Many Good Books Read in October!

Some months I get lucky with the books I get to read. October was one of those. I was overwhelmed with library books for which I reached the top of the waitlist. Several books had to go back to the library unread, so those remain on my to be read list.

Climbing Over Grit, by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi

Climbing Over Grit
Climbing Over Grit, by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi

I have been following Laleh Chini’s blog, “A Voice from Iran” for quite a while, but I had somehow missed knowing that she was writing a book. When she announced that her book, Climbing Over Grit, was available on preorder, I immediately ordered it. Laleh has a gift for storytelling, so I knew her book would be good.

Little did I know that Laleh’s book was based on some experiences within her own family! The book is written in first-person point-of-view, but I still didn’t catch on that it was written in her mother’s voice until I came to a page well into the book that said something like, “The second daughter was named Laleh.” I gasped out loud! It was then that I couldn’t put the book down. I finished reading it at 4:30 in the morning.

I still cringe to think about some of Laleh’s family members being subjected to arranged child marriage and the abuse that often goes along with that practice.

Fortunately for her readers, Laleh got out of Iran at the age of 16 and came to the United States. She now resides in Canada. He photographs and Iranian folktales she shares in her blog have helped me get a picture of an Iran I didn’t know existed.

Climbing Over Grit is not a pleasant read, but I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the child bride culture of Iran. Her blog can be found at https://avoicefromiran.wordpress.com/.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz
The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

The main character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris, will haunt me for a long time. Ludwig “Lale” Sokolov was a Slovakian Jew taken to the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Nazis. He was not a trained tattooist, but he found he could do the work. Anything to stay alive. He had to tattoo the identification numbers on the forearms of the prisoners at Auschwitz and Birkenau for the last two to three years of World War II.

One particular female prisoner named Gita caught his eye, and they began a love story. The promise of being together forever with each other helped keep both of them alive throughout their awful ordeals.

This is a story of courage, love, and man’s inhumanity to man. It is an international bestseller and is based on a true story. His position of some level of trust affords Lale the opportunity to come in possession of some money and jewels that were taken from other Jews upon their arrival at the concentration camps. He used those items in exchange for food for his fellow prisoners.

The author interviewed Lale and his descendants in order to weave Lale and Gita’s story into this work of fiction. Their story of suffering, courage, and love will stay with me for a long time. Even those of you who don’t normally read historical fiction might find this novel appealing.

Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini; illustrated by Dan Williams

My October 8, 2018 blog post, Words of Khaled Hosseini  was about his new children’s book, Sea Prayer. I invite you to read that post in case you missed it earlier.

I will not go into the details of Sea Prayer today, since I explored the book’s theme in that earlier blog post. Although it is a book for juveniles, I highly recommend it to people of all ages – to anyone old enough to have an understanding of what a refugee is.

The Devil and Webster, by Jean Hanff Korelitz

I mention this book because the premise sounded promising. I tried two or three times to read it, but I just couldn’t get into it. I decided to list it today because it just might appeal to some of you. It is literary satire, so maybe I just don’t get the satire or didn’t read enough of it to catch on. The book has many five-star reviews. People seem to really like it or not like it at all. I read the first 25 percent of the book.

Lying in Wait, by Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait, by Liz Nugent
Lying in Wait, by Liz Nugent

After reading A.J. Finn’s recommendation for Liz Nugent’s Lying in Wait, I checked it out of the library. I had enjoyed Mr. Finn’s novel, The Woman in the Window, so his recommendation carried a lot of weight. I was not disappointed in this psychological thriller.

The first chapter of Lying in Wait is from the point-of-view of Lydia and opens with the following sentence:  “My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.” That got my attention, so I kept reading.

Part I of the novel takes place in 1980. Each chapter was from the point-of-view of one of the characters, and the emphasis was on how Annie Doyle’s parents and sister responded to her unexpected disappearance. It is near the end of Part I when the reader finds out why Lydia’s husband killed Annie.

Part II follows each character as they continue to deal with the situation in 1985. You have Annie’s sister still demanding answers from the police over her missing sister, while Lydia and her son deal with the secret of Annie’s murder. To get into the details, I would have to reveal too much of the storyline, so I’ll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, there are some interesting interactions between some of the characters.

Part III jumps to 2016 to pull together all the loose ends, and the ending might surprise you.

As a rule, I don’t like novels in which chapters alternate between various characters’ points-of-view, but this format worked for Lying in Wait. I want to read more of Liz Nugent’s books. She has won many awards for her writing in her native Ireland and, apparently, has a cult-like following.

My Dear Hamilton:  A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

My Dear Hamilton
My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

This historical novel told from the point-of-view of Eliza Schuyler, wife of Alexander Hamilton is a long but enjoyable read. At 642 pages, it’s the longest book I’ve read in quite a while. I must say I learned some things about Alexander Hamilton, and I learned a great many things about his wife. I really knew nothing about her before reading the book.

That said, it is a work of historical fiction, so most of Eliza’s feelings and emotions throughout the book fall into the fiction category. I appreciated the authors’ extensive notes at the end of the book where they told what was true, what was fiction, and what was adjusted chronologically to make the book work. I also appreciated the fact that they included in the book that Eliza grew up on a plantation that had slaves in the state of New York. Many people are not aware that some people outside The South owned slaves in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

It’s about time the women who helped found our nation got a little credit.

Since my last blog post

I attended the memorial service for a true American hero, Seville Schofield Funk, Sr. He served in the United States Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Italy during World War II. In the line of service he sustained a broken ankle and went back into battle after a brief recovery. Later, he was shot in the left shoulder and returned to battle. Later, he was shot in the right shoulder and yet again returned to the front lines. I was honored to have known this unassuming man. When I go to my polling place to vote tomorrow, it will be because Mr. Funk and others like him have preserved my freedom to vote by their unselfish military service.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Have you read any good books lately? Have you read any of the books I read last month? If so, what did you think of them?

Janet

Independent Bookstores are the Best!

If you haven’t visited an independent bookstore lately, do yourself a favor and look one up this week.

Foggy Pine Books

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Foggy Pine Books in Boone, NC

I had the pleasure of visiting Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina last week. It is the quintessential small town/college town independent bookstore. Located at 471 W. King Street in downtown Boone just a block or so from the campus of Appalachian State University, it has an excellent selection of books ranging from the classics to the current bestsellers. There are several cozy areas in the shop that invite customers to curl up in a comfortable chair with a good book.

My vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, was not among the handful of Arcadia Publishing books on the shelf; however, Christina promised to read my book and consider ordering it. Next time you’re in Boone, drop by Foggy Pine Books and ask for it by name.

Mary Ruthless purchased the bookstore in 2016 when the owner of the former Black Bear Books retired. It seems that Mary couldn’t stand the thought of Boone not having a bookstore. I’m so glad she rescued the shop. Foggy Pine Books is in a different location from where it started and is conveniently located on the main street with free parking at the side of the building.

In addition to buying a book, I purchased a couple of bookmarks at Foggy Pine Books. One bookmark is imprinted with the words, “She believed she could so she did.” I will explain the significance of those words to me in one of my blog posts in November.

Dan’l Boone Inn

A trip to Boone wouldn’t be complete without eating at Dan’l Boone Inn. Established in 1959, the restaurant is in what used to be the area’s hospital at the corner of King and Hardin Streets. The menu for lunch and dinner are the same, as is the price.

Fried chicken, country-style steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, slaw, corn, biscuits, and baked apples are served family style after you’ve eaten your tossed salad. What appears to be way more food than you can possibly eat soon disappears and you’re given extra napkins to wrap up the country ham biscuits to take with you.

The dessert choices were all tempting, but I opted for the chocolate cake. It was as delicious as the rest of the food. The country ham biscuits were my dinner that night. Two country ham biscuits were all I needed that night after such a big lunch.

Tribute to Doc Watson

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Statue of the late Doc Watson, musician, in Boone, NC

 

I just had to take a picture of this statue of local legendary musician Doc Watson. He was from Deep Gap, which is a community a few miles east of Boone. He took blindness in stride and had a family and a successful career as a musician and singer. The statue is on King Street in downtown Boone.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Autumn temperatures arrived a few weeks late this year, so there wasn’t much fall color in the trees in Boone or on the Blue Ridge Parkway; however, after a side trip to Ashe County Cheese in West Jefferson, the two-day vacation in the mountains was made complete by a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love driving in the mountains, so a road trip on the Parkway is always relaxing. The day was crystal clear after rain the day before, so the views were spectacular.

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Sign at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The sign gives an explanation of the legend of Tom Dula and is located at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This murder and love triangle in Wilkes County, North Carolina in the 1860s was made famous in the 1960s by a folk song recording by the Kingston Trio.

Until my next blog post

Don’t forget to visit an independent bookstore such as Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina as soon as you can.

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Foggy Pine Books, Boone, NC

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m finishing My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie today.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

What’s your favorite independent bookstore? What is it about the atmosphere and feel of an independent bookstore that the big box stores can’t offer? Please share the names and locations of independent bookstores you have enjoyed visiting so the rest of us can patronize them.

Janet

Don’t Mess with the Brunswick Stew!

Are you a fan of Brunswick Stew? I’ve been eating Brunswick Stew since I was a small child. The first Brunswick Stew I ate was at Robinson Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A few years later, the Men of the Church at Rocky River Presbyterian in Concord, North Carolina started making Brunswick Stew for our congregation every October. In the beginning, we’d say, “It’s good, but not as good as Robinson’s.” Gradually, the recipe or technique of stirring it for hours in a cast iron pot over an open fire improved and we started saying, “This is as good as Robinson’s.”

Times have changed since I was a child. A year or two ago, barbecue was added for those who don’t like Brunswick Stew. Desserts are included now. Everything is free, unless you want to purchase additional stew or barbecue to take home.

Rocky River Presbyterian Church
Rocky River Presbyterian Church, 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC 28025

Saturday was the annual Brunswick Stew at Rocky River Presbyterian. It used to just be something the Men of the Church did for the congregation.  The event has evolved into a fall festival for the community with games and other activities for the children. I assisted my sister in giving tours of our 157-year-old sanctuary.

Attendance was great this year (estimated at 300-400) and the weather was beautiful. After the rain and wind on Thursday from the remains of Hurricane Michael, everyone enjoyed a chance to get outside and do something besides pick up limbs. There were children and families all over the church grove playing games and painting pumpkins.

The stew this year was perhaps the best it’s ever been. Sometimes I think someone thinks black pepper has not been added to the pot, so that someone adds black pepper. Once it’s been added twice, it’s too much for my taste. One year it tasted like someone had veered off the recipe and sneaked some cumin in the pot. That was worse than the time there was too much pepper. This year it was delicious! This year it was perfect!

Don’t mess with the Brunswick Stew, guys! Don’t mess with the Brunswick Stew!

I wanted to include the recipe for Rocky River Presbyterian Brunswick Stew, but it got skewed no matter what I did. Suffice it to say it contains beef, chicken, chicken broth, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

If you’d like to have the exact recipe, leave a comment below and I’ll gladly give you the details. The stew freezes well.

The Men of the Church hold the secret to the method of cooking the stew. It is cooked in a cast iron stew pot over a fire in the parking lot behind the fellowship hall.

Since my last blog post

I’ve worked a little on genealogy. Finding that the original handwritten deeds for the land one of my ancestors purchased in the 1760s have been digitized was a wonderful find because the originals had faded to the point that they couldn’t be read at all. It is amazing how technology makes history come alive.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m still reading My Dear Hamilton:  A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. (Give me a break. It’s 642 pages!)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation. Does Brunswick Stew sound like something you would eat? Have you eaten it? Does the community or culture you were raised in or have lived in have a dish similar to the one I’ve described?

Janet

Words of Khaled Hosseini

I read that Khaled Hosseini had a new book coming out titled Sea Prayer, so I got on the waitlist at the public library as soon as it was ordered.

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini; illustrated by Dan Williams

I failed to notice that it was a juvenile book.

Thank goodness I didn’t know it was a children’s book. If I’d known, I probably wouldn’t have checked it out.

I recommend this book to everyone, no matter your age, as long as the reader or listener is old enough to understand something of the plight of refugees.

Mr. Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and now lives in California. He is beloved author around the world for his novels The Kite Runner, And the Mountains Echoed, and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Sea Prayer is a wonderfully illustrated in watercolors by artist Dan Williams.

The book was inspired by the story we all heard about Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 trying to reach a safe land.

The following words were for me the most powerful in Sea Prayer. Due to copyright restrictions, I cannot quote quite as much as I’d like. Therefore, to set the stage, the writer is talking about how unwelcome they are as refugees. Then, he writes the following lines:

“But I hear your mother’s voice,

over the tide,

and she whispers in my ear,

‘Oh, but if they saw, my darling.

Even half of what you have.

If only they saw.

They would say kinder things, surely.’”

Indeed. If we had only seen half of what that three-year-old boy had seen, perhaps we would say kinder things to and about refugees.

Since my last blog post

I’ve read several good books, and I look forward to blogging about them on November 5.

I’ve also reread some tips about blogging. No doubt, you’ll be glad to know that I was reminded that it’s not about me.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m reading My Dear Hamilton:  A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. .

If you’re a writer, I hope you have uninterrupted writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation. Would you consider reading a children’s book and be open to the possibility that it might make you look at a world problem from a different perspective? Have you read Sea Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini? What did you like or dislike about it?

Janet