Wayfaring Strangers: the Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr

Find in catalogThis book is wonderful. It really is a reference work, and it is chock-full of information: bits of stories, bits of songs, bits of history, bits of interview. I loved having it to pick up and visit for a short time or a longer time. It was just too rich to sit down and read through. There’s even a CD included to illustrate some of the music. Really it’s all about folk music in the mountains of Appalachia in a certain time, and how the music and traditions came across the sea with the Scots-Irish people. There are marvelous details – for instance, I didn’t know how a “teaching song” worked before… and now I do. Just to follow the history of the immigrants is a real treat. I highly recommend this.

This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel

Find in catalogThis is an account of a family in which the youngest son feels that he is really a girl.(The author also has a child who was born a boy, but is now living as a girl.) The point of view is largely that of the mother, though the process of the all seven family members (four more brothers) are part of the story. There were a few problems — some small details and some language choices felt not true to life, and the author seems to be taken by her own cleverness of phrase at times… just a little on the cute side. These things are only slightly annoying, and only at times because the overall arc of the story and emotional path of the characters is good. I do recommend it. It brings up a lot of the questions that arise in dealing with this increasingly more prevalent issue in our culture. I have to say, though — not everyone can arrange to move across the country and then rearrange their lives to volunteer in SE Asia to help deal with family issues.

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich

Find in catalogThis is a wonderful book. It is not the story that makes it wonderful. The basis of the plot is a young boy being shot accidentally by a neighbor, who has a son about the same age. As a sign of apology, the living boy is given to the grieving family who has lost a son. This proves too difficult and, in the end, the families share the living boy. What I loved is the way issues of family history, recovery, traditional values, long-standing connections and long-standing resentments are interwoven. It is like life, messy and complicated. It is not so much that we like the characters, but we have sympathy. I will read this again.

Throw Out Fifty Things, by Gail Blanke

Find in catalogI’ve read a couple of these “organize your life by clearing the clutter” kinds of books lately. Some I’ve liked better than others. (Luckily I don’t have to decide which to throw out as I’ve just returned them all to the library…) This one wasn’t bad. I liked her ideas about what questions to ask yourself in choosing what to keep. I liked reading all the stories about her and her clients (though they can’t ALL have fit so well into making her points). What I liked the most were her ideas about throwing out outmoded thoughts and beliefs. For instance, there is a chapter entitled “Letting Go of Being Right about How Wrong Everybody and Everything Is” and one called “Letting Go of the Need to Have Everyone Like You.” Pretty much worth reading, at least, just for these. I’m not so sure about the FIFTY THINGS part, though

The Guts, by Roddy Doyle

Find in catalogIf you liked _The Commitments_ (also a movie), you’ll like this one, too. The same characters, further on in life. Mostly we follow Jimmy Rabbitte and his family, as well as his friends, on his path sorting out the challenges of aging, illness, and relationships.
The writing style is also like the the previous book, with only dashes to indicate quotes, and the speakers only sometimes identified. I took this emphasis on spoken words as partly a remark about a life in sound. (Since the movie had a soundtrack of music, even better…)
I get put off by this style, but Doyle is such a good writer that I am soon drawn in. See if you are, too.

The Target, by David Baldacci

Find in catalogTo begin, I don’t usually read thrillers. This author is very successful in this genre. The book was given to me, so I thought I’d give it a try. And, if you can avoid thinking of all the killings as real dead bodies, this isn’t too bad a read. The plot continues to be engaging — well, really there are several plots in one book, but that keeps things moving. Not everything is predictable. What you can expect (and will find) are action sequences, clear definitions of who are the “bad guys” (for the most part), and lots of folks who don’t make it to the end of the book. In the end, more entertaining than I expected… and I did finish it.

the life-changing magic of tidying up, by Marie Kondo

Find in catalogMarie Kondo is a “cleaning consultant” who makes her living helping people tidy their houses with her KonMari organizing system. Since we don’t usually use the term “tidy” as a verb here, I got a little tired of that usage.
But this woman is very, very successful. Her basic premise is that we should only keep things that “spark joy” in our homes. Many of her clients have rid their homes of bags and bags of belongings. In doing so, many of them have felt freer to pursue the lives and livelihoods that they really want, partly as a result of making the decisions to keep only what they really want inside their homes.
I don’t know if I’m ready to follow every part of her advice (like keeping my kitchen sponge outdoors), but I can see the reasoning. I did enjoy envisioning her as a child, organizing her family’s home. These personal glimpses added more life to the text.
It was inspiring to imagine such dramatic changes, especially thinking about the small size of many Japanese homes. Maybe in America, we will also want to learn to — Tidy Up!

All the Things We Never Knew, by Shelia Hamilton

Find in catalogThis is the recollection of a woman’s story of her husband’s bipolar mental illness and eventual suicide. It takes place in Portland, Oregon, and many of the locations are familiar, though it is not a book about places. It deals more with emotional places, following the unraveling (or maybe unveiling) of the difficulties of mind in bipolar disorder. It is also a resource, interspersing the chapters with short (1-2 pages) sections on topics in mental health that pertain to the circumstances.
This is a useful book, more of a sorting-out of the events than an in-depth experience. The author is a career newscaster, with a background in television and radio, and that has informed her style. It is also an asset in the researched remarks that help put the whole situation in perspective.
I did not realize there were 42,000 deaths a year in America due to suicide and self-inflicted injury, with proportionally higher rates in certain ages and groups. 117 suicides a day. This writer has helped to add a personal dimension to that statistic.