Friday, January 27, 2006

Book Review: The Songcatcher

I love Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachain series. These books, including The Songcatcher, paint an amazing portrait of life in the Appalachains. Each book can stand on its own. Many of the same characters pop in and out of the books, but each books is written to be read by itself. My husband actually discovered Sharyn McCrumb when we lived in Iowa. He was looking for books on the Appalachain Trail and found her book She Walks These Hills. My Dad, voracious and insatiable reader that he is, picked it up off the bookshelf and plowed through it. He said it was absolutely enthralling. Of course I immediately read it--and it was amazing. All of McCrumb's books in this genre (she also has a detective series that I'm not crazy about) weave an "old" story in with a current one. Lots of good history. Anyway, I highly recommend starting with She Walks These Hills and reading all of them. Perhaps the books are more poignant to me because I live in this area, but I think they would have a wide appeal.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Book Review: Even Now

My mother is a voracious reader. Best of all she loves books like Karen Kingsbury's Even Now. I love her for that. For my own taste, Kingsbury is too formulaic and predictable. Yes, I did get teary-eyed a time or two, the goal of a sentimental, inspirational author. If you need an extremely light read with a happy ending, Kingsbury is a good choice.

Friday, January 6, 2006

Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

My friend Patti recommended this book by Alexander McCall Smith (at my library it is under the "Ms" on the shelves for McCall), and then I saw the series listed on loads of "Books I Read in 2005" lists. I loved it! On the surface it is the life of Precious Ramatswe, a private detective in Botswana, and snippets of her cases. But the meat of this book (and the whole series, I hope) is the fascinating life of the people of Botswana. I have to say, too, that McCall Smith is a lyric and often simply profound writer. I re-read some of his lines over and over just for the sheer pleasure. Like this one: "His life was unrecorded; who is there to write down the lives of ordinary people."

Monday, January 2, 2006

Book Review: Two by Adriana Trigiani

So I wanted to start off my year with lots of good fiction. I have a huge list of books to read this year. I finished • Milk Glass Moon at a few minutes before midnight on Dec. 31, but I'm counting it as a 2006 book. This is the third book in the series that include Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler. Unfortunately, it's been a few years since I read the first two books, so I didn't remember a whole lot of the story. I have a bad habit of doing that. Anyway, I remember really like the first book in the series. Part of the allure for me is that much of the story takes place in the Tri-Cities, TN, where I went to college and lived for many years. The third book was OK. Just OK, and definitely not great.

However, Lucia, Lucia was terrific. I read this in one day. It was completely different than the Big Stone Gap trilogy. The novel is set in the 1940s-50s in New York City, and the character of Lucia is compelling. This one I highly recommend. Very sweet.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Book Review: A Very Small Farm

I just finished this book by William Paul Winchester last night. My friend Leigh has been recommending it for years and she finally loaned it to me. What a beautiful book. A Very Small Farm is a beautifully written journal of one man's life on his small subsistence farm in Oklahoma. In the busyness of the Christmas season, I was especially drawn to the simplicity of his life. It's the "other" life I have always felt in my bones that I was made for, being in the seventh generation of fruit farmers (but not being one myself).

I was surprised (though I suppose I shouldn't be), when coming upon the section on Winchester's fruit trees, to come across his description of Liberty apples, one of my dad's varieties. He goes on to mention getting trees from Geneva, NY, where my father ran a fruit breeding program for 30 years.

Before I turn this over to Randy and my dad to read, I wanted to record a couple of my favorite quotes from the book. I love this first quote because it is so true of being a mother as well as a farmer:

"The best thing about my work is that it is of my own choosing and done in my own way. Under those circumstances even the most menial work is pleasure. Since I didn't know much about farming in the beginning, almost nothing, I made mistakes. But they were my mistakes to put right or live with. The work was difficult enough that I had to be inventive, but not so difficult I couldn't learn....The nearest equivalent to the small farmer is the housewife, especially if she is the mother of young children. We are amateurs, working for the pleasure of it rather than for hire."

The second quote is shorter, but one I wholeheartedly relate to: "As for boredom, the word has no meaning. It's inconceivable with so much to do and such and intriguing world to do it in."
A lovely book.