Wednesday, December 21, 2011


  What if you woke up every morning and didn't remember who you were or anything about your life?  I know, I know, the theme has been explored before; haven't you seen Fifty First Dates?  This book by S.J. Watson, however, puts a different twist on the old amnesia theme.
     What if you woke up every morning and didn't remember who you were or anything about your life, and some days you woke up thinking you were a teenager; other days waking up thinking you were in your twenties and single.  But you have to deal with the strange man lying beside you.  And you have to believe whatever he tells you about who you are and why you can't remember. What if he's lying?  How do you know?
     That is the position Christine finds herself in every day.  Then, on the advise of a counselor her husband doesn't know about, she begins to journal. The counselor calls each day to tell her where the journal is and she reads about her life again.   Instead of questions being answered, she only discovers more questions.  Can she believe the man who claims he is her husband?
     This book makes you think about the precarious position such a person is in.  How would you know the truth?  The author builds the story and the suspense lasts up until the last chapter.  I truly enjoyed reading it and look forward to more books by this debut author.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Only a Bookaholic

Happy Day!   I had thirty extra minutes today and ran by McKay's Used Books.  I found four books that have been on my wish list for months!  If I could only read non-stop I might make a dent in the to be read list!  Here are the great books found on this unexpected trip to the store. I'll let you know if they are any good!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Have You Read . . .?

I love to read.  When asked "What are your Hobbies?"  I only have one - reading. I have cross stitched in the past.  I do like to shop but only when I have money, and is that really a hobby anyway?  I love the idea of gardening, cooking, bird watching, sewing, etc., etc., etc. I've heard a lot of people say they don't have time to read, they wish they had more time to read, they used to read, and so on.  You know what I've learned?  You make time for what you enjoy.  Even when I had five small kids at home, I found time to read.  Maybe the house wasn't spotless, supper wasn't gourmet, I didn't grow our own food, but I somehow found time to read. Anyway, I have been thinking about books I've read. You know one of the best parts about reading books is sharing those books with others.  With all that said, here are some of my favorite books. (I'll tell you a secret:  I've read most of these books at least twice.)
If you've read any of them, tell me what you thought.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My First Best Friend

See those kids in the picture?  They were best friends!  That is me and my brother Keith.  Born just 20 months apart, I believe we were inseparable until he went to Kindergarten, which was a sad, sad day in my life.

This is what I remember.  We played a game we called "Cat and Dog"  that involved running around the house on all fours (crawling) because the "dog", i.e. Keith, was chasing the "cat", Lisa.  The cat could climb on chairs and the couch, but the dog could only jump and bark.  Hours and hours of fun!  Another fun game was called "Cops and Robbers" which was played on tricycles. I ALWAYS had to be the bad guy and Keith always got to be the cop.  We would ride round and round on the road in front of our house playing this game. 

When Keith went to Kindergarten at our church I remember feeling lost.  What was I supposed to do without him?  I remember watching soap operas some, and sitting around lots.  I guess I got used to him being gone eventually and the next year I went to Kindergarten! 

As we got older our world enlarged to include the neighborhood kids.  I know there were probably girls my age in our neighborhood but I ran with the guys.  Keith's friends were my friends and the two best were Mike and Tony Brown.  They lived just down the street and we had the best fun playing with them.  They had a dog named Candy, (an Airedale) that I remember thinking was not a very pretty dog.  I haven't changed my opinion much - I still don't think they are pretty dogs with their rectangle snouts!  Anyway, I remember playing with those guys every summer.  If they minded a girl being part of the group I don't remember it.

After we moved to Ooltewah Keith and I were pretty much the only kids we had to play with because we no longer lived in a neighborhood.  I remember us waiting at the end of the driveway for the school bus just talking about stuff.  What stuff?  I have no idea.  Stuff that was important to us.  Living in the country was a new experience for us and I remember exploring the creek and the field behind our house with Keith.  We had lots of adventures out there!  After we started our new school we each made friends in our own grade but I still considered Keith my best friend.  In the summers we would play board games.  I remember having a Monopoly game that went on for most of one summer!  We just left the game set up in Keith's room and played some every day.  We also played ping pong and pool in the basement.  He was a mean ping pong player and showed absolutely no mercy.  He would serve the ball in such a way that there was no returning it.
I preferred vollying the ball back and forth some - but not Keith - he was out for the win!. 

We also played basketball on the driveway.  HORSE and PIG were the staples. I never got very good and probably didn't really enjoy basketball (considering I don't now) but if that is what Keith wanted to do, I joined in.  He would stay outside shooting baskets long after we had gone inside in the evenings.  We swam daily in the pool playing Marco Polo and having jumping and splashing contests.  We just had fun being kids.

When Mom and Dad started having Betty  Brown and her husband (what was his name?) come on Saturday nights to play Rook I remember watching the adults play (and learning how to play the game), reading my book, and playing in the basement with Keith and  the Brown's son Steve. Baby sister Jenni and Greg Brown were the same age and spent the evenings playing somewhere.  Meanwhile, once again it was me and the guys.  You know, I was not a tomboy but my best memories as a kid are when I ran around and played with Keith and his friends.

Well, there you have it.  My first best friend was my brother, Keith.  I love remembering those days and just wanted to write my memories down somewhere and this is where I decided to put them.  Hope you enjoyed reading this little vignette  about my childhood.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Winter Garden

    Family, love, and secrets are the major themes in this novel.  Two sisters strive for years to earn their seemingly cold mother's love.  The older claims to not care even while she spends her entire life trying to 'be good enough' to win her mother's approval and love.  The younger sister becomes an adventurer and searches for meaning through her job as a photographer, continually drawn to women and their suffering throughout the world.
     A fairy tale is at the center of the story.  On his deathbed the beloved father and husband, the glue that has held the family together, extracts a promise from his wife that she will tell her daughters the story in it's entirety, something she has never done.  The girls' grew up hearing the romantic story of the peasant girl and the prince but never realized that there was more to the story than 'happily ever after'.
     I enjoyed this book.  It made me think about how important it is for us to know the history of our family.  Not just the genealogy.  I think that even if we cannot understand the circumstances our parents and grandparents came from, even if their stories are beyond our ability to empathize with because it might be so far removed from what we know, it is still important because these stories help us understand ourselves.  Each of us is a product of our history.  What happened to the women and men in our family of the past affects us and our children and even our children's children.  How many of us have found out a tidbit of history and suddenly had an 'a-ha' moment of understanding of an event or events from out childhood or even a glimpse of ourselves?  How many of us decide to change family patterns without ever understanding why these patterns exist?  I believe hearing the stories of our past is the first step to understanding.
     So much of our history is lost because either the younger generation never cared enough to ask or to listen to the stories or comments that are made by previous generations.  Or the stories are never told because they are too painful or we don't think our children care or could understand our story.  Then one day everyone who knows those pieces of your family story are gone, and the history is gone with them.

Laura and Me (part 2)

     My love affair with Laura continued and I wanted to find out everything I could about her.  One year my mom (I think) gave me a biography about her by William Anderson.  He had researched the Wilder and Ingalls families and included parts of Laura's life that was not in the series.  Pa and Ma working in a hotel after they left Plum Creek.  Their returning to Plum Creek before heading west to Silver Lake.  Laura's little brother who died.  William Anderson did a great job and I read the biography several times.  I really wanted to find out more about Laura and Almanzo's daughter, Rose, so I started looking for information about them.  I found a biography, Laura and Rose, in the Hamilton County Public Library.  The book was sad and interesting at the same time.  You remember Eliza Jane Wilder from Little Town on the Prairie?  I think Rose was cut out of the same cloth as her Aunt Eliza.  She was intellectually gifted but never had a great relationship with her mother.  Rose became a successful author and, according to this book, was jealous that her mother's books became more popular than any she herself had written.  The author also stated that Rose heavily edited the Little House books, and, if your read The First Four Years, which wasn't published until after Laura's death, and was left unedited to honor her, you have to realize that someone edited the other books.  The final book does not read as smoothly as the others.  Of course, Laura did not publish this book because it was so sad.  It was probably very difficult to write about that time in her life.  I was left saddened at the end of Laura and Rose because my image of Laura was changed.

Rose as a young girl
Rose as a young woman
     After the television show became so popular a new generation of  'Little House'  lovers wanted to know more about the real Laura.  I like to believe these people decided to read the books because of the show and that is what made them curious.  However, suddenly there was a plethora of new Little House stuff on the market.  The Little House Cookbook, The Little House Songbook, On the Way Home, and a new series based on Rose's life (which was horrible, by the way).  It seemed that the estate of Roger Lea MacBride decided to make all the money possible off of Laura.  It continues today.  Now there is a series based on Caroline Ingalls (Ma) childhood. 
      Two books by Stephen Hines which are biographical in nature helped me in my search for Laura.  Little House in the Ozarks is a collection of writing by Laura.  It turns out that the Little House books were not Laura's first foray into writing.  For many years she wrote a column for the Missouri Ruralist newspaper.  The other book, "I Remember Laura" is a collection of memories by family, friends, and neighbors of Laura and Almanzo.  Both of these books depict a Laura much like the one we meet in the Little House books.  Petite, shy, and humble, as well as very pretty would describe Laura.  I was happy to read these books to dispel the image I had from reading Laura and Rose.
     To sum up, Laura Ingalls Wilder will always fascinate me.  I believe she was a special person who, like the rest of us, had problems.  I believe she developed a deep faith that saw her through some difficult years.  I also think she and Almanzo loved each other deeply and were "partners in every sense of the word."


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iron House - Why You Need to Read It

     Okay, I promised a more complete review of this book in my previous "teaser."  Two brothers are abandoned and end up in a poorly run orphanage named Iron House where the biggest, meanest kids run everything.  The adult supervision is minimal.  One brother is strong and confident, the other weak and sickly.  Michael spends the first ten years of his life trying to protect his brother Julian from abuse.  Then Julian kills the biggest bully while protecting himself and Michael takes the blame and runs away.
     Julian is adopted and raised by a wealthy senator while Michael lives on the streets of New York City until a mob boss 'rescues' him and raises him as his son.  The two have no contact until Michael falls in love and decides to leave the 'business'.  His fellow criminals threaten everyone and everything he loves to prevent him from leaving.  When he checks on his brother he finds that old classmates of theirs from the orphanage have been discovered dead on the Senators property and Julian is the chief suspect.
     Julian's mother will do anything to protect him.  The story of family, tragedy, and love is gripping at every turn.  My sister has made me promise to tell her when I find a book I don't 'figure out' ahead of time.  Well, this is the first in a long time!  I had close guesses, but the climax surprised even me!  Needless to say, I loved this book.  It is even better than John Hart's previous book, The Last Child.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Iron House

       I will write a more detailed review of this book later but for now all I can say is - READ IT!  This is a great book.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

     Can you guess what this book is about from the title? I couldn't.  I love titles that grab the reader and make you want to read the book to find out why the author chose it.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is classified as a mystery, and the story does involve a 20 year old murder that was never solved.  But it is more about friendship and family. 
     Silas and Larry become friends by accident in the 1950's when Silas, a black boy squatting with his mother in a hunting shack owned by Larry's family, gets a ride to school with Larry and his Father.  This is the beginning of a short-lived friendship that haunts them both for the next 20+ years.  Larry is a misfit.  He is not the son his father, a mechanic,  wanted.  He has asthma, poor health, loves to read, and is not good at sports.  He doesn't fit in at school and has no friends.  Every night his mother prays for God to send Larry a friend.  When Silas and he start hanging out together, Larry is sure his Mom's prayers have been answered.  But Larry's father manages to destroy the friendship.  When the boy's are seniors in high school, Larry's beautiful neighbor and classmate disappears after he has a date with her and is never found.  Larry is accused of the murder and spends the next 25 years known as 'Scary Larry' in the community.
     Meanwhile, Silas gets a baseball scholarship and eventually returns to the small town as part of the police force.  Soon, two more people are killed and everyone assumes Larry killed them.  The story of how the  mystery is solved and what happens to these one-time friends makes a good book.
     Can you guess where the story takes place?  I'll spell it out for you:   M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter, I, hump back, hump back I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Laura and Me (part 1)

     I remember when I read my first "Little House" book by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I'm pretty sure it was On the Banks of Plum Creek and I was in the 4th grade.  Sometime before I finished that book or soon afterward I realized that it was part of a series.  On the next trip to the library I checked out Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Praire.  I quickly read through the series including what I have always considered one of the saddest books ever, The First Four Years.
    After that first reading I think I read the entire series at least once a year.  I got a paperback set of the series and read them so many times I wore them out.  I always read The Long Winter during the hottest part of the summer because the imagery was so intense that I would shiver sitting outside on a 95 degree day in August.  When I was sad I would read These Happy Golden Years because I've always loved a romantic story.  Even as an adult I have read these books many times and as a young wife decided to collect the books in hardback.  Sometime during the years of collecting (I only bought one book a year) the publisher changed the cover!  I feared my collection would never be complete because I wanted the entire set with the Garth Williams artwork covers I had checked out of the public library and first read.  I don't remember how but somehow I completed my collection.
     When the TV movie Little House on the Prairie came out I enjoyed it.  But I never liked the TV show.   Pa had a beard, Michael Landon didn't.  Ma was a wife and mother of the 19th century.  She did what she had to do.  The Ma in the show was a 20th century woman in the 19th century.  Mary could do a lot after she became blind but getting married never entered the picture! Laura had blue blue eyes - not chocolate brown. And where did Albert come from?!  No, I never liked the show and didn't watch many episodes.
    But I still loved Laura and wanted to find out more about her.  I'll tell you more about my search to know Laura on another day.  For now, I think I'll re-read The Long Winter - our air conditioner hasn't been working right and I need to cool off!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale

     My sister asked me to blog about books I have  read.  So I am going to try to blog about a book once a week.  This week's book is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I was hesitant to read this book after reading the summary.  I really enjoy reading dystopian novels but have found that the genre is usually limited to young adult books, which I do like most of the time.  However, I wanted to find out if anyone wrote adult dystopian books and began searching.  The book that was first on every search was The Handmaid's Tale.
      The reason I was hesitant was that the summary refers to this being a book about a society where the Christian 'far-right' group has taken over what used to be America and created a mono-theocratic with basically no freedom for women.  I hesitated but was drawn to the book again and again.  Finally, I found it at McKay's Used Books and decided for $2.00 if it wasn't worth reading, I hadn't lost too much.
     America is now the Republic of Gilead and has been taken over by an extreme right sect of 'Christians.'  I put the word Christian in quotes because, of course, this group is based on a lot of rule following and man-made perversions and interpretations and is a far cry from true Christianity.  Women have no rights and very few job possibilities.  Offred is a handmaid and lives a limited existence in which she is allowed to go to the store once daily, and is only allowed to talk to certain people.  All women dress in a manner that indicates their societal position.  Offred remembers a life before when she had a husband, a daughter, and a name she refuses to think about because it makes the reality of her existence more difficult.  She hopes to get pregnant because that is her job and if she doesn't she is no longer useful.  Very few women have viable ovaries because of some weapon used in the war (at least that's what I gathered).
      The book is written in the first person by Offred.  The style is matter-of-fact, which makes the way of life described more difficult to imagine, especially after getting far enough into the book to start figuring out what's going on.  I won't spoil the book for anyone who might want to read it by giving to much away.  I will say that if you enjoy reading 'light' books, you probably don't want to read this one.  However, I recommend it for those of you who enjoy a book that leaves you thinking days after you finish reading.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011



     Thirty years ago today Steve and I were married.  This morning I mentioned that it sure didn't seem like it had been thirty years.  He agreed.  Thirty years ago we were 19 years old!  Now we have three sons older than we were when we married.  Thirty years ago we were both sophomores at UTC.  When I look back at the commitment we made to each other I am amazed at what God can do.  Without knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, somehow we had the sense to decide that divorce would never be an option - no matter what.  
     Marriage is not easy, and anyone who says different is either not married or crazy.  Love is not a feeling and no one has the power to change anyone.  I heard a man speaking on marriage once who said that in any relationship, especially marriage, if both parties committed to give 100% to the relationship, each one might be giving 50% in reality.  How true.  The older I grow the more God shows me about what is really important.  Am I the most important person - even in my world?  Should my children be more important than anything to me?  Should Steve be number one?  God continually shows me that if I keep Him in the number one place and realize that I am really, truly not the center of any universe, then I am happier.  If everything we do is done to glorify the One who should be kept at the center, Jesus Christ, then contentment is obtainable.
     I have been truly blessed in my marriage.  Steve Corley loves me know matter what.  He loves me when I am hateful.  He loves me when I'm angry.  He loves when when I'm loving to him, and he loves me when I'm not so lovable.  He loved me when I was skinny; and he loves me now that I'm fat.
     I truly believe that Steve would do whatever is within his power to make me happy.  He is a great husband and a great dad who is a wonderful example of what a godly man should be to our sons. 
     Happy Anniversary, Steve!  I love you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Birthday Story

     Matthew turned 18 on May 30, 2011.  For those of you who know Matthew you won't be surprised by the following story.  For those of you who do not know him, well, to quote a teacher he once had "he's not like the rest of you Corley's, is he?"  She loved him, as everyone does, because he is a charmer.  I was not insulted by her comment even though it doesn't sound too kind because I knew exactly what she meant!  Matthew is and always has been full of personality.  He can talk to anyone and for many years had no inhibitions about what he might or might not say.  Suffice it to say, Matthew is full of personality.  Now, on to the birthday story!
     When this cute young man was twelve years old Grandma and Grandpa got a new car.  They bought a new, white Grand Jeep Cherokee with all the bells and whistles.  It even had seat warmers for the leather seats so that bottoms never had to be cold in the winter.  Well, when we drove up to visit and Matthew saw that car, he was super excited!  He walked (bounced) around it and then, in true Matthew fashion, said, "Hey Grandma, when I turn sixteen will you give me this car?"  Grandma laughed and cavalierly answered, "Sure Matthew."
     For the next year or so every time we saw Grandma and Grandpa the first thing Matthew would say is, "I can't wait until I'm sixteen so I can get this car!"  Now, Steve and I realized that Grandma was probably joking, or thought it was so many years away that she wouldn't have to worry about it.  Finally we told Matthew to not mention the car again, he was being rude, etc. etc.  So he didn't mention the car to them ever again.
     Fast forward to Matthew turning sixteen.  Lot's of changes had occurred including a job change for Steve and two boys in college.  There was NO WAY we could afford to get him even an old used car.  But he never complained.  He didn't get his license until he was seventeen because we couldn't afford to add him to our insurance policy.  Four young men equals a whopper monthly car insurance payment!  Even after he got his license he still didn't have anything to drive and never complained.  As his 18th birthday approached I told Steve I would give anything if somehow we could get him a car.  I knew it wasn't possible even before Steve confirmed that there was no way.
      One day in April I stopped by to see Mom and Dad (aka Grandma and Grandpa) and they said they needed to talk to me about something.  Turns out they wanted to give Matthew the Cherokee for his 18th birthday!!! Mom had never forgotten her promise to him.  They wanted to check with Steve and me first to make sure we were okay with the idea, which of course we were!  On May 30 I took Matthew by to see them so they could give him his birthday present, which he was expecting to be a card with $25 in it.  Imagine his surprise when he opened the card and keys fell out instead of $25!  He was overwhelmed, which is saying a lot for Matthew.
     It is now August and he still loves his car.  He has gone from being a homebody to not being home now that he has wheels (and a job to pay for gas).  He refused to pose for a picture with the car so you'll have to settle for a picture of him on his birthday getting the keys, and a picture of the car.
    And that's the story of Matthew and how he got his car. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lisa Recommends . . .

      Have your read Room by Emma Donoghue? What about Still Missing by Chevy Stevens?  Both of these are very good books and while they are definitely NOT a series, I recommend you read Still Missing before you read Room.  If it's too late for that, read both anyway.  Emma Donoghue lives in Great Britain while Chevy Stevens (a pseudonym - who would have guessed?), lives in British Columbia. I'm pretty sure the authors probably don't even know each other; however these books work wonderfully together.
     Both of these great reads deal with abduction.  I think they should be read in a certain order because Still Missing is about a twenty-something real estate agent who get kidnapped.  She is held captive in a remote location by her abductor for several years.  Despite her efforts to retain herself, she is forced to comply with his odd quirks in order to survive.  As a result, both her mind and her body become brainwashed.  I won't spoil a good read by giving away too much, but eventually she manages to escape.  Then she has to find herself and discover who she is now because, as you can imagine, this event has totally changed her and her perception of herself.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the kidnapped woman through a series of sessions with her psychiatrist as she is trying to heal.
     Room deals with abduction from the viewpoint of a five year old son of a woman who was abducted and has been a prisoner for years.  For the boy, the room he lives in with his mom is the world and it is all he has ever known.  The beautiful thing about this narration is the matter-of-fact way he describes his world with his mom, including visits from his father, whom he only sees through slats in a wardrobe because his mom is determined to protect her son from her abductor.  As the boy gets older, his world becomes smaller and eventually his mother figures out  way to save them both.  She has to learn how to live in the real world again and he has to learn that the world is bigger than the room he knew.  
        I read Still Missing before I read Room completely by accident.  I had never heard of either book before.  However, as I was reading Room I was able to superimpose and understand the unspoken viewpoint of the mom because of Still Missing.  Emma Donoghue's writing from the viewpoint of the five year old boy was brilliant.  His innocence and his normal, childlike acceptance of his life enables her to write of unimaginable events in a matter-of-fact way.  While the reader intuitively understands and gets hints of his mom's experience, as I was reading Room the woman in Still Missing became the boy's mother. I enjoyed both books more fully because I read them in order and I am sure you will too!