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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

Currently reading

Norman Lewis Omnibus: A Dragon Apparent; Golden Earth; and a Goddess in the Stones
Norman Lewis
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The Power of Myth
Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers
Progress: 20 %

My Bingo Card



I don't have any books chosen yet, but I have plenty to choose from.


Now I just have to wait until September to start reading!  Argh!

The morning fog, every morning

A Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India - Norman Lewis

I read this for the BookLikes-opoly game.  Somewhere back in my blog posts is the history. . . .


Anyway, I got the Kindle edition free when Open Road Media was giving stuff away last year, and it fit whatever square it was that I landed on.  So I read it.  I knew nothing about author Norman Lewis, and not a whole lot about India, other than what I've picked up reading a few novels set there -- The Far Pavilions, Shadow of the Moon, The Zemindar, The India Fan, Blood Moon over Bengal and The Moonstone.


Lewis sets out in the early 1990s on an exploration of a part of India that the tourists don't see, where the indigenous tribes still live supposedly much the same way they have for centuries.  I was expecting something like Margaret Mead or Bronislaw Malinowski, and I was even prepared to set aside what I expected to be Lewis's racist, colonial point of view in order to enjoy the book.


The racism and colonialism are there, but there wasn't much else.  The hotels were bad, the food was bad, the phone service was bad, the roads were bad, and Lewis never got to see any animals.  No tigers, no elephants.  Every morning he and his driver set out in the fog, and there were such lyrical descriptions of the fog, as though some dramatic, evocative narrative was going to unfold.  It never did.


Government was intruding on the tribes, tearing down their traditional homes and replacing them with concrete houses.  That's the primary thing I came away with, other than the fog.  Tribe after tribe - I've forgotten their names, which were often similar to each other -- with little in-depth exploration and virtually no personification.


Was there a goddess in the stones of the temples he encountered?  Oh, I think so, but I'm not sure.  Not enough of one to be memorable.  The book just didn't live up to the title, or even the cover.


I finished it, because I truly wanted to learn.  All I learned was that there was nothing there.  Not even a tiger or an elephant.



Sometimes, Because Life. Y'know?

Booklikes-Opoly was going along fine.  I landed on that "jungle" square and chose to read Norman Lewis' A Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India.  It was one of 200 or so freebies I had grabbed when Open Road Media was throwing out a whole shit pile of free stuff.  And I don't know a whole lot about India except what I learned from reading The Far Pavilions, which remains one of my favorite books of all time.


So I was about 25% of the way through Stones when life decided to happen again.  Issues with my car.  The dog's pain meds didn't arrive in the mail the way they were supposed to.  The weather, which is always an issue in the summer in Arizona.  And tons of other stupid little shitty stuff.


Plus politics.


I don't remember what sparked my return to watching the news on television.  I shouldn't do it, because it distresses me.  But once distressed, I have to know what's going on; not knowing only distresses me more.


Plus writing. 


I want so desperately to write, but my brain isn't cooperating.  The story is there, the characters are in suspended animation.  There is always something else demanding my concentration and/or my time.  And when I can't write, the self-doubt creeps in.




So there will be a review of A Goddess in the Stones, soon, and I will try to be here more often.


And a huge, huge, huge hug to Moonlight Reader.  Because.



BL-opoly - #24 - Take the Jungle Cruise!

A Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India - Norman Lewis

Several months ago, Open Road Media was offering hundreds of free Kindle books.  I went on a rampage, acquiring about 400 titles over a space of two or three days.


I've never heard of Norman Lewis, but I do like learning about new places, so I downloaded this title, amongst all those others.  Last week-end I selected  A Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India to fulfill the Take the Jungle Cruise. #24 space on Booklikes-opoly.


I'm about 15% into the book, which was written in the 1990s.  So far, it's making me a bit uncomfortable.  I get a distinct colonial feel about it, about Lewis's perspective, but we'll see how it goes.



Reading progress update: I've read 73 out of 383 pages.

All the President's Men - Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward

I'm reading this concurrently with John Dean's Blind Ambition, in which I've just reached th point of the Watergate break-in and how Dean, as White House counsel, reacted to it.


In both books, I'm reading the original publication, old paperbacks that don't have any benefit of later editing or updates.  (I do have a Kindle edition of Blind Ambition, with updates, but I'm not reading it. . . yet.)


All the President's Men is not as easy to read as I had anticipated, because it's written in a single third person point of view, so it's Woodward this or Bernstein that, rather than we, I, etc.  Sometimes I have difficulty keeping them distinct.


But what's truly fascinating is how much these two reporters learned and how quickly they learned it from their own investigation, making their own contacts, making blind phone calls.  It's interesting to speculate how much different the task would have been with today's technology.  On the other hand, they were able to pick up a phone and call the White House and be put through directly to high level people like Bob Haldeman without any trouble.



Poor People and Nice Things. A Rant

I originally filed this on Twitter as a 16-or-so post thread.  Someone liked it and suggested it should be posted somewhere less ephemeral.  Here it is, in slightly expanded form.


This is my "no sympathy" thread for today.  After a pretty crappy week, I'm just in that kind of mood.  Deal with it

Let me start out by saying I'm not "poor." Struggling yes, at times, but so far I'm able to pay the bills, buy the groceries, eat out once in a while.  Sometimes the dogs get trips to the vet before I get a trip to the doctor, but eventually it all works out one way or another.

I have a few "nice" things, some purchased in flusher times, some received as gifts.  Mostly I make do with what I can afford for necessities; luxuries are few and far between.  Everything gets stretched, pushed to the limits of its useful life and a little beyond. My car needs repairs -- again -- and it's not really cost effective to keep fixing it, but I can't afford to replace it right now.

Some months ago I picked up a treasure trove at a yard sale.  An acquaintance had passed away and left behind a house full of "stuff."  Though I didn't really need any more stuff myself and couldn't afford it anyway, I put in a supportive appearance.  Nothing caught my eye until in a back corner of the patio I found something . . . interesting.


I love fountain pens, and this was a largish box of maybe half a dozen pens plus a couple packages of very nice writing paper and several bottles of ink.  I asked the neighbor who was running the sale how much she wanted for the box of pens.


She asked me if $25 was too much.  I said it wasn't.


The light was poor on the shaded patio, but I was able to determine one of the pens was a Waterman, so I knew I was at least getting my money's worth.  When I hesitated, the neighbor added some more paper to sweeten the deal, and two more bottles of ink.  I splurged – $25 is a splurge for me – and brought them home.

There were in fact two Watermans, though one was broken.  The good one is available on Amazon for $75.  I was more than satisfied that I had made a good deal!

Two of the other pens are handmade from exotic woods, value about $50 each.  My deal got better.  (One of them has never been used; it still has the protective cover on the nib.)

The fifth I had to do some research on.  It was a Parker, stamped on the nib, so I guessed it was in the $40-$50 range.  I was more than a bit shocked to discover it is in fact a Parker Duofold Centennial in pearl grey and black, with an 18kt gold nib.  With the original box and paperwork, they run $500 and up on Amazon and eBay.  Even without the packaging, identical models are listed on eBay for $350 and up.

I didn't even tell many people about my find.  But most of those I did tell about it urged me to sell the pen and pocket the cash.  Cash would've been nice, and I can always put it to good use.

But I love fountain pens.  My daughter gave me one when I graduated from college in 2000, and I used it all the time, to the point that the finish was wearing off the outside!  I hated to stop using it, but I didn't want to wear it out completely either.  I could never afford to buy one like the Parker for myself, or even the Waterman.  This was beyond special.

So I kept it.  I write with it.  I love it.  It's one of the very, very few really nice things I have.

Sometimes, it's the only thing that keeps my spirits up. It reminds me there are nice things out there, and sometimes we poor people get them.  Not often, but sometimes.  And if we give up, if we stop looking, if we stop trying and hoping, we'll never find them.

I've had a particularly difficult week.  I've tried to keep up with my reading, but it hasn't been easy.  And I haven't had time to write the reviews of the books I've read or post my pages for the Booklikes-opoly game.  Current politics -- I won't go into details -- have had a lot to do with it, and I've had it up to my eyebrows with the "let them eat cake" attitude of certain people in my immediate personal environment.


So I wrote this thing for Twitter, as a way to just say the hell with those people.


If you are "rich" and are bashing the "poor" for any nice things they have, suggesting that they be like Fantine and sell everything they have until they have nothing left, not even their dignity, please kindly shut the fuck up.

If you are "rich," you already have more than your fair share.  We will keep what little is ours, thank you very much, not.


I'm going to keep my $350+ Parker Duofold Centennial fountain pen, and I'm going to continue to write with it.  Every once in a while one of us scores, too, and we deserve it!






Just for the cover

To Burn Again Brightly - Joyce Verrette

I think I have a scan of the wrap-around on the other computer.  If so, I'll post it later.





BL-opoly - #24 - Take the Jungle Cruise!

Rolled 3 + 6 = 9 = landed on Adventureland #24


A book set in Asia or Africa, or has an exotic animal on the cover.


I'm going to have to do some searching.  I have a lot of historical romances set in Asia -- Joyce Verrette's To Burn Again Brightly with one of the most gorgeous covers ever, Susannah Leigh's Moonwind, and others -- but I'd like to find something written by an Asian or African writer.  So I'll get back to you on this one.



BL-opoly - Free Friday #1 -- All the President's Men

All the President's Men - Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward

I've had this one sitting on the family room bookcase for I don't know how long.  Even though I know the "story" -- I remember when it all happened -- I've never read the book, or seen the movie.


I had another book picked out last night for the Free Friday event, but The Crafstman proved to be one of those books I need to read with a pad of little Post-its to mark the important passages.  Sociology, arts and crafts, and political theory are not the stuff for relaxing week-end reading!


But there sat the Bernstein and Woodward book, and with the anniversary of the Watergate break-in being this week, I thought I'd go in a different direction.  I only read 30 pages before I started falling asleep, but I was seriously hooked.  The projects planned for this week-end while the BF is out of town may get shoved aside in favor of reading. It's going to be too hot to do anything outside. . . .

Should've saved my time instead

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman, Jenna Lamia

One of the things that drew me to the Booklikes-opoly game was the opportunity to expand some of my reading horizons, especially with all the thousands of books I have.


Some of the books have been monstrous disappointments.  Others have been so-so.  And a few have been truly wonderful.


Saving Ceecee Honeycutt falls in the so-so category.


I bumped it up from the two-star rating I had originally intended only because the author redeemed some of the earlier issues I had with the book, but in some ways I was tempted to knock it down a star rather than up.


Ceecee is twelve years old.  Her mother is seriously mentally ill, her much older father is absent for long stretches of time.  After years of being the caregiver for her mother, Ceecee is without friends, without family, without childhood.  When her mother dies, Ceecee is bundled off to live with her great-aunt Tootie in Savannah, Georgia, which is a whole different world from Willoughby, Ohio.


The reader presumes the story is being told after-the-fact and that Ceecee is now an adult looking back on her childhood.  It isn't until maybe two-thirds of the way through the book that the child Ceecee -- her real name is Cecelia Rose -- breaks down emotionally to confront all her traumas.  And it's a pretty serious breakdown.


This is a better story than the silliness of the two Sarah Addison Allen books I read earlier this summer, but I came away with a similar sense of unreality.  Maybe current 2017 events are affecting my reading experience of a book that's set in the 1967 Deep South.


The Savannah, Georgia, of this book is spiritually unchanged from the Atlanta of Gone with the Wind.  All the white ladies are sweet and polite -- and rich -- and the black help are uncomplaining and grateful.  And Ceecee is innocently unaware of everything.  Even when one of the white ladies is revealed to be a racist, she's such an over-the-top caricature that she's unbelievable, laughable, not taken seriously.


No sense of time or place infuses this book, and all the little problems are neatly and easily solved.  There's no tension or drama; there's more nail-biting in one of the Nancy Drew mysteries Ceecee loves.  It's also not a novel that invokes any feminist principles, despite the almost all-female cast.


Sadly, several small stories within this are left hanging.  Was the hatpin just junk jewelry, or was the red stone a ruby or even a garnet?  What happened to the diamond necklace?  What happened to the jewelry store? 


Another aspect of the book that bothered me was that it's a story of a twelve-year-old girl but written obviously for adult readers.  Had there been some reflections from the adult Ceecee or some epilogue that showed how all this affected her as she grew up, I might have found it more to my liking.  But at my age, I'm not all that interested in reading about twelve-year-olds whose lives go miraculously from rags to riches without any deeper development.



Reading progress update: I've read 306 out of 306 pages.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman

Full review to follow, as I'm too tired to write it now.  And I want to start my Friday free choice book while it's still Friday.


Overall, it wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't all that good either.  Or maybe it was just too sugary sweet.


Reading progress update: I've read 112 out of 306 pages.

— feeling what?!?
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman

Maybe I need to stop thinking about these books so much.



So 12-year-old Ceecee has gone to live with her great aunt Tootie in Savannah.  They drive to visit Tootie's sister Lucille, who runs the family's jewelry store.  Ceecee meets Aunt Lu's lifelong friend Rosa.


Ceecee has never had any friends at all, other than her neighbor, elderly Mrs. Odell.  Even though Ceecee wonders if she will ever have a lifelong fried like Rosa, she doesn't do much wondering about going to school in the fall, meeting young people her own age, and so on.  She's surrounded by older women, it's 1967, and she seems to have no clue what's going on in the world around her.


Even if she had no friends at her school in Ohio, wouldn't she have had some hints about things like the Beatles, the Vietnam war, the whole youth culture, and so on? 


I found this very striking, and not natural.


But worse was that when Aunt Lu DIES just two weeks later, Ceecee (via author Hoffman) devotes only two pages to it! 

(show spoiler)




Reading progress update: I've read 57 out of 306 pages.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman

Easy, pleasant reading, but completely lacking in depth. Characters lack dimension, and there's not much that evokes the 1960s time period.  At least not yet.

BL-opoly #16 -Route 66

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt - Beth Hoffman, Jenna Lamia

I couldn't find anything set in one of those states that I really wanted to read, so since this as 306 pages, I'll go with it.

Friends of the Library and the Honesty Box

I swore I wouldn't even look at the books in the sale room, the one you have to walk through to get from the door to the check-out desk.  I swore I wouldn't.


But I did.


Three books at 75 cents each.


I didn't want to mess around digging a quarter out of the bottom of my purse, so I slipped three singles into the Honest Box and called it good.  I always round up.


Not on my wish list

A Gift of Ghosts - Sarah Wynde

Disclosure -- I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on Amazon.  I do not know the author, nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.


Trigger warnings, just in case:

Deaths of children, child abuse, suicide, abortion

(show spoiler)


The book started out fine.  Akira Malone, physics professor, has jeopardized her academic standing with a paragraph in a research paper, in which she suggests ghosts may be a form of energy.  She's now looking for another job, and lands one with a bizarre research facility, General Directions, in the small town of Tassamara, Florida.


Tassamara is a "quirky" little town, where most of the residents are "quirky," too.


Akira's quirk is that she can see ghosts.  And there seem to be a lot of them in Tassamara.  There's one in the rental car, for crying out loud!


I thought this was going to be a light, fun read.  The writing was competent, if sometimes a little heavy on the telling and light on the showing, but it wasn't horrible.  Akira was a likable character, and she didn't do stupid things just for the sake of the story.


Her boss at GD is Zane Latimer, the usual gorgeous hunk.  He didn't seem quite as well developed at Akira, but I could live with that in a fluff book.


Unfortunately, A Gift of Ghosts didn't stay fluffy.


The ghost haunting Akira's rental car -- which she ends up leasing when she moves to Florida to take the job -- is of a 15-year-old boy.  I had a bad feeling about that right away. 


There are four more ghosts at the house she rents: an older man, a young woman who loves television and parties, and two little boys who play in the back yard.  I had more bad feelings about the boys.


General Directions is owned by Zane and his siblings and his father, Max.  Each of them has a "gift," too.  Akira sees ghosts, but Zane can find things; his older brother Lucas reads minds; one of his sisters can see the future; and so on.  Zane is frequently contacted by police and other investigative bodies to find missing things, like stolen property.  Sometimes he's asked to find missing people.


The whole book took a very dark turn when Zane takes on a case of a missing toddler and his father. 

Instead of his "gift" helping to resolve the mystery and return the boy to his grieving mother, Zane's inability to locate the boy suggests that the boy is dead, and points to the father as the killer.  Akira steps in because she can see the boy's ghost.  Well, at least it wasn't murder, but the father's death is suicide and the whole episode altered my whole attitude toward the book.

(show spoiler)

Of course the relationship between Akira and Zane becomes insta-lust, which didn't add anything to the story because there was no tension in the relationship.  No complications, no nothing.


About the time they started having super-duper sex, I realized there wasn't a whole lot of emotional development in the book.  There were plenty of opportunities for it, but the characters didn't seem to react appropriately to what seemed to be highly charged situations. 

For example, the ghost in the car, Dillon, is Zane's nephew, who died of a drug overdose, apparently.  But there doesn't seem to be much grieving or reaction, or even soul-searching about what went wrong.

(show spoiler)

  So when another of the many ghosts in the book --

Zane's mother, Dillon's grandmother, who died of a stroke after Dillon's death

(show spoiler)

-- went into emotional overdrive and threatened Akira's life, I went into eye-roll overdrive.


I also found the ghostly debate over whether or not someone who had aborted -- or at least tried to abort -- an unwanted pregnancy could be forgiven by God and go to heaven rather than burn in hell to be a completely unnecessary distraction.


So it was a good start that kind of went in a lot of wrong directions, at least for me.  I finished it, but I did skim quite a bit through about the last 20%.


BL-opoly Small town setting, 211 pages.  $3.00