Saturday, November 21, 2015

Blended edited by Samantha Waltz

Blended edited by Samantha

Blended is a collection of stories written by writers about that crazy combination of people that makes up a family. Families come in all shapes and sizes and always have. Society used to sweep the untraditional ones under the carpet and still does, even though we are working on becoming more accepting.  As a member of my own personal version of a blended family, I share the joys as well as the struggles that are the fabric of a step family.

Families are assembled and disassembled in a variety of ways.  Each set of circumstances is unique.  This collection of heartfelt stories shines a bright light on what it really means to be a part of a step family.  No one asks to be part of one, the ebbs and flows of life lead some of us there.

I happen to know a little something about step families.  I recently supported my step mother of 50 years through her end of life challenges.  I have a host of nieces and nephews who came into my life through my sister's second marriage.  Even though I have never given birth to a child, my granddaughter called me today.  She's 16 and I'm helping her navigate the world of college admissions.  The combinations that make up a step family are endless.

One thing is for certain, no two families are alike.  The stories in Blended teach us that. Whether you are part of a step family or would just like some insight into the strength of the human spirit, Blended will take you there.  It will make you laugh and cry and face head on every emotion in between.  Life no matter how it is handed to us, is the life we are meant to live.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is my favorite author.  I never remember reading his work in high school having discovered him only after listening to a park ranger speak at the bottom of the Grand Canyon about The Grapes of Wrath. I found a copy of The Winter of Our Discontent at the local library book sale.  There was no passing it up.

Ethan Hawley is a proud New Englander who is struggling to make sense of his life.  He works as a clerk in a grocery store after having lost the store he owned to his poor business skills.  Providing support to his lovely wife, Mary and two growing children, eats at his core.  In Ethan's mind he must be poor since he is a "clerk".  It's his mind that holds him back. When Ethan is faced with the choice between right and wrong, it's his mind that propels into a place he's not sure he wants to go.

The Winter of Our Discontent is Steinbeck's view of life in America in the late 1950's.  The story focuses on thought more than plot which is what I love about reading a book.  It's also what I love about Steinbeck.  He writes a novel that plucks my heart strings and makes me think. This is the last book Steinbeck published.  He didn't save the best for last, but he gave us a timeless story on what it takes to be human.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Virginia ia a working girl, a waitress at a diner.  Aaron is a widower who comes to the diner with his shy, young son, Buddy.  He has his heart set on Virginia and she on him.  Just when their first date is about to become reality, tragedy strikes.  Their budding romance is not to be.

We fast forward 19 years and Virginia owns the diner along with her friend, Fern. She's also now engaged to Lloyd.  Lloyd, however is not the man she thinks he is,when her beloved dog, T-Rex goes missing. Through a series of events, T-Rex leads Virginia and Buddy back into each other's lives and teaches them both what they are worthy of in life.  

Put a dog in a story and I'm hooked, the dog lover that I am.  Worthy stole my heart from the very beginning.  The  characters in this novel have flaws, big ones.  Don't we all?  As the story unfolds, we watch them come to grips with how to live a good and happy life, flaws included.  

Catherine Ryan Hyde gives us a feel good story about how it takes a village.  We are not alone in this world and weren't meant to be.  We need the love and help of others no matter where we are on our path.  Life is meant to be shared and is fulfilled only when we include others.  Strangers are never strange for long if we let them into our hearts.  

I became a fan of Ms. Hyde's work when I read Take Me With You.  She's best known for Pay It Forward which became a movie.  I think that"ll be the next one I'll read.  Movie or no movie, that doesn't mean you should pass over any of her other works. Worthy will lift your spirits and restore your faith whether you're a dog lover or even a cat lover! If you are looking for a book to make you feel good, Worthy is it. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

I'm always attracted to books that have won the Pulitzer Prize, and when I saw Jane Smiley on the cover of my Writer's Digest magazine, I figured I should give her writing a try.  Farmers in Iowa are not really my thing, but I like to keep an open mind when it comes to the books I read.

Larry Cook is a successful farmer who over time and the misfortune of others has accumulated a thousand acres of farmland.  He's very proud of that fact, and thrives in the attention it gives to him.  His three daughters however, have a very different view of their father.  When he decides to turn the farm over to them and their husbands, the cracks in the facade begin to grow.

I loved the first few chapters, filled with beautiful prose and lovely descriptions.  I could see in my mind the rows upon rows of corn growing in the Midwestern summer heat.  As the pages turned however, I became more and more confused.  There was so much backstory that popped in, smack dab in the middle of a scene, drawing me away it.  Then again without notice, I got yanked back into the present.  Ginny, who is the narrator of the story,  seemed at first to me like a woman I could relate to.  I understand she found herself in an unexpected and stressful situation, but many of her actions were out of character.

I've read the reviews and people love this novel.  This is simply my opinion, but I wanted something more from A Thousand Acres.  The story had all the components of a rich and wonderful story. For me, they weren't strung together in an smooth or enjoyable way. By the end I couldn't feel sorry of any of the farmers from Iowa.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...