Friday 19 April 2024

My List for Classics Spin #37

Classics Club hosts a spin every once in a while challenging you to read a classic that is on your TBR list. 
I've done some in the past and decided to do this one. (#37)
Here's the link.

You list 20 books and then see what comes up in the spin and read the book for that number on your list. 

My list for the spin:
1.     Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
2.     Dracula by Bram Stoker
3.     A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
4.     Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
5.     East of Eden by John Steinbeck
6.     Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
7.     True Grit by Charles 
8.     Persuasion by Jane Austen
9.     Songs of Kabir by Kabir
10.    Roxana by Daniel Defoe
11.    The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe
12.    Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie
13.    Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
14.    Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
15.    The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
16.    The Light Princess by George MacDonald
17.    Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
18.    Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
19.    Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
20.    Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I Should Have Stayed Home

Finished April 8
I Should Have Stayed Home: The Worst Trips of Great Writers edited by Roger Rapoport and Marguerita Castanera

This is a reread for me. I read it years ago, but brought it to a class I was teaching as a part of a Readers' Advisory exercise where the students had a few minutes to examine a book and then do a recommendation. The student who got this book said that she wouldn't recommend it as the stories were all white people complaining about other cultures. I certainly hadn't remembered it that way, but fair, it had been a while since I read it, and also, I, being white, might have missed that back then. 
So I reread it. 
The book was published in 1994 and contains 50 stories, an introduction, and an afterward. The money raised from sales of the book went towards Oxfam. 
* The introduction is by American novelist and travel writer Mary Morris. She talks about a keynote address she gave that consisted of strange and amazing things that happened to her while travelling. She talks about the things you remember are the bad things that happen and that humour is the most important thing to keep with you, and how food can bring back memories better than most other things. Her anecdotes from unusual food to illness to police encounters. 
* Sex and Coq au Vin by Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende tells of her first visit to Paris where she and her then-husband who cooked their own French meal while camping in the Bois de Boulogne.
* All the Way with LBJ by journalist and political writer Muriel Dobbin tells of a trip with President Johnson as part of the White House press corps which started as a trip to Australia for the funeral of the Prime Minister and turned into a multi-day tour of Asia just before Christmas, with the last stop being Rome, Italy on the way home. 
* Into the Denki Furo by Jeff Greenwald, American writer, tells of his experience with a electric bath in Japan
* Night of the Army Ants by poet Mary Mackey recounts the time in Guatemala where she and her sister splurged for a good hotel only to wake in the middle of the night when army ants went through the building, including her bed. 
* How I Became a Purveyor of Caviar and Champagne on the Trans-Siberian by Alev Lytle Croutier, Turkish-American playwright, tells of her 1960s era trip from Siberia to Europe, where she had naively changed all her money to rubles upon entering the USSR only to find out she had to spend them before leaving. She ended up spending it all on caviar, vodka, and champagne at the final stop before leaving the country, and selling it to her fellow passengers on the rest of the trip.
* A Winter's Night by Eric Hansen, travel writer, on his arrival back in New York City with hardly any money in the winter, and surviving a night in Grand Central Station.
* Non-Stop to London by Michael Dorris is about his flight misadventures on one trip.
* Entering Paradise by Judith Greber is about a much-anticipated trip to Bali that began with misplaced documents and a night with multitudes of insects.
* Enlightened Sahib by journalist Dominique Lapierre is about his first foray into the slums of Calcutta as the guest of a Catholic priest.
* Thousand and Two Nights by Pico Iyer is about his first trip to Egypt as a young man with his Swedish girlfriend and the endless sexual harassment she faced.
* The Dirt on Mudbaths by Alice Kahn has her remembering her very first trip ti an Illinois resort and the prank her and a friend pulled.
* Borderline Blues (with Herpetile) by Richard Harris is about the time he accidentally had a small lizard when he arrived at the US border coming back from Mexico.
* Not in Kansas Anymore by Joe Gores tells of his adventurous trip out of Africa after living in Kenya for three years.
* I Think Our Driver Is Stoned: The Slow Road from Istanbul to Herat by Rick Steves is a tale of a wild bus trip.
* Maddening Madagascar by Lisa Alpine tells of her family's encounters staying in hotels that turned out to be full of prostitutes.
* Tail End by Suzanne Lipsett is the story of an unpleasant experience when she tried to a fellow traveller a favour.
* Seeking the Mother of Immortal Bliss: The Temple at Vallickavu by Nami Mann tells of going after her daughter to the site of a religious guru.
* Chimgan by Claudia J. Martin is about travelling through eastern Russia as the only woman in a ski group tour. 
* The First and Last Meal by Carole L Peccorini is about her experience as an Earthwatch volunteer in Borneo and an unexpected encounter with an orangutan.
* And There's the Rub by Stacy Ritz is about a strange massage in Belize.
* Sahafin American by Larry Collins tells of his adventure trying to get a scoop as a young journalist in the Middle East.
* Adrift by Joe Cummings tells of his impulsive and harrowing trip to see Krakatau.
* The Flight from Hell by Donald W. George is about a trip home from Jamaica that had several mishaps.
* Ai Yi by Molly Giles is about a stormy boat trip in Mexico.
* Rafting the Sewers of the Rhineland by Louis B. Jones tells of the crazy trip by inflatable boat he and a friend took down the Rhine.
* A Tourist in Haiti by Larry O'Connor tells of a strange tour he took there.
* Travels with Suna by Shirley Streshinsky is about a strange occurrence on an Air India flight.
* Lost and Found by Tony Wheeler has two stories, one about a stolen car and one about a stopover mix-up.
* Poles Apart by Georgia Hesse tells of an adventure to the North Pole.
* A Caribbean Tale by Abigail Wine is about her first adventure in Cuba and the hospitality of a local family.
* Camera Karma by Robert Holmes has three stories: one of rock-climbing in England's Peak District, one of a wedding in central Algeria, and one of his first major National Geographic assignment in Northern Pakistan.
* An African Christmas by Paul Theroux is about a time he made a getaway from a situation in Zambia.
* The Yi-Ching: A Yarrowing Experience by Katherine Neville tells of a prediction she was given that came true in an unexpected way. 
* The Existential Washing Machine by Adrianne Marcus describes her encounter with a washing machine in a rented Paris apartment.
* Donner Party by Scott Christopher Green tells of a freshman trip with his gymnastics team in a traffic jam in a California heatwave.
* Somewhere Under the Rainbow by Barbara Kingsolver is the story of a dress code violation at the Rainbow Room in New York City.
* The "Daggy" Challenge by Christopher P. Baker is about his attempt at a shortcut in Costa Rica.
* Beltless in Bali by Burl Willes tells of a theft in the night.
* Getting Away from the Promised Land by Evelyn Kieran is about her trip to Egypt with other writers for an adventure magazine.
* Passage to India by Helen Gurley Brown is about exploding aerosols in suitcases, missing flight documents and (my take here) an annoying husband.
* First Date with Misadventure by Richard Bangs is about a secret experience on his first camping trip.
* Libidinous Finns by Linda Watanabe McFerrin tells of an overnight train trip to Paris.
* Salt Lake City by Nightfall by Susan Dunlap is of a disappointing motel.
* The Worst Bus Ride in All Mexico by Janet Fullwood is self-explanatory.
* The Best Restaurant in Town? by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini is of a bad eatery in Idaho.
* Puerto Plata: Just Say No by Barbara Ann Curcio gives us the combination of a bad hotel and bad weather.
* All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go by Stan Sesser is the story of the lack of public washrooms in Nepal. This one does leave one feeling that he was culturally dismissive.
* Trouble in Terontola by William Petrocelli is about three different bad experiences that all involved this Italian town.
* Maui for One by Roger Rapoport tells of an assignment that took him to Maui right after his divorce.
* Bad Things Don't Happen to Me by Jan Morris says that she's had no bad travel experiences.
* The Afterward explains how this book came about.
So, the contents weren't exactly as I'd remembered them, but with the exception of one tale they didn't exhibit bad attitude towards local inhabitants. 

Friday 12 April 2024

The Half of It

Finished April 6
The Half of It by Juliette Fay

This novel is centered on fifty-eight-year-old Helen Spencer. Helen is the mother of three adult children, Barb, Sam, and Danny, and the grandmother of one. Before the pandemic hit, Helen's mother Annabella Iannucci had come to live with her family in North Carolina, but she died a few years after the move. When Helen's husband Jim died suddenly shortly afterward, Helen learned his secrets as well. 
The story starts in the present with an unexpected encounter with a man, Cal Crosby, from Helen's past. It then jumps back to Helen's girlhood where she joined track as a way to use the energy she had within her. We see her friendship with Francie Hydecker, a girl who went her own way, a way that included horses and ceramics. And we see the friendship that developed between teenage Helen and Cal. 
As the book moves back and forth between the present, where Helen is very involved in her daughter Barb's life, and Cal has also taken on a caregiving role with his young grandchildren, we learn what led to the rift between them, as well as what led to other rifts in Helen's life. 
As Helen begins to build a new life in Massachusetts, where she's moved to join Barb's family, she also reconnects with her past and must make choices that lead to new beginnings and new friendships.
Although it covers a lot of time, this book moves at a fairly quick pace, and the characters make the book come to life. This is a story of love, of regrets, and of hope.  

The Painted Drum

Finished March 31
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

This novel has several timelines, with all of them related to a sacred drum created by an Ojibwe man during a difficult time in his life. The story begins with an Ojibwe woman Faye Travers, who works as an appraiser and antique dealer with her mother. As part of their business they value and clear houses as part of estate sales. When she is called to appraise and clear a home of a man in her own community, she is not surprised to find indigenous artifacts there, as his family is descended from an Indian agent who worked on the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation. What surprises her is that she finds herself compelled to take one of these artifacts, a drum, without listing it as part of the estate contents. She finds the drum calls to her and she treats it with the respect it deserves as she quietly searches for the people it came from. 
The book takes a jump back as we learn of a legend that is related to the creation of the drum, and then forward as the drum is returned to Bernard Shaawano whose grandfather created the drum. The story then moves us into the future as the drum plays a role in the lives of another Ojibwe family that is struggling. 
This is a story that I found myself taking my time to read, stopping to go over passages, and thinking about what Erdrich is telling us here. Slow-paced and with an element of magic realism, this story will return to you long after you have finished reading it.  

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Finished March 31
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

This is the first book in a series around three sisters, Chloe, Dani, and Eve. I found this story really interesting, with the main character Chloe being drawn as a more complex character. The family is a wealthy one, but Chloe has finally made the jump to living in her own apartment. Part of the reason she lived in her parents' multigenerational home was her chronic illness, fibromyalgia, which she developed after a bad bout of pneumonia. When a car out of control nearly hits her as she is out for a walk, she realizes that she has to take chances and live a riskier life because anything could happen to her at any time. Chloe has made a career as a web designer, so she works out of her own home and sets her work expectations around how she feels. 
Chloe is a big listmaker and she's made one for her fresh start. It's not a long list, but she is also a person who, when she sets goals, accomplishes them. 
The superintendent of the apartment she lives in is Redford "Red" Morgan, and he is having a bit of a hiatus from his earlier life after a bad breakup that also touched on his livelihood as an artist. His friend Vik, who owns the building offered him the position when he came back home from London as a temporary haven. Vik enjoys keeping the tenants happy and is patient and kind. Somehow, he started off on the wrong foot with Chloe, but after rescuing her from a situation of her own making, the two start to talk to each other and open up. 
This is a romance for sure, but it is also a story of two people each a little wary due to past relationships, who have their own pains and dreams, who began to share those with each other as they grow closer. I also appreciated that it has a cat.
Truly enjoyable. 

Friday 5 April 2024

Lone Wolf

Finished March 30
Lone Wolf by Diana Palmer, Kate Pearce, and Rebecca Zanetti

This is a collection of three short novels all with a wolf as part of the story. 
The first one is Colorado Cowboy by Diana Palmer. This story has twenty-three-year-old Esther Marist is a real jam. Esther had fled her mother Terry's house in Aspen, Colorado after her mother's latest boyfriend Darrin pushed her mother down the stairs in a temper. She has her purse, but not her phone, and isn't really dressed for the winter weather. Esther is afraid to go to the police as Darrin had indicated he had contacts there. She ends up getting a ride from a middle-aged couple driving a semi who drop her off in northern Colorado where she told them she had friends. She ends up on the doorstep of Iraq war veteran Butch Matthews who works for the wildlife service and has a wolf he rehabilitated as a pet. The story is cute, but a little too sweet for my taste. Esther seems worldly wise in some ways, and completely innocent in others. She grew up in boarding schools, but has no friends. She's eager to please and only wants a happy home in her future. As the man hunting her grows near, it is Butch and his friends, who've become hers, along with long-lost family that save the day. 
The second story, The Wolf on Her Doorstep by Kate Pearce is set in the ranching country of California, and was the best story in my opinion. Beth Baker works at the Garcia Ranch and is in charge as the novel opens, with the Garcia family on vacation. She grew up in the area and her brother is a mechanic at the family-run gas station. Beth is also raising two young men, her own son Mike who is home for the summer from college, and her ex-husband's son Wes, who works as an apprentice carpenter in town.  One of the cabins on the ranch is currently rented by Conner O'Neil, a Navy SEALS veteran, and because he hasn't shown up for his weekly supplies from the general store, Beth agrees to take them up to him. Beth has another worry, as her ex-husband Sean has written her son from prison trying to get back into his good books. Beth knows the violence that he's capable of, but Mike was too young to remember the abuse. Wes is with Beth because Sean killed Wes' mother and she offered him a home. Conner has a wolf pet named Loki who accosts Beth soon after she gets to the ranch. I liked Beth as she's no fool, she's capable of a lot of things and has survived some bad times with grace. The chemistry between Beth and Conner was nicely done, and both were drawn as realistic people. A satisfying read. 
The third story is Rescue: Cowboy Style by Rebecca Zanetti and set in rural Wyoming. Hallie is on the run from something and when she crashes her car into a fence in a storm, she made her way to a clubhouse for local cowboys, following the only light she could see. She meets one of the men who own a large ranch in the area, Trent Logan. He's very pushy and although he doesn't force himself on her, he does make some questionable moves and talks in a very sexist way. Hallie has stumbled on something a little mysterious here that she struggles to understand as she still tries to find a way to save herself from what's chasing her. There was a wolf that followed her from her car, and it seems to have been tamed by someone and seems fixated on looking out for her. By the end, there is some sense of what the wolf represents. Hallie is a woman who has a college education, but seems a little helpless, and doesn't seem to put up much resistance to Trent's advances or sexist outlook. This story bothered me in a lot of ways. It seems to be the story referenced by the series indicator attached to the book, Redemption Wyoming, #1. 
All three novels have ex-military men as the male love interest.