Monday, November 22, 2010

Book #50 "Wishin' and Hopin" by Wally Lamb

Summery: It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.
LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.
Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina's word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone's business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from QuÉbec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin' and Hopin' barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.
From the Funicello family's bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin' and Hopin' is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we've been—and how far we've come. – Library Things

I first read Wally Lamb when She’s Come Undone was an Oprah’s Book Club pick. This is when I was still reading Oprah’s picks. I don’t read her picks anymore but that’s a story for a different day. I really liked She’s Come Undone I thought he did a good job a capturing a woman’s voice. I liked I Know This Much is True as well but I never got around to reading The Hour I First Believed, I’m not sure why. So, I was excited when I won Wishin’ and Hopin’ from Book Club Girl this month.

I really enjoyed Wishin’ and Hopin’. It’s totally different from the other Wally Lamb books I’ve read. It’s a short, sweet, lightly funny Christmas tale. But it’s more of a story of parochial school in the late 1960s. Felix is a charming young man with a loving family and good, if a little wild, friends. Having never been to parochial school I don’t know how accurate the story is but I am going to guess it’s not too far off the mark.

While not laugh out loud funny I found it amusing and very sweet. I really liked Felix and the relationship with his family. They were real-his sisters took good care of him, loved him and still teased him the way any self-respecting older sisters would. After reading many books where the families are dysfunctional this was a refreshing little story where the family loved and supported each other.

This in not an overly Christmas Chirstmas story which was nice since I was reading it before Thanksgiving. Starting with the driving out of poor Sister Dymphna-a laugh out loud funny scene for me-we follow Felix and his friends through the Halloween, Felix’s mother’s brush with fame at the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Felix’s own thrilling TV appearance on the Ranger Andy show, and culminating in the Christmas Program and the 5th grade’s “tableauz vivants”. Charming is the word I think best describes this book. I was thoroughly charmed by Felix and his adventures. I really enjoyed the Epilogue following where the characters are today. It definitely added to the charm of the book

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book #49 "Work Song" by Ivan Doig

Summery: An award-winning and beloved novelist of the American West spins the further adventures of a favorite character, in one of his richest historical settings yet.

"If America was a melting pot, Butte would be its boiling point," observes Morrie Morgan, the itinerant teacher, walking encyclopedia, and inveterate charmer last seen leaving a one-room schoolhouse in Marias Coulee, the stage he stole in Ivan Doig's 2006 The Whistling Season. A decade later, Morrie is back in Montana, as the beguiling narrator of Work Song.

Lured like so many others by "the richest hill on earth," Morrie steps off the train in Butte, copper-mining capital of the world, in its jittery heyday of 1919. But while riches elude Morrie, once again a colorful cast of local characters-and their dramas-seek him out: a look-alike, sound-alike pair of retired Welsh miners; a streak-of-lightning waif so skinny that he is dubbed Russian Famine; a pair of mining company goons; a comely landlady propitiously named Grace; and an eccentric boss at the public library, his whispered nickname a source of inexplicable terror. When Morrie crosses paths with a lively former student, now engaged to a fiery young union leader, he is caught up in the mounting clash between the iron-fisted mining company, radical "outside agitators," and the beleaguered miners. And as tensions above ground and below reach the explosion point, Morrie finds a unique way to give a voice to those who truly need one. -- Penguin

I first met Morrie Morgan in Doig's Whistling Season and I remembered him well when I started to read Work Song. I know several members of my book club had a hard time getting into the story and I think my remembering Morrie helped me enjoy it from the start. You don't have to have read the first book to follow this story. Actually, I think Doig does a really good job working the important story lines from the previous book. I think some authors have a very hard time working in past stories, especially if you're read the earlier stories, it came seem very clunky and forced. That's not the case here.

I love almost any book that expounds on the glory of books and boy does this story. A big portion takes place in the fictional Butte Public Library (if it really existed I would be on the first train to Butte to move in). Morrie's boss at the library, Sandi Sandison or the Earl of Hell as he's know around town, has a collection of classic literature to make bibliophile drool. An ex-rancher, with his own shady past, he was one of the characters I just loved. He braved frost bite just to get something to read. How could I not love him?

Morrie finds a way to get himself mixed up in the fight between the miner's union and the copper mine and winds up on the wrong side of two company goons while leading the drive to find the perfect song to become the union anthem. What I liked about this book, which is what I liked about Whistling Season, is the words. Doig has a way of putting words together I find magical. It's so lyrical I myself captivated by the language. I hadn't finished it by the day of my book club but couldn't bring myself to rush through it because I didn't want to miss a word.

Whistling Season and Work Song are the only two of Doig's books I've read. Most of his others take place in Montana and seem to have western themes. Old West literature is not a type of fiction I read but I enjoyed two so much I'll have to give the others a try. Even if I don't love the stories I'm sure I love the words.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book #48 "Emily of Deep Valley" by Maud Hart Lovelace

I missed out on Betsy -Tacy when I was young but thoroughly made up for it when my daughter was little. I read the adventures of Betsy, Tacy, Tib, and all their friends and family. I can’t count the times I would be the one to say “Let’s read Betsy-Tacy tonight”. Luckily for me she was always game. But somehow we never advanced to the books when Betsy was older and we completely missed the other Deep Valley books. Boy, were we missing something good.

Thanks to Book Club Girl a grievous error has been remedied. I won a copy of Emily of Deep Valley in prep for Book Club Girl’s Blog Talk Radio interview with Mitali Perkins (who wrote the forward to the reissue of Emily of Deep Valley) and Melissa Wiley (who wrote the forward to Carney’s House Party/Winona’s Pony Cart). The interview was on Monday (I thought it was today sorry for the late notice) and you can listen to it at Book Club Girls Blog.

All I can say is “Thank you, ladies”! I didn’t know what I was missing and I was missing something wonderful. I have mentioned before I’m not a big reader of Young Adult novels but I do have a love of the old school YA. I can read any of the Anne of Green Gables or Little House books any time. And now the Deep Valley books join my old friends.

Emily is a girl after my own heart. The disappointments she feels I remember well. When Mitali Perkins writes in her forward “Yes, Emily has many likable character traits, but unlike Betsy, she isn’t best friend material at all. Why not, you may be wondering? Well, because Emily is me.” I know exactly what Mitali means because Emily is me, too. I understand so much of what Emily felt, of what she longed for. Even now, more years than I care to count after being Emily’s age, I still remember the feelings of not quite fitting in and trying to find her place in the world.

And on top of all that, it’s a wonderful story. I’ve already order the next Deep Valley book, which has Carney’s House Party and Winona’s Pony Cart and I expect to love them just as much. I don’t think I’m wrong in suggesting that you all go out and get these books for the little girls in your life and heck, pick up a copy for yourself. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Book #47 "Russian WInter" by Daphne Kalotay

Summery: When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead, the former ballerina finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed the course of her life half a century ago.

It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of the theater; that she fell in love with the poet Viktor Elsin; that she and her dearest companions—Gersh, a brilliant composer, and the exquisite Vera, Nina’s closest friend—became victims of Stalinist aggression. And it was in Russia that a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape that led Nina to the West and eventually to Boston.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest: Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that a unique set of jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together these unlikely partners begin to unravel a mystery surrounding a love letter, a poem, and a necklace of unknown provenance, setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.

Interweaving past and present, Moscow and New England, the backstage tumult of the dance world and the transformative power of art, Daphne Kalotay’s luminous first novel—a literary page-turner of the highest order—captures the uncertainty and terror of individuals powerless to withstand the forces of history, while affirming that even in times of great strife, the human spirit reaches for beauty and grace, forgiveness and transcendence. - Harper Collins

I was really fascinated by this look into a place and time I didn’t know a lot about. Life for an artist in Stalinist Russia was one of privilege and fear. The knowledge that no one was ever safe and there was nothing to be done about it was really striking. The day Nina auditions for a place in the Bolshoi Ballet academy her best Vera’s parents are “taken away”. Vera goes to live with her grandmother and Nina goes on to become a lead dancer in the Bolshoi. Years later, after Nina has met, fell in love, and married the poet Viktor, Vera returns and she and Nina renew their friendship. Kalotay gives the reader a real sense of what it must have been like to live under the pressure of Stalin’s rule. When the story of Nina and Viktor, Vera and the troubled composer Gersh, and Gersh’s wife, government official Zoya comes to it’s conclusion I understood how destructive the regime was to these relationships.

What I enjoyed most was Kalotay didn’t just tell the story of Nina and her life in and after Russia. She also did a marvelous job telling the story of Drew and how she came to be working with Nina. I loved that Drew’s grandparents story was told so well, it was one of my favorite parts of the book. Then there’s Grigori’s story and how he’s connected to Nina. While not a complete surprise I did like how it all wrapped up. The connections between all of the character past and present worked well. And when Nina comes to understand the true events of the past I was really much more moved than I thought I would be.

Russian Winter supplied me with three weeks of Wondrous Word Wednesday words (there’s one more for tomorrow) with all it’s Russian words, ballet, and jewelry terms. There was some fascinating information about Baltic Amber and a lot of behind the scene detail of the ballet I found very interesting.

Daphne Kalotay's first book is a collection of stories named Calamity and Other Stories that I had never heard of but I was very well reviewed. After reading Russian Winter I really want to read more of her work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book #46 "The Postmistress" by Sarah Blake

From its beautiful cover to its lovely but heartbreaking ending The Postmistress gave me so much. I listened to the audiobook version in a two-day period. What is the audiobook version of “I couldn’t put it down”? I guess I couldn’t stop listening. I had to know what would happen next.

After a bit of confusion at the very beginning trying to keep the characters straight I was swept right in. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to a book and I think it threw me on how to follow along. I found myself having to rewind to remember who we were talking about and what was going on. But, about half way through the first chapter I was completely involved and totally enthralled.

The three women at the heart of this story were so believable, well written, and honest. I was thrilled when Postmaster Iris found love, was anxious waiting for word from Emma’s husband, and angry along with Frankie trying to get the voices of those most hurt by the war heard.

I have an affinity for the time period that this book is set. I love the music, the movies, and the fashion. The pace of living seemed much more my style. Mind you I wouldn’t want to live without my internet, tv, or other luxuries of this age but I do love to read, watch, and listen back in time.

I’m sure several people have already read this but I don’t want to give too much away. But I will say this, this book put me through the wringer. It’s heartbreaking on so many levels, yet there still is hope. Sometimes I think there’s nothing new that can be written about WWII. All the stories have been told, then something comes along and hits me. There will always be more stories to be told. As Frankie records the voices, really just the names and places, of these people running for their lives it reminded me of just how many people suffered through this horrible time. It’s easy to lose the individual in the vast numbers.

Frankie’s story is a huge part of this book but just as important are the stories of Emma and Iris. The doctor’s wife and the Postmaster (not postmistress). I loved Iris, she was a very New England type of woman. Practical and sensible, making a pivotal decision she makes in the course of her job all the more poignant. Iris becomes an important part of Emma’s life. Her connection to her husband far away. Emma really touched my heart (it helped that Emma is my daughter’s name) she was wounded yet brave, trying to become part of her husband’s life and town. Finally make the family she so longed for but had lost before.

I have to say a word about Orlagh Cassidy, who read the book. Like I said before it has been a while since I have listened to a book so it took me a bit to get into this. I a first I thought her reading was a bit off. Then like lightning it just caught fire. Her take on each of the three women was spot on and she had me so wrapped up in the story I hated to turn it off. I actually looked up her audiobook resume and found there were several books on it I would like to read. Including the Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee which has been on my list for a bit, so I think I’m off to order it so I can hear Ms. Cassidy again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book #45 "Red Hook Road" by Aleyet Waldman

Summary: As lyrical as a sonata, Ayelet Waldman’s follow-up novel to Love and Other Impossible Pursuits explores the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherlys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.

A marriage collapses under the strain of a daughter’s death; two bereaved siblings find comfort in one another; and an adopted young girl breathes new life into her family with her prodigious talent for the violin. As she writes with obvious affection for these unforgettable characters, Ayelet Waldman skillfully interweaves life’s finer pleasures—music and literature—with the more mundane joys of living. Within these resonant pages, a vase filled with wildflowers or a cold beer on a hot summer day serve as constant reminders that it’s often the little things that make life so precious. – Random House

The devastating premise of this book intrigued me. What happens to families when the young bride and groom are killed on their wedding day? How are you related when you’ve been in-laws for an hour? The story deals with the aftermath of a horrible car accident and how each family member comes to terms with their loss.

I’ve read all of Aleyet Waldman’s Mommy Track mysteries and I really enjoyed them. I went into this book wanting to love and sadly I just didn’t. I liked it well enough but it just didn’t catch me. I felt like I was missing something. I’m sure there are going to be plenty of people who love this book unfortunately I found myself pushing to finish it and find out what happened, which I did want.

Jane and Iris, the mothers-in-law were well written but I felt there was something missing about them for me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It drives me crazy when I can’t explain why I didn’t like a book better. I’m not sure what wasn’t there for me or what I needed to like it better. Ugh, it’s just so frustrating.

I did like the way Iris and Daniel’s (parents of the bride) marriage was handled. It seemed a realistic reaction to the death of a child. And though I didn’t always like Iris, I could understand some of the things she did and felt. I thought Jane (mother of the groom), a seemingly cold person was fleshed out a little better.

The secondary story of the flower girl finding her talent for music with the world-famous violinist grandfather of the bride was a bit of a miss for me. Again, I don’t know why it didn’t work for me, maybe it was just a little contrived.

This is a hard one for me because I really wanted to love this book and I did like it. Maybe my expectations were too high and I was expecting something else. I have a feeling more people are going to love it and wondering what the heck is wrong with me.

Book #44 "I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President" by Josh Lieb

Normally I don’t read much contemporary young adult literature. Honestly, I can’t remember any I’ve read in the last couple of years. I read some along with my daughter when she was young but stopped as she got older. I couldn’t bring myself to read the “Twilight” series because the brooding vampire thing doesn’t really do it for me. The last brooding vampire I read about was Lestat and I lost interest in him after “The Vampire Lestat”. I would have read along with my son but he went from “Captain Underpants” to Issac Asimov. Until last week.

Looking for a new book for him to read I saw “I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President” by Josh Lieb. I could no more pass up that title than I could pass up free breadsticks and trust me, my friends, there’s no way I would pass up either. If the title alone didn’t attract me there was a great story to boot.

Now, my family can tell you I have an infinite ability to suspend disbelief. Really, I’ll pretty much buy anything for a good story. So, I didn’t have a problem with an eighth grade genius being the second richest person in the world with a secret lair the covered almost the entire underside of the city of Omaha and secret minions who keep him protected from the bullies in not only the world but in the halls of Gale Sayers Middle School. The problem I had when I started to read this was the over the top style it was “written” in. I could really see the writing, at first. But, then I had to rejigger my thinking. It’s suppose to be over the top. How could it not? We’re talking about a boy running for eighth grade president to secretly hires an elite campaign strategist to help him rig the election, he has a special stall in the boys bathroom where the toilet dispenses milk duds and popcorn. I got it, over the top is what Lieb was going for. It’s sly and irreverent, it’s funny and snarky, and it actually has somethings to say about politics, parenting, and what being an evil genius really means.

Lieb was an Executive Producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and also worked on The Simpsons which definitely shows in his style. It’s smart and funny. Think Dexter’s Laboratory (do people remember that cartoon?) with less accent and more treats. Better still, there’s a happy ending even though Oliver is now only the fourth richest person in the world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoughts for Thursday Morning

Don’t you just love a good book title? Gosh, there’s just something about a catchy book title that makes me happy. While cruising some of the blogs I read (about reading) I found this title:

“The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove” by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Doesn’t that rock? I have no idea what it’s about. But just hearing the title makes me want to read it. Not just find out about it, read it. It’s funny, earlier this week (10/10/10) to be exact Mental Floss had a top 10 list of alternate books titles to some classic books and it made me think about some books recently I read just because I liked the titles. The previously mentioned “The Financial Lives of the Poets” is one and also “The Girl Who Chased the Moon”. I always assume authors spend a great deal of time choosing a name for their books. I don’t know what I would have thought about “To Kill a Mockingbird” being called “Atticus”. I know it would still be a perfect book and I would probably love the title as much as I love “To Kill a Mockingbird” but it is hard to imagine.

So to all you authors out there. Thanks for putting time in effort into great titles and I can’t wait to read “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove”

When writers talk about books

I just listened to Jess Walter, author of “The Financial Lives of the Poets” on Book Club Girl’s Blog Talk Radio show and it was awesome. I love to read or in this case listen to authors talk about what goes into writing their books. That’s why I love these new PS editions of books. They have great discussions with the authors about inspirations for the stories and, my favorite part, what they’re reading. I just love know what writers are reading.

Anyway, Jess Walter was on an internet radio show (shout out to Book Club Girl, I love her) and it was so interesting getting to hear his thought process going into writing this book. Plus getting to hear what he’s working on next. I just love it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book #43 "Up From the Blue" by Susan Henderson

I don't know what better review you can give to a book than I couldn't put it down. I read this in two days and only because I had to sleep or I would have finished it the day I started. While I finished it quickly I certainly didn't rush through it because I wanted to savor every word. Susan Henderson's debut novel was is an impressive start to her writing career as far as I'm concerned.

She tells the story of Tillie Harris and the year that changed her life forever. While moving into her new home Tillie goes into premature labor. With her husband out of town Tillie is forced to call her estranged father for help. In all the panic and anxiety we flashback to 1975, the year Tillie's already complicated falls completely apart.

Eight year old Tillie is erratic, impulsive, and desperately trying to keep her emotionally fragile mother from spinning out of control. Her father deals with this with military fashion, telling his wife to pull herself together while trying to keep order inside the house and appearances outside the house. Tillie's stoic older brother shuts out all the chaos and becomes the perfect little soldier. Through Tillie's young eyes things are black and white, there are heroes and villains.

There are many subtle moments in this book; though we see events from Tillie's perspective Henderson also shows things as they really are. There are no heroes, no villains, only people stumbling through a sad situation. Everyone of these characters had my sympathies. Tillie is temperamental and emotional and heartbreaking in efforts to save her mother.

The story doesn't always go where you think it will go. There were times I questioned what was really happening. The changing world of the 70's is shown through Tillie as she makes friends with the little girl bussed into her school. I loved that there were no giant banners on this only Tillie's own experiences highlighting the issue.

There's so much going on in this story, there's sadness and loss, happiness and humor, and most of all there's hope and the ability to come through in the end. While there isn't a typical happy ending there is a happy ending. I enjoyed this book tremendously and if this is what we can expect from Susan Henderson I see a big stack of books to add to my "to be read" list.

Book #42 "Eyes on the Prize" by Sunni Jeffers

The Grace Chapel Inn series is a lot like the feel good story they run on the Friday evening national news. There may be a some hard ship but in the end everything works out just fine.

The series has several different authors, some better than others. Jane Orcutt, may favorite passed away several years ago and I feared I may not find the series as enjoyable. Well, I need not have worried. Sunni Jeffers does a fine job handling her entries into the series.

This time around we have youngest of the Howard sisters, Jane, preparing for a 10K run while trying to fight her desire to beat an old high school rival. Then the Louise, the eldest Howard sister has decided to try her hand at gardening and could just be growing a record breaking giant pumpkin. All of this while middle sister Alice is out of town helping her friend decide whether or not to put a beloved relative into a nursing home.

While not the most complicated of stories there is enough story to keep you ...more The Grace Chapel Inn series is a lot like the feel good story they run on the Friday evening national news. There may be a some hard ship but in the end everything works out just fine.

The series has several different authors, some better than others. Jane Orcutt, may favorite passed away several years ago and I feared I may not find the series as enjoyable. Well, I need not have worried. Sunni Jeffers does a fine job handling her entries into the series.

This time around we have youngest of the Howard sisters, Jane, preparing for a 10K run while trying to fight her desire to beat an old high school rival. Then the Louise, the eldest Howard sister has decided to try her hand at gardening and could just be growing a record breaking giant pumpkin. All of this while middle sister Alice is out of town helping her friend decide whether or not to put a beloved relative into a nursing home.

While not the most complicated of stories there is enough story to keep you interested. Alice's story was by far the most intriguing to me. I thought it was nicely handled (even if it was easy) and ended happily (was there any doubt?). The story of the giant pumpkin was fun and I'll have to look up Louise's secret ingredient to see if it's real. The 10K run storyline was the least successful for me but I think that was just me and not the author's fault.

All and all I enjoyed this entry into the series. There will be no grand book awards for any of these books. But their entertaining and lighthearted. The only thing I wish they had were recipes for all the wonderful food mentioned because they all do sound yummy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book # 41 "The Kids are All Right" by Diana and Liz Welch with Dan and Amanda Welch

There are a few books that really get under your skin and this was one of them for me. I don’t know what I was expecting when I first started to read “The Kids are All Right” but it certainly wasn’t a sad walk down memory lane. That’s not to say I didn’t like this book because really I did. It just touched on some of the unhappy times in my own life.

There are a lot of similarities I share with the Welch kids. I lost both my parents in a short span when I was very young. I came to depend on my siblings in way other families didn’t seem too. I think when families lose their parents young they can go one of two ways they either drift apart and become familiar acquaintances or they cling to each other like a life preserver. I think that was the greatest similarity between the Welch family and mine. They really did come to depend on each other to get through.

This is a touching, heart wrenching, sometimes shocking, ultimately heartwarming story of how resilient we humans are. Told from all four kids points of view we see how each felt and dealt with the circumstances they were forced into. The thing that struck me the hardest were the number of adults that let these kids down. The assortment of uncaring, unkind, and unwilling adults who failed the children was just stunning to me. As they try to struggle to find their way there is quiet a bit of alcohol and drug use which can be unsettling but perhaps understandable, given their young age. But finally they are able to survive and thrive together as a family.

I didn’t always enjoy reading this book. But I’m so glad I stuck through the emotionally raw parts. In the end I found these were four amazing strong capable people who are incredibly lucky to have each other. Having sibling who are also my friend and life savers I understand how precious that is. I finished this book knowing the kids really were going to be all right.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book # 40 "The Financial Lives of the Poets" by Jess Walter

I think readers always have the "where did you get your idea" question running through their minds when they're reading a book. But, really man, how do you come up with financial poetry? Then how do you turn financial poetry into a book about a suburban dad who decides after endless economic hits to become a drug dealer with some dudes he meets outside 7-11 while picking up milk for his kids breakfast.

I was explaining "The Financial Lives of the Poets" to my husband last night when I finished it and had to say "I know it sounds nuts but it's a great book". How can you not love a story about a newspaper business reporter who quits his job to launch a financial poetry website (WT....) only to find out the idea won't fly (really??) then gets stuck in the endless whirlpool of today's economic crisis? Then while trying to figure out a way to save his house and his way of life, becomes a drug dealer. This story never went where I thought it was going and I loved every minute of it. It made me laugh and think and there's not much more you can ask for in a book.

The copy I have happens to be a PS edition which has extras at the end of the book including the incident that inspired to story. More and more books I'm getting are the PS editions and I have to say I love them. I really like being involved in what went into creating art. I love good dedications and acknowledgments too. I love feeling like I'm in the know of what goes on behind the pages of books I love. I hope more and more publishers come out with these editions. As for Jess Walter, I think I'll be checking out his other works and if he ever does decide to start up a financial poetry website I may just have to check it out.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another thing I hate

Okay, so I don't want to sound like Andy Rooney just griping about stuff but a few things came up lately and it made me want to write them down.

First, a little while back I wrote about disliking when people I don't care for show up on Sesame Street. Well, I have another Sesame Street issue. I watch quite a bit of Sesame Street because of the babies and I do really like it. There's something soothing about that show and I have pleasant sense memories from both when my kids were little and when I was little. Anyway this Sesame Street gripe has to do when people I don't care for are on the show and rock it. You know being on Sesame Street is like being on the Simpson's. Probable better even, since it's been around for so long so you're excited about being on a show you grew up with and it gives you major cool points with your kids. So, when someone is on it I really want them to be into it and not everyone does a great job with it. I mean some people just go through the motions (I'm looking at you Kobe) and other people are totally into it. Here I'm looking square at Brian Williams who I'm crushing on big time due to at least two awesome Sesame Street appearances. I will go to my grave smiling over "Come back with my microphone, chicken" and "Squid, squid, squid, squid".

That leads me to my point. I liked Brian Williams even before his turn on the Street. But what happens when some one you don't care for shows up? I don't really care for Elizabeth Hasselback. I thinks she screechy and annoying and she just irks the crap out of me. The other day she showed up on Sesame Street to talk about "camouflage" and she was terrific. She just got it and was really into it which is what you need to do. Gack, now I have to kind of like her cause she rocked Sesame Street. Oh well, I guess I can deal with it But I'll say this Sarah Palin best not show up and do a great job. I just may have to explode if that happens.

Here's the other thing. I HATE when phones of T.V. shows have the same ring as my phone at home. We watch "The Glades" and it's a pretty good show. I like the main character and he and his partner have good chemistry. It's snarky but not to mean spirited. The romance in the show is good and it doesn't make me think too much. Anyway, the phones in the police station have the same ring as my home phone. You know what phones in police stations do? They ring. They ring all the time. Really all the time. We have to check our phone at least half a dozen times an episode. Aaaaarrrrrgggggg, it makes me crazy. You think if I write the production company they would change the ring? Probably not.

Oh well, on with the rest of my day.

Book # 39 "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith

Every year I think about rereading books I loved when I was younger. Every year or two I'll reread "To Kill a Mockingbird" or I'll take another read of "Camille". It's like getting back together with a old friend and I always feel better after.

Now these two books I've read rather consistently since I first fell in love with them but others I loved in High School and earlier I haven't read in years and in some cases decades. An example of that is "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". I don't think I've read it in 20 years or more. This month my book club decided to "A Tree" and I realized I haven't read it forever. But I began to get nervous that I wouldn't love it the way I did when I first read it.

Well, I didn't have to worry. It was everything I remembered it being. Francie Nolan and her family live in turn of the century Brooklyn. Poverty and cruelty is everywhere yet the Nolan family they're family and neighbors work hard to simply live, an accomplishment in itself. Francie's father Johnny is a lovable entertaining man who drinks to much and finds it hard to grow up and take care of his family the way he should. The job of providing for the family falls to Katie Nolan, Francie's mother. Katie works hard to earn money and take care of her family and also pushes each of her children to get an education, knowing it's the only way they will ever escape life in the tenements of Brooklyn.

A vivid picture of a time and place that doesn't exist anymore "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is, at heart, the story of how one little girl, with the help of those who love her, survives with hope and a remarkable resilience that makes you root for her to become everything she hopes to be.

I loved this book so much. The old chestnut of "I Laughed, I cried" really does fit this book. I think one of the things that struck me most is how fast children had to grow up in those conditions. We talk today about how fast our kids grow up but it seems nothing in comparison to that way children had to fight to survive in this time period. Children went to work to support their family and while I'm sure it still exists I wonder if it is prevalent. Just with the child labor laws it must be different.

The hope that flows through this story is what really touched me. I truly believe Francie would be one who made it out but unlike others shown in the story who made it out and turned their backs on their life in Brooklyn you're left knowing Francie would never forget or hate her past life. Thanks to the love and support of all her family Francie would never really leave Brooklyn.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book #38 "The Sugar Queen" by Sarah Addison Allen

Josie Cirrini wakes up to find a woman has moved into her closet. The closet she kept her secret stash of candy, cakes, and romance novels. The closet where she hides from her mother. Her mother who has never forgiven Josie for being a wild child when she was just a little girl. A mother who has made Josie her personal servant and chauffeur, ensuring Josie will have no life of her own.

That is until the woman took up residence in Josie's closet. She pushes Josie into making a new friend, declaring her love for the mailman Josie pines for, and generally learning to live her own life.

"The Sugar Queen" in another magical book from Allen. I love that each character gets a full story, from the woman in the closet to the Cirrini's housekeeper. They all have the touch of magic I love in her books. There are so many wonderful aspects to them that just light up the story. Does it get any better then having books magically find one of the characters? Even a character who is generally unlikable finds happiness in the end.

I don't think I could say I have a favorite of any of the three books Allen has now (can't wait for the fourth, but at least it will be a fine birthday present to myself)I love them all equally. They all will definitely be on my reread list.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I fear I'm becoming.......

obsessed to the point of looneyness (I know not a word but it works for me) with Sarah Addison Allen. I love her books, simply love them. I am now a little less than half way through with my 3rd book of hers (though it's her 2nd) and I find myself quite upset with the notion I'll have no new books from her until March 2011. While I do find it nice she getting a new book to me for my birthday I'm sad there aren't 10 already here for me to read.

I love her yet I would prefer she had no family life, no social life, didn't take breaks to eat or sleep but instead kept writing continuously in order to keep me in books. I would like her to be my Scheherazade and have 1001 nights of stories available for me. All this while I have a large stack of books in my "To Be Read" stack all waiting for me.

I feel better having gotten this out there. I know she's doing her best to keep me in stories so I will have to settle for that and be grateful, which I am.

Well, now back to my book.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book # 37 "Lemon Meringue Pie Murder" by Joanne Fluke

My husband jokes about the various mystery series I read and the professions of the solvers of said mysteries. He loves to pick some far fetched job or hobby and then have them solve the crime. Topiary sculptor or glass blower, teapot collector or professional sock darner you name it they solve crimes. I myself am perfectly okay with this idea but then, I do have a remarkable ability to really suspend disbelief. So it all works out.

I'm just fine with Hannah Swensen being a baker who just happens to solve murders. I'm good with the idea the police in her town can't seem to solve any of these murders without her input. I'm alright with the fact Hannah stumbles on dead bodies more often than most people come across litter. This series works for me and I do enjoy most the characters.

In this outing Hannah's mom discovers a body in the basement of a house recently purchased by one of Hannah's love interests, Norman. (See she didn't stumble on the body this time so it works) In no time Hannah is investigating the murder and even has the okay of her other love interest, Mike, a detective in the local police. There's also a sub plot of stolen money and a local boy being led astray my his cousin and all of this takes place during 4th of July festivities.

I had a hard time sticking with this story. It moved just a little slow for me and it wasn't to hard to figure out who and why the murder was committed. The side stories of Hannah's diet and her little sisters visit didn't really move the story along (though I did like the character of the little sister). There were also time where Hannah came across as a little prudish or behind the times which just struck me as odd.

None of this turned me off to the series and I'm sure I'll keep plugging away. Plus, there are some really good recipes throughout and I love a good cookie recipe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book # 36 "Barefoot" by Elin Hilderbrand

I'm never really sure about what qualifies as "Chick Lit". Is it just books about mainly women or is it women empowerment novels? Either way I guess on the whole I'm not attracted to stories just because they're deemed "Chick Lit" but then again, I'm not totally turned off by them either.

That being said I'm not sure whether or not "Barefoot' would be fall in the category but it was a girly kind of book. The story of three women and their summer in Nantucket. Two sisters and one of the sisters friend come to hide and heal in the families summer cottage. One sister is fighting cancer, the other sister is hiding from a scandal that cost her her job and reputation at the college where she taught, and the friend has found out after seven tries she's finally pregnant just as she also finds out about her husbands affair. So, yeah, I guess this is "Chick Lit".

I've never read any of Elin Hilderbrand other books but I believe she is quite popular. I got this one for $1.99 on my Nook so I thought what the heck. It was not a great read. I thought she dealt with the character's cancer fairly well but the rest left me kind of flat. None of the characters jumped out at me and made me really care about them. Well, that's not true - the twenty-something guy they hired to be their babysitter - his story line was interesting but not enough to carry the book.

If my reading list wasn't so long I might try another of Hilderbrand's novels from the library but for right now I'll have to leave her to her fans. Maybe next year.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book # 35 "Garden Spells" by Sarah Addison Allen

She's done it to me again. I was minding my own business ~ really I was minding the business of Clair Waverley, her sister Sydney, and their cousin Evanelle ~ and sneaky old Sarah kept me awake all night. This is my second novel by this author and I'm absolutely in love with her stories. She really works her magic over me and both her books so far are just filled with magic.

"Garden Spells" tells the story of the Waverley sisters and the cousin. All have a certain talent that make them stand out from and sought out by the people of Bascom, North Carolina. Clair can use the mystical flowers and herbs growing in the Waverley garden to help people calm their children, remind lovers of past good times, or discourage the amorous intentions. Cousin Evanelle has always been driven to give people things, unusual items to unsuspecting recipients whose uses become clear. Enter long lost sister Sydney and her daughter Bay. After 10 years on the run from a family legacy she didn't thing she wanted Sydney is back trying to forget the dangerous life she left behind. Sydney soon discovers her Waverley gift and that Bay is a Waverley too.

There's a lot of love and magic and happiness in this story. The character are flawed but lovable and I found myself hoping they all have a happy ending. The love interests and secondary characters all help to make the story richer and more interesting. Plus who doesn't love a story with an ornery apple tree whose apples will make you see the most important event of your life and wants to tell you so much it will throw it's apples at you.

I've been swept away by both of Sarah's books. The third one is one the waiting list at my library and I'm waiting to get all three books she's published through Paperback Book Swap. She has a new one coming out soon but not soon enough for me. Please Sarah hurry and write faster. I need another night I don't get to bed until 2AM.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book # 34 "Southern Ghost" by Carolyn Hart

A few weeks ago I was listening to "Book Club Girl's" BlogTalk Radio show and she was interviewing Emily Gray Tedrowe about her book "Commuters". I book I've read and reviewed earlier.

Well, in the course of the interview Emily mentioned how she found it odd more author's didn't write about their characters reading and I believe she also talked about how they didn't talk about other books or authors in their books. I had to agree with her. I always find it weird that characters don't read or talk about books and authors they like. Sometimes I think they may be afraid readers may think "Holy Cow, that sounds like a better book" and run back to the books store to exchange the book they're reading for the book mentioned in the novel. Now, I'm sure that is not really the case. (Well, maybe it is in some cases) But gosh, come on you're a writer shouldn't some of you characters read?

I think on of the things I like best about Carolyn Hart's Death on Demand series is not only does her main character read (after all she does run a mystery book store) she mentions authors, book titles, and even characters in the books. I will admit I'm caught off guard when she mentions herself but it does make sense since she's a pretty popular mystery author and she would be a big seller in a mystery book store.

Anyway "Southern Ghost" was one of her middling Annie and Max Darling mysteries. The set up of a missing girl didn't work for me. While the main mystery - a murder and suicide that occurred 20+ years earlier was a good one - the solution came together rather quickly and seemed a bit disconnected from the investigation they had done. Really it was solved by another character in the story which I didn't mind but you missed her investigation so the conclusion was a little forced. But I do really like these characters and the location of the story so I really did enjoy the book overall.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book # 33 "French Fried" by Chris Dolley

I won this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewer and it's the first book I've read on my husband's Nook. It's a great find on both. I won't give my opinion of the Nook here except to say I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Now on to "French Fried". I'll start by saying it's not my favorite book title and that's the only negative about this book.

Chris and his wife Shelagh have decided to move from their farm in England to a farm in France. If you've ever moved from one side of town to the other you know it's a stressful process. I think moving is right up there with divorce and death in the amount of stress involved. Now imagine moving from one country to the other, when you're not fluent in the language, and you're bringing along two cat who don't get along, a puppy with all the energy a puppy has, and more then one horse. Add on horrible weather, the need to take a ferry with a giant horse trailer, and a series of, well, let's just say events and you'll never want to move again.

Sadly things don't get much easier as they settle in. Funnier, yes easier, not so much. Whether it's trying to buy a used car or getting mistaken (and signed) for a soccer pro by the local football team thins are definitely not boring for the Dolleys. Oh, and through in a house that was apparently built by Rube Goldberg. Their pain is our laughs.

Throw in a mystery involving identity theft that will keep you guess and "French Fried" makes for a can't put down read. At one point (my favorite part of the book) Chris says about having his identity stolen that he's not the person this kind of thing happens to only to realize he is exactly that person. (Trust me, his realization is much funnier than I've just stated here) With apologies to the poor Dolley family and very happy they're the kind of people this happens to because I had great fun in their misery.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book # 32 "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County" by Tiffany Baker

You've got to love a great book title. I sometimes wonder if books we (or at least I) think of as iconic where thought to have great titles when the first came out. Did people think "To Kill a Mockingbird" was a great title in 1960 or was it just another title until they found out how great the book was? There are some books where you just know the title rocked from the beginning. I mean, come on, "Lord of the Rings" is a great title.

In my humble opinion "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County" is a great title. And the book cover just got me. I love good cover art. There are books where the cover art just seems to be an afterthought and then there are books that just suck you in. I have found entire series off the cover of just one of the books. "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County" had on of those covers. I saw the cover on a book blog I was reading and just had to find out more about the book itself.

So, I went into this book predisposed to love it. This is the story of Truly massive at birth and growing larger every day we follow her through her life in Aberdeen, a small town in New York. Truly's mother dies giving birth to her, something her father never quite forgives her for. Her older sister Serena Jane is her polar opposite petite, beautiful, and delicate. When their father too dies they are each sent to live drastically different lives. Serena Jane one of apparent privilege and Truly one of deprivation.

Along the way the long line of town doctors all named Robert Morgan play and important role in both Truly and Serena Jane's life. We hear of the Morgan's ancestor Tabitha, the town witch and the legend of her shadow book. The book of potions and cures hidden these many years from the long line of Robert Morgans who looked for them.

As I said everything was set for me to love this book yet when I started I had a very hard time getting into the book. I think I was expecting it to be a light and airy story following Truly's life. I had just finished a magical light and lovely story and thought this would follow in it's footsteps. This wasn't that book

What is was was a beautifully told tale of a girl living through the obstacals life has thrown at her with a grace her size beligns. After the first few chapters I was completely involved in Truly's life and struggle. I was fully invested in what became of her and of those she loved and who love her. And the book had it's own magic as Truly discovers her place in the world and that there were those around her that love her.

I'm so glad I didn't give up on this book. There was so much to love. It has a depth and humanity it was a joy to read. This is Tiffany Baker's first book and I really hope she's working on another. I want to read more of what this woman creates.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two, two, two books at once.

I haven't really done the two books at once thing for the reading challenge. Which is unusual because I often have two books going at the same time. But I guess because I want to finish reading in a timely manner I guess I'm not bouncing back and forth.

Anyway, I have two books going right no because I won an Ebook copy of "French Fried" which is subtitled "one man's move to France with his wife, too many animals, and an identity thief".

This is going to be my first complete read on Nook and I hate to say I'm really not hating it right now. I've been kind of vocal around the house about my distaste for electronic readers. I believe they could spell the end of actual, physical books. I love reading and by that I mean the physical act of reading. I love holding a book, I love turning pages, I love the smell of a book, I love book covers, I love the weight books have, and the way a soft cover book bends in your hand when you're reading it. There's something about the process of working my way through a book, seeing where I am (and don't get me started on book marks ~ I have a weird kind of love for those that borders on, well, never mind) and seeing how much I have left. So the whole e-reader thing rubbed me the wrong way.

Then I got one for my DH for his birthday. Hey, just cause I don't like it doesn't mean he has to dislike it. He likes tech and this was right up his ally. And then last week I won this ebook for one of my book blog web sites so I thought what the hey.

I've only been reading last night and I've only gotten about 20 pages in but I have to say I'm not hating it. It's light weight and kind of cool tech-y feel to it. The only thing I've noticed so far is that I aware of reading it on the device so I'm not as deep into the story but I'm thinking that will wear off as I get use to reading on it. For now I guess I'll being getting two books down for my quest and that's always good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book # 31 "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" by Sarah Addison Allen

Mullaby, North Carolina is the kind of small southern town that makes my readers heart beat a little faster. Come on, what's not to love? There's the mysterious Coffey family who never venture out at night and their handsome son Win who wants to break free from the family secret. Then there's the lovely Julia who bakes wonderful cakes in the hopes they'll bring back a love she lost long ago. Hoping to repair his past relationship with Julia is Sawyer who has a "sweet sense", the ability to see the sweet scents of Julia's cake. Enter into this Emily Benedict, who's come Mullaby to live with her grandfather, a gentle giant prone to checking the dryer several times a day in a house where the wallpaper can change at anytime.

"The Girl Who Chased the Moon" is now ranked among my favorite books. I just loved everything about it. The mystery and magic jump off the page and pulled my right into the story. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. In fact had to stay up till 2 am the second night of reading it to find out what would happen to these wonderful characters. What would happen with Julia and Sawyer? Would they overcome past pain to find true happiness? Would Emily find out about her mother and the reasons she never told Emily about her life in Mullaby?

Everything in this story rung pitch perfect for me. I couldn't wait to finish and then was so sorry it was over. I cared what happened to each of the characters and the magic of Mullaby definitely cast a spell over me.

I'm always excited to find a new to me author and Sarah Addison Allen is a wonderful, enchanting find for me. She is ranking up there with my favorite author Adriana Trigiani. I've added the rest of her books to my "to be read" stack" and, with apologizes to the other authors in my stack, Ms. Allen's books have been moved to the top.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Book # 30 "Beachcombers" by Nancy Thayer

Abbie, Emma, and Lily Fox are all home in Nantucket for the summer. Lilly had been home working for the local magazine, Abbie has come home from her Nanny job in London to help Emma who has come home after losing her job and her fiance. They're all a little lost having lost their mother when Abbie was 15, Emma was 13, and Lily only 7 they all need to find their way.

Enter Marina also nursing a broken heart after her husband leaves her for her best friend who is pregnant with a baby, a baby Marina herself desperately wanted. She's come to Nantucket to heal and decide what to do next.

Over the course of the summer these four women will find love and themselves and what they all really want out of life.

This was a great summer read with just enough drama and heartache to keep the story going and all the love and romance of a good summer page turner. After finishing the book I wanted to spend a leisurely summer on a wonderful east coast island.

Nancy Thayer can tell a good story. There are ups and downs and love and heartache. While there are no big twist or turns, if you've read enough summer beach books you'll see what's coming. But you won't really care because you're having a darn good time.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book # 29 "Commuters" by Emily Gray Tedrowe

The idea of love in the Autumn/Winter of life is a very hopeful thing. The idea of marriage in the same stage of life is very brave. Here's the story of Winnie and Jerry and their decision to get married at well into their 70s and the repercussions that decision has on those around them.

Told from the points of view of Winnie, her daughter Rachel, and her step-grandson Avery ~ Commuters tells the story of our commute through life and how each of our commutes effects the others in our life.

I love how this story didn't shy away and, in fact, dealt head on with what it means to get married again late in life and taking on the responsibility of not only a new marriage but a new home. How family and friends react to these decisions and what happens to you in what may be the short time you have left.

Along the way we hear the story of a family trying to rebound from a devastating accident and a young man trying to find his way back from drug addiction. There are many complicated emotions and actions taking place in this story and they're all told with great depth and compassion. Tedrowe does a great job of dealing with the messy, uneven, wonky connections made in life, love, and family. By the end I was left happy I took the commute with her.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book # 28 "There Goes the Bride" by M.C. Beaton

One of the problems with reading a series is sometimes the author loses their way with characters or story lines and end up just writing to complete another story. The last few Agatha Raisin novels have fallen into that rut.

Luckily there's been a little rebound in this last book. The story was a little less bumbling and Agatha was much more likable (which is saying something since she's not always a likable gal).

The story starts at the wedding of Agatha's ex James Lacey when the bride to be is shot dead. After Agatha is cleared as a suspect she gets hired to look into the murder.

The usual Agatha Raisin exploits begin as does the fun. I really did like this one better than at least the last two, maybe even more.

I look forward to seeing what Agatha will do next.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book # 27 "A Lie for a Lie" by Emilie Richards

I hate when I write a review, get more than half way through, then hit the wrong key and erase the whole thing. Oh well, here we go again.

I do enjoy this series. Even though it's none to hard to figure out "who done it" the characters are enjoyable and the town holds some interest so it's a nice read.

This story's plot revolves around a hometown boy Grady Barber coming home after to judge an "America's Got Talent" type contest. The once semi-popular now mostly C list celebrity has attitude to spare and of course meets his end while in town.

Acting as his assistant at the time of the murder Aggie Sloan-Wilcox sets out once again to figure out the culprit. There's a sub plot about a traveling circus/tent revival and it's leader Sister Nora's past with Grady Barber.

It shouldn't be to hard to guess what happened but that's okay. The reason I read these is the characters more than the plot and they were just as entertaining this time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book # 26 "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman

After reading the first several chapters of "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" all you'll want to do is save CeeCee Honeycutt. After reading every other chapter all you'll want to do is be CeeCee Honeycutt.

CeeCee is a brave, resilient, loving girl whose life is about as messed up as a poor girl's life can be. Her seriously mentally ill, southern beauty queen mother is spinning out of control in there small Ohio town. Her absentee father leaves the taking care of her mother to CeeCee, who is all of 12 years old when the inevitable happens.

In the wake of this tragedy CeeCee's life is changed forever. Sent to live with her great aunt in Savanna. That is when we lucky readers are introduced to a remarkable cast of southern women who will make you wish you could be a 12 year old girl in 1969 Georgia. With their love, caring, wisdom CeeCee will heal and thrive and bloom.

I love books that feature strong southern women.This one has a diverse group of women who all love so much there's no way not to love them. Throw in the elderly next door neighbor from Ohio who loves and cares for CeeCee and you've got a great feel good novel.

Book # 25 "The Recipe Club" by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

I know there are some people (one of my sisters to be specific) who don't like epistolary novels. (I should own up to have to look up the the spelling of this I think it would sound better as epistlatory which of course is dead wrong) Anyway, I know reading a story told in letter form is not some folks cup of tea but I like them or at least I don't mind them. Especially a well written one. Though I guess that could be said about any book, if it's well written then it's a good book, no matter, right?

The story of two life long friends and the ups and downs of their lives together and apart told through the letters they send each other through childhood until a terrible fight tears them apart. Then after life changing events they begin to write again, this time via email, to reveal a secret that will either tear them apart or bring the together forever. Along the way the Val and Lilly share their love of cooking by sharing recipes in their "Recipe Club" of two.

I loved these two girls, then women and the way their personalities are slowly revealed over the course of their letters. Their hopes and dreams and the relationship between their families that will end up effecting their lives more than they could ever imagine.

This was a well told story told in bits and pieces. While the great secret was easily guessed it didn't stop the story from being very enjoyable and well rounded. Plus the recipes sound very yummy and there really is something for every taste.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You know what I hate.....

...when some celebrity who I used to not hate becomes someone I think is a total douche and then shows up on Sesame Street. Case in point Tiki Barber. I used to not really think about him. Ya know, he was kind of cute when he was on The Today Show and he did the whole reading to kids thing with his twin brother (at least I think they were twins) and then he goes out an acts like a total tool, cheating on his wife and then trying to hose her and their kids about money.

Then today I'm watching Sesame Street with the babies and here's ole Tiki talking about going on the quest and all I can think is "Yeah, I bet you are you a**" and he ruins a perfectly good Oscar/Grover/Cookie Monster segment.

I hate that. Now back to the book blog.

Book # 24 "To Kill an Armchair Husband" by Terri Weeding

What to say about this book. I liked it, I may have even really liked it. I'll have to think about it for a bit.

But here's the thing. It calls itself a comedy and I didn't really get it as one. I suppose I could see where it would be funny, it just didn't hit those buttons for me.

That being said, I liked the story and characters a lot. More importantly it surprised me. I thought I knew the direction the story was going and it took a total turn and went somewhere completely different and it took me right along with it.

The story begins with Charlie Score making list of pros and cons for killing her chair-potato husband Billy. When she decides killing him is better than divorcing him the problems arrive. It seems Billy won't die. This is where the comedy is suppose to start. Charlie decides to kill overweight, out of shape Billy with a mixture of E.D. medication and vigorous sex. I think it was suppose to play out like a comedy of errors as each attempt fails but that part didn't work for me.

What did work is the overall story. As Billy realizes what a lump of a husband he's become and tries to change his ways with surprising results and Charlie realizes maybe she doesn't want Billy dead after all the story get interesting. I thought I knew where the story was going and boy, was I wrong. I'm glad I was because I really liked where it went.

As a dark comedy I don't really think this was successful, I saw what Weeding was going for and I'm sure there are going to be people who find it laugh out load funny, it just didn't work for me. But as a novel of marriage and where it can take you sometimes and the results of how you deal with where it take you, it totally worked for me.

I do look forward to Weeding's next book. I'd like to see what she's comes up with

Book # 23 "Something Old, Something New" by Jane Orcutt

This series has multiple authors and the late Jane Orcutt is one of my favorites. I'm very sorry she won't be adding any more titles.

It's a hit or miss proposition when I pick up a new Grace Chapel Inn book. There's also some difficulty in telling where in the series each book falls. There does not appear to be a consistent list of titles and there different site have the same titles in different number positions in the series. That being said, except for my OCD need to read books in order it doesn't create a story line flow for the most part.

I did enjoy this book more than the last one I read. The story was sweet and funny. One of the hardest parts to writing a series in my opinion is how to introduce old characters to a new audience if the joining mid-series. Jane Orcutt manages better than other authors of the series and that helps this book flow better.

The new characters introduced were fun and endearing and the story on whole was lite enjoyable and somewhat romantic. There were many sweet moments and as always a happy ending which is what I look for in this set of books.

All and all these stories are a nice was to spend a weekend (or a day is you're a fast reader) and I will surely read more Grace Chapel Inn tales.

Book # 22 "Summer at Tiffany" by Marjorie Hart

To quote Marjorie, "Ohmygosh". I want someone to invent a time machine and a transmogrifier so I can go back to New York in 1945 as a leggy blond girl from Iowa and work for Tiffany.

What a wonderful story that truly is a snapshot of a moment in history and in Marjorie Hart's life. This was so well written that I could really feel what it was like to be young and excited about everything happening to me and around me.

I loved every bit of this book. From her descriptions of her first moments in New York to the events leading to her and her best friend Marty becoming the first ever girls Tiffany had every hired, from celebrity sitings to dates with handsome midshipman, everything was new and exciting. But there was also sorrow as the War neared it's end it seemed no one was immune to loss.

This was a beautiful memoir that captured a time in a young woman's life and was so well told I couldn't put it down. And as a bonus there are some great photos as well as lovely sketches from a Tiffany brochure of the time. If that isn't enough the dust jacket is in glorious Tiffany blue and who doesn't love that.

Book # 21 "Crime Brulee" by Nancy Fairbanks

I don't know what to say. I wanted to like this and sometimes I sort of did but I'm not committed to this series quite yet. I think I'll have to try another in the series to see what I think of the main character.

Carolyn Blue, a professor's wife is in New Orleans with her scientist husband to attend a convention and a reunion of college friends. When her childhood friend disappears and none of her other friends including the missing woman's husband seem to care. So, Caro decides to try to solve the mystery.

I would have to say the main fault I had with the story was the believability of some of the situations and with Caro's reaction to them. I'm just not sure I'm in love with her yet. But, I'm willing to give it another try. Plus, I loved the food aspect of the whole things so that's a plus.

Book # 20 "The Story SIsters" by Alice Hoffman

This was not my favorite Alice Hoffman book. The last I read I think was the "Ice Queen" and I did enjoy that one, mostly. The last couple of books I've read by her have been darker than the earlier books.

This one was especially dark and a little depressing, actually a lot depressing. It kept coming at me like a one, two punch. The characters were not always very likable.

All that being said, I'm glad I stuck with it. The ending was satisfying and the characters rebounded through all the horrors their lives had seen to become full and content people.

I do miss the lighter Hoffman books and while all of her novels tend to deal with heavy emotional and life issues, the last few have been particularly heavy. But again, I have to remind myself that she always pulls off, not quite a happily every after ending but more of a real life happy ending.

Book # 19 "Going to Bend" by Diane Hammond

I didn't start off in love with the characters, it took me a little bit to warm up to them but once I did I found I could really did find myself wanting to know what happened next to them.

The town was interesting enough but really it was a the characters that kept me involved in the book.

Rose and Petie were flawed and lovable and very human people. Their lives, kids, friends, and loves were all very real and left me glad I had met them.

Not always a warm and fuzzy story but very uplifting and a very good take on female friendships.

Book # 18 "Ready to Wed" by Melody Carlson

This is a nice, easy read series that makes me feel I've just spent an hour on a summer afternoon relaxing on the front porch, drinking lemonade, talking to whoever passes.

Book # 17 "Life After Yes" by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

I started this book a little ambivalent. I thought it was going to be another Chick-lit/"Sex in the City" clone with New York girls perpetually dissatisfied with the mostly perfect lives.

Well, it was and it wasn't. Quinn/Prudence, our heroine is leads a somewhat "only in books" like. Great job, perfect boyfriend, great New York apartment, and no money worries what so ever. So, what's she got to complain about, right?

First off, she lost her beloved father in 9/11. A plot device which could have been schmaltzy or just plain gimmicky. But instead is handled with care and restraint and really does work in this story. Second, she's not a "Oh, I can't wait to get married" kind of girl and a little panicked about whether or not she's happy about it. Finally, she's not sure she's over her first love, she's not sure her fiance hasn't just cheated on her with her best friend, she's not sure she loves her career, and she's really not sure what she thinks of her future Mother-in-law.

Now, I'm not usually a big fan of books where the girl has everything but she's "just not happy" (that part should be said in a whiny voice). But, this book works. Rowley makes her main character some one to whom you can relate and all the secondary characters are believable and endearing. I ended up stating you way to late to finish which is always the sign of a good book.

I know this book just came out yet, I'm still looking forward to see what Rowley does next.

Book # 16 "Prayers for Sale" by Sandra Dallas

A wonderful story of the life of a great story teller. In a 1936 Colorado mining town we meet Hennie Comfort and Nit Spindle. When Nit stops in front of Hennie's house to read her "Prayers for Sale" and asking to buy a prayer. Well, of course, Mrs. Comfort doesn't really sell prayers but odd meeting is the beginning of a great friendship.

There are many secrets and sorrows that unfold in this quick read (maybe quick because I couldn't put it down). But there's lots of joy and humor as well. There are a remarkable cast of characters in Middle Swan and in the many stories Hennie tells. Stretching from the Civil War to the end of the depression Hennie's stories are the stories of a country grows and changes over the course of a lifetime.

I can't wait to read more by Sandra Dallas if the rest of her books are as engaging as this.

Book # 15 "Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg" by Michael Perry

I enjoyed this book. There was a little too much graphic detail of pig slaughter and there's only so much farming detail I find interesting but, all in all I enjoyed the story.

Perry has an interesting voice and I took me a while to get into the rhythm and pattern of his writing. His stories of his families lives and history are very touching. He doesn't sugar coat life's difficulties and tragedies.

He and his family live a life I don't think I could live but, I admire the way they live it.

There are truly touching moments as well as funny moments. Most of all there are relate-able moments. Why they live a life I couldn't live but, their life is a life we all know. The ups and downs, the happy and sad, the mundane.

I look forward to reading more of his work and get to know his interesting life even better.

Book # 14 "A Vintage Affair" by Isabel Wolff

What could be better than a story of learning to forgive yourself, finding true love, and great vintage clothes? Filled with fun and still very real characters "A Vintage Affair" is the kind of story I want to hurry to find out what happens but I don't want it to end. How great is that in a book?

As Phoebe Swift tries to recover from a tragedy for which she feels responsible she leaves her job in the vintage clothes department of a famous auction house to open her own vintage clothing store. All the while dealing with her parents divorce, her mother's mid-life crisis, her father's later in life baby (and very young new wife), her budding romance with an older man, and her new friendship with a rather odd but also rather wonderful reporter.

During all this she meets Therese, an elderly French woman selling her vintage clothes while putting her affairs in order. In somewhat parallel stories we learn both Phoebe and Therese need to find forgiveness in their hearts for themselves.

There are great messages of forgiving yourself, forgiving others, loving yourself, loving others, and mostly of having hope. I truly loved this book and kind of hope we may hear from Phoebe Swift again.

Book # 13 "Portraits of the Past" by Rebecca Kelly

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggggggg. I wrote a nice long review of this particular book in the series and the series as well but lost it all in the internet etherworld. Since, this is not really a series to promote deep reviews and analysis I think I'll wait till the next in the series and try again.

I enjoyed the book as I do the series for being a nice quick read that doesn't ask a lot of it's reader.

Sometimes it's all I need in a book.

Book # 12 "Brava, Valentine" by Adriana Trigiani

I love this series. I love this author. Andriana Trigiani makes me happy the way only a few authors do. I know I'm going to end up happy by the end of the story. I may not be happy with everything that happens in the book and boy this one had some drama.

It seemed no one in the Angelini/Rocellli family made it out of this one unscathed. But they were all well on their way to healing by the end. And hopefully, by the third in the series (I do believe there's suppose to be three) I'm sure everyone will live happily ever after.

I don't know if I love Valentine more than I love Ave Marie her heroine in the Big Stone Gap series but I know I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Thank you Ms. Trigiani for another wonderful read. Please don't take too long to give me another.

Book # 11 "The Sweet By and By: A Novel" by Todd Johnson

How do you want to get old? What things will matter to you as you age? Five very different southern women, in different stages of the aging process learn about life, love, and friendship in this lovely story.

Todd Johnson does a very good job in writing for a woman's point of view. The story is nicely paced and brings each woman's story to a satisfying conclusion. There's some real insight to what it means to grow old, when you body won't let you do what you used to do or when your body is fine but your mind has gone somewhere else.

What made this book was the relationship these five women had with one and other. How simple acts of kindness can touch the lives of, not only those who are shown kindness, but also those who show that kindness.

While this is a quick read, there is a lot said in this book. It is well worth a read.

Gosh, I say the same things a lot.

I realize reading all my reviews over again close together I say the same things. I'll try to get better for the next 25 (since the reviews of most of the first 25 have been written already).

And if I do say so myself I think ending with the fact I would read more by the same author says quite a bit about the quality of the book.

Oh, well.

Book # 10 "An Irish Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor

This is a completely charming book. When young Doctor Barry Laverty comes to interview with Doctor Fingal Flahertie O'Reily, little does he know what he's getting into.

Welcome to Ballybucklebo (if you can pronounce it you're one up on me), a small village in Northern Ireland in the mid 1960s. Full of all the quirky characters you would expect in a small Irish village. From the old Major and his wife who keep crying wolf to the young woman who finds herself in the family way all the odd-bodkin inhabitants are covered in this book.

It really was a little Irish vacation reading "An Irish Country Doctor". I felt I was there in the room as we got to know each person you came to the doctor's surgery for medical help or just a kind ear. The story really captured how a small town GP is more than just a doctor, he really cares for all parts of his patients life.

I can't wait to read the next in the series to find out what happens next in Ballybucklebo.

Book # 9 "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

Clearly I have come late to the party about this book. Even thought everyone and her mother, best friend, son's preschool teacher, and daughter's softball coach have read this book. But, hey, I'm here and WOW what a book. I always have this fear when it comes to reading a book "everybody" loved that I will just hate it. I won't get what all the fuss is about. Thankfully, this is not the case with "The Help". What a wonderful book, really exceptional.

Written from three different perspectives it tells the story of race relations in Mississippi during the 60's between the Junior League crowd and their domestics. Even if each section didn't tell you who was telling the portion of the story you would be able to tell. Each voice is so strong and distinct. While there a large important themes in this book it's the small quite moments that stand out for me. Being in the position of taking care of other people's children I understand a little (very little in the since of the social issues) what it's like to invest time and love into these little ones only to lose them from your life.

I'm so glad this book lived up to all the praise it has received. I plan on passing this along to my sisters, best friend, and day care parents. What a wonderful book. I can't wait to read it again.

Book # 8 "The Circus in Winter" by Cathy Day

There's something inherently fasinating about a circus. There's also something inherently creepy about a circus. What does the circus do when the winter comes? Why, they settle in Indiana. Why they would choose a cold place to winter instead of say, California or Florida is a question for another book. There is a town in Florida where ex-circus folk live but that's another book as well. This is the story of the fictional Wallace Porter circus and it's winters in Lima, Indiana (Lie-ma, not Leema) Based on a real circus that wintered in Peru, Indiana this is a inside look into depression era circus life.

The second section of the book deals more with the families who live in this former circus town and while not nearly as fascinating still very well written and an interesting take on how the history of a small town plays a large part in the lives of it's inhabitants.

Book # 7 "Enter the Murderer" by Ngaio Marsh

Gadzooks, another one I forgot to review when I first read it. Oh well, it was a good period piece mystery. The period being (if I remember right) WWII/post war England.

Roderick Alleyn is charming entertaining detective and has enjoyable sidekicks as well.

The mystery centers around a murder that takes place on stage in front of an audience include our Inspector Alleyn and though the murder seems to be an accident all is not what it appears.

It was a fun read and I look forward to more Inspector Alleyn in the future.

Book # 6 "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton

What would you do if you found out you weren't who you thought you were and you're not sure who you really are?

This is the story of Nell, her granddaughter, the authoress, and how their histories are tied together.

What I loved most about this book was the way each woman voice was so clear. There are so many layers to Nell's history and it's given to us just enough at a time to make us want to read more and more.

With the added bonus of clever fairy tales interspersed throughout giving clever clues to Nell's true identity.

A completely enjoyable read; it makes me want to read more of Morton's work.

Book # 5 "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie

I'm writing this months after I read the book and I don't remember all the details. I do know I found this really interesting. I had to keep reminding myself it takes place in the 70s because the living conditions the main characters live in seems to primitive by our standards.

I did enjoy the book and I always love books about the love of books. The theme of using the banned books to survive the conditions the characters are forced to live in rang very true to me.

I think when my quest is over this will be one of the books I'll revisit to remember the small details I can't seem to remember now.

Book # 4 "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson

Boy, can Bill Bryson tell a story. He made me want to hike the Appalachian Trail(AT) and to never hike a day in my life.

After coming back from living in England for 20 years Bill Bryson decides to hike the AT. All 2100 plus miles of it. An old high school friend decides to go with him even though he's overweight, out of shape, and not a hiker at all. Neither is Bryson and think that's why I found it accessible and enjoyable. At times it's laugh out loud funny and almost always fascinating. The amount of research on this history and details of the AT are amazing.

I didn't enjoy the second section of the book as much as the first. After splitting up for a while after finishing their first section of the hike, Bryson goes on several day hikes to complete more of the trail and seems to lose some of the charm of the first section. He also seems to be really effected by a horrible crime committed on the trail during the first part of his hike. So, there's a lot of depressing statistics of the down side of hike the AT in the second section. But, it is the smaller section and doesn't bring down the rest of the story.

All and all a great read and I think I'll be looking for more of Bryson's books

Book # 3 "Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter" by Lisa Patton

While I enjoyed the story I do have two issues. First, why are men (especially southern men) always such bums. Sheesh, a lot of southern women writers have a problem with men.

This is the story of a southern belle who moves to Vermont to run a bed and breakfast with her husband (this would be the bum I mentioned before). Needless to say things don't go all that well and our heroine learns a lot about herself and grows to be a strong woman(ain't that always the way).

My second issue is the ending, it seemed a little to quick and maybe not the most thought out. It was a case of "I know how I want it to end so let's just make it happen" kind of ending.

Oh and, I totally want book kids. This in one of those books where the kids are there for amusing anecdotes but then are conveniently "in the other room" when not part of the story. Their like soap opera babies. I think I've got to get me some of those.

Mostly, it was a fun read and move me along on my quest. But I don't feel the need to own this one.

Book # 2 "The Thirteen Problems" by Agatha Christie

I enjoyed this series of short stories. While some are predictable I remind my self they weren't when written. I like the second half of the stories the best. "A Christmas Tragedy" and "The Affair at the Bungalow" made me work for the answers which is always fun and I love Miss Marple. Plus it's a quick read which is good for my quest.

Book # 1 "The Promise of Lumby" by Gail Fraser

I just love this series. It's right up there with the MItford series by Jan Karon. There's something about quirky small town fiction that just makes me happy. Everyone, if not accepts, at least tolerates the quirks of the inhabitants of these small towns. The residents in this type of fiction seem to understand is everyone, no matter how odd they are, contribute to the whole of the community. How can you not love a story like that.

"Lumby's Bounty" is the third in the series and introduces a few new character's and digs deeper into others. Gail Fraser has a way of fleshing out her characters and making them real.

A completely fun read and leaves you feeling like you've taken a nice weekend holiday.

Our first warm day, yuck!

I don't know why I live in a hot climate. I am not a hot weather girl. It's not even very hot and I can tell I'm starting to get cranky. I picked my new background to make me feel all could weather and rainy. Bleacck!

So, I'm trying again!

Here we go again. I've put up and taken down posts several times and now today, over half way through the year, I'm trying again.

I'm starting book 25 so I'm now half way through my book quest and without meaning to jinx anything I'm kind of on a roll. We'll see how well I do.

I'm going to import book reviews from another site I use and then work from there.

Let's hope I keep up this time.