Monday, May 30, 2011

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

My daughter gave this book to me for mother's day, and I'm SO glad she did!  The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen is delightful.  If YOU decide to read this book, you will be transported to the small southern town of Mullaby, North Carolina, a place filled with gentle giants, magical wallpaper, delectable cakes, delicious BBQ and mysterious family secrets. I can't really tell you more than that without ruining the story, but I can say that I will be reading more of Sarah Addison Allen's books.  I hope I will enjoy them as much as this one.  Now I have to go bake a cake.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


It seems strange to think of it now, but when I was born in 1960, WWII had only been over for 15 years. Memories of the war were living things, the soldiers and civilians involved still mostly young. My father was relatively lucky to be assigned to a fast troop transport ship in the Atlantic.  My uncle was in the Army in the Pacific, not such an easy assignment, but they both came out alive.  Compared to others, they were the lucky ones.  Compared to Louis Zamperini, they were on a cake walk.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, is the true story of how Zamperini spent the war, and how it changed him forever.

Louis Zamperini was born in 1917 in New York, but his family moved to Torrance, CA in 1919 to help Louis recover from pneumonia.  He was a fearless baby who turned into the neighborhood hell-raiser.  His older brother Pete literally saved him from a lifetime of delinquency when he introduced him to track.  Louis became a star at Torrance High School, where he was known in all the LA newspapers as "The Torrance Tornado".  In fact, he was so good he qualified for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, rooming with Jesse Owens!  After the Olympics he attended USC (FIGHT ON!!!) on a track scholarship, where he would hold the NCAA record for the mile for the next fifteen years.  He was a sure bet to medal in the 1940 Olympics, but then war came.

Louis was trained as a bombardier on the B-24 Liberator, also known as "The Flying Coffin",  and stationed on Oahu.  He and the rest of his crew survived run after bombing run, as those all around them disappeared into the Pacific.  That all changed on May 27, 1943, when their plane went down on a rescue mission.  What follows is an amazing tale of human physical and mental endurance through horrible thirst and near-starvation, shark attacks and typhoons, torture and deprivation in Japanese prison camps.  How Louis survived, conquered his post-war demons and ultimately thrived is the stuff of legend.  And guess what?  He's still alive and kicking at 94!

So, stop what you are doing and read this book.  It is now one of my favorites!

P.S.:  If this story sounds familiar, that is because CBS did a profile about him for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.  You can find it on youtube, but read the book first!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Lanyard

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
(Thanks, Sarah!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, A Love Story

I probably never would have started a blog if I hadn't been introduced to  The force behind that website is Ree Drummond, a country club girl from Oklahoma who went to USC, (FIGHT ON!) and fell in love with the big city.  She stayed in LA after college, but eventually decided she needed to move back home before attending law school in Chicago.  During this interlude fate stepped in, shaped like a gorgeous cowboy.  Goodbye, Chicago, hello wide open spaces! The rest is history, now that she's documented their heart-melting courtship in Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, A Love Story.

If you haven't heard of Ree, check out her website.  In addition to her "confessions" blog, she shares recipes, (She was a sushi loving vegetarian when she met her Marlboro Man. He was not.), her self-taught photography, and homeschooling tips.  Yes, she homeschools their FOUR children.  And shoos cows off of her porch.  And writes cookbooks.  The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl was published in 2009.  I know, because my friend Karen and I were dorky enough to go to her book signing in Torrance that fall.  However, about 300 other dorks were there, too, so we didn't feel too bad!  So, I can tell you that she is just as nice in person as she seems on her blog and in her books.  I love her, and I hope you do, too!

Aunt Dimity

If you are looking for something easy, frivilous and satisfying try the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton.  They are little Penguin mysteries, easy to carry around and easily devoured.  Perfect for Doctor's appointments, etc.  I just read Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it.  There are 16 books in the series so you will have plenty of time to get to know Aunt Dimity.  Oh, did I mention she is dead?  Sorry, you'll have to read the books to find out more!

Bye, bye for now...Mary Kay

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective, is back, and I am SO happy!!  Well, I was happy until I finished The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.  Now I have to wait for the next one.

This is the 12th installment of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith.  Precious opened her detective agency all those books ago, and she continues to investigate all manner of cases with her "traditionally built" powers of deduction. If you haven't read this series, you are in for a treat! The books are filled with engaging, fascinating and endearing characters who feel fortunate to live in their beloved Botswana.  Precious works with her efficient but unfortunately outspoken assistant detective, Grace Makutsi.  Her office can be found on the premises of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni's Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, who also happens to be her husband.  In between cups of red bush tea, you will travel all over Botswana in Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van, solving the problems of her clients.  When you reach the last chapter you'll be ready to sell some cattle and hop a plane to Africa.

Alexander McCall Smith is a dynamo.  In addition to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency he writes 3 other series.  Of those my absolute favorite is the 44 Scotland Street Series.  How can one man write so many and such diverse books?  Well, he was born in Zimbabwe, taught law at the University of Botswana and now lives in Scotland.  He is a story waiting to be written.

Now, brew a pot of bush tea, find an acacia tree to sit under and read this book.

Sala sentle,
Mma Mary Kay

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Is Supposed to Be a Blog About the Books I Love...

...but, what if I've read a book I DON'T love?  What then????  Well, I've read one of those books, but just because I didn't really love it doesn't mean you will agree with me.  So, I will try to be positive.

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni would probably make a great action movie.  Kind of like The Da Vinci Code, although that was a better book than a movie.  In this case, the movie would most likely be better than the book.  It's opposite land.  So, if someone recommends it to you, in my case the usually reliable lady at Barnes and Noble, don't buy it, borrow.

That is all.

Mary Kay