January 7

Book Club Reading List

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One of my favorite lists this time of year, is my book club’s reading list.  Here’s what we’re reading in 2012:

January – Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

February  – Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl

March – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

April – A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers

May – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

June – A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball

July – At Home on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball

August – Love Letters from Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball

September – The City Below by James Carroll

October – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

November – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

We’re called the Eclectic Women, and you can see we live up to our name.  What are your reading plans for 2012?

Daily Inspiration

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Eliot

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December 31

The Reader

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The Reader was fascinating to me because it examines the idea that we are neither wholly good nor wholly evil.  More importantly, it examines the  horrible conflict that rages inside a person when they care for someone they know in one regard, but who has a “prior” life they can’t understand.  Michael, a 15-year-old German boy, has an affair with Hanna, a 36-year-old woman.  Years later, Hanna is on trial for war crimes committed while she served as an SS guard in a concentration camp.  Following  the trial, Hanna’s imprisoned.  Much of the story involves Michael, reconciling his feelings for Hanna and how he has treated her.  It is his exploration of the questions for which there are no easy answers, or answers at all.

The Reader belongs to a movement in German literature called Vergangenheitsbewältigung, “the struggle to come to terms with the past.”  This genre explores the post-war generation’s approach to the generation before them; the generation that bore witness to Nazi atrocities and perhaps even participated.

That’s it…the end of 2011.  Every day of writing this blog has been pure joy to me.  I thank you for following along, for your encouragement, and for your friendship.  I will always remember 2011 as the year my creative spirit woke up.  I look forward to the New Year…2012!

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December 24

A Christmas Carol

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I never tire of this story, and reading Dickens’ words gives you an added depth of appreciation for this classic tale.  The beautiful language and images capture the awakening, repentence, redemption and generosity of spirit available to us all.  As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, may I join with Tiny Tim in saying, “God bless us, everyone.”  Merry Christmas!

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December 17

The Bluest Eye

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This book touched me deeply.  Set in Lorain, Ohio in 1941, this is the story of 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove.  Three things have greatly affected her life: being a child, being black, and being a girl.  This is a story that deals with the horrible injustices of racial hatred, incest and the power of language to hurt; but what gives this book the ability to touch anyone is the underlying theme of self-hatred.  The Bluest Eye is not a book to read for pleasure; but if you love the power of the written word and the beauty of language, and you believe in the ability of a “story” to change things, The Bluest Eye won’t disappoint.

I’m participating in a readalong challenge hosted by Nicole (Linus’s Blanket) and Natalie (Coffee and a Book Chick).  The book we’re reading is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner.  Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography chronicling the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII, and is currently being adapted into a miniseries by HBO and BBC.  This week, we finished the book and read Parts 5 & 6.

Reading Wolf Hall in 3 weeks was a challenge; but without a deadline, I may have put this book aside.  I’m glad I pushed through, because for anyone interested in Tudor England, Wolf Hall is well worth reading and will greatly enhance your feeling for and understanding of the period.

Henry VIIII became king during a time of incredible change.  England had endured years of civil war; the Catholic church was being challenged by the Protestant Reformation; and the King of England, married 20 years to his brother’s wife, had no male heir.  Henry wanted to annul his marriage and marry Anne Boleyn.  Into this world, stepped Thomas Cromwell.  Thomas Cromwell was not an aristocrat; but he was an original, modern man with a sharp mind and the ability to read people and recognize opportunities.

Wolf Hall imaginatively puts flesh and feelings on the Thomas Cromwell of history, who is alternatively admired or villified.  Ms. Mantel develops a plausible character by showing us how Thomas Cromwell grew up, his family, his character, his conversations and his observations and assessments of situations.  Ms. Mantel doesn’t try to explain Cromwell, she attempts to unfold him.

A magical aspect of this novel for me, is that by revealing Thomas Cromwell, Ms. Mantel reveals the birth of a new age; and the author does the same for all the larger-than-life historical figures.  She presents them through conversations and details that unveil them in a way that is new, refreshing and immediate.  You aren’t told about historical figures and events, they’re revealed to you as if you were there, discovering them for yourself.

I would recommend Wolf Hall to anyone who is interested in Tudor England, the Protestant Reformation and the psychological rendering of historical periods and characters.

If you’re interested in Wolf Hall, check out these wonderful reviews from Coffee and a Book Chick…Parts 1 & 2, Parts 3 & 4 and Parts 5 & 6.

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December 10

She’s Come Undone

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This is the story of Dolores Price who faces almost every terrible issue and situation that a girl/woman can face.  She doesn’t weather the storms unscathed; rather she is molded and greatly affected by them, but her bleak sense of humor keeps you hopeful that she makes it through.  This is a story of survival.  Dolores will touch your heart because she represents a reality that is all around us.

I’m participating in a readalong challenge hosted by Nicole (Linus’s Blanket) and Natalie (Coffee and a Book Chick).  The book we’re reading is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner.  Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography chronicling the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII, and is currently being adapted into a miniseries by HBO and BBC.  This week, we read Parts 3 & 4.

Part 3 covers the Winter of 1529, as Cardinal Wolsey is stripped of power and charged with forty-four violations of the king’s laws, to Christmastide of 1530.  Part 4 begins in 1531 and ends in November 1532.

I am thoroughly enjoying Wolf Hall.  The focus on the the life and rise of Thomas Cromwell and the present tense perspective, gives you a sense of who he was and how he played into the larger history.  By using conversations and private moments, you get a sense of what it must have been like to live during this period of tremendous change…the cultural upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the mystery of Anne Boleyn’s sway over Henry VIII, and the whim of the court where one minute you’re a rising star and the next you’re imprisoned and facing death.

Wolf Hall assumes a knowledge of the period, but what I’m finding important is not the chronicling of historical people and events, but the emergence of new ideas.  This struggle between old and new is beautifully and artfully played out between Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More.

I’m looking forward to finishing this book and giving you my final thoughts next week.

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December 3

The Glass Castle

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The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls.  It chronicles her life growing up with parents who were nonconformists in the best and worst sense.  Jeannette Walls’ early life is populated by extreme characters and situations.  What fascinates me is her ability to shine a frank, honest, loving and generous light on a life and family with profound flaws and challenges.  We all strive to understand other people, and perhaps by understanding them or at least accepting them, we gain a greater understanding and acceptance of ourselves.  Jeannette Walls triumphant and compassionate story encourages that endeavor.

I’m participating in a readalong challenge hosted by Nicole (Linus’s Blanket) and Natalie (Coffee and a Book Chick).  The book we’re reading is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner.  Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography chronicling the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII, and is currently being adapted into a miniseries by HBO and BBC.  This week, we read Parts 1 & 2.

What I’m enjoying:

* I love British history and all things royal, so I like the subject matter.

* I enjoy a change of perspective and hearing from  “supporting role” characters.  This adds a depth and breadth to my understanding of a period of history and the people who lived during that time.

* Wolf Hall reads easily.  The story moves along through “conversations” as opposed to descriptions of events.

What I’m finding challenging:

* Ms. Mantel liberally uses the pronoun “he,” so I find myself losing track of who is talking or being referred to.

* I’m familiar with this period of history and the main characters.  If I weren’t, I think I would struggle because the backstory and broader view of events isn’t presented in much depth.

It’s far too early for me to make any judgment about the book.  In fact, I really don’t like talking about a book until I’ve read the entire thing because something that annoys me early on will often be the thing that makes the book impactful to me in the end.  For now, I’m enjoying the book and looking forward to where it’s leading.

 

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November 26

The Color Purple

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The Color Purple is a deeply moving book that centers around Celie, a black woman in the early 20th-century South.  Abused by her father and then her husband, Celie’s life is bleak; but an unlikely friendship with Shug Avery, her husband’s mistress, changes how she sees herself and her life.  Told through a series of letters, Celie learns to survive, love, forgive and triumph.  Some books I love for the story, some for the characters; The Color Purple wins for both.  The power and beauty of this book makes it a gem in the crown of American Literature.

Art Every Day Month – Day 26

 

Tissue Paper Flower

One more thing:

I heard about the Wolf Hall Readalong over at Danielle’s blog, Book or Big Screen.  I was intrigued, but debated back and forth about participating because it is a 600+ page book, and I’m a very slow reader; but, I’m going to give it a try.  If you’d like to check it out yourself, you can read about it on Nicole’s blog, Linus’s Blanket or Natalie’s blog, Coffee and a Book Chick.  I’ll post my “status” the next 3 Saturdays (December 3, 10 and 17).

 

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November 19

We Were the Mulvaneys

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We Were the Mulvaneys centers on the Mulvaney family, a “perfect” family…until.  After the pivotal event, the family begins to fall apart.  Joyce Carol Oates’ writing is dense, highly descriptive and slow-paced.  This type of writing gets in my head and under my skin because you get to know the characters, their lives and their world in a very intimate way.  This book doesn’t offer answers, just a story that leaves you wondering how you would respond.  The family doesn’t experience a cataclysmic explosion or implosion, but rather a slow, painful unraveling…which makes you consider what could cause something like this to happen in your life or family.  Sobering, sympathetically written, tragic, beautiful and very realistic.

Art Every Day Month – Day 19

 

Key to my Heart Canvas

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November 12

Absalom, Absalom!

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This is a difficult book with a complex structure; but if you love a challenge, Absalom, Absalom! will reward you handsomely.  William Faulkner created the fictional world of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, the setting of several of his novels and short stories, including Absalom, Absalom!.  It’s here that you’ll get a taste of the legacy of the antebellum South…honor, heritage, the burden of the past, the Civil War, race, gender and class.  It’s the complicated story of the rise and fall of Thomas Sutpin and his dynasty; and through the story of this man, lies an allegory of the Old South.  Absalom, Absalom! is a masterpiece. 

 Art Every Day Month – Day 12

 

 Variegated Yarn Vase II

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November 5

Booked To Die

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I love mysteries and I love books, so when the two are combined, I’m interested.  This is the first in a series of mystery novels by John Dunning featuring his Denver cop turned bookshop owner, Cliff Janeway.  You get a first-class mystery, plus you learn a thing or two about the rare book business and collecting first editions.  All around fun for mystery lovers and bibliophiles.

 Art Every Day Month – Day 5

 

Felt Flower 

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