Thursday, April 16, 2015

Books o' the Month: Exit Unicorns and Commander Jose Castro in the Two Californias

Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner is the first in a series that takes place during the time period of The Troubles in Ireland.  It is a self-published book (as I understand it, correct me it I am wrong) and I applaud the author's tenacity.  She writes a compelling story and she did what she needed to do to get it out there.  

There is more to California history than the Missions and the Gold Rush.  Most importantly, California was populated by numerous indigenous tribes before the arrival of the Spaniards.  There was also a turbulent twenty-five years of Mexican rule after independence was won from Spain and the native born Californios struggled for self-rule.  This is where Commander Jose Castro comes in.   The publication, Commander Jose Castro in the Two Californias by Julianne Burton-Carvajal, offers a fascinating examination of his life and times as reflected in correspondence written by, to, or about him and, luckily, saved for posterity.  The translated letters make for very interesting reading--and even better when you are able to read them in Spanish!  I found the missives between Castro, his wife Modesta, and his son Estevan especially intriguing.

I am woefully late to the party this month (blame spring break and other general distractions) but please take a look at Adrienne's Turn the Page ... Tuesday for this month to find more great reading suggestions!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Books o' the Month: The Bronze Horseman Trilogy

Oh my goodness.  Adrienne, over at Some of a Kind (where you should totally go next because today is Turn the Page ... Tuesday and she recommends excellent books!), wrote about this series a little while ago and I thought, "Hey, that sounds like my cuppa tea."

Whoa, Nelly!  It was coffee I was needing after staying up too late at night reading these books!  The Bronze Horseman begins on the day the USSR went to war with Germany in World War II.  The next several hundred pages take you through the Siege of Leningrad.  It is a love story, but one that will make you feel like you've been riding a roller coaster.

And the roller coaster continues to pick up speed in Tatiana and Alexander and just doesn't stop twisting and turning, climbing and falling until the last page of The Summer Garden.  This is an epic, my friends.  I was taken hostage by these intense books.  Just, wow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book o' the Month: The Language of Flowers

This is not the scented The Language of Flowers I have had sitting on my bookshelf since junior high.  This one is an engrossing novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  It is about a young women just emancipated from the foster care system.  It is about loss and love and finding family.  A book that might make you look around and wonder if you are doing enough to help others in need...especially children.  Diffenbaugh has set up the Camellia Network to help young people aging out of foster care.

This story will take you to urban San Francisco, Northern California wine country, and bring you the smell of flowers.  I worked for a florist for about six months right before I got married and this book brought it all back.  A quick read, not necessarily a light read, but one that will have you turning the pages to see how it all turns out.

Now...head on over to Turn the Page ... Tuesday at Some of a Kind to see what Adrienne has been reading.  Next month I am going to go on and on about the latest book she recommended to me.  It's a doozy!  (Thanks, Adrienne.  I need a full-time nanny/maid/cook with all the great books you recommmend!)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Books o' the Month: Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie

For December, I read Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford (that's her on the book cover above).  If you like Downton Abbey, you might like reading Mitford's books, too.  British upper class wit and silliness, I have read that what she wrote was based on people she knew.  It is quite entertaining.  I am currently in the middle of Pigeon Pie, and enjoying it, as well.

Speaking of Downton...Season 5 if off to a great start, don't you think?  Fun stuff!  And then Outlander starts up again in April.

In the meantime, I will be reading a book series I just found out about over at Some of a Kind for today's Turn the Page ... Tuesday.  Check it out!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014

This coming Sunday, the 21st, is Winter Solstice in our hemisphere, which is my favorite December event.  Over the past few years, I have come to see it as my own private celebration.  It's not really, of course.  But I don't drag anyone else into it, besides trying to get my kids and hubby to maybe watch the sun go down on the shortest day of the year.

I do have my solstice fairy on our Christmas tree, and she does seem to be in a slightly different position every day.  But that's as metaphysical as I get about it.  Kind of.

This event appeals to me because it truly does mark a solar event, a continuation of the the on-going cycle of space and time and life.  This is something that feels good to me to remember in the days before the craziness that is our secular Christmas.  

Every year, I try to think of a tradition to tie to it.  I might be getting closer, but still I am just an observer.  And that seems like the most important task for such a day.

Happy peaceful kind loving giving nurturing reflecting restful solstice day to you, my friends!

(Image above was found online at several sites, so if it is copyrighted, my apologies--I will kindly remove it if need be.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book o' the Month: The Californios

I'm a day late for Turn the Page ... Tuesday, but you should definitely head over there next to see what the gals have been reading!

I never thought I'd read a Louis L'Amour book.  My grandmother (who is now ninety-three) would always be reading one when I visited her as a child.  I bet she has one on her end table right now!  L'Amour wrote over one hundred books, so no wonder.

I read The Californios because I'm interested in the time period of the story (1844).  I kept picturing it in my head as a western on TV at my grandparent's house.  I'm surprised this one didn't become a film, as so many of L'Amour's other novels were made into films, such as Hondo and The Quick and the Dead

The book contains several references to real places in Southern California (Malibu, Topanga Canyon) and it was fun to be able to picture them from memory.  It was a quick read.  Sparse, a little cliche, a little metaphysical, with some exciting action.  Will I become a western/L'Amour devotee?  Probably not.

But now I have something to talk to my grandmother about next time I see her.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Whip, What I Saw in Calfornia

The Whip is a novel based on the life of a woman who lived as a man, a well-known stagecoach driver in gold rush era California.  Very little is actually known (Google for more) about Charlie Parkhurst's life, so novelist Karen Kondazian had a lot of wiggle room.  But she tells an interesting, if mostly imagined, tale.

What I took away from reading The Whip is the reminder that people have always lived alternative lifestyles, have always lived with secrets.  We are--and were--human, after all.

Continuing with my minor (major?) obsession with mid-nineteenth century California history, I also recently read What I Saw In California by Edwin Bryant who went on to become the second alcalde (Spanish, similar to "mayor" but with a broader scope) of San Francisco.  He traveled in California just after the US conquest in 1846 and into 1847.  These first-hand accounts fascinate me, though besides the descriptions of the countryside, I always read them with a grain of salt.  They are usually quite culturally biased.

I totally flaked on Turn the Page ... Tuesday this month, but please, stop by there now and check out what the gals are reading!