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THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE: A Memoir ~Marcia Butler

Monday, January 1st, 2018

THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE is a very satisfying read, full of poetic, musical language, inspiration, abandonment, abuse, lyrical recovery and phrasing.  It is an autobiography and an etude of how to use music to balance and center the self while finding home.  “Music aficionados will find an extraordinarily kindred spirit here, and lovers of memoir will find this a sensationally satisfying one.” (-Booklist)

Marcia Butler is a professional oboist who does freelance work primarily in New York.  Her story is about a child who falls in love with Wagner Opera at age 4 and demonstrates unusual talent to her teachers at school.  These teachers encourage her talent and find lessons for her to advance.  Butler drives her self to be the best she can be and falls into the music and the praise.  She resides in a love-starved environment and has to lap dance for her father to avoid the beatings he administers to her sister.  Music is the escape and she practices 3 hours a day.

Her parents drive her sister out of the house.  Butler uses music scholarships and part time jobs to leave home and begin her career.  Her playing is exceptional and awarded.  Her love relationships are monstrous and difficult.  Her parents only hear her play 2 times in her career.  She is always searching for love and support.  The reader wants to hear her play and wants to hold her up and let her lean their way, holding on to her words and hoping to protect.   One gets lost in the music that we are not actuality hearing but rather are reading from the page.  Gorgeous and courageous, sparse and passionate the reader journeys into the self-destructive youth and it’s darkness only to emerge with a full life of sound and beauty.

The chapter of how the author makes her reeds is just amazing.  How to get the wood cuts perfect to produce the perfect outcome and resonance.  Bravo!

“In her debut memoir, THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE, Marcia Butler shows us how music – listening to it, playing it, losing it, and rediscovering it – can save us.  With bravery and honesty, she unflinchingly tells her story.”  (-Ann Hood, author of THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST)

Marcia Butler was a professional oboist for twenty-five years, until her retirement from music in 2008.  During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned of New York and international stages, with many high-profile musicians and orchestras – including pianist Andre’ Watts, composer and pianist Keith Jarrett, and soprano Dawn Upshaw. (cover)

marciabutlerauthor.com
Twitter @MarciaAButler
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I loved reading this book it is a favorite in 2017 for me and the Washington Post!

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THE ART OF CALM: Photographs and Wisdom to Balance Your Life ~ Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Just in time for Mother’s Day TLC Book Tours  and National Geographic Society Books sent me THE ART OF CALM for review.  It is absolutely beautiful and would make a lovely gift for the women in your life, and how about just for you?

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh has chosen stunning photographs to accompany each page of her writing wisdoms.  There are lovely quotes from famous women about finding the calm in one’s life, and there are even recipes for special treats and delightful bath soakers.    My absolute favorite parts of the book are the wee exercises that change the mind in a matter of moments and truly bring on the calm and the centering that pulls one back from an unpleasant trajectory.

I learned later in life to start each day with a poem, which allowed me to set my pace in a more thoughtful, positive direction.  This little gem would do that too.  Small enough to keep in the car, a little read before car pool, a deep breath and a picture study when the kids are fighting, or just the right touch before falling asleep THE ART OF CALM is a delight and 5 minutes of peace.

I highly recommend THE ART OF CALM as a lovely gift, for busy women even for one’s self.  A fabulous thank – you gift for someone who did something special.

“Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a New York-based journalist who has written for outlets including Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Huffington Post.  The author of Devoted and founder of the Deja Foundation, she lives with her husband, twin daughters, and beloved rescue dog, Buddy.” (Cover)

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Facebook

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THE LAST GOOD PARADISE: A Novel ~Tatjana Soli

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

“Everyone encouraged one to ‘live the dream,’ but no one talked about how to pay for it.”   “He was learning the hard way that even divine cooking didn’t make one immune to being unloved.  Sadly, food wasn’t always enough.”  (Unproofed copy at 25% of Kindle reader)

Ever dream about living on an isolated island in the South Pacific?  THE LAST GOOD PARADISE is about that very concept of escaping to a remote island, having no fancy amenities handed to you and relaxing to a happiness of self-discovery.  Soli has put in more twists and turns than you can imagine including such amazing back stories of each of the characters that it is very difficult to put this book down.

I recommend this book to folks who like to read about how a character reaches their best potential and wants to ameliorate the back-story into the reality that is surfacing into the story now.  This is a study in responsibility and relationships between individuals and commitments and how they are going to play out their own happiness and future.  I found the writing compelling and the words kept me reading in the few draggy/ redundant moments; I was not actually on a sunny atoli in the South Pacific having nothing to do and gourmet food arriving on time!

THE LAST GOOD PARADISE introduces us to Ann and Richard a Los Angeles power couple that is attempting to become pregnant and about to open their own restaurant.   Ann is an attorney who has been making the money and saving for this big adventure of Richard’s when their plans become a train wreck and they hurriedly gather their savings and race out of L.A.   They travel lite, taking only a backpack and a tourist bag full of cash; and a brown one-piece bathing suit!

When they get to the remote resort, they meet Loren, a Frenchman, who won the resort in a poker game; he has chosen this remote lifestyle for his own.  A most interesting fellow, who has brought Titi, of the Royal family, and her childhood betrothed, Cooked to help him run the resort, reclaim their heritage, and become the owners upon Loren’s death.

Dex and Wende are aging rock star and his young muse, both are attempting to escape from the pressure of the public and move forward onto new pathways and adventures.  After 2 months of being isolated, the events on the island assist Dex in writing new songs for the band and Wende has found her own passion and not just being the muse and “hottie”.

There is an underlying environmental issue, which begs for some responsible re-action and recovery in that it has truly affected lives and the way of life,  also the whole problem of the  huge resorts for the wealthy including the theft of the land and lifestyle from the original people.

I have read all of Tatjana Soli’s novels and enjoyed them all.  This is the first one I have been sent for review.  I liked this story very much and think others would also as it required me to take a look at the choices I had made and my responsibilities over my life.  Was I a follower or a “wild-child”?

I think book groups would enjoy this read, as there is a lot to discuss.  I think a study guide would very much enhance this book.

About the author from the TLC Book Tour page:

“TATJANA SOLI is a novelist and short story writer. Her New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, was the winner of the James Tait Black Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. Her critically acclaimed second novel The Forgetting Tree was also a New York Times Notable book . Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun, and have been listed in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.”

Tatjana Soli Twitter

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THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS: A Novel ~Elizabeth Gilbert (New York Times Bestselling author of EAT PRAY LOVE)

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014


On Facebook, Audible.com offered me a free copy of THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS.   I was delighted because I wanted to read this book even before it was published as I truly relish Gilbert’s writing voice.  The precision and language usage I always find awesome, it transports me, my reading skills improve and I find challenge which pushes me to better analysis and understanding.
I have been reading Gilbert’s stories for a long time, as a friend of mine discovered her cowboy stories in a men’s magazine and he passed them along as he knew I would like her style.   I have not been disappointed.  I am sure I could write 500 words about the writing.  I will say Ms. Stevenson the reader of this audible book was just so skilled also and it allowed me to recover from a small surgery while keeping my eyes closed and my ears attentive.    The book is over 500 pages, and that was a perfect recovery time.

Alma Whittaker was born in Philadelphia on her father’s estate just a few days into the 1800s.  Her father Henry Whittaker began life as a poor man in England who worked in a garden as a tree pruner.  He had a business sense and he learned Botany from the earth and the plants and the skills of others. He was determined to be wealthy and was quite an entrepreneurial fellow.   He found a strict Dutch wife who would have this newly wealthy man who was also a Botanist and together they forged a path into the Age of Enlightenment with determination.  Alma’s father began one of the first Pharmaceutical companies based on plant medicinals.  Their home was a laboratory for guests and wisdom and all the new found science and knowledge.  The education of Alma was rigorous and futuristic.  Alma became a Botanist in her own rights, delving into the norms of evolution and changing minds.

The story reveals all the changing mores of this time period.  The Quaker Movement against slavery and their new schools, the beginning fight for women’s rights, the preparation for the industrial revolution, the rise of public education, the changing religious traditions, and the scientific exploration and explosion of ideas are all explored.  Books were more readily available and more printers established publishing houses.  Because Alma was isolated on her family’s estate, she showed us how the world was changing with each venture forth with fresh vision and appealing analysis.  We are taken to Peru, South Seas islands, and then back to Europe; the end of the story finds Alma about 95 and living in Amsterdam with her Mother’s younger brother.  An historic saga, or an adventure story I am not sure if I need to classify this work as anything more than a great reminder of history and discovery.  THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS was a marvelous read and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes exquisite writing and complete story telling with lots of details.

This novel was the perfect way to start a year of reading and reviewing.  The history provided the historic back story to 4 more books on my review list. I was better prepared to read these other stories and understand the context of the shared time periods and appreciate what the 19th Century provided to the global evolution of human kind, opened the door to medical breakthroughs and paved the technological outreach of today.   The format of an audible book was perfect for me to use while driving or healing, although I was frustrated with not being able to go back and make notes, underline, and find a beginning quote for this review. I hope all of my daughters will read this book and maybe I can persuade one of my book groups; the length makes it prohibitive.

Thank you to Audible.com  for sharing this book with me.  THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is an excellent read.

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