Friday, January 17, 2020

January 17, 2020 DRAW THE LINE

Drawing is hard work. It's hard because artists have to really SEE. I know you SEE things every day and that's part of  the problem. The brain has preprogrammed images stored up about what things look like so when someone tries to draw--say a tree-- the brain  takes over  and the person draws what the brain THINKS the tree looks like from stored memories instead of what the person actually sees. An artist must learn to OVERRIDE the brain and draw only what he or she SEES. It's really difficult at first but with practice it gets easier. It's the same with all shapes. Take the nose--the brain tries to take over and its a disaster. But if you really take the time to SEE--you will notice that the nose is really  just some curvy shapes with two oval-like shapes for the nostrils. Anyone can  learn to draw--it's just a matter of SEEING and PUTTING in the effort it takes to get better.
Many things in life take a lot of effort and this is seen in Sally Rooney's new book Normal People. This lovely novel is the story of Connell and Marianne and their relationship. It begins in a small town in West Ireland and continues when the two attend Trinity College. Connell is from a poor but loving family while Marianne is from a  wealthy but  unloving, dysfunctional family. These factors determine how they relate to each other and the world around them. The story is told from both points of view where often times each misinterprets what the other says or means leading to a series of break ups. Even when they break up, Connell and Marianne are still drawn to each other because they share a strong bond and mutual attraction. This is ultimately a story about relationships and how they shape our lives. It's also about friendship, misunderstanding and the damage family can do that can shape the way someone sees world. I really enjoyed this book and think you will too. It's only 290 pages or a 3 mile run that will leave you with a lot to think about.  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

January 12, 2020 GET ME SOME OF THAT

Is there really such a thing as forgive and forget? I GUESS if the thing you HAVE to forget is benign. Forgiveness--in my mind--is the easy part--we forgive FOR ourselves NOT  the other person. Right? We  forgive so that we can grow and try to be happy in life. If we don't forgive--we eventually become full of resentment-- anger--bitterness--nasty buggers that will RUIN your life.  Okay--I can forgive but I can't forget AND that sometimes gets in my way.  Some people are  lucky enough (I think) to develop a case of SELECTIVE MEMORY.  Seriously--Science has actually shown that people can choose to remember or forget things. They can actually train their brains to forget unpleasant memories. I gotta get me some of that. Don't think there is any forgive or forget in Margaret Atwood's sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. 
Atwood's new book The Testaments picks up fifteen years after the first novel and the Republic of Gilead is still in control. This novel is a three part narrative where the characters take turns filling the reader in on what's happened between novels as well as what is currently happening in Gilead. Agnes Jemima is a young girl who  grew up in Gilead, the daughter of a Commander and his Wife. She is trying to make sense of Gilead and her place as a female. Aunt Lydia is a powerful Aunt who has been around since the birth of the Republic. One of the most powerful women in Gilead,  Aunt Lydia works behind the scenes with Commander Judd. Daisy is a young woman who lives outside of Gilead's border.  After her parents are murdered, she joins the Mayday Movement to try to infultrate Gilead and destroy the republic. This novel is more about the fall of Gilead, a world run by fear, control, and executions. It is truly a dystopia that is even more shocking than the original book because its leadership is out of control. I don't usually read sequels but this was recommended by a friend and is worth the read. Atwood's writing is beautiful--it's like slipping into an old shoe. This novel is about 400 pages that flies by like a 4 mile run.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

January 4, 2020 ONLY SIXTEEN

Found out last week that an old boyfriend died. Talk about feeling your own mortality. Hadn't seen him in many years but the news really shook me. He was my first love. I was in high school and he was in the Air Force. It was a difficult relationship because it was a long distance thing--most of the time. I have fond memories of our time together but we were BOTH too young and dumb. Thankfully I didn't marry him-- BUT--what if I had married him all those years ago?? I was glad to hear that he later married and had two daughters. I hope he was happy. I hope he forgave me for breaking his heart. Wish I could have seen him one more time.  You never-ever know. Every day is really a gift. The Conroy family learns this lesson a little late in The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.
This lovely novel spans five generations and is narrated by Danny Conroy. As the story unfolds, Cyril Conroy, the patriarch of the family, has finally made enough money to buy The Dutch House for his wife, Elna and children. The house is a sprawling estate in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Danny and his sister Maeve love the house, but their mother feels otherwise. When Mauve is ten years old, her mother abandons the family, leaving them crushed. Luckily, they have a loving household staff  to pick up the slack, but the loss haunts the children forever. After their father remarries a calculating widow, he suddenly dies and she inherits everything. Danny and Maeve  then find themselves homeless and penniless with only each other to rely on. After losing the house, the two become obsessed with the past which ultimately effects their adult lives. What happened to their mother? Will they ever see her again? Will they ever get The Dutch House back? Find out what happens when the sibling are finally forced to confront the past and the people that left them behind. I am a huge fan of Patchett and this novel does not disappoint. The writing is thoughtful--the characters are interesting--the house is incredible. This book is about 350 pages or a 4 mile run that will stick with you forever.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December 31, 2019 AULD LANG SYNE

Can't believe it's the last day of 2019. Time to make the list. Yup--my favorite books of 2019. Read 60 books this year--wrote 56 reviews. That's an average of 5 books a month. Thinking about doing the 100 book challenge next year but don't know when I'd find the time to read 40 additional books. Last year when I wrote the list--it was really hard. The list was long and I had to keep paring it down because there were SO many books I loved--but this year was very different.  After reviewing my blog--there were ONLY nine books I'd read again or consider having in my library. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy many of the books but they were NOT KEEPERS. Hope you had a chance to read these books but if not--here they are again. (drum roll please) My list of the best books of 2019:

1) Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald reviewed 9/6/19--blog title-Communication Breakdown
2)  Chances Are by Richard Russo reviewed 10/12/19--blog title-Don't Be Afraid
3)  Where The Crawdads Sing reviewed 10/4/19--blog title-Sittin' On The Dock of a Bay
4) Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak reviewed 3/3/19--blog title-Let It Snow
5) The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar reviewed 8/22/19--blog title-Free Fallin'
6) The Lost Man by Jane Harper reviewed 3/28/19--blog title-Thursday's Child
7) Tin Man by Sarah Winman reviewed 7/5/19--blog title-Born in the USA
8) The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien reviewed 7/11/19--blog title-It's a Long Way to Tipperary
9) The Dutch House by Ann Patchett--will review in 2020

Hope you have a safe, happy, healthy 2020.
Happy Reading
-The Belle of the Book

Monday, December 30, 2019

December 29, 2019 BALL OF CONFUSION

Couldn't wait to get Erin Morgenstern's new book. Had my name on the waiting list for months. I absolutely loved  her first book The Night Circus--it was a national bestseller translated into thirty-seven languages. As soon as I got the email from the library--I zoomed downtown giddy as a school girl.  I finally had it in my hands for two whole weeks. I'm gonna say right off that her new book The Starless Sea is HEFTY-- a commitment. One I was more than willing to make based on her last book. Unfortunately that's where the excitement ended.  I tried to will myself to like it. I kept telling myself it would get better if I just stuck with it. But I have to admit that  I really did not enjoy The Starless Sea. 
Here's the premise--Beneath the Earth there is a hidden world at the shore of the Starless Sea. There are all kinds of tunnels and rooms and buildings filled with books and stories. The people who live there are the keepers and protectors of the stories. In order to get to this world one must believe and "see" the painted doorways that act as entryways. After Zachery Ezra Rawlins discovers a mysterious book in the library, he becomes obsessed with finding the Starless Sea.  Zachery's quest leads him to a masquerade ball where he meets Mirabel and Dorian, dwellers of the Starless Sea. The duo convince Zachary to join them in their battle to save The Starless Sea. Pretty sure I have it right. I have to admit that I found the book very confusing. I kept thinking I missed something so I kept going back to reread but I was still confused. It's also not really my type of story---I never liked Harry Potter either--sorry. If you're a Harry Potter fan then maybe you will like this book. Like I said--it's hefty--almost 500 pages that felt like a 10 mile run to me. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

December 29, 2019 SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT

Been distracted. Feeling a little down. The holidays are sometimes difficult for me. When I get like this--I either binge read to keep my mind occupied (4 books in the last week)  or clean random things. So--I was cleaning out a drawer in my hutch last week-- filled with old XMAS cards. Talk about getting distracted. By the time I finished with those--I discovered an old manilla envelope that contained  pictures of me from birth til about fourteen. There were even old report cards including my kindergarten report card--a good year for me--AND  my report cards from grade 7 and 8. Those were tough years for me. My mother got divorced again and our lives were in upheaval. My grades went DOWN in every subject except READING and I  missed a lot of school. Although the report cards were a springboard to some painful memories, they helped me remember that reading was my salvation THEN and continues to be a salve NOW.  If you're feeling like you need a little escape from life-- look no further than The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.
This psychological thriller begins with Alicia and Gabriel Berenson--a seemingly perfect couple. She is a famous painter while her husband is a famous fashion photographer. They live in a beautiful home near London where Alicia spends her days working in her studio. One night Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot and Alicia kills him--five shots to the head--and never speaks again. After the trial, Alicia is sentenced to The Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. There she meets Theo Faber--a criminal psychotherapist determined to "cure" her. He becomes obsessed with solving the mystery and getting Alicia to talk again. Why did Alicia kill her husband? Why is Theo risking his career to find the truth? Will Alicia ever talk again? Find the answer to these questions and many others when you read this novel filled with twists and turns that will leave you shaking your head. This book is about 340 pages or a 3 mile run that you won't be able to put down. Have Fun.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December 17, 2019 BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Took a ride over to Kelley's Pace in Mystic the other night for a book signing. The place was hopping. There were many runners and  fans eager to hear Amby Burfoot and Gail Waesche Kislevitz talk about their new book Runspirations. Yes--I wanted to hear them talk about their new book but I was also there BECAUSE my son illustrated the book. Proud Mother moment and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It's funny--when he was  little--I never imagined that he'd grow up and NOT need his MOM anymore. BUT IT HAPPENS. I know it's our job as parents to guide our children so that they can be independent--successful adults but it's BITTERSWEET. It's hard to let go.  I don't see him  much these days. He's got an apartment--a girlfriend--  a busy life. AND I'M SO HAPPY FOR HIM. Life is good. BUT--every so often--I wish  he still needed me like he used to. CAN'T believe I'm saying this but I ACTUALLY miss cooking for him. These days--I get texts from him asking for recipes and cooking advice. Too funny. 
If you're looking for some advice or running inspiration--look no further than Runspirations--Amazing Stories, Timeless Wisdom, and Motivational Quotes to Help You Run Stronger Every Day. This little gem was written by Amby Burfoot, former editor of Runner's World and 1968 winner of the Boston Marathon, and my friend  Gail Waesche Kislevitz. Gail has been running for 52 years and has completed  all six World Marathon Majors. She's also written six books --that I've reviewed--and highly recommend.  This book includes several amazing short stories of runners who will inspire you to either keep running or start running. One that sticks out in my mind is Sarah Reinertsen. She ran seven marathons--in seven days--on seven continents--with only ONE leg. There is also a section on timeless wisdom that includes tips on training, nutrition, shoes, health, injury prevention, running form, cross training, weather, safety, and lifetime running. The last section of the book is devoted to motivational quotes. This book is a must for every runner. It's full of practical advice and inspiration. It's about 175 pages or a 2 mile run that will keep you moving forward.