Reality To Fiction: Carrie Strahorn & Jane Kirkpatrick

For years, one of my favorite reading exercises was to pair fiction and nonfiction ipiccy vanderbilttitles. By that I mean if there is a novel written about a particular incident or person, read more about it by delving into a nonfiction account or biography of the incident or person. For example, Arthur Vanderbilt’s absorbing story of the rise and fall of the Vanderbilt wealth in Fortune’s Children could be paired with Theresa Fowler’s latest novel, A Well-Behaved Woman.

Or read more about Hitler’s concentration camp for women featured in Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, by picking up Sarah Helm’s Ravensbrück; or after reading Beatriz Williams’ The Glass Ocean, find out more about the sinking of the Lusitania in Erik Larson’s Dead Wake. And pairing movies can also be fun such as reading the spooky novel Help for the Haunted by John Searles, which was based on a real-life haunting featured in The Conjuring.

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That brings me to two books I’m excited to share, one really old (like published in 1911 old) and the other published 107 years later (this year for the math-challenged).

When I started working at the library waaaay back in 1974, despite its re-bound plain blue cover, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage by Carrie Strahorn (the subtitle “A Woman’s Unique Experience during Thirty Years of Path Finding and Pioneering from the Missouri to the Pacific and from Alaska to Mexico,” pretty much covers the topic), caught my 15000 miles outsideeye every time I passed the travel shelf (it was later re-cataloged into the history category).  I loved the idea of this woman traveling all over the west in the late 1800s by stagecoach and was fascinated with the photos and drawings by C. M. Russell. I never read the book cover to cover but would periodically check it out and read parts of it (probably one reason it’s never been weeded from the collection!). What I got from the book is that Carrie Strahorn’s travels alongside her husband, Robert, as they scouted our various locations for railroads and founded a few towns along the way (such as Caldwell, Idaho, and Ontario, Oregon), was an amazing adventure and a story of resilience to not only travel under challenging conditions, but to also keep her marriage intact. So I was thrilled to see the new novel by Jane Kirkpatrick, Everything She Didn’t Say, a novel based on Carrie Strahorn’s life.

15000 miles inside

Much to Carrie’s annoyance, she was very curvy and robust, which she called “fluffy.”

A little background on Jane Kirkpatrick, a writer from eastern and central Oregon.  I’ve been recommending her historical novels for 23 years (especially Gathering of Finches, set at Shore Acres near Coos Bay) as her novels based on real women of the west are “clean” and well received by readers. The novels have always been described as “faith-based” or “inspirational” but I found that while they were based on Christian beliefs, the messages weren’t at all heavy-handed. You can find a complete list of her books here.

everything coverWhen I started reading Everything She Didn’t Say, I was a little turned off by the clunky title and the fact that Carrie’s story seemed a little remote. It wasn’t long, though, before I couldn’t put this down and having her memoir alongside to check certain passages greatly enhanced the experience.  And the reason for the title is that Kirkpatrick did a lot of in-depth research and reading-between-the-lines to expand Carrie’s story of what wasn’t said in the memoir and what could have happened in her personal life. Especially enjoyable was the epilogue where Kirkpatrick explains how she came to write the book and gives information about her research.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Carrie is talking about working with C. M. Russell about the drawings and she said about one sketch: “…he made me look as lithe as my niece instead of the ‘fluffy woman” I always was.”

Bottom line is I loved Kirkpatrick’s book and believe anyone interested in Oregon and northwest history, along with true travel adventures during a tumultuous historical period, will enjoy both books.

 

 

The Horror…The Horror: 11 Scary Books, Depending on Your Phobia

I was cleaning out some old work ephemera and ran across this column I wrote for Salem Weekly years ago. Enjoy this reprise while waiting for my next blog on what I’ve been reading.

ipiccy scary 1October may be the official month to be frightened, but scary stuff is around all year. Fiction and nonfiction writers alike have offered up some terrifying tales found on the list below. We recommend you keep your personal phobia in mind when considering these reads. If you do choose to read any of these wet-your-pants scary books, be forewarned—you could be reduced to a quivering mass of jelly hiding under the bed.

Medusa’s Child by John Nance. If the idea of hurtling above the earth in a metal tube gives you the shakes, then do not read this book of air flight gone wrong.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. If you suffer from fear of the boogeyman, this prequel to Silence of the Lambs that introduces Hannibal the Cannibal will have you installing double locks … no … quadruple locks on your doors.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. If you worry about someone murdering you while you sleep, it would be best not to read this true story of Charles Manson and his gang.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute and Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick. If you hate the thought of life ending in a flash of a mushroom cloud, don’t read these books about the possible end of the world as we know it. [For the record, the final scene in On the Beach still haunts me.]

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. If you are worried about the avian (or swine, or whatever nasty virus is forecast to hit the U.S.) flu, do not read this true story of a ghastly virus that was almost released in the U.S.

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Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. If you worry about your dream home killing you with psychological terror, don’t read this book about a house that kills by playing with your mind. [I am looking forward to watching the Netflix series.]

Hell House by Richard Matheson. If you have a morbid fear of malevolent spirits in a haunted house scaring you to death, this is not the book for you.

The Shining by Stephen King. If you worry about a rotting corpse coming alive in a bathtub and chasing you down a deserted hallway, or of topiary coming to life, don’t even think about picking up this book. [I will never ever forget the image of the decaying woman rising out of the bathtub.]

It by Stephen King. If you suffer from coulrophobia, do not read this book about the biggest and baddest red-nosed, big-footed entertainer ever to appear in fiction (or nonfiction for that matter).

Last but not least, the number 1 scary book of all time (at least to librarians) is: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. How can we stand the thought of books being burned? The horror … the horror, indeed!

I’ve read numerous scary books since I wrote this list but some of these remain at the top of my list.

So let’s discuss: What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

 

 

 

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More Good Reading: LibraryReads for October

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The LibraryReads list for books published in October was just released with plenty of good titles to add to your toppling pile.  You can find the entire list here, and while you can’t go wrong with rushing to the library catalog to place holds on anything listed, here are my top picks.

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I read November Road by Lou Berney about two months ago and couldn’t stop turning pages. With the JFK assassination front and foremost, this fast-paced and suspenseful novel takes us on a road trip across the Southwestern U.S. with bad guys chasing bad guy (and that includes Frank, the main character), a woman and her young daughters looking to get away from a bad marriage, and lots of nonstop action and suspense. It was terrific and the crystal ball that my librarian colleagues and I view daily predicts it will be big so watch for it in October.

Susan Orlean writes absorbing nonfiction, and while I haven’t read it, early reports are positive for The Library Book, a chronicle of the 1986 fire at Los Angeles Public Library with a history of public libraries in the U.S.

Kate Morton weaves involving gothic-toned sagas and The Clockmaker’s Daughter with its whiff of supernatural has been well-liked by advance readers. If you haven’t read anything by this author, try the intriguing historical The Secret Keeper.

 

ipiccy oct 2Barbara Kingsolver’s last few books have been bestsellers but some readers have found them a little “preachy.” However, her next book, Unsheltered, is receiving mostly rave reviews. I found her last two books rather tough going but read part of the new title and it appears to be a bit more accessible–if that makes sense.

 

I read Leif Enger’s first book, Peace Like a River, and adored it, as did most of the library’s book group members. His second book, So Brave, Young and Handsome, also received great reviews and was on the Salem Library’s best books list of that year. Readers of Virgil Wander are already saying this is a great book for discussion groups.

Diane Chamberlain has always been one of my favorite “go-to” authors for “women’s fiction” and Dream Daughter is a wonderful weave of past and present involving time travel. My favorite book is difficult to get but if you can find it, try Secret Lives. The Kiss River trilogy is also an absorbing tale of family dynamics. Start with Keeper of the Light.

 

That’s it for today. I’ll return in a few days with a post featuring my latest library stacks. I can’t wait to tell you about a new historical novel by an Oregon author. 

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True Library Stack Confessions

OK, it’s time to fess-up.

You know all of those books you see in my library stack photos? I don’t really read all of them. In fact, I rarely get through 2-3, but what I love to do (and always have) is sit down with the stack and spend time perusing and “getting to know” them. I do this for a couple of reasons. The first is to determine if it’s a book I want to add to my “to-be-read-at-some-future-date” list, and perhaps even purchase for my e-reader should a deal come up on Bookbub. And the second is to get an idea of the book’s appeal for any future readers’ advisory interactions. Either way, I usually spend 10-15 minutes per book reading the book description, checking out the author’s bio, reading a few pages or the first chapter to get the tone of the book, and, if I’m not going to read the book, I’ll read the ending. (I know! :-0 ) Also, I often do a quick check of Goodreads reviews to get a general overview from readers. When I worked at the library, this was how I often spent my lunch and breaks, a method my co-worker appropriately called “book-snacking.”

So you can stop being impressed.

And with that in mind, here are my last three stacks of books I checked out of the Salem Public Library with comments on a few of the titles.

img_20180821_1557058231Cluttered Mess to Organized Success – I’m always searching for new ways to tame clutter and this is an interesting entry into the topic mainly because, in addition to practical advice, it offers lots of lists and labels for personalized use. If you are serious about decluttering, I recommend this as a purchase.

Soul Survivor by G. M. Ford is the latest in the series featuring one of my favorite detectives, Leo Waterman. It was good but Leo suffered horribly and it was tough to read so I ended up skimming most of it. However, I hope I’m not right in thinking it could be the end of the series.

Fiona Davis’ The Masterpiece is a historical novel based on the revitalization of Grand Central Station and I hear it’s terrific. I love these kinds of historical novels based on real events or people. The Hazards of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland is being hailed as the next Bonfire of the Vanities, only with a bit of a kinder heart. It’s long but I hear very compelling. There There by Tommy Orange, a novel about urban Native Americans, is destined for the best of 2019 lists and book groups will be clamoring for this.

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In this stack is a book called Fatal Thronea teen book a friend recommended saying it was an easy-to-read and interesting novel about Henry VIII told from the perspective of each of his wives. Smothered is another aimed at older teens that a well-read acquaintance said was worth reading. And Food Pharmacy is yet another entry into the topic of trying to tame my stomach woes.

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Betty Rosenberg, an expert on book genres, said: “Never apologize for your reading tastes.” [By the way, if I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be this quote.] So I offer this stack and assume you will not judge me on one particular title in the pile–yes, that’s right, I’m finally going gray, hence, the handbook on silver hair. 😉

Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest is one I want to read as I enjoyed her first domestic suspense novel, The Couple Next Door.  After reading a few essays in David Sedaris’ Calypso, I want to finish but a friend recommends this is best listened to as it’s narrated by the author.

Advice for Future Corpses is by the Portland author, Sallie Tisdale, and while it could be a bit of a difficult read, promises to be an interesting look at how to handle our deaths. It appears to be a good readalike to the excellent look by Caitlin Doughty on how other cultures handle their dead, From Here to Eternity.

The other two books that very much appeal to me are Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris, a true adventure story of biking the Silk Road, and Phantom Tree by Nicole Cornick, featuring time travel in the 1500’s and present day.

And last but not least, I loved The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Karen White & Lauren Willig, a novel set on the Lusitania (click on the title to see my review) so I now want to read Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, the true history of the ship’s sinking.

I hope this helps alleviate your envy at my perceived skill to read all of these books, although you are welcome to marvel at my ability in knowing what books to put on hold.

 

And Even More Catching Up…

[Note: Remember clicking on a bold title will take you either to the general entry on GoodReads or to my review.]

Sometimes I feel like I’m always trying to catch up on my reading reports and today is no exception. In my defense, we have been going somewhere every week this summer, trying various ways of traveling, which plays havoc with my computer time.

So anyhoo, here are titles I’ve recently read, the September LibraryReads list, and a photo of my latest topping stack of library books.

Recent Reads

recent reads

Oregonian Karen Thompson Walker’s The Dreamers isn’t due to be published until January 2019, but add this to your list of discussion-worthy titles for book groups. It’s pensive atmosphere, various moral dilemmas, and the topic of dreaming will have everyone talking for hours. If you haven’t read Thompson’s first book, Age of Miracles, give it a try while waiting.

If you’re looking for a twisty psychological suspense with two of the most unreliable narrators you’ll ever run across, try Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Trust Me. It has been compared to the often mentioned Gone Girl but this stands alone in its intensity. In my review, I mention it took all of my willpower not to read ahead. And Ryan also writes a mystery series but Trust Me is a “stand-alone” and will be available in late August.

Another terrific crime novel is Tahoe Skydrop by Todd Borg, the 16th title in the Owen McKenna series set in my favorite place for vacationing, Lake Tahoe. Even if you’ve never been you’ll enjoy the escapades of Owen and his wonder dog, Spot. And as usual, if you haven’t read them, start with the first, although they can be read out of order since the relationships never seem to change.

 

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Here is a link to the favorite titles due to be published in September as selected by librarians. While I haven’t read any of them, I can report what colleagues are saying about a few of the titles.

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has been popular with those who like a very twisty literary mystery. Think the movie “Groundhog Day” with a gothic tone.

T. M. Logan’s Lies has been receiving tons of advance praise for it’s breakneck pace and sheer WTF twists. It’s been on my list for a while and I need to get busy and read it.

A librarian friend raved about The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle, saying it had “charm.”

I love Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody literary mystery series but have never gotten around to reading her other novels; however, her latest, Transcription, is receiving kudos from other librarians. If you liked her earlier novel, Life After Life, watch for this in September.

Recent Toppling Library Stack

Naturally, as it tends to happen, many of my library holds came in at the same time. Now lest you think I’m going to read all of these, chances are most will be perused and placed on a “future-reading” list. That being said, I immediately started reading the latest Marcia Muller mystery featuring Sharon McCone as she one of my favorites.

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And Finally…

There is a Twitter feed called “Fake Library Statistics,” and while most are tongue-in-cheek, some really ring true, like this one:

“Librarians when someone announces cake in the break room.”

fake stats

Catching Up on Reading Matters

No one wants to sit inside during such nice weather (yes, I think 90 degrees is wonderful) so I’ve been spending hours outside reading. And it’s been glorious. But right now it’s 101 degrees on our back deck and much cooler at my computer so it’s time to get caught up on various reading matters.

LibraryReads for Augustlibrary_reads_logo_website

The list for August is here and has a few books of note.

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Vox by Christina Dalcher is receiving rave reviews from fellow librarians, many saying if you like Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll like this. Trust me, though, it’s very disturbing.

Louise Candlish’s Our House is a “wowzer” of a book with a “gasp-worthy” ending. For me, it dragged a little in the middle but for the most part, it’s a heck of a psychological twister.

Rust and Stardust is a novel based on the true story of the kidnapping of a young girl that “inspired” Nabokov to write Lolita, but there is also a nonfiction account of the kidnapping being published in September titled The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman. Both are compelling and if I were to recommend which to read, I would say read both and in whatever order you prefer. Me, I prefer to read the fictionalized version first, then see how close it was to the actual incident.

Early readers have said Meet Me at the Museum is a very uplifting novel, and sometimes we just want something “nice,” right? Might be a good palate cleanser after reading Vox and Rust and Stardust.

My Recent Reading

iPiccy-collage recent readsI’ve been reading some terrific titles over the last few days. They are:

Field of Bones by J. A. Jance. This is the 18th entry in the Joanna Brady series set in SE Arizona, and while I still prefer the J. P. Beaumont mysteries, Jance has truly hit her stride with Brady’s character. I haven’t reviewed it yet but if you’re a fan, watch for it in late August.

Those of you know me are probably aware of how much I love a good celebrity memoir and I was looking forward to Todd Fisher’s “tell-all” about his life with mother Debbie Reynolds and sister Carrie Fisher, My Girls. I didn’t expect a whole lot but I was completely engrossed. Check out my complete review on Goodreads.

Linwood Barclay is a master at taking a seemingly impossible to solve domestic incident and wrapping everything up with a big bow. A Noise Downstairs was a bit of a departure but it was every bit as compelling as his previous books. This comes out in August.

One of the most entertaining books I’ve read and perused is Charles Phoenix’s Addicted to Americana. Doesn’t the cover just scream, “You’re in for a good time!”? addicted to americana

Latest Library Stack

It was so high I had to split it into two photographs. I’m excited about A Life Less Throwaway and Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage. I’ll expand on both in future posts. In the meantime, I am working on a post listing my favorite books of 2018 (so far).

Stay cool and happy reading! 

Facebook Challenge: Favorite Titles

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Over on Facebook, I was challenged to post the covers of seven of my favorite books from years past. Well, I’m sure by now you know I’m a bit of an over-achiever, plus, really, I don’t know how anyone could expect me to be able to limit my favorite books to a certain number, so I rebelled and chose ten. Here is a collage of what I posted over the past ten days.

Coming soon: My favorite books (so far) of 2018.

fave collage