Thursday, August 28, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Reads: Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin

Hello All!

Friday's Forgotten Reads was started by Patti Abbott:
"This is the first of what I optimistically hope will become Friday recommendations of books we love but might have forgotten over the years. I have asked several people to help me by also remembering a favorite book. Their blog sites are listed below. I also asked each of them to tag someone to recommend a book for next Friday. I'm worried great books of the recent past are sliding out of print and out of our consciousness. Not the first-tier classics we all can name, but the books that come next."
Her blog, with some of her Forgotten Reads and links to many, many others, is .

Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin

My contribution to Friday’s Forgotten Reads is the above title. I read this for the first time sometime in the mid-1980s, and I think of it as one of the most wonderful love stories I’ve ever read. I read this book probably once a year, because the book and its characters bring me joy.

Happy All the Time is the story of cousins Guido and Vincent, and the women who become their wives, Holly and Misty, respectively. These two couples fall in love differently, define it differently, yet the couples compliment each other, and the friendships are truly cemented by the end of the book. I identify most with Guido, for the depth of love he feels for his sometimes mysterious wife, and with Misty, for her high defenses that keep love far away until she lets Vincent in. Laurie Colwin’s writing, especially in this novel, is humorous, with most of the supportive characters having idiosyncrasies that the reader finds funny and sweet. The friends and families of these two lovely and loving couples are perfect foils, and make Guido and Holly, Misty and Vincent more human.

The love stories I’ve found in Happy All the Time I have found rarely in other fictional couples—I’ll have to think on that, and get back to you.

I hope others will find the joy I’ve found in this book, and tell me about it.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gone West

Hello All!

I've lived in Arizona for a year, and recently I've read two wonderful books that have piqued my interest about the history of Arizona, especially from a woman's perspective.

Last spring, I read These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901, Arizona Territories by Nancy E. Turner. It was chosen to be the adult title for One Book/One Arizona. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it's on my "favorite reads" list for 2008, and I learned a lot about the growth of Tucson and Arizona during the late 1800s. I also learned how difficult it was to be a woman during those very rough times on what was still the frontier. Sarah survived a lot, learned a lot, and grew as a person during the book--not all fictional characters do.

The second book I just finished, Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles by Anne Bruner Eales. It reminded me of These Is My Words, especially when the wives the book mentioned were posted in Arizona. These women went west expecting to live lives similar to what they lead in the East, and those expectations were shattered by Indian attacks, severe weather, wild animals, and lack of decent housing and food. While there were strong-willed Army wives, and some who had interesting adventures, I feel that these women's lives were much more limited in their experiences, as they lived in more dangerous places (usually where there was a constant threat of Indian attack), could only purchase supplies on post, Army pay was very low, and basically lived in a closed society. Despite these restrictions, the Army wives persevered, and felt restricted when they returned East, for a new posting or to visit family.

In contrast, for me, Sarah, in These Is My Words, could move about more freely, despite the threat of Indians, could farm or ranch, purchase goods from a small selection of merchants in Tucson, and do other things to enhance her finances, such as make soap.

I really felt these two books complimented each other, and I look forward to reading more about the development and history of Arizona. There are two more titles about Sarah Prine by Nancy E. Turner, and I own a title, bought at the Grand Canyon, called Grand Canyon Women: Lives Shaped By Landscape by Betty Leavengood (2nd edition). I look forward to reading those books, and seeing what else I can learn.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Answers to the Cool Questions from Shelf Awareness

Hi again!

You didn't think I'd let myself off the hook for these questions, did you? I love this kind of stuff, which is why I'm asking for your responses too. Here you go*:

On your nightstand now: Nancy Martin's A Crazy Little Thing Called Death and Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles by Anne Bruner Eales (a loan from one of Ken's coworkers). Waiting in the wings is Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais.

Book you've "faked" reading: The Scarlet Letter in high school.

Book you've bought for the cover: I just can't spend my money that way.

Favorite book when you were a child: Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle

Book that changed your life:

Favorite line from a book: From a Robert B. Parker (not sure which title), Hawk says to Spencer as they discuss the bad guys, "So many assholes, so little time." [Sorry for the swearing :)]

Top five favorite authors: Margaret Maron, S. J. Rozan, Laurie Colwin, Louise Penny

Books you recommend as regeneration when people say, "I'm bored by almost all contemporary American writers.": Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Tell No One by Harlan Coben, and Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Book you can't believe that everyone has not read and loved: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and Still Life by Louise Penny

Book you are an "evangelist" for: Plainsong by Kent Haruf, Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta; authors S. J. Rozan and Louise Penny

Book you most want to read again for the first time: Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin

*subject to additions upon reminders and remembrances :).

Happy Reading!

Cool Questions from Shelf Awareness

Hi All!

Shelf Awareness is one of my favorite online newsletter subscriptions--it gives a lot of different information about the book trade, bookstores, and authors. At least twice a month, they ask different authors the following questions (with occasional variations), which I think are terrific questions to think about and discuss. Please feel free to answer in the comments area, or to email the answers to me. Both personally and professionally, I love to know what people are reading, have read, and what books and authors they're passionate about. Thanks for playing :), and thanks to Shelf Awareness.

On your nightstand now:

Book you've "faked" reading:

Book you've bought for the cover:

Favorite book when you were a child:

Book that changed your life:

Favorite line from a book:

Top five favorite authors:

Books you recommend as regeneration when people say, "I'm bored by almost all contemporary American writers.":

Book you can't believe that everyone has not read and loved:

Book you are an "evangelist" for:

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Birthday Happily Spent :)

Hi All!

This is the way many readers will understand as a very good way to spend time on your birthday :). Today, my husband and I started the day by opening the birthday cards sent to me by family and friends, then got ready to go out. We brunched on bagels at Einstein Bagels, then on to two of the highlights of the day.

The first was a visit to Bookman's, a used book and other media store. It's very large, and the sections are clearly marked and alphabetized well. As I do on every trip to a used bookstore, I check out things that are on my list--these are either out-of-print, or things I haven't purchased yet. Looking at the pile I will list in a moment, I actually only got one book that's on my list. Somehow...again all readers will understand...I still managed to purchase 4 books.

After Bookman's, we went on to Changing Hands. Changing Hands is a new and used bookstore, named independent bookstore of the year by Publisher's Weekly in 2006. They have frequent author signings and other interesting activities for customers of all ages, and I was there last Monday for a signing by science fiction author Karen Traviss. As I had just been there the other day, I didn't spend as much time browsing, yet again, ended up with 2 more books. Ah yes, bookstores are exactly where one should spend a birthday.

What I bought:
All About Evie by Beth Ciotta (previously reviewed, now owned; romance)
The Shortest Day by Jane Langton (a hopefully not already owned* title in the Homer and Mary Kelly mystery series)
Dewey Decimated by Charles Goodrum (1st in a mystery series)
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn (2nd in a mystery series)
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (fiction)
Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O'Connor and H. Alan Day (biography)

The rest of today I hope to spend reading, responding to birthday emails, and watching either a "Midsomer Murder" episode or "Desk Set", one of my favorite movies with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (for those of you who don't know, Hepburn plays a librarian in this movie!). And my handsome husband is cooking me a lovely chicken dinner.

May all your birthdays be as happily spent!
Happy Reading!
*When Ken and I moved to Arizona, a year ago now, we took a very small place, as we didn't know where we'd be working. As of right now, most of the books I own are in storage. I try not to buy things that are part of series that I'm looking for, as I don't know what I already own :). Notice how, in general, this has not stopped the acquiring of books by either Ken or myself, though I am the much guiltier party.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Checking Out Award Winners

Hello All!

There are all sorts of book awards out there, and if you only read award winners, you quite possibly wouldn't read anything else. I do try to sample here and there, in other fiction genres than my usual mystery one, and I've found wonderful books that way, and also terrible books (like Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, which won the Booker Prize--I personally did not get why it won an award but it did make for a terrific book discussion!).

On to some good stuff, according to me :) :

A recent wonderful find was 2006 Spur Award Winner (from the Western Writers of America) was Willard Wyman's High Country. This title won two awards that year, Novel of the West, and Best First Novel; I think that's why I chose to read it. The writing in this book is cinematic--you are there in the Montana mountains of the 1930s, as a boy becomes a man as he learns how to run mule trains into the wilderness. Mistakes are made, WWII comes and goes, and one's mentor passes on, but the story of the West, despite changes, remains a big story and a vast place. Highly recommended

Another find was Beth Ciotta's All About Evie, which won the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Contemporary Romance. I chose this title as I had read another book by her, and because I thought it was a standalone. Several bonuses were found in this book for me--it's screwball romance, which is my favorite kind, the main character is over 40, and it's not a standalone! The second title just came out in February, and is called Everybody Loves Evie. I had a lot of fun reading this, and I also definitely recommend All About Evie--I'll read the second one soon.

Happy Reading!