The Books Piled Beside the Bed

I went through a spell of not reading earlier this year and had no idea why, though I did wonder if sharing my bed with two little fellows was maybe distracting me from reading as much and as often as I once did.  So my book pile kept growing and I kept climbing into bed and falling asleep without picking up a book from that pile.

My pal Lisa and I were chatting about sharing our reading lists and somehow or other we ended up thinking it could be a shared thing ……… so here we go.  I’m writing this post, Lisa will write the next and if you want to jump in at any stage feel free and link in to this page.

And just because it’s me and it’s my blog and I never follow the rules anyway –  I’m kicking this thing off with a book I didn’t read!

The Luminaries

I started reading the book at the beginning of October and by the end had given up.  I wanted to read it, I really did.  I wanted to enjoy it, I really, really did.  It has everything going for it – it’s set locally, it’s historical, it’s well written – it won the Man-Booker ……….  It appeared to tick all my ideal reading biases………… Or so I thought.

The story is set in my country, in regions I am very familiar with; in the nineteenth century – an era that fascinates me;  is written by a woman and is one of those weighty books with lots of pages – it really ought to be a riveting read.  I love history, I love a big thick book – it means hours being lost in words and worlds not mine…..  And this is indeed a massive tome of 800+ pages, following a convoluted mathematical design and telling the same story from several different points of view………..  I’d read a couple of pages and wonder what I’d just read.  It felt ponderous, like reading the bits of Dickens that become lectures on the spiritual needs of the poor and destitute of London which left me thinking ‘get on with the story already Mr Dickens!’  I’d go to bed and be reluctant to pick the book up – this has never happened before in my life – there is always something to be gained in a half hours dedicated reading time that can stretch out to an hour or even longer whenever required.  I’d pick it up and dive back in and feel no connection to the words on the page.

Eventually I took the advice of my friend Robin who told me she gives a book 50 pages and if it hasn’t drawn her in by then she puts it down.  I gave the book 88 pages and decided there must be a better way to spend the last half hour of every day……….   I decided to wait til the movie comes out!

Instead I picked up ‘We Never Asked for Wings’ the second book by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

we never asked for wings

I loved her first book ‘The Language of Flowers’ and soon found myself just as lost and involved in this new story from her.

In both her books Diffenbaugh writes about loss and finding yourself and about finding a new kind of family.  She tackles some hard questions around how one feels when abandoned, when alone and in chaos and does so without losing hope and without an overdose of syrup.

‘We Never Asked for  Wings’ tells the story of Letty, a young unmarried mother who finds herself suddenly and abruptly fully responsible for her two children when her own parents return to Mexico.  With no idea how to be a mother – her own mother raised her two children and asked nothing of Letty – she finds herself abandoned and having to step up for her teenage son and much younger daughter.  There’s chaos and grief and levels of love and a slow unfolding of hope and resilience and the birthing of a new family.

I felt kind of elated when I finished reading it and the characters stay in my memory – all signs of a good read don’t you think.

So what’s sitting beside your bed, what are you reading now?

I have to go rummage through my book stack now to find something new to start this evening when me and my little furry babies all tuck up into bed – here’s one tired little fellow.

Siddy onchair1 cropped

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

 

 

 

 

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89 thoughts on “The Books Piled Beside the Bed

  1. Pauline, I read this post back in November and meant to respond at some point, but didn’t. In the past months I have read far less than ever before since I was four years or so. There has been no stack beside my bed, in spite of over forty library books on the shelf . . . I did buy three books in November and early December, though, and once I started the first, David Baldacci’s ‘The Escape’, I read it in a couple of days. John Grisham’s ‘Gray Mountain’ was also a spell-binder. Both books gave me a great deal to think about; something I know is indispensable if I am to enjoy a book.

    The forty library books have been returned. Of them I renewed two mysteries by Bill Crider for Mum, my sister and myself to enjoy. We all like his way with words. One is ‘Of All Sad Words’, but the other is in the living room just now; I’ll have to share the title later. The third book is non-fiction, ‘Your Brain on Music’ and promised to be quite fascinating when I began reading it in mid-August. I hope its promise is fulfilled.

    Of the books by your bedside, Pauline, I am adding ‘Rush Oh’ and ‘The Forgetting Time’ to my own list. It will be interesting to have two new authors to explore.

    Back before we moved, so in 2014, I had been busy re-reading as many of my favourite books as possible, trying to get through as many as possible before the library disposed of them. Once I realized that the majority of the authors whose works I had enjoyed time and again for decades were being eliminated from the collection, I resolved to read as many as remained in the hope of being able to at least enjoy them in memory during the coming years.

    I loved Gladys Taber, a columnist whose works were collected into volumes of essays that were interesting, humorous and thought-provoking. She wrote several autobiographical books, too. After their children grew up and their husbands died, she and her best friend lived on a 200-year old farm in Connecticut, Stillmeadow, where the friend gardened and Gladys wrote, and in between they raised and showed many Cocker Spaniels and a couple of Irish Setters. There were also a few Siamese cats, but one at a time. As they grew older, they purchased a home on the ocean called Still Cove, where winters were easier to manage. The women collected milk glass and wrote a couple of cookbooks, too.

    Jessamyn West has disappeared, too. A cousin of Richard Nixon, she was raised in the Quaker religion and wrote, among other books, ‘The Friendly Persuasion’ and ‘Except for Me and Thee’. I read everything of hers I could get my hands on and one autobiographical book still stands out for me: ‘The Woman Said Yes’, about how she supported her sister’s wish to die with dignity at home after a long struggle with an incurable illness. Not always an easy read, as it raises and explores the emotional as well as the ethical sides of assisted suicide.

    First and foremost, though, and still on the shelves, are the works of Guy Gavriel Kay, Canada’s best author, in my not-so-humble opinion. His characters ad his plot are complex and subtle. He met Christopher Tolkien when at university in England and after J.R.R. died, was asked to help Christopher complete ‘The Silmarillion’. His first trilogy shows the influence of Tolkien’s work; after that Kay’s own style emerged and took flight. His novels are set in analogues of times and places in our world, e.g., ‘The Lions of Al-Rassan’ takes place in a country modelled on Spain in the time of El Cid, with Moorish people from what we would call the northern African desert in conflict with the northern people. An ancient civilization has recently come to an end, but its poetry and culture still influence everyone. Interesting, too, are the wandering people loosely modelled on the Jews of our world. One of the main characters is a strong-minded woman who is a physician like her father before her. As she encounters the two men (and others), one from the north and one from the south, she moves outside her accustomed world. There is nothing sentimental about the people or their world, which I love. I have read quite widely and I recommend this book as the greatest love story I have ever read. Love, politics, religion, civilization, the arts; all those and more are explored deeply.

    Other titles include ‘The Last Light of the Sun’, set in the time of the last of the Vikings, and including a land like England under Alfred the great, as well as some Welsh-based characters who enchant, inspire and intrigue.

    There are more; I recommend reading any one of them There is a trilogy, a duology (is that a word?) and two books in a Chinese historical setting, but several hundred years apart. Kay thoroughly researches the time, customs, language, etc., before construction his own world in which to entertain us eve as he provokes deep and complex thinking.

    Best of all, Kay surprises me with each book, even though I watch for the surprise.

    I have also been re-reading some of the science fiction that influenced me as a child and young woman, including the works of Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin and Vonda McIntyre. McIntyre’s ‘Dreamsnake’ and ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’ slant a different light on healing, which interests me greatly. LeGuin has challenged my thinking often, most notably with ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, which begins with a planet where people are basically genderless most of the time, but who come into a state called ‘kemmering’ where they may emporarily assume either feminine or masculine aspects. As a result, they may be both mothers and fathers. The interesting part comes from the interaction of an Earth-type ambassador, who of course is permanently set in a state of masculinity, which is seen as an aberration. LeGuin also authored the ‘Wizard of Earthsea’ trilogy, which explores the question of how, and whether, we might/should use our abilities. Some years later she added a fourth book to the set, following the main characters later in their lives. There are other novels in the Earthsea Cycle collection, but the Wizard books influenced me most strongly.

    Andre Norton’s first books, including ‘Star Rangers’ (now re-titled as ‘The Last Planet’) were also very influential, dealing with racism between species, partnerships between disaffected teen characters and a variety of birds and animals (meerkats came to my attention through some of her books). She is seen as a writer for young adults of the fifties and sixties, but I found much more. ‘Star Rangers’ was passed to me by my father when I was ten; he only said, “you might like this”. and my mind was set on a path I might otherwise not have taken.

    Well, I doubt most of the books on my list will be of general interest, but I do hope some of them will be. I could go on, but then I think I would end up with a book of my own . . .

    Thanks for asking, Pauline; I love to share the books that have shaped, and continue to shape, my life. Hugs to you. ~ Linne

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  2. I can so relate to not getting into a book after a fair number of pages. …So little time so when we take the time to invest into a book it is definitely a bonus when we enjoy what we’re doing! I’ve become very picky lately having previously mentioned on one of my posts that reading has become a challenge. You really do have to take the time to sit down and focus so is it doesn’t capture me from the start -it’s most difficult- and probably not worth the time. I will take these two suggestions into consideration. Thanks!♡♡ At the moment I have been interested in medical suspense novels written by Tess Gerritsen and they have captured my interest! At this point I’m very grateful just to be reading again (as slow as it may be)!

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  3. 50 pages is a good mark. I admit to putting down a few books that showed lots of promise, but just weren’t what I hoped. There’s no shame in it. Not every book is for every reader. Glad you picked up one you did enjoy!

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    • That is true – though I do remember once having a battle to get into one particular book that has ended being one of my favourite reads ever. No accounting is there! Thanks for calling in today it’s lovely to see you here 🙂

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  4. I can’t tell you how many books I have slogged through and how many I just didn’t finish. There are some nights these days I just can’t read more than one Chicken Soup story. I read one a night before sleep to send me to and uplifted place. I loved Janet Evanovich and have read everything she wrote. I liked her sense of humor. My all time favorite book in the last 10 years that has stuck with me is “Breakfast with Buddha” by Rowland Merullo. Right now I’m reading the book I mentioned to Alys. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” about creativity. The beginning took awhile but then there was a payoff. It’s nonfiction. That’s mostly what I read or some fluffy story. I love short stories as my time to read is so limited these days. Best of luck on finding something. I am looking too.

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    • I found a really good one in my pile and am finding it hard to put down 🙂 I’m enjoying this splurge of fiction reading as so often I read for inspiration and guidance and information – and all those other good things. I’ve never read Janet Evanovich though I have seen her books on others shelves……

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      • Janet Evanovich made laugh out loud. My son read them and asked why I didn’t tell him she was so funny. But once again, she’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I love a book you can’t put down. Breakfast with Buddha did that for me. I love light fiction because my brain is still not up to par. At night when it’s tired, light is the best way for me to go, or funny. I love a funny story. Which book can’t you put down?

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  5. Thank you for the wonderful reviews, Pauline. I have The Luminaries on my reading list and it sounds like I should remove it. We Never Asked For Wings sounds like my kind of book. I’m pretty sure I have The Language of Flowers in my pile of books to read. I’m going to go look and move it up.

    I’m currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. Enjoying both so far. 🙂

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    • Elizabeth Gilbert appears often in the reading piles, though not mine. And I’ve never read Mark Haddon – isn’t it amazing how many writers you miss out on – a really good reason to keep making posts like this one 🙂

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  6. I was interested in The Luminaries when it first came out (prize winner and all as you say), so now I’ve read your thoughts, I’ll leave it there, thank you for sharing them! I’m a flaky reader: if I’m not pulled in from the first page or two, I can’t read the rest, no matter how much I persist. I get that ‘reading reluctance’ far too often. Bad, I know. Like you Pauline, I’ll wait for the film to come out! I’m lost in the world of writing memoir right now with my revisions, so all my reading at the moment is on the laptop, as in here reading your post!

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    • I used to love to get all the prize winners and read them – nowadays I see it more as a pause signal – so often the books seem to be awarded more for clever devices than good stories. As was discussed with Jill, any reading for an author is a bit of a bus mans holiday! 🙂

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  7. Thanks for sharing this Pauline. Will research on the books you had read. 🙂 I’m reading James Patterson’s Private India now from his Private series. I also love David Baldacci. But most of all I love love love Barbara Taylor Bardford and her famous character Emma Harte.

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  8. Haha I am late to the party but my ‘couldn’t finish’ list includes the same as Bruce – huck Finn and moby dick, plus the second lord of the rings 🙂 life is a little too short. my mum just gave me lunch in Paris by Elizabeth bard and I only got halfway…I found her truly unlikeable. Before that though the elegance of the hedgehog which I could not put down and I bawled and bawled 🙂

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    • If a story brings me to tears it is generally found to be a book I love – so The Elegance of the Hedgehog makes the list! The name of the book alone is enough to make me want to read it. I know you must be busy, so thanks for taking the time to swing by 🙂

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    • Ooooh I read the Red Tent many years ago and loved it – I think it informed my life as a woman and the way women treat themselves and their cycle today in a profound way! I’d love to hear what you think when you have finished it.

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      • I finished it not long ago. I thought it was profound, interesting, informative, entertaining, just a most excellent book.
        I rather recommend the The signature of all things too. I am reading several books at once in different areas of my life. ❤

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  9. Good reviews, Pauline–they tell me enough about your standards and why the books do/don’t meet them to know whether I’d like the books or not! As for what I’m reading, I just churn through one mystery novel after another, with nonfiction about art or textiles thrown in occasionally. Like The Snail of Happiness, I’m reading Louise Penny’s latest (and not loving it so far) and a book about the Arnolfini Portrait called, Girl in a Green Gown.

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  10. I have rather lost the will to read just now what with nano and a couple of beta reads I’ve promised (I suppose they count actually). Still there’s always the gloom of December in this neck of the woods…

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  11. Ooh, I do love a good reading list…especially someone else’s. I too tried The Luminaries and agree with everything you said about it. It was a book group choice and I usually manage to get through the choices there but this one left me thwarted. Life’s too short to struggle on with a read you’re not enjoying – so I don’t. So many books, so little time.
    I have recently read ‘All the Light You Cannot See’ by Anthony Duerr. Set in Second World War St Malo it’s essentially about two people – one French and blind and one German and how their paths cross (or don’t). Written with pace and nice short chapters for an easy holiday read, I loved it.

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    • Thank you Jenny – I wonder how many readers have tried and failed with this book! Those here who made it through both reported they felt thwarted which is not a good indication of reader enjoyment either. I’ve added Anthony Duerr to the next list 🙂

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  12. A friend – who had read it – recommended The Luminaries to me, but I haven’t got to it because I need a decent holiday to read an 800 page book. Hopefully I’ll get on better, because I too don’t believe in finishing a book just because I’ve started it.

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  13. I love that you put the book down when it was giving you nothing. These days I’m not reading anything new….just living guiltlessly savoring a bookworm’s lifetime of reading, occasionally going back to re-read…..

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    • I always thought I’d just be rereading now too Cynthia – but I gave away my library and downsized and then fell behind in the on-going profferings and now here we are…… With a new library of untried, unread, virgin offerings! Yours however will be read AND listened to – Joy!!

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  14. I would read nothing if that adorable ball of fur was in my bed…oh Siddy! ❤ I love that photo, Pauline.
    Okay, back to books. My pile continues to grow both on my bookshelves and my Kindle. I'm so behind. Since my reading time is limited, I won't continue with a book if I'm not hooked from the start.
    Happy Reading! ❤

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    • It’s a bus-mans holiday for you I imagine Jill – do you say that in the US? Hope to hear the rewrites and editing and such continue apace and are going well.
      Isn’t that boy adorable!

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        • When my grandma was a waitress she felt clearing table at home was a “bus man’s holiday,” so all your reading and editing your own book, Jill means taking extra time to read your growing book pile is like doing a repetitive activity of your “usual day.” Ergo, “a bus man’s holiday.” Someone who bussed tables rather than a bus driver. Right, Pauline? 🙂

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        • It’s an English saying Jill – referring to a bus driver going on vacation as a tourist on a tour bus. There’s another one ‘taking coal to Newcastle’ referring to the fact that coal came from Newcastle……. Applied to anything someone does for relaxation that is much the same as their job……….. I only know these things because my beloved aged aunt educated me on them when I was a young thing 🙂

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  15. I have pretty much stopped reading for pleasure as reading is now my full-time profession. At the end of a day thinking about the written word, it’s not relaxing to encounter it just before bed. The only fiction I have actually read recently was Mr Snail’s latest novel and that was to edit it… so I read it twice!
    Since I still love a good story, I have transferred my allegiance to audio books. I’m currently listening to the most recent Louise Penny murder-mystery, The Nature of the Beast and then I’ve got lined up The Woman who walked in sunshine (Alexander McCall Smith) and Vanity Fair. I read the latter about 15 years ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to having it read to me.
    The additional joy of audio books is that I can knit or crochet whilst listening… many a hedgehog and dragon has been born to the accompaniment of a good story!

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    • I am a huge fan of audio books. I often listened to them when painting – that list is extremely eclectic! As I’m not painting at the moment my pile of audios is still waiting for me. You are the second person to mention Alexander McCall Smith and I have never read him. I’m not big on murder mysteries per se, but he sounds like a good writer. The classics I’ll read and reread and listen to again and again, but have none in the current reading pile.

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  16. The book pile beside my bed became so high I banished it to the store cupboard in the garage! However I did read The Luminaries. I was spellbound right until the end; the end which I didn’t understand. And I am jolly well not going to read it all again to figure out why the ending confused me! I hate it when the end of a film or book leaves me confused or dangling. I am not sure which book I will read next. At the moment I am doing some light magazine reading.

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  17. As we have noted before, Pauline, I blame blogging for my reduced book reading. Unlike Robin, I struggled with The Name of the Rose, but have not read your two. My greatest give-ups were Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, and Malory’s Morte’ d’Arthur. 200 pages of each was more than enough, but then I can be very determined. At the moment, I am reading Peter Paterson’s life of George Brown, a labour politician of my childhood and early adult years. It is entitled ‘Tired and Emotional’ because he usually was.

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  18. It’s so glorious (for a change) to read an honest review. I am lost in admiration. I give my bedtime reading a maximum of 0.2 seconds before I’m dead to the world. When I wake, I dare not turn the light on! I’m so far behind in my reading, it’s not funny. However, I heard that Jane Austen has a new novel out… I might try that!!!!!

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      • I have had four “give-ups: one each from a neighbour on either side – one wrote a Romance and the other a Sci-Fi. I had to pretend with both neighbours that I’d finished their novels. The other give-ups were “Moby Dick” and “Huckleberry Finn”. 😦 I couldn’t get into them despite numerous attempts.

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  19. Oh, Pauline! I hope the person who said this was me, but it seems rather wiser than usual for me. 🙂
    I like your being honest. Sometimes the book will be too convoluted. I liked, “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco, but struggled with, “Focault’s Pendulum” I believe it was due to math and science above my head, Pauline.
    I will be reading, “The Persian Pickle Club,” for our November book club. I hope it is like “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” or “Eat, Pray, Love.” I like books with some of the elements of faith, philosophy, character development and mystery with a twist of humor added. 🙂
    I love the worn out puppy look your Siddy has, with whiskers spread on cushion. So cute!

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    • Oh Robin – no it was another Robin – but it could have been had we been exchanging thoughts on the subject I’m sure 🙂 I was like you with Umberto Eco – I have often wondered if it was the translation that made Focault’s Pendulum so heavy going…….. I so enjoyed the movie of The Best Exotic Marigold Club – but did not know there was a book to read!! See how out of practise I am!

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      • There is a “Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” too. It has Richard Gere and a few of the sane favorites, too. My good friend, Jenny, and I rented it for a $1.25 from our redbox machine. One day rental. I am not sure about book, Pauline.
        I was happy to hear of the real reason says “bus man’s holiday.” We say it at holidays when my son cook’s since that is his profession. 🙂

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  20. Lovely post, Pauline. I’ve been collecting reading material for the weeks of staying off my feet. My list is quite varied. In no particular order:
    The next book in a laugh-out-loud series by Janet Evanovich, Top Secret Twenty-One
    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
    NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
    The Fairy Tale Girl by Susan Branch (a beautifully illustrated autobiography)
    Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
    So, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, long (759 pages) and short (70 pages). Looking forward to seeing what others are reading

    I remember when everyone raved about Eat, Pray, Love. I read about a third of the book. I tried to like it, too. But I lost interest and never picked it up again.

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    • I love your list and will probably pick a couple here. You would probably not like Eat, Pray, Love because you could not relate. I ate that book up when ending the last terrible marriage. I wanted to be Elizabeth Gilbert then and run off to experience the rest of the world and write a book about it. :)) I’m reading her last book on creativity and it has a few gold nuggets in it.

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      • I’m glad you got comfort from her book and that it was relatable, though sorry it took a messy divorce to make that so. You’re in a much better place now, making your own rules and supported by friends TS and your lovely daughter.

        I’m home and recovering from my foot surgery, so hopefully I don’t find that I’ve left incoherent messages here. If I have, please forgive me. xox

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        • I am so glad to know you are home and in recovery. Nothing more incoherent than this reply at 4:30 a.m. Every reader has their book. Funny how some resonate and others just don’t. Guess that’s why there are so many writers and books. It’s a good thing. :)))

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    • I have read all of Janet Evanovich books up to 19, I think. I root for her detective character to end up with Morelli instead of Ranger. I liked Katherine Heigl in “one for the money” and I wondered if you liked the men who played the guys on this series. Debbie Reynolds was hilarious as the mother, right? 🙂

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      • Oh fun! Another Janet Evanovich fan! And how cute that you chose a guy. I like that she waffles back and forth…it keeps things humming along, doesn’t it?
        I think Katherine Heigl did a good job but I didn’t find the actors playing Joe or Ranger to be memorable. It’s hard when you’ve read so many books. I have my own idea of what they would look like as do you and every other reader. It’s got to be tough casting that kind of movie.

        I had forgotten all about Debbie Reynolds. I love her! Maybe I should rent the movie while I’m recovering. Thanks for the thought.

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  21. That ‘We Never Asked For Wings’ sounds good, I’m going to see if my library has it. I read a lot, and agree, if I’m not getting into a book, I leave it. I’m reading a Lisa Gardener psychological thriller called Crash and Burn. It’s not her usual murder and mayhem, find the baddie, it’s suspenseful and intriguing, and a bit scary. There’s no dead body, just a woman with a traumatic brain injury, who has large gaps in her memory, but is afraid. I should be sewing, but don’t want to stop reading!

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  22. I have to agree with Robin. Life’s too short to waste time reading a book you’re not enjoying when there are plenty of wonderful books to read. I’m enjoying Alexander McCall Smith’s The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds at the moment. He is such an eloquent and intelligent writer.

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