A. Reader

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

This little tour of the funeral customs of the Mississippi Delta country is at once illuminating and hilarious. There is an explanation of the differences between Episcopal (good), Methodist (okay), and Baptist (tacky) customs, with the usual human inconsistancies. This is, of course, a look at The First Families of the Delta, to whom family and manners are everything--including strange family relationships and a heavy dependence on booze. While the authors poke fun of the Methodist casserole, they include a number of recipes for them, especially the ones featuring Campbell's cream of something and cheese. It also includes a list of acceptable funeral hymns and flowers for those of us Yankees who were not raised in the proper tradition. I only hope they changed the names of those they used as illustrations, or there might be a haunting going on. A fun, quick read.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Capote (Movie)

Truman Capote came to Kansas to write about a murder and it changed many things--his life, the Kansas town, American literature. The movie explores not just his actions, but the relationships people develop and cling to, by truth and by manipulation. This was not an easy movie to watch, but it just blew me away.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gabriel's Angel by Nora Roberts

Laura is stuck in a blizzard in Colorado, when she rescued by Gabriel, who takes her to his nearby isolated cabin. She's pregnant and pursued, he's suffering from grief and burnout, but together they can do anything. This is pretty typical Nora Roberts Christmas treacle--a warm, fuzzy romance to kill an hour while resting your fingers from writing Christmas cards. Don't get me wrong--I love Roberts' warm fuzzy romances, and this one isn't bad. There are no surprises, which makes them ideal for nights you don't want to think while you read.

The Little Women by Katharine Weber

Rather closely and self-consciously modeled on Alcott's Little Women, this novel is told by the middle sister, Joanna, withvarious written asides by her two sisters Meg and Amy. The girls discover that their mother has had an affair and their father does not appear to be sufficiently enraged, so the two younger girls move into to college student Meg's apartment. They transfer from a private school to a public school, where there is culture shock. There are places where the similarities between the books are just too cute for words, and there are some places in the plot that were never very well explained, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless.

The Art of Spelling by Marilyn Vos Savant

Being a somewhat creative speller, I checked this book out with high hopes of a quick fix. It starts as sort of an overview of the history of the English language to give readers a look at why English spelling is in such dire straits. The last half is full of tips on how to spell better (the biggest one is to do a lot of proofreading). According to her little diagnostic test, I'm not quite as hopeless as I thought. When you get right down to it there are no secrets, just hard work. Oh well.....

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Cowboy Way by David McCumber

Most of us grow up with a romantised view of cowboys riding the range, brought on by a surfeit of old Western movies in the case of my generation. McCumber, in his forties, decides to make it a reality. He hires on at a ranch in his native Montana and Much of the riding now is on mechanical beasts, but the cows are still living creatures who need to be tended in all kinds of weather. The work is back-breaking, the hours long, the pay is short, but there are other compensations.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God by Timothy Schaffert

Set in a small Nebraska town, this novel explores the messy family relationships of Hud, a down-and-out school bus driver/country music songwriter, his ex-wife Tuesday, and their 8 year old daughter Nina. Missing from the mix is Gatling, their 17 year old son who has run away with an alternative Christian rock band. Throw in Hud's rocky friendship with Ozzie Yates, who has a thing for Tuesday, and Ozzie's daughter Charlotte, former girlfriend of Gatling, and the dysfunction increases. (The author is from Omaha.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

I picked this book up thinking that I had read the author before. (Bad thing about having worked in a bookstore for too many years. I would recommend books that I may not have read but were similar to other authors.) Binchy IS quite a bit like Rosamunde Pilcher.
Cathy Scarlet and her friend Tom Feather start a new catering business in Dublin. The book's chapters are by the new month and go through their first year of business. Planning weddings, family relations, and stresses of personal life and two odd children Maud and Simon. The book is told from several POV but is done fairly seemlessly. And even though it is set in Ireland, Binchy doesn't write in accent.
I found myself needing an apple or piece of bread often when reading, lots of food talk, but as Cathy Scarlet complains more than once, "Whatever made us think that a catering business had anything to do with producing food?"
This is the last of a family series that she has been writing. I may need to go back and start the series. You can get the story without reading the others, but you can tell there is backstories to these characters. Quite a good read.

Monday, December 05, 2005

American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langewiesche

This is a fascinating and compelling report of the deconstruction of the World Trade Center after 9/11. It was originally written as a series in Atlantic Monthly. In a matter-of-fact style, the author describes the process that took on a life of its own. The site seemed like a mysterious other world, sometimes one of adventure and discovery. The cleanup brought out the strengths and weaknesses of the engineers, construction workers, firemen, and policemen involved. Highly recommended.

Over sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper--YA audio

Three children on holiday in Cornwall find an ancient treasure map in the Gray House where they are staying. With the help of Great Uncle Merry they learn it leads to a treasure which has been hidden for a thousand years. They must find the treasure before the forces of the Dark Side, who are in hot pursuit. This is the first book in the series The Dark is Rising. I have read the first two books, which do not need to be read in order.