“Your Hold Is In”

place hold(photo credit: wikihow.com)

When I stop in at my local library, I can usually find something on the shelves that looks interesting to check out. But other times I have to put an item on hold. That happens when a) it’s an old book that my library no longer carries but another library has, or b) it’s an extremely popular book that everyone and his brother is reading. Like the new James Patterson/Bill Clinton novel, “The President Is Missing”.  It sounded like such a good plot that I added my name to the hundreds of others on the hold list.

It took about a month for me to get that wonderful message: “Your hold is in!” But it was worth the wait.  So far, the storyline is intriguing, exploring the scenario of a president missing from the White House and its staff.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to have to wait for that novel you really want. The anticipation builds, and adds to the enjoyment of the book. It’s kind of like eating a dish of ice cream. If I just sit down in my air-conditioned living room and eat ice cream, it’s enjoyable. But if I take a long walk in the sweltering outdoors first, then come in and cool off with that same dish of ice cream, it is so much more delicious. So don’t hesitate to put a book on hold. While you’re waiting, there are hundreds of other books to tide you over!

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No-Reads

Some things are important to read, other things not as important. I would put reading a mammogram on the list of things that definitely needs to be read. Several days ago, I received an e-mail telling me my test results were ready. Having not gone to the hospital mentioned in the e-mail for over a year, this was puzzling. I had changed doctors, as well as affiliated hospitals. What test result were they talking about?

Turned out it was last year’s mammogram, which my new doctor’s office had requested for comparison. The report said my results were normal, but the M.D. completing the report added this:
“Of note, this exam was performed on 5/10/2017 but was never read at that time. This exam was just put on my unread list for today and I received a request from administration for me to read this study at this time.”

I kicked myself for not noticing the lack of test results. But I also want to kick whoever just didn’t read my x-rays. How could he/she not read them? Were there other people whose tests didn’t get read either? Does administration normally tell the radiologist to check the x-rays? You can bet that from this point on, I will be religiously checking to make sure that this does not happen again!

Dazzle Ships – by Chris Barton and Victo Ngai (2017)

Dazzle Ships

What do war and art have in common? Normally, nothing. But during World War 1 – or the Great War as it was originally called – art played an important part in the war.

Great Britain was at war with Germany, and struggling to keep enough food on their tables. The reason? The supply ships that brought food and pretty much everything the British needed were being sunk by torpedos on German submarines. So the Brits came up with a clever solution – get artists to design art for their ships that would confuse the enemy. Students from the Royal Academy of the Arts were recruited to do the painting after the designs were completed. It was illusion art. The entire ship would be painted in wild pattern that made it difficult to tell which end of the ship you were looking at, and in which direction it was going. The eyes of the person looking through the German U-boat periscope could simply not figure out where to direct the torpedo.

Soon the Americans were doing the same thing to avoid having their ships sunk. Over 2,000 British and American ships were painted, and although there is no way to prove precisely how many ships and lives it saved, it doubtlessly increased the chances of a ship making it to its destination intact.

The colorful art and simple explanation of dazzle ships make for a wonderful short history lesson. It is not often that you find a war book that presents something positive and creative! Although the book is written for children, it can be enjoyed by people of almost any age.

So Much To Tell You – by John Marsden (1987)

So Much To Tell You

When we think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we normally think of people who have survived war conditions. But as is illustrated in this novel by Australian author John Marsden, PTSD can happen to civilians as well.  The idea for the story came from a famous case in Australia of a young woman, Kay Nesbit, being shot in the face by the irate ex-boyfriend of her roommate. She ended up having 57 surgeries to restore her face to a somewhat normal condition..

In “So Much To Tell You”, 14-year-old Marina has been the victim caught in the violent relationship of her parents. She has been traumatized to the point that she no longer speaks. When she is discharged from the hospital, Marina is sent to a boarding school, where it is hoped that being around other young people will pull her out of her self-imposed silence. The English teacher makes each young person keep a daily journal. The rest of the book is the slow healing process that Marina undergoes.

This is actually John Marsden’s first book, written before his famous “Tomorrow” series. It won several Australian awards, such as the Christopher Award and the Victorian Premier’s Award, and was the Austalian Book Of The Year in 1988. A few years after he wrote this book, Mr. Marsden wrote a play version so that it could be performed in the theatre.

Although I liked the author’s later books better, this is a well-written first book.

Grace Will Lead Me Home – by Katherine Valentine (2004)

 

Grace Will Lead Me Home

I have to say, the entire time I was reading this book, I felt as if I was just down the road from Mitford, the fictional town created by author Jan Karon. It had a priest as one of the main characters, just as Mitford had Father Tim (although the Grace book has a Catholic priest instead of an Episcopal priest). The storyline centers around the happenings and mishaps of the townsfolk. People are tight-knit and neighborly, just as they are in Mitford. It’s the kind of place everyone wants to live, but such a place probably doesn’t exist.

This is one of those feel-good novels that is soothing to the soul and easy to read. It is uncomplicated and pleasant. So if that’s the kind of story you are looking for, pick it up at your local bookstore or library, and enjoy!

The Morning After The Fourth

Following a night of tremendous noise and sulfur fumes, I awoke to a sticky 76º. While sipping a mug of coffee, I noted that we were supposed to get rain by 2:00 in the afternoon. Better get that laundry done now, I thought. By 8:00, I had three loads of clean laundry ready to be hung on the line. (Yes, my ancient washer does the laundry in about 25 minutes!).

Stepping outside with the first basket, I immediately noticed the mess on the lawn. Large and small bits of fireworks were all over the front lawn, on the front stoop, along the side of the hill, and in our back yard. There were even pieces of fireworks on our roof! My first inclination was one of annoyance and irritation. Every year our neighbors set off high-grade fireworks in their driveway that used to only be seen at the city’s fireworks. They delight the children in the neighborhood each year with their show. We, on the other hand, turn on fans, put on headphones, and sometimes retreat to the basement where the noise is somewhat muted.

While hanging up the laundry on my clothesline, I contemplated the situation. I could spend an hour walking around the house, collecting up the mess. Then I could present it to the neighbors with a sweet smile, saying, “Might this be yours?”

Then I started looking back over yesterday. We had driven to the next state over to visit with a family member who has terminal cancer, and will likely not be with us in a few months. Despite the sadness of the situation, we had a good visit – laughing, reminiscing, crying, and praying together. The visit reminded us that we will not always have the people we love with us, and to treasure the time we have now. I grew weepy thinking about this as I finished hanging the laundry.

I went back to thinking about the mess in the yard. Life is too short to get worked up about a mess in the yard, I decided. The neighbors were just have fun, enjoying their time as a family, trying to spread excitement to those around them. They are good neighbors, and why ruin a good relationship? So I picked up the large pieces lying about, and tossed them in the garbage. The small cardboard pieces I left for the rain to take care of this afternoon.

I’m A Stranger Here Myself – by Bill Bryson (1998)

I'm A Stranger

When you leave your native country for 20 years and then return, does it still feel like home? That is the question!

This book is actually a compilation of columns that Mr. Bryson wrote for a newspaper column, describing his re-adjustment to the United States after having lived in Great Britain for 20 years. So many things about American living now seemed absurd to him.

The tone of the book was humorous, poking fun of both the oddities of American lifestyle and of himself. There were many articles that had me laughing, as I had often had the same sentiments. I loved Bill’s reminiscing about the post office, computers that don’t work, highway diversions, immigration paperwork, voice accents, and too many cupholders in cars.

Other subjects were more serious, such as the War On Drugs and the inconvenience of modern conveniences. The book was was well-balanced, mostly silly but with a few deep moments. It was a fun book, and made a good break from heavy books and depressing news shows.