Category Archives: favorite authors

A Quote from Anna and her Daughters

Anna and Her Daughters

Going through my reading notebook this morning, I discovered a quote I had copied from Anna and Her Daughters, by D.E. Stevenson. It was a book I really enjoyed, by an author I love, and I particularly liked this paragraph:

The storyteller has always been a valuable member of society. Even in prehistoric times when men hunted wild beasts and lived in caves they sat round the camp-fire at night and listened to stories. Your profession is one of the oldest in the world and one of the most useful. “Away!” I cried, laughing. “It is, really. And we need stories more than ever now. We need stories to entertain us, to help us to forget our troubles, to fill our lives with colour.

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

Sunshine

“Sunshine” seems to be my theme for this week!  A few months ago,  I pre-ordered Alexander McCall Smith‘s most recent #1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine. It arrived on my Kindle just in time to bring some needed sunshine to a dark, rainy weekend. AMS’s books are always a breath of fresh air with happy and humorous reminders to focus on the kind and good in life rather than getting bogged down in the negatives that surround us all.

“Everything could always be worse,” she would say, “and so be grateful that things are only as bad a they are.”

The main character of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, Mma Ramotswe, is a kind, intelligent, caring detective. She makes a difference in people’s lives — in the lives of the people in the books and also in the lives of the readers! I love her outlook on life, her interactions with the other characters, and the way she problem-solves the situations she faces in her business and in her personal life.

So many people had lost that sense of identification with the land that gave meaning to life; that fixed one firmly to a place one loved. At least we still have that, she thought: at least we still have land that we can call our place; acacia trees that are our acacia trees; a sky that is our sky because it watched over our mothers and fathers and took them up into it, embraced them, when they became late. We still have that, no matter how big and frightening the world becomes.

With humor and words of wisdom, this is a book series that definitely brings sunshine into our lives.

Tasha Tudor, 100 Years

Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor is one of my favorite artists. She was the author and illustrator of many children’s books, including my favorite edition of The Secret Garden, and she is beloved worldwide. She was born 100 years ago today, and so to celebrate her centenary, I bought a copy of a lovely book about her: Tasha Tudor’s Garden, by Tovah Martin, with beautiful, beautiful photographs by Richard W. Brown.

There is so much beauty and inspiration in this book! I look forward to reading it and learning more about Tasha Tudor, about her elegantly “simple” lifestyle, and about her gorgeous gardens. I will read it slowly, absorbing as much as I can of the natural beauty she created and surrounded herself with during her long life.

Please visit her family website to learn more about her life and her work.

photo by Richard W. Brown

photo by Richard W. Brown

Garden Reading: Emily Dickinson’s Gardens

Now that I am retired, I’m spending more and more time in my garden. I started my garden blog as an online journal for myself and family. Now I’ve decided to open it up and share it with those of you who love gardening, too. If you find me missing from my book blog…you will most likely find me on my garden blog. I’d love to meet you there!

[The following review was published on my garden blog. I reposted it here, but something happened and it never showed up! Rusty blogging skills?] So here it is, reposted. Again.

Emily_Dickinsons_Gardens

During the hot afternoons of the last few days, I completely immersed myself in a lovely book– Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener, by Marta McDowell. I love poetry, and I love reading about the gardens of the great gardeners, so this was the perfect choice for me. And to add depth to this immersion, I pulled from my bookshelf my volume of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, as well as another beautiful little book for young people, Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden, with some of her poems illustrated by the wonderful artist (and gardener), Tasha Tudor. What a lovely way to spend my heat-wave afternoons!

The “Belle of Amherst” was a brilliant poet who drew much of her inspiration from nature and from her garden, in particular. Her love for flowers and for gardening started very young, as did her love for words and poetry. As a teenager, she put together a very impressive “herbarium,” a collection of dried and pressed plants, all beautifully organized and identified by their Latin names. She loved spending time in her family’s gardens and in the meadows and woods adjacent to the family homestead.

During her lifetime, Emily DIckinson was known as a gifted gardener. Not everyone knew that she also wrote poetry, although she shared many of her poems with friends and family. Very few of her poems were published during her lifetime, and no one knew the extent of her writing until after her death when her sister, Lavinia, discovered almost 1,800 poems tucked away in a drawer.

This book was organized by the seasons of the year, and included descriptions of the plants that were grown in Emily’s garden each season, and poems that were inspired by those plants or by the season. A lovely combination! The author, Marta McDowell, is herself a gardener, so she lovingly included how-to information and special tips for other gardeners.

The mix of very interesting biography, descriptions of Emily Dickinson’s gardens with beautiful poetry interspersed, and very helpful gardening advice made the book a pleasure to read and a wonderful learning experience.

The beautiful illustrations below are by Tasha Tudor from Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden.

IMG_3050

Happy Birthday, Marc Chagall!

MarcChagall

Happy birthday to one of my favorite artists!  Marc Chagall would be 128 years old today.  I dearly love the colors in his ethereal paintings and stained glass, especially the blue. His dreamlike paintings are colorful, happy, and full of love. Chagall was a man of deep passion for life and for art. He was a happy man, if you can judge by the many photos of him with family and at work.

A few years ago, I read a wonderful biography of him, Marc Chagall: Painter of Dreams, by one of my favorite authors, Natalie Bober. If you love art, or are just interested in the life of a gifted artist, I highly recommend this little book. You can read my post about it here.

 

Vacation Reading

 

IMG_1764

We are enjoying a beautiful, early June vacation, and early June is such a beautiful time to travel! While teaching, early June would be filled with end-of-the-school year fun and stress, busy as could possibly be. Field trips, testing, finishing units and projects, report cards, and tenderheared goodbyes. In my old school district, there are still 8.5 days of school left! But now retired, we are able to enjoy traveling at a time when temperatures are mild, hillsides are lush green, and roads not yet jammed with traveling families. Ah…the joys of retirement.

So I brought my Kindle along on the trip, and my earphones for listening to my audiobooks. I’m enjoying my traveling reading and listening, relaxing over beautiful scenery and distances with these books:

Snow_in_April

Beyond_the_Black_Stump

Wild_Mountain_Thyme

The_Forgotten_Garden

 

 

 

The Breaking Wave

thebreakingwave

In the last few months, I’ve listened to two audiobooks by Nevil Shute: The Far Country and The Breaking Wave. I enjoyed both very much. Nevil Shute’s books really speak to me with their decent characters, kind and caring relationships, the sweeping landscapes of Australia, and interesting connections between vast distances in the world that make it all seem smaller and much closer together. His stories are interesting and compelling. The Breaking Wave was a sort of mystery because it started with the suicide of a young English woman in Australia, a former WREN during World War II, and we didn’t find out until the very end exactly WHY she did such a thing, and how she ended up in Australia.

The Breaking Wave, first published as Requiem for a Wren, was a sad story but told in such a way that I wasn’t overcome with sadness. It was a thorough exploration of how war changes lives and continues to play havoc with people’s lives long after it is over.

Even into this quiet place, the war had reached like a tentacle of an octopus. It had touched this girl and brought about her death. Like some infernal monster still venomous in death, the war can go on killing people for a long time after it’s all over.

It was a story of love and loss, and of a generation shaped by World War II.

For our generation, the war years were the best times of our lives, not because they were war years but because we were young. The best years of our lives happened to be war years. Everyone looks back at the time when they were in their early 20s with nostalgia, but when we look back, we only see the war.

Nevil Shute was a wonderful storyteller, and I especially love listening to his stories as audiobooks. I know that for 10 or so hours, I will be completely immersed in a vast and wonderful world filled with characters who have integrity and courage, warmth and caring.

Goodbye, Ivan Doig

IvanDoig

Sad news yesterday about Ivan Doig. We’ve lost yet another wonderful author. I have a special place in my heart for Ivan Doig. My father loved reading his books, and so did I. When I read his memoir, This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind, I felt that we were most definitely kindred spirits. In this memoir, his stories of his Dad and his Grandmother and their Montana ranching lives reminded me in many ways of my own Dad and my own Wyoming Grandmother. They didn’t ranch, but they, too, were real characters shaped in similar ways by that western landscape.

As a girl from mountains, I also loved his descriptions of the western landscape that was so familiar to me.

The western skyline before us was filled high with a steel-blue army of mountains, drawn in battalions of peaks and reefs and gorges and crags as far along the entire rim of the earth as could be seen…

When my husband and I decided to relocate to the Pacific Northwest from the Intermountain West 25 years ago, I read his books, Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America and The Sea Runners. Both were amazing stories that capture the heart of the Northwest, and those books, along with Wintergreen, by Robert Michael Pyle, and The Good Rain, by Timothy Egan, helped turn us into Northwesterners at heart.

If you visit Doig’s website, he has a note for his readers. He didn’t consider himself a “western” writer, and this is why:

One last word about the setting of my work, the American West. I don’t think of myself as a “Western” writer. To me, language—the substance on the page, that poetry under the prose—is the ultimate “region,” the true home, for a writer. Specific geographies, but galaxies of imaginative expression—we’ve seen them both exist in William Faulkner’s postage stamp-size Yoknapatawpha County, and in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s nowhere village of Macondo, dreaming in its hundred years of solitude. If I have any creed that I wish you as readers, necessary accomplices in this flirtatious ceremony of writing and reading, will take with you from my pages, it’d be this belief of mine that writers of caliber can ground their work in specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country: life.

Ivan Doig was a writer of caliber, and his “poetry under the prose” spoke to me directly and touched my life in many ways. King County Library, on Twitter today, paid him a wonderful, simple and perfect tribute:

“Scene: The flat plain is a brilliant green. A lone figure walks toward the distant mountains. Goodbye Ivan.”

 

picture-1

Author Ivan Doig for Seattle Magazine © Jeff Corwin

 

Rereading Rosamunde

Rosamunde

At my local library yesterday, I found this photo and quote on the back of one of the Rosamunde Pilcher collection. I really liked it, although I didn’t just discover this favorite author of mine. I found her years ago, read as many of her books as I could find, and loved them. Her book, The Shell Seekers, is one of my all-time favorites.  I recently discovered that her books and short stories are now available on Kindle, so I decided to give myself a treat and re-read them all. What a lovely thing to do for myself!

What do I love about her books? I enjoy her characters who, to me, seem like real people with real emotions. I love her landscapes, beautifully described. They make me want to spend time in Cornwall and London and Scotland, and when reading her books, I feel like I’m there! I really like her ideas about families and loved ones. There are blood families and there are chosen families, and I love that many of her characters find and surround themselves with the people who really mean something in their lives. And, finally, I simply love being part of each of the little worlds she creates in her books and stories.

I’m enjoying this re-reading, and will probably read them again in another few years! I obviously agree with the statement “now that I’ve found her, I’m not going to let her go!”

From the Archives: Click on the highlighted title to read a post I wrote about her in 2007… The Gentle Books of Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde_Pilcher