Pop Goes the Weasel: The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes by Albert Jack

Pop Goes the WeaselThe subtitle says it all. I loved the idea of this book – “the secret meanings of nursery rhymes” and this book includes a lot of history (mostly English history of a certain era) that may have inspired common children’s rhymes. The chantings of playing in the street may have been the political commentary of the time. A number of the¬†explanations include varying possibilities and speculation. Some I had read more about elsewhere. Still, it was fun to have these ideas collected in one place. At the end is a small collection of some traditional songs explained.

Reviewed by Sue

Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy

Piano LessonsA biography of music education and of an education of the soul, this is an engrossing book, the more so if you are familiar with classical composers. It follow the true journey of Anna from her beginnings with the piano through her success as a concert pianist, centering on the lessons of Eleonora Sivan, her teacher. It reflects the intensity of a gifted musician, detailing hours of practice and music analysis, but equally attending to the passion. The is a memoir with much heart.

Reviewed by Sue


Who I Was Supposed to Be by Susan Perabo

Who I Was Supposed to BeThis is a collection of well-written short stories that, in the words of the book jacket, “celebrate the absence of normalcy.” I would say that they are based on what happens when the boundary against casual violence and willfulness dissolves. They have surprising circumstances and occasional shocking moments, all introduced in a very calm, ordinary voice. They are a good read and not far from reality, but enough to be unsettling.

Reviewed by Sue

Proof of Heaven by Eban Alexander

Proof of HeavenFirst thing, let me say that the author did not write the title of this book. (I know this from a TV interview.) It’s from his publisher. He is a doctor. He is a scientist. He has a detached and neutral mind. All this said, the book is all about Dr. Alexander’s experiences when he was functionally dead for nearly a week. It is interesting, uplifting. It’s all about love. I think most folks would be fascinated with his story. I do think that there are maybe too many pages that could be summarized — “They waited and prayed.” — and maybe too many paragraphs empasizing that “this is being written by someone with a scientific mind.” So: a certain amount of repetition. Still, a good message, very comforting. It’s all about love.

Reviewed by Sue

Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory

Everyday MattersThis book is an illustrated journal. This is also a book about creating an illustrated journal — more specifically, about how the process of seeing and drawing images from everyday life helped Danny Gregory survive the life – change of his wife’s severe injury and subsequent disability. It has lots of drawings of little things he sees as well as his thoughts about them. It’s easy to drop in on, as he is funny as well as sometimes depressed. I’ve read it once through and also read random bits a bunch as I go back to the pictures. I like the drawings of his family (including Frank, the dog) the best.

Reviewed by Sue

Homework by Suneeta Peres da Costa

HomeworkThe story of a young girl from an Indian family growing up in Australia, it is also about clashing worlds — childhood vs. adolescent independence, Indian traditions at home vs. Australian neighbors and culture, the increasingly chaotic behavior of her parents vs. the predictable world of math or physics homework. Mina (the narrator) is especially sensitive as she also has a set of antennae arising from the top of her head. Her mother’s manic actions make it difficult for her to be nurtured at home.

The tone of the book is very matter-of-fact, though the events are far from ordinary. I did stay interested as the wildness progressed, but was somewhat unsatisfied toward the later part of the book. I wanted more. This is the author’s first novel.

Reviewed by Sue

Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing by Natalie Goldberg

Old Friend from Far AwayThis book is a pleasure to read, but it is even more valuable as a group of exercises and encouragements for memoir writing, with many writing prompts and a very basic direction — “Shut up and write.”
There are many examples from Goldberg and other authors that inspire as well as illustrate.

From the book — “To write just to write is what writing practice is all about…. Practice for no reason. Then all poetry, literature, even home, that evasive place, will come to you.”

Reviewed by Sue

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Strange PilgrimsThis is a marvelous book of stories, mostly about Latin Americans living in Europe. There is that tell-tale sense that we are in a world not quite like the everyday, but the magical reality element is subtle, a mood only, a feeling.

There is quite a variety of events, situations, and characters. Especially interesting is the “Prologue: Why Twelve, Why Stories, Why Pilgrims” where Marquez describes the process of creaton.

For the shimmering summer heat or a misty gray day, this is a wonderful choice to carry you away.

Reviewed by Sue

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Bookman's TaleA young widowed antiquarian book dealer is drawn into a mystery that begins with finding a Victorian-era watercolor that looks like his deceaseed wife. He finds it inside a study of Shakespeare forgeries, and that is the world of this story — book dealers, book restoration, libraries, Shakespeare forgeries, London and the English countryside.

This is a fascinating background for the mystery of the possibly authentic literary artifact that is the center of the book. The book jumps back and forth in time following the provenance of the pamphlet, and following the relationship of the young couple. It also includes a ghost. What more could you want?

I do notice that it is a bit jumpy and seemed like it was almost geared to a movie presentation. I miss books that have just a little more development. But this is a good read.

Reviewed by Sue