TBRs – Jared C. Wilson’s Otherworld


Otherworld: A Novel

One of my bookish friends mentioned this Christian author and his first published work of fiction. Jared C. Wilson is from Katy, Texas which is near my hometown of Houston. Wilson also sets Otherworld in a Texas town.

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Laurie Lisle’s Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe


Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle | eBranch Harris County Public Library

(Written 31 January 2013)

Title and Author(s): Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle & Grace Conlin (Narrator)

Release Date: May 9, 2006
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
ISBN:  9781455100132

Duration: 13 hours, 39 minutes

Reasons for Reading: I wanted another eAudio. Also, I wanted something very different from Black Like Me. When I saw a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, I felt I’d achieved that. All I remembered about her was that she was an artist that one of my sixth grade teachers said painted whatever she saw around her. While I found this simplistic, I felt there must be more to Georgia O’Keeffe. So, I checked it out via HCPL Overdrive and ultimately listened to it on my Nook Tablet.

Summary: This book takes on the true story of the American iconoclast – Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe marched to the beat of her own drummer perhaps from the beginning. Her larger than life story, bigger than some of her canvasses, draws interest.This artist lived nearly a century, one marked in change and evolution. Just the roles she played throughout her life – woman, artist, muse, lover, wife, friend, etc don’t begin to define her.

One Thing I Learned from reading Laurie Lisle’s Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe: O’Keeffe was the namesake of her maternal grandfather – George Victor Totto, a Hungarian count who came to the US in 1848.

What I Liked:  I liked that the author expressed herself in an objective way. Lisle portrayed O’Keeffe, warts and all, as the saying goes. She also described O’Keeffe’s mercurial ways very well.

What I Disliked: I blame myself for this. When I read about a visual artist in the future, I must skip an audiobook. I truly must see the pictures. While this encouraged me to browse online for O’Keeffe’s art, it was rather inconvenient listening to this on my work commute.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Georgia on my Mind- Ray Charles – YouTube

Setting: Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Hawaii, Chicago

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For more on Laurie Lisle’s Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, check out the following sites:

John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me


Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin | LibraryThing

(Last book review of books finished in 2012!)

Griffin, J. H., & Childs, R. (2004). Black like me. Middletown, Me.: Audio Bookshelf, LLC.

Reasons for Reading:Yet again, I sought another nonfiction eAudio work to entertain me during my work commute. I came across Black Like Me, checked it out from the HCPL Digital Media Catalog, and put it on my iPhone.

Summary: Texas Writer John Howard Griffin underwent a bold experiment like no other. He left his home in Mansfield, Texas with the intent to “pass as black.” With the help of a reticent New Orleans dermatologist, Griffin took a course of drugs, endured sunlamp treatments, and applied skin creams in order to understand the “black experience” firsthand. He also shaved his head and, later, his arms.

Then, he traveled through the Deep South as a black man. His social experiment altered the lives of many. Black Like Me is a journal of Griffin’s courageous experiment. The title comes from Langston Hughes’ “Dream Variations”

Rest at pale evening…

A tall slim tree…

Night coming tenderly

Black like me.

What I Liked: I appreciated what Griffin did. Also, I found Griffin to be a gifted writer who wanted to understand and help his fellow citizens. I liked that Griffin didn’t lie, either. He seemed to be an interesting and virtuous man.

What I Disliked:  Many versions of this book exist. I’m grateful I got an edition with an epilogue which Griffin wrote in the 1970s. As hindsight is 20/20, Griffin related the outcome of Black Like Me. It’s my feeling that this should be the version everyone reads.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Setting: Texas, New Orleans, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina

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H. Joaquin Jackson & David Marion Wilkinson’s One Ranger: A Memoir


One Ranger: A Memoir (Bridwell Texas History Series) by H. Joaquin Jackson | LibraryThing

Jackson, H. J., Wilkinson, D. M., & Linn, R. (2005). One ranger: A memoir. Ashland, OR: Blackstone Audiobooks. 9780786179978

Reasons for Reading: Once again, I browsed for eAudio. As I usually prefer hearing nonfiction, I perused biographies when I spotted One Ranger: A Memoir. I scanned the description and decided to listen to the memoir during my work commute. I uploaded the eAudio to my iPhone from HCPL’s Digital Media Catalog.

Summary: Like many other boys who grew up in Twentieth Century Texas, Joaquin Jackson dreamed of becoming part of the legendary Texas Rangers. The 6 foot 5 inch Jackson’s dream came true in 1966. Jackson embarked on a career which led him to many adventures, friendships, and fame. His picture graced the cover of Texas Monthly (see the book cover :)), he gained bit parts in movies with the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, and Nick Nolte even modeled his character in the movie Extreme Prejudice after him. Of course, Jackson experienced many points of heartache as well.

What I Liked: I enjoyed Jackson’s sense of humor throughout his memoir. Also, I thought Rex Linn was the perfect choice to narrate this work. I nearly thought Linn was Jackson himself. Soon after I began listening to One Ranger, I got a mention from UT Press on Twitter and that was awesome!

What I Disliked:  I believe this error was due to the download but one chapter didn’t properly work. I had to check out the print version and read what happened. Also, a sequel – One Ranger Returns – exists but it’s not in eAudio format. I hope this changes soon.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Setting: Texas

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 For more on H. Joaquin Jackson & David Marion Wilkinson’s One Ranger: A Memoir, check out the following:

Sandra Brown’s Rainwater


Rainwater by Sandra Brown | LibraryThing

Brown, S. (2009). Rainwater. New York: Simon & Schuster. 9781439172773

Reasons for Reading : I sought a quick read and noticed a copy of Sandra Brown’s Rainwater setting on the shelf. Seeing the book reminded me that someone had recommended this as something different written by Sandra Brown. So, I checked it out from HCPL.

Summary : An older proprietor of Solly’s, an antiques store out in the middle of Nowhere, Texas receives a visit from well-to-do customers on their way back to Oklahoma. The wife asks the proprietor about the cost of his handsome pocket watch. The proprietor shakes his head and says it’s not for sale. The peculiarity of the name Solly leads the proprietor to tell the story of how the store came to be.

Back in 1934, Ella Barron runs a boardinghouse she inherited from her late parents. She rears her son Solly, a young boy like no other.  Ella works hard and does her best to ignore pitying glances. Things aren’t going well for the town as government slaughters cattle and leaves them for dead in order to drive up prices. Then, the town doctor brings his enigmatic cousin, David Rainwater, to the doorstep of Ella’s boardinghouse. Now, a woman who wishes not for charity has to make room for Rainwater as he is the only one who can work with Solly. Rainwater also turns narrow-minded town bullies on their heads. Ella’s existence of order and chores turns as she comes to life.

What I Liked : I liked the change of pace for Brown. While Brown doesn’t neglect her textured character studies and rich dialogue of her thrillers, Rainwater is not what I’d call a thriller. It’s historical fiction; it’s romantic. Some may call it a gentle read, even. I appreciated the tenderness the author extended to Solly, a child with autism but without a climate to accommodate him. I identified especially with the story line of the cattle slaughter as I had heard about it.

What I Disliked : I only wish Brown would write a few more along these lines. Yes, I enjoy thrill rides but I like leisurely strolls, too.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song : Sam Cooke – Summer time (w/ Lyrics)

Setting  : Texas

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For more on Sandra Brown’s Rainwater, please click on the following links:

Mike Tolson, J.R. Gonzales, Steve Gonzales, and The Houston Chronicle’s Houston 175…


Houston 175: A pictorial celebration of Houston’s 175-year history by Mike Tolson | LibraryThing

Tolson, M., Gonzales, J. R., & Gonzales, S. (2011). Houston 175: A pictorial celebration of Houston’s 175-year history. Battle Ground, WA: Pediment Pub. 9781597253505

Reasons for Reading:  March 2, 2011 marked the 175th birthday of Texas. Also, my hometown celebrated its septaquintaquinquecentennial in 2011. Amid the big birthday fever, The Houston Chronicle published Houston 175: A pictorial celebration of Houston’s 175-year history. The newspaper advertised this book and I requested a copy from HCPL.

Summary: Mostly through pictures, Houston 175 relates the history of our fair city. This book boasts over 300 images from archives as well as the newspaper’s photographers and readership.

What I Liked : Houston 175 offers great images and some context to what life in H-Town is like today. When I can, I look forward to buying this book and letting my copy reside on my coffee table 🙂 . I especially liked the details on Hurricane Ike, the great storm overshadowed by stock market woes in 2008. Of course, I’m a bit biased since I’m a Houstonian.

What I Disliked : I wished for some more text. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words but just a little more explanation would’ve been awesome.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Archie Bell & The Drells – Tighten Up

Setting: Houston!

You might also like:

  •  Houston Heights (Images of America) by Anne Sloane
  • Historic Houston Streets by Mark Hinton
  • After Ike: Aerial Views from the No-Fly Zone (Gulf Coast Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi) by Bryan Carlile
  • Houston Then and Now (Then & Now) by William Dylan Powell
For more on The Houston Chronicle’s Houston 175…, please check out the following links:

Stephen King’s 11/22/63


11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King | LibraryThing

King, S. (2011). 11/22/63: A novel. New York: Scribner. 9781451627282

Reasons for Reading : I read Stephen King’s The Dead Zone a few years ago after reading King’s memoir On Writing. In The Dead Zone, teacher and coma survivor John Smith asks “If you could kill Hitler, would you?” When I saw 11/22/63 on the NYT Bestsellers List, I realized King took this same question in a different direction. I added my name to the waiting list for a copy from HCPL. Later, I purchased a copy from the Friends of Freeman Library Bookstore.

Summary: Jake Epping teaches English at Lisbon Falls High in Lisbon Falls, Maine. He also earns
extra money by taking on GED courses. Reading janitor Harry Dunning’s essay about the horrific night when Harry lost his family and gained a limp fifty years prior moves the normally dry-eyed Jake to tears.

Soon after Harry earns his GED, diner owner Al shares a secret with Jake; there’s a portal outside his supply room which leads to September 1958. Thus, Al enlists Jake on a mission to save JFK from assassination.

What I Liked : I appreciated the short segments which allowed me to read a little bit at a time. I also enjoyed the whole “What if?” aspect. I liked how King limited some of the possibilities by creating a 1958 portal instead of putting Jake into a time machine that could go anywhere or anytime.

What I Disliked : As a Texan (a Houstonian), my familiarity with state geography is above average 🙂 . I wouldn’t describe Dallas and Killeen as being all that close. Also, Killeen has two “L’s” unlike how it’s spelled throughout the book. Then, there’s the whole saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” That’s because the state itself is the second biggest in the USA. Having gone to college in Waco which is in Central Texas, I can attest to the fact that I could not smell the oil fumes from Midland and Odessa. Lastly, I didn’t think this book should’ve been over 800 pages!

 Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: In the Mood by Glenn Miller – YouTube

Setting : Maine, Florida, Texas

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