Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ms. Hen gives some books to The Little Free Library in Cambridge

Ms. Hen Gives Some Books to the Little Free Library in Cambridge

Ms. Hen has taken out a few books from the Little Free Library at Harvard, which is behind Harvard Yard, in front of the Science Center. She decided to put those books back, and put a few more, some of which she has written reviews, and some she read a while ago, so she has not reviewed those.

1.     COLD MOUNTAIN by Charles Frazier -This is Ms. Hen’s review http://mshenreviewsthings.blogspot.com
2.     EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo - Read Ms. Hen’s review here http://mshenreviewsthings.blogspot.com/2015_05_01_archive.html
3.     ANIMAL CRACKERS by Hannah Tinti – Ms. Hen has not reviewed this because she read it years ago, but she loved it. It’s a book of short stories about animals, and Ms. Hen especially loved the one about the giraffes.
4.     THE RING OF BRIGHTEST ANGELS AROUND HEAVEN by Rick Moody – Ms. Hen got this book from The Little Free Library. You can read her review here http://mshenreviewsthings.blogspot.com/2015/06/ms-hen-reviews-ring-of-brightest-angels.html
5.     LELIA by George Sand – Ms. Hen tried to read this book, but she couldn’t get through it. She respects George Sand, and thinks she’s a great writer, but Ms. Hen thinks there could be something wrong with the translation.
6.     HYSTERA by Leora Skolkin-Smith – Ms. Hen didn’t like this one. She’s giving it away because she wants to get rid of it.
7.     THE BLIND ASSASIN by Margaret Atwood – Ms. Hen loved this. Read her review here http://mshenreviewsthings.blogspot.com/2015/08/ms-hen-reviews-blind-assassin.html

If you live in Cambridge, or nearby, you can go and get these books out of the library for free! And if you do, you should post on my blog to see if have the same opinions as Ms. Hen, and the two of you can get into a discussion and make feathers fly! Or you could cluck together, like chickens in the coop.

Happy Reading!

Ms. Hen

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews COLD MOUNTAIN and enjoys the chickens

Cold Mountain
Charles Frazier
Atlantic Monthly Press

Ms. Hen happened to pick up this book because she found it at the Little Free Library in Cambridge near the Science Center. She likes the little library, but there isn’t a good selection of quality fiction in it, but she grabbed this because she was planning on watching the film, and she wanted to know the story.

This novel swept Ms. Hen away. The writing is dense and winding, much like the wild country in which the characters live. The story takes place in Cold Mountain located the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

This is a story about Ada and Inman, the Civil War and the things that kept them apart. It is also about their separate journeys: Inman’s back to his home, and Ada’s journey into self-sustenance. Before Inman joined the war effort, he and Ada had a brief flirting, and it was not a relationship. He liked her, and she wasn’t sure if she liked him because she never quite liked anyone.

Ada was raised in a genteel Charleston home, and never had to take care of herself. Her father, a minister, became ill, so he bought a piece of land in the mountains so he could breathe the fresh air. He passed away suddenly, leaving Ada alone. The hired help ran off, and she didn’t know how to work the land, or even make her own biscuits. Until she met Ruby.

Ruby is a young woman used to having to survive. She meets Ada and they make the farm work for them. They don’t have any help, but Ruby gets Ada to contribute to the labor and they survive. They grow apples, and have chickens and trade for what they need.

Inman walks away from the Confederate hospital, and starts his journey home. He thinks about Ada and wonders if she will still have him, since he is not the same person. He has seen death before his eyes and he thinks he could never go back to a normal existence after witnessing such bloodshed. He is also injured.

He wanders and meets people on the way. He gets shot and survives; he meets a goatwoman; he saves a young woman from the Confederates, and he sees sadness wherever he goes. But wherever he ends up, most people who are friendly are willing to give him a meal. Sometimes he eats chicken.

Ms. Hen has never read a novel that had so many chickens, hens or roosters mentioned in it. There were at least twenty-three times when one of her kind was mentioned. In some places, the fowl was mentioned in a pivotal or provocative way, which Ms. Hen completely adored.

1.     The first sentence: “At the first gesture of morning flies began stirring. Inman’s eyes and the long wound at his neck drew them, and he sound of their wings and the touch of their feet were soon more potent than a yardful of roosters in rousing a man to wake.”
2.     Ada tries to get eggs from a red hen and a rooster attacks her. “Ada threw up a hand to fend him off and was cut across the wrist by a spur.” Right after that, she meets Ruby and Ruby tells her that she would get rid of the rooster like that and she twists its neck right there.
3.     When Inman meets the goatwoman she says, “Can’t tolerate living around a chicken. No spirit to a chicken at all.”
4.     Inman chases the Confederates after they leave the young woman Sara’s house, taking her hog and her three chickens. Inman manages to kill all three men, but “the remaining hen had gotten free and had its head immersed in the broken open belly of Eben the New Yorker. It pecked at the colorful flesh pulp of the exploded guts.” After Inman brought the hen back to Sara, “Inman ate the brains of the hog, parboiled and scrambled with an egg from the hen that had been eating on the raider from New York.”

This novel is not a traditional love story. There are many twists and turns and Ms. Hen didn’t know which way the story would end. Ms. Hen adored this novel because it was poignant and devastating, and she would love to give it more than five feathers up if she had more than five feathers. Five feathers and both clawed feet, she says! People who like to dive into a novel and swim in its depths would love this.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews THE BLUE GIRL

By Laurie Foos
Coffee House Press

Ms. Hen has been a fan of Laurie Foos since she took a class with her at the Boston Center for Adult Education in 2002. Ms. Hen read one of her books and developed an instant writer-crush on Laurie, because her writing goes to places where Ms. Hen wishes her own writing would go. Ms. Hen read PORTRAIT OF THE WALRUS BY A YOUNG ARTIST, and was immediately captivated by the strange and wonderful world of Foos’ magical realism.

Laurie Foos’ latest novel, THE BLUE GIRL, is about a group of women and their daughters who find a blue girl at the lake in their small vacation town. The blue girl was drowning, and Irene’s daughter Audrey saved her. The other mothers and daughters and everyone else at the beach didn’t do anything to save the blue girl, who has no name, she is simply referred to as the blue girl.

After Audrey saves her, the blue girl goes to a house in the woods and is taken care of by an old woman. No explanation is given who the old woman is. The women, Irene, Magda and Libby, go to the house to give the blue girl moon pies to eat, but the girl has a hard time breathing and does not eat a lot. The bake their secrets into the moon pies, secrets that they don’t want anyone to know. A moon pie is a chocolate sandwich with marshmallow cream in the middle and chocolate drizzle over the top. They tell their families the cakes are for a bake sale, even though there has never been a bake sale in their town.

The daughters, Audrey, Caroline and Rebecca want to find the blue girl and they want to know why she is blue. Caroline, the smart one, researches blue skin and tries to discover how the girl turned that color. Rebecca, the beautiful one, is fooling around with Caroline’s brother Greg. Audrey cannot sleep after she saves the blue girl.

There is no explanation in the book about why the girl is blue or who the old woman is taking care of her. The blue girl could represent the unconscious desire that we all have that we don’t want anyone to know, and that is the reason the women feed her the moon pies with their secrets baked into them. They have all wanted something different from what they have, but by feeding the girl, they release their desires and they try to diminish the pain of the past.

THE BLUE GIRL is simply and sparsely written. It is about mothers and daughters and what mothers want for their daughters and what they want for themselves.  It is about desire and love and what everyone wants from their lives. Do we want to leave our home? Do we not want to end up like our mothers? Do we want happiness? What is happiness? Can happiness be found in a moon pie, or do we have to find it within ourselves?

Ms. Hen likes to read novels that make her ask questions. THE BLUE GIRL made her ask lots of them. Who is the blue girl and why does everyone want to know more about her? Ms. Hen thought about swimming in a lake where she could find the blue girl, because she wants to find something magic. Ms. Hen gives THE BLUE GIRL five feathers up. She also dreams of giving her secrets away like the characters in the novel. But first, she has to learn to bake moon pies.