Creature of Habit August

Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:

Fiction:

  • African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
  • Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
  • Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
  • Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
  • Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.

Nonfiction:

  • Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
  • American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
  • If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.

Series continuations:

  • Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
  • Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.

Early Review:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
  • Open Water by Mikael Sturm.

Oneiron

Lindstedt, Linda. Oneiron: a fantasy about the seconds after death. Translated by Owen Witesman. London: OneWorld, 2018.

Reason read: I requested this book as an Early Review from LibraryThing.

How to describe this book? Odd? Maybe. It is the imaginative story of seven unique women who are caught in a space somewhere between death and the final destination, wherever that may be. It is obvious all seven women have passed away but they themselves are not fully cognizant of that fact. They aren’t even sure they know where they are except to say they are in a white room devoid of detail. Each woman has a thoroughly detailed personality and an elaborate past to match. More time is spent telling the reader where they have been instead of moving them forward to where they are going. It gets heavy at times. Certain scenes are graphic.

Disclaimer: I normally only chose two different types of books from LibraryThing for the Early Review Program: nonfiction and debut novels. For some reason, the premise of Oneiron (pronounced o.ne:.ron from the Greek, meaning dream) fascinated me: seven women meet in an undefined space only seconds after their deaths. They are in the space between life and afterlife. The don’t understand this in-between world.

Second disclaimer: I was not prepared for the lesbian sex scene right off the bat, only four pages in.
Truth be told, I had a hard time with this. I could put it down for days weeks and not miss the characters I abandoned. I didn’t find a likable woman in the bunch. Maybe that was my problem.

Author fact: Lindstedt’s debut novel was Scissors. Another useless piece of trivia: Lindstedt has amazing cheek bones. She could model in her spare time. Maybe she does.

Book trivia: Oneiron has already won the Finlandia Prize, Finland’s highest literary honor. Another piece of trivia: Oneiron is organized a little differently than American published books. Table of contents is in the back while the author bio is in the front.


Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced¬†by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


The Art of Dying

Weenolsen, Patricia. The Art of Dying: How to Leave This World with Dignity and Grace, at Peace with Yourself and Your Loved Ones. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

Reason read: February (in some circles) is Psychology Month.

Do you need to be terminally ill to read this book? I hope not. But, I would think having a terminal illness would help to read this book more effectively, especially when performing the “Meaning of Disease” exercise 40 pages in. It’s the first of many exercises surrounding the subject of terminal illness. It’s difficult to answer some of Weenolsen’s questions as a seemingly healthy person. But, back to my original question. It prompted another: how many healthy people have read this book and stored information away for when a life threatening illness eventually¬† settles in? As it stands right now, we are all terminal, but does anyone plan (beside the hypochondriac) for a terminal illness?
This book is chock full of information but probably the biggest surprise was Weenolsen’s humor. Sometimes snarky, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, there was a lightheartedness to some of her chapters; as if humor would make the subject matter easier to swallow. [Note: in my case it did, once I identified why death made me so squirmy.]

Before reading The Art of Dying I had to wonder what prompted Weenolsen to devote her life to the subject.

Quotes that put things into perspective immediately: On the subject of dying: “We can look neither into the sun nor death directly” (p 3) and “People want to name the disease” (p 48). On the subject of letting go (in this case, a neat house): “If you’re not dust-sensitive, think of the layers as mounting thick enough to hatch something – and then to keep them around as pets” (p 66).

Author fact: Weenolsen is a psychologist who specializes in death and dying and counsels people on both.

Book trivia: As I mentioned before, I didn’t expect humor from The Art of Dying. The jokes come out of nowhere. Weenolsen has this quirky sense of humor that emerges every so often.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 100s” (p 64).


“Winter”

Ponsot, Marie. “Winter.” Springing.New york: Alfred A Knopf, 2002. p 225.

Such a short poem and oh so seemingly uncomplicated! Don’t be fooled by its length or lack of veiled meaning. It is a snapshot of two neighbors, living side by side. Two mothers, their sons had grown up as friends. Only now the reader finds out one mother has lost her son to suicide. The other doesn’t know what to say. Isn’t that always the way? There is pain in this surviving-son’s mother’s voice as she struggles with words and sentiments. It’s elegant and emotional.

And to think I read it thinking it was going to be about winter (because I can’t wait for it to be over). That will teach me to judge a poem by its title!

Favorite line, “Both boys hated school, dropped out feral, dropped in to separate troubles” (p 225).

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. So. There. This is the first poem of the month!

Author fact: Ponsot’s book The Bird Catcher won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1998.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).


To Heaven and Back

Neal, Mary C. To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again.Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2011.

I was supposed to deliver this book to my mother. My aunt bought a copy for all of her sisters and it was my charge to make sure my mother got hers. Of course I had to read it before passing it along. I read it twice.
I am not a religious person. I lost my faith when my father passed away. Unfortunately there is very little anyone can do to make me believe in Heaven, Hell, or even God at this moment. I do believe in spirits and angels and a reason for everything. I think my father is still with me in weird ways, but I do not believe in the Bible.
Having said all that, I had a deep appreciation for Dr. Neal’s story. While it is centered around a religious faith there were moments that resonated with me; passages that moved me to tears. Dr. Neal was kayaking in Chile when she had a terrible accident and technically drowned. she was pinned under water way longer than a person should/could survive. While she was dead she experienced heaven and Jesus holding her. She believed she was spared because her purpose in life on Earth wasn’t finished. Throughout the rest of To Heaven and Back Dr. Neal recounts different moments where her presence saved the life of someone else or God’s presence had a hand in guiding her to make the right decision. Even after her son is tragically killed she found a spiritual way to push through the pain. It is an uplifting story of inspiration.


Sept ’12 is…

September 2012 started in Colorado. It was nice to disappear for a week! Here are the books:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook ~ in honor¬† of Roosevelt’s birth month
  • American Ground: the Unbuilding of the World Trade Center by William Langewicshe ~ in remembrance of September 11, 2001. I will be listening to this on audio.
  • Tear Down the Mountain by Roger Alan Skipper ~ in honor of an Appalachian fiddle festival that takes place in September.
  • The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper ~ in honor of boys going back to school.
  • Ariel: the Life of Shelley by Andre Maurois ~ in honor of National Book Month.
  • Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl ~ in honor of a kid named Matt who was deemed a hero in September.

So. That’s the Challenge plan. For other books I have been told I won two Early Review books from LibraryThing but since I haven’t seen them I won’t mention them here. My aunt wants me to deliver a book to mom so I, of course, read it on the way home from Colorado so it’s already finished: To Heaven and Back: a Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again by Mary C. Neal, MD. It was an amazing book.