Archive for the ‘ Books ’ Category

A Day At The Beach In A Red Dress

india ink drawing

Latest book reviews by Ruth Curtiss

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda – A marriage between two doctors, a man from India and a woman from the USA with an adopted daughter. Complications arise they don’t anticipate. Interesting and well written. Information about customs and culture in India.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake – A WWII story from a different angle. A young recent bride is left in a small town in the States while her doctor/husband volunteers to go to London to help during the bombing. She writes a letter to him every day and he writes as he is able. The last letter has a much longer journey. It reminded me of the daily letters I wrote to my husband when he was overseas in the South Pacific for three years during the same war.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees – A fun book to read with the author telling the story of Louisa May Alcott’s life as she thinks it was in the mid 18th century, feeling the Jo of Alcott’s book,” Little Women” was really Alcott herself.

Ruth Curtiss is my mother and a lifelong avid reader.

Remarkable Creatures, a novel by Tracy Chevalier, reviewed by Ruth Curtiss

Photograph of Ruth Curtiss on her 90th birthday with a hat shaped like a cake with candles

Ruth Curtiss

 Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier: The remarkable creatures in the title of this book are the fossils which can be found on some sandy beaches and in rocky structures, in this case along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in England, not far from London. Sometimes they fit together like a puzzle to form what was once a prehistoric creature and they were then given to a museum.

The novel is set in the early 1800s and is about 3 sisters and another young woman, all spinsters (the term for unmarried women in this era who are past the age at which they would normally marry).  One of the sisters and the other young woman spend their lives in search of interesting fossils.  It was a different type of novel, part fact and part fiction. I recommend it.

Note: Ruth Curtiss is my mother. At age 93 she continues to read at a phenomenal pace. Check back for more contributions by her.

Nikola Tesla (inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer) was a columbiphiliac…a pigeon lover

 Actually, so am I, but I think Tesla just might have taken it a little too far. If you have ever wondered exactly where you stand between normal and crazy, I think the following could tilt your perception of yourself toward normal.

I read this in Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives Of Eccentric Scientists And Madmen by Clifford A. Pickover, which I found highly entertaining. The original quote is an excerpt from Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O’Neill, who actually knew Tesla:

Tesla told me the story; but if I did not have a witness who assured me that he heard exactly what I heard, I would have convinced myself that I had had nothing more tangible than a dream experience. It was the love story of Tesla’s life. In the story of his strange romance, I saw instantly the reason for those unremitting daily journeys to feed the pigeons, and those midnight pilgrimages when he wished to be alone. I recalled those occasions when I had happened to meet him on deserted Fifth Avenue and, when I spoke to him, he replied, “You will now leave me.”

He told his story simply, briefly and without embellishments, but there was still a surging of emotion in his voice.

“I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years; thousands of them, for who can tell–

“But there was one pigeon, a beautiful bird, pure white with light gray tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I would know that pigeon anywhere.

“No matter where I was that pigeon would find me; when I wanted her I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. She understood me and I understood her.

“I loved that pigeon. “Yes,” he replied to an unasked question.

Yes, I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. When she was ill I knew, and understood; she came to my room and I stayed beside her for days. I nursed her back to health. That pigeon was the joy of my life. If she needed me, nothing else mattered. As long as I had her, there was a purpose in my life.

“Then one night as I was lying in my bed in the dark, solving problems, as usual, she flew in through the open window and stood on my desk. I knew she wanted me; she wanted to tell me something important so I got up and went to her.

“As I looked at her I knew she wanted to tell me–she was dying. And then, as I got her message, there came a light from her eyes–powerful beams of light.

“Yes,” he continued, again answering an unasked question, “it was a real light, a powerful, dazzling, blinding light, a light more intense than I had ever produced by the most powerful lamps in my laboratory.

“When that pigeon died, something went out of my life. Up to that time I knew with a certainty that I would complete my work, no matter how ambitious my program, but when that something went out of my life I knew my life’s work was finished.

“Yes, I have fed pigeons for years; I continue to feed them, thousands of them, for after all, who can tell–”   

There was nothing more to say. We parted in silence. The talk took place in a corner of the mezzanine in the Hotel New Yorker. I was accompanied by William L. Laurence, science writer of the New York Times. We walked several blocks on Seventh Avenue before we spoke.

Tesla had a plethora of other philias (loves) and phobias (hates), including a fear of spherical shapes. He could not bear to see pearl earrings and later in his life could not even use the word “sphere.”

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: Book Review by Ruth Curtiss

Portrait of Ruth Curtiss on her 90th Birthday

Ruth Curtiss

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford held my interest from beginning to ending. It is a story based on what actually happened when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 and war was declared. Thousands of Japanese lived in this country and since the government didn’t know which were spys and which were loyal Americans it was decided to pick them all up and put them in camps in fenced in areas with guards for the duration of the war. Although Chinese and Japanese families lived in their own communities within large cities there were many young people who fell in love with someone of a different nationality or race and this is at the core of this novel. A story that was hard to put down.

Note: Ruth Curtiss is my mother. At age 93 she continues to read at a phenomenal pace. Check back for more contributions by her.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Noah, drunk and naked

I am about 1/3 through Rushdie’s book and really enjoying it. It is a wonderful, larger than life tale including historical fiction, magic and mythology, family dynasty and family disfunction all set against the backdrop of the independence of India and Pakistan. It was published in 1981 so I’m surprised I haven’t read it before. I just finished a part where the storyteller as an almost-9-year-old boy hides in a large basket of laundry in his mother’s room, accidentally sees her naked (and a bit more) and is traumatized for life.

I recently finished The Harlot by the Side of the Road by Jonathan Kirsch. He tells the Old Testament tale of Ham, son of Noah, who saw his father naked and drunk and told his brothers about it. Noah then curses his grandson Canaan, who is the son of Ham, and all of the future descendents of Canaan (the Canaanites) to slavery. Why not curse Ham, the guy who really saw him naked? This is actually in Genesis. Seems to be a recurring nightmare among our species…to see our parents naked or in a compromising position. Is that because of the Noah story or were we, as a species, already freaked out that our parents might be human and have naked bodies back in the days of Noah?

I found a blog with a post about the Noah story which was pretty funny. It’s called, Oh Damn, Noah’s drunk and naked again.

How Do We Know When It’s God, by Dan Wakefield

Novelist, journalist and screen writer Dan Wakefield is using one of William Solis’s artworks for the cover of his book How Do We Know When It’s God?  See below for a fabulous description of this uplifting book. You can also order this book on-line by visiting  or through at

Decades of atheism and hard-living were interrupted by a profound religious reawakening–experiences recorded in RETURNING: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, which Bill Moyers called “one of the most important memoirs of the spirit I have ever read.” The unexpected challenge of maintaining his faith “over the long haul…after the first flush of rediscovery” is the focus of this inspiring memoir. Wakefield’s hard-won realization that spirituality is not static, and that each day holds the promise of renewal, will resonate for any reader who seeks to keep faith. Dan Wakefield is a journalist, screenwriter and best-selling novelist.

Creating From the Spirit by Dan Wakefield…cover image by Sarah Curtiss

Novelist, journalist and screen writer Dan Wakefield is using one of my artworks for the cover of his book Creating from the Spirit…my first book cover commission for a book that wasn’t my own!  See below for a fabulous description of this uplifting book. You can order on-line by visiting Beech River Books or through
Press release for Creating from the Spirit by Dan Wakefield

On sale now!


In this passionate, clearly reasoned book, award-winning journalist and novelist Dan Wakefield explodes the many myths often associated with the mysterious creative process. Drawing on examples from religion, philosophy, and literature and exercises such as journaling and right-brain drawing, CREATING FROM THE SPIRIT teaches us that the key to creation is clarity of body, mind, and spirit. Wakefield also challenges the “dangerous nirvanas” of drugs and alcohol as false agents of inspiration. CREATING FROM THE SPIRIT teaches anyone who wants to become more creative how to access our natural perceptions and hidden resources, a process brilliantly expressed in the lives and words of twenty “creators from the spirit.” Wakefield interviews artists and writers, scientists and athletes, CEOs and chefs — all of whom have learned to embrace each moment as a creative act. Now you can, too.

Reading update: Geek Love, Sixteen Pleasures, Cutting for Stone, My Stroke of Insight, Moses : A Life

Geek Love: A Novel by Katherine Dunn.

Weird quirky book…might be too strange for some tastes…along the order of a John Irving novel, but not quite as tight. People who like A Prayer for Owen Meaney  (one of my all time favorites) would like this book. Definitely a fun read.

The Sixteen Pleasures: A Novel by Robert Hellenga.

Well written, but a bit dated. Had some problems identifying with the heroine in the beginning and then I realized the author was a man…aHA!

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Fabulous fabulous fabulous book. A grand exotic international adventure from start to finish. It is not related at all, but it brings to mind the Kite Runner because of the scope and exotic flavor of it all. Read it.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor.

This is the story of Taylor’s recovery from a stroke which disabled her to the degree where she had to relearn to walk, talk and everything else. She does recover and goes back to her job as a brain scientist. The interesting part about this book is the information she imparts on the left and right brains. We really are two people fused together like Siamese twins. I shall have more to say about this in Everything IS. Recommend.

Currently reading: Moses, A Life, by Jonathan Kirsch.

So far it is completely engrossing. I had no idea that Moses was such a controversial figure and that he was mostly a man of myth: Moses the Mainly Mythical Man. That’s what I would have named the book. I’ll let you know if Mr. Kirsch keeps me as interested as I am right now all the way to the end.

And OK OK, I read a few thrillers: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson, and the two sequels that follow.

It’s a trilogy, though each book feels like a finished work until you read the next book and find all things connected. It won’t ever be more than a trilogy since Stieg Larson died after the third book. I think I could have handled a fourth book, but probably not much more. The movie for the first book is out; it is in Swedish with English subtitles. I haven’t seen it  yet, but have heard good things about it. The heroine is a 90 pound Swedish photographic memory bi-sexual goth computer hacker super good dirty fighter with a dragon tattoo. Would someone please make a Haiku from that sentence?

Desert ants smell in stereo! Empire of the ants. The Roaches Have No King. Raptor Red.

After my recent trip to Death Valley, I thought this article was mighty interesting:

Which reminds me of three works of fiction that are extremely fun anthropomorphic reads…a triptych so to speak:

1st, read Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

2nd, read Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber

3rd, read The Roaches Have No King by Daniel Evan Weiss

All three are fast reads. I would read them in the above order as the last one is the real winner in the group and it’s always best to save the best for last. I loved that book…Ruth Ruth. Have to read it to know what I’m talking about.

The Breach by Patrick Lee and insights on perspective filtering


A very good book to read on the airplane. Fast paced sci-fi…lots of turns; waaaaay too much violence but I skimmed those parts. Just to give you an idea of how engrossed I was, after the airplane landed the pilot came on the air and apologized for the landing. I said out loud, “he’s apologizing for the landing?” Others on the plane thought I was ripping on the pilot and one gentleman told me it really wasn’t the pilot’s fault; there had been a huge wind of some sort he had to fight. I was stunned! Apparently we had a really bad landing and I hadn’t noticed…I was reading The Breach! What’s really weird about this is that I took about 30 pictures as we approached SF; five minutes before landing, I picked up my book again and must have traveled to a parallel universe where the landing was smooth.

This experience goes to the heart of my theories on filtering…that we filter out everything that doesn’t fit with our species’ world view to different extents at different times depending on the individual. In addition to these broad species-based filters, we have filters based on our geographic location, religious upbringing, age, sex, education, ethnicity, personal tastes, momentary distractions and terabytes of other factors.

We are taught this filtering process from the time we are born. Babies when first born are unable to focus properly. Perhaps we must learn to filter out the infinite other images surrounding us before we are able to identify the things our species/societies want us to see…such as our mother, father, etc.  We do live in a sea of microorganisms made up of groups of molecules made up of groups of atoms made up of groups of still smaller particles. We, ourselves, are made of groups of microorganisms and other groups of molecules. If we could see on the molecular or subatomic level, we wouldn’t be able to tell where one person or thing stopped and another began. The lines between things are fuzzy when viewed closely, like the shore of the ocean, always changing. We must filter out all sorts of connections between these different groups to operate within the parameters of our species and our political and cultural locations.

I was apparently able to turn on all filters external to the book I was reading during the airplane landing. Another filtering example that came from reading this same book: One reviewer on Amazon complained about the foul language, but didn’t mention the violence. I didn’t even notice the foul language. We definitely have two different filters in play here. Look at all of these filters from this one reading of The Breach on the airplane. Think of how many filters are in play on every other subject in the world coming from the perspective of every other subject in the world. Whew! More on this subject of filters later.

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