Silly Old Bear

Along with many people across the world, due to Covid-19 virus restrictions, I’m sheltering at home. One added component in my personal experience, is the fact that I recently underwent brain surgery. Although many unexpected complications arose during and after the surgery, gratefully I’m alive and fighting my way back from an emotional and physically traumatic experience.

It’s taken a couple of weeks for me to regain a sense of order and peace afterward, but I am eternally grateful to report I’m beginning to make progress. That in large part is due to being able to listen to soothing music (Mozart) and audiobooks. What I found difficult was making a selection on a book which might provide much needed company, and at the same time, peace of mind. Lucky for me, I chose Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne. What a delight! Over several decades, this novel has crossed my life many times and it’s always been enchanting. Both on and off the page, Winnie, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, and Owl are faithful friends who remind us how simple life can be even during the toughest of times. Their many adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods remind us we are never alone and reinforce the meaning of friendship. These days I think they are important footholds we can all benefit from.

It may take much more than a pot of honey for the world to regain a sense of normalcy, but remember, for every problem, there’s a solution and we will come to it! As for this struggling “bear of feeble brain ” in the Wisconsin Woods, whatever would we do without literature and music? I for one, am grateful. May God bless and keep you all.




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Druids and Damsels

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is one of the Top 150 novels of the last century. It is one of a series of novels by the author based on the legend of Camelot.

What I loved about this lengthy novel was that it is told in the voices of the many women who loved King Arthur and Sir Lancelot. Surprisingly, it’s sexually graphic, but this is a story about ancient pagan beliefs being challenged by the rise of Christianity so it kind of made sense because it demonstrated the conflict between ideologies.

In addition to checking another Top 150 novel off my list, I enjoyed the story’s perspective on the times. I’m a real fan of books about this era anyway! It’s often repetitive, but overall, I recommend it.

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Kentucky Blue Bloods

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is another recent novel based on the Pack Horse Library Project in the 1930’s. Told in the first-person by the fictional character named Cussy, the story is powerful and moving. Much of it centers on the fact that Cussy, aka Bluet, suffers from a rare genetic condition known as methemoglobinemia which causes the afflicted person’s blood to lack adequate oxygenation. Hence, the person’s skin appears blue.

Ostracized because of her condition, Cussy is thrilled to find purpose and acceptance when the WPA implements the Pack Horse Library Project in 1936 in the hill country of her Kentucky homeland. Even though not everyone accepts her, Cussy’s caring nature and commitment to her job, benefits her self-esteem as well as furthering the accessibility of educational material to the poorly educated, starving, isolated people she serves.

I found this novel very moving and learned a great deal from it. It is similar in ways to The Giver of Stars by Moyes, but in my opinion, much better because it has a heart component I didn’t feel while reading the Moyes novel. I recommend this novel wholeheartedly.

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At Cross Purposes

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch is an eye-opening history which explores facts about a little known or recorded plot to kill General George Washington during the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.

I truly enjoy history books and found this one quite interesting. Written much like a mystery novel, I got caught-up in it from the start. It takes place in New York as George Washington and his ill equipped, poorly trained, ragged army of American patriots are arriving in anticipation of the mighty British ships loaded with stellar fighting men which are on their way to restore order in a British colony gone astray.

As the story unfolds, we discover that the former Governor of New York and the current mayor are in cahoots and conspiring to thwart the plans of the patriots being led by Washington. These politicians hold allegiance to England and are going to great lengths to convince others to turn against Washington as soon as the British soldiers arrive.

The secret plot becomes known through a series of seemingly disconnected events and the rest as they say, is history! But what a story it is!

I have only one issue with the book which pertains to Martha Washington because I read in another book that she always accompanied her husband no matter where he was during the fight for independence. In this book, she is strangely absent, but the authors mention the possible presence of George Washington’s mistress. What?!

Either way, I acquired additional knowledge of President Washington, our fight for independence, and the infancy of espionage in this land I gratefully call my home. I recommend this book and look forward to watching the new History Channel mini-series about our first President.

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My Home Is Far Away by Dawn Powell is a semi-autobiographical book which I brought home from a library book sale. It turned-out to be another stellar find.

In this story told in the third-person, we find the Willard family of five in rural Ohio in the early 1900’s as they move from one town to another. Mrs. Willard isn’t happy about moving, her three young daughters are excited, and her husband is overjoyed. Thus begins a sad tale of losses, gains, and hardships as seen through the innocent eyes of the middle daughter, Marcia.

I have chosen to tell very little of this story which is similar in many ways to The Dutch House, because it is one which sweeps the reader into its embrace and holds on even after it has ended. I fell in love with the author’s lyrical prose and sincerely hope I will be able to acquire more of her novels. Her writing is just that good! Highly recommended!

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a thrilling suspense novel which reinforced my belief that I’m very easily misled when it comes to discerning “who done it”!

In this novel which we find a criminal psychotherapist in London named Theo Faber whose fascination with an artist named Alicia leads him to use any means possible to obtain a position at the Grove, a mental institution, where artist Alicia is a patient ever since she supposedly shot and killed her husband. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since she was discovered standing with slashed wrists next to her husband’s corpse in the living room of their home months prior. Her silence led to her admittance to a mental institution. Based on his own life experiences, Theo thinks he’s the one person who can bring Alicia back to reality.

I think this suspense novel is one of the best I’ve ever read. It contains several twists and turns and a few likely suspects. The ending took me completely by surprise! As stated previously, I am not the best detective when it comes to mystery books, but I’ll wager the ending will amaze many readers with greater knowledge of suspense stories. This is a mystery I highly recommend!

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a phenomenal novel. Tom Hanks narrates the audiobook and makes it all the more extraordinary.

This story is told in the voice of a grown man named Danny who spent the early years of his life living in a large, unique home in suburban Philadelphia which his father purchased as a surprise gift for his altruistic wife without first consulting her. Although the gift was given out of love, the wife rejects everything it represents in her eyes and avoids being at home as much as possible. One thing leads to another and Cyril, the husband, along with the couple’s two children, find themselves abandoned by the wife and mother.

Danny is so young when his mother leaves without saying goodbye, that he has no memories of her. However, it is not the same for his older sister Maeve. She remembers her mother long afterward.

The story goes back and forth in time with many upheavals in the family as the years go by. Cyril takes a new wife with two small daughters of her own. The new wife’s newfound wealth and home redefine her place in the world. Unfortunately, it’s a place where she resents her stepchildren and their lives are forever changed.

The novel is an emotional rags to riches to rags story. I hesitate to tell all of it here because it’s one I couldn’t put down! To say the least, it touched my heart. There’s a movie planned and I’ll be looking forward to the film adaptation. It is expertly written and I highly recommend it!

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