Sunday, November 30, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See



All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr


"A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned." – Booklist

"This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece, its many threads coming together so perfectly. Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion. The story still lives on in my head." –Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone.

"All the Light We Cannot See is a dazzling, epic work of fiction. Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the mythic and the intimate, about snails on beaches and armies on the move, about fate and love and history and those breathless, unbearable moments when they all come crashing together." –Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins.


Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a finalist for the 2104 National Book Award, an international bestseller, the 2014 Book of the Year at Hudson Booksellers, the #2 book of 2014 at, a LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites, a best book of 2014 at the Washington Post, and a #1 Indie Next pick, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

Anthony Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything—radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns—but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things—love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr’s new novel is that novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read—now. –JR Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar

Friday, May 2, 2014



849 pages. Almost as long as Pillars of the Earth.


No first paragraph. The subject, and this particular author writing about the JFK assassination and the era was enough to capture my attention and keep me interested through this "weighty" book. A very good read.

I'm not a huge Stephen King fan, though I've read several of his books including On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000).

I'm not going to highlight any particular sections. I'm just going to state unequivocally that this man can write.

983 pages.


Thursday, April 24, 2014




Jane Johnson grips the rail of the Riversale, watching the estuary water heave and sink below her. She reckons the dates: nearly five weeks since she boarded at Belfast, and the city of Québec is only one more day west. The provisions might almost have lasted, if it hadn't been for the heat and the maggots in the ham. The same journey took Henry eight weeks last year, when the seas were high. Tomorrow she will be beside him.

Today she is bedside herself. On this voyage Jane has discovered herself to be a most imperfect creature...

"Counting the Days"


Emma Donoghue

pg. 77

Beautifully written; historical fiction. Short stories. I love her approach. Selecting news from small historical events: social history she calls it. Donoghue weaves facts into stories of interesting characters and stirring emotions, and captivates.

From a NPR interview...

I just keep an eye out for these things. I read social history. I, you know, in art galleries, I read the little captions underneath the paintings. I listen to the radio and just keep my ears open. I think the only difference between me and other people is that when I hear of an interesting historical incident, I immediately write it down and Google it. I'm just a very persistent researcher and I find things all the time. I would say the 14 stories in Astray come from about more like 40 different incidents that I came across.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Martha, A Novel



Her dark eyes sparkled as she looked up at her father. She was taller than most of the other girls in Bethany, nearly reaching her father's shoulder. She'd bound up the auburn hair that flowed in gentle cascades down her back, under her shawl. While she turned a few heads when she walked through the village, her father told her many times, "Beauty does not run the home, daughter, only skillful hands." Her hands were indeed skillful, for she had learned to help her mother in the household duties when she was even younger than Mary.

pg. 8

Martha, A Novel

Diana Wallis Taylor


The Messiah. The Chosen One. Would he come in her lifetime? Each Jewish mother who gave birth to a son hoped beyond hope that he would be the one who would free their people. Martha thought of this. If she were to marry and have a son, could he be the one?

pg. 14


Another biblical novel by Diana Wallis Taylor. A beautiful portrayal of Martha, whom I believe I'd formerly classified as a drudge and a crab. Mary sat at Jesus feet and Martha chastized her, complaining that she wasn't helping with all that entertaining a crowd entails.


Martha as characterized in Ms. Wallis Taylor's telling is a beautiful, over-worked but otherwise fully-well rounded, very young woman of Bethany, near Jerusalem. Sister of both Mary and Lazarus-- yes, the Lazarus who Jesus loved and raised from the dead.


Sunday, April 6, 2014



Many years from now, whenever he thinks back to Dita Kronon’s murder, Paul Gianis’s memories will always return to the start of the day. It is September 5, 1982, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, a lush afternoon with high clouds lustrous as pearls. Zeus Kronon, Dita’s father, has opened the sloping grounds of his suburban mansion to hundreds of his fellow parishioners from St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in the city for their annual celebration of the ecclesiastical New Year. Down the hill, in the grassy riverside meadow that serves as a parking lot, Paul arrives with his mother and his identical twin brother, Cass. The next few hours with both of them, Paul knows, will be an ordeal.


Scott Turow


State Senator Paul Giannis is a candidate for Mayor of Kindle County. His identical twin brother Cass is newly released from prison, 25 years after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, Dita Kronon. When Evon Miller, an ex-FBI agent who is the head of security for the Kronon family business, and private investigator Tim Brodie begin a re-investigation of Dita's death, a complex web of murder, sex, and betrayal-as only Scott Turow could weave-dramatically unfolds... - See more at:

I LOVE this book. Twists and turns; anticipation. Great storytelling. I really couldn't put it down. I always like Scott Turow's books, and this one I like the best, so far. Legal thriller; procedural, but different.

Many of the characters are a bit fuzzy, especially Paul and Cass--for very good reasons. These folks all seem to live lives a bit blurred on-the-surface. Evon and Tim we get to see clearly. There are really no legal villans here, just a couple of buffoons.

It's not the criminal justice system that's crooked here, it's mostly everyone else.

I've already recommended this book a few time.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Beautiful Day

Dear Jenna,

I have finally reached the point in my prognosis where I accept that there are certain things I will not live to see. I will not see the day your father retires from the law firm (he always promised me he would retire on his 65th birthday, safe to say that promise was only made to appease me); I will not live to see my grandchildren ride roller coasters, get pimples, or go on dates--and I will not live to see you get married.

This last item pains me the most. As I write this, you are a senior in college and you have just broken up with Jason... So it won't be Jason you end up with--dishy though he was (sorry, true)--but there will be someone, someday, who will light you up. You will get married, and you have said that you would like a big traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles...

That's where this notebook comes in. I won't be here to encourage or guide you when the time comes; I will, sweet Jenna, probably never meet the man you're going to marry...

... I will in these [notebook] pages, endeavor to bestow my best advice for your big day. You can follow it or ignore it, but at least you will know where I stand on each and every matter.

Beautiful Day

Elin Hildebrand

Sometimes I need a fast, fun read. This fit the bill. A privileged family, for sure, but a family that's known its share of heartbreak, of loss.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vienna Nocturne

















Vienna Nocturne

Vivien Shotwell


I've never understood nor been a fan of opera. Never really had any exposure, and used to wonder how one could "get it" when all the words were Italian, or German (as I've recently been made aware).

Then a few years back I read Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, and loved it. And, I read that Ann Patchett had learned a ton by reading Opera 101, so I downloaded the audiobook. Never listened beyond a few dozen pages, but always had inrentions.

Vienna Nocturne is another random library selection that I've loved. So much that I plan to listen to Opera 101 during my drive to Cincinnati on Wednesday. And, I want to experience opera live. Especially, The Marriage of Figaro.


UPDATE: Who knew? Lots of operas on YouTube and, Chicago Lyric Opera is doing a Mozart Opera September-October--Don Giovanni.

Isn't this a prettier book cover?!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ruth, Mother of Kings

Love Ruth's pledge to her mother-in-law, Naomi, as written in Ruth 1:16-17.
"Do not entreat me to leave you, or to turn back from following you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people are my people, and your God, my God." She took Naomi's hand. "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me."
pg. 140
Diana Wallis Taylor
Another randomly selected library book, in a chain of them, that has proven to be a good read. And, I'm encouraged to recommend to others, as well as to seek out or buy Diana Wallis Taylor's other books.


I'm also intriqued by the Mourner's Kaddish--never remember having heard it before.

"Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.

pg. 79


That Part was True




Hands down. A great book and a fun read. Ordered it for RvH's birthday. Wrote a fan letter to Deborah McKinlay, and ordered The View from Here (2011) from Amazon. And, posted a 5-starred review at Amazon.


I emailed Deborah McKinlay to request more recipes as referenced in her novel. There were just two in the back of the book. Got an immediate lovely response, but only one more recipe. Ah-h-h. Life is like that sometimes. Ms. McKinlay says she's not much of a cook. Guessing she's being modest, as she writes about food and recipes with the passion of a true foodie.


One of my favorite things was adding this cookbook (years ago) to my collection, after having read the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. I quoted from Food to Die For in one of the early posts on this blog.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Wind is Not a River

August 10, '42
My Dearest Love,
You have found me gone and our things hid safe.
They came to the village June 7 and we fear they will take us away.
I will wait for you. Think of your promise to me and remember, the wind is not a river.
pg. 133
Brian Payton

Some men have the great misfortune to stand at life's continental divide and see that the land beyond is barren. There is no hope of turning back. What does one do with this view?

It takes the rest of the day, but then the answer descends on him like a revelation. Easley's eyes open wide, he stands to greet its arrival. It is the phrase, the riddle he has been repeating like a prayer. It is, of course Tatiana.

The wind is not a river.

Her chain of islands that dares to separate the North Pacific from the Bering Sea. A chain through which the wind whips into some of the world's most fearsome storms. One minute it's a hurricane, the next a breeze. But rivers! Rivers flow throughout the seasons--under bright summer sun, plates of winter ice--morning, noon, and night. Wind rises up and fades away, but a river flows endlessly.

And our suffering? This too shall pass. The wind is not a river.
pg. 186
And... Some wise words similar to ones I remind myself.
If John were with her now, he would hold her hand and tell her not to fill the void with fear. Be realistic, he'd say, but do not jump straight to catastrophic conclusions... There are enough hard facts to confront each day without letting our imaginations get the better of us--without letting worry drain our real lives away
pg. 264
A stunning novel set during WWII in the Aleutian Islands and Seattle. I couldn't put it down, and i find myself ruminating over the characters and storyline. Not completely sure I'm happy with the ending, but not devastated either.
The two main characters are fully developed with thoughts and feelings, and attention to details of daily life that so many authors of fast moving (a misnomer for this story of suffering and perseverance, except it all takes place in a tight time frame of about 8 weeks.) adventure or psychological thriller novels skip over. Often the hero(es) or protagonists flit around the world daily never getting hungry or requiring sleep. Payton captures the humanity and frailties of the characters, making me feel their hopes, pains, struggles.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

While Beauty Slept


She has already become a legend. The beautiful headstrong girl I knew is gone forever, her life transformed into myth. The princess who pricked her finger on a spinning wheel and fell asleep for a hundred years, only to be awakened by true love's kiss.

While Beauty Slept

Elizabeth Blackwell


I must start my tale with her, for all the events that followed, all the wonders and horrors I have witnessed in my many years upon this earth, it all began with a seed she planted in my soul almost from birth: a deep-rooted, unshakable certainty that I was meant to be far more than a peasant's wife. Every time Mother corrected my grammar or admonished me to stand up straight, it was with an eye to my future, a reminder that despite my ragtag clothes I must comport myself with the manners of my betters. For she herself was proof that great changes in fortune were possible: Born into a poor servant family and orphaned at a young age, she had risen to a position as seamstress at the castle of St. Elsip, seat of the king who ruled our lands.

Pg. 7


"While Beauty Slept" retells the "Sleeping Beauty" legend from the perspective of Elise, who rises from humble beginnings to the enviable position of confidante of Queen Lenore, mother of the fabled sleeping princess. In Elise's account, the princess's life was no fairy tale.

The inspiration struck Blackwell after she watched Disney's animated version of "Sleeping Beauty" with her daughter, she said. Blackwell learned from the "making of" feature on the DVD that the artists took their stylistic cue from medieval tapestries. If something had been woven into a tapestry, Blackwell pondered, perhaps it was based on a real event. She posed herself the challenge: How could she make the "Sleeping Beauty" story real?

"What really drew me to the novel was the opening line of the first chapter, 'I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told,'" said Amy Einhorn, publisher of Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam and the book's editor, via email. "It's such a great line, and it's so true — we've all heard the story of Sleeping Beauty, but we've never heard it from the help's perspective."

Did Blackwell conceive of Elise as a role model for her own daughter ? "Anyone raising a daughter wants her to think independently and not feel she has to wait for the prince to save her," Blackwell said.

But writing the book was, for her, more a creative outlet "not tied in to being a mother," she said. "In the course of writing this book I had twin boys and all the sleepless nights, diapers and formula that entails. The world of 'When Beauty Slept' was a complete mental escape from the everyday. I would come back from driving my minivan to Target, sit at my computer and go off to the castle."

Chicago Tribune

Printer's Row


Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Paris Architect



The room started spinning around, and Lucien became so disoriented that he couldn't keep his balance. He sat on the floor and thought he was going to vomit.

"Christ, what a day!" He muttered.

Normally , Lucien would do anything to get a job, no matter how despicable...

This, however, was a different matter altogether. Sure, he was broke, but were twelve thousand francs and a guaranteed commission worth the risk of dying? The money wouldn't help him if he was dead. Actually, it wasn't the dying part that troubled him it was the torture by the Gestapo that would precede the dying. Lucien had heard on good authority what the Germans did to those who wouldn't cooperate--days of barbaric treatment before death, or if the Gestapo was feeling merciful, which was a rarity, internment in a camp.

The Paris Architect

Charles Belfoure

Chaper 3, pg. 19


Both CA and I have almost overdone on WWII, Holocaust, French Resistance... reading in the past few years. This is such a fresh and unique perspective. I liked it better the further I got into it--possibly as Lucien develops more humanity.


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Sea of Tranquility


Dying really isn't so bad after you've done it once. And I have. I'm not afraid of death anymore. I'm afraid of everything else.

The Sea of Tranquility

Katja Millay


Ah-h-h... Finally! A really, really good book. It sometimes takes dozens of reads, weeks and months of mediocrity, and then the breathless excitement and anticipation of a fresh, compeling story. And then, almost immediately I worry that it'll end too soon. I want the mysteries unfolded, the conflicts resolved, but I want to spend a lot of time with these characters. I really like them, with all there imperfections and misjudments; their brokenness and despair.


This time, at least twice I thought I'd read the last chapter, the end. Then, there was more. Enough more to bring not only resolution, but redemption and hope.


I want to spread the word, this is a well-conceived, well-written novel. Don't be deceived if you note a Young Adult classification to this title. It is a very mature story.

Another great paragraph...


Cookies, I need to bake cookies. It's the next best thing to running. Not really, but I do love cookies and I don't like the shit they sell in packages, which is what Margot buys. Oreos are acceptable. Because they're Oreos and no mattrr what you do, you can't replicate them. Trust me on this one. I've spent more than a few days in my kitchen trying to do just that. It's never going to happen. So Oreos get a pass, but factory-sealed chocolate chip cookies that are shelf-stable for up to six months are another story. Life is too short for that. Believe me, I know.

pg. 34


Monday, January 27, 2014

Stephen White

From the first...



To the last...



I'm a fan, as is CA. We've read each one along the way, and in 2007, I re-read the backlist.


We've grown intrigued by Boulder and the Front Range, internalizing locations and details. Visiting twice over the years, and recently with ideas of living in that area part-time.

I've loved the characters, their struggles and stories. Lauren's MS; Sam's bravado; Alan's ethics and loyalties. Raoul and Diane. Adrianne and Peter. Jonas and Grace.


I haven't loved the trajectory toward this last in the series of 20. Starting with Peter's startling demise and shocking deceit. Angry at the destruction of Lauren's character. The internal kind of character; not the invented person.


I'll miss Alan Gregory. My assumed knowledge of psychology and psychosis is built more than a little from these novels. I do love the mix of psychology and storyline. Much more interesting than spies or police procedurals.


The series is done. Like Patricia Cornwell stepping back from Kay Scarpetta, the time has come for Stephen White to give Alan Gregory a clean break. I don't expect a future resurrection, but I hope for more novels with Boulder and the Front Range as a main charcter.


Trains and Lovers

This is a story of four people, all strangers to one another, who met on a train, and of how love touched their lives, in very different ways. Love is nothing out of the ordinary, even if we think it is; even if we idealise it, celebrate it in poetry, sentimentalise it in coy valentines. Love happens to just about everyone; it is like measles or the diseases of childhood; it is as predictable as the losing of milk teeth, or the breaking of a boy's voice. It may visit us at any time, in our youth but also when we are much older and believe we are beyond its reach; but we are not. It has been described as a toothache, a madness, a divine intoxication--metaphors that reflect the disturbing effect it has on our lives. It may bring surprise, joy, despair and, occasionally, perfect happiness.

Trains and Lovers

Alexander McCall Smith


Great writing. Obvious contradictions. Love is certainly not ordinary. The complexities of love have enlivened centuries of literature, music, drama... Wars and crimes of passion are fueled by love and its opposite. Love is the driving force of all nature. Love is elusive; sometimes fleeting. We hunger for its constancy; fulfillment. We yearn for perfect love. Expect divine and expansive love. Yet, flee from Divinty. Perfect love casts out fear.