A few good books….

I’ve recently have finished several books that I enjoyed so much I must recommend them (as I’ve done in past posts). Some you may be aware of and others perhaps not.  If you love a novel that touches your heart, makes you feel transported to another place and leaves you wishing it wouldn’t end, these books should be on your reading list.

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Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – a tender, simple story of love later in life (a Netflix original movie is in the works). I read this in less than 24 hours. The last book written by this author, I plan to read his earlier works. A very special book.

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Me Before You – Jojo Moyes – this book charmed me, made me laugh and cry. Very poignant and the two main characters were well defined and written with love.  Read the book, then see the movie which followed the storyline to perfection – the acting was brilliant.

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A Thousand Days in Venice – Marlena de Blasi – another mature love story – the author’s own, which weaves a tale of love at first sight and marries it with the magic of Venice and Italian cuisine.  It is a treat for all the senses.

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A Thousand Days in Tuscany – Marlena de Blasi   this is the continuation of the author’s true story as she and her husband start the next chapter of their adventure relocating to Tuscany.  Her storytelling is captivating – the food, people she meets and the home that they settle in are interwoven along with romance.  Her writing is stunning and with both of her books, I slowed my reading to savor the passages. I plan to read more by this talented writer.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading or books you’d recommend…..

Tonight we say goodbye to Jon Stewart & The Daily Show

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I awoke this morning with a feeling of sadness. After 16 years, Jon Stewart will do his last Daily Show this evening. I don’t begrudge him retiring, don’t get me wrong. I retired last year and love it. He has certainly earned this time to rest, relax and enjoy his family.

But Spence and I and countless others will miss him terribly.

Jon Stewart has been the touchstone for our news and politics for years. What makes him so popular is his honest, candid, unfiltered and ultimately humorous take on events and politicos. What makes him a true gem is that he isn’t politically correct but shines a comic light on the most sensitive topics without being mean-spirited, causing us to reflect profoundly. He holds people accountable – politicians both domestic and international, corporate bigwigs, financial pundits and others who are in the news – and isn’t above calling them out. We don’t always agree with his perspective, but always respect that he makes us think. We never find him offensive, rather…. refreshing. He feels like a guy you’d like to have drinks with and hope it turns into dinner.

During his tenure on The Daily Show, numerous comedic talents were discovered, among them:

  • Steve Carell
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Rob Corddry
  • Ed Helms
  • Jason Jones
  • Rob Riggle
  • Samantha Bee

And though his career was established before The Daily Show, who can forget the outrageously bombastic Lewis Black and his Daily Show segments “Back in Black?”

Okay, now I’m getting teared up. (sigh)

Thank you Jon Stewart, for every moment you’ve given us. You are brilliant; we won’t know another like you.

Pictures courtesy of Pinterest search

Just Three Songs?

From our third Writing 101 assignment participants are asked to free write about the three most important songs in our life.

My first thought “ugh”.  Not because I don’t love music but rather because I LOVE MUSIC.  In order to complete the assignment without completely losing my mind I’m going to slightly alter it to choose my three favorite albums.

  • Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell
  • Aqualung by Jethro Tull
  • Live at the Troubadour by Carole King and James Taylor

The first two were easy enough since I owned them on LP, cassette, CD and full downloads to my iPod.  The third I happened upon quite by accident at my neighborhood Blockbuster check-out counter which featured a CD/DVD pack of a live performance by the incomparable Carole King and James Taylor.

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Court and Spark:  The brilliance that is Joni Mitchell is never brighter than on this compilation (in my humble opinion).  I know the words to every song and they still evoke emotions at age 58 though in a different way than they did when I discovered it in high school.  The songs are lyrical, painting musical pictures.  Her voice resonates.  I have listened to this during happy times but also when nursing a broken heart. It is in a word…..divine.

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Aqualung represents the “rock chick” that I was at 16 and still am today.  This album was being released at the same time I went to see Jethro Tull in concert.  Having already discovered an earlier album by them, I was excited about the new release.  I’d never been to a concert but cannot  imagine a better performance than what I experienced that night. Ian Anderson, the lead singer and player of the flute, (that is such a defining instrument in their body of work), was electric.  I was mesmerized, gob-smacked, mind blown.  The songs are stories crafted inside of music that you can’t explain in words.  If you made me choose one song from the album, it would be “Locomotive Breath”.

And lucky me, last fall Spence and I traveled to see Jethro Tull in Buffalo, New York.  (see my earlier blog post “Flash Back – Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, then and now” for more about that experience and some little known trivia…..intrigued? I hope so.)

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Live at the Troubadour is like a gift from the gods.  First of all, the life work of James Taylor and Carole King, two of the most gifted singer/songwriters is without equal (again, I’m blogging so I get to state my opinion but sense I’m not alone). Spence and I have listened to this CD (and watched the DVD) so many times it would be impossible to guess. These are songs that are lovely, evocative and so interwoven into our lives and memories that you couldn’t extricate them if you wanted to – and why would you want to?  Listening to this music brings tears to my eyes, a smile to my face and  an overall sense that everything is right with the world.

So there you have it.  Not so hard an assignment once I tweaked it a bit.

Looking for a few good books?

So many books, so little time........
So many books, so little time……..

As we now wave “buh-bye” to January, February looms ahead.  If you’re looking for some good reads to pass the long days of winter, I’m sharing another rather diverse list of books, favorites of Spence’s Girl.

  • Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
  • The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (includes The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
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We all need an escape plan.

Reading, my favorite winter sport!

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At this time of year when I will look for reasons NOT to go outside into the cold, I embrace my love of reading more than ever.  That said, if you are like-minded and looking for some good book recommendations, I’ve decided to share a few of my best reads from the last year and some old favorites.  “Read on” (pun intended)

Recent Reads:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Happy(ish) by Cara Trautman
  • Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Secondhand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The All-Girls Filling Station Reunion by Fannie Flagg
  • Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

And if you search under CATEGORIES on my blog for an extended review and recommendation, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is such a worthwhile read.

My All Time Favorites:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
  • Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

For the love of a Kindle and my first book recommendation

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I had resisted getting a Kindle even though my mom and sister had raved about them.  What’s the big deal I thought?  I love the feel of a book and have a library full of books on my shelves, many as yet unread.  So when I retired and they gave me Kindle with a book light and cover I was grateful but wasn’t sure how it would work for me.  Well, it goes to prove that there’s something to this new-fangled (okay not that new) technology.  Now I wonder how I lived without it.  I’ve always loved reading, though usually only found the time when on vacation. Within days of retiring, I packed up to escape Michigan and the Polar Vortex of 2014 and headed for my mom’s in sunny Ft Myers Florida.  I took the Kindle so she could hook me up with her knowledge.  The first book I downloaded, at her recommendation, was the Rosie Project.  She was well into the book at that time and I quickly caught up and passed her.  The story is unique, endearing characters and scenes so well crafted that you feel as are a part of it. There were parts that made me laugh aloud (don’t you love when a book can do that?) And parts that were poignant.  As I neared the end, I slowed down, not wanting to part company with these characters.  The book was originally slated as a screenplay. I can only hope that it will make it’s way to the big screen.  This is the type of book I aspire to write and if you haven’t discovered the Rosie Project, please buy the book…..or download it to your Kindle!