Finish #34 – A Cup of Tea

P5121745.JPGI have read so many books over the past year and a half that I never would have ordinarily read. Finish #34, A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron, happens to be one of those books. I used to be mostly a romance/romantic suspense kind of gal, with an occasional non-fiction book that piqued my interest thrown into the mix. Now, though, I give just about anything a try. I’ve tried new authors, new genres…I’ve even grabbed a classic now and then. (And actually enjoyed them since I no longer have English teachers forcing me to care about themes, symbolism, and whatnot. On the subject of classics, I was most appalled to discover recently that the Jane Austen section of our library is surprisingly lacking!)

So, here’s the WHY for why I picked out this book…get ready…I’ve got a deep reason…

It was short!

I’ll admit it, I was looking for short books when I went to the library. It seems shallow…maybe. But, when attempting to get through 100 books in a year, sometimes you’ve got to pick out a few shorter ones to balance out the longer ones. (I picked out David Copperfield too, so don’t judge me for getting a few short ones! I should probably actually read David Copperfield since I got it, though, shouldn’t I?)

I’ve discovered that just because a book is short, doesn’t mean that it isn’t packed with meaning. Last year I got hooked on Mitch Albom’s books, many of them shorter than I’d usually pick out, and they were loaded with lessons and meaning.

A Cup of Tea contained a lesson, or food for thought (or drink for thought, as the case may be if you take into consideration the title of the novel). A cup of tea was all it took to change a course of events. That’s pretty deep.

I’ve already started another Amy Ephron novel…David Copperfield will just have to wait a little longer.

Advertisements

Finish #33 – Covet

P5121749.JPGI love this time of year! Look at those pretty flowers! As soon as they stop blooming, middle daughter and I are going to transplant them elsewhere and do something a little different out back. I love the phlox, but it’s gotten a little out of hand over the past few years. To think, all that came from two little containers that just kept spreading and I kept dividing. We have a bank just to the left of the stairs that will look great covered in phlox. If only it would keep flowering all summer long!

I am such a “haphazard” gardener. I don’t really like things to be regimented. Some people like blocks of identical plants; some people like rows or edges of all the same thing. Not me. I just like pretty stuff no matter where it is! If plants grow where they don’t “belong,” I leave them…even if they are growing in the “lawn.” (Although I did remove a few Spiderwort plants that had somehow ended up in the yard. Short stuff, like Creeping Thyme can stay, but the tall stuff has to go elsewhere, since the mower would just cut it back.) Occasionally, though, I feel the need to put a little order to the beautiful wild mess. So that is what we are going to do this summer.

P5121744.JPG

Speaking of flowers, look at all the flowers on the cover of Finish #33, Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves. Unless I missed something, there was no field of flowers in the story that the main character stood in. But it’s a nice cover anyway, and the story was enjoyable.

The story centers on Chris and Claire Canton whose marriage has hit a rough patch. I won’t go into the particulars, as I don’t want to spoil the plot. I will say, though, that I could hardly put the book down. I actually sat at the table after breakfast finishing it up when I should have been doing something else!

Finish #32 – Into the Wild

Spring has finally arrived, and the outdoors has exploded with greenery! Here’s a photo of my favorite view in the whole world, and I’m lucky enough to get to look at it every single day.

P5121746.JPGOf course it doesn’t always look like this. Sometimes everything is covered in a blanket of snow. Sometimes the trees are covered in beautiful fall leaves. Sometimes the pond has that “thawing” look about it…all murky and nasty brown. But, no matter the season, I’d still rather see this view everyday than any other view.

So, along with spring came a heat wave. I won’t complain. (I will complain about the mosquitoes, though!) Let’s just say that I appreciate winter a little bit more with each degree that the mercury rises above 72 (and with each mosquito bite that I have to scratch). Currently it’s 77 degrees in the house. That’s three degrees away from maybe turning on the AC. Much to the displeasure of the youth in the family, we happen to be AC Scrooges. I’ll admit that I enjoy this season when I don’t have hands that look like they belong on a corpse. There is a limit, though, to how much heat even I can stand.

Silly me, I decided to clean out some of the veggies in the fridge at the beginning of the week and make soup…lots and lots of soup. There’s cabbage soup, vegetable soup, and French onion soup. As I write this in my 77 degree house, I am eating a massive bowl of vegetable soup…and I am sweating whilst not doing anything more tasking than moving my fingers on the keyboard! Perhaps all that soup wasn’t the best idea!

A strange coincidence occurred when I was at the library picking out books a few weeks ago. When I selected After the Wind, Finish #31, I also selected Into the Wild, Finish #32. This was strange because Into the Wild was written by Jon Krakauer. Jon Krakauer happened to be on Everest in 1996 with the author of After the Wind. Jon Krakauer made it to the summit on that fateful day AND managed to live to tell about it. Another strange coincidence is that Into the Wild was published in 1996…the year of the Everest expedition.

P5121743.JPG

Into the Wild tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who disappeared from the life he had been living, roamed from place to place, then finally entered the Alaskan wilderness (which wasn’t as remote as he assumed) where he perished.

I am looking forward to watching the film, which is waiting in our library basket for an evening when we’ve got the time to watch it.

Finish #31 – After the Wind

P5061742.JPGLast year Lou Kasischke, author of finish #31,  After the Wind, visited our public library to speak about his experiences on Mt. Everest during the 1996 tragedy that claimed several lives. His talk was incredibly moving, and I was anxious to read his book. Now, over a year later, I’ve finally done so.

I’ve got to say, I could hardly put the book down. I have a real fascination with Mt. Everest, and I don’t know why. I think part of it is that I know that climbing it is something that I will never be able to do for two reasons. Reason #1 – The cost of climbing the mountain is steep. (Was that a little pun-ny?) And it isn’t just “steep” in dollars. There’s also the fact that you just might die climbing it. Reason #2 – My circulatory system tends to go haywire at any temperature under 70 degrees. So, I could guarantee that I’d be coming home from Everest with a few less fingers and toes. (As a musician, I kind of need all ten fingers…though I did manage to use just nine once after I attempted, on my birthday no less, to slice of the side of my finger with a rotary cutter while cutting fabric during the season finale of Chicago Fire and ended up with three stitches through my finger and nail. I am now forbidden to use rotary cutters whilst watching Chicago Fire. And I also now consider any birthday where I don’t end up in the emergency room to be a good one!)

But, back to the book…This isn’t just a book about the technical aspects of climbing a mountain. Nor is it just about what went wrong and those that didn’t survive. Underlying it all is a love story that explains how one man made a decision that most likely led to him making it down the mountain alive.

And there was also a lesson in the story that should make every reader pause and think about how they are living their lives: Live a story you can tell.

Finish #30 – Night

P5021741.JPGI don’t know how many books I’ve read about the Holocaust, but the number is large and growing with Finish #30, Night, by Elie Wiesel. I can pinpoint when my “interest” (that word has too positive a sound for my use here, but I can’t think of any other word to use) began. In my World Cultures class in high school (what grade that was, I can’t recall), we were assigned to write a paper about an historic event from the opposite perspective than we normally would. For me that became a paper on the Holocaust…not on the horrors, but on the benefits of the medical discoveries made in the concentration camps. I know what you are thinking. How is it possible to put a positive spin on something so horrific? It wasn’t easy.

Night is the true account of the author’s time in a Nazi death camp. It is a brutal reminder of how evil man can be. When reading books or watching movies about this period of time, I am always disturbed by how one man, one evil man, managed to pull so many people into his cause. Whether he was speaking to some bit of evil that was already in them or he managed to create the evil and hate with just the power of his words, it should serve as a warning to everyone of every generation of how we need to make certain that no one ever gains power like that again.

On a lighter note, I’m 20 books away from the 50 that I hope to have read by the end of June if I want to maintain some sort of schedule. It might be difficult to get that many in as it’s finally getting warmer and outside tasks will be calling my name and exhaustion will be my companion in the evenings. I visited the library yesterday and found way too many books to add to my already full basket. I can’t seem to help myself. It’s like I go in there and grab books because they are FREE and I get to keep them for up to nine weeks if I want. Who could resist that?!

Finish #29 – Far From the Madding Crowd

P5021739.JPGIt’s a wonder that I have any desire to pick up a classic novel after every single Honors English teacher I ever had worked so diligently to destroy them for me. Seeking hidden meaning and symbolism, talking about themes…basically doing all that stuff that takes away from the simple enjoyment of the plot and what’s going on with the characters…that all made the classics this whole genre of books that I wanted to stay as far away from as possible. I’ve read a few classics since high school…Lord of the Rings, Les Miserables, Histories, The Odyssey…but they certainly do not make up the bulk of the books I read. I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to find a way to quiet the voices of all of those English teachers that still live in my head (and there is one past English teacher that still makes me want to, figuratively, “cross the street” whenever I see her and brandish a crucifix in her direction) and just read the story for the story. Perhaps the authors wanted us to find some deeper meaning. Perhaps the author wanted us to know that by naming the characters “Boldwood,” “Oak,” and “Bathsheba,” he was trying to give us a hint about what kind of person these characters were going to be. Does it really matter if we figure it out when we read their names the first time? No. Not at all. Because it will all become clear once the story has been read. Does it really matter if we find the deeper meaning that may or may not be there? NO. The world will not come to an end if we only read a book for the sheer pleasure of reading it.

So, why did I pick up this classic, Finish #29, Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy? I heard there was going to be a movie. The trailer looked interesting. I thought I’d read the book before the movie comes out, because I know that I’ll never enjoy reading the book if I watch the movie first. (I do not anticipate that the movie will ever make it to our theater…and if it does, it will probably have a similar attendance as when my husband and I went to see Les Miserables –the Hugh Jackman version–which amounted to something like 15 people or less. I find this truly sad. America needs a little more culture and a few less “shades of grey” now and then.)

I did enjoy this book. Occasionally one has to plow through a bit of language that would confuse almost anyone of this century since we don’t speak quite like they seemed to way back then. But the plot was engaging enough to make the plowing through not so tedious, and I was left until nearly the end to wonder how Bathsheba would manage to work out her man troubles. I must say, I wasn’t a fan of Bathsheba.

Finish #28 – The Endless Steppe

IMAG0438.jpgThere’s a photo that sums up the last month! That’s our girl Luna, stoned on tranquilizer and morphine following her emergency visit with the vet at 10 pm to have porcupine quills removed from her face. You see, following a walk on Friday night, she decided to run into the woods and confront a spiny-bodied intruder. Not her brightest moment. Thankfully, she only ended up with about 12 quills in her face and just one in her gums and did not require anesthesia. (Thus saving us from an even bigger bill.)

Well, that event was just the rotten cherry on the moldy cupcake that was the past month around here. I began to think that our theme songs should be “All My Trials” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” But, looking at everything from a more positive viewpoint…thanks, Mom and that nursing magazine with the article with which I wholeheartedly disagreed…I realized that everything that has happened could have been a lot worse or a lot more expensive. Here’s the rundown:

It all started, I think, with that car issue I mentioned previously. We thought it was the transmission…it was only spark plugs. Still cost us money, but it could have been worse. Then one of the geriatric cats (that really narrows it down, as they are all old) fell off a bed and got his leg caught in the footboard. After limping for a bit and causing a lot of worry, he seemed to shake it off and no vet visit was needed. Savings, YEAH! However, he then started peeing outside the litter box. This is always cause for concern. Not only do we not want our house to stink, but his brother had a health issue years ago that involved his bladder which was almost the end of him. So, off to the vet we went, knowing that any days we have left with this 15 year old fellow are a gift. Good news, though. After leaving him at the office to be hydrated, a bladder infection was found. An injection of antibiotics was given, and he’s now as good as new…mostly. He’s still old, and he’s bony and quite decrepit, but he’s still with us. Then the vacuum quit working. I called for a new part, waited a week. (Use your imagination to  visualize what a house with five people and five shedding pets looks like after a week without a vacuum. Horrors!) With great excitement (Yes, excitement), I hooked on the new part…AND NOTHING HAPPENED! I lamented the fact that we would now have to purchase a new vacuum, but hubby took it all apart, did some mysterious things that looked a whole lot like just jostling the bits around, and it works great now. Amidst all of this, I tipped a chair into my face at church while removing it from a pile and ended up with a lump on my lip and a purple bruise that lipstick wouldn’t cover up (but no teeth were knocked out); I mistakenly told someone the wrong date for something and it caused a bit of distress for a time, but my daughter was able to help out with that; all three kids got sick; and one of the tires on the car sprang a leak and had to be repaired. To top it all off, the garage door has been giving us fits for quite some time. (Now that I think about it, maybe it was the garage door that started it all.) We finally got that fixed today…thankfully (have you seen the price of new garage doors?) no new door was needed (at least for now).

I think, after all these petty annoyances and minor trials that we are due for a win! Hubby thought so too and decided to buy a lottery ticket (something we hardly ever do) in the hopes that our luck would turn around.

We didn’t win.

P4151733.JPGFinish #28 for this year is The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig. This is another one of the books that I read to the kids. I really enjoyed it. The review on the front cover stated that this book will “…take its place with Anne Frank’s [Diary of a Young Girl].” Having read both, I agree. This is an excellent autobiographical book about a family from Poland, arrested by the Russians because they are capitalists, who are sent to Siberia in 1941.