Thursday Book Feature: The Enchanted April

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.The Enchanted April

by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Copyright 1922

 

Four English ladies retreat from their miserable lives in London to a medieval castle in Italy that they have rented for the month of April. Lottie and Rose are escaping their husbands. Lady Caroline is trying to get away from men in general, and Mrs. Fisher, a grieving widow, wants only to rest and think and not be disturbed. As the weeks progress, attitudes change, and things get interesting when the husbands and landlord show up.

This is a good story, but Elizabeth Von Arnim, like many authors of the time, includes way too much narrative, which slows it down. Because I was curious after seeing a theatrical production of this book, and my regional talking book library’s group decided to discuss it, I slogged through and found the ending, like that of the play, satisfactory. This might be a good book to read during the month of April in a sunny garden, perhaps in Italy. The excessive narrative plus the sun’s warmth may cause you to slip into a peaceful afternoon slumber.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: No Barriers

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon

by Erik Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy

Copyright 2017

This memoir’s title may be a bit misleading. Erik Weihenmayer doesn’t just talk about his big Grand Canyon adventure but also covers other topics. The book starts with a forward by an American journalist, injured while on assignment overseas, who was inspired by Erik’s work. Erik then touches on his Mount Everest adventure, the subject of a previous book, and how he met his wife and married her on Mount Kilimanjaro. After that, he describes how he led various mountain climbing and river rafting adventures with children and adults who have disabilities. He explains how he formed No Barriers, an organization that empowers people with disabilities through hiking and other activities.

Erik also talks about family struggles: his brother’s battle with alcoholism and subsequent death, the arduous but successful process Erik and his wife went through to adopt a little boy from Nepal, and the child’s struggle to adapt to their way of life, then finding out later his mother was still alive. All this is interspersed with stories of his adventures and finally, how he succeeded in kayaking the Grand Canyon, with its multitude of dangerous rapids. In his epilog, he tells us what became of various children and adults with disabilities whom he helped through his involvement with No Barriers. The recorded version, which I downloaded from the National Library Service’s braille and audio site, and which was produced by McMillon Audio, contains an interview with Erik.

I’m not the adventurous sort, but I always enjoy re-living others’ experiences from the comfort of my recliner, and Erik’s story didn’t disappoint. Members of my regional talking book library’s group chose this book to discuss because they wanted to escape winter and cold weather, but I found myself wrapping my blanket more tightly around me, as I read of Erik and his crew climbing mountains in sub-zero temperatures, so I don’t think this was quite the escape for which they’d hoped. Oh well, sometimes, you don’t really know until you read the book, which has a clear message meant not just for those with disabilities. You should never let barriers, real or imagined, stop you from making dreams come true.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book feature: A Low Country Christmas

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.A Lowcountry Christmas

by Mary Alice Monroe

Copyright 2016

 

Christmas 2018 is looking bleak for ten-year-old Miller and his family in rural South Carolina. Miller’s father, a shrimp boat captain, has been forced to dock his boat by rising fuel prices and limited income while his mother works two jobs in an attempt to make ends meet. As a result, his parents have no choice but to tell him they can’t afford to buy him the dog he wants for Christmas. To make matters worse, Miller’s brother Taylor, a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, receives a service dog, but a miraculous surprise is in store. Each chapter alternates the storytelling from the first person point of view of Miller, Taylor, and their mother Jenny and is preceded by a quotation from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. Recipes are found at the end of the book.

I would like to have known more about what happened to these characters after that miraculous Christmas in 2010. The prologue and epilogue take place in 2015, and we learn that Taylor still has the service dog and is married with a baby, but how did he get to that point? We also realize that Taylor did not reconcile with his high school sweetheart, with whom he broke up after returning from Afghanistan, but how and where did he meet his current wife, and what sort of work did he find once he’d overcome, to a certain extent, his post traumatic stress disorder?

What about Miller’s family’s financial situation? In 2010, after docking the shrimp boat, his father was working whatever construction jobs he could find, but did he end up with more stable work after that? Did his mother continue to substitute teach and clean houses? The prologue would have worked better as part of the epilogue.

I liked the many references to A Christmas Carol. I was moved to tears when Taylor was first presented with his service dog and fascinated by the training process, not unlike that of preparing a guide dog for someone with blindness or low vision. This is a great holiday read. I know it’s a little late now, but maybe you can put it on your reading list for next year.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Thursday Book Feature: In Pieces

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.In Pieces

by Sally Field

Copyright 2018.

 

In Pieces is a touching and sometimes funny autobiography of this well-known actress. Sally Field starts by talking about her life growing up in California. Her mother was an actress who never became popular, and her father served during World War II. After her father returned, her parents divorced, and her mother eventually married a Hollywood stunt man who abused Sally and her older brother. She explains how she became involved in theater as a teen-ager and how she got her first job soon after graduating from high school.

While detailing her career as an actress in television and movies, she describes having an abortion after an affair with a boy she doesn’t remember, marrying a boy she met in high school, giving birth to two sons, divorcing her first husband, then marrying another man ten years later, giving birth to another son, then divorcing her second husband. She also discusses her relationship with Burt Reynolds in the 1970’s while they were starring together. At the end, she talks about how she and her mother came to terms with her abuse at the hands of her stepfather before her mother died. This book includes some of her journal entries, and the Audible version, which I purchased, includes a pdf document with photos.

I always enjoy reading about celebrities’ lives, especially those with whom I’m familiar. Sally Field’s story didn’t disappoint me. I loved the way she narrated it, and at times, I thought it should be made into a movie with Sally Field starring as herself. Maybe it will someday.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Thursday Book Feature: Fishing for Maui

Image contains: me, smiling.Fishing for Maui

by Isa Pearl Ritchie

Copyright 2018.

 

This novel about food, family, and mental illness is set in a Maui village off the coast of New Zealand. Main characters include Valerie, a doctor and mother of four children; Elena, her oldest daughter who is pregnant and writes a food blog; Michael, her oldest son, a university student obsessed with surfing and his heritage; her younger son John, sixteen, and her daughter Rosa, eight. Over the course of a year, Elena discovers her partner is having an affair; Michael is diagnosed with psychosis; John leaves school, and Rosa is struggling to make sense of everything. The book includes recipes.

I like the way the author takes us into the minds of each character by alternating the storytelling from each character’s point of view. I found the snippets of information about Maui culture interesting. A review I recently read said this book should be read in November, but I think it could be read any time of year. Since it takes place in a coastal village, it could even be a summer beach read.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

***

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: Ready, Set, Poetry

Image contains: me, smiling.Ready, Set, Poetry

By D. P. Lyons

Copyright 2013

 

Deon Lyons is a poet living in Maine who is totally blind. The poems in this collection are divided into four sections: blindness, nature, memories, and holidays. The author writes about losing his vision in 2010, spending time with his grandchildren, and other topics. Each section begins with narrative describing the poems in that particular section. At the end of the book, there’s another narrative passage in which the author talks about his writing and his hopes for the future.

I met Deon several years ago through Behind Our Eyes, an organization of disabled writers to which we belong. Having worked with senior citizens for fifteen years, some of whom, like Deon, lost their vision later in life, I marvel at how positive Deon is in his poetry, despite frustration and depression that accompanies loss of independence. I also enjoyed reading about his childhood memories. Ready, Set, Poetry, is Deon’s second book, and I would like to read more by him.

I recently learned, though, that Deon is battling a life-threatening form of cancer. He is currently in a rehabilitation facility, where he is receiving chemo and physical therapy in the hope that he will have at least two good years with his family. You can click here to learn more. If you believe in the power of prayer, I suggest you include him. I hope that despite his illness, Deon and his family have a lot to be thankful for on this day.

Now here’s a rare treat, a sample poem from Deon’s book. This was recorded by fellow blogger Lynda McKinney Lambert, another member of Behind Our Eyes who also knows Deon. Because there’s no easy way to translate a Kindle file into braille, I was unable to record myself reading this or any of Deon’s other poems. When Lynda sent me this recording so I could share it with his family, I thought this would be a fitting ending to my review. I hope you think so too.

 

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

***

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: Campbell’s Rambles

Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life

By Patty L. Fletcher

Copyright 2014.

 

In 2011, Patty Fletcher, a totally blind single mother, acquired Campbell, a black Labrador seeing eye dog, from the facility in Morristown, New Jersey, and brought him home to Kingsport, Tennessee. She first explains how a friend with a guide dog and an incident in a shopping mall inspired her to apply for a dog of her own. She then talks about her boyfriend’s initial reaction, a good foreshadowing of what’s to come. She goes on to describe, in great detail, the trip to New Jersey and the rigorous training process, made more difficult by her fibromyalgia and side effects from her medications. She discusses how one particular trainer influenced her during her training and afterward.

After describing the arduous trip home, she gives the reader a sense of what it’s like to acclimate a new guide dog to new surroundings. She details her disintegrating relationship with her boyfriend, including some instances of abuse, and touches on how that and her bipolar disorder affected her relationships with family and friends. The book has a positive ending.

Once I got into Campbell’s Rambles, I couldn’t put it down. Many anecdotes about her training experiences made me laugh, and I felt her frustration and depression when she messed up. Close to the end of the book, I was virtually on the edge of my seat.

Patty is a remarkable woman. I’ve known her for years, after first meeting her through Behind Our Eyes, an organization of writers with disabilities to which I belong. After acquiring Campbell and her experiences with domestic violence and bipolar disorder and other medical issues, she now runs Tell It to the World Marketing, promoting writers and other entrepreneurs. She has a blog, Campbell’s World, and other social media pages where her clients’ writing can be found. She’s written a second book, Bubba Tails from the Puppy Nursery at The Seeing Eye, and is working on a third.

She’s a survivor. If you take anything at all away from Campbell’s Rambles, it’s this piece of advice her dog trainer at The Seeing Eye repeatedly gave her. “Take a chance. There’s a fifty percent chance you’ll be right.” This applies to all aspects of life, not just the use of a guide dog.

***

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

***

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.