Books

Barely a skiff of snow this winter until …

Oregon’s reputation for tough winters suffered a setback in 2017/18. November, December, and January stretched like lazy cats across the table of the Northwest sky. They shed rain but mild temperatures prevailed beneath their sleepy overcast. Skiers lamented the lack of snow on Mt. Hood.

In the valley below, orchardists fretted. They prefer harsh conditions that induce dormancy in their trees. Meanwhile, opportunistic  retirees trudged the fairways of golf courses normally closed this time of year.

Then, in mid-February, just when everyone began to anticipate daffodils and tulips, the season coughed up a hair ball of bad weather. East winds howled for three days. Curtains of sleet arrived in horizontal flurries and temperatures plummeted like the ethical standards of our current White House.

Fruit trees had begun to bud and farmers rued their bad luck. Meanwhile, powder snow junkies called in sick. Parking lots at ski areas overflowed. Mother Nature, undisciplined as the president’s twitter feed, yawned with indifference at those blessed or scorned by her whimsy.

The Books

During this mini cataclysm, I retreated to the sanctuary of my home. But first, I cashed in a gift certificate at Waucoma Bookstore: three mysteries, a fictional memoir, the ramblings of an OCD list maker, and a 12 ounce bar of exotic chocolate. These, I reasoned, would distract me from winter’s final gagging discomforts, not to mention the episodic decadence of American politics.

August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones, left much to be desired. Just another first person narrative by a wise cracking ex-cop and a cast of cardboard characters. This bland cake of a plot was frosted with predictability. Nothing new here …

The Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz, however, is a classic whodunnit, the perfect read for cold winter nights. Well drawn characters/suspects add intrigue to the patient unfurling of the mystery. A long, relaxing read within the cozy confines of an English village, or so you are led to think … Brew a pot of tea and add some honey.

Love potion number nine.

The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, entertained me while being infused with “a wonder drug” for my cancer, multiple myeloma. The pre-meds I take to counter possible side effects consist of both steroids and strong antihistamines. The golden glow of this “poor man’s opium” elevated the author’s mundane observations to revelatory incantation. I liked this book, but you needn’t be under the influence to enjoy its magic spell.

The Silence of the Sea, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. A puzzle of unexplainable disappearances. Procedural patience leads to the only possible solution. This book has suspense galore and a disturbing dread for the victims. Highly recommended if you like it creepy with an Icelandic flair for the eerie.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat, by David Michie purrs with Buddhist bromides. Yes, the cat is the narrator. Did this convention undermine my fondness for mindful behavior? No. What better way to search for the nothing that is everything than through the curiosity of a cat?

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