Aug 26, 2023

The Heron Catchers, and Yesteryear, a Memoir : Sunday Salon

 Books reviewed

The Heron Catchers by David Joiner
Publication: November 21, 2023; Stone Bridge Press; NetGalley
Genre: literary fiction, Japan travel

I like that this story of love and loss is woven together in the mountain and lake area where herons congregate and live, and where the land still remembers the poet Basho, who visited the area during his wanderings, while composing his now famous haiku. The novel is set in Kanazawa and Yamanaka Onsen near the Sea of Japan

Sedge is an American whose wife ran off with another man. He meets the man's wife Mariko who is also bereft after her husband's disappearance. Sedge and Mariko are left behind, but create a new union and alliance of their own, while dealing with the troubled 16 year old son that Mariko's husband left behind.

The beauty of the surroundings and rescue of an injured heron seemed to bond Sedge and the son, who is both jealous and troubled.

I enjoyed the love story, as I see it, and the setting of the novel, and learned more about herons, their size, their strength, their beauty. And I thought the cover art of the book is exquisite.

Author bio: David Joiner was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended Earlham College and majored in Japanese Studies. He earned his MFA from the University of Arizona. David has also lived in Japan five different times, and has called Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, Fukui, and Kanazawa home. He currently serves as the head of the Kanazawa chapter of Writers in Kyoto.

You can watch the author discussing his novels, The Heron Catchers, and Kanazawa, and what it's like to be a writer in Japan: New blurbs for the book: here 

Published May 11, 2023; paperback and ebook

My comments:
Kathleen Burt's memoir is a narrative that begins with her childhood growing up in Ottawa, Illinois where she learned from others "how to view the world." She discovered her love of reading during her years in Ottawa, and her love for French literature and classical mythology developed in high school. The myths were an important background for her later interest in astrology.

She grew up Catholic, and later attended Rosary College just outside of Chicago, majoring in European history and French. Her love of French grew with her time studying in Fribourg, Switzerland, a study abroad program offered by the French department at Rosary College.

Kathleen did her M.A. degree in European history at the University of Chicago, and afterwards did post grad work on South Asia and the Tamil language through a government grant, spending a year in India.

India changed her life in many ways. There she was introduced to Hatha Yoga, meditation, and she developed her love for astrology, which was to occupy much of the rest of her life. She later took astrology classes and hatha yoga teacher training, taught Indian history at Roosevelt University in Chicago and astrology at Mira Costa College in California, plus a course in Indian civilization.

Kathleen married her husband Michael in 1977. He was a meditation leader in soul awareness and self realization, apart from his work in computers, and their outside interests coincided neatly. She returned to India with Michael at one point, and both left there feeling "inspired, peaceful and soul-rested."

The memoir also includes the lives of Kathleen's parents and their retirement in Florida, where Kathleen and her husband both moved later on. The memoir also reflects the politics of the time during the 1960s-1980s, and gives us a clear background of the upheavals and the changing times of that period in the U.S.

The book as a narrative of a well-lived and fascinatingly varied life was an enjoyable and eye opening story, full of history, travel, and intriguing information on complex astrology and what it can reveal about each individual. She came to see astrology as important in understanding people in our lives and in understanding ourselves and how we change or have changed over time.

She is described as a spiritual seeker practicing Jungian oriented archetype astrology. 

Living and studying in Fribourg, Switzerland and in India also led Kathleen to what the author sees as a fulfilling life.

I recommend this memoir highly for those interested in how exposure to information, life experiences, and places can truly direct one's life.

More about Kathleen, an early audio interview, and one of her books on astrology, Beyond the Mask

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday


Aug 19, 2023

Sunday Salon: Library Finds and a Review

Library Books 

The Poet's House by Jean Thompson, July 12, 2022; Algonquin

Genre: poetry, contemporary fiction, literary fiction, adult fiction

Setting: Northern California 

I dabble in poetry on occasion, usually early in the morning or late at night. I have books and tablets with my scribbles, not many poems longer than a handwritten page.  So, I was interested in the title of this book, and I was not disappointed in reading it.

A young woman in her early twenties, Carla has a reading disability, as she describes it, but doesn't give us a medical term for it. She works as a landscaper but is pushed by her mother to find something more stable.

She does yard work for a well known poet, Viridian, an elderly woman who takes to Carla and encourages her to attend her dinners and mingle with her poet and publisher friends. She reads her poems to Carla, who slowly begins to understand the words and the concepts, and finds herself drawn to the power of words, their meaning and power to enlighten.

The book is about Carla coming out of her shy shell, but is mostly about the artists and writers she comes in contact with. Their eccentricities in dress, manners, ways of communicating, and their love of gatherings with unusual, to her, food and drink and of course, poetry, pulls her slowly in.

She helps them, especially the charismatic Viridian, as much as they help her.  I enjoyed the book, found it refreshing and hopeful, but full of the vivacity and the trauma of life as well.

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson, March 7, 2023; Pamela Dorman Books

The book description grabbed me: 

"Shot through with the indulgent pleasures of life among New York’s one-percenters, Pineapple Street is an addictive, escapist novel that sparkles with wit." 

The Mistress of Bhatia House  by Sujata Massey, July 11, 2023: Soho Press

Genre: mystery, historical fiction, India

The first books in the series that I've read, I've found very interesting historically and culturally. 

In this latest book, Bombay’s only female solicitor, Perveen Mistry, grapples with class divisions, sexism, and complex family dynamics as she seeks justice for a mistreated young woman in the fourth installment of the award–winning series. (publisher)

Zero Days by Ruth Ware, June 20, 2023; Scout Press

Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense

The library now has copies of this book, as British author, Ruth Ware, is a popular mystery writer. I hope the book is as good as it's reputed to be. 

About: Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her. She is suddenly on the run....(publisher)

Library magazines:

The poems and the short stories and an occasional essay in the New Yorker magazine are still my go to reading. Borrowed three June editions from  the library. But the chilling short story in the most recent edition, August 21, really got to me. 


“The End Is Only a Beginning” 

"The End Is Only a Beginning" by T. Coraghessan Boyle is about the very early days of the pandemic, when the virus appeared early in France. Riley goes off to Paris on business, without his wife, Caroline, who had to stay with her dying mother. 

Riley remains faithful to his wife but is reckless in what he does, where he goes, who he associates with. But on returning home, he gives the virus to his younger, healthier wife Caroline, while he remains asymptomatic. 

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

3Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox Monday

Aug 14, 2023

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?

 I won this book from Emma at Words and Peace after the end of the July in Paris 2023 Challenge 

L'Origine: The Secret Life of the World's Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom

Publisher: The riveting odyssey of one of the world's most scandalous and sexually explicit works of art.

In 1866, maverick French artist Gustave Courbet painted one of the most iconic images in the history of art...

L'Origine is an entertaining and superbly researched work of historical fiction that traces the true story of the painting's unlikely tale of survival, replete with French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas, and nefarious Nazi captains.

 But L'Origine is more than a riveting romp through history-it also sheds light on society's complex relationship with the female body. (publisher)

I had never heard of this work of art by Courbet until now, and looked up the artwork in question online. It is shockingly revealing of the feminine sexual parts of the body and I am curious about the background of this painting and the reason he painted it. 

Bought at the thrift store: 

Musical Chairs:
A Novel by Amy Poeppel
Published July 21, 2020; Atria
Genre: contemorary fiction, romance, chick lit

A hilarious and heartfelt new novel about a perfectly imperfect summer of love, secrets, and second chances.

Amy Poeppel crafts a love letter to modern family life with all of its discord and harmony. Musical Chairs is an irresistibly romantic story of role reversals, reinvention, and sweet synchronicity. (publisher)

I bought Musical Chairs as I had really enjoyed the author's most recent book - a very funny romantic comedy and family drama, The Sweet Spot.

The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel, January 31, 2023,  See that review here.

I hope Musical Chairs will be just as good.

Did you get any new books this week?

Aug 12, 2023

A Subscription to the New Yorker: Sunday Salon


Cover: "Peak Season" by Victoria Tentler-Krylov

I got a fantastic introductory (six month) offer from Conde Nast to get the New Yorker Magazine plus digital access for a fraction of the true cost. Of course, I jumped at the amazing offer. Now I must remember in six months to cancel unless I want to pay the full, enormous amount of regular subscription.

So far, I've been reading the cartoons online and in the magazines - very entertaining - and discovered the short stories, one published per issue. Here is the title of the latest, which I found both intriguing and very well written. 

“The True Margaret,” by Karan Mahajan

. I.
Meera moved to London from India only to discover that her new husband already had a wife in the city.

I went back to a previous edition of the magazine and read that short story on a very different topic, but one which I found very moving and also very good.  "Yogurt Days" is about a dying man who only likes to eat frozen yogurt, and about the women who take care of him. 

I have about two more back issues of short stories to go through.  Eventually, I'll read all the other essays on current issues, politics, current culture, etc. which I've only skimmed through so far. And did I forget to mention the poems scattered throughout each edition of The New Yorker? 

So now I will have a pile of magazines to read as the mood hits me. Can't say I regret subscribing.

Current books

Hope by Anthony Ridker 

Yesteryear, a memoir by Kathleen Burt

I hope to finish and review them shortly.

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

3Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  Sunday SalonStacking the Shelves

Aug 5, 2023

Sunday Salon: Hope, Hunger, First Lie Wins: Three Books

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston

Publication: January 2024, Penguin Group Viking; NetGalley

Genre: mystery, thriller 

My comments:

The title of this thriller was so intriguing that I wanted to read and finish it right away!

Evie Porter lives a lie every day, under aliases provided by her unknown but powerful boss, Mr. Smith. Her risky but lucrative full time job is to secretly act like a spy, get compromising information on targeted individuals that Mr. Smith uses to his advantage. 

Evie's real name lives only in her memory though she hopes one day to leave Smith, reclaim it, and be honest about her past growing up poor. 

The suspense in the novel comes from the risky ways Evie has to get people's private information. Luckily, she has her own secret - a helper named Devon who is tech savvy and totally loyal to Evie. Suspense is heightened when Evie thinks Smith is targeting her for removal, which means she has to find ways to survive.

I found the plot unusual and the characters well developed. 

Currently reading

Hope by Anthony Ridker
Pub Date 11 Jul 2023
Genre: general fiction, adult

A hilarious and heartfelt novel about a seemingly perfect family in an era of waning American optimism, from the acclaimed author of The Altruists

The year is 2013 and the Greenspans are the envy of Brookline, Massachusetts, an idyllic (and idealistic) suburb west of Boston. Scott Greenspan is a successful physician with his own cardiology practice. 
But when Scott is caught falsifying blood samples at work, he sets in motion a series of scandals that threatens to shatter his family.

From Brookline to Berlin to the battlefields of Syria, Hope follows the Greenspans over the course of one tumultuous year as they question, and compromise, the values that have shaped their lives. But in the midst of their disillusionment, they’ll discover their own capacity for resilience, connection, and, ultimately, hope. (publisher)

Hunger: A Novella and Stories
 by Lan Samantha Chang

Published January 1, 2000, Norton and Company

Genre: short stories, novella, Asian American fiction

Not since Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan has a fiction writer explored with such powerful intensity the experience of being Asian American. The characters are caught between the burden of their past history and the fragility of their unchartered future.

 Hunger illuminates how first-generation immigrants from China, culturally and emotionally uprooted from their homeland, mistrust connection even as they hunger for attachment ― and how the past affects and shapes their children. (publisher)

My comments:

I've just finished  "Hunger," a novella about a violinist from China, Tian, who sacrifices loyalty to his family in China to come to the United States to pursue his craft, but failure to get a coveted job after finishing music school, leads him to make demands that devastate his family, himself, and his children.  His hunger for music drives him to demand from his younger daughter, Ruth, the same passion for artistic perfection and performing, with unhappy results. 

The second story in the collection, "Water Names," focuses on the mother of three young girls, and a hint of a yearning for a past love left behind in China.  

I'll be reading the other short stories in this collection soon.

Finished reviewing: WWII historical fiction. Click on titles for my goodreads reviews:

The Last Masterpiece by Laura MorelliThe Forgotten Bookshop in Paris by Daisy Wood

What's on your reading schedule this week and/or the rest of the month?injuly202

3Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday SalonStacking the ShelvesMailbox MondayParis in July 2023

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...