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-eighteenth 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! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book o' the Month: The Shipping News

I have been listening to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac at 9AM on NPR, when I am in the car at that time.  Otherwise, I read it online.  He shares facts pertinent to the date about writers, scientists, and other famous people, then he reads a poem.  It's always interesting, and the poems usually give me goosebumps, put tears in my eyes, or at the very least, make me nod with understanding.  A while back, he mentioned E. Annie Proulx and her novel, The Shipping News. I remembered having seen the film adaptation back in the 90s and thought, "Now, I should read the book."

So, I did.  What I like about Ms. Proulx's writing is how streamlined it is.  Sparse, almost.  Cut to the core.  And so very effective.  I love a book that is a page turner for me without a lot of action or cliff-hanging suspense (though, those are fun, too, I mean Outlander?!).  It is all about character development and interaction (Austin, Bronte sisters, Gaskell, etc.).  Mr. Keillor noted that Ms. Proulx immerses herself in a place before writing about it, in this case Newfoundland.  I read a review of her book by a Newfoundlander who basically said she hit the nail on the head.  It's a good read.

I have happy news...Adrienne at Some of a Kind is back!  Please check out her Turn the page ... Tuesday post today for more good reads, to be sure!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Sea, The Sea and The True Confessions of Charlotte Dolye

A couple of years ago, I went into the library and perused the stacks of fiction looking for books with the words "sea" in the title, to read while on vacation.  I read one back then, but last summer I was still obsessing over Gabaldon and discovering Jane Eyre.  So...this past summer, I picked up another of the sea-titled books I found, the Booker Prize winning The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.  I think this review sums it up nicely.  I enjoyed reading it, though at times the main character's thoughts and actions got so ridiculous, I wanted to close my eyes.  Which, I think, was the point.

Next, I read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, an historical fiction and Newbery Honor book written by Avi.  Valerie was reading it in her fifth grade class in preparation for an overnight stay on the Balclutha in San Francisco.  It is an adventure story, and pretty exciting.  Exciting enough for fifth grade, I think, what with the murder and all!

The Balclutha experience, by the way, was awesome.  It is an educational field trip which has been running for thirty years.  I went as a "Tall Sailor" and if you have happened upon this blog because you are considering going on this particular field trip, feel free to comment and I will be happy to answer your questions.

Can you recommend any books with "sea" in the title, dear Reader, for me to add to my list for next summer?  Thank you!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Journal of a Sea Captain's Wife, The Lives of William Hartnell, Eldorado

I have been very interested in California history lately, specifically the time period of Mexican rule through US conquest to the Gold Rush.  It is completely fascinating to me.  The fate of the native people, the Spanish mission system, the "lotus eating" population--I have found this reference made a number of times--into the political turmoil of the 1830s, all provide a deep back story for this place I love and call home.  The more I read, the more versions of the stories I see, the more intricate and complicated the world of business, society, and politics appears.  I no longer see an Alvarado or Fremont Street and have no notion of where those names came from.  There is a rich history here. 
What I really enjoy is reading old books, contemporary accounts of events and life back in the so-called halcyon days.  One of these is The Journal of a Sea Captain's Wife by Lydia Rider Nye.  In 1842, she traveled from Boston around Cape Horn to the coast of California and the Sandwich Islands (a.k.a. Hawaii) to meet up with her husband.  If you are interested in Hawaiian history, this is a nice resource, as well.  What I also find cool is that names of people and vessels pop up in here that were also mentioned in Dana's book, as well as the next one I read.  California was once a very small world.
William Hartnell was an Englishman who came to California and was, as The Lives of William Hartnell  explains, an adventurer, trader, schoolmaster, rancher, peacemaker, diplomat, and politician.  He also fathered, with his wife Teresa, eighteen children.  There is a community college in Salinas, California named for him.  What I found so interesting about this account of his life is that among the different roles he played, he was also a family man and community member.  He saved a whole lot of correspondence which paints a fascinating portrait of not only the man, but the times, as well.

Next, I read Eldorado: Adventure in the Path of Empire (sorry, I forgot to take a photo) first published in 1849 by a journalist (and poet and travel writer) named Bayard Taylor.  If you are interested in San Fransisco and/or Gold Rush history, this is a must-read.  He chronicled some of the California Constitutional Convention (where Hartnell served as a translator).  What he also does in this book is describe wonderfully the unspoiled California landscape, and comment on gold rush fever, justice, and human nature.

I have more California history books in my queue so, more to come.  But next up, a fiction--a Booker Prize winner from 1978.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It Was a Dark and Stormy...

...cocktail.

When I was in Sevilla, Spain back in the summer of 2002, there was a "drink of the summer," which apparently, there is every year, along with a "dance of the summer," to go with a "song of the summer."  I don't fully remember the dance, and if I heard the song, I would know it (and probably remember more of the dance), but I do remember the drink.  Tinto de verano.  Red wine and Lemon Fanta over ice.  Delish!

This summer, hubby and I did not travel to Spain (alas), but we have been enjoying our own "drink of the summer."  The Dark and Stormy.  We first tried it during happy hour at the local tiki bar (a way cool place), and fell in love.

It is easy to make.  Just pour ginger brew (non-alcoholic) over ice, add a shot of dark rum and a wedge or two of lime, and there you go!  You can vary the amounts of the ingredients to your, ahem, taste, or follow a recipe (see note with link below).  Also, there are many kinds or ginger brew and rum to choose from.  We have tried various, and so far we prefer Reed's Extra Ginger Brew and Meyers's Original Dark Rum.  Plus organic limes.

Now, it's not like we are sitting out on the swing drinking these every evening as the mosquitoes appear, but we did do that once.  And yesterday, Andrew suggested we (as a family) go out and drink beer on the swing.  He meant "ginger beer."  Which is ginger brew, which is basically ginger ale. Just so you know.

That said, I have been keeping the ingredients on hand, and we have been partaking every other week, or so.

Do you have a "drink of the summer"?

(Note:  Image is from the recipe at this site.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book o' the Month: Written in My Own Heart's Blood

It took me seven days to read Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon.  I could have done it in much less.  I devoured it bit by bit, much like a mom sneaking a couple of chocolates at a time out of the cupboard, rather than sitting down with a fork and a huge piece of Hot Lava Cake.  That is because, well, I am a mom and while I let most everything else go ignored all of last week, I still had to feed my family (and do dishes) and get the kids places on time (and watch them during their activities).

A few thoughts:

1.  I was wondering about the choice of title, afraid it might be a little cheesy, but upon reading the scene it was taken from, it now makes Perfect Sense, and I like it.

2.  The thing I most like about Ms. Gabaldon's writing is that I care about the characters.  That's what will keep me in suspense for the next four years awaiting Book 9.  I really do want to see what happens next.

3.  DG uses a wonderful variety of vocabulary in her writing--it is fun (for lack of a much more amusing word) to read.  Also, this book, I think, was the most humorous of her novels.

Well, that was fun.  What now?  I am going to my contact my cable company and decide if I will pay for the package that includes STARZ which is airing the Outlander TV series beginning August 9th.  Or else, I will have to wait for it to come out on DVD, or On Demand.  I don't really think I can wait.

Is there anything else on STARZ that I should know about, to help me rationalize make my decision?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Circle Crochet

 I completed two afghans recently.  One was for a new baby boy (above) from this book (below).
  Not to be left out,
I made one for the big sister, too (above), from this book (below).
They are just big huge blown-up doilies!  Fun to crochet and fun to play with, too.