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.