Monday, October 2, 2017

Favorite Read: Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

Espresso Tales (44 Scotland Street, #2)Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alexander McCall Smith is my favorite modern day writer. His books are highly entertaining, although I gave this a three because I "liked it," but it wasn't "amazing." The "Scotland Street" series' characters lives and story lines at times feels fairly banal, but my life is also fairly boring and ridiculous at the same time. My favorite character is by far Bertie and I am rooting for him. I realize I'm a bit behind on this series, but I do recommend it if you enjoy Smith's work or would like to check out a very fun series that also makes a lot of wonderful insights into human nature.

The most meaningful part of this second book in the series for me was when Domenica decries modern society to Pat. "I don't know, Pat. I don't know. I have the feeling that we've seen the dismantling of civilisation, brick by brick, and now we're looking at the void. We thought that we were liberating people from oppressive cultural circumstance, but we were in fact, taking something away from them. We were killing off civility and concern. We were undermining all those little ties of loyalty and consideration and affection that are necessary for human flourishing. We thought that tradition was bad, that it create hidebound societies, that it held people down. But, in fact, what tradition was doing all along was affirming community and the sense that we are members one of one another. Do we really love and respect one another more in the absence of tradition and manners and all the rest? Or have we merely converted one another into moral strangers--making our countries nothing more than hotels for the convenience of guests who are required only to avoid stepping on the toes of other guests?" p. 341 and 342 in my edition

Well said, Domenica; well said, Alexander. My sentiments exactly.

Read and reviewed 2017
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Favorite Read: The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

The Tumbling Turner Sisters: A NovelThe Tumbling Turner Sisters: A Novel by Juliette Fay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like historical fiction that is more fiction than history, illustrates a slice of cultural history, and touches on big issues, this book is for you. Its also a great book club read and fits the bill for strong female characters. I think everyone in my book club loved it; I know I did! This book follows a family of three sisters and one enterprising mom, who take their show on the road--to vaudeville. Along the way, they experience love, look racism in the face, and face further tragedy (the book starts with one huge setback that launches them into this courageous enterprise), but also along the way they find out what each of them individually, and their sisterhood, is made of--love, commitment, and sacrifice. I highly recommend this book. It is not all serious because the characters are so likeable. I was rooting for the Turners every step of the way. It is written from two perspectives, but it was not jarring to flip between the two voices. The device works well for this story as its actually a story about 4 to 7 people (depending on how you look at it), and the two perspectives adds a lot to telling the story authentically. I am not much of a fan of the flip-flop device (between characters or place and time), but some writers do it well. Fay does it wonderfully in this very "good" read. It is now one of my favorite books. I passed it around all summer, and I think four or five women in my family read it before the end of August. My copy is quite dog-eared. It would make a great gift for a women reader in your life as well! It would also make a fabulous movie or short-run tv series perhaps. If you read The Last All-Girls Filling Station by Fannie Flagg, this book has the same flavor.

Read and reviewed 2017.

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Favorite Read: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the CastleI Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This old title was a very good read! The end was underwhelming, and doesn't really go anywhere, but the characters were intriguing, and the writing is straight-forward storytelling, no jumping between characters and times and places, that I think is getting very old in contemporary writing. I think this book could have been a part of a trilogy if it had been written today. I recommend this book to teen girls and women who love old fashion romance-type stories reminiscent of 18th- and 19th-century British literature, and yet it doesn't really turn into a Jane Eyre type of love story at all. It is a coming- of-age-book, and nothing too exciting happens, but its a very easy story, delightful to read. My favorite scene is near the beginning when the main character is bathing, and two strangers come stumbling into the kitchen. Read it, if you can find it, its so much fun.

Read and reviewed 2017.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Favorite Beach: Pemaquid

Rocks are fun to climb and for exploring tide pools.
There sits on Johns Bay at Pemaquid Neck in Bristol, Maine, a pretty little beach in a quiet, protected bay--Pemaquid Beach. Bristol and the surrounding villages are busy waterfront communities, so lobster and other boats trundle past on their way from the harbor out to work. Sailboats also cruise by the horizon. The beach is not a large one, and on very hot summer days it can be packed with beach-goers. The sand is pristine and soft, great for digging and building sand castles. Pemaquid is also relatively safe for children. There are no drop-offs, no undertow, and the beach is not usually wracked with large waves. And consequently there are no lifeguards. It is a wonderful swimming beach if you can endure the water temperature. Usually by the end of August and early September the temperatures warm up to the low 60 degrees Farenheit, which is still is limb-numbing.

The Pemaquid area has a history that extends back at least to the 1600s. Just down the road from the beach is the fort and excavated foundations from an English settlement. Native Americans, the French, and settlers fought to control the area.

Pemaquid beach on a warm but not very busy day in July.
There are facilities available when the park is open in the summer as well as a snack bar and beach gear rentals. There is a small nature center and picnic tables. Pemaquid is a favorite place of mine to visit in the winter as well. The softly lapping ocean and sun reflecting on the blue is a nice, albeit cold, winter walk. You have to park outside the gates and trudge through the parking lot but many people walk the beach with their dogs in the off season. Its just long enough for a good walk and to keep your winter spirits up with fresh ocean air.

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