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Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: "Barchester Towers" - 1857 by Anthony Trollope

This was the sequel to "The Warden."  It was just as good.  I liked how the characters were portrayed,  I really liked Mr. Harding, and I was rooting for his success the whole way.  It was back to who should be the new warden. There is a new bishop in town, and he is battling for power--with his wife.  Poor Mr. Harding is in the middle of it all, again.  Throw in a romance in his newly widowed daughter's life, and all sides are pulling all directions.  It was a well-written, entertaining and fun novel that had well-developed characters and, if you read carefully, you will discover and undertone of humor, too.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Same Old Trails

The Same Old Trails

We don't have a horse trailer.  We don't have a truck to pull a horse trailer.  We are stuck riding on the same old trails, ride after ride.

Actually, I’m not complaining.  It may not be as exciting as exploring the world at large, but we do explore the small world around us.  We ride in the Cleveland MetroParks, and we are so grateful to have them.  Here we live in a large urban area--and we can go trail riding whenever we like!  It is awesome.

We never know what we might encounter.  Sometimes, we see nothing of note, at all.  Other times, we can see wild turkeys!  We love the turkeys.  They aren’t much afraid of horses, so we can get pretty close to them.  They are so beautiful.  If we are lucky, we will see them fly up into the trees or across the river.  Usually, they just walk on by.

We see deer all the time, so they are nothing special.  I prefer watching the squirrels more than the deer.  I think squirrels are adorable.  They come in black, gray or red.  We also have fox squirrels.  My favorite are the red squirrels.  The are more skittish than the rest and run so fast that we call them the speed squirrels.

We have a fox that we see on the hill, occasionally.  A few months ago, we followed him up the hill, until he stopped at the side of the trail to let us pass.  There was a pair of foxes that grew up in a horse pasture a few doors down.  We think this might be one of them.  He simply has no fear of horses, at all.

We do see a coyote, now and then.  They seem to make the horses a little nervous.  We know there are plenty out there, but they are rather elusive.

Once or twice a year, we may be lucky enough to see a mink.

Of course, we see lots of birds.  On a good day, we will see one of the bald eagles that live in the area.  There are a lot of Great Blue Herons along the river.  Sometimes we see, but more often hear, a barred owl.  Wood ducks, mallard ducks and geese are always in the river.  They have been known to spook the horses when they splash down.

We will see turtles now and then.  Kevin loves turtles.  One time, Ellen placed a fake turtle close to the trail by a wetlands.  As we rode by, she pointed to it and said to Kevin, “There’s a turtle.”  We have never seen him leap off Starry so fast.  We all had a good laugh when he realized the turtle wasn’t real.

A few weeks ago, we were crossing a river.  I was in the lead, and I saw a dark creature swimming down the center of the river--low in the water.  I pointed it out.  At first, I thought it was a big fish.  My second thought was that it was a snapping turtle.  Kevin had seen one there, recently.  As it got closer--I realized it was a beaver!  It was so cool to see him go by.  We have beavers in the nearby wetlands, but we have never seen one swimming by us in the river.  We watched him as he swam away…

So, though we may be riding the same old trails, there is always a chance of seeing something wonderful.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: "The Warden" by Anthony Trollope - 1855

This was an enjoyable book that is about a good-hearted man, Mr. Harding, that is getting a fine living taking care of 12 indigent men in retirement.  The money comes from a fund that was created in a man's will many years before for just this purpose.  Over time, the invested money grew, so the living for Mr. Harding was very generous.

Mr. Bold questioned it, saying more money should go to the old men.  It ends up involving a lawsuit--and it all sends poor Mr. Harding into a moral crisis.  To complicate matters, Mr. Bold is courting Mr. Harding's daughter.

Mr. Bold just wants to do what is right--and he is in great anguish.

I liked this book because I loved how the characters and the conflict seemed so real.

I am now reading the sequel, "Barchester Towers."   It is just and interesting.

Book Review: "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

Sarah said this was a wonderful book, and she was so right.  I didn't want it to end.  It has a whole host of characters, and they are all complex and very interesting.  Throughout the book, you see them grow and change.  I have never read a book that explored the many complications of being in love.  It seems most stories are just about boy meets girl and ends up in marriage.  This book goes much beyond that.  Love is complex, and it isn't always easy.  There is all kinds of love in this book, too.  There is love of family, friends and children.

Beyond love and romance, the book gives a wonderful view of the world of Russia at this time--a time of much change.  I loved learning about the agriculture and problems with labor.  I enjoyed the politics, too.

Of course, the central character is Anna Karenina.  She is married and falls in love with another man.  Her marriage falls apart, and she runs off with her lover.  We know it will be doomed, but it didn't have to be.  Her fate is very sad.

The other characters do a little better.  Just as in life, problems arise--and they somehow get through them.  The beauty of this book is how Tolstoy portrays their emotions as they work though the problems.

There is so much too this book--the best thing I could say is to just read it and find out for yourself.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: "Their Silver Wedding Journey" by William Dean Howells (1899)

Once again, Howells brings us the story of the March's.  The travel to Europe to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

I don't think this is one of his best books.  There is too much description of the traveling and not enough story.  Where there is story, the story is entertaining.  It is not about the March's, but about the people they befriended on the voyage over--through their eyes.  I loved the dialogue between them, as they discussed their friend's romances.

My advice, skip the travel descriptions and read the rest.

Book Review: "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court" by Sandra Day O' Connor

The title says it all.  I have always been fascinated by the Supreme Court, and I wanted to learn more about it.  Who better to do that but from a former Supreme Court Justice.

I really liked this book.  It was easy to read--even though I don't have a background in law.  It explains how the court works, its history on how it got where it is today and some entertaining stories from the court.

It filled in a lot of gaps on my knowledge of the court and made that learning an enjoyable experience.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: "All Under Heaven" by Pearl S. Buck - 1973

I love Ms. Buck's books that are about China, but I never read any of her other ones.  This one was only 50 cents, so I thought I would give it a try.  It didn't sound all that interesting, and it was definitely not the kind of book I would pick out if it wasn't bu a favorite author.

It's about a man who worked for our embassy in China for 25 years, who is forced to come home with his Russian wife and 2 children when the Communists took over China. n They decide to try to live in the US--basically a foreign land for all of them.

Nothing really happened that was interesting to this single woman with no children until the last few chapters.  The man decides to write about his experiences in China as a warning to us, here.  He wanted to promote the possibility of peace--if we chose it.

When his book was finished, he went on a book tour.  All along the way, he kept encountering those who would say, "Just nuke them." and the rest of the people who were silent.  When he got home, he was so discouraged from what he saw.

Within the last few pages, Ms. Buck wrote:

"I have come back realizing that history and facts mean nothing here.  To our people everything is a matter of feeling and emotion, a curious mixed sort of idealism that is powerful because in some ways it is very sound.  Bur it is unrelated to the facts of the world.  The problem is much more severe than I thought.  People cannot learn by hearing,  because there is no foundation of knowledge.  They do not read history.  They read only newspapers, which deal with today's events, but these events are the result of yesterday's and it is necessary to know those which come first."

Ms. Buck, in the epilogue, explains that she wrote this due ti China opening her doors to us.  She wanted us to try to understand each other.  Things haven't changed, though.  We have managed to keep the peace with China, but it is questionable whether the average American knows or cares anything about them.  It is also questionable whether the average American knows or cares about much of anything at all--let alone our history.  Her words still apply, today, sadly.