Sunday Salon – Reading Between Terms; Or, Finally a Free Weekend!


Third term finals are over and fourth term begins bright and early at 6:00 Monday morning. What to do with two and a half days of freedom from homework and stress? How about a little reading? I started a couple of books quite a while ago and have been inching my way through them.

The first one is Clara and Mr. Tiffany by SusanVreeland. It is the story of Clara Driscoll, a designer who worked for Louis Tiffany in the late 1800s. It’s a fascinating story, not only because of the details that went into describing the beautiful glass artwork, but because it is about a woman who had a relatively successful career in a time when most people thought women stayed at home. News flash: many women worked.

Another aspect that I am just getting to is where I found out that it is Clara and not Louis Tiffany who brainstormed and designed the famous Tiffany lamps. She’s just now getting started on the dragonflies which is special to me because I own a beautiful table lamp with the Tiffany-inspired dragonfly pattern. It is one of my favorite things.


Another book I started on is Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult. It was given to me by a nurse at work who said it was pretty good for a Jodi Picoult. Both of us feel the same way about this author. Picoult is a good writer, but we just don’t know if we like her books. I had previously read Plain Truth and was completely weirded out, especially by the ending. She had a similar experience with another one of her books but assured me that Salem Falls was pretty good, so I’m going with that.

Other than that we had a pretty quiet weekend. My daughter’s car had some trouble so we went over to help with that. Correction, my husband helped with the car while my daughter and I yakked and played with Zach.

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Sunday Salon – American Authors List

Danielle over at A Work in Progress  is working on her American Authors projects with this list of both classic and contemporary works. I bolded the ones I read.  A couple just have the name of the author so you can fill in the blank. What were some of your favorites? I read…..

  • Anderson, Sherwood – Winesburg, Ohio 
  • Bellow, Saul
  • Canfield, Dorothy – The Home Maker
  • Capote, Truman – Breakfast at Tiffanys
  • Capote, Truman – In Cold Blood
  • Cather, Willa – My Antonia
  • Cather, Willa – O Pioneers
  • Cather, Willa – One of Ours
  • Cather, Willa – The Professor’s House 
  • Cather, Willa – The Song of the Lark
  • Cheever, John – The Wapshot Chronicle
  • Delillo, Don – White Noise
  • Dick, Philip K. – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 
  • Dos Passos, John – Manhattan Transfer
  • Dreiser, Theodore – An American Tragedy
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo – Essential Writings
  • Erdrich, Louise – The Beet Queen
  • Faulkner, William – The Unvanquished
  • Ferber, Edna – So Big
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott
  • Hemingway, Ernest – For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Hurston, Zora Neale – Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • James, Henry – Portrait of a Lady
  • Larson, Nella
  • Lewis, Sinclair – Main Street
  • Maxwell, William – The Chateau
  • Maxwell, William – The Folded Leaf read
  • Maxwell, William – They Came Like Swallows
  • McCarthy, Mary – The Group
  • McCullers, Carson – Member of the Wedding
  • Metalious, Grace – Peyton Place
  • Miller, Sue – The Good Mother
  • Morrison, Toni – Beloved
  • Oates, Joyce Carol – We Were the Mulvaneys
  • Parker, Dorothy
  • Powell, Dawn – The Bride’s House
  • Powell, Dawn – Come Back to Sorrento
  • Powell, Dawn – Dance Night read
  • Powell, Dawn – The Wicked Pavilion
  • Roth, Philip – American Pastoral
  • Rowson, Susanna – Charlotte Temple
  • Smiley, Jane – Thousand Acres
  • Stegner, Wallace – Angle of Repose
  • Stegner, Wallace – Crossing to Safety
  • Steinbeck, John – Cannery Row
  • Steinbeck, John – East of Eden
  • Steinbeck, John – Of Mice and Men
  • Steinbeck, John – The Grapes of Wrath
  • Thoreau, Henry David – Walden – Partially
  • Tyler, Anne – Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
  • Tyler, Anne – Saint Maybe 
  • Tyler, Anne – The Accidental Tourist
  • Updike, John – Marry Me
  • Welty, Eudora
  • Wharton, Edith – Custom of the Country
  • Wharton, Edith – House of Mirth
  • Wolff, Maritta – Night Shift
  • Wolff, Maritta – Whistle Stop
  • Yates, Richard – Revolutionary Road

I am really surprised at how few of these I have read!  But the few really stand out in my mind like An American Tragedy, which I studied in college and was completely mesmorized by! Cannery Row and Peyton Place are on my must-read list. I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffanys. I read Main Street with my husband and we discussed it at great length. Sinclair Lewis also wrote Elmer Gantry, Babbit, and Arrowsmith, and was the first American to win the Nobel prize in literature.

The original list did not include The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler but I thought it should be included. I have read several others of her works as well.

Which ones have you read?

Reading List – Starting Over for 2010

I’ve been reading everyone’s end-of-year reading lists on my favorite books blogs and thinking, uh oh. What happened to mine this year? I kept terrible track of my books!  And since I discovered the absolutely fabulous library here in Eugene, I can’t even look through my shelves for an “oh yeah” discovery. I read a lot, forgot most, and in doing so learned a powerful lesson. If you don’t keep track, it goes out the window.

Nothing can be done. But I have few favorites from the different genres I read. Above is Complications by Atul Gawande. This is a series of essays on the real life sometimes imperfect science of medicine. Really great stuff and highly readable. I am at a crossroads in my education right now but wherever I go and whatever I do, medicine and medical research will always have my utmost interest.


The Story of a Family – The Home of St. Therese of Lisieuz by  Fr. Stephane-Joseph Piat O.F.M. was terrific. I like reading spiritual books and biographies of saints and other spiritual leaders are particularly inspiring. Real people and their challenges are more suited to my taste than religious fiction.

Echoes by Maeve Binchy. How did I not know of author Maeve Binchy? Everyone seemed to know about her but me.  She is my favorite new author for the year. I have The Copper Beech sitting on my shelf waiting patiently for me.

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson was my browsing-through-Walmart find. I could not put this book down. Wow!

Here is my New Year’s Resolution. Even if I do not review the book, it will be listed here. I joined Sunday Salon on Facebook so that is a good start. I joined them years ago with my old blog and when I started Bunny Stuff, they were closed to new ones. So this way I can at least have that once a week catch-up.

I am out of school and waiting to take my state boards in order to get a job. So I am pretty free for the next two weeks. After that, who knows? But once a week I can commit to.

Happy New Year everyone and happy reading!

The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine

I almost didn’t do a review on this book. It isn’t that I hated the story, it just wasn’t that great.  But I haven’t done a review for a while so here it is.

Jenny Warner is a 32-year-old married woman who works at a retirement home as a type of aid. She is very superstitious and makes the strangest connections with objects, people, and situations. Green is an unlucky color to wear. Put a fern in a man’s shoe and he will always love you. Don’t whistle outside in the dark; something bad will happen.

Her dire pronouncements are met with amusement by Stella, Jenny’s favorite resident. Although in the last stages of terminal cancer, Stella is a well dressed lady, correct and kindly. After receiving the deed to her secret tryst house, Stella holds back at first, then slowly unburdens her dreadful tale to Jenny. Jenny is having an affair so she is well aware of the burdens of keeping her husband in the dark.

Vine’s (Ruth Rendell) characters are always good. Whether good or bad they are believable. Except for the really bad ones I can almost always relate a character to someone I know. Now that my husband is reading her books, that can make for some interesting discussions. Dysfunctional families are her specialty. She describes in great detail the roles of each person and the lies they tell themselves along with surprising insights. She’s good.

This book just didn’t make the cut. It was slow-moving and repetitive. She attempted to make the reader believe the affair with Jenny and Ned was an actual falling in love event. Not happening. No one could possibly see it as anything but a sordid, sad, and oft told tale of the most garden variety in nature. The result was no surprise. The affair of Stella and her beau was a bit more interesting but still came to a very disappointing conclusion. I wanted Hitchcock and got National Enquirer.

A Better Vine book is  The Minotaur and Rendell’s Thirteen Steps Down or The Rottweiler. If you need a disturbing and juicy sociopath, these will deliver. I just started reading Sight for Sore Eyes . This is more like it.

The Library Here is Awesome!

It’s a giant circle with the middle part being hollow and a circular stairway that goes up four floors. The rooms are HUGE and it has separate ones for internet usage, magazines, youth, and of course fiction and literature. It also has an entire one for non-fiction and biographies. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We were delighted to find so many Rendell and Vine books. They are the same person. but Vine is the pseudonym. She has dysfunctional family crime down to a science. I read she used to be a social worker before picking up the pen, so I’m sure she has lots to work with.  Am I reading too many crimes novels? I don’t know, but it sure is fun. I have a Maeve Binchy in there so I guess it’s not all crime.

The Story of a Family by Fr. Stephane-Joseph Piat O.F.M.

The Story of a Family; The Home of St Therese of Lisieux is about the parents and home life of St. Therese (The Little Flower).  I have to admit,  although I have read and enjoyed a number of saint biographies,  St. Therese was of no interest to me whatsoever.  To me she could not compare with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Thomas Aquinas. You know, the smart ones. This book was “suggested” reading material for a class I am taking. And the book is fabulous. Might I even say, inspiring.

The story is mainly about Louis and Zelie Martin. Both of them came from respectable Catholic homes, though in Zelie’s case, it was rather cold and she did not get along with her mother. She loved her sister, who became a nun and wanted to follow her example. Both Louis and Zelie wanted to take religious orders and both were turned down. In disappointment, they each decided to live a chaste life, with Louis taking up clockmaking and Zelie learned the art of lace making.

After meeting and falling in love, Louis and Zelie were unsure as to how to proceed. They wanted to get married but still hold on to their individual promises of chastity. They decided to have a “chaste” marriage, which was not unheard of in that time. That lasted about ten months.  They ended up having nine children, four that died, including the only two boys.  The remaining  five girls all entered convents of their choice.  Louis and Zelie were devoted to the well-being of their children, provided over and above the current standards of education, and raised them to be honorable and charitable people.

They had many challenges in their life. Zelie battled breast cancer for almost twenty years before finally succumbing.  She could not nurse most of her children, including Therese. They also lived through the Franco-Prussian War when troops took over their town and they had to house and feed enemy soldiers.  Therese appeared quite late in the story as she was the youngest child and only four when her mother passed away.  Her father and older sisters brought her up.

This is a well written book and doesn’t get bogged down at any point. It has good flow. The tone  ran a little sentimental, which usually bugs me to no end. But this time it didn’t . Louis and Zelie were the real deal, parents devoted to their children, to each other, and to making their community a better place. While not perfect, they were decent, worthy, and caring people who’s example influenced the making of a saint. 

I wish I had read this book when just starting a family. Even though this is a different time with different value sets (like that unusual devotion to chastity) they can serve as examples because of who they were.  It made me realize with relief and gratitude that there really are people who live exemplary lives.

The Catholic Church is once again embroiled in scandal.  I don’t think this is the end of it, There are more rocks to overturn in my opinion. The reason this is happening is because the leaders of the church chose to protect their own positions and the “sanctity” of the church rather than protect its own people. When I read the news about Pope Benedict being immune in any trials I realize they are continuing this practice. It is appalling and distressing.

After reading The Story of a Family I understand that Catholics, like all faiths, are made up of individuals that, through their own lives can change  the world for the better.  I recommend this book especially to Catholics, but I hope that everyone will read an inspiring story about someone from their own faith tradition.  It really makes a difference.

The Face by Dean Koontz

I was sick last week and needed something to read. Something entertaining. Something to keep my mind off the fact that I felt miserable. The Face was just the ticket. The story opens up with the security chief of a Hollywood star Channing Manheim (aka The Face) investigating a series of packages delivered to the star’s home. Each one is odder and more sinister than the last. A well-placed security camera offers a clue and Ethan is on his way to home of the mysterious delivery boy. What happens there is unearthly and just the beginning of the bizarre events that will pepper the story. At the same time Manheim’s lonely son gets an unexpected phone call warning him of a dire event soon to come. This paranomal crime drama has angels, demons, and one very human monster. It is fast paced, well written, and very exciting.
I really liked this book and it reminded me of some of Koontz’s older works that I enjoyed like Lightening, Midnight, and Twilight Eyes. Although they were very popular, I was rather disappointed in his Odd Thomas books and haven’t read anything by him since. But I will be looking out for more now.

Complications by Atul Gawande

We are all, whatever we do, in the hands of flawed human beings. The fact is hard to stare in the face. But it is unescapable. Every doctor has things he or she ought to know but has yet to learn, capacities of judgment that will fail, a strength of character that can break.”

Gawande states this obvious yet somehow alarming fact in his essay entitled “When Good Doctors Go Bad”. Most people want to believe that doctors somehow exist above the mortal coil and are always wise, compassionate, and decisive. Yet Gawande, a surgeon and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, shows another side of the medical profession. That doctors make mistakes, experience burnout, and have to go along with bad decisions made by frightened patients.

Gawande not only has tremendous ability as a surgeon, but also incredible insight into his own profession that allows him to look at complex issues from many angles. Yet his descriptions are so good even nausea is fascinating to read about.

My favorite essays are A Queasy Feeling, the one about nausea. The Pain Perplex is a fascinating look at how the brain controls our pain centers. Whose Body is it, Anyway? is a look at the struggle to give patients their rights to treatment verses the doctor who often knows a better course of action. The Case of the Red Leg was about a certain intuition Gawande had about a case that turned out to be correct. Really good.
I haven’t read Better yet but it is waiting on my TBR shelf . I highly recommend Complications.