Island Voices II

Various. Island Voices II: Poetry of Monhegan. Stone Island Press, 2014.

Reason read: a Christmas gift from my mother.

It is hard for me to read anything Monhegan related from a critical point of view. My mind instantly goes to what I know and love about the island, and if the poetry captured even a smidgen of that memory, I am instantly biased. Biased and definitely devoted. I have to wonder how someone completely ignorant of Monhegan would read these poems. Where would be his or her focus? What would stick in their minds as relevant or real?
Further complicating my review are my varying relationships with the poets themselves. True, Catherine Morocco and Marilyn Ringer are complete strangers, although I am sure I would recognize them by sight. Kate Chappell, Iris Miller, and Frances Vaughn I only know by long standing history and name. While I am more acquainted with Jan Bailey, Mary Kordak, Jan Kornbluth, & Joanne Scott, in truth K.K. Iannicelli and Judith Ponturo are island mothers. They could be my island mothers.

So. To review Island Voice II. I simply can’t. When I read about the ocean’s melodic drumming, I also hear Kathi’s wheelbarrow coming up the hard packed dirt road. When I see words about the salt, salt air I also see Judy humming in Winter Works. On the page the gulls may laugh overhear but I see Jan’s secret smile as another tourist tries on a wrestling mask. Queen Anne’s Lace blown bent backwards in Mary’s garden but all I see is her radiant smile. I admit it, I read the words but see the home.

August ’12 was…

August was a little of this and a little of that. Some people will notice I have made some changes to the book challenge – some changes more noticeable than others. For starters, how I review. I now add a section of why I’m reading the book. For some reason I think it’s important to include that in the review. Next, how I read. I am now adding audio books into the mix. I am allowing myself to add an audio book in “trapped” situations when holding a book and keeping my eyes on the page might be an inconvenience (like flying) or endanger someone (like driving). I’m also making a effort to avoid wasting time on books I don’t care for (like Honore de Balzac). One last change: I am not as stringent about reading something within the month. If I want to start something a little early because it’s right in front of my face then so be it.
What else was August about? August was also the month I lost my dear Cassidy for a week. I spent many a night either in an insomniac state or sitting on the back porch, reading out loud in hopes the sound of my voice would draw my calico to me. The only thing it yielded was more books finished in the month of August. She finally came home one week later.
Anyway, enough of all that. I’ll cry if I continue. Onto the books:

I started the month by reading and rereading Tattoo Adventures of Robbie Big Balls by Robert Westphal. This was the first time I read and reviewed a book after meeting the author. I wanted to get it right. I also wanted to make sure I was an honest as possible about the situation. Everything about this review was unusual. For the challenge:

  • After You’ve Gone by Alice Adams ~ I read this in three days and learned a valuable lesson about Adams’s work: read it slowly and parse it out. Otherwise it becomes redundant.
  • Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin ~ I read this in ten days, tucking myself in a study carrell and reading for an hour everyday.
  • Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury ~ an audio book that only took me nine days to listen to.
  • Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ read with Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I took both of these to Maine and had oodles of car-time to finish both.
  • We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich ~ this was probably my favorite nonfiction of the challenge. Rich’s Maine humor practically jumped off the page. I read this to Cassidy.
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder ~ I read this in three days, again hiding myself away in a study carrell.
  • Ten Hours Until Dawn by Tougis ~ another audio book. I’m glad I listened to this one as opposed to reading it. Many reviewers called it “tedious” and I think by listening to it I avoided that perspective.
  • The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson ~ I read this in two days (something I think I thought I was going to get to in June).
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ~ I read this in honor of World War I ending. I also read it in one night while waiting for Cassidy to come home.
  • The Lives of the Saints by Nancy Lemann ~ also read in one night. In honor of New Orleans and the month Hurricane Katrina rolled into town.
  • Kristin Lavransdatter: the Cross by Sigrid Undset ~ finally put down the Norwegian trilogy!

For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing:

  • The Most Memorable Games in New England Patriots History by Bernard Corbett and Jim Baker. This was supposed to be on my list a year ago. Better late than never.
  • Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough by Barbara Keesling. This took me an inordinate amount of time to read. Guess I didn’t want to be seen in public with it.

We Took to The Woods

Rich, Louise Dickinson. We Took to the Woods. Kingsport: Kingsport Press, 1942.

I love it when a book is so fun to read you don’t notice the time. You simply start reading and suddenly it’s three hours later and you are practically finished with the entire thing. Such is the case with We Took to the Woods. Rich is a fantastic storyteller. What makes her story even more appealing is the fact it’s a true story (complete with photographs) and Rich has a great sense of humor. Maine humor, if you will. It’s a great combination.
Probably the most fascinating element to We Took to the Woods is how current it is 70 years after being published. You can read about living in a cabin deep in the woods of Maine today and find it eerily similar to how Rich described it back then. A simple way of life is a simple way of life. I guess you could say simplicity barely changes. Rich divides her chapters into the most frequently asked questions she has had to answer over the years: “But how do you make a living?” “Aren’t you ever frightened?” and “Do you get out very often?” to name a few. It’s as if she wrote the book to shut people up about her unique lifestyle, living in the far Northern section of Maine in the middle of nowhere.

Favorite lines (and there were a few of them): “I see no point in being modest about the things you know you do well” (p 47), “You can neither remodel nor ignore a thing as big as winter” (p 62), and “It’s unreasonable, I know; but some fears lie beyond reason” (p 76). Here are two that illustrate her sense of humor: ” I can also run my household as badly as I please, and our house guests can sun-bathe in the altogether without hindrance” (p 307) and “I find her very tiresome at close range, but at a distance I rather admire her spirit” (p 307-308).

AS an aside – Rich writes about the hurricane of 1938 and how it felled enough trees to make a giant log jam. I find it interesting I am also reading about another natural disaster, the blizzard of 1978 – forty years later.

Reason read: We Took to the Woods takes place in Maine. Maine has an annual lobster festival in Rockland every August. A coastal celebration is enough reason to read about the Rangeley woods.

Author Fact: Louise Dickinson Rich didn’t start off as a writer. She was a teacher first, but always wanted to write a book. I’m glad she did.

Book Trivia: We Took to the Woods was Rich’s first book. She went on to write another one that has been on my bookshelf for years.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).

postscript~ I doubt I will forget We Took to the Woods anytime soon. Coincidentally, it is the book I chose to read aloud to Cassidy when she went missing her first night in the woods.

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years

Field, Rachel. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. New York: Dell, 1957.

When I first learned of the premise for Hitty I cringed. It has gotten so hard for me to read outlandish stories. The suspension of belief is getting much harder to suspend these days. But, I am happy to say Hitty was different.

In a nutshell Hitty: Her First Hundred Years is about the first hundred years of a doll’s life. Made out of well-seasoned mountain-ash wood, Hitty is a sturdy, made to last doll. She is given to a small girl named Phoebe Preble sometime in the early 1800s. The Preble family makes their home outside of Portland, Maine and Phoebe’s father is a whaling captain. When we first meet Hitty, she is a resident of an antique store and has set out to write the memoirs of the first hundred years of her life. And what a life the first hundred have been! During her time with the Preble family she was abandoned in a church, kidnapped by crows, taken out to sea where her ship first springs a leak and later catches on fire; she becomes lost at sea, found again only to be given away as a heathen idol, and finally, dropped somewhere in India – never to be seen by the Preble family again. Hitty (whose real name is Mehitabel) goes on to be owned by a succession of little girls, some kind, some not. There are great periods of time when she is stored in an attic trunk or wedged in couch cushions. One hundred years goes by very quickly for both Hitty and the reader. (I was able to read the whole book in less than three hours.)
My only complaint – Hitty admitted to not knowing what a train was yet in India she recognized a cobra on sight.

Favorite line, “Which only goes to show how little any of us can tell about our own futures” (p112). I like this line because it’s in reference to not knowing when Hitty will return to Maine. I can relate.
The other element I liked about this book is the timelessness of it. Someone “threatens” to wear a nose ring when she is older. I can picture the same “threat” being made today. Another example: later Hitty attends a concert of a famous singer. The throngs of people crowding around the celebrity is very much like the crush of crowds at any concert today.

Author Fact(s): Field was originally from Stockbridge, MA and moved to Maine when she was 15 years old. She died when she was only 48.

Book Trivia: Hitty: Her First Hundred Years won two awards, the Newbery Award when it was first published in 1929 and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award many years later.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the introduction (p x) – mentioned as a book Nancy Pearl read as a child.

July ’10 is…

Vacation! Vacation! Vacation! We have some crazy things planned. I simply cannot wait! Camping, hiking, music, craft fair, parade, family, friends, fireworks, boats, the ocean, mountains, swimming, lobster festival, Natalie, Monhegan, food, books and more books.

  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brien ~ taken off the list since I didn’t finish Master and Commander. Boo.
  • Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt ~ in honor of July being the most popular month to visit the ocean
  • Firewall by Henning Mankell ~ in honor of July being the best time to visit Sweden
  • Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes ~ in honor of the first test of the atomic bomb

I sincerely doubt I will get to the last book. For one, it’s over 800 pages long and for another, it’s at the end of the list. But, more importantly, it’s about the making of the atomic bomb. On vacation? I don’t think so!

I act like I’m going away for a month. Maybe that’s not a bad thing….

For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) I have an interesting situation. A book I was supposed to receive over a year ago arrived June 23rd. So, for July I will be reviewing What’s a Mother (in-law) to Do? by Jane Angelich.

Empire Falls

Russo, Richard. Empire Falls. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2001.

It took me forever to read Empire Falls. Aside from having several different storylines each character is artfully developed in full. People and places are vividly described to the point of comfortable familiarity for the reader.
Miles Roby is a soon-to-be divorced father who seems to have lost all passion for life. He has been working at the same restaurant, the Empire Grill, for twenty years. He suffers through constant, obnoxious reminders that his wife is marrying someone else as soon as his divorce from her is final. He tolerates a mischievous, thieving father who is always telling him how not to be a loser. He squirms under the thumb of a woman who has ruled him, his family and the entire town of Empire Falls for generations. Miles’s only solace is in his daughter, Christina (Tick, as she is affectionately known by everyone). Despite everything Miles has going against him throughout the story he remains a graceful, if not tragic, hero.
Even though Miles Roby is the main protagonist of Empire Falls the entire town comes alive by Richard Russo’s artistic and skillful writing. Like any small community Empire Falls has its fair share of quirky people and Miles Roby’s personal life is not only know by everyone else, but is commented and cared about by all.

Favorite lines: “…both men had pushed their conversations until their words burst into flame rekindling age-old resentments, reopening old wounds” (p 115), “One of the odd things about middle age, he concluded, was the strange decisions a man discovers he’s made by not really making them, like allowing friends to drift away through simple neglect” (p 261), and “Janine knew from experience that it was a lot easier to forget a thousand things you wanted to remember than the one thing you wanted to lose sight of” (p 271).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “New England Novels” (p 177).

Daniel Plainway

Reid, Van. Daniel Plainway, or, the Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League. New York: Viking, 2000.

 One of the reasons why I love reading books that take place in Maine is because I can identify with most of the locations. Another reason is that sometimes I get to reconnect to a place I haven’t thought about (or heard about) in years. Such is the case with Veazie, Maine.

How to describe this book? I think I’m a little thrown off because Daniel Plainway is part of a series (of which I didn’t read the first or even second book). It’s like coming into a discussion when it’s two-thirds over. Daniel Plainway is a Maine country lawyer who is trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a neighboring family. When a portrait of his neighbor’s daughter is rediscovered, Daniel begins a journey that changes his life. Along the way he meets the members of the Moosepath League and that’s when the fun really begins.
Reid writes with hilarity. One of my favorite scenes is when there is an attempted robbery of the Moosepath League members. The robber, young and inexperienced, fumbles with the gun, slips on the ice and snow, and somehow hands his gun over to a member of the Moosepath League, knocking himself and the others down. The League members do not realize they are being robbed and try to give the man back his gun and offer him money for his troubles – for they think they are responsible for knocking the young man over. “He considered Thump’s card through a blur of tears, realizing that he had just tried to rob three men, and in return they might have saved his life” (p 51).
Another great scene is when the members of the Moosepath League are trying to deliver a letter. There is great confusion as to exactly who the letter should go to. In the end, after they think they has successfully did their duty, they do not know how to leave, “There mission completed (however unpleasantly) the members of the club wondered, in collective silence, if they should be moving on to other things, primarily any other things that would take them some distance from the present scene” (p 92).

Favorite singular lines: “Gerald Pinkney and Daniel Plainway had known each other since their days at Colby, and Daniel had always thought of Gerald as a slightly antagonized bee” (p 16). I just love the imagery of this “slightly antagonized bee.”
“Those quickest to kindness are also quickest to forget when they are kind” (p 94).

BookLust Twist: In Book Lustin the chapter, “Van Reid and the Moosepath League: Too Good To Miss” (p 199).