Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate

My friend Patty gave me this book.  She had just finished reading it and thought I might like it.  I read very little contemporary fiction except for mysteries, but the story sounded interesting.

This is a novel based on the true, horrifying story of Georgia Tann.  Tann was a well-respected owner of an adoption agency in Tennessee.  What people didn't know was that Tann and her cohort stole poor children, sometimes right off the street, and sold / adopted them out to rich people and celebrities.  Stars like Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, and June Allyson adopted children from her.  Eleanor Roosevelt consulted her about best adoption practices.  They didn't know what a monster she was.

In Before We Were Yours, Avery Stafford, daughter of a politician, is being groomed to take his place after he retires.  They're an old southern family, concerned both socially and politically about any unseemly issues both now and in the past.  Avery meets an old woman in a nursing home who steals the dragonfly bracelet her grandmother gave her.  Avery's mystified by a photograph in the woman's room showing a woman who looks like her grandmother.  Her grandmother is getting dementia and forgetting people and things, so Avery can't get much information from her.  But she finds out that her grandmother has secrets.

The story skips back and forth between current times and Avery and the past and Rill Foss, the daughter of a family of river rats.  When the mother of the river family, Queenie, has trouble in childbirth, her husband, Briny, takes her to a hospital rather than allow her and the twins she's about to have die.  While they're gone, the police, under a directive from Tann, kidnap the five children and take them to Tann's orphanage.  All the children except one are blond and curly-haired, the kind most desired by adopters.  The children are split up and one disappears, perhaps dying at the orphanage.  The children are abused, some sexually, and are kept as virtual prisoners, given almost nothing to eat.

Because of the truth of the story, I could hardly put it down.  My husband grew up at a school for boys who had lost one or more parent and whose parents couldn't afford to take care of them.  Some of the things he's told me about his ten years there, although not as bad as things that happened at Tann's place, had already given me some insight into group homes for children.

Tann renamed the children and falsified birth certificates and other documents, making it almost impossible for parents to find their stolen children, but a few finally did.

In one of those amazing coincidences, Peggy at Peggy's Porch just posted about a woman in England who had been left tied up on a hillside as a baby.  She was rescued and finally, through DNA, found who her parents were.  Maybe this goes on today, too, but it seems that it was rampant in the 1930s and 40s.  I know that things were tough after the depression.  In my own family,  my grandparents had six children.  My grandfather was a proud man and refused any government welfare, but he apparently would accept help of sorts from family.  My aunt was raised by my childless great aunt and uncle, and, later, my cousin was raised by my aunt.  At least we kept it all in the family.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

New Library in Progress

I know I'm lucky that I've been able to have a room in several of the houses we've lived in that can be used strictly for a library.  I've always had bookcases or built-ins even if they weren't in a separate room.  Like many of you, books tend to migrate all around the house and end up in every room.

The bookshelves in my new library have been installed and the paint has cured, so I'm unpacking my boxes of books.  When I packed them, I numbered the boxes as I took the books off the shelves.  My fiction is in alphabetical order, my history starts with archeology and proceeds through more modern times.  Then there are the miscellaneous books:  poetry, Bibles, religion, and myth, art books.

Here's a photo of where I ended today, with the 'L's.  The books by themselves on the right are what I have to do to make sure the books are in order.  When packing, not all books would fit in the proper box.  So I have to unpack Fiction #6 and Fiction #7 at the same time to make sure I have all the books that belong, if you follow me.  And sometimes I get tired and start shelving out of order.  But I love touching my books, remembering where I bought them or who gave them to me.  I want to stop and dip into all of them, but then I'd never get them in their new home.

I haven't figured out yet if all the books will fit on the shelves.  I'm feeling optimistic, but I haven't done the math yet.  What's on the shelves are the first 10 boxes of a total of 51.  But look, I have all these shelves to fill!

I'll keep you posted on my progress.  I just can't wait until all my books are where I can see them and read them.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Something Light by Margery Sharp

I'm trying to get back into my reading groove, alternating between mysteries and novels.  I make a distinction between the two.  My bookshelves are finished, but I'm letting the paint cure until this weekend or next week.  Then I can put away my books.

I moved all the boxes out of the closet in the library and, today, I arranged my collection of classical LPs, blues, jazz, and musicals in the armoire where my little all-in-one (record player, tape player, CD player, and radio) lives now.  And my boxed set of Walt Disney's Treasury of Dog Stories:  The Incredible Journey, Savage Sam, Big Red, Old Yeller, Greyfriars Bobby, and Nikki, which I don't remember ever seeing (Half-dog, half-wolf...his courage and cunning made him a legend in a vast untamed land).  Six liquor boxes emptied and on their way to being recycled.

When Something Light came up on a bargain e-book site, I bought it.  The author's name rang a bell and then I realized she had written The Rescuers, a childhood favorite.  I read Something Light in two days.  It was just the break I needed.

Louisa Datchett is Datchett Photographer of Dogs, a professional, independent woman in the 1950s  -  who photographs dogs.  She suddenly decides that she should marry.  Unfortunately, Louisa doesn't know how to go about it.  She likes men and they like her.  But that usually means that she takes care of them and that they expect her to take care of them.  They don't want to marry her.

She decides to marry a wealthy man.  A very wealthy older man she met abroad sends her a letter asking her to meet him.  She thinks he's planning to ask her to marry him and she's ready to accept.  But he wants her to be a buffer between him and the woman he's pined for for years and who's now available, a widow.  Disappointed but up for a week of good food, she accepts.  She and the man  become great friends but she has to leave.

Then she decides to marry a steady man, someone responsible.  She looks up a former boyfriend but realizes that he doesn't want to get married, even though he likes her and they share fond memories.  What she finds is that many men like the idea of marriage, the idea of romance, but they don't want the reality of it.

Finally, she thinks she wants a family.  Through a babysitting job, she meets a widower with three teenage children.  She ends up liking the children and not liking the man at all.

She gives up on marriage and decides to devote herself to her photography.  Until a man she dislikes, and who dislikes her, complicates things.

This book was just what the title promised:  Something Light.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Spending Time in France

No, I haven't been out of the country, not using my passport anyway.  I've accidentally spent three books worth of time in France.  I didn't plan to read three books that take place in France, but that's what happened.

  A friend recommended the mystery The Bookseller by Mark Pryor.  I'm not sure I realized that it was set in Paris.  Even odder, one of its characters shares a name with a character in Chasing Cezanne, another of the books set in France.  Coincidences are so, well, coincidental.  I liked The Bookseller, but I don't feel compelled to read the next in the series right away.  Booksellers who sell used books from  kiosks along the Seine begin to disappear and reappear dead.  One is Hugo Marston's friend.  Marston is head of security for the American embassy in Paris.  He saw his friend Max abducted at gunpoint and is determined to find out what happened to Max and why.  He has help from a beautiful (and rich) journalist and an old friend who is ex-CIA.

I didn't read Le Road Trip next.  I just can't figure out how to move the picture around on my blog.  I read When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift several years ago.  I was enchanted by Swift's watercolors and her direct and descriptive writing.  Le Road Trip is the story of the trip her late-in-life-new-husband and she took in France.  She'd been all over the world before she met James and he had, too.  Seasoned travellers, but new to each other.  Her watercolors are just as enchanting.  Their adventures and her thoughts about travel and love make the book fun to dip in and out of.

I had read two of Peter Mayle's books, A Dog's Life and Toujours Provence.  Chasing Cezanne is one of his novels, which takes place mostly in France.  A photographer happens to see a Cezanne being removed from a house in a plumber's van.  That didn't seem right.  When he contacted the owner, the owner didn't seem to be very concerned.  That was odd, too.  The photographer, his girlfriend, and an art dealer discover a plot to sell forged art, but they don't uncover the entire plot.  This one took me a while to finish.  I was interested, but it wasn't gripping.

If you've made it this far, you should know that I'm writing this while the carpenters are running a sander, finishing the installation of the bookshelves in my new library.  My books have been living in boxes in the sun room and I can't wait to shelve them (ever the little librarian!).  But after the shelves are painted, they have to cure.  I've been too eager in the past and had books stick slightly to painted shelves that felt dry to me.

The carpenter's helper is my old high school friend, Bruce.  His friend Ryck is the carpenter and he / they are doing a terrific job.  Jack's pleased and if you can please Jack ....

And Smokestack Masonry just left after lining our fireplace chimney and installing a gorgeous copper chimney cap.  If you live in the Lancaster area, we can highly recommend Smokestack.  Brian and Courtney are prompt, professional, and careful to leave your house they way they found it, except for a safer chimney.

It's amazing that I could string four words together with all the activity and noise, at least I hope I've written something that makes some sort of sense!

C'est vrai!  Mais non!  Parapluie!  

Friday, March 2, 2018

February Books Read

I believe I've set a new low for myself:  I only finished four, count 'em, FOUR books in February!  I''m still trying to get settled in our new house, unpacking boxes (where did all these boxes come from?!), and trying to find the best places for things.

We solved one problem, very nicely, I think.  The decor of our house is sort of Art Deco.  The living room has a large slightly bay window with rectangular panes of glass.  I treasure the openness of the house, the views of the trees and the landscapes, so I didn't want to hang curtains or put up blinds.  I decided Japanese screens would be the thing and my husband found the perfect ones on-line.  They sit on the window sill and cover only the lower part of the windows.  We can see out over them if we're standing, but they give us some privacy if we're sitting on the sofa.  I love the way they look and am pleased with my brainstorm and his ability to find just about anything on the Internet.  I don't have that patience.

The books I finished are:

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

Past Tense by William G. Tapply

My favorite of the four is the last one.  It takes place on Cape Cod and in Massachusetts, places I know well.  It was also a tense (was the title a play on words?) murder mystery.  It's part of the Brady Coyne series by the late author.  I've read a few of them but now think I'd like to catch up.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is the kind of book that makes you rethink a quiet vacation in the woods.  Do you really want to be that far away from other people?  Especially when creepy, murderous things are happening?

I read Death of an Airman because Katrina had read it and enjoyed it.  It's one of the British Library Crime Classics.  I love reading about or watching movies about the birth of flying, the old planes, the dinky airfields, the excitement of solo flight.  This one had all that  -  plus murders!

Gone Tomorrow was a disappointment.  Jack Reacher didn't seem to be as compelling as he often is.    He's riding the NY subway late at night and sees a woman who fits almost all the criteria for a suicide bomber.  She's not, but mayhem follows.  The book only got exciting at the very end.

My library has one unit of shelves up and the man making the shelves e-mailed that he has three more units ready for installation on Monday.  This means that our weekend will be spent painting the walls in the room, getting them ready for the shelving.  It's a very bright room, not too much direct sunlight, I hope, so I've chosen a very, very dark green (Valspar Blackened Pine) to tone things down a bit.  When we're finished, I'll post a photo.

I'm off to the library this morning to use my new library card for the first time.  I've requested Le Road Trip by Vivian Swift and The Bookseller by Mark Pryor and both are waiting for me.  I hope you all have a lovely reading weekend.