On Saturday, Oct 26, Reading With Scissors will have a booth at the 2014 Woodlands Fall Market & Fair at Christ Church United Methodist and to whet your appetite, here's a sneak peek of a book I just finished.
Normally I don't leave dust jackets on books, but this time I made an exception. Here's what the book looks like on the outside.
and here's what it looks like on the other side.
C'mon. You know it's funny.
The show starts 9 a.m. Christ Church UMC is at 6363 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands, TX 77381.
Author: Alex Haley
Reading Dates: 30 Apr 2014 - 24 Aug 2014
I am a saver, and I try to capture everything. I’ve got
boxes and boxes of old letters and my notes from college. (Have fun at my
estate sale, everyone! The treasure you’ve been waiting for!) I bought an extra
hard drive to save all of our pictures. I’ve started digitizing all my old home
movies. And I like to save TV shows, too.
It’s funny for me to think that my kids have always lived when it’s possible
to record what’s on TV. I still have tapes from their childhood in a drawer
somewhere with old shows on them sitting next to VCR to play them (More
treasures!). These days changes in technology have made it so easy to record
TV—click a single button on your phone(!) to record a show—that you can imagine
why the To Watch list on my DVR is
But there was a time, young friends (and all my old friends
here can attest to it), when the only way to see a program was to be sitting in
front of your TV when one of the three networks played it the one time they would ever play it. If you
missed it, you missed it. And there wasn’t a Wikipedia or an IMDB to go to the
next day to read the episode recap. If you wanted to see a show, you scheduled
your life around it.
So it was in the summer of 1977 when Roots, the mini-series aired. You knew it was an event because everyone I knew—without
exception—made certain they were in front of their TV while it was on. Meetings
got rescheduled and lessons postponed so we could all watch.
It was that big of a deal.
The times probably had something to do with it. I was
sixteen that year. I was a baby when the Civil Rights marches were happening
and only a few years older during the horrors of 1968. Growing up in an
all-white town, those events weren’t something that really seemed to affect me
that much. We were a patriotic crowd. During the bi-centennial the year before
we ate from bi-centennial plates with bi-centennial forks that we bought with
our bi-centennial quarters. America was the grandest place on earth! Slavery
was a word I had learned in school, but it was a word I knew in order to pass a
history test, nothing I had really thought about deeply.
Roots was the
first time the truths of slavery became real to me—the fetid horror of the
slave ships, the ever-present brutality, the rending of families. I was living
in the era of women’s liberation when the mantra we girls were cutting our milk
teeth on was that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that message was
brought into stark contrast by the total lack of control a slave had over her
life and her body was stunning.
The last several years I’ve been in a race to read as many
books as I can in 365 days, but this year I decided was going to be the year of
the long books. I wanted to read epics that I had skipped previously because
they simply would take too long to read. I had purchased Roots from Audible.com much earlier, but now it was time to pull it
off the virtual shelf and give it a listen.
Simply put, Roots
is a great audiobook. Tremendous story by a really terrific narrator. His
voices were so right for each of the characters that sometimes I felt like I
was listening to a play instead of a book. I still had flashes of the story
from nearly 40 years before rolling around my head and I was surprised at how
much I did remember—Kunta’s horrific sail across the Atlantic (and Ed Asner’s
bad wig), Kizzy’s separation from her family, and of course Chicken George, but
reading the book brought new details and insights that I had never known or
forgotten, especially the details of Kunta’s life in Africa before he was
One of the parts I do remember was at the end when Alex
Haley went to Africa. I wondered how it would be handled in the book and his
whole explanation of how he fit into the story and how he had come to write the
story was any genealogist’s dream—true satisfaction with a healthy dose of
humility as you realize all those stories—real lives and heartaches—that had
come before you.
If you want to listen to a good book that will entertain you
and make you think all at the same time, download Roots and start listening. You won’t be disappointed.
Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Reading Dates: 14 Jul 2014 - 23 Aug 2014
There’s this weird thing that happened to me when I read The Goldfinch, and I don’t know how much
I’m supposed to tell about the beginning of the book, so, let’s try this. There
is this part near the start when the protagonist, Theo Decker, as a young boy, has a chance
encounter with an old man. The old man starts to mumble away about long ago
times and asks whether Theo remembers them. Then the old man says something
about knowing the boy’s mother when she was young.
So immediately I started thinking that this book was going
to be some kind of fantasy novel with perhaps time travel or something
similarly magical involved. Theo goes away from this unexpected meeting and the
rest of the novel starts. Theo has to deal with some trauma early, but no magic
appears. I was reading quickly through that part of the book because I knew the
magic part had to start happening soon after. Then the next big thing happened
and but that didn’t bring magic either. I was literally halfway through the
book when I realized that there’s no magic happening here. It was all going to
be real. (Although somewhere deep down inside me even at the very end I kept
waiting for at least one of the other characters in the book to finally admit s/he was a witch/warlock
or a werewolf or a vampire or something
other than a regular person.)
The hard part about reviewing this book is that it never met
my expectation of what it was going to be and so there was this bit of me that
was disappointed even though this was a really good book. It was one of those books
that I wanted to grab whenever I could because I couldn’t wait to read more.
The story was well-drawn and suspenseful and the characters complex and
But the thing that was most striking about the book was the
literary flair that xxx brought to the table. Every sentence was jam-packed
with insights, similes and metaphors that I found myself reading over and over
again because they were so good. And when I say jam-packed, I mean jam-packed.
Every sentence. Every paragraph. If I had highlighted all the ones I wanted to
remember later, most of the book would have been bright yellow. It was as if
Tartt turned on the firehose in the first chapter and didn’t turn it off until
the last sentence.
So I recommend this book—entertaining story, great writing—with
only one caveat. If you’re looking for magicians or time travel, this isn’t
Title: Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine
Author: Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
Reading Dates: 04 Sep 2014 - 28 Sep 2014
Watch out Erik Larson, you've got some serious competition in Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. I thoroughly enjoyed her new book, Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, an excellent example of narrative non-fiction.
Although well-known in his time, I had never heard of Dr Mütter before reading this book. Aptowicz's story, however, made him jump off the pages. She followed the familiar pattern of short chapters with punchy endings that make you want to jump to the next chapter as quickly as possible. While many others have tried this formula and can make it seem tiring, Aptowicz really nailed it. The cliffhangers never seemed contrived and really did move the story along.
I'm not sure I would characterize this story as one of "intrigue," but "innovation" definitely! And though mentioned briefly at the beginning, the "Marvels" of the title aren't really discussed until the end, but I enjoyed Aptowicz's narrative in her acknowledgements as she described how she learned about Mütter and his marvels. Now I think I'd like to see them, too--and that's how you know you've found a really good author. I'm looking forward to more, Ms Aptowicz!