Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

This book club selection for July met with approval by most of the members.

We all were interested in the life of Dimitri Shostakovich and his life under
Stalin, who was unhappy with his music and approved a review which called his music “muddle instead of music”.  Shostakovich feared for his own life and that of his wife and children.  He had a small valise packed at the ready  for many nights of this life.

But gradually, he was worn down by the criticism of even some of his admirers and he knuckled under to willingly agreeing that his music was no good and not suitable for the people of Russia and even joined the Party eventually.

The book is short–191 pages, but it does tend to be endless navel-gazing on the part of Shostakovich and we are along for the ride as the readers.  At one point Shostakovich points out that there are three ways for a person to lose his own honor.  One, when forced to do it.  Two, when he does it willingly even though forced, and third (his case) when he does it willingly all on his own.

Julian Barnes is a well regarded, award winning author and the book club felt that the book was well written and we were glad to have gotten a first hand look at what life could be like living under a dictatorship.

The August book club selection is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

two small mother-of-pearl paillettes ©booksandbuttons

two small mother-of-pearl paillettes ©booksandbutton; a two star review for Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

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The Racketeer by John Grisham

Talk about beach reading!  Were we?   Well, last night at book club, Grisham failed as a beach reader–rather ho-hum fare from a usually  exciting author.

All agreed it “went right along” up to a point, but was an unbelievable, contrived plot and maybe better as a Hollywood movie.  Too bad, but all our choices can’t be winners.  Noise of Time for next month should be interesting—story of Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, and his trials and tribulations under Stalin.  (One club member loves his fifth symphony and has a recording of it.)

Bye for now.

Two Button Review -- small plastic buttons from the 1950s ©booksandbuttons

Two Button Review for The Racketeer  — small plastic buttons from the 1950s ©booksandbuttons

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Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

This is it–! This will be the “thriller” feature for my summer reading list– I borrowed this old copy from a friend almost a year ago —and still have not read it—it has lots of illustrations and is a really nice old copy, so I think I’ll give it a try this summer . . .




Okay, maybe it’s not scintillating beach reading, but it will look good being crossed off all those old reading lists!  Ta-ta.  What does your list look  like?




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Summer Reading List for 2017

summer reading plan for 2017  *** have added another!  and another!see below ***

The Racketeer    by John Grisham X                 June book club selection

Noise of Time   by Julian Barnes       X               July book club selection about Russian composer Shostakovich

Anna Karenina    X   Leo Tolstoy                      August book club selection—it’ll be a reread for me

The Trees             Conrad Richter         X

The Case of the Thirty Nine Cufflinks  X   by James Anderson                for fun
reissue of old 1930s mystery published by Poisoned Pen Press

The Case of the Mutilated Mink    X      by James Anderson                   for fun
reissue of old 1930s mystery  published by Poisoned Pen Press

A Common Life (recap of wedding in Mitford series)       X                 by Jan Karon            for fun

Commonwealth                                       by Ann Patchett        maybe . . .

Too Lucky to Live                                     by Annie Hogsett    maybe  –pub by Poisoned Pen

*** Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore    on classic reading lists–

The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman—because I admire the author so much and have never read anything by him . . .

(X means it’s read)

Well, this is a poor excuse for a post, but am musing about what I should read this summer by the pool.  The trouble is there’s no “thriller”–that is a really decent “heavy” classic worth reading like last summer’s Don Quixote.  Well, of course, Anna Karenina is a heavy classic but I’ve already read that so it doesn’t count.  Shall we say that The Trees by Conrad Richter will be the classic?  Ok, let’s.  the rest are kind of vapid and light—(fillers and spillers if you get my drift . . .)

What are you going to read?   Three of mine are book club selections and I’ve finished one, so that’s a step in the right direction.  Actually, I’ve also finished the Cufflinks one–and it really was fun to read—good old Inspector Wilkins and sidekick, Leather, are in it–and in the “mink” too.   Not as good as the cufflinks one tho.   I’m looking forward to Noise of Time.

Maybe I”ll still come up with a worthy title—to be continued–bye!

PS!  R. D. Blackmore . . .  the R. D. stands for Richard Doddridge-or maybe you already knew that–  check out new post about Lorna Doone and why I’ve chosen it–

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Three Flea Market Buttons

Well, it’s summer, and summer mornings–Sundays especially, to me mean going to the nearby flea market in Lambertville, New Jersey.

I wander up and down the aisles–under the shady pavillion and out on the
wider sunny area and I do mean IN THE SUN__hot!!

The first weekly foray netted me these three buttons and I especially like the Queen Elizabeth one which, along with a similar faced coin, commemorated her coronation in 1953.  The button is brass and 1 1/8″ in diameter.  It has the etched saying: “Dei Gratia Regina FD Elizabeth II”

Queen Elizabeth coronation button 1953 1 18" in diameter

Queen Elizabeth coronation button 1953
1 1/8″ in diameter

The Latin Dei Gratia Regina means by the Grace of God, Queen and the FD stands for the Latin — Fidei  Defensor or defender of the faith.

I’ve photographed the plain brass back of the button, too with its metal shank.

back of Queen Elizabeth button

back of Queen Elizabeth button


Don’t worry–there won’t be a quiz on the Latin terms . . .
just the measurements of the buttons shown.








Also bought two little 3/4″ colorful plastic/celluloid buttons–a cute strawberry and a “fruit plate”.


cute plastic buttons from the 1950s probably.

cute plastic buttons from the 1950s probably.

and the backs

and the backs

Bye for now, I’ll be back with some more finds from another day—-  what are YOU finding in the button line? You ARE looking, right?

Oh! you wonder how much I paid for these buttons?  I paid $7.00 for the group of three.  I’m happy–would you be?


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Fitness Class

♫Maybe you know some little places to go to where they never close . . .” (downtown . . .  2, 3, 4)

Listen to the music of the traffic of the city” . . 1,2,3,4)
“Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty.”  ♫

Yes, I’m still in fitness class.  It’s a copyrighted program known as Silver Sneakers–a  play on words for the silver-haired participants who are of a certain age (65 plus–men and women).  It’s a class that runs  for about 45  minutes to an hour and includes cardio and aerobic exercises as well as practice in balance and toning the torso strength in general.  We use dumbbells for weights, a ball and some stretch tubing for accessories–and a chair because part of the time we are SEATED!

We exercise to music and one day the trainer was explaining to us about the
timing of the music, that Silver Sneakers suggests a certain “beat” and even has music which the trainers can use.  But, she said, she prefers to tape her own music which is “more current”.   (Yeah, I think, like Downtown!!)

The other day one of the men spoke to me after class and asked if I was sad
because I always look so serious.  So for the last few days, I’ve had to go in and
act jumpy and alert and so forth—very tiring!

Once when I was in junior high a boy told me I looked like Polly Bergen.  Funny, people just don’t come up to you with those kinds of comments after the years go by.

There is a woman in class who looks like a Shirley Temple type.  I ‘ll bet her mother used to dress her that way, too, and curled her hair.  But you can’t go up to someone hinting that they grew up in the 1930s and ask.  So I don’t, but in my mind she’s “Shirley Temple”.

Today I saw someone else and I thought, “Who does she look like with those big brown eyes close together and  a cute little scrunched-up face?”  Aha!–Judy Garland!!

And, I thought I’ll bet I can place every person in here as a star lookalike.

Wrong.  After Shirley and Judy, the streak ended and it was quite a slog to come up with anymore.  OK, I”ll give Susan Hayward to one—the woman who told me once that she used to teach junior high English.  And the men, no dice either.

Look around.  I’m sure there’s a Silver Sneakers class near you–good for you!
Let me know what movie stars are in your group . . .

There are a couple more posts about my fitness class and if you’ll type “fitness” in that search box up on the right, you’ll find them.  Thanks!

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Patio Pots—-Thriller, a Filler, and a Spiller

There you have it–the formula for your patio pots or planters.  Find a thriller–a showpiece for color or pizzazz like my red geranium.  Then use a “filler”–I used Dracena spike–and it looks pretty good (when it’s not gale force winds!)
and then a “spiller” or vine type falling out of the pot like my purple scabiosa or as the nursery woman called it “scabiola”.

The photos need work and the arrangement a little time to spread out and enjoy the sun . . . but you have the idea I hope.  Have fun!




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A Good Choice by Ann Hallum

Oh, my goodness!  talk about “armchair travel”!  The author has a sure hand as she carries us along with Bella, who is traveling in Europe on business for her New York fashion company.  We open in Paris and she has recently caught up with an old acquaintance, Gianni Giambelli, who heads an age old fashion business in Paris and he has invited her for a drink at his hotel, the Crillon, after the day’s show.  He also tries to persuade her to stay a few extra days in Paris and postpone her trip back to New York.  He even says he’ll handle changing the plane reservations!  (A keeper!)  She is convinced easily enough and remains for a few days being wined and dined in the best spots in Paris–not hard to take–and the author gives us an effortless (on our part) tour of the city.  Giambelli also hints at an upcoming important position in his firm that Bella might fill.

Eventually Bella heads back toward New York, on a trip towards her husband, Paul, in California.   They have had a separation due to a conflict in schedules—he has been awarded a plum job in his research field which would involve his staying in California, but instead of joining him or staying with him, Bella opted to continue her work in New York.  She wants to see if they can work things out and keep the marriage.  After her flight to New York  her trip is somewhat circular, a train trip going through New Orleans.  On the way, she meets a fellow traveler, Jacques, and they become attracted to each other.  He is a sophisticated European and years younger than she, but there is a spark between them and soon she’s being wined and dined in the best spots of New Orleans—the author again hitting the high notes of the city, even luring us in with the delicious treats of beignets.  They ramble about the city of New Orleans, visiting jazz joints and drinking Sazearac and playfully talking in first year French phrases.  He calls her “countess” and she calls him “Jack” to toy with Americanizing his name.  They laugh a lot and she wonders if it is possible to make a choice of someone younger than her “certain age” and whether or not she should continue on west to be with her husband Paul.

The story never falters as we zip along, almost on tour as well, and the book’s 200 pages are a delight  as we eat and drink only the best on this make believe journey of ours.

It’s a book that the world needs right now—easy, light, and
“food for thought” (!) as we ponder what Bella’s final choice will be.CIMG7601


three antique mother of pearl carved buttons ©booksandbuttons

Three Button Review–three antique mother of pearl carved buttons ©booksandbuttons

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A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

This was the book club selection for May.  It was the National Book Award winner in 2012.  It’s generally a reflection of the author’s take on the devastating effect of the recession on American business and workers.

Alan Clay and his company, Reliant, are in Saudi Arabia to give a presentation of their IT experience to set up the technological footprint for a brand new proposed model village, including a hologram to present to the king.

Clay has a history of failed start up businesses and this project doesn’t seem to take off very hopefully either.  Delay after delay prolongs the book as Clay and his team are rebuffed and ignored as they try to work up their presentation to be given to the king.  But they have been assigned to work in a big sweltering tent with no wifi connections.   Rather discouraging–and the Chinese are also in the running to get the assignment . . .

I found little to recommend reading the book for enjoyment–perhaps a more
philosophical viewpoint would be more forgiving, but I didn’t like Clay nor what he represented.  A saving grace of a character was Yeosuf, the native driver who seemed to have more of a practical outlook on life.

There are 312 pages and I read the book in drafts of 50 pages.  The first batch went well because  Clay is a big joke teller and they were funny, but an author can’t rely on jokes to fill up a book of that size and seriousness of purpose.

Read it to see if you agree with the award (!) but most of the book club found that the movie, with Tom Hanks, was a much better portrayal.   Suit yourself, but for me, it was “Pas pour moi!”  Next month’s selection is The Racketeer by
John Grisham–that’ll be a page turner!

two small mother-of-pearl paillettes ©booksandbuttons

two small mother-of-pearl paillettes ©booksandbuttons

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Dead Wake by Erik Larson

If you are happily contemplating a cruise vacation in the near future this might not be the book you want to read right now!

It’s the story of the last Atlantic crossing of the Cunard luxury liner in 1915 from New York to Liverpool, knowingly heading into the waters around Great Britain and Ireland in the dangerous days of World War I.  Supposedly, there was no danger for the passengers because Germany was unlikely to torpedo a civilian ship.  And it was expected that the British would furnish huge destroyer ships to help guide the Lusitania through the St George channel into Liverpool’s port.  But that didn’t happen.

But—-and therein lies the story.  For the Germans were likely to torpedo a civilian ship if they thought it might carry  munitions helpful to the British cause.

Larson tells a two part story–that of the liner, the Lusitania, its passengers, and in a side-by-side story, relates the actions of one U-boat–the U-30 which has its sights on the Lusitania for every page.

the departure of the Lusitania, photo taken from Life Magazine supplementary World War I special edition publication

the departure of the Lusitania, photo taken from Life Magazine supplementary World War I special edition publication

As your history tells you, a torpedo does indeed hit the Lusitania, and she sinks.  1969 passengers were on board and chaos reigned as lifeboats weren’t lowered correctly and life jackets failed.  Miraculously there were survivors.

(It is ironic that the Cunard line offered a 25% discount for any future cruiseline tickets to the survivors.  I wonder if there were any takers on that great deal!

This is a book that keeps the pages moving.   Almost as interesting as the book discussion was a member’s reading of a biography of the author, Larson.

In our book club, one member usually gives a biography of the author.  We select the books together–each bringing a list of 4 or 5 nominees, and we discuss the prospects of reading them–interlacing fiction, non-fiction and biography generally. Then a complete list is typed and sent to each member.  Votes are collected by email. Also, because the books we read are furnished for free by our library, we always have to make sure that there are enough books in the all- county system for our branch to order.

This was a good/great selection for discussion and would be a good one for your book group, too, maybe.  It combines history and action for good reading.

Four button review

Four button review



Next month’s book club selection is A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers.

Four button review

Four button review

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