I don’t often read memoir, but this read for my book club was funny, quick and interesting. “Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet,” by Catherine Friend, is her memoir about raising a small flock of sheep with her partner on a farm in Minnesota.
It’s a very quick read, probably a good vacation book. The chapters are short, and the book is divided up into five parts, though even then it’s only 255 pages long. She covers her experience with sheep, living on a farm, hitting middle age, dealing with “fiber freaks” and learning how to knit. She’s a funny writer who draws clever similarities between events.
My favorite anecdote in the novel … well, there are two. The first is when she finally realizes Elvis is dead and never coming back (decades after his death), causing an emotional meltdown. The second is when she finally succeeds at knitting socks, using wool from her own sheep, and is so proud she hoists her socked foot onto a store counter to show off.
Friend talks a lot about lambs in this book, both bringing them into the world and caring for them. Despite how hard it sounds, the lambs sound so cute it kind of makes me want to befriend some. So of course, I ended up spending far too much time on YouTube looking up videos of lambs playing. Avoid that hole. You’ll never get out.
She also talks quite a bit about the history of sheep, the history of wool and the environmental impact of both wool and other commonly used fibers. I did learn things I didn’t know, and the book might make you want to search out more wool for your wardrobe. Were I a knitter, I’d switch to wool yarn and avoid acrylic as much as possible. But I’ve tried. I am not a knitter.
Anyone interested in farming, sheep, knitting or even the environment would probably like this book. It’s a nice, quick read if you need something during an upcoming vacation.
I love Jeffrey Eugenides, but it took me a long time to get to “The Marriage Plot.” I’m not sure why. I liked it a lot, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of his. I’ve decided this because I actually finished it weeks ago, but it didn’t stick with me the way “Middlesex” did–so I think Middlesex takes the prize for my favorite Eugenides book thus far.
Set in the 1980s, The Marriage Plot follows three people who are just finishing college–Madeleine Hanna, Leonard Bankhead and Mitchell Grammaticus. The book follows the point of view of both Madeleine and Mitchell, but I’d say Madeleine is the center of the story. She, at different points in the book, is involved with both men, eventually staying with Leonard. But they all graduate college and, when entering the real world, discover things aren’t always what they imagined them to be. Madeleine and Leonard move to Cape Cod for Leonard’s job while Mitchell backpacks around India.
I liked Mitchell a lot. He’s a mess, he has no idea who he is, but I still like him. Probably because he decides wandering the globe is a good way to try to figure things out. It’s something I wish I would’ve done more of. Madeleine I wasn’t as fond of, she just seemed to have a sense of duty so strong it was harmful. Sometimes, girl, you just have to say no. And Leonard … he’s a necessary character, and his flaws are not his fault, but he’s a tough one to read about.
The book went quickly: I finished it in a few days. That said, my one complaint is that there aren’t chapters. There are, I believe, five sections of the book, but no chapters within the sections. Personal preference, maybe, but it’s nice to have a good stopping point when reading before bed, for example. This book doesn’t provide that, and it might be one of the reasons I finished it so fast. When there’s no chapter break, I tend to just keep reading.
I also like how this novel ended. It felt real to me, and it wasn’t the ending I sometimes think books get because that’s what a movie would require. It wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t overly sad. It was just what needed to happen for these characters. I gave this book got four out of five stars on Goodreads. Looking forward to the next Eugenides book.
Haven’t disappeared. Just … life. Have visitors in town for a week and change. I’ll be back.
That bush is in our front yard. This is the only time of year I like it. Without flowers, it’s rather scraggly.
My book club, like I think every book club in the country, picked Jim Fergus’ “One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd” as our latest read. After finishing it (in just a few days, it’s a quick one), I understand why it’s popular with book clubs. This book brings up a lot of topics to discuss, and I think it’s one of those books that many people really love or really hate.
Fergus is a journalist, though this is a work of fiction. But the idea came about when he learned about a peace conference in 1854 at Fort Laramie. A prominent Cheyenne chief asked for 1,000 white women from the United States Government to be brides for his warriors. The thought was that these children, because the Cheyenne are matrilineal, would belong to their mother’s tribe and thus help assimilate the Cheyenne into the white world. In real life, this didn’t happen. Fergus’ book imagines it did.
May Dodd is one of those white women who go to live with the Cheyenne. She chooses to go because she’d been placed in an insane asylum by her family and this was her way out. She ends up marrying Chief Little Wolf, and becomes his third wife. The book follows her decision to join the program, the journey out to the prairie, and what happens after the 40 women she starts traveling with are actually given to the tribe.
I thought this book was interesting–like I mentioned about, it reads quickly–and May had a definite voice. She was a complicated character, as were those around her. There is a wonderful cast of white women and Cheyenne people that Fergus does a good job of fleshing out. For the most part, I think he did a good job of portraying what life on the prairie was like, and probably got very close to what life was like for the Cheyenne during that period.
My biggest complaint with this book: it seemed like Fergus made a list of all the stereotypes of Native Americans, and then one by one, had them happen in the book. Don’t handle alcohol well, check. Kidnap and rape women, check. I understand upping the stakes, giving your character problems to overcome … but man, if it could happen to May Dodd, it happened. I felt the same way about this book as I did after watching the movie Armageddon (Yup, I’m referencing a movie from the 90s. Guess how old I am). The only thing left to go wrong in that movie was Bruce Willis breaking his thumb, somehow, before he could push the trigger button. (Sorry if that’s lost on you because you haven’t seen that movie.) It becomes a giant eye-roll.
I would say if you enjoy reading about mid 19th century America or if you enjoy Native American stories, you’ll enjoy this book. If you want an easy beach read, you’d probably enjoy this book. Fergus is a good writer, so I wouldn’t be opposed to reading another book he’s written. He creates interesting characters and does a good job of placing you in the setting and appealing to all of your senses.
Buddha and basil this week. Hope my just-planted garden grows.
• Again, whoa.
• Ten writing tips. Number four is my favorite, I know a lot of people who need it tattooed on their arm.
• I’m thinking roman shades?
• This intro for GoT is better.
• New exercise plan.
• Body language.
• Heh. NSFW.
I was wandering around Elliott Bay Book Company last week with no real objective. Then I spotted this:
What a gorgeous copy of “The Beautiful and the Damned,” huh? I want to use that book as inspiration for my bedroom. Creamy white with gold. So pretty. I didn’t buy it, but I might have to go back and do it just because I can’t stop thinking about that book cover. I’ve never read that one, though “The Great Gatsby” is one of my all-time favorite books, so I really should.
After that, I was on a mission to find more pretty books in the fiction section. Like these:
Novellas–and there is a whole series–that are the cutest size and a typography lover’s dream. The covers are so simple and bold. They’re adorable. They’d look really nice displayed face-out on a shelf somewhere. Plus, I haven’t seen novellas published alone before (other than “Heart of Darkness”), and I love the idea. I don’t remember what company published these, but kudos to them.
And finally, this copy of a favorite book:
What you can’t tell from a photograph is how awesome it felt. The cover was incredibly soft. I’m guessing it was pleather, based on the price, but it didn’t feel like plastic or vinyl. It wasn’t stiff, either. My copy of “Anna Karenina” is a beat-up paperback edition. I’d love to have this one.
Ever bought a book just because it was such a pretty design?
• The least-visited countries in the world.
• Love these iPhone cases.
• This looks so good. And easy to make vegan.
• 15 free online magazines.
• Cute idea.
• Hey writers! Skip these words. Love this.
This was the last of the three YA books I was talked into reading by some friends. “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl was the longest of the three, and the first to have the movie released (though it’s already gone from most theaters around here). I requested it from the library, and received a copy with the movie cover–including a fold out poster (ooo!). The poster makes me laugh, as it is two-sided, but only the background cha
Anyway, this is fantasy, set in the south (Gatlin, what a good name for a southern town). Probably because I’d seen movie previews on TV, I thought this book–like most of the YA I’ve read–was told from a female point of view. It’s not. So I was really confused for the first chapter. Once I figured that out, things started making more sense. It starts with Ethan commenting on how boring school is, how nothing ever changes in Gatlin, how he can’t wait to get out. Then the new girl moves in, and no one likes her. She’s weird, she’s different, she lives with the town recluse no one ever sees, she lives in the hause everyone thinks is haunted. And of course they eventually meet and fall in love.
No surprises yet.
Lena Duchannes (pronounced so it rhymes with rain, as they tell in about ten times in the book) is the mystery new girl, and there is something … different about her. Surprise! She’s a witch! (Well, technically, a Caster as is explained, but if we’re going with familiar terms, she’s a witch.) She’s confused because no one will tell her anything, she’s angry because she just wants to be a normal girl but never can be, and she’s scared because she’s falling for Ethan but knows they can’t be together. On her 16th birthday, Lena will be claimed as light or dark, and the countdown as started.
More characters from the town and family members of Lena’s appear as the book progresses, and you learn a lot about this little town of Gatlin that no human ever knew. There are a few interesting characters. I like Macon, Lena’s uncle, I like Amma, Ethan’s housekeeper/guardian (his mom died before the book starts and his dad is basically a hermit) and I like Mrs. Lincoln. But that last one might be because that character is played by Emma Thompson.
The book is a little long, and pretty predictable, but I like the southern setting and I like the light versus dark storyline. I do feel like the two main characters are pretty flat compared to some of the secondary characters. But maybe that’s because they’re 15-year-olds, whereas the interesting secondary characters are adults (and I’m 31, so …). You get to meet some family members who have gone dark, and I think they’re more complicated than just pure evil witches … err … Casters, which I enjoyed.
I’ve heard the movie is a lot different from the book (at more than 550 pages, that doesn’t surprise me), so if that bothers you, better read the book. If not, you can probably just watch the movie. (Emma Thompson!)
• This makes me laugh.
• I like this scarf. It would make a good gift.
• Her art pile looks like mine … but I’m running out of walls.
• Adorable dog. Love the rain boots.
• Shut up and write. Love it.
• Creative truths.