Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bloggiesta - OLE!

Oh, hey - there you are fall Bloggiesta! I'd completely forgotten about you so I'm late getting a starting post and I'm not even sure how much time I'll have to devote to you this weekend. But I've always enjoyed this excuse to spend guilt-free time working on the ol' blog so I'm jumping in for as much as I can get done in the next three days. Most of what I'll be working on is what I'm working on every Bloggiesta; these things seem to be a lot like dusting - you no sooner get it all done, then it needs doing again.

To Do (god, I do love to-do lists!):

1. Clean up the mail box.
2. Work on tags (I'm actually making great progress on this one - I might finish it soon...ish!)
3. Get templates set up for the books I've downloaded on Netgalley.
4. Work on a new header. I like the one I have but I'd like to update some of the pictures.
    Maybe include my new daughter-in-law, for example.
5. Update this year's challenge page. That should take long - I'm doing a terrible job with them!
6. Check out the mini-challenges. I'm not going to commit to doing any; I'll play it by ear and
    see what there is.
7. Get pictures for Litsy challenges.
8. Clean up my blog reader.

I'll update here as the weekend progress and probably check in on Twitter, Litsy and Instagram as the mood strikes me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

Publisher's Summary:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Thoughts: 
Well, damn, that was fun! Doesn't seem like it should have been, does it? You expect drama. You expect science. You get plenty of both of those. But Weir also imbues Mark Watney with a terrific sense of humor which keeps this book from slipping into complete hopelessness.

It may also turn out that I like science fiction much more than I think I do.

I have no way of knowing how much of the "science" in this book is accurate, but it certainly read as accurate and believable and I bought into it entirely. I may have skimmed over some of the scientific explanation (ok, I did skim over some of the lengthier passages) but most of it was fascinating. While Watney was a well-trained, scientifically-minded person, he wasn't going to survive simply based on his own training. He had to rely as much on his own instincts and common sense as science and he is not infallible, all of which make him easier to relate to than the real astronauts we watch on t.v.

The book doesn't entirely focus on Watney, though. No way is he going to survive being left on Mars without a lot of help from Earth. The politics, ingenuity, and hard work involved on Earth are nearly as interesting as what Watney experiences. The crew that evacuated without Watney is also an integral part of the story, although they are not as fully developed characters as they were in the movie adaptation of the book.

Speaking of that movie, I liked it a lot when I saw it. I like it even more now that I've read the book. It includes all of the important details of the book, fleshes out the crew of Watney's mission, and Matt Damon is perfectly cast as Watney. It's understood that it would take a small army on earth to do what needs to be done to save an astronaut lost in space, but the movie did pull back on that piece of the story and focused on fewer Earth-bound players. It's a sacrifice that didn't really impact the story.

I'd give both the book and the movie adaptations high marks. Mini-him, who was given this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, agrees. Now the book gets passed on to The Big Guy. It's definitely a book you want to put into another person's hands.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Life: It Goes On - September 17

It's been summery here this past week. Until yesterday, when it actually felt chilly out in the middle of the grey day. Convinced me I need some new, cozy throw blankets soon. It also convinced me that, since I was the only one at home for five hours, I needed to spend the morning curled up on the sofa, reading and playing games on my phone. I felt a little guilty about it. But only a little.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Podcasts: Happier, Stuff You Missed In History Class, The History Chicks and Radiolab. Music: The Avett Brothers, after seeing the movie (see below).

Watching: Football - ouch (very painful Husker loss), three episodes of Orange Is The New Black, Hidden Figures (a good movie although it certainly took liberties with the facts and blended some characters) and the Judd Apatow documentary about The Avett Brothers, May It Last which was one of the best music documentaries I've seen.

Reading: I started I Am A Man after seeing author Joe Starita, but stopped when I realized that I'm meant to be reading (my choice) foodie books for Fall Feasting this month. So now I'm reading The Telling Room. Which is bound to make me want to cook but even more likely to make me want to eat great cheeses every day.

Making: Hot pork roast sandwiches (using last Sunday's leftover pork roast), tacos, avocado toast, and, yesterday when it was cool and I felt like turning the oven on, I made lasagna. I know I'm starting to get the autumn feeling when I'm ready to start doing real cooking. Also, I made a pumpkin dip. If that doesn't say autumn, I don't know what does.

Planning: A trip to Wisconsin to see my sister's new home and a trip to Missouri to see my great-niece my brother and his whole family.

Thinking About: Tackling my office. How can it always being needing to be cleaned up? How can we, after all of the purging and organizing I've done this year, still have so much "stuff?" To be honest, I was sort of glad, while we were doing craft projects for the wedding, that I had a lot of the things I had previously considered getting rid of, like dowel rods and fabric scraps. On the plus side, my organizing efforts meant I knew I had those things and exactly where they were. I don't think we'll ever be able to live as minimalists.

Enjoying: The house being decorated for fall. I'm sure I'll continue to switch things up a bit but I'm happy with it for now. In October, I'll switch out some of the things for Halloween and in November for the Thanksgiving things but the base pieces will stay where they are.

Feeling: Like it's time to break out the apples, caramel, and pumpkin. I'm working really hard to, now that I've accepted it's fall, appreciate all of the great things the season brings.

Looking forward to: Getting this print which my brother put together of images he took of the eclipse. Can't wait to get it hung above The Big Guy's desk! If you're interested in a copy, email me. He's putting in an order for them tomorrow. Prices start at $25 for a 6" x 30" copy.

Question of the week: What's your favorite thing about fall? All of the pumpkin and apple flavored foods? The colors and light? The crunch of the leaves underfoot? Pulling out sweaters and warm blankets? The smell of your fall candle scents?

Remember when I reviewed the book about hygge a few weeks ago? I feel like fall is the perfect hygge season!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII

It's that time of year again - you know, the time of year when I think I'm going to read a lot of books that qualify for the Readers Imbibing Peril "challenge," and even watch some movies and read some short stories, but then I'm lucky if I finish one book. Yep, that time. Because, apparently, it's fall. Not sure how I feel about that but maybe joining in some of the fun bookish activities to be had this time of year will help me get in the spirit of things.

As it happens, I have a couple of books downloaded from Netgalley that are publishing in October and will be perfect for R.I.P.:

The Witches' Tree by M. C. Beaton is one of her Agatha Raisin series, cozy mysteries with a sassy heroine. Mary Jane's Ghost by Ted Gregory is the story of an unsolved 1948 murder and the two men who, more than 50 years later, became obsessed with solving the case. Finishing both of these books would mean that I've completed Peril the Second.

I had so much fun watching old episodes of Dark Shadows on YouTube last year (or two years ago?), that I may try to do some more of those to complete Peril of the Screen as well.

Are you participating in R.I.P.? Are you one of the people with a giant stack of books to read? I'm always fascinated by what others choose to read for this.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Love And Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Published September 2017 by Random House Publishing
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home."

The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired.

But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.

Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

My Thoughts:
Sometimes it's good to be completely surprised by a book. Sometimes it's great to find, within a books pages, exactly what you expected to find.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes falls into that second category for me. I've read both of Ford's previous books (Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost) and expect to learn a lot about the history of the Pacific Northwest and the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who came there when I open one of Ford's books. I expect that there will be children involved in the story and I expect that there will be tears (mine) at some point in the reading. Love and Other Consolation Prizes more than met my expectations in all regards.
"This is a love story, but so was the tale of Romeo and Juliet. That was the greatest love story of all time. And we all know how that turned out."
We don't know how Ernest Young's love story will turn out but this book is more than just a love story. It is also a story about families, even unconventional ones. It's a story about accepting people for who they are and about the kinds of sacrifices people are willing to make, both to get what they want and for others.

Ford also raises moral questions that don't necessarily have black or white answers. The character of Mrs. Irvine is a woman who pays for Ernest to attend a private school but only because it makes her feel better about herself. She doesn't care that Ernest if treated as a servant by the richer, white boys; she doesn't want to know that he is left out of all extracurricular activities. She is only too quick to punish him when he expresses the slightest self-interest by raffling him off to a good home. How he might be treated in that home interests her not at all, as long as the home belongs to good, white Christians. For the coming decades, she will make tirelessly work to destroy the home that Ernest does find himself in. Given that the home is, in fact, a brothel, is she wrong to do so? At Madame Flora's, Ernest is given his own room, clothing, responsibilities, and a fair wage. More importantly, he is surrounded by people who care about him, even love him. Which is the better woman?

The love triangle at the heart of the story is lovely - Fahn and Maisie are friends, both are in love with Ernest and he with them. Both Fahn and Maisie are fighting to make their way in the world and Ernest will do what ever it takes to try to keep them from becoming "upstairs girls." I wanted to wrap all three of them up in my arms and make life better, more fair. Later in life, my heart broke for Ernest again but Ford, as you will know if you've read his previous books, will not let this be an entirely sad story. There will be reunions, there will be hope.

Like his previous books, Love and Other Consolation Prizes would make a terrific book club selection. From the history of the two Seattle World's Fairs, the importing of Chinese and Japanese children to sell in the United States, the ethics of governments and police forces, the treatment of immigrants there is a lot of here to talk about. And that doesn't even touch on the themes of family, love, abuse, morality, and friendship. Ford packs a lot into this book, making it a lovely book with a lot of depth.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Life: It Goes On - September 10

Goodbye to last week; sort of glad to see it go. One of those weeks that was more emotionally tough than busy but it's the past and we move on to a new week. This is the week I will make myself accept that fall is here. Even though last night I was sitting outside until midnight in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, eating s'mores. Best of both worlds!

Sorry, Mr. Squirrel, put I needed
these for decorating!
This Week I'm:

Listening To: My latest Spotify playlist is the Happier 911 Songs playlist which I discovered through Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast. It's all songs that her readership/listeners suggested as songs that lift them up when they need a boost. I'm finding a lot of new-to-me songs and artists.

Watching: Football and storm and fire coverage. Those fires in the west are terrifying and so under-reported.

Reading: About to finish The Martian; I'm really enjoying it even though I do skim over a lot of the scientific calculations. They're essential to the book but there's no way for me to even know if they're accurate so I don't need the details. Next up, I think, is Joe Starita's I Am A Man.

Making: A mess of my kitchen as I repotted all of those plants I brought home from Milwaukee. "Why didn't you do that on the patio?" The Big Guy asked me. Yeah, I don't know. Easier for me to go scour the house for other things to use as pots, I guess. I shopped for pots this week but just didn't find enough things I liked for a reasonable enough price. So I hit up the Goodwill and shopped my house and I'm pretty pleased with the results. I'll keep looking for more permanent solutions but for now, this works.

Planning: On finishing up my fall decorating today. I always start the fall decorating with natural materials (acorns, apples, small mum plants). I'd leave it at that for now but Miss H insists that the gourds and pumpkins be added right away so I'll pull up those boxes today. I wish Trader Joe's had their tiny pumpkins in already!

Thinking About: All of those in the path of Hurricane Irma and the wildfires.

Enjoying: So many bookish things (see last Thursday's post). Also, pretty excited that I've (finally!) been approved to get an early read of Ron Chernow's Grant - all 960 pages of it!

Feeling: Like I just want to curl up and read all day. My house says that's not really an option, sadly.

Looking forward to: A quiet week.

Question of the week: Tell me one thing you love about fall.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

So many bookish tidbits to share with you this week!

#1 Better World Books had a sale. The Big Guy suggested that I shouldn't have ordered books because I don't need any. I laughed. Then I reminded him that they were on sale. If you read my post yesterday, you know what a sucker he is for a sale so he really had no comeback for that. Here's what I picked up (after I removed ten other books from my cart - BG has no idea how lucky he is I didn't buy all of them!):

Defending Jacob by William Landay: this one isn't something I'd normally pick up but it's the kind of thing I'm into right now and it does get very good reviews

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf: I've never read a Haruf book I didn't love

You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson: because humor works for me know but I'm also getting a some racial enlightenment while I'm at it

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: Creative Living Beyond Fear is the subtitle - hope against hope that she can get my creative juices flowing

#2 Like a lot of communities, Omaha has chosen one book for the city to read together (Omaha Reads). This year's selection is Jonis Agee's The Bones of Paradise (which my bookclub will be reading for October). As part of the celebration of that book, the Omaha Public Library system has lined up speakers/authors whose books or areas of expertise tie into The Bones of Paradise in some way.

Wednesday night, a friend and I went to hear journalist/teacher/author Joe Starita talk about his book, I Am A Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey For Justice. Starita was a great choice; he is passionate about the subjects he writes about and about story telling in general. He spoke for 45 minutes then took another 30 minutes just to answer two questions! The money he made selling books last night all goes into a scholarship fund for Native American high school seniors for college. It was great to see people who already had the book drop off money just for the scholarship fund or add a couple of extra dollars to their purchase. As it happens, I had my parents' copy and was able to get it autographed for them.

#3 I mentioned yesterday that we had gone to the Milwaukee Art Museum while we were in that fine city. Mini-me wanted to get us into the building (it's an incredible structure) but he was also eager to have us see the works of Rashid Johnson. The biggest piece on display is titled "Antoine's Organ." It's an incredible work.

And why might it be relevant to this blog? Because throughout the work, Johnson has included books about the black experience in America, including Richard Wright's Native Son, Te-Nehisi Coates's Between The World And Me, and W. E. B. Dubois's The Souls of Black Folks, all of which I'd like to get read one of these days.

In the final room of the exhibit, copies of the books were available for people to sit down and read through; of course, they were all available for purchase in the gift shop as well. I loved seeing the book world and the art world blended together.

#4 Finally, it's September, which means it's time for my annual Fall Feasting reading. Because I kind of forgot about it and because I want to make time for R.I.P. reading and Nonfiction November reading, I'm probably only going to get a couple of foodie books this fall.

I do have other books that could work for both Fall Feasting and Nonfiction November so I may be able to get one of two more worked in as well; but, for now, I'm shooting on (finally) reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang and (in honor of the people I love who live in Wisconsin) The Telling Room:  A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese. 

I'd also like to take the time to read a cookbook as well; you know, the kind that don't just have recipes but all kinds of great information about food and cooking. Perhaps the one that's simply titled Soups? It is, after all, the perfect time of year to find some new soup recipes! Do you ever just sit down and read your cookbooks?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Life: It Goes On - September 5

A couple of days late this week  - spent the long Labor Day weekend in Milwaukee! Unfortunately, Mini-him could join us (he works for Apple and they had a new store opening here so it was all hands on deck for that) but the rest of us had so much fun. We did went to a lot of new places this time but still made time for the beach and a couple of trips to our beloved Purple Door ice cream store. The kids even did a kind of ghost tour our last night there!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: We listened to several episodes of RadioLab on our trip; it's one all of us enjoy. We also listened to NPR's Road Trip Playlist which we all really enjoyed.

Watching: Miss H and I watched the Milwaukee Brewers play the Washington Nationals Saturday night. She's a huge baseball fans and one of her goals is to see a game in every major league baseball stadium. It's a great stadium that was closed that night due to rain. Neither of us had ever been to an indoor game.

Reading: Once again, I vastly over estimated that amount of reading I'd get done during the drive. I did finish Jamie Ford's Love And Other Consolation Prizes and just started Andy Weir's The Martian.

Making: Asian Chicken Salad, fettuccine alfredo, a killer tossed salad with crumbled black bean burger, chocolate chip cookies, and we grilled both burgers and steaks.

Luckily, they didn't let BG in this room!
Planning: On getting out this week to pick up potting soil and new pots. Mini-me works for a plant company and they had a sale this weekend. The Big Guy cannot resist a sale - he grabbed one of their big boxes of random plants the minute we walked in the store for $2.95 that had 8 plants in it. We also managed to grab four others. Left three for Mini-me and Ms. S but I've still got 4 times as many plants now as I did four days ago and they all need to get out of their grow pots soon.

Thinking About: How I'm going to talk myself into being happy that fall has arrived (although, not officially yet!).

Enjoying: The beach, a river cruise, an art museum, a lighthouse, and time with my kids. Oh yeah, and Kopp's cheeseburgers. At four in the afternoon, it still took about 20 minutes to get our burgers to go, if that gives you an idea how great those burgers are!

Feeling: A little sad. Goodbyes are hard.

Looking forward to: Well, I was going to say an author talk but I went to that tonight before I finally got this posted. So, nothing much at the moment.

Question of the week: Of the things we did in Milwaukee, which would you most have enjoyed and why?

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

Siracusa by Delia Ephron
Published July 2016 by Blue Rider Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities, past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage.

My Thoughts: 
Unlike some of my fellow bloggers, I am terrible about writing down where I first heard about a book. So I have no idea when I became aware of this book when it came out last year. I just remember hearing good things about it. So when it came out in paperback and I was offered the chance to review, I jumped at it. And then, you know, the great reading slump hit. You'll also know that I've  been working my way back out of that by reading thrillers. While Siracusa might not, technically, qualify as a thriller, it certainly has elements of that genre that made it a book that I raced through. It also feels very much like a work of literary fiction. That combination might be just what I need to ease me back into my usual reading pattern. Fingers crossed.

If you are going to fill a book with unlikable characters, as Ephron has, you had better make them very interesting. Ephron has not only created four unlikable characters, she also has all four of them giving first person narratives. It takes some skill to pull all of that off. Ephron pulls it off wonderfully,   moving the story back and forth, giving readers scenes from multiple points of view, uncovering the lies and deceptions in these characters' lives.

Snow, oh Snow. Now there's a character you rarely see in a book. A character who never gets her own voice but who manipulates much of the action of the book. Sure she's only ten, but she might be the least likable character in the book. But her mother, with her creepy co-dependent ways; her father, who is far more interested in trying to seduce Lizzie than be a parent; Lizzie, who has engineered the entire trip to try to re-win her husband but spends as much time flirting with Finn and with Michael; and Michael, who is carrying on an affair and seems to develop an icky affection for Snow - they are all vying for the title.

All of that wrapped up in a book that explores marriage, fidelity, literary merit, elitism, parenting, travel, truth and lies.
"As for lying, in this story, which is also my life, I will make a case for the charm of it."  - Michael
From the beginning of the book, we know something has happened because the four narratives are told from a future point. But Ephron gives little away and, when we got to that something, Ephron still had surprises for me. Even better, she left me wondering at the end. Given that one of the comforts I've been taking from reading of late has been the tidy ending, the fact that I was happy to be left wondering says something for this book.

Left: Ortigia, part of Syracuse in Sicily; Right: Lo Scoglio, off Ortigia

* With all of those themes and the ambiguous ending, Siracusa would make a terrific book club selection.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic - Quick Reads

What makes a book a "quick read?"

A recent Litsy daily prompt got me thinking about what it is that makes a book a quick read. If you look at Listopia, on Goodreads, there are any number of lists under "Quick Reads," including "Short and Sweet," "Books I Read in 24 Hours," and "Books Under 250 Pages."

Does a book's length necessarily make it a quick read? Or does "quick read" just mean a book that nasty to read quickly, no matter the length? Or does it mean a book you read quickly because you just could not put it down, whether that be because it was so beautifully written or it was so suspenseful or it just spoke to you in that moment?

Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson, for example, is a short book with lots of white space. A quick read, right? But it's a book that really shouldn't be rushed. Beth Hoffman's Looking for Me is more than 350 pages long but I raced through that book in one day; it was one of those "right books at the right time" situations.

Should there be a modifier attached to the phrase "quick read?" As in, Stephen King's Under The Dome was a quick read for me...for a book of more than 1000 pages. When I finally tackle Anna Karenina, which is almost 200 pages shorter, I doubt very much that I will find that a quick read!

Do you ever find yourself scanning your bookshelves especially hunting for something that will be a quick read?  My mood of late, and my long reading slump, has really had me searching my shelves for books that won't make me think too hard and won't take too long. So while I'm really wanting to pick up Game of Thrones and start that series, I'm leery. Perhaps, like Under The Dome, that big book will be  quick read. But just keeping the characters straight may take more brain power than I'm able to summon.

So, for right now, I'm sticking to books that are, for the most part, under 300 pages. Because even if, like Jamie Ford's latest, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, they are beautifully written and books I want to swim in, they are still, relatively speaking, quick reads. And I'm ok with that for now.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris
Published July 2017 by St. Martin's Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

My Thoughts:
I accepted this book for review before I'd read Paris' debut, Behind Closed Doors. It was getting rave reviews so I thought I'd take a chance on this one. Then I read Behind Closed Doors and we all know how that turned out. I was more than a little concerned about picking this one up. But it did seem like just the right kind of book for the reading mood I was in so I decided to give it a shot. I read it in 48 hours over a very busy weekend. Which is not to say it's a perfect book; it isn't. But it was the perfect book for me right now.

Did Cass' deteriorating mental state happen a little too quickly and a little too conveniently? Perhaps. But I could well imagine the guilt I'd be feeling in Cass' place and Paris has a plausible backstory that makes it all the more believable. Did Paris keep me in the dark until the end? Not entirely. I had a suspicion pretty early on who done it and, to some extent, even why. But I wasn't certain and I had no idea how. And that only answered part of the mystery. There are plenty of red herrings and I bit on all of them. And the device used to launch the resolution is a little unbelievable. But I didn't care by that point; I was willing to go along for the ride.

Occasionally, the book felt like it dragged a bit but short chapters kept me reading and the last 65 pages raced along. One reviewer called The Breakdown a "beach read." That sounds about right - not overly dark, nothing that's going to stay with you when you've finished it, and just enough tension to keep readers turning pages. But, like most beach reads, you have a pretty good idea, even if you don't know how, that things will be fine at the end. Which is just what I need right now in a book.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Published July 2016 by Gallery/Scout Press
Source: bought on Amazon Prime Day - I couldn't help myself that day!

Publisher's Summary:
Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

My Thoughts:
Once I picked this book up, I found excuses to read every chance I got. I haven't been doing that in months. Was it just a case of the right book at the right time or is this really that good a book? Both, I think.

Before arriving on board the Aurora, Lo's had a break in at her apartment that leaves her unable to sleep. So desperate is she for sleep that she's taken to medicating herself with liquor just to get a couple of hours of it. Sleep deprived and often drunk or hungover, Lo is something of an unreliable narrator. I do love an unreliable narrator done right and Ware does it right. The boat is not that big; everyone on board is accounted for and there is no record that there was ever a woman in Cabin 10. And Lo had been drinking heavily the night before. Lo is the perfect blend of fragile and fierce. She is terrified, certain that her life is in danger; but she is not about to back down in the face of the gaslighting she is subjected to when she presses the issue. Which also makes this a very timely book.

The book is filled with twists, turns, and tension. Ware throws out red herrings you can't help but bite on; even that early break in threw me for a long time, certain that it was connected. Clue are found only to have them disappear. At one point I had an inkling where the story might go and, to an extent, I was right. Except that I really wasn't and the truth completely took me by surprise. The ending was, perhaps, a bit too tidy but also satisfying, and easy enough to forgive after the claustrophobic ride Ware had just taken me on.

If you're looking for a book to lose yourself in for a couple of days (or, like me, to stay up way too late reading), I definitely recommend The Woman In Cabin 10. Now to find my copy of Ware's debut novel, In A Dark, Dark Wood.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Life: It Goes On - August 27

One more shot of the lake, then it's probably time to acknowledge that summer it over since next weekend if Labor Day. The calendar may say it's still summer for three more weeks but once we come to Labor Day and school has started everywhere, it's time to acknowledge that fall has arrived. We've had an unseasonably cool and wet August which has helped ease me into the idea of autumn arriving but I'm not ready for pumpkin lattes just yet!

I wish you could see how great these pics really look!
I've spent a lot of time running around this week and doing some minor redecorating. Some new photos from my brother ( for Miss H's bathroom meant his photos that were already in there moved to the family room. Of course, that meant that everything else got moved around some. I love how changing up the artwork gives a room a whole new feel.

This Week I'm: 

Listening To: Stuff You Should Know, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Stuff You Missed In History Class. There are so many interesting podcasts but I can't keep up with what I'm already downloading. Didn't stop me from subscribing to a new Book Riot podcast, Annotated.

Watching: This morning, Flea Market Flip but we cannot wait until tonight's season finale of Game of Thrones!

Reading: Jamie Ford's (Hotel On The Corner of Bitter and Sweet) latest novel, Love And Other Consolation Prizes. Ford stays true to his roots, once again exploring the Seattle area and the experience of Asian immigrants. And I'm pretty sure I'll be crying before I finish the book.

Making: Big changes in Miss H's bathroom! I've got a beautiful new shower curtain, new towels, and new decor. Today I'm painting. I can't wait to see it all pulled together!

Planning: A trip to Milwaukee next weekend!

Thinking About: Ways to make myself focus on the present - as in, enjoy autumn and not worry about coming winter.

Enjoying: Curling! People, I tell you, I was in heaven last night watching teams from four countries curl. I've only experienced curling in the Olympics; I had no idea there were two-person curling teams. We saw some great games.

Feeling: Optimistic.

Looking forward to: Lots of time with my kiddos this week.

Question of the week: I know a lot of you are really ready for autumn but, for those of you who are like me, are fighting the end of summer. What do you do to help ready yourself for cooler days? What makes trading in sandals for socks worthwhile?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

It's Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women by Amanda de Cadet

It's Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women by Amanda de Cadenet
Published September 2017 by Harper Wave
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Huge apologies to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for not getting this posted yesterday! I actually had it ready before I got the email with the link info and forgot to get it finished up when the email arrived.

Publisher's Summary:
In this deeply personal collection of essays, creator of the The Conversation Amanda de Cadenet shares the hard-won advice and practical insights she’s gained through her experiences as businesswoman, friend, wife, and mother.

Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story.

From childhood fame to a high-profile marriage (and divorce) to teen motherhood to the sexism that threatened to end her career before it started, Amanda shares the good, the bad, and the messy of her life, synthesizing lessons she’s learned along the way. Through it all, she offers an original perspective as a feminist on the front lines of celebrity culture.

My Thoughts:
Amanda de Cadenet is the most famous person I've never heard of: she is the daughter of famous race car driver Alain de Cadenet; dated Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson; pals around with Gwyneth Paltrow, Chelsea Handler, and Courtney Love; she's been married twice to rock musicians - first to Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor and currently to The Stroke's bassist Nick Valensi. She's even hosted a popular show on Lifetime interviewing all kinds of famous women about serious topics. And yet...never heard of her until I picked up this book.

So I wasn't looking for a tell-all group of essays when I agreed to review this book. I really was just looking for a book of essays about women's issues, which seems to be one of the few kinds of books that's really working for me these days.

Ms. de Cadenet has certainly lead an interesting life, a much messier life than a privileged young lady might have been expected to live growing up. But when her parents divorced when de Cadenet was a tween, it had a profound effect on her. Let's just say, she went a little wild, she even spent time in juvie. Some really great things happened to her; some really awful things as well. So de Cadenet has a lot to draw on in terms of life experiences. She writes knowledgeably about obsessive love, self-image, postpartum depression, parenting, friendships, body image, being a working woman, and sexual assault.

de Cadenet is clearly a woman who doesn't pull punches. When she refers to the first time she was sexually assaulted, she is blunt without being salacious. She calls out women for not being supportive enough of each other and men and women for being more concerned about a woman's appearance than about her mind. She is honest about her battle with postpartum depression and the effect of childbirth on her body. de Cadenet is an advocate of a "to each her own" way of life when it comes to sexuality and choosing parenthood.

I wasn't necessarily comfortable with all of the choices Ms. de Cadenet has made but we all make our own path based on our own experiences and it's not for me to judge. She made me wish I'd done a better job raising my daughter to choose her own path. I'm not sure she breaks any new ground in this collection but it's always good to reinforce the idea that women deserve the right to make their own choices, to be treated as equals, to be judged on merit not not be judged at all for the choices we make. Sometimes de Cadenet gets a little too caught up in name dropping although it would be hard to understand what she went through as a very young wife if you didn't know that she was doing it so much in the public eye. Knowing that she's been surrounded by famous people all of her life also makes it easier to gauge her fan girling of Hilary Clinton when she both opens and closes the book talking about her 2016 interview of Clinton.

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I'm headed over to watch episodes of The Conversation now (the show de Cadenet did on Lifetime) to hear more about what women think about being women. For other opinions about the book, check out the full tour.

Amanda de Cadenet is a creative force with a lifelong career in the media. She began as a host on British television at the age of fifteen and became a sought-after photographer shortly after—as a result her impressive photography career already spans nearly twenty years. She is the youngest woman ever to shoot a Vogue cover and has photographed many of the most influential figures in popular and political culture. As a media entrepreneur, Amanda is the creator of The Conversation, a series that showcases her in-depth interviews on real topics with celebrated women. Whether it’s in conversations with Lady Gaga, Sarah Silverman, Zoe Saldana, Chelsea Handler, or Gwyneth Paltrow, or in discussions with devoted followers of her social channels, Amanda delivers an honest and authentic voice. The series has aired in eighteen countries and is featured online, with over ten million viewers. In January 2016, Amanda conducted an exclusive one-on-one interview with presidential candidate Secretary Clinton. In February 2016, Amanda launched #Girlgaze, a digital media company utilizing user submitted content and highlighting the work of women Gen Z photographers and directors.

Find out more about Amanda at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Purchase Link: HarperCollins

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Mnnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Published October 2001 by MacAdam/Cage Publishing Inc.
Source: both my copies were purchased (yes, I did accidentally buy two copies!)

Publisher's Summary:
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel.

My Thoughts:
It seems strange to me that this book was on my radar before I read Trish's (Love, Laughter and A Touch of Insanity) review in 2015. It came out quite a few years before I started blogging but yet I seem to recall being well aware of it when I read her review. It was, however, her review that convinced me that this was a book I would enjoy. So I bought it. Twice, apparently. I really do need to get an inventory of the books I own!

At any rate, Trish did not steer me wrong. Like her, sometimes an epistolary novel is just the thing; I especially find that so when I'm working my way through a reading slump. In Ella Minnow Pea, we are mostly privy to the letters to and from Ella as things begin to unravel on the island of Nollop. There's no much here in the way of character development, but that is more than made up for with the language acrobatics Dunn displays as a society of wordsmiths' options become increasingly smaller.
The letter writers are forced to get more and more creative in finding words (the days of the week had to be renamed, for example, once the letter D fell); eventually, it became like reading my kindergartners' journals, with phonetic spellings being the last resort. By the end, the letters had gotten quite short due to the lack of alphabet remaining but even harder to read!

Equally of interest was the view of a society collapsing as those in charge begin imposing restrictions and penalties on its citizens. It might be easy to avoid using a "z" in your writing, but imagine a grocer having to adjust to not being able to call twelve eggs a dozen or a nine-year-old not being able to zoom around. On Nollop, a first offense would have earned said grocer a verbal reprimand. After that, things got much more serious; a second offense would find the offender choosing between the stockades or a whipping and a third offense would get a person banished.

It's a small book, with a seemingly light premise, except that it isn't. Dunn has neighbors turning on neighbors, families broken apart, leaders who commandeer others' property for their own use and hoard food. Because of the epistolary nature of the book, none of that is right in our faces. But it's there to think about and seems pretty relevant these days.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Life: It Goes On - August 19

Any of you headed to Nebraska to see the totality of the solar eclipse? We're expecting quite a lot of visitors this weekend, through tomorrow; it's impacting travel across the state but a tremendous boost to local economies along the path. The Big Guy will head south a bit so he can see the totality but I'm just going to have to live with seeing most of it since I don't want to take off work. Luckily, my office is feeding us all pizza and giving us all glasses to go out and watch so I won't miss it all.

Finishing ripening
Starting to get to be harvest season around here. We've been getting quite a lot of tomatoes, rhubarb and cucumbers, yesterday a coworker gave me a purple pepper from her garden, and last night I picked up a crate of peaches that had come in from Colorado. I love this time of year!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Lots of podcasts, this week mostly episodes from Stuff You Should Know. Cranked up some music as well, including some Sia. Oh yeah, and the high school band marching through the neighborhood, fundraising. Woke up this morning to the sound of the drums as they made their way up our street. Grabbed some clothes and got to the front porch in time to watch them do a couple of mini-concerts for neighbors.

Watching: Some of the book club, a friend and I went to see the film adaptation of Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle. We were impressed with the acting and I thought they were, for the most part, very faithful to the book. As tough as it was to watch, it still wasn't has hard as it hard been to read.

Reading: I finished Amanda de Cadenet's It's Messy on Friday (review this week) and I'm dipping my toes into books right now trying to find something that sticks. My brain wants to get back to something meaty but my gut says I'm not ready for that. In the meantime, I'm trying things that are a bit different from my usual read. I picked up The Sisters Brothers yesterday but I'm not sure about that so I may pick up Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns or grab something by Nora Ephron. It's always a good time for Ephron!

Making: Banana bread, peach/rhubarb tarts, and apple cake with caramel sauce. There's clearly someplace in my head that is ready for fall, what with all of this baking!

Planning: On a small redecorating project in Miss H's bathroom this week. I've ordered a new shower curtain and some artwork. When the shower curtain gets here, I'll head out to pick up some new towels and a rugs. I don't think I'll paint but once the curtain gets here then I'll know if I need to do that. Still pondering new flooring - I've never done that before! This could turn out to be a much bigger project than I initially planned!

Thinking About: Looking for a reading chair. I really want to create a reading corner where I can read in quiet, without the television blabbing on in the same room.

Enjoying: Evenings on the patio and a visit yesterday from BG's oldest brother as he went through town. He is one of my favorite people so we're always happy to spend time with him.

Feeling: Tired. Which is odd since we've had a very quiet weekend.

Looking forward to: Curling Night In America next weekend. It's an international event being held here in Omaha. I'm so excited to see curling live! 

Question of the week: How's back to school going for those of you who have kids still in primary and secondary schools? I miss some of the activities of those school days but I don't miss having to get everyone out the door in the morning or fighting homework in the evenings!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fairy Tale Fridays: Horse, Flower, Bird by Kate Bernheimer

Horse, Flower, Bird by Kate Bernheimer
Published September 2010 by Coffee House Press
Source: bought this one three years ago when I was deep into reading fairy tales

Publisher's Summary:
In Kate Bernheimer's familiar and spare—yet wondrous—world, an exotic dancer builds her own cage, a wife tends a secret basement menagerie, a fishmonger's daughter befriends a tulip bulb, and sisters explore cycles of love and violence by reenacting scenes from Star Wars.

My Thoughts:
Ti, of Book Chatter, starts her book reviews with "The Short of It." If I were to do that, this review would open like this:
The Short of It:
Dark, modern fairy tales that made me think.
This tiny book (just 6" x 7 1/2") is just 185 pages. Many of them look like this:

Which makes writing the second piece of Ti's usual reviews, The Long Of It, tough. There's not a lot here, word count-wise. On the other hand, I really liked the way the stories were printed. It lent a break in the reading that enhanced the stories.

The eight tales in the book are odd, to say the least. All are about girls or young women and some have a Jewish element which makes them unique among fairy tales. But, like traditional fairy tales, the men in these tales tend to be the oppressors and there are no lessons to be learned. Unless the lesson you take from A Cageling Tale is to make sure that you never let your daughter have a parakeet lest she one day become an exotic dancer in a cage and eventually builds a cage for herself in a spare room.

I told you they were odd. But also utterly unique and original and the perfect way to break up my other reading and to spark my fairy tale reading again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard

The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard
Published August 2017 by Melville House
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
At seventy-two, Johnny Ribkins shouldn’t have such problems: He’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains for Johnny.

What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African-American family that has been gifted with rather super powers that are rather sad, but superpowers nonetheless. For example, Johnny’s father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he’s been there or not. In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves The Justice Committee. But when their, eh, superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.

Fast forward a couple decades and Johnny’s on a race against the clock to dig up loot he’s stashed all over Florida. His brother is gone, but he has an unexpected sidekick: his brother’s daughter, Eloise, who has a special superpower of her own.

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books that I thought sounded interesting when it was pitched to me then completely forgot what it was about by the time that I started reading it. I'm so glad I did - going into the book completely unaware meant that it was an even bigger treat than it might otherwise have been.

Inspired by W. E. B. Dubois' essay "The Talented Tenth," Hubbard has crafted an utterly original novel full of heart, hope, and, dare I say it, fantasy. Is it possible that I have actually enjoyed two books already this year with a fantasy element? The Talented Ribkins is also something of a reverse graphic novel - rather than taking a story and turning it into an illustrated work, this feels like an illustrated work that's been translated into novel form. I don't read many graphic novels, either so this one would really seem to be out of my wheelhouse.

Maybe what I've learned from this book is that those genres, fantasy and graphic novels, might actually not be that far distant from my usual fare. Because this book is filled with interesting characters I grew to care very much for, there is an interesting family dynamic, there are complicated relationships, and there is a depth to the story I wasn't expecting. Perhaps I've been giving those genres short shrift. Or perhaps Hubbard is just that great at storytelling, which makes this debut novel all the more impressive.

Once in a while, things got a bit muddled, but Hubbard pulled things back together and wove the various threads she'd been developing throughout into a very satisfying ending. Although she relies on the fantastical gifts of the Ribkins to drive the story, the clear lesson here is that people need to make the most of the gifts they are given. Oh yes, and that no matter what our issues are with our family (however we define that), family is everything. I like that, I like that a lot.

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for introducing me to this book and to Hubbard. I look forward to reading more of her work. For other opinions, check out the full tour.

About Ladee Hubbard:
Laddee Hubbard is the winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for the Short Story. She holds a BA from Princeton University, an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Talented Ribkins is her first novel.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays and Accounts On What It Is To Be A Woman In The 21st Century

Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays and accounts On What It Is To Be A Woman In The 21st Century
Published March 2017 by 404 Ink
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it's more important than ever for women to share their experiences. We must hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. Nasty Women is a collection of essays, interviews and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

People, politics, pressure, punk - from working class experience to racial divides in Trump’s America, being a child of immigrants, to sexual assault, Brexit, pregnancy, contraception, identity, family, finding a voice online, role models and more, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Zeba Talkhani, Chitra Ramaswamy are just a few of the incredible women who share their experience here.

Keep telling your stories, and tell them loud.

My Thoughts:
If you'd titled your book "Nasty Women" a year ago, you'd have been putting together an entirely different kind of book. Since last year, though, if you give your book that title, there's a good chance I'm going to pick it up. And I'm going to know exactly what I'm going to get.

This collection, largely written by women in the UK, covers the gamut of issues women have, from birth control to sexual orientation, from a woman's place in predominately male venues to race. Every one of these women is tired of having to fight but inspired to keep up the fight, to be a nasty woman. Given the number of authors not from the United States, I was more than a little surprised to see the current U. S. president come up again and again. But it's not just the political climate in the U. S. that has these women concerned; it's the political climate in their own countries, as well. These women understand that's it's taken a long time for women, particularly those of color or of the LGBTQ community, just to get where we'd gotten. Now many feel that we will fall back.

As with all collections, some of the writing are stronger than others and some of the writing really stands out. I particularly liked "Independence Day," about a woman who was forced to face the bigotry of a family member after the 2016 election in the U.S.; "Lament: Living With The Consequences of Contraception," which mixes a letter to "D" with a story about the author's ordeal with Depo-Provera injections; "The Nastiness of Survival," the author's story of being a rape survivor; and "These Shadows, These Ghosts," in which the author talks about the generations of nasty women in her family and the ways that stereotypes and expectations damaged them.

I read this collection straight through but I wish I had read it an essay at a time and let myself have time to really consider each essay before moving on to the next. It can get to be a little much read straight through. But as a collection, it's well worth reading. Particularly if you proudly call yourself a nasty woman.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Life: It Goes On - August 13

We've had a quiet week which skidded into a very busy weekend. Friday night was dinner with friends on their deck, last night was all of the in-laws on our patio and today we are headed off to The Big Guy's aunt's 88th birthday party. Not looking forward to the three hour drive there and the three hour drive back except that it will give me a lot of reading time. Because it's HIS aunt so he has to do all of the driving, right?!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Nerdette, Stuff You Missed In History Class, Futility Closet, Stuff You Should Know, and 10 minutes of an episode of Slate Audio Book Club. I've about decided to be done with that podcast - I swear those people have never read a book they really loved. In this episode, they were not impress with The Handmaid's Tale, particularly compared to the television adaptation, calling it dated. Well, duh, it was written more than twenty years ago. I'm on the fence with whether or not I'll just delete all of the other episodes I've downloaded.

Watching: Everything I could find about Princess Diana, lots of baseball and some soccer, and last night Bridget Jones' Diary. Which suddenly I found, as a feminist, a little appalling. And that made me sad, because, dammit, I love that movie!

Reading: I raced through Ruth Ware's The Woman In Cabin 10 and then B. A. Paris' The Breakdown. Which makes two books over 300 pages I managed to read in one week. I'm getting back into the groove! I did realize that, right now, I need to read print books and nothing that makes me think too hard.

Making: Caprese salad for Friday night. Actually, a lot of salads this week. Also, BLTs!

Planning: A re-do of the "kids" bathroom. Several years ago, I neutralized it from the undersea adventure it had been for nearing twenty years. But now that it's really just Miss H who uses it, I thought she might like something that's a bit more girly and soft.

Thinking About: Our great-nephew who is headed off to boarding prep school today. Dinner on the patio was a going away party for him. Wishing him much success and hoping his mom doesn't have too hard of time leaving him this afternoon.

Enjoying: See that face in the middle. Golly I love my great-nieces and nephews!

Feeling: Better this week.

Looking forward to: Getting to bed tonight - it's been a busy weekend!

Question of the week: We are blessed to enjoy being with both sides of our families and food so often seems to be involved. What are some of your family favorites for summer get-togethers?