Friday, August 30, 2019

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Reviewed by Jeanne

Martha Storm is a volunteer librarian—actually, she’s a volunteer everything whether she wants to be or not.  She’s just one of those people who ends up being a doormat for others.  She was the one who looked after her parents, Thomas and Betty, until they died, while younger sister Lilian married and began a family.  Martha is the one who ends up doing laundry, altering clothes, storing costumes, and even trying to repair a papier-mache dragon’s head.  She’s always been the one people depended on but never seemed to appreciate. 

Except for Joe, whom she had hoped to marry before her parents became ill; and Zelda, her mother’s mother, who encouraged her to do outrageous things that incurred her father’s wrath.  But Joe moved to America, and Zelda died long ago, so now all Martha has is her place at the library and a house packed to the brim with things: her parents’ things, her sister’s things, all the stuff that people want to keep but not at their houses.

Then one day, Martha finds a package addressed to her.  Inside is a coverless book of fairy tales with an inscription to Martha from Zelda, dated 1985.

 Only Zelda died in 1982...

I admit I was put off a bit at first because not only was Martha downtrodden, but the flashbacks to her childhood made me dislike her father intensely.  He was incredibly controlling, keeping a tight rein on the purse strings, his daughters’ reading (disdaining fiction, fairy tales, and everything creative), and generally kept everyone under his thumb—except for Zelda, which is exactly why he and Zelda clashed so fiercely.

However, I felt sorry for Martha and thought I owed it to her to see her through. Surely, things have to look up for this poor woman!

I’m glad I did, and was able to see her rise to the occasion over and over again. It was good to see her gradually realize that she had intrinsic worth, that she wasn’t defined only by ways that she could help others.  I also met vivid characters—Suki with her malapropisms, ah-mazing Zelda, stoic Siegfried, and even rigid Thomas-- and explored a tangle of family secrets.  There was young love, mature commitment, and a woman learning that she can break free from the past and her own insecurities.  I may still not approve of Betty’s choices, but I understood them a bit by the end, and I closed the book satisfied.  I liked how the author used the fairy tales to illuminate situations and characters, and how skillfully she wove the strands of the story together.  Of course, all the book titles and authors that were dropped into the story delighted me. 

This is a charming tale and I look forward to reading more from Patrick.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Nevermore: Maisie Dobbs, Fly Away, Pachinko, Outsider, Things Fall Apart

Reported by Christy

Former World War I nurse Maisie Dobbs decides to set up her own private investigation firm. Her first case seems to be one of simple infidelity but Dobbs soon learns there are much deeper secrets. Our reader called Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs a light read that she enjoyed listening to while packing. She will also continue on with the series.

Our next reader checked out Fly Away by Kristin Hannah. Tully must not only deal with the tragic death of her best friend Kate, and caring for Kate’s teenage daughter, but also the reappearance of her estranged mother. Though our reader didn’t realize this book was second in a series, she liked it and thought it was good.

When teenaged Sunja finds herself pregnant by a wealthy, married man, she accepts a marriage proposal by a minister passing through Korea on his way to Japan. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee, a family saga spanning generations, was an “excellent” book and our reader highly recommended it.

Next, the discussion moved to Stephen King’s The Outsider. When the body of an 11 year old boy is found in a park, the people of Flint City are in shock. Even more so when fingerprints point to beloved Little League coach and English teacher Terry Maitland. Terry, however, has an airtight alibi. Our reader struggled with her interest in this book, especially after reading the fantastic Pachinko, and ended up not finishing it.

In Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart, Achebe tells the story of pre-colonial Nigeria and the 19th century arrival of Europeans.  Our reader tried but could not get into it and ultimately did not finish the novel.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Miniature Terrariums: Tiny Glass Container Gardens Using Easy-to-Grow Plants and Inexpensive Glassware

Guest reviewer Kevin Tipple is back with his review of a book on terrarium gardening.  Check out his blog Kevin's Corner for more book reviews and book news, as well as links to topics of interest.

Reviewed by Kevin Tipple
While any author creating a fictional story is, in a sense, “world building,” authors in the fantasy and science fiction genres refer to the term all the time and claim great credit for doing so. When one is doing it right, one is bringing a fictional world to life in a reader’s mind by way of dialogue, descriptive scenes and setting, and more. In a very physical way, you are doing the same thing when you put a terrarium together as you are most assuredly world building.  You are creating an environment that--if you choose wisely-- will thrive. Choose incorrectly and you may create a dystopia for your plants or worse.

Miniature Terrariums: Tiny Glass Container Gardens Using Easy-to-Grow Plants and Inexpensive Glassware seeks to guide you in creating a beautiful and thriving world. Published by Tuttle Publishing in May 2018, the book is primarily broken into 4 chapters full of information by text and picture.

The book opens with a short introduction that explains what a terrarium is, what kind of containers or glassware is best suited for what types of plants, and how the various chapter categories for the plants are determined. Along with plenty of informative text, there are numerous pictures making it very clear what the text is covering A nice touch is the fact that many of the smaller plant pictures have handy page number citations. Also included in this section are tips as to what tools you may or may not want/need, how to basically create a terrarium, watering, the various types of ornamental gravel, and caring for the plants as the seasons change. Some of this information varies by type of plant and those differences are explored here.

Then, it is on the chapters with “Chapter 1: Wetland Plants” starting things off on page 15. Plants that fit this situation will need to be placed in a sealable container. Most of the plants that are in this section are various types of moss. Surprisingly, at least to me, moss can come in all shapes and sizes and not just as a sort of ground cover. It isn’t just moss in this section as there is also some information devoted to carnivorous plants and African Violets. The chapter winds up with some advice on the various places to gather your moss. Apparently, a rolling stone gathers no moss, so you may have to consider nonmoving rocks or areas under trees in parks and other places should you seek to be a moss gatherer.

Page 31, begins “Chapter 2: Air Plants.” These are plants that normally are usually found living in trees and thus will need to be placed in open hanging containers so that the air in your home or office moves around them. While you could create a terrarium in a vase with such plants, you could also construct hanging terrariums of various types. Ways of doing so are depicted in this section. Hanging Terrariums are not only a great space saver; they serve as a way to get plants away from pets or children that may be tempted by their presence.

“Chapter 3: Arid Zone Plants” begins on page 53 and this is where you find succulents. Such plants come in all types and this allows you to create a desert like environment or a very low water type one. As in the other chapters of a book, various types of containers are used here and there are numerous plant suggestions as well as instructions on how to create the terrarium shown. One of the neat things in this book can be found at the end of this chapter with “Practical Tip 3: Finding The Perfect Container.”

This book repeatedly stresses thinking beyond the classic terrarium style container. Terrarium light bulbs which are lightbulbs specifically designed to house plants, candle holders, beakers for a science project, and more are suggested here. This page details numerous options and possibilities beyond the usual terrarium shape. 

Of course, sometimes you can combine the three types of plants into one container and mix them up. That idea drives “Chapter 4: Mixed Terrariums.” Starting on page 79, four distinctive possibilities that combine multiple plants from multiple environments are depicted. Each suggested combination has tips to be successful. Because you are putting different environments together you are going to need some skill in maintaining the world so that everything survives and thrives.

Next is followed by a couple of pages devoted to cataloging succulents by type. The same is done for air plants as well as moss and other wetland plants. Those pages are followed by a page devoted to details about the publication of the book, information about the publisher, Tuttle Publishing, and their mission statement.

Miniature Terrariums: Tiny Glass Container Gardens Using Easy-to-Grow Plants and Inexpensive Glassware is a colorful and informative book that works for both the novice as well as the experienced world builder. It serves as a repository of creative ideas as well as a spring board for your own creativity. Filled with plenty of information and pictures, Miniature Terrariums: Tiny Glass Container Gardens Using Easy-to-Grow Plants and Inexpensive Glassware is going to be a winner for those interested in creating a magical world.

Miniature Terrariums: Tiny Glass Container Gardens Using Easy-to-Grow Plants and Inexpensive Glassware
Fourwords (division of Actus Interiors)
Tuttle Publishing
May 2018
ISBN# 978-4-8053-1477-7
Hardback (also available in eBook format)
104 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Dallas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2019

Friday, August 23, 2019

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Reviewed by Kristin

Amy Whey has the kind of life that looks a little boring from the outside; she’s a wife and mother who hosts the neighborhood book club and carefully guards her little circle of friends and family. Amy may look like a comfortable suburbanite but hers is a life she has intentionally created, and a life which she desperately desires to maintain. With husband Davis, stepdaughter Madison, and baby Oliver, Amy has found the comfort and love she never had in her early years.

Then comes Roux.

Angelica Roux breezes into Amy’s neighborhood, rents a house for herself and her sixteen-year-old son Luca, and shows up on Amy’s doorstep for book club. With her bold personality, Roux captivates the group. The wine is flowing freely as the atmosphere turns edgy, exhilarating, and just a little bit dangerous. Observing the other women keenly, Roux seems to see right into their souls, and maybe she also sees their deepest secrets. And oh, Amy does have a secret. And Roux knows it. How far will Amy go to keep her marriage, her family, and her friends? Questions of integrity and justice collide as Roux plays a daring game with the very fabric of Amy’s life.

Never Have I Ever is Joshilyn Jackson’s ninth published novel, and is a dramatic departure from her previous works. Jackson has never been one to shy away from a plot twist or three, but this story takes twists and turns which might make you feel as if you’re on a roller coaster holding your breath and then letting it out with a scream as your stomach drops out from under you.

Jackson’s earlier novels tend to have fierce and flawed female characters with dynamic family relationships. Her women are not just weak little ladies reacting to things happening –to- them, but they create their own action. Both Roux and Amy fit into the fierce and flawed character motif as individuals who have grabbed control of their own futures, even though the choices of one or both are shocking and morally questionable.

This bold new novel departs from Jackson’s slightly gentler Southern family sagas, possibly attracting a different readership who might prefer their stories with more thrills and suspense. I have to admit that I will read anything Jackson writes because I enjoy her literary voice. She seems to pull her stories out from deep within her soul and I get the feeling the characters have been bouncing around in her head for a decade or so before they manage to emerge on the page. I have heard Jackson speak at the Decatur Book Festival in Georgia and she said that her books are always about redemption. People live their lives, inevitably take wrong turns, then try to get back on the best path for them.  Although this is a messy process, it is the very essence of life and relationships. Jackson writes vivid, relatable characters, and that is why I enjoy her books so much.