Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Book

American Author Ernest Hemingway with then-wif...Image via Wikipedia

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is one of those fiction stories based on the truth, which really seems as if it is nonfiction. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. He met her in Chicago when she came to visit her friend, Kate Smith, who grew up with Hemingway. Kate and Hemingway had some kind of powerful teenage baggage together which was never clearly explained.

Hadley was old enough to be considered a spinster, but she must have been a pretty one because Hemingway fell for her almost immediately. Although she had no experience with men at all she had the confidence to get involved with Hemingway, who was not at all famous, but who already had a mission, a huge ambition, and great charisma all contained in a very handsome package. Hadley and Hemingway both had moms who were not great parents. According to the author Hemingway fell for Hadley because she had a sort of straightforward honesty and stability that he could trust.

Hadley and Hemingway almost go to Rome but they end up in Paris with Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and many more writers who either became very famous or who already are. This is how Hadley becomes known as the Paris wife. I wonder what would have happened if they had gone to Rome? They probably would still have been enticed to the scene in Paris.

The author has Hadley tell the whole story and she has this “gosh”, “darn”, “golly”, Midwest, 1920’s voice with all the correct jargon and catch phrases. I kept thinking I had heard this voice before somewhere, but I never could pin down where. The nearest I could come was the movie Some Like It Hot and I’m not sure about that. Read the book and see if you can figure out where you have heard that voice before. It’s a good book, you won’t mind reading it.

Before or after you read the book, see Midnight in Paris. Although Hemingway does not have Hadley in tow in Woody Allen’s movie, the time period is nearly the same and the two – book and movie – make a nice pair.

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June Book List, 2011

June Book List

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson – a thriller – A woman with amnesia from an accident finds her mind each morning is a blank slate. Her husband, Ben, reboots her each day. When her therapist tells her to keep a journal she writes a note to herself that reminds her to distrust her husband and solve her mystery.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton – “an adrenaline filled psychological thriller – Beatrice investigates the “suicide” of her younger sister, Tess

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson is the story of Jude Keffy-Horn, son of adoptive hippie parents who is sent to live with his pot-dealer father in NYC – this book explores the “straight-edge” movement of the late 1980’s.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson a story which “owes more to Terminator than it does to Asimov” – reviewer Kevin Nguyen says “Robopocalypse may not be the most unique tale about war between man and machine, but it’s certainly one of the most fun – a Steven Spielberg movie is in the works.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett is about two professional women, one a pharmaceutical researcher, the other a renowned gynecologist who see each other again in a jungle after many years and an apparently problematic past – reviewer Jessica Schein says that it is “hard to put down,” “emotional, vivid”, “a work of literature that will surely resonate”, and “truly a thing of beauty and mystery.”

Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons – Thayer Wentworth must confront dark secrets about her mother, her first love and her current husband.

Now You See Her by James Patterson – A woman learns a secret that causes her to leave her happy life and hide until she can’t hide anymore.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter is a thriller with Georgia Bureau of Investigations Agent, Faith Mitchell.

Miss Timmons’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy – It’s a love story and a murder mystery set in a western India school for girls – “a coming-of-age story set against the turbulence of the 1970’s as it played out in one small corner of India.”

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand – “set against the backdrop of a Nantucket summer, Elin Hilderbrand delivers a suspenseful story of the power of friendship, the pull of love, and the beauty of forgiveness.

How the Hippies Saved Physics: science, counterculture, and the quantum revival by David Kaiser – “a lively, entertaining story that illuminates the relationship between creativity and scientific progress, How the Hippies saved Physics takes us to a time when only the unlikeliest heroes could break the science world out of its rut.”

Goodbye Whales, Goodbye Beaches

Apparently our oceans are in bad shape and are on the verge of “mass extinctions – of fish, whales, and other marine species. An article in the on-line publication The Week says “our oceans are under siege from a deadly trio of threats – rising water temperature, acidification and lack of oxygen – that played a role in similar mass extinctions 55 million years ago”, (according to Jelle Bijma of the Alfred Wegener Institute).
The culprits are overfishing, pollution and run-off of fertilizers, the article goes on to say, and also the fact that oceans are absorbing most of the CO2 we pump into the atmosphere which causes acidification.

We would have to stop overfishing, reduce run-off and eliminate CO2 emissions. We are highly unlikely to do any one of these things. Good bye kelp forests, goodbye coral reefs; what will our beautiful oceans be like?

Can we come up with a filter or something to take bad things out of the ocean? Can we nurse our oceans back to health like we do when we devastate some environment on solid land? All the oceans are interconnected. We are talking about a huge project. If we had the technology this is a project that could boost employment and save our oceans. If we can have drilling platforms why can’t we have ocean scrubber platforms? Of course, drilling platforms bring up a product that is in demand. Unless ocean scrubbers supply us with something we need and can sell they will not create any profit. Without profit there is no one to fund such projects in spite of our understanding that our oceans are treasures, and essential to human life on earth.

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The Career Politicians vs. The Twinkies

Seal of the President of the United StatesImage via Wikipedia

America has possibly gone collectively crazy. We are into electing anyone new and unknown. We’re not choosing the newest reality TV star, you guys. We are choosing a President.

We have been burned by career politicians, I admit – people who promise everything and give instead secretive allegiances and out-of-chambers scandals. I wish I thought we could solve our problems by going with the “flavor of the month,” but we don’t know much of anything about people like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. They do have biographies and that is what we have to rely on. They haven’t paid their dues (although Sarah Palin is stronger in this area then Michele Bachmann) and when they speak they sound uninformed and off-the-cuff. They have strong opinions and they look good, but we all have opinions. And while I would love a woman as President, if we wouldn’t pick a savvy person like Hillary Clinton, I can’t imagine why we would choose either of these two women who don’t seem to have a clue.

Isn’t there some ground between seemingly “sleazy” career politicians and ” twinkies”? There must be some honest and upstanding politicians, in fact, I’m sure there are.

If we change the system, not the constitution, but the complex morass of laws passed by our legislators, and get rid of the special privileges and earmarks and perks and the winking at lax ethics, perhaps we can hold our career politicians’ feet to the fire and force them to be honest. OK, I don’t really believe that is possible and I don’t really know how to keep power from corrupting people, but I still don’t believe that ”twinkies” are the answer.

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If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

There is a group called Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by John Boehner, GOP Speaker of the House. This group wrote a pledge, which our elected representatives and even our governors are being “asked” to sign. We know how much pressure there is on Republicans to conform so we can guess that signing does not necessarily mean all of these Republicans are totally in line with the program. Doubts aside they have all promised that they will not raise taxes.

They agree to “oppose any and all increases to personal and business marginal income tax rates as well as any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless it is matched by other tax rate decreases.”

On the face of things this is designed, I believe, to appeal to everyone and turn Republicans into our heroes. But just the thought of it made me so angry I could not sleep. I spent half my night trying to “use my words” so I, and others, could understand my anger. As usual I came up with several hundred words.

1. By signing this document these Republican Congress people and governors have told us that they will not have the flexibility they need to help solve our financial dilemmas.

2. They have included all American taxpayers to get personal income tax payers on their side, however, most of us know that our taxes cannot be raised right now because we are not solvent enough to rescue the economy and we can’t spare that money. So, this is about the top 2% of Americans and corporations (perhaps also some small businesses, but not the other 98% of us.

3. Since most economists believe we will solve our debt problems by a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, this pledge, by taking revenue increases off the table, means that we are left with only spending cuts. Guess what they intend to cut? And here we are back to Medicare vouchers and the demise of Social Security. We paid our money and we want it used for us as per the promises we grew up with. It is not our fault that our government has squandered our safety net, although it is our problem.

4. Once again this turns America into a shallow country with only one goal – profit! America has tried to be so much more than this. We need to think about the future in enlightened ways that go way beyond simple greed.

5. And, although I think this pledge is a political trick and is wrong in so many ways, I think it reflects the change in the importance of the average citizen to those top 2 percent. Since they no long need us as employees they do not intend to continue the safety net that protected us as employees and protected them as employers. We are superfluous and perhaps “lazy.” While this makes me “throw up a little bit in my mouth,” it does suggest that we may have to reinvent ourselves even far into our senior years and invent incomes that we can rely on in case these pledge signers succeed in dismantling our benefits which are somehow now called entitlements. This is not just semantics, it is politics.

6. Stop voting for these people. You are not rich enough to be in their exclusive and very expensive club.

So far 263 members of the House of Representatives and 41 Senators have signed this agreement and 1263 state legislators have also signed a similar agreement on the state level. You can find a copy of the pledge and a list of signers at

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Janet Evanovich, Books or Chocolates?

Search for janet evanovichWe haven’t discussed Janet Evanovich yet. Janet Evanovich writes books that remind me of chocolates. They are so fun and so delicious and they are devoured so quickly and with such satisfaction that you will want a whole box of them. Stephanie Plum is a skip tracer. She finds people who skipped out on their bail bond for her creepy boss and she tries to bring them in to the police where they can be convicted and sentenced.

These “skippers” are sometimes dangerous and sometimes just nuts, but they are always interesting to apprehend. Stephanie lives in Trenton, New Jersey where she grew up in the “burg”. She visits her mom and dad and her Grandma Mazur often. Grandma Mazur is a trip; she carries a gun and loves stopping in at funerals. Stephanie has two hot beaus, although of course she should only have one. There is a plus-size ex-hooker clerk named Lula who likes to get involved in Stephanie’s busts. Cars are always blowing up and burning. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong but somehow Stephanie gets her man and we always get entertained.

Stephanie’s newest book, Smokin’ Seventeen, came out this week and apparently it is full of s-e-x. If you haven’t read her other books, hold off on Seventeen until you have read the rest. Humor in books is very hard to find and Evanovich is famous for her humor.

The books in order:

One for the Money
Two for the Dough
Three to Get Deadly
Four to Score
High Five
Hot Six
Seven Up
Hard Eight
To the Nines
Ten Big Ones
Eleven on Top
Twelve Sharp
Lean Mean Thirteen
Fearless Fourteen
Sizzling Sixteen
Smokin’ Seventeen

Other Evanovich books:

Visions of Sugar
Plum Lovin’
Plum Lucky
Plum Spooky

My Office Tree – Summer – with Blemish

When I moved into my new old house I chose a room upstairs for my office because there was a tree right outside the window. I call this my office tree.

I was delighted as I had been living in a place where few trees were visible from my windows. I decided I would post a picture of my office tree in each season. So far I have shown the winter version of my tree and the spring version of my tree.

However, when we got to summer I had to get somewhat philosophical because life put a dead branch full of ugly brown leaves in the middle of my office window view of my tree. I sit at my desk and try to think of how I will trim out that dead branch. I will need a new ladder or a new long handled pruner (a tree pruner) neither of which I am planning to invest in right now.

That’s where the philosophical part comes in. Since I can’t cut the branch away right now I sit and think about how to look at it in a positive light. It is symbolic of life’s imperfections. It is like Japanese art. Fine artists in Japan did not believe humans capable of perfection. They deliberately made an error or flaw in their artwork to remind themselves to be humble. This branch is there to remind me of my imperfections or to make me feel that even nature is not always perfect so I should not feel badly about my imperfections.

It would be so easy to snap that imperfection off that tree if I had the right tools but we sometimes have to accept and live with our flaws. And so my ugly branch becomes the tiny blob I put in my beautiful tea cup or the sea monster that I hide in my perfect wave. It has probably been a lot more thought-provoking than a perfect tree would have been. Maybe my tree will be returned to perfection in the fall. Meanwhile I give you the picture of my office tree in summer with blemish.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo – A Book

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo is a perfect summer murder mystery. First there is the coolness of all that snow and the chill of a pathological killer on the loose. Then there is this wrecked human being who is also a great detective on the Oslo police force in Norway. His name is Harry Hole and there are things to admire about him like his incredible tenacity. All the important aspects of a great police case are there right down to the disfavor Harry frequently inspires in his superiors.

According to the “Washington Post Book World” and me this story is as good as any of the American crime novels which many of us enjoy so much, a story featuring a twisted serial killer who I kept thinking I had identified only to find that I was wrong. I won’t tell the story because that would spoil some of your enjoyment, but I will say that it is difficult to put down.

There are other Harry Hole novels also including The Redbreast, Nemesis, and The Devil’s Star. It seems that our interest in Scandinavian authors has been intensified by the Steig Larsson books.

Life Without Movies

Tatooine has two suns, as it is in a binary st...Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I think about how much pleasure I have had from movies. I remember the first time I saw Star Wars, or Shakespeare in Love, or Babette’s Feast, or even 2001: A Space Odyssey and so many, many more. I watch a number of movies over and over again with great enjoyment. We all have pleasant memories of times when we enjoyed watching particularly wonderful movies.

Imagine that we lived in the Renaissance (13th – 15th c). What did they do on lazy summer nights without movies? Were the experiences available to people of those times equal in pleasure and innocence to our enjoyment of films? People’s experiences probably differed depending on their wealth or lack thereof. Imagine the experience of discovering coffee, which arrived in Europe at some point during the Renaissance. It’s fairly easy to understand why market day was so exciting. I hear hangings were well attended. Travelling players were probably treated like kings. Religious festivals were important; there was singing and dancing.

People in those days couldn’t spend much time playing – their days were long and full of hard labor. They had to keep the wood chopped and the fire fed, plow the fields and harvest the crops. People did not stay up much past nightfall so bed times were early. There are many wonderful things about living in the 21st century and there were probably some wonderful things about living in the Renaissance, but a life without movies would be a much poorer life indeed.

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The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas – A Book

Eleanora Cohen, who is The Oracle of Stamboul in the book by Michael David Lukas, is born in Constanta, Rumania on the shores of the Black Sea. Certain portents suggest that her birth is momentous, and as she develops everyone sees that she is quite a prodigy. Her dad is wonderful to her and is everything to her since her mom died in childbirth. When her father has to travel to Stamboul, the lovely chief city of the mysterious and once powerful Ottoman Empire to sell carpets, Eleanora, who is eight, stows away in his trunks. Stowing away almost kills her but she makes it to Stamboul where her destiny awaits.

This is a book to read purely for pleasure, to sink into a world of minarets and muezzins, empty women’s quarters alive with the ghosts of women who had to live behind latticed screens and view life at second-hand.

The politics involved in the story are almost modern as this is in the days near the end of the Ottoman Empire. Eleanora, although still a child, becomes an advisor to the Sultan. While the ideas may sometimes be a bit mature this book would interest young adults as much as it would older readers. Eleanora ends up being a pretty modern role model for young women.