Those February Books

I’m a bit late sharing last months books with you but I hope it was worth the wait. I have a confession to make before I begin.  Books, outside of my family and friends, are the one thing I hold dear. Books have always been there for me, through thick and thin yet it took more than four years before I began sharing all the books I read with you.  The reason I did this was because I felt that by sharing my eclectic taste in books I would be sharing too much of my soul. As you can see, I have finally exposed myself to you. 🙂

Let’s begin, shall we?

JoyceThe first book of February was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce:  This is the story of Harold, retired and allowing life to happen one day at a time almost as if going through the motions until life ends – something too many of us do. One morning Harold receives a letter from an old friend, a co-worker, telling him she is dying of cancer.  Harold pens a short note to tell her he’s sorry and walks to the corner to mail the note. But when he arrives at the post box he realizes it feels good to walk and keeps going to the next box and the one after that and the one after that.

That first night Harold calls the hospice and leaves a message for his friend that he is coming to see her. That he will be walking the entire distance from one side of England to the other and she must hold on and wait for him.  He is convinced he can keep her alive and give her a reason to live. What Harold doesn’t realize is that this pilgrimage will be much more about him and how it will change his life.

butterfly-hillThe Legacy Of Luna: A story of a tree, a woman and the struggles to save the Redwoods by Julia Butterfly Hill:  I was aware of Julia Butterfly Hill as an environmentalist and knew of her tree sitting adventure. What I didn’t know prior to reading the Legacy of Luna is that Luna was the beginning of Hill’s activism.  This is the story told by Hill of how she found herself a tree sitter in a giant Redwood for two years.  Yes, for two years Hill sat in Luna and didn’t touch her feet to the ground.    From having to be taught how to climb into Luna, to getting over her fear of falling off the platform this retelling held me.  I was stunned to read Hill refused to wear shoes, even in the winter, to better climb around from branch to branch and even more so to read she was uncomfortable wearing a harness so didn’t.

Hill goes into great detail into the hardships of living two hundred feet in the air as storms shook her nearly out of the tree to the spring when she would find spiders and insects climbing all over her as if she were in fact an extension of Luna.   Hill details the loggers’ attempts to get her out of the tree and the valiant efforts of others to get past guards, whose duty it was to prevent Hill from receiving food, to deliver her packages of food.  This is both an interesting read and a reminder that our purpose in life can find us unexpectedly.

 

GilbertPrairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert:  Melissa Gilbert first came to the attention of the public playing the part of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the TV series Little House on the Prairie.  I don’t often read autobiographies because I know it’s hard to be open enough about yourself to share not only the side you want the world to see but the side of yourself you wish didn’t exist.  Plus, while I love a good book to escape into I have never found a biography/autobiography to be an escape, it’s more of an experience of voyeurism.  That said, when I saw this book I found myself curious how Gilbert escaped the problems so many child actors find, which I learned she didn’t completely.

The one thing I found most interesting about Gilbert’s life was her insecurity which resulted from knowing she was adopted at birth.  On the set she was confident yet deep down the question of why her birth parents gave her up left her feeling there must be something wrong with her.

 

crakerMoney Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker:  I was very disappointed by this book. There were some great insights from the Amish way of life but they were overshadowed by more pages on how the author found to shop and save in what I saw as an effort to live a lifestyle she craves while trying to convince herself she is modeling the Amish values.   A few pages from the end of the book summed up best the differences between how the Amish live to save money and how the rest of us live.

“The Amish are a people-culture…..Without television, and all the rest, much time is spent with friends and loved ones, and they’ve also got a lot of opportunities at hand to help one another out.”

To sum up the book, the Amish delay gratification by saving for what they want, refuse buying on time, make and mend what they already have and grow most of their own food. They also shop second hand primarily, repurpose what they have to fill needs and barter better than we do. If more of the book was centered on the Amish way of living I would have liked it much more.

 

OhlssonThe Disappeared by Kristina Ohlsson: This is a crime book by who the Los Angeles Times refers to as “one of Sweden’s best young authors.  If you enjoy crime books but are tired of the typical detective novels this one might interest you.

The story revolves around new mother and returning detective Fredrika Bergman who finds the latest case of missing person will drag her family into the drama and make her question everything she thought she believed.

 

 

 

 

PaineThe House by the Lake by Robert Paine:  This has to be the most disappointing book I’ve picked up in a long time.  Paine, it turns out writes mostly books on surviving the end of the world as we know it, this time in a fictional novel rather than a how to book. There were plenty of grammatical and spelling mistakes but with how bad the rest of the book was those are easy to forget.

The story unfolds as the United States is bombed up and down the coast by some unnamed enemy. Shane Wallace, who pens books on surviving the end of the world, finds himself running to the family’s house on the lake hoping to escape death.  I thought the book would be good but it unfolds as a story which would have every possible problem thrown at the characters with no follow up.  Take for example a week into exile at the lake house. Wallace is up in a tree hunting when he sees a flock of robins begin to drop out of the air, dead. He immediately thinks poison and turns to see a green fog. He wonders how long before the poison reaches the cabin and realizes he doesn’t have gas masks. That’s it, no follow up.  Never again does he mention the gas nor does the gas have any impact on their lives.  Or the day, months after the first attacks, Wallace decides he needs gas, guns and food. After pointing out there is no electricity and that all businesses were looted the first night the bombing starts he suddenly finds the one business in town not destroyed in the bombing and miraculously free from looting. He finds that not only do the gas pumps work but his credit card is accepted for payment of said gas. After filling up the vehicle and empty gas cans he enters the gas station to find all the junk  food one could want to live out the unfolding of the destruction of America.  Paine does this again and again. He throws out a new problem and then either drops it or manipulates a solution and moves on. Another thing that really got under my skin was Paine’s twist of having the attackers be Muslim. I felt this was just another of those situations he wanted to be sure to include in his story and didn’t know any other way to make it happen.

This book was so unrealistic it felt contrived just to sell books I stopped reading halfway through.

Maybe it was how bad this last book was or just the end of winter leaving me antsy or maybe the stress that has seeped into my life but I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the tablet again to read for a couple of weeks.  I desperately craved a real book and placed an order on half.com for new reading material. I rarely ever purchase a book for more than $0.75. Visiting Half.com I’ll search for a book I want the most, in this case Simple Food by Helen Nearing and then search the seller’s store for more titles I would like. This is a good strategy because Half.com charges you more for shipping for the first book and you can save quite a bit on shipping costs by ordering all books from the same seller.   When these arrived I felt my excitement grow and happily settled down to reading again. I should mention the following books I read were all purchased for $0.75.

nearingI began with Simple Food by Helen Nearing:  This I had read as an ebook a couple of months ago but desperately wanted a paper copy. It took me no time to settle down and reread the book marking the recipes I wanted to make.

I would highly recommend this book not only for anyone who eats simply or wants to add more simple meals into their diet but also for the person, like me, who doesn’t normally like preparing meals from recipes.

 

 

MerulloNext I picked up Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo:  This was a book suggesting by the lovely Marlene and was the perfect book to fix the melancholy I had been feeling.  By the end of the book I was energized and ready to jump back into life.  Breakfast with Buddha is a road trip between Otto and his sister’s friend Rinpoche, a monk. Otto is far from open to the lessons Rinpoche can teach him about life in the beginning resenting this monk’s intrusion into his life at this moment. Far from preachy Breakfast with Buddha is a story to absorb and enjoy while letting the lessons percolate long after you set the book down.

I can’t say I found much new from Rinpoche’s teachings I hadn’t already explored previously but it was nice to  have such an entertaining reminder on issues of life.  This book would be the perfect companion book on my bookshelf next to Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.

 

diffenbaughFinally, I read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Fiffenbaugh:  The best words I can come up with to describe this book comes directly from Fiffenbaugh in an interview at the end of the book.  “I started with the idea of writing a novel about the foster-care system…the true story of life inside the system is much more complicated and emotional….With Victoria[the main character], I wanted to create a character that people could connect with on an emotional level-at her best and at her worst-which I hoped would give readers a deeper understanding of the challenges of growing up in foster case.

Dififfenbaugh does a wonderful job creating a story of a woman who comes out of the foster-care system mistrusting all but the world of flowers.  Victoria, communicates with flowers to replace the emotions she can’t allow herself to voice.  This is a lovely story that will also break your heart.

I should also mention that Fififfenbaugh uses her book to reach out to help foster care children and has formed a nonprofit organization, Camellia Network to activate “citizens in every community to provide the critical support young people need to transition from foster care to adulthood.”  If you would like to learn more you can visit www.camellianetwork.org.

 

Have you read any good books lately?

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Those February Books

  1. I almost bought The Language of Flowers last month. I hadn’t heard much about it but was on sale and the premise looked really interesting. I forgot why I didn’t end up getting it, though… Do you strongly recommend it?

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    1. It depends on what you want out of a book. Did I enjoy it? Yes, very much but there were also parts I cried like a baby. It’s a good story but the reason I hesitate to say enthusiastically yes you would like it is it is also a romance book and not everyone enjoys romance stories. That said, there are lessons about guilt and friendship that make this more than just a romance book (I’m not much of a romance book person).

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  2. I loved Breakfast With Buddha! I still thInk of the characters from time to time and I recently downloaded the sequel. I would love to have Simple Food for the Good Life but can’t find it at a price I can afford. I always enjoy reading your reviews.

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    1. I just found the third part, Dinner with Buddha on my reading app but Lunch with Buddha I still have to find.

      Try half.com, actually it’s half.ebay.com. That’s where I found my copy of Simple Food for the Good Life for only $0.75. Of course there’s shipping but it still comes in under $5.

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  3. I’m also passionate about books, but they have to be hard copy for me. Your non fiction books sound really interesting and something I would like. I don’t read much fiction. I’ve never heard of the site you used to buy your cook books – I’ll have to take a look. I’m currently reading Women In Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton & 639 others (they interview women from all over the world). This is an awesome book, and quite outside of the box. It is about women’s attitudes to clothing – thought provoking and entertaining.

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    1. Hi Anne, I should have put the exact link in the post it’s half.ebay.com.

      I’ll have to add Women in Clothes to my wishlist. I feel out of place as I’m not much into fashion, just like comfortable clothing it would be nice to read about other women’s views on clothes.

      I’m still struggling with ebooks. Reading a real printed book is so tactile, there is the weight, the feel of the pages as I run my finger along the edges while I read…I can’t get that feeling from electronics but I keep trying because it’s the cheapest way to have access to so many books.

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  4. Thank you for so many new reading options. Actually I haven’t read any of these but one was on my reading wish list. I do read electronically mostly. It is just so convenient and light weight to manage. And I can read in bed without having the light on. I used to be a dedicated real printed book fan, but now I am sold on ebooks. I read so much more than I did before owning a Kindle. I belong to Book Bub on line (free service) where you can download many free books as well as cheap ones – .99 to 2.99. Most of my choices are free. And my reading tastes tend to go in every direction. I totally enjoy end of the world themes but I read lots of other things as well. I keep my book list on Good Reads – another on line source – and this year I joined their challenge. Pick the number of books you want to read in a year and try to achieve that. I had no idea how many books I actually read (ebooks and audio) so I picked 25 books as my goal. Turns out that will be a crazy low number. I probably will be closer to 100. Anyway, I have written down a few of your titles and I will check them out.

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    1. Hi Elaine! I tried using Bookbub to locate books to read but got frustrated with the selection and the repeat titles. I signed up with Scribd which keeps my costs down as I find myself not enjoying the free books offered. I find it funny how different we all are. Some love their ereaders and others like myself really struggle to take to them. I had thought it was a generational issue but have been meeting plenty of people my age who love their ereaders and then younger people who still prefer a printed book. I read less when all I have is the tablet to read from. 😦

      I too enjoy post apocalyptic stories, well truth be told I love them but hated the one I attempted to read in February.

      I saw you had taken the challenge, I decided against it because I tend to be a bit competitive (even with myself) and would have tried to beat any number I selected. 🙂 I should put together a good reads list though to keep track of what I’ve read and give others one place they could look for titles.

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  5. I just checked and our library system doesn’t have “Simple Food”. That sounds like a book for me. When I have more time, I’ll see if they can go outside of our county and get it. The only book I have read on your list is “The Language of Flowers”. I enjoyed the book and the insights in gave into the foster care system as well as the large role flowers played in the story. It was a bit dramatic at times, but that may be why it is so popular.

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    1. I hope you can find Simple Food. Helen’s story interwoven through the recipes along with her favorite quotes is well worth a read. Dramatic is a good word to describe The Language of Flowers. I could partly relate to Victoria because I used to be so shy having grown up in an abusive home.

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  6. Glad I finally got here to read this. Delighted you liked Breakfast with Buddha. I don’t have a hard copy of it but maybe one day to add to my library. My sister just brought back “Lunch” and she enjoyed it too. “Dinner” is in my shopping cart. If I’m getting a book that I know I will loan, it will be hard copy. The rest are e-books as there is little book space left here. I love the recommendations you have here as well as the honest comments on those you didn’t care for and why. I’ll have to look into a couple. I’m not much on tear jerkers anymore. Worked too hard to stop the waterworks to bring them back on. There are a couple here I will look at. And now I have to get ready for my quilt group.

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    1. I did enjoy Breakfast with Buddha, very much. I’ve found Scribd (the reading app I use now) had Dinner with Buddha so unless the library has Lunch I’ll probably end up reading them out of order. I’m not big on tearjerkers either but I stuck with The Language of Flowers because I could relate to the main character. I may not have grown up in the foster system but I sure entered adulthood insecure and lost.

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  7. As you can see, I am just catching up with you so sorry about all the comments…!

    Thankyou for your reviews, which I always enjoy. It’s so interesting to see what others read, even if not everything is something I would enjoy or put on my own list. I do enjoy a crime story, particularly the Scottish ones that are out there now by Peter May and Ann Cleeves, which I keep up with. But I also enjoy the calm, very unhurried style of Alexander McCall Smith’s various series, the intelligent humour, philosophy and gentle pace where actually, nothing much happens. I think they are brilliantly written. Sometimes I like to reread stories I enjoyed as a child, and other times it’s something historical (fact and occasionally, fiction – Philippa Gregory writes so well) or about lifestyle, minimalism or health. I enjoyed Wheatbelly and Grainbrain, for instance. Well, that is just some of many.

    I listened to Harold Fry as an audiobook, after my friend recommended it to me. I enjoyed it but it didn’t move me the way it moved her. Did you know there is a follow-up book about Queenie?

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    1. I did not know there was a follow up story on Queenie, I may have to see if I can find it. It took me a while to read Harold Fry, I started it two or three times before finally finishing it but I think that’s because other books came to my attention that were more pertinent at the time. I can not listen to audio books, my mind wanders too much. When I catch my mind wandering and try to bring it back I’m so lost I have to go back and start over. This is a repeating behavior so I gave up on ever enjoying an audio book.

      I don’t recognize the authors you mentioned except Philippa Gregory. I have it on my list of authors suggested by bloggers, I’m assuming I got that recommendation from one of your posts on the books you read. I read Wheatbelly but not Grainbrain was that any good? I’ve add the rest of your suggestions to my list and I’ll see if I can find them.

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