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Dear Cokie

October 1, 2019

LindaPinkOct2019Dear Cokie,

Our world lost an inspiration when we lost you last month. Within hours of your passing, the stories about you and your generosity of spirit began to fill all mass communication means.

As I read and listened to them, I had two thoughts. First, I wished that I would have had a mentor like you as I began my professional career, and my adult life. Second, how can I try to mentor other girls and women as you did.

I’m sad to say that I only ‘met’ you, Cokie, about 12 years ago. My husband and I had moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where the NPR station, WFSU, has such solid programming that at last I became an NPR fan. Countless mornings there as I drove to work, I got to hear you and your analysis of some current political situation at the national level.

Your calm, steady voice instilled confidence. Your deep knowledge of our civics and our nation’s political scene, built trust. You wore your knowledge with the comfort of a favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans, which helped me feel that I knew you on a personal level. It was as if we were at a kitchen table as friends, with coffee and treats, in a friendly chat.

Still, I didn’t even know you were sick. Or that you’d previously had breast cancer – that evil, nasty, sneaky monster that continues to take good women (and men, less often) from us.

Today is October 1 and it begins Breast Cancer Awareness month. I’ve tried to acknowledge this month for many years. I have known too many women who it has impacted or taken too soon. Today, I’ll don a pink shirt in honor of you, Cokie.

You, triumphant because you were someone who touched so many, many you never knew. Because you helped so many women in their careers and lives. Because you inspired me to continue my weak efforts to be a better person and to help advance our work for a cure for breast cancer. And better yet, a vaccine to prevent it and completely wipe it out.

Thank you, dear Cokie, for being part of my life – a voice I knew well and listened to often. My heart is with your family, your dear husband of so many years, and I’m sad for them that you are gone too soon. I have no doubt they are strong because of all you gave them, yet that doesn’t prevent grief. They’ll be OK and will continue your legacy, even though none of us will be the same without you, Cokie.

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Book List: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

September 13, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

This was a book I was unsure about the entire time I read it. I didn’t love it and yet it intrigued me enough that I kept reading. At a certain point, maybe just over halfway through it, I began to feel for the protagonist.

Her name is Jo and her sister, Beth, is nearly an equal protagonist. Their names, Jo and Beth, of course took me back to Little Women (Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy). I wondered if subconsciously that is where the author found her characters’ names. The story is not like Little Women, except for their names and that they are sisters.

It’s a story about life really, just ordinary life, in an era where life seemed simpler in some ways. And more complicated in others. Her parents didn’t have a lot of money and that became a worse hardship after her father died, while his daughters were still young and at home.

While their mother struggled to make ends meet and raise her daughters, the girls struggled with adolescence and a mom who seemed to be always angry with them. Each of them encountered different dangers that led them on paths they hadn’t imagined.

Jo acknowledged to herself at an early age that she was different, “unnatural” as her mother would tell her. Heartbreak and her sister’s need for help, led her to someone else and by all appearances, a happy life.

Her husband turns out to be a Class A jackass. She finds herself in a situation similar in ways to her widowed mother. On a personal level, I could relate to some of the hardships she, and her mom, dealt with as single moms.

I’m glad I finished it and as I neared the end, I became a bit maudlin. I think Weiner could have tightened it a bit and didn’t truly need 460 odd pages to tell this story.

Book Details

Book: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Published: 2019
Publisher: Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
ISBN: ISBN: 9781501133480
Read: August 2019
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September 11

September 11, 2019

Eighteen years ago on this day, it was a sunny fall day with a clear blue sky where I lived just as it was in New York City. Then, I lived about 1,600 miles west of there.

Now, after a move 900 miles south of NYC in between, I’m about 1,200 miles west of NYC. Today, it is rainy where I live. A band of thunderstorms started around 3:30 a.m. and continues to push through.

Maybe, on a day like this, surrounded by gloom and gray, one could imagine something bad could happen. Not that before this day in 2001 we ever imagined such horror.

For me, the beautiful blue sky littered with dense black and gray smoke that day, seemed impossible. It is an image embedded in my memory. One of many images, unforgettable in their tragedy.

Again today, thousands of families wake up to the reality that their loved ones are gone. Still gone. Eighteen years of gone. In just an instant.

That is mostly how death works, right? It’s instantaneous and most of us maintain the façade that it will not happen to us. Alas, it does. In many tragic and awful ways that we cannot prevent.

Those we lost on this day 18 years ago were senseless deaths. The result of evil terrorism. On American soil and air space. Unfathomable. Yet we all saw it happen on ‘film’ that played again and again.

Someone pointed out to me last week that this will be the last high school graduation class that was alive when these terrorists attacked our country. For future classes, it will become another chapter in history books that, God forbid, later some ‘experts’ will decide is too traumatic and we should remove it from the books.

Today and every day, however, we owe those 3,000 or so souls and their families, a day when our country again unites as we did that day and so many days after. We owe them some example that we learned from this mass murder and that we can be better. We owe them and ourselves a day of peace in a country that is the greatest on Earth.

Perhaps the raindrops today in my city are God’s or nature’s (or your preferred higher power’s) tears. Tears for those lives lost, those families forced to keep going—to somehow recover, and tears for the rest of us around the world who on most days continue to behave as if we have all the time in the world.

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Book List: The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

August 30, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

The instant I finished this book, I felt something that I’ve ever felt before when I finished a book. I immediately wanted to read the next book in this Colter Shaw series (a new character and series for Deaver). I also did not want to start any other book because of my certainty that it could not come close to being as good as The Never Game. (So far, I’ve been right.)

The first Deaver book I read was The Bone Collector. A pretty creepy book but a good read. Because, he is a master weaver of stories. That’s what I enjoyed so much about The Never Game.

The story is sad. I mean, it’s Jeffery Deaver. People get killed. Yet, as he so often does, he picks an unusual topic area and weaves mystery and drama around it. This time, the topic is gaming.

I’m not a gamer and know little, okay nothing, about gaming. Nor did the protagonist, “Shaw.” He’s a smart guy, however, and quickly catches on to it all.

Deaver mixes in a little romance, along with this introduction to gaming. Deaver’s novels that I’ve read include law enforcement. In the Lincoln Rhyme series, Lincoln and his bride, Amelia Sachs, are both law enforcement (retired in Lincoln’s case).

In this new series, Shaw is not a law enforcement officer. He interacts with several officers and befriends one in particular. She is a savvy pro who has had to use her superpowers throughout her career to beat down that glass ceiling.

This novel has so many twists and plot lines. Deaver keeps them all moving forward, in interesting ways and doesn’t belabor us with unnecessary details. In many ways, it is a fun story … maybe that’s the gaming effect.

All I know for sure is that I could read it again right now. And, I want the next book now!

Book Details

Book: The Never Game
Author: Jeffery Deaver
Published: 2019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: ISBN: 978-0525535942
Read: August 2019
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Book List: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

July 22, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

LibraryBook_coverSusan Orlean is a New Yorker staff writer and author of seven books. I have never read her work before, and now will seek out some of her other books.

The Library Book is about the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library Central Library fire. And … so much more! As a longtime library patron and fan, I enjoyed every bit of this book.

As Orlean tells us, even as a journalist, she hadn’t heard about this major fire in 1986. The Chernobyl nuclear incident happened two days earlier and dominated the news.

This disastrous fire reached 2,000 degrees and burned for over seven hours. The fire consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. As a passionate book lover, those numbers make me ill. It is heartbreaking to imagine and sadly, many libraries around the world have also had major fires, which Orlean outlines.

It is a book of facts and detail about libraries and librarians, plus the fire and its investigation. Yet, it reads almost like a novel. The book’s design is delightful as you can see in my pictures.LibraryBook_InsideBackCover

The inside back cover is a realistic (I had to touch it to confirm it was one dimensional) drawing of the old card and sleeve libraries used when we checked out books. Note a couple of the names on the faux card.

Each chapter begins with a list of four or so books and their Dewey Decimal numbers or other information. I learned how to use the Dewey Decimal system as a kid but haven’t had to use it in some time thanks to the computerization of libraries and their contents.

DeweyDecimalI assumed, but didn’t see any confirmation in the book, that the books she listed were among those lost in the fire. Many titles looked interesting and I may have to add some of them to my to-read list.

Orlean spent extensive time with librarians in LA and around the world. She details the incredible passion and vision they have for libraries and reading. Libraries do so much more for communities than loan books, much of which surprised me.

If you like/love books and like/love to read, please read this book. And support your local library. Take your children and grandchildren to the library.

I love bookstores, too – the brick and mortar kind. Locally owned bookshops are treasures. Let’s share them, too, with our young readers, and support them as well.

One more thing: Thank your librarian!

Book Details

Book: The Library Book
Author: Susan Orlean
Published: 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: ISBN: 9781476740188
Read: July 2019
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Book List: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

July 22, 2019
SilentPatient

Book cover – “The Silent Patient” (library copy)

I saw this author on a talk show just a few months ago and added it to my to-read list. If I recall correctly, he wrote it in an extremely short time; it is his first novel.

It falls under the suspense and psychological thriller genres, both of which I typically enjoy. The storyline is interesting. A woman, Alicia, is hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital because she killed her husband. From that point on, she refuses to speak. At all. Not one word.

A criminal psychotherapist takes an interest in her case. He seeks work at the hospital and seems to make a breakthrough with this ‘silent patient.’

Michaelides gives us many possible suspects, instead of Alicia. He weaves a strong story; however, I’ll admit I found it a bit slow-going. I wondered where these various plotlines would lead me.

The story takes place in London, which always romanticizes a story for me. Something about Europe that just seems more exciting than an American-based story for some reason.

Michaelides seems to do provide helpful explanations of psychotherapy techniques and tools. I did not validate that they were accurate, but it made it interesting. He made a point of repeating one such point twice – practically verbatim. The second time made me curious about why and I didn’t ever feel that he answered that question for me.

Still, the story’s turn in the end surprised me. Caught me off-guard. Isn’t that really what we want in a good thriller? This one never made me feel afraid and I was OK with that. I like to be able to sleep at night even when I’m reading a thriller.

I recommend this book if you like this genre. It may not be one of the best I’ve ever read (I’ll take Jeffrey Deaver over this), but still a good book for leisure reading.

Book Details

Book: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Published: 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
ISBN: ISBN: 9781250301697
Read: July 2019
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Book List: The Boy by Tami Hoag

June 20, 2019

In Book List, ordinary reader Linda McDonald, shares book reviews of her latest reads. She has read her entire life and is a writer, who wishes now she’d kept a list all her life of the books she’s read.

I’ve read Tami Hoag’s books for years, although it had been a while since the last one. As I hurried into the library a week or so ago to pick up a book on hold, The Boy, was marked as a “Lucky Day Book.” Something our library does with newer or popular books. You’re in luck – here’s one you can check out, but you cannot renew it. They still gave me three weeks to ready … which I did not need because this is such a ‘page turner’!

Spoiler alert: Hoag knows how to weave a story, and this one has several subplots. It is fiction but still a sad story because it involves children. The outcomes aren’t good for several of them.

The story is set in a small Louisiana parish and of course she included the requisite corruption. In this story, rather than elected officials, it’s a couple of law enforcement officers who go rogue. The hero and heroine of the book, however, are good, trustworthy law enforcement officers, which pleased me.

Hoag also showcases the impeccable manners of a true Southern belle. Louisiana is as deep south as anywhere, and her depiction is accurate. The only thing missing was the sugar-wrapped, insincere, “Bless her/his little heart.”

One of my favorite parts was the brief glossary of French expressions and words that Cajuns apparently still use down in the bayou. French is a beautiful language that makes even swear words glamorous. Blend it with a good ol’ Louisiana boy’s Cajun dialect and you can feel the Gulf’s humidity as you read.

It’s long, nearly 480 pages, but an easy read. Purely entertainment. If you seek literature, this isn’t the book for you. A good book for a vacation or summer weekend by a lake or pool, this is the one for you.

Book Details

Book: The Boy
Author: Tami Hoag
Published: 2018
Publisher: Dutton, and imprint of Penguin Random House
ISBN: ISBN: 9781101985397
Read: June 2019