Saturday, July 30, 2016

Return to Crumpton!

We just got back from a mini vacation in Delaware and Maryland. It was great- we spent time with my family, went to Rehoboth Beach for a day, caught up with some old friends, drank some National Bohemian Beer. And of course since  we were in the area I HAD to check out my old treasure trove: the Crumpton auction.

I've mentioned this place before on this blog, but basically, it's a weekly auction of anything you can imagine. I've seen everything from furniture to jewelry to firearms to a boat be auctioned off. Most of the lots were assortments of smaller items, and everything was laid out in rows through the fields. After the auctioneers were done, and the winners had taken everything they wanted, the field would be littered with stuff left behind. Old electronics, musty smelling boxes of books, abandoned dolls and stuffed animals, photos and pictures in frames with cracked glass- the list could go on forever.

This place is what really fueled my thirst for picking, and I can't even name all the things in my home that came from the deserted lots at Crumpton.

We had limited space in our vehicle, and I also had to consider my toddler, and the intense heat of the day, but I still managed to come away with a few good finds:

a miniature Chinese lantern- perfect size for a dollhouse!

This Thomas the Train blanket is the perfect picnic blanket for my little boy

Someone did a nice wood burning design of a train on this wooden plaque- it's shame that it's not signed, but it should still be seen and appreciated

I loved this print, and it was framed, but the glass was all cracked. When I got it home, I removed all the glass so that I can re-frame it at some point.

Of course I had to rescue some stuffed animals

A 1929 biology textbook. I had to laugh when I read about the excretory system, and the author writes that thyroid dysfunctions are often referred to as "cretinism", and that 'cretins' are physically and mentally under-developed. It makes me very grateful for Synthroid, or synthetic thyroid hormone, is the drug used to treat hypothyroidism, and has been available since 1955. If not for those little pills, people with hypothyroidism would still be saturating our foods and drink with iodine. If anyone is interested in the history of thyroid dysfunctions, and how they've been studied, written about and treated, the American Thyroid Association has a really great timeline to look at. It probably seems like a pretty weird thing to be interested in, but ever since I took a History of American Medicine course in undergraduate, I look for stuff like that. Looking at the ways we have come to understand our health and sicknesses is a lens to each time period: its beliefs and priorities and biases are illuminated by the popular recommendations about diet, hygiene, birthing and child-rearing.

Anyways, back to Crumpton talk-

There were a few other things we picked up, but these were the highlights. I miss that place so much, and I hope I'm able to make another, longer, trip to Delaware/Maryland next summer, so I can make a whole day there and really get my 'picking' fix.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Reading: The Third Chapter

I got this book for free from a Little Free Library in Bangor, Maine. I started reading it, but it was a little hard for me to get into. The story centers on an old dog named Ranger, who is neglected to his cruel owner. Ranger befriends a cat who soon gives birth to two kittens. Ranger is unable to protect the mother cat from his cruel owner, but he makes a vow to himself to watch over her two kittens, Sabine and Puck. The book also includes alot of Caddo mythology, which is where I'd get lost. I'm not fasmiliar with it, and it was difficult at time for me to see how that storyline, which is told simultaneously, was going to relate to the plight of those forsaken pets. I ended up liking the book, but it did take me longer than I would have expected to really absorb the story.

Dystopian zombie story with a strong female protagonist- good for fans of The Hunger Games. There is a romantic component, but I was relieved to see that it's not a driving force and kind of takes a back seat to Amy's own determination to save her sister. This is actually the second book in a series, but I didn't know that until after I read it, and it didn't affect my enjoyment.

A quick YA read- not the most unique themes or narrative, but I liked it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Reading Continued

I never considered myself a huge reader of magical realism, but I loved A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and this book seemed interesting. I admit I didn't understand everything that was going on, but I really loved the character of Roza because she has such an interesting back story and role in the narrative's action. Plus, as I was reading this book, a big fat bumblebee landed on my desk and lingered for a moment, so it seemed like a good omen. I finished this book in a couple hours because I just had to find out what was going on in the small town of Bone Gap.

A book by Kate DiCamillo: enough said. She's been one of my favorites for years now, and her books are always easy for me to slip in to and let the story rise up around me: like pleasant, warm water her words wash over me and afterwards I feel refreshed.

I really wanted to like this book, but it kind of fell flat for me. Little Women is one of my favorite books, and I find Louisa May Alcott one of the most interesting people to study, but I had trouble buying into this storyline because the protagonist seemed a little too docile and polite, and the murder mystery plotline didn't show up until almost the end, and it was pretty easy to guess how it was going to end. I would have liked to know more about the Ralph Waldo Emerson/Lidian Emerson/Henry David Thoreau love story that's alluded to; nothing says excitement like a Transcendental love triangle!

This was a quick read. I love novels in verse, especially historical fiction ones. This one centers on Margarita, a Cuban-American girl who reflects on what it's like to belong to two cultures. Complicating her ethnic identity, the revolution breaks out in Cuba, and she worries for her Cuban family members' safety, and mourns her ability to proudly claim her Cuban heritage because she lives in the country at war with it. I don't think there are enough historical fiction books written about the Bay of Pigs or the Cuban revolution, so a novel in verse that presents the conflict, in a child's poems, is a wonderful introduction to this chapter of history and invites more discussion on the topic.

Since I'd recently read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I guess I was jonesing for more Holocaust historical fiction. This book was just as well written and intriguing, but is probably better for older, more able readers. Not because of anything graphic (I mean, the Holocaust is already the most disturbing chapter of modern history) but it's a more nuanced examination of the complexities involved. This book includes a look at the underground adoptions that occurred, in which babies of Jewish parents were placed with non-Jewish families to ensure their survival, the Dutch resistance movement and the Dutch black market, as well as the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. There's also a case of mistaken identity which adds a well written mystery, but younger readers or ones not well acquainted with the Holocaust might get confused by the story.

I picked this book out a the Little Free Library at the beach where I work. It's about a woman who leaves her home of Syracuse, NY for the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, where she takes a position working at a school for teens with emotional, mental and behavioral issues. My predilection for horror always leads me to books about hospitals, asylums and boarding schools; even if the story isn't horror, there's sure to be some creepiness involved at any institution that profits because of human pain and suffering. Madeline doesn't trust the school's founder, or his theories and methods for helping the teens in his care. When a tragedy occurs, she finds out that the other teachers' loyalties run deep, and rather than help her expose him, they would rather help him cover up his own dark past. This is the second book in the series of the protagonist Madeline Dare, but it can easily be read on its own.

This is one of the books I spotted at the shop in Portland a while back and made a list of titles to ILL. The story itself is pretty basic: girls is uprooted from the home she loves, moves to a new house that has a mysterious and questionable history, befriends the weird Goth girl at school, then alot of creepy shit happens and along the way we get clues as to why the haunting may be occurring. I don't mean that the formula is a negative quality either because I happen to love ghosts stories with all those ingredients. I will say that it was a breath of fresh air to have a gay character, Raph, in the story because horror does get a reputation for excluding minorities. I was also a little relieved because it kills the idea of a romance early on, and I'm not a huge fan of romance in horror. It kills the creepy mood. I also want to comment on the cover image, which is one of my favorites now. The image of the girl on the ceiling is only printed on the dustjacket, along with the text, so when the dustjacket is removed, the book looks like this:

I love that effect because it's a visual aid for the way I've always rationalized the possibility of ghosts. My own little philosophy is a simplified version of time and space considerations; it's like if you have a photo of a person, and then you put a transparency with an image on top of it. If you're only looking at one layer, then  you only see one of the images, but if you look at them both, piled on top of each other, you see both. To me, the idea of seeing a ghost is like looking at my own environment through another layer of time that's had something imprinted on it. Even if it's not true or possible, this is how I enjoy the idea of ghosts in life and in my reading picks.

Also, the ghost girl on the dustjacket has no face, which never fails to creep me out. I HATE things without faces which is the main reason I don't understand all the women I know who collect those Willow Tree figurines.


Monday, July 11, 2016

My Summer Reading Thus Far

As I've mentioned before, my summer job at the beach allows me a lot of time to catch up on my reading. We used to have wi-fi too, so I could blog, but no wi-fi this year yet. That's fine with me, because I'm reading so much more than I would be if I had constant access to Facebook and Google. But  I wanted to do a quick update about the books I've read so far this summer:

I was in high-school when Eric Harris and Dylan Kleobold made Columbine, Colorado terrorized their school, killing 13 of their classmates as well as a teacher before taking their own lives. Those images I saw on the news have been burned into my memory, and I struggled to understand how two people my own age could be so malevolent and carry out so much violence on their own community. The first year I worked at a school, Adam Lanza massacred 20 elementary school children and six adult staff members, and ever since then I have been forced to remember that my working in a school carries a grave responsibility, protecting the lives of the children entrusted to our care.  Shriver's novel is told through a series of letters from Eva to her husband Franklin, regarding the events and the years that led up to their son Kevin killing sevens students and two staff members in his highschool.

I took a break from Picoult novels after the last one I read, because it was so suited to me I swore it was slightly biographical. I wasn't sure another book could measure up after that experience. But this one had been on my shelf for a while and it didn't take long for me to get hooked on it. What was the hook this time? It wasn't a woman who works as a librarian, nor a young woman who moves to New England to attend Simmons College, nor the description of a little boy's neck being the most perfect curve on his little body- it was an old Native woman. Ruthann is an elderly woman who enjoys finding things in the trash and at yard sales, and giving them new life. She sells them and calls her business Second Wind. That's the character that pulled me in, for obvious reasons.

I knew the story, but I think it's because I saw the movie so many times. I was refreshed by how much the movie matches Dahl's story.

Once again, I'd seen the film already, but I wanted to read the story that's responsible for it. Again, I was pleased that the movie mirrored the text so well.

Like Girl, Interrupted but with a guy. Not that that's a bad thing either, because I love stories about asylums and psychiatric hospitals.

I wanted to read this story as soon as I saw the cover. It looked like a horror story, but it's not. The monster in it is intimidating, but not really horrifying. The illustrations are amazing though, and they perfectly capture the sense of foreboding that oozes from the story.

My husband brought this book home for me from his school's library after it was discarded. The pop-art like cover makes it seem like it'd be a mid-century type of pseudo feminist romance story, but it's actually a biographical account of Sarah Hale, a school teacher from New Hampshire who went on to become the first woman editor of Godey's Ladies' Book, the magazine. It was really interesting, especially because I've always enjoyed learning more about women's history and the early achievements of American women.

 I picked this one up at Goodwill because I needed something new to read and it looked interesting. I've always enjoyed true crime stories. This book is the account of a young man who suffered a brain injury, and thus experienced some changes in his personality as a result. I've always been fascinated by neuropsychology, ever since I first found out about the story of Phineas Gage, the man who survived an iron rod impaling his skull and frontal lobe.  The changes that were noted in his behavior following the accident led doctors to a deeper understanding of how our brains are responsible for our memories, tempers, and moods. Gage's skull is on display at Harvard Medical School. Anyways, Tony Ciaglia also survived his brain injury, and the changes that resulted from it led him to a greater understanding of the darker side of human nature. I also must confess that this book satisfied my passion for Rochester NY history, because one of the serial killers he corresponds with, and eventually meets, is Arthur Shawcross. Shawcross, known as the Genesee River Killer, murdered women, mostly prostitutes in the late 1980's. He was arrested at a nursing home in my own little hometown of Spencerport. And I just recently learned that he was born in Kittery, Maine, not far from the New Hampshire town where I've made my new home. Some parts were a little disturbing to read, but that's the deal with true crime.

This graphic novel was an adorable, kid-friendly Gothic take on a typical princess tale. The main character reminds me of Wednesday Addams. I'm going to put it on my library's purchase list. 

I haven't finished this one yet, but I'm working on it. I always try to read a classic book during summer, and this is one I hadn't read yet. I can only read it in small doses because there's only so much action on an uncharted island that's inhabited by a sole man, so the story is alot of "I went out to hun- I killed a wild goat-I marked another day on the calendar- I carved into a stick and I read the Bible that survived the shipwreck" but I like feeling like I'm accomplishing something by completing a historic piece of literature. But for the record, I think I prefer Castaway.