Sunday, April 1, 2018

From beading to books: my favs so far this year

One great thing about retirement is that I have lots more time to read. Reading has been a passion of mine just about forever as you can tell from the below picture of me with my Dad when I was three.

It may look like I was more interested in my thumb but I was truly enthralled with the story of Heidi. Since then, my reading tastes have evolved and, of the 32 books I read during the first three months of this year, I have two favorites:

The Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Boyne has now made my list of favorite writers. I tend to be a bit skeptical when books get so many great reviews but they are truly, truly deserved in the cast of "The Heart's Invisible Furies" - perhaps my favorite read in several years. At the heart of the book is Cyril Avery whom we meet at the outset as his mother is being ejected from Catholic mass as a result of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy with him. It is 1945 but, in most respects, the social mores in Ireland might as well be a century earlier. By the time we actually meet Cyril, he is seven years old, adopted by Charles and Maude Avery, perhaps the most unconventional adoptive parents ever depicted in fiction. Adopted as a baby, they re-named him and chose the name Cyril after a spaniel they once owned and loved. While he used the Avery name, Charles and Maude take every occasion to remind him that he was not a "real" Avery. Cyril absorbs this with the same calm acceptance he does most things in this unusual household.

Their hands-off parenting leaves Cyril with a stammer and a powerful connection to, Julian, the son of the family solicitor. The boys' temperaments make them pretty much polar opposites, yet they become fast friends, perhaps the one bright spot in Cyril's growing up years. Over the span of 80 years, we watch history as the backdrop to Cyril's life path, which is often a painful, poignant one. Boyne so perfectly captures the social upheaval of the time and draws characters that I don't think I will ever forget.

More than anything, "The Heart's Invisible Furies" is a commentary on family and how often our chosen family can be closer to our heart and soul than our given one.

The ForceThe Force by Don Winslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure "The Force" would be my cup of tea. Sure it got great reviews but it seemed to skew more to the male side of the equation with the plot dealing with a good cop gone astray. But it is so much more than that - it is an epic tragedy of the extremely charismatic protagonist, Denny Malone, leader of the elite Manhattan North Special Task Force. The Task Force is the cream of the crop, attaining heroic proportions across the city and in the press. Malone's guys are the "best of the best...the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, the best, the baddest." Think Seal Team 6 with a wise-guy edge.

"The Force" pulled me in the same way I got hooked on HBO's Soprano's. Just as I knew Tony Soprano was a bad guy, I still recognized humanity in him and found a small voice rooting for him even as he committed heinous acts. Winslow's prose packs a terrific punch. It is economical, powerful and perfectly captures the language (at least how I imagine it would be).

It is a cautionary tale as old as the ages but made fresh in this telling as we watch Malone and his partners self-destruct. We know it will happen in the very first pages of the book as Malone describes his tragic arc: "No, he started with his eyes firmly on the guiding star, his feet planted on the path, but that's the thing about the life you walk--you start out pointed true north, but you vary one degree off, it doesn't matter for one year, five years, but as the years stack up you're just walking farther and farther away from where you started to go, you don't even know you're lost until you're so far from your original destination you can't even see it anymore." Wow.

This is a long, substantial book but seems to go by in the blink of an eye.

View all my reviews

And now for some bead work....

Oh, and I do have a little beading eye candy to share. I somehow managed to complete something but I am embarrassed to say that the above caterpillar bracelet was from a kit I purchased in 2014 during my trip to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. It was a pretty expensive kit too: $54 from Glass Garden Beads. I think it's a nice way to turn the calendar page to April and Spring.


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