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Showing posts from 2020

Mistakes and Misinterpretation, a Re-evaluation of Jane Austen

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Dear Henry,

I have noticed that it is easy to decide you know someone, just because you have read their works.

For example, I had always considered Jane Austen to have been someone who had lead a secluded and sheltered life.

That view was challenged by a recent article in the Washington Post.

Oddly the article didn't reveal any new secrets about her life. It did cast the facts in a different light.

For example, her father supplemented his income by running a small boarding school for boys in their home.  I knew that, of course, but, it never occurred to me, until the Post pointed it out, that this situation alone would have ensured that Jane Austen was far from the sheltered homebody she has been portrayed.

Another example of her worldliness would have been acquired while living at Bath England.  The resort town of Bath was, during her lifetime, quite a fashionable and popular place to live. There would have been a thriving social scene.

Jane Austen knew what the world offered an…

A Book to Read and Love: Shakespeare Saved My Life - Laura Bates

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A short summary of Shakespeare Saved My Life: Dr. Laura Bates teaches Shakespeare in the SHU.

Questions to ponder while reading Shakespeare Saved My Life: Has the Bard ever spoken to you?
Should prisoners with life sentences be educated?
My thoughts about Shakespeare Saved My Life: An insightful read into the power of Shakespeare.
I wish I could have read Larry Newton's book.
I am inspired to re-read the Shakespeare that I have * (and finish reading his Collected Works)
*The Shakespeare I have read:
Measure For Measure Hamlet All's Well That Ends Well Love's Labour Lost Julius Caesar Macbeth Antony and Cleopatra As You Like It Comedy of Errors

All My Flowers: My Fuschia is so Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.

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Dear Henry,

The other day, while wandering through the garden center at Lowes, I discovered the most ornate and delightsome flowering plants and discovered that they were called fuschia.

I always thought fuschia was the hot pink of the 1980s.

Anyway, I fell in love and immediately wanted one (or two) but the plant was marked as an annual and I am still working on establishing the bones of my garden with perennial plants.  So I didn't buy them that day. I regretted the decision immediately.

I begin to look into the plant and discovered that fuschia isn't an annual plant at all, but rather a tropical shrub and one that can be overwintered.

Fuschia was discovered by the French monk and botanist Charles Plumier on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) around 1696/1697.  Charles Plumier named the plant after Leonhart Fuchs, the German botanist who wrote De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignis (Notable Commentary on the History of Plants), which was a book p…

A Book to Read and Love: The Battle of Hillsboro - Jesse S. Smith

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A short summary of The Battle of Hillsboro: "Hey, what do you want to do tonight?"
"I dunno man, take over the world or something."

Questions to ponder while reading The Battle of Hillsboro: Quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald - What does one do with oneself when one has nothing to do?
Is a bloodless revolution possible?
My thoughts about The Battle of Hillsboro: A fun, fast read.
A collection of vibes from The Outsiders, The Beautiful and the Damned, and Fight Club.
*Indie Author Discovery*

A Book to Read and Love: The Fifth Knight - E.M. Powell

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A short summary of The Fifth Knight: The conspiracy of Thomas Becket's murder and the aftermath with the Abbess.

Questions to ponder while reading The Fifth Knight: How much do you know of Henry II?
Is assassination ever appropriate?
Thoughts about The Fifth Knight: A fun, historical read.
Fast-paced and full of action.
Not *entirely* accurate.


A Book to Read and Love: The Firebrand - Marion Zimmer Bradley

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A short summary of The Firebrand: Troy - from Kassandra's sight.

Questions to ponder while reading The Firebrand: Can a different point of view change the truth?
Do you like snakes?
My thoughts about The Firebrand: A different perspective on a classic tale.
*Moral* Don't take things that aren't yours.
Feminism and goddess worship is a strong theme.


A Book to Read and Love: A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

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A short summary of A Morbid Taste for Bones: Brother Cadfael and the mystery of the murderous saint.

Questions to ponder while reading A Morbid Taste for Bones: How far would you go to possess something holy?
Why are we so suspicious of strangers?
My thoughts about A Morbid Taste for Bones: I think it is a good way to start off a series.
I love this period of history.
I look forward to reading book two.


All My Flowers: Mar 9

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Dear Henry,

I don't know about you, but I have always fantasized about owning a botanical garden. A garden full of nooks and crannies and hidey-holes, a garden similar to what you envisioned the hidden garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett's book "The Secret Garden" must have looked like.

I finally have both the time and land available to make a garden like this, at least on a small scale.

Gardening on the slope, however, has been a challenge that has beaten me so far.

The problem that I keep coming across has been soil erosion.  Even with raised flower beds, we were still getting erosion and wandering flowers.

It turns out, I was missing a few key features in my raised beds.

Originally, I had the flowerbeds running with the contours of the slopes and they weren't completely level. That was where many of my problems came from. 

I have learned that to garden effectively on a slope there must be terracing running horizontally, and that the plant beds still need to be …

A Book to Read and Love: The Book of Ruth - Jane Hamilton

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A short summary of The Book of Ruth: Recovery, after living a life.

Questions to ponder while reading The Book of Ruth: How was your childhood?
Have you learned you can change?
My thoughts about The Book of Ruth: A dark book about growing up trash.
Education is the key to everything.
This is one of those books that I have never gotten out of my head.

A Book to Read and Love: Winter Loon - Susan Bernhard

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A short summary of Winter Loon: An orphan's coming of age.

Questions to ponder while reading Winter Loon: What makes a parent?
Does your family have secrets?
My thoughts about Winter Loon: Dark and sad.
A good tale for deep discussions.
It makes you wonder about all the different types of people in the world.

Finding Flannery

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Dear Henry,

Recently, I received the opportunity to try something again. It is an experience I highly recommend.

Years ago - late high school perhaps - I tried to read Flannery O'Connor and didn't like her stories.

But a lot has happened in my life since high school and because I am such a different person, I have made it a point to return to and re-read the "hated" list from my high school years.  (And I really don't think a high school setting is conducive to reading Les Miserables or Atlas Shrugged, they take too long to digest)

While I don't remember why I didn't like her, I do remember why I didn't want to revisit her.  In the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Flannery O'Connor was held up as a "sophisticated" read.

I don't want to be sophisticated, particularly if it is the snooty type of literary sophistication that irritates everyone.

Recently though Flannery O'Connor came up again and it was her struggle with Lupus that got …

A Book to Read and Love: The Giver - Lois Lowry

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A short summary of The Giver: The cost of carrying the weights of others.

Questions to ponder while reading The Giver: Do we need to care?
Do we need to share?
My thoughts about The Giver: Thought-provoking dystopia.
A very fast read.
Can you be perfect without your pain?

A Book to Read and Love: Winter Cottage - Mary Ellen Taylor

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A short summary of Winter Cottage: Inheriting a mother's secrets.

Questions to ponder while reading Winter Cottage: Does your family have secrets?
Do you know any bullies?
My thoughts about Winter Cottage: A back and forth historical tapestry.
Relaxing and restful read.
A perfect book to read in front of a fire.

All My Flowers: Mar 2

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Dear Henry,

In the summer of 2016, Fish and I purchased a beautiful home, with beautiful landscaping in a hidden corner of Northwest Arkansas.

We soon came to realize that the beautiful landscaping had been put in place to sell the home and was not at all suited for the slope of our lot.

Fish and I spent 2017 and the early part 2018 trying to "fix" this, giving up finally and pulled everything out.

We had just finished the roughing in the layout, laying the rock, and we had a few producing raised flower beds when a windstorm came through, knocked down several of our trees, and rearranged much of our landscaping.

I suppose I should be more upset about the changes, but really, isn't gardening all about the continual process?  The constant stream of tasks, is, largely the point.  It is a way to stay connected with the world on which we live. 

Plus it's fun.

I'm excited to keep you posted on the new garden's evolution.

xoxo a.d.

A Book to Read and Love: Everything That Rises Must Converge - Flannery O'Connor

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A short summary of Everything That Rises Must Converge: Bigotry, a bus ride, and the end of the line.

Questions to ponder while reading Everything That Rises Must Converge: What makes a bigot?
Do you know who you are?
My thoughts about Everything That Rises Must Converge: A very dark tale.
A very funny hat.
A very good example of how not to behave.


A Book to Read and Love: North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

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A short summary of North and South: Margaret's industrial experience with the lack of social justice.

Questions to ponder while reading North and South: It is wealth or manners that define status?
How do you decide what a person is worth?
My thoughts about North and South: An under-recognized woman author.
A bleaker look at "classical" England.
It did get a little too "all adoring".

A Book to Read and Love: The Second Greatest Story Every Told - Fr. Michael Gaitley MIC

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A short summary of The Second Greatest Story Ever Told: A tale of God's Mercy.

Questions to ponder while reading The Second Greatest Story Ever Told: Can a spiritual practice change the world?
Do you know your history?
My thoughts about The Second Greatest Story Ever Told: Information about the influences of Catholicism's more modern saints.
An interesting read on Divine Mercy.
Historical perspectives explained.

A Book to Read and Love: Life After Life - Raymond A. Moody Jr. M.D.

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A short summary of Life After Life: What happens when you come back after dying.

Questions to ponder while reading Life After Life: What do you think?
What do you hope?
My thoughts about Life After Life: An unbiased look at life after death.
Many experiences were sampled.
Will anyone ever really know?


A Book to Read and Love: Earth - David Brin

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A short summary of Earth: What's inside your world?

Questions to ponder while reading Earth: Can science fiction become science fact?
How do you feel about the environment?
My thoughts about Earth: A good, thrilling story.
This vision of the future scares me.
It's a bit of a long one, pace yourself.

A Book to Read and Love: The Storyteller's Secret - Sejal Bedani

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A short summary of The Storyteller's Secret The tale of a grandmother's tragedy.

Questions to ponder while reading The Storyteller's Secret: How have traditions dictated your life?
Have you ever felt cursed?
My thoughts about The Storyteller's Secret: Family tales are the best tales.
Not all stories are happy ones.
I was happy though, in the end.


A Book to Read and Love: The Rescue - Steven Konkoly

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A short summary of The Rescue: Fact-finding after mission failure.

Questions to ponder while reading The Rescue: Have you ever misplaced your trust?
Can you misread a situation?
My thoughts about The Rescue: Fun and thrilling.
Fanciful and fast-paced.
Full of unbelievable action.

A Book to Read and Love: Daughters of the Lake - Wendy Webb

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A short summary of Daughters of the Lake: Dreaming about the past and other disasters.

Questions to ponder while reading Daughters of the Lake: Does your family have secrets?
Do you dream?
My thoughts about Daughters of the Lake: All families have their mysteries.
Ghost stories are fun stories.
An interesting twist at the end.




A Book to Read and Love: The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell - Robert Dugoni

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A short summary of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A life spent seeing red.

Questions to ponder while reading The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: What makes you different?
Is your mother your champion?
My thoughts about The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell: A great story about a great journey through a life.
We are defined by our ability to overcome our trials.
Faith can help one with anything.




A Book to Read and Love: The Book of Tea - Kakuzo Okakura

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A short summary of The Book of Tea: Teaism (Taoism) explained.

Questions to ponder while reading The Book of Tea: Do you behave virtuously or properly?
Do you stand upon ceremony?
My thoughts about The Book of Tea: Calling all Japanophiles.
A good philosophical evaluation.
I fancy a cup of tea.

A Book to Read and Love: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

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A short summary of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Love triangles and other superstitions.

Questions to ponder while reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: How do you woo a girl?
What do you think of Ichabod?
My thoughts about reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: A Halloween classic.
Way better than the Disney version.
Should we always root for the underdog?


A Book to Read and Love: The Hangman's Daughter - Oliver Pötzch

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A short summary of The Hangman's Daughter: Magdalena and the mystery of the witch.

Questions to ponder while reading The Hangman's Daughter: How much does superstition guide your judgment?
Can someone be pure evil?

My thoughts about The Hangman's Daughter: An engrossing mystery.
Well researched history.
Lots and lots of details.

A Book to Read and Love: The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid

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A short summary of The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Pakistani's change of heart.

Questions to ponder while reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Have you ever been disenchanted?
Where do you feel at home?
My thoughts about The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A look at the struggle between two cultures.
Empathy is the key to understanding.
Can we ever bridge this gap?

A Book to Read and Love: Elizabeth Street - Laurie Fabiano

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A short summary of Elizabeth Street: Giovanna and the Black Hand.

Questions to ponder while reading Elizabeth Street: Has the immigrant's story ever been easy?
What would you do for your child?
My thoughts about Elizabeth Street: Based on a true story!
New York can be an unkind place.
A great tale to get involved in.

A Book to Read and Love: Three Daughters - Consuelo Saah Baehr

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A short summary of Three Daughters: Living in Palestine, a matrilineal story.

Questions to ponder while reading Three Daughters: Do you feel connected to your heritage?
Are you bound by traditions?
My thoughts about Three Daughters: A long saga.
A lot of history.
A bit over-the-top with sexual details.

A Book to Read and Love: Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trial - Ben Montgomery

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A short summary of Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The story of the first woman to walk the Appalachian Trail.

Questions to ponder while reading Grandma Gatewood's Walk: Have you ever wanted to do something crazy?
How far can you walk?
My thoughts about Grandma Gatewood's Walk: I am completely inspired.
I too love the woods.
I admire that she did this simply because she wanted to.


A Book to Read and Love: The Bloodletter's Daughter - Linda Lafferty

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A short summary of The Bloodletter's Daughter: The curing of Don Julius

Questions to ponder while reading The Bloodletter's Daughter: Have you ever believed in the wrong person?
What are the duties of a mother?
My thoughts about The Bloodletter's Daughter: An easy story to engage in.
Historical fiction at its most fun.
I, too, am intrigued by the Voynich Manuscript.

A Book to Read and Love:Twisted - Andrew E. Kaufman

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A short summary of Twisted: Who here is crazy enough to kill someone?

Questions to ponder while reading Twisted: Do the insane know they are insane?
How was your childhood?
My thoughts about Twisted: Engaging Imagery
Scary Concepts
My head is now a little "twisted"