Monday, December 31, 2007

My Year in Books

Looking through my list of books read in 2007, I had grand thoughts of posting a detailed review of my reading year--best book, favorite book, worst book, laugh out loud book...all the various categories that lend themselves to these year-end reading retrospectives. Oh, this was the wait, this one; ah, but what about this one? Impossible!

Scrolling down the titles, I remember the pleasure that each book brought to me at the time. Some books jumped into my hands with a defiant, "Read me now!" Others sat, patiently waiting for me to notice them. Did I enjoy some more than others? Definitely. Did some books make me just want to crawl inside them and soak up the texture of the words? Oh, my, yes. Did some books leave me wanting more? Sure did!

So, no ranking best to worst or categorizing fiction to non-fiction. No enumeration of pages read--just wonderful recollections of words, phrases, ideas, and images that made up my 2007 reading year. That, and the affirmation that I was true to my steadfast reading goal: To read what I want to read when I want to read it.

Bring on 2008 and the reading pleasures waiting just the other side of midnight.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fruitcake Weather

That November "leafless birdless coming of winter morning" has passed, but no holiday season is complete without having read again Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. From the happy exclamation of fruitcake weather to the final hurrying flight of kites toward heaven, this story brings out all the varying emotions of a holiday season...loved ones, dreams, memories, gifts of the season, treasures and more.

If you have never gifted yourself with a reading of this classic, please set aside some time for yourself, make a cup of your favorite heart warming beverage, and follow this link as the fireplace commences its seasonal roar.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Cover That Beckons

Don't know about anyone else, but this dish lover is going to have a hard time not buying this book for the cover alone!

A January 2008 Book Sense Pick

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Holiday Music

Each year I hope to find among the new holiday music releases that one CD that just sweeps me up in the season. Last year's find, Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan, was a wonderful addition to the mix; George Winston's December is a staple of the category. This year, however, I've searched wide and far for that one holiday CD--iTunes, listening stations at Barnes & Noble, those 24/7 holiday music radio stations--all to no avail. So, my recommendation for holiday music this year is a favorite from years past, The Gift by Liz Story.

If, like me, your taste in holiday music leans toward a calm and quiet presentation of the traditional tunes, you will find comfort and joy in the gifts of Liz Story.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


On the surface Run by Ann Patchett is a simple story of two Boston families irrevocably linked by their personal histories, histories revealed moment by moment in the twenty-four hours following a traffic accident on a snowy evening.

From the inside cover flap:
Since their mother’s death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children—all his children—safe.

There are any number of reviews and synopses of the story available at the usual on-line sources; however, I am not including any in this post lest too many details are revealed. The simple beauty of Patchett’s story is the reader’s own discovery of the families’ details, each as intricate and unique as the snowflakes falling on Boston as the story unfolds.

Passages of Note:

Religion and the uniqueness of Boston Catholicism is one running theme. Here, Doyle on the Cathedral of the Holy Cross:
They passed the Cathedral of the Holy Cross where Bernadette’s uncle had baptized the boys, where they made their first communions and first confessions with their grade school class, and where John Sullivan came back to say the mass for Bernadette when she died. …Doyle saw the cathedral as a joyless structure, the granite Gothic Revival so massive and foreboding that it was impossible to imagine that anything as light as faith had ever existed within its walls.

I love the imagery of this passage where two men, typical of Boston, are engaging in a discussion of team loyalty while pushing a hospital gurney to its destination:
The hallway was paved in cobblestones and they banged forth over them with inhuman violence while rattling through every conversation two men could have about basketball. Full-court and half-court pickup. NBA or college ball. Eastern versus Western Division. … “Celtics? Man, tell me you’re making this up. You could not be interested in the Celtics.” The man at her feet scolded back, “Loyalty,” he said. “Loyalty. Do you even know the word?” They chattered on like women, a basketball of happy banter thrown back and forth from head to feet. They weren’t even interesting to each other. It wasn’t worth the effort it took to make sense of the words and after awhile Tennessee stopped trying. She let the voices float above her like an unbroken string of lights. People came in and stood very close beside her, not speaking to her but laughing with the basketball men. …It went on this way until they reached some ground floor in hell. “Last stop,” the man above her head said in a jolly voice. They pushed her out and bumped into another hallway, this one congested with people like herself laid out on rolling slabs. That was when the two men left her. No goodbye. No good luck. She could only tell they were going because their voices receded, dribbled off towards the edge of her vision and then disappeared.

Father Sullivan contemplates the here and now vs. the hereafter. I’ll not spoil these passages for anyone by repeating long quotes here. Suffice it to say, they are well marked in my copy of Run. Father Sullivan concludes, “What a shame it would have been to miss God while waiting for Him.”

Kenya on owning the word “gentrified:”
Kenya took inventory of the empty window boxes, the slender birch trees in the sidewalks, the stair rails fashioned in ornate ironwork. Even in the snow it all looked orderly and neat. She knew full well how lovely it would be once the purple vinca made a carpet around every tree and the geraniums filled the boxes. “But it looks nice,” she said, coming to the street’s defense. “I can think of some places not too far from here that could stand to be gentrified.” To learn a word you had to know the definition, to own the word you had to use it in a sentence.

Typical of the Irish complexion:
Sullivan was fading. The honey-colored tan he’d brought home the night before seemed to be sliding into his socks, leaving behind a mass of darkened freckles on parchment backing.


I do agree with the many comparisons made between the snow falling in the Dublin of James Joyce and the snow falling in the Boston of Ann Patchett, each in its own way the perfect backdrop for an unfolding story—“snow faintly falling through the universe and faintly falling.” Snow, after all, does cover everything in a clean blanket of white, a blanket destined to be sullied and melt away to reveal once again that which we know to be real.

Patchett’s Bel Canto has been on my “must get to” list for some time now. The joy of having read Run coupled with Lesley’s review, has moved Bel Canto into top contention for next book off the pile.

4.5 of 5 (General Reading Scale)
HarperCollins 2007
304 pages

Dedication: To my sister, Heather Patchett and my stepmother, Jerri Patchett

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Then & Now



Section 305, Row 2 TD North Garden

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Choice

The Choice was typical Nicholas Sparks fare—nothing to see/read here. I was tempted half way through to move on without finishing…didn’t care about the characters; saw the ending marching right down Main Street toward me, trumpets blaring; found the path to the ending tedious. I did, however, enjoy the dogs, Molly and Moby.

From Publisher’s Weekly:
In his 13th book, bestselling Sparks (At First Sight, etc.) limns the far-reaching implications of several seemingly ordinary choices made by Beaufort, N.C. veterinarian Travis Parker and his next-door neighbor Gabrielle Holland, a physician's assistant and recent arrival. After an inauspicious first meeting where Gabby accuses Travis's boxer of impregnating her purebred collie, the two fall hard for each other. Already dating someone else seriously, Gabby is faced with a dilemma: whether to stick with longtime boyfriend Kevin, or get involved with Travis. The first part of the tale paints a vivid picture of her decision-making process and its effects on Travis and Gabby's lives. That sets up Part II, which takes place 11 years later when Travis faces a life and death decision following a car accident.

My reading choices of late have all been in the category of literature lite. Personal circumstances have more or less dictated nothing too challenging—must keep the brain open to deal with life. However, Nicholas may have sparked in me the realization that I need a bit more.

2.5/5 (General Reading Scale)
Grand Central Publishing

288 pages

The Long Walk Home

The certainty of love doesn’t always arrive to hearts eagerly waiting. Whether rising out of the dust cloud kicked up by an old pick-up truck on a back road in Iowa or flashing by a window in a brief glimpse of backpack, the heart knows when love has arrived—uninvited perhaps, a bit unexpected—but nevertheless its arrival cannot be denied. So we find Fiona Edwards, a woman used to welcoming the unknown into her bed and breakfast, on the morning that will change her life.

The Long Walk Home by Will North tells not only the story of Fiona and Alex Hudson but also the story of a Welsh landscape—calm and serene one moment, harsh and unforgiving the next. Visit Will North’s website for a glimpse of what Alec saw and experienced on his trek from London to his appointed destination.

From Booklist:
New Yorker Alec Hudson is a man with a mission. Determined to fulfill his ex-wife's dying request to have her ashes scattered on a remote Welsh mountain, the site of one of their happiest times in life, Alec decides to work through the mourning process by walking from Heathrow to North Wales. There he meets Fiona Edwards, the proprietor of a quaint farmhouse bed-and-breakfast. Prevented from scaling the mountain by inclement weather, Alec is drawn into life on the farm, helping out with lambing season and falling into an easy companionship with the outgoing Fiona, whose reclusive husband is suffering the ill effects of poisoning from a cleansing agent used on the sheep. When Alec and Fiona finally recognize and act on their mutual attraction, lifelong notions of loyalty and duty endlessly complicate their relationship. With its exploration of love at midlife, this debut novel will remind readers of the megahit Bridges of Madison County. And, as with that novel, some will find the fervid declarations of love highly romantic; others will cringe.

This was, for me, a story to settle into and just travel along with. I didn’t ask The Long Walk Home to be more than it was—no quotes carefully copied, no Post-Its peeking out from multiple pages. Just good sit-down-with-a-cup-of-tea book…pleasant time spent with characters who asked you not to plumb their depths but to accept them for who they were.

3.75 of 5 (General Reading Scale)
Shaye Areheart Books

320 pages

Friday, September 21, 2007

At This Moment

Urged on by Nan, here is my moment...

This morning at 6:45 am while stopped at the traffic light leading out to the main road of my daily commute, I looked to see what I could see~~

A distinguished elderly gentleman and his faithful companion on their morning constitutional.

A firefighter raising the American flag at the fire station.

The two young men who live in the nearby apartment building on the return leg of their morning run.

The windows of the elementary school turned bronze, reflecting the sun just rising over the tips of the trees.

Morning gray clouds tipped in rosey red by that same rising sun.

Remains of morning fog rising up from the pond across the street.

Bright spots of reds and golds in the maple and oak trees signaling the season to come.

...and I heard the click, click, click of my right turn signal as it tried to keep time with the Morning Wakeup Mix from my iPod

...and what I felt sitting in my car, windows and moonroof open...fresh, cool air with a hint of the warmth of the day to come, this last Friday morning of summer.

Thank you, Nan, for giving me the excuse to stop, look, listen and feel. It's definitely something I should do more often!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Coincidence? I Think Not!

The other evening when my daughter and I came home from a shopping trip, there was a documentary about whales on The Discovery Channel. I asked my husband, "Why is that whale jumping so high out of the water?" He replied, "It's not a whale, it's a seal the whales are playing with just like Juliette tossing her catnip mouse." I never knew whales did that...something to think about. Then, the next morning, I opened my email inbox to find the following poem in the daily newsletter from The Writer's Almanac.


In Sitka, because they are fond of them,
People have named the seals. Every seal
is named Earl because they are killed one
after another by the orca, the killer
whale; seal bodies tossed left and right
into the air. "At least he didn't get
Earl," someone says. And sure enough,
after a time, that same friendly,
bewhiskered face bobs to the surface.
It's Earl again. Well, how else are you
to live except by denial, by some
palatable fiction, some little song to
sing while the inevitable, the black and
white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling
toward you out of the deep?

~ Louis Jenkins, North of the Cities

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Report Carla Bruni

No Promises

This week's email from Barnes & Noble included a coupon for No Promises by Carla Bruni, a "B&N Exclusive." Well, I left the coupon sitting on my desk work when I left on Friday afternoon; however, after listening to clips from the CD in the store, coupon or no, this one was coming home with me.

Most of my music purchases are done on iTunes these days, so it was quite a treat to unwrap a CD, read the liner notes, and take in the beautiful pictorial and graphical presentation of Ms. Bruni's compositions based on poems by Wm. Butler Yeats, Dorothy Parker, W. H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, Walter de la Mare, and Christina Rossetti.

One struck a perfect chord~


When I am old and comforted
And done with this desire
With memory to share my bed
And peace to share my fire,

I'll comb my hair in scalloped bands
Beneath my laundered cap
And watch my cool and frabile hands
Lie light upon my lap.

And I will have a sprigged gown
With lace to kiss my throat
I'll draw my curtain to the town,
and hum a purring note.

And I'll forget the way of tears,
And rock, and stir my tea.
But oh, I wish those blessed years
Were further than they be!

~~Dorothy Parker

A lovely, sensual CD.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Maytrees

In prose as stark and bare as the landscape of Provincetown, Annie Dillard tells the life story of two young people who love and marry, befriend and betray, return and resolve.
From Annie Dillard dives headlong into the deep, unfathomable mystery of married love in this lyrical novel -- only the second of her long, distinguished career. Set largely on the windswept tip of Cape Cod amid rolling tides and drifting dunes, the story is simplicity itself: A man and woman meet in postwar Provincetown, fall in love, marry, and have a child. Years later, one leaves the other in a bewildering act of betrayal that tests but does not break their transcendent bond; later still, their lives intersect again in an unanticipated twist of fate.


Looking at the copy of The Maytrees sitting on my desk, one would think that every single page boasted a brightly colored Post-It flag...not quite, but almost. Dilliard's beautiful (and sometimes challenging) language begs to be read, flagged, reread, considered and, ultimately, consumed.

Some favorite passages:

p. 3 ~ For a long time they owned no car, no television when that came in, no insurance, no savings. Once a week they heard world news on the radio. They supported striking coal miners' families with cash. They loved their son, Pete, their only child. Between them they read about three hundred books a year. He read for facts, she for transport. Nothing about them was rich except their days swollen with time.

p. 58 ~ Sometimes now Lou searched old albums to test her proposition that nothing so compels a woman as the boyhood of the man she loves. She saw a snapshot of boy Maytree in cap and knickers dwarfed by his cross-eyed father on a wharf. In the prints, Maytree's cap's shadow blacked most of his face. Here again he crouched on the beach, as at a starting block, between his hairy mother and his visibly half-dead grandmother, in a wind harsh with that present's brine. In those prints she saw unease in the boy, as if he had been scanning the offing for the man. No, it was she who sought for the man in the child. She could not find him, so the boy seemed to her lost in a deafening wind. The boy seemed--wonderfully--to need her without knowing it. But he did not, not yet. Perhaps, she asked later, he never did?

p. 89 ~ In late September, when Lou could stir at all she moved like a glacier, the queer sort at which dogs bark. Reading Hardy always distracted her in rough patches, as when her father vamoosed. Now she might enjoy the company of solid Farmer Gabriel Oak. She read, "It may have been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in." ... She had no force to fight what held her as wind pins paper to a fence. She was a wood horse, a rock cairn, a jerry can of pitch. She found herself holding one end of a love. she reeled out love's long line alone; it did not catch.

p. 96 ~ Perhaps every generation passes to the next, to hand down to yet more chldren, an untouched trunk of virtues. The adults describe the trunk's contents to the young and never open it.

p. 108 ~ Just as few men love their wives so much as their daughters, few, if any, women love anyone so much as their children. ...often she missed infant Petie now gone--his random gapes, his bizarre buttocks. How besotted they gazed at each other nose-on-nose. He fit her arms as if they two had invented how to carry a baby While she walked, he patted her shoulder in time with her steps. If he stopped patting, she stopped walking. If his pats speeded up, she stepped lively. ...Later she washed his filthy hair and admired his vertebrae, jiggled his head in toweling that smelled like his steam. She needled splinters and sandspur spines from his insteps as long as he let her. Every one of those Peties and Petes was gone. That is who she missed, those boys now overwritten.

p. 189 (as I can never resist even a passing reference to a favorite poet) ~ He and Lou used to have a way about them he recalled vividly. One man loved the pilgrim soul in you. Would she be thinking such a thing?
~ * ~

The Maytrees was an exquisite reading experience, one that I shall revisit often in the pages of my mind.

Harper Collins, 2007
216 pages
Rating: 5/5 (General Reading Scale)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Long Walk Home

Isn't this just the most inviting book cover? There was only one other time that I bought a book solely for its cover, and that was The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas. I have never regretted that bit of impulse and can only hope the The Long Walk Home justifies tonight's impulse!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Quotable Quotes

When I look back, I am so impressed again
with the life-giving power of literature.
If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of
myself in the world, I would do that again by reading,
just as I did when I was young.
~ Maya Angelou ~

Sunday, August 5, 2007


When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
~ Mary Oliver, August

Saturday, August 4, 2007


After being away for two months, I decided that maybe a post now and then would be a good thing. My hesitation is that the fiddlin' and fixin' of blogging reminds me too much of what I do every day in work. So instead of enjoying keeping a blog, I often feel that it's just more work.

There is the intimidation factor, too. I don't take pictures, travel, or have a lot of time left over at the end of too long work days. Crafting an appealing blog takes time, patience and constant care. Somewhere between my inadequacies and self-imposed expectations, there must be a happy medium. So, if you will bear with me, I'll try to find that happy medium among the Owl's Feathers.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Have you ever set out on a task filled with expectation and ideas only to find as time passed that ideas were hard to come by and expectations fell short? Well, that's my experience as a blogger. I looked back over my meager 40 posts this morning and realized that what I really enjoyed was the preparation to blog--the reading, the listening, the thinking, the writing. What I did not enjoy so much was the execution--the fiddling, the saving, the viewing, the fiddling...all of which take precious time away from the reading, the listening, the thinking and the writing.

So with my notebook opened to a fresh page and my favorite pen in hand, I shall continue chronicling my life's pleasures in a simple, more tactile way. I will visit and revisit favorite blogs (Lesley's Book Nook, Letters from a Hill Farm, Keep the Coffee Coming) and happily leave the blogoshpere to those who do it oh so well and who provide me daily fodder for reading, thinking and, yes, writing.