A Day In The Life

January 5, 2008, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Books

I generally get a book or two for Christmas.  This year I must have really been good because I received four books which worked out well since I’ve been stuck at home more than normal over the break.  Plus we’ve had some really cold weather which is perfect for staying indoors and reading.   I’ll just go ahead and confess…..I’ve finished all four of the books.  I know.  I know.  You must think that all I’ve done is sit around and read, but I’ve done a lot of other things, too!  I read very fast and I do sit up late at night when I’m on break plus I don’t watch TV.  No satellite and no cable.  I don’t even have an antenna.  So, back to my books.

Three of them were great reads, but I was disappointed with No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay.  Great story premise…..a fourteen-year old girl wakes up one morning in 1983 and her family is gone.  Vanished without a trace.  Fast forward twenty-five years and we find Cynthia married with a child of her own, but she is still haunted by the disappearance of her parents and brother.  She agrees to appear on an unsolved mysteries-type television show and the story, written from her husband’s point of view, takes off from there.  The first thing I didn’t care for was the language.  Virtually every character in the story cursed every time they opened their mouths.  Curse words generally don’t bother me when I’m highly involved in suspenseful action and the language ‘fits’ the story and characters, but Barclay overdid it.  There is such an overabundance of cursing in No Time for Goodbye that it felt false and was unpleasant to read.  Secondly, I didn’t like any of the characters with the exception of Cynthia’s eight-year old daughter, Grace, who was constantly checking the night skies with her telescope for asteroids.  I didn’t even feel a lot of sympathy for Cynthia.  She was too foul-mouthed and neurotic.  Finally, I found the storyline a bit too bizarre to be believable.  I read the book because I wanted to find out what happened to Cynthia’s original family, but people were getting killed, strange characters were popping up here and there and I kept thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding!” 

The three books I liked are Invisible Prey by John Sandford; The Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell; and Down River by John Hart.  I’ll review these titles in future posts. 


June 26, 2007, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Books


I finished this book several days ago and it is still weighing heavy on my mind.  It is a fictional legal thriller set in the very real struggle that is taking place in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank even as I write.   David Wolfe, an affluent American of Jewish descent, and Hana Arif, a Palestinian exile, meet and become involved as students at Harvard.  After their graduation, Hana returns to the refugee camp in Lebanon where she was raised.  She marries a Palestinian man from the same settlement and they move to the West Bank where they both teach at a university.  Thirteen years later, David is practicing law in San Francisco and is engaged to Carole Shorr, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.  Hana, her husband and child have traveled to San Francisco and she calls David.  Interspersed within the narrative of David’s and Hana’s lives, the author weaves the stories of two young Palestinian men who are preparing to become martyrs in a shocking event that will change the course of history. 

The story is gripping, well-researched and full of factual and historical information concerning the struggle between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.  Both sides of the struggle are well represented through dialogue among the fictional characters.   The author describes atrocities suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Jews.  There are also descriptions and accounts of the horrific suffering of the Jews at the hands of the Palestinians and during the Holocaust.  As I read the book it became much easier to understand why peace seems to be such a distant and unreachable goal in the Middle East.

On the day that I finished reading Exile, I received the July 2 edition of Time.  Within its pages I found an article entitled “How to Deal With Hamas.”  A large picture, almost two full pages, accompanies the article.  In the photo, a militant in Gaza is seated behind a desk in a Fatah office seized by Hamas on June 14, 2007.  The militant is wearing a black ski mask and holding a gun.  Even more chilling is the reflection in mirrors along the wall behind the desk.  The photographer is reflected quite clearly and in the shadows near him are what appear to be several more masked militants. 

I leave you with a quote from the Time article.  “Crushing Hamas may be a chimerical goal, but reforming it need not be, if the U.S., Israel and its allies can devise ways to work with the Islamists in areas of mutual interest…..That kind of engagement holds at least as much potential for progress as the U.S. policy of weeding out extremists and dealing only with pliable, so-called moderates.  Reaching out to Hamas could curb the militants’ extremist behavior toward Israel.  Or may end in failure.  In the Middle East today those odds are about as much as you can hope for.” 

Books, Books and More Books
June 24, 2007, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Books

Swampwitch asked us to post pictures of book shelves or stacks of books. In typical teacher fashion, she expanded  the assignment to include storage shelves in our garages or shelves filled with treasures, but I stuck with books.  


These shelves are in my junk room home office and are filled primarily with fiction.  As you can see, I need to move the treasures off the shelves so I can get all my books standing upright.  The birdhouses across the top are all handmade.  The first and third houses from the left were made by my dad.  The bottom shelf holds a collection of antique hymnbooks along with video spillover from my entertainment center in the living room.  Some of the authors whose works grace my shelves are Rita Mae Brown, Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Pat Conroy, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Crais, J.F. Freedman, John Grisham, Greg Iles, John Sandford and Scott Turow.  If you are familiar with any of these authors then you should know I like reading suspense/thriller-type novels.  There are also some classics on my shelves like Gone With the Wind, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby and East of Eden. 


Next we move the dining room shelves where I took a closeup so you can read titles.


Last, but not least, is this little bench/shelf that is at the end of my bed. As you can see it is full of my gardening books.   The photo albums on the left are full of pictures I’ve taken of my flowers, shrubs, veggies and herbs.  I have a seventeen year pictorial history of just about everything I’ve grown or tried to grow.   The photos are useful when I’m planning new beds or expanding garden space plus they are just pretty to look at! 

My reference books are on the shelves of my computer desk.  My Bible and other religious-type books are in a basket in my bedroom.  I have some of those over-sized glossy ‘picture’ books in my living room and I have stacks of school-related music books and sheet music on my dining table because I’ve been planning for the next school year.  That about sums up all my books.  Fly on over to visit Swampwitch and see what everyone else has on their shelves!

Growing Up Country
May 20, 2007, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Books

I had a very special group of senior choir students this year.   Some of them were born and raised right here just like I was and I went to school with some of their parents.  I found a great book that I am giving to those students called “Growing Up Country”.  The book was put together by Charlie Daniels.  It is a collection of essays written by folks who grew up country.  There are eight different topics that the essays are organized under including family, faith, hard work, starting out, stars and stripes, the great outdoors, music and home.  Each person who contributed to the book has a short introduction written about them.  A lot of the content was contributed by country music stars like Dolly Parton, Clint Black and Carrie Underwood, but some Southern rock artists, athletes and former President Jimmy Carter also wrote for the book. 

As I read through “Growing Up Country”, my heart was touched by so many familiar memories and I was amazed at how these famous people grew up in circumstances so similar to my own.  I shed a lot of tears as I read.  I think this paragraph by Dolly Parton really sums up the spirit of the entire book. 

“I guess most people can’t imagine being anything other than what they are.  And in my case, that’s country.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been without peaceful days, mountain streams, homegrown and home-cooked food, country church, and all-day singing with dinner on the grounds with family and friends.  It is all that keeps me sane in an otherwise crazy world these days.”

Nineteen Minutes
April 10, 2007, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Books

“In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game.  In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five….In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it.  In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge.” 


I spent the Easter weekend in bed with a nasty sinus infection.   In my usual attempt to always see a positive side in any situation, I will also add that I was able to read a very powerful book (between blowing my nose and coughing) over the Easter weekend.   The book is “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult. 

This book is about a school shooting.  It is not a book to be read for entertainment purposes only.  It is a raw and intense journey through the life of the young man who does the shooting.  It is an examination of the guilt, trauma and pain of his parents.  It is a glimpse of what it feels like to be an outcast in high school society.  It is a trip along the tightrope of high school popularity where one misstep will send a child plummeting. 

This book is powerful.  You can’t help but identify with the characters.  You can’t help but ask yourself so many questions as you get caught up in the story.  Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back?  What does it mean to be different?  Who has the right to judge?  How can you not know your own child? 

A New Year, A New BookI began the New Year by fini…
January 2, 2007, 4:39 am
Filed under: Books
A New Year, A New Book
I began the New Year by finishing a really great book, “Dead Watch” by John Sandford. I literally couldn’t put it down. It is a political thriller set primarily in Washington D.C. and Virginia. I don’t want to tell you too much about the story in case you decide to read the book, but it does involve the kidnapping of a former Senator. The main character is a man named Jacob Winter who specializes in what he calls forensic bureaucracy. Winter is an Army Intelligence veteran and when something goes wrong, he probes and pries until he finds out what really happened. The Democratic White House is his main client and Winter is asked to locate the missing former Senator. There is quite a bit of violence in this book and one rather gruesome murder. So if you don’t like thrillers with dead bodies, then this book isn’t for you!

Jacob Winter is a new character in John Sandford’s writing. Sandford has written sixteen books in the Prey series, so called because each book has ‘Prey’ in the title. The main character in the Prey books is Lucas Davenport, a cop (and so much more) in Minneapolis. I own all of the Prey series. They are all good thrillers, too, and, just to let you know, they all contain violence.

John Sandford is actually a pseudonym for John R. Camp. Camp was awarded a Pulitzer prize in 1986 for a series of newspaper articles titled “Life on the Land: An American Farm Family”. The series was written during the mid west farm crisis. You can find out more about Sandford/Camp here.
Tomorrow is my last day of Christmas vacation so I have to put away good books and get my lesson plans prepared for the second semester of the school year. I had a great break and I’m ready to get my choirs shaped up for the next flurry of performances!