftermath of a fire, and rumors spread that the burial site of Arthur and Gwenivire has been discovered. Henry sends Adelia to investigate. Not surprisingly she finds more than Henry bargained for. Franklin includes quite a bit of detail on various Arthurian legends. I've really enjoyed all of her books.
SIZZLING SIXTEEN by Janet Evanovich
The latest craziness in the life of Stephanie Plum. I've enjoyed them all, but I think I'm done.
HEAVEN'S COAST by Mark Doty
I read another memoir by Doty about a year ago, and saw this one at the library. In in he writes about the death of his lover and his experiences in the early months of his grief. Largely known for his poetry, Doty is no slouch at memoirs.
DEATH ROE by Joseph Heywood
Grady Service works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, mostly as a game warden. Here, he and another officer are detailed to the Attorney General's office to investigate the contamination of salmon eggs sold as caviar, but are instead tainted by a lethal illegal additive. Service is a delightful and unusual protagonist in today's crime fiction.
THE DEATH OF AMERICAN VIRTUE: CLINTON vs STARR by Ken Gormley
I heard Gormley interviewed on NPR and knew I needed to read this book. At 690 pages, it's not easy going. The author was able to interview almost everyone involved in the whole mess which led up to the impeachment process of a few years ago, and has written a very insightful and balanced account. If you're looking for a book which will pitch all the criticism in one direction and let the other side off scot free, this isn't it.
And yet, even though I was able to follow the entire chain of events as I read, I put the book down still not understanding how it all could have come to a trial in the Senate. I'm not sure I ever will understand.
THE GLASS RAINBOW by James Lee Burke
Burke has probably written the same plot several dozen times by now, varying the characters from one book to another, but not much of the action. His lush descriptive prose hooks me every time. Lots of foreboding and premonitions of doom in this one - perhaps we won't see too much more of Dave Robicheaux?
BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin
Another book discussion group choice. Although the author has won several literary awards and seems to be highly regarded, I still reacted to the book as "chick lit", and fairly predictable chick lit at that. We'll discuss it in a couple a weeks, and I'll be interested in what others have to say.
That's it, I've caught up with my log!
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