Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WILLIAM AND KATE, A Royal Love Story

This book, by journalist Christopher Andersen, is an easy read.

Being an Anglophile, though not one who keeps close tabs on the royal family, I enjoyed reading about Kate and William's romance. Andersen does a good job of putting us into the world the royals inhabit, and shows us warts and all: William drinking and partying, and Kate playing the ever-patient, forgiving female.

For years, she waited in the background for him to make up his mind about her. She bore the royal complaints about her not having a job (hard to keep a regular job when you're trying to be available at all times for your high-profile boyfriend) and about her family being common (like the royals aren't the most dysfunctional family around). When he finally popped the question, she waited another year or so before her position as his fiancee was publicized. The woman is either ultra-devious or a saint.

Andersen says she had a crush on the prince all her life. He also paints her mother as the mastermind behind her daughter's match. Maybe so, but Kate was the one who persuaded William she was the one woman for him.

As for William, the tales about him being his mother's confidante and his later attempts to guide Harry make one feel sorry for him despite his younger vices. It was gratifying to read how his main ambition is to serve his country. Since he can't be sent into war (as Harry was briefly), his search and rescue position is laudable. He has grown into the kind of man a mother would be proud of. And all while living in the fishbowl of the papparazzi. I can't begin to imagine how terrible it must be to have every little movement recorded and broadcast to the public.

Yes, there were a lot of suppositions and rumors and gossip in the book, but it left me hopeful that William and Catherine (I was surprised to learn that her family always called her that rather than Kate) will enjoy a happier marriage than William's parents.

Monday, December 19, 2011

THE MISREMEMBERED MAN

THE MISREMEMBERED MAN  by Christine McKenna is an excellent read.

Ms. McKenna has a wonderful voice and does a wonderful job defining her characters. I know them as well as I might know my neighbors. I can see the Irish setting, hear the lilting speech patterns, visualize even the minor characters...all from her writing.

There were terrible parts of the story I didn't enjoy. Such places as the horrific orphanages Ms. McKenna writes about actually existed, and the ugliness of that reality isn't easy to learn about. But to balance things out, the characters got into situations where I laughed out loud.

When farmer Jamie becomes depressed after being left alone with his farm and its animals to care for, his friends decide he needs a good woman.

When schoolteacher Lydia gets out for the summer, her friend gives her something to look forward to besides remaining at the beck and call of her widowed, ailing mother.

This is not a romance, even though it sounds like the beginnings of one. It's a reminder of how inhumane caretakers of children can warp lives. It's also a portrait of how hope is an integral part of the human character. It's also a story of how strange life can sometimes be.

Great book.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

HOLIDAY COOKING

The only thing I can cook okay is candy. I make it and give it away (what we don't eat) once a year, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm not talking about magazine type candy like peanut butter balls or chocolate covered peanuts. I'm talkin about old-time homemade candy. Fudge with pecans, fudge with peanut butter, peanut butter candy, pralines, panocha, and my personal favorite: divinity. Sometimes I make cream cheese candy or orange candy, but they aren't that popular so I don't make them that often. I can only eat so many leftovers, you know.

I began by making fudge when I was, oh, nine or ten. Then I added the others, except for divinity. I never could get divinity right. But one of my neighbors, Mrs. Margaret Harvell, made the best divinity ever and when she saw me gobbling it up, she offered to teach me how. Think I didn't jump at the chance?

"This is never-fail divinity," she assured me. "It always comes out pretty." So I watched the boiling syrup till she showed me it was spinning threads (that was the first time I understood what 'spinning a thread' in candy talk means). Then I watched her beat the egg whites stiff. Then I watched her pour the syrup into the egg whites as she continued beating. Then we spooned it out into pretty swirls. Perfect.

And the first time I made it by myself, it was perfect! I was nineteen or so before I actually had a batch fail and realized that confidence was the key. That was the big thing Mrs. Harvell gave me. Since then I've only had three or four batches not work.

She's dead now, but her divinity recipe is still going strong! Even in this sugar-conscious, calorie-conscious, healthy-eating age, people ask me for it. Thank you, Mrs. Margaret Harvell!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SPIRIT FALLS

I really liked this book, SPIRIT FALLS by Robert E. Townsend. The time is the fifties, the place is northern Wisconsin, the community is comprised of immigrants and/or first generation descendents.

The main character is a sixteen-year-old boy. He and his best friend, a girl his age, trap and work together on the farm. Other people include a displaced person he crushes on, an abused girl who nowadays would be seen screaming for help, some male friends...and enemies. In this coming of age story, we see how he begins to think of places outside Wisconsin, dream of something other than farming.

The writing craft could have been better. The shifting points of view were sometimes abrupt with little transition, and with another abrupt shift within a few paragraphs so that I had to figure out who was thinking what. The characterizations were sometimes over the top, too, with some heavyhanded stereotyping and people behaving strangely. In one place an incident was referred to that didn't happen till later on in the story.

But I felt the lure of the beautiful northwest. I could see the beauty, hear the rushing water, feel the cold. Boy, could I feel the cold! This is one of the coldest books I've ever read.

And even when I put it down, I was wondering what was going to happen, and looking forward to picking it up again.

I liked it so much I intend to reread it, taking in things I missed in my haste to get through it.

This is an excellent read.

Monday, December 12, 2011

NEW WATER HEATER

Okay. So the kitchen stove wasn't working properly when we moved back to N GA. We've had it worked on. Took them a while but...

Then we had to buy a new washer and dryer. The washer was dancing around the floor, the dryer refused to cut off. But after twenty years, what do you expect?

Then the heat didn't work. Got it fixed. Then this summer, the air didn't work. Got it fixed. Then the heat wouldn't work again. Got it fixed. Had to put in a new handler and rewire but hey...It's working now.

Then the dishwasher refused to cycle properly. I had to set it on wash, turn it off, drain, and set on rinse to get the dishes washed. Got it fixed. Sears forgot to tell the repairman he had to replace another part so it blew the board. And he had to come back and replace it.

The icemaker on the refrigerator didn't work so we got it fixed. Not much more to go wrong, right?

Went back to the coastal condo to check on things and guess what. The hot water heater was leaking out the bottom. Not ten years old but we had to get a new one.

I think all that's left is the fridge. And I'm afraid it's time for it to go, too. If 2012 isn't better than 2011, I'm ready to surrender and go to a boarding house somewhere. With or without the cats.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

DUST

Excellent MG story. Eleven-year-old Robert is the only one who suspects the stranger in town is...not what he seems.
This story by Arthur Slade takes place in the Canada, during their Dust Bowl of the 1930s. I could almost taste the dust from Slade's descriptive writing. One day Robert's younger brother Matthew sets off to walk to town with his parents to follow a few minutes later. Matthew never reaches town. He's gone.

That same day a stranger appears who promises he can make rain. Only Robert and his Uncle Alden are skeptical. Robert's parents fall into line with the rest of the town and in the process seem to forget entirely about the missing Matthew and two other missing children. Then strange things begin happening...

Eerie, fascinating, compelling.

An easy read for adults and middle graders should enjoy it as well.