Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?

 

Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

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Best New Books of 2014: Martha S’s Picks

December 11, 2014

I enjoy reading realistic fiction, with some humor thrown in from time to time, and and occasional work of nonfiction.  These are my picks for best books of 2014:

Chestnut StreetChestnut Street by Maeve Binchy
The final work by the late Maeve Binchy, Chestnut Street is not strictly a novel, but short  stories about a variety of characters who all have a connection to Chestnut Street in Dublin. Binchy’s trademark gentle storytelling and likeable characters combine for an enjoyable read.

 

My Accidental JihadMy Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
Soon after Krista Bremer moved from California to Chapel Hill, she met Ismail, an older man from Syria. Though from very different cultures, they became a couple, eventually marrying. This is the story of their marriage. She is spiritual, he is a devout Muslim. The differences between them are mainly cultural and she describes them with humor and sometimes frustration. The growth of their relationship and the compromises they make, and the growth of Krista as a person make for very good reading.

ByrdByrd by Kim Church
This is the tenderest of books with an unforgettable main character. Addie’s botched abortion means that the baby survived and he is placed for adoption. She names him Byrd and from the time of his birth until she is in her forties, Addie writes letters to Byrd that tell him how much she loves him. Meanwhile, Addie forms a life of meaning, despite her longing for Byrd. Familiar locations in Raleigh added to my enjoyment of the book.

Getting LifeGetting Life : An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton
Michael Morton was convicted in Texas on flimsy evidence for the murder of his wife. Twenty-five years later he was exonerated by DNA evidence and the efforts of the Innocence Project. Two things stood out for me in this book; he was seen as innocent by all his fellow prisoners and he wrote the book himself. Morton occupied his time wisely in prison, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in literature. A spellbinding account of how the justice system can fail.

All I Have in this WorldAll I Have in This World by Michael Parker
Marcus and Maria who both have messy histories and who have now ended up in a town in Texas, meet over the hood of a much-used Buick Electra, which has its own history. They buy the car together and it succeeds in helping each of them toward their individual destinies.

 

Best New Books of 2014: Amy W’s Picks

December 1, 2014

I enjoy a well-balanced diet…of books. Here we have something for EVERYONE from light and fun page-turners to thought-provoking non-fiction. Don’t let 2014 end without checking out any (or all) of these awesome books!

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
Easter and Ruby are two young girls placed in foster care after the sudden death of their junkie mother. The girls are used to watching out for themselves. They hope to be adopted, but do not want to live with their maternal grandparents in Alaska, total strangers, living in a strange land. Their estranged father, a washed up amateur league baseball player, appears suddenly and confuses the already precarious situation. In the backdrop of the novel and adding to the tension, is the home run rivalry between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The scores go back and forth and the competition is of interest to everyone. This Dark Road to Mercy is a well-constructed, page-turner that artfully tells a moving story in which children are once again thrust into an adult world.  See my full review.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Roz Chast, a longtime New Yorker cartoonist, documents the slow decline of her aging parents. Not only does this impact her life at the time, but spending time with them at their most vulnerable brings up old anxieties. No surprise, Chast tackles this subject with great humor and candor. I found this book to be comforting and thought provoking. The graphic memoir format really lends itself to exploring a topic I would ordinarily shy away from reading.

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Remember back in the 80’s when you would talk on the phone for an eternity until your ear actually hurt? I do. I loved talking on the phone, not so much cell phones— and texting has its moments if you can get past all the auto-correct errors. Nothing will ever surpass the old school telephone when it comes to connecting with another person. Georgie McCool is in crisis mode. She is a writer for a sitcom that just may get a pilot. Her marriage, family, mental health and personal hygiene suffer from the effort. She needs to reconnect. Her old yellow phone becomes her lifeline to the past and the present. Told with great humor and tenderness, Landline is a delight!

All Joy and No FunAll Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
Why, why, why is parenting so hard today? This thought has crossed my mind a lot, well, more accurately, this thought lives in my mind and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Parenting seemed easy for my mom (it also did not hurt that I was a perfect child, am I right?). This is really the only parenting book I have ever read and boy, do I love it! It is not a book about how to parent , but a look at what parenting is about these days from a sociological and psychological perspective. So, I was right — it is hard–but now I spend a lot less time focusing on the no fun aspects of parenting. See my full review.

Thousand Dollar Tan LineThe Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
I loved the Veronica Mars television series! This book takes place a few years after the series ends when Veronica gets really close to joining the FBI but decides to live and work in her small, California beach-side hometown, Neptune. Written by the series creator, writer and producer, Rob Thomas, stylistically the book is true to the spirit of the show and the 2014 movie. I know you are thinking, “that sounds kind of low-brow for you, a well-read librarian”. Well, it’s not. This book is not great literature, but it is perfectly entertaining and it was great to be reunited with old friends (this is the part where you remember the catchy theme song…A long time ago, we used to be friends….).

Grown Folks Business by Victoria Christopher Murray

October 17, 2014

Grown Folks BusinessSheridan meets Quentin while serving as an intern at her doctor’s office; it’s love at first sight. Sheridan marries Quentin right out of college despite her parents’ objection. They have two beautiful children, Tori, nine years old and Chris, sixteen, and live a perfect life as a family.

But Sheridan and Quentin’s seventeen years of marital bliss collapse all of a sudden when Quentin gives a shocking announcement that he is in love with someone else, and that someone else is a man, a close family friend named Jett.

Quentin moves in with Jett. Sheridan now deals with how to inform their kids about their father’s new lifestyle, but Chris finds out anyway, and that begins a new drama in Sheridan’s household. Chris changes his name to Christopher fearing that Chris could be a girl’s name. He makes several changes in his life just to prove he is nothing like his father. Tori and a few family members accept Quentin’s new life while others find it unforgivable.

Sheridan receives emotional and spiritual support from her close friend, her parents, and her church pastor. At her pastor’s office, she accidentally runs into a UPS driver, Brock, when she is not ready for love but Brock will not let her rest until she finally falls for him.

Sheridan and Quentin come together in order to help their son, Chris, out of his own life crisis that leads to a rebirth in the life of Deja, his girlfriend.

I enjoyed this book because it’s an easy read, it’s full of love and support, disagree to agree, and friendship.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

October 2, 2013

Honest and funny best describe this memoir. Kristin Kimball was living the single urban life in New York City in 2002. She had worked at a literary agency and taught creative writing. Now she was a freelance writer and about to interview a farmer who represented something that was just beginning to burgeon onto the American food scene: local and organic fruits, vegetables, and meats. She drove six hours for their first meeting in Pennsylvania, and was whirled into the vortex of his world that very day. They did not do the interview; instead, she helped him slaughter a pig.

The memoir proceeds at a breakneck pace, full of the wonderful details of the urban hipster falling for the “wingnut” (Kristin’s word!) farmer Mark and vice versa. They courted over bicycle rides, farm implements, setting traps for rats, and the amazing meals that Mark prepared for both of them from the fields. The course of their true love is strewn with the usual difficulties of learning each other’s foibles, follies, and facts of life. Kristin and Mark have the added twists of choosing land on which to start their own farm, finding their places in their new community, purchasing equipment and animals, and quickly becoming business partners. Mark has lived outside of “the American dream”- state, relying on the earth in ways Kristin (or most of us) have not encountered or attempted. Kristin has never farmed, and must to come to grips with the sheer physicality and sometimes heartbreak of the stunning change in her life’s path.

The writing is clear, warm, and personal. You don’t want the book to stop at the end of their first year on Essex Farm. You want to know more about the horses, neighbors, crops and babies. You want to sit right down and write a check for a share in their full-diet CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm and move to New York state to help them weed and harvest. Let’s sit down together and share a meal!

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

November 8, 2012

I’m fascinated by fictional studies of marriage and what they reveal about people in general. Wife 22 does not, as fans of TLC’s Sister Wives might think, refer to the 22nd wife of a polygamist, but rather the pseudonym that’s been given to Alice Buckle as part of her participation in a survey about marriage.

Alice, a wife and mom who is a former playwright and current elementary school drama teacher, impulsively answers an email looking for volunteers to fill out surveys about their marriages. Answering the questions proves more complicated than she expected, especially when her correspondence with Researcher 101, her liaison at the sponsoring institute, becomes personal. Her growing relationship with Researcher 101, along with revisiting the high and low points of her marriage, has Alice wondering what she really wants. “I don’t know why,” Alice’s husband, William, tells her at one point, “you insist on keeping yourself from the things you love.” William’s lament, in many ways, sums up the novel for me. I found myself mad at both Alice and William on more than one occasion because they couldn’t seem to get together in the same place at the same time. They appeared to be deliberately turning away from one another, almost punishing themselves for some unnamed wrong. Yet this is not uncommon. Why do we restrain ourselves from whole-heartedly enjoying those things that make us happy?

For all the seriousness involved in watching someone figure out if she still wants to be married, there’s lots of humor and lighter moments throughout the novel. Alice is surrounded by a wide variety of people. She suspects her twelve- year-old son may be gay and just can’t admit it; her fifteen-year-old daughter is being stalked, albeit romantically, by an ex-boyfriend; her best friend has a fondness for hosting festive dinners of food from other cultures; and a friend from her past not only sends her daughter to live with the Buckles, but soon arrives, husband in tow, on the Buckles doorstep as well.

Alice is far from perfect, even a bit selfish, but that helped me see her as a more three-dimensional character. I enjoyed getting to know Alice, even if I was slightly disappointed not to get to know William a little better. Gideon’s technique of writing not only in prose, but also in emails, Facebook posts, and play dialogue successfully offers different perspectives on Alice’s dilemma.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

August 6, 2012

The year was 1946. In Cuba, Ernest Hemingway – the icon of “American masculinity,” as editor Tom Jenks one day would put it – was working on a novel, and the author reported that it was “Getting very big.” Over the next fifteen years, Hemingway’s instinct for omission would fail him, and the novel would grow to be 1,500 pages long by the time of his death. His widow, Mary Welsh Hemingway, collected the author’s literary remains and eventually she arrived in Charles Scribner Jr.’s office in New York City with a shopping bag full of unpublished material. Twenty-five years later, in 1986, a 247 pages long version of The Garden of Eden was published. The novel was a huge commercial success, and while many academics and professional critics were skeptical, the novel enamored quite a few Hemingway aficionados, partly because it displayed what some perceived to be new aspects of the author. Here was a sensitive Hemingway, far removed from the public legend that he had been busy building for decades, and (to pick just one example) John Updike’s review mentioned an “uncharacteristic ambivalence about hunting.”

However, The Garden of Eden does not really show a never before seen Hemingway. As early as 1935, his former mentor Gertrude Stein shared the following observation with journalists: “When I first met Hemingway he had a truly sensitive capacity for emotion, and that was the stuff of the first stories; but he was shy of himself and he began to develop, as a shield, a big Kansas City-brutality about it, and so he was ‘tough’ because he was really sensitive and ashamed that he was.”

Rather than offering something new, The Garden of Eden is, in a certain sense, a return to Hemingway’s literary beginnings, but this doesn’t mean that the novel is a step backwards. On the contrary. The Garden of Eden is a tremendously brave literary endeavor. It tears down the one-sided legend created by Hemingway and his admirers, and it emphasizes rarely seen aspects of the man and his art – the novel deepens the complexity and ambivalence of both Hemingway’s life and his literary efforts.

Until and well beyond his death Hemingway continued to be the very image of masculinity, but while he polished his public image, The Garden of Eden was the semi-secret, cross-gendering, and multifaceted manuscript he wrote. And neither the public Hemingway nor the Hemingway who wrote The Garden of Eden is a lie – they are both true. Thus, The Garden of Eden is a true and great Hemingway novel.

Find and reserve this book in the catalog.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

June 20, 2012

The Space Between is the story of two families who have been tied together for many years, yet live completely separate lives. Bhima is a servant who leaves her home in the slums of Bombay every morning to spend her day cooking and cleaning for an upper class family. Sera is the seemingly fortunate woman she works for who is hiding the fact she is in an abusive marriage. These two women spend the majority of each day together and have shared much of their lives, yet there is a barrier that can’t be crossed.

Sera has often used her family’s wealth and position to help Bhima through hard times, and has even promised to contribute money for Bhima’s granddaughter, Maya, to attend college. Bhima hopes are focused on Maya. She believes if Maya succeeds in college she will pull the family out of the slums forever. All of Bhima’s savings and sacrifices are threatened, though, when Maya turns up pregnant at 17. When Bhima turns to Sera for help once again, their fragile relationship is changed forever.

This novel gives a glimpse into a society which was difficult for me to understand. Sera seems to both care for Bhima and be repulsed by her at the same time. She gladly helps her when she can, but she will not allow Bhima to sit on her furniture or drink from her glasses. She is happy with the relationship the way it is and can’t cope with any changes that might come.

Umrigar’s writing is beautiful and I liked most of the characters even if I sometimes didn’t agree with what they chose to do. This book was also one of my book club’s favorite selections. It made for a great discussion.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

June 11, 2012

I read a review of this novel last year, and was intrigued, so I put it on my “to read” list. Last week I found myself in want of a light read, so I picked up The Last Letter from Your Lover. I was pleased to find that it was a poignant story, not just about love, but about discovering yourself and making difficult choices.

This is two stories that merge, one in the early 1960s, and one in 2003. Jennifer Stirling is a woman who has it all. She is poised, lovely and witty, married to an incredibly successful businessman. The novel opens with Jennifer recovering from a tragic car accident that has left her unsure of who she is and remembering nothing. As she slowly begins to piece her past together, she realizes that her life has not been what it appears. She finds several love letters hidden in her belongings, indicating that before the accident she was in love with someone else.

Forty years later, journalist Ellie Haworth’s life is a mess. She is involved with a married man and her career is careening towards disaster. An assignment sends her to the newspaper’s archives, where she stumbles upon a love letter buried in a file of apparently unrelated papers. With the tenacity of an investigator, Ellie goes in search of the people connected to the letter. She finds Jennifer, who willingly tells her story. In the process, each woman finds that what she believes isn’t necessarily the truth.

Although the conclusion of the novel is a bit predictable, the path to it is not. Several interesting twists and surprises will keep you reading, even when you think you know where this enjoyable story is taking you.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Journal of Best Practices: a Memoir of Marriage, and Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to be a Better Husband by David Finch

April 30, 2012

I first heard of this book while listening to All Things Considered on NPR, as they interviewed author David Finch and his wife, Kristen. The conversation was so captivating that I requested a copy of the book as soon as we purchased it.

The Finch’s marriage had been tanking and their communication was abysmal, until one day Kristen, a speech therapist and autism expert, sat her husband down and asked him to honestly answer a series of seemingly strange questions. His score and its meaning surprised him, so Kristen offered to answer the same quiz and scored 8 out of a possible 200 points. Finch had earned 155 points, suggesting that he had Asperger Syndrome, a condition on the Autism spectrum.

While most people might feel set back by such a diagnosis, it was freeing for Finch. The problems that he was having in both his work and personal life had a name, and that emboldened him to make a conscientious effort to fix those problems.

Finch took notes on everything he needed to change about himself, notes that eventually became his Journal of Best Practices. Each best practice became a chapter in the book, and prompted him to remember things such as:

• laundry: better to fold and put away than to take only what you need from the dryer,
• give Kristen time to shower without crowding her, and
• parties are supposed to be fun.

A lifestyle change is never easy, and this one was no exception. Some best practices were larger than others, and all took continued work on the part of Finch, and exceptional patience on the part of Kristen.

Finch tells his story with humor and grace, pointing out his flaws and showing how he worked through them. This is a really interesting (and fairly quick) read, and one that definitely helped me better understand Asperger Syndrome.

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.


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