Sunday, July 23, 2017
Mini-him had his wisdom teeth removed Monday and I took the day off to mother him. He'd long thought that he wouldn't have them removed (and we've read that it's ok to leave them) but then they started to crowd his other teeth. Let's just say that it's a whole lot easier to have wisdom teeth removed when you're ten years younger; Thursday he was finally able to "chew" macaroni and cheese!
This Week I'm:
Listening To: More podcasts - History Chicks, Stuff You Should Know, Happier, and Stuff You Missed In History Class.
Watching: "The Boys of 36," which was a PBS show that I found on Netflix that tied in, for me, to the book The Boys In The Boat. It was fun putting faces to the names of the people I'd "met" in the book and being able to actually watch them race. I also watched the movie "Lion" starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, which is based on a heartbreaking true story.
Reading: I'll have read two books in three days by the time today is over, thanks to the 24 in 48 readathon (even though I'm not going to come anywhere near to 24 hours of reading). I've read The Little Book of Hygge (celebrating my Danish heritage) and Aunt Dimity and the Summer King. There are a whole series of Aunt Dimity books which are cozy mysteries but with a fantasy element which will likely keep me from reading any more of them. Still, it was light and fun. Up next is Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays and Accounts Of What It's Like To Be A Woman In The 21st Century.
Making: Meals for Miss H. We've been doing meal prep for her on Sundays. Last week she tried two new recipes. One was a hit, the other not as much. We did learn that you don't want to make full recipes when you are doing meal preps for one person because it means you'll be eating the same thing over and over and over for days. She didn't mind so much when it meant lots of buffalo chicken but even that she began to tire of eventually.
Planning: Nothing at the moment. The trip to Milwaukee is on hold for the time being; too hard to get everyone off work at the same time. Much sadness.
Enjoying: Book club and a new (to us) brew pub.
Feeling: Like I need at least one more day to the weekend. Oh, wait. I feel that way every weekend!
Looking forward to: Celebrating Mini-him's birthday tonight, his last birthday in his twenties. How can one of my kids be almost 30?!
Question of the week: Have you ever heard of hygge? I can't wait to review the book and find out ways you are already incorporating it into your lives!
Monday, July 17, 2017
Published April 2017 by Atria Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Phoebe recognizes fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.
When Phoebe learns her husband’s triumph and vast reach rests on an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Was she his accomplice?
While Jake is trapped in the web of his deceit, Phoebe is caught in an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning him feels cruel and impossible.
The summary above gives away nothing - Meyers opens the book with Phoebe visiting Jake in prison. The question then is not what will happen but how have these two people come to this point in their lives.
Meyers has clearly built her novel around the story of Bernie Madoff, the man convicted of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Like Madoff, Jake builds up his own company from nothing, seemingly better at working the stock market better than anyone else. But Jake's secret lies in the private piece of his company that pulls in the big money. Money that is essential to keep everything afloat because, as it turns out, Jake is spending that money instead of investing it for his clients. To keep the money coming in, Jake uses Phoebe to help win over new people. One can't help but wonder if Madoff did the same thing with his wife, Ruth.
When Madoff's scheme came to light, it was not clear exactly how much Ruth knew about what was really going on. It seemed impossible to me at the time that she could have been clueless. But the older I get, the more I believe that, in a marriage, spouses tend to turn over certain aspects of their lives to the spouse who is best suited to that piece. In The Widow of Wall Street, Meyer wants readers to believe that Phoebe was clueless about how the financial markets work (and, let's be honest, most of us really don't understand them) and that she believed that their rich lifestyle was the just reward of Jake's success.
The question is, how could a woman as smart as Phoebe, stay with a man like Jake, whose behavior becomes increasingly erratic as the stakes increase? How could she stand by him when it all comes crashing down. Meyers has that covered in a way that is very believable, from the initial reason they come together and the reasons she stays with him.
So of the writing seemed a little stilted to me. But there were also passages that really spoke to me, including this one that reminded me of going through my mother-in-law's things when she passed.
"Death taught you that souls lived in the ephemera once surrounding the ones you loved. Families fighting over ancient decks of cards and leaking teapots struggled to be keepers of the past. Now she understood. Possessions mattered because they held your history."This book works for me in no small part because it explores, in a fictional way, the Madoff story. Meyers gives readers a look into what life might have been like for Madoff, his wife and their families and friends after it all came crashing down. What was life like when everything you own is suddenly under government control, including the things your mother handed down to you? What's it like for the children of a man that did these terrible things who also have to live with people wondering how much they knew? What's it like to have to face family who've been hurt by your husband? What's it like to be under siege by the media, to be considered a pariah wherever you go, to be torn by your loyalties? And what's it like to go from having the best of everything to having almost nothing? It's in the aftermath of Jake's downfall that this book really shone for me.
As with all of Meyer's books, this one would make a good book club selection with themes of loyalty, marriage, family ties, parental relationships, grief, corruption, ethics, fidelity, and multiculturalism.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
This Week I'm:
Listening To: Podcasts still. Mostly Stuff You Missed In History Class and Happier. I would be knocking out more of them if I listened while I did stuff around the house but I tend to prefer quiet when I can get it.
Watching: All caught up with Game of Thrones now and ready for Season 7 to kick off tonight. Makes me think, again, about picking up the books. It might be easier to do if there weren't "books" and it was only the one giant book to consider.
Reading: Finishing Behind Closed Doors for this month's book club today. Can I just say how much I wish I hadn't recommended this book? I wouldn't even finish it except I always finish the book club books. I'm looking forward to getting back to Once, in Lourdes.
Making: In this heat, we've been keeping it light and easy this week - nachos, salads, light pastas.
Thinking About: I'm watching This Is Us even as I type - it's got me thinking about family relationships.
Enjoying: Rhubarb Pear cider and truffle mac and cheese. Yum. Sometimes, it's the little things.
Feeling: Lazy but there's too much to be done.
Looking forward to: Book club this week.
Question of the week: How do you get yourself "up" when you don't have the ambition to do anything?
Friday, July 14, 2017
Published June 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: my copies (egalley and print) courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Publisher's Summary: n the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
If that summary, on its own, convinced you to read this book, DO NOT read any other summaries of the book. There's a fifth paragraph I didn't include that pretty much gives away the ending. Why would a publisher do that??? The one thing that you absolutely do not want to do, is ruin this book for yourself in any way. Because this book, before I even started this review, was added to my favorite books of 2017 list; it will surely still be there at the end of the year. Trite as it sounds, I truly could not put this book down.
Paulette Jiles is, it turns out, a poet, which explains so much about the writing but not everything. Because not only is the writing in News Of The World beautiful, the story is, while not entirely unique (think Charles Portis' True Grit and John Wayne in The Searchers), engrossing, and Jiles uses her research remarkably well. She has clearly done her research but never gets mired down in it, giving readers just as much detail as they need to understand the time, a place, or the look of a thing. She also knows when the draw out a scene or a description and when to cut to the chase. There is a tension throughout the book but Jiles also makes time for sweet moments.
The last chapter is a bit jarring; it's one of those final chapters that spans many years to wrap everything up. The book is just over 200 page. One can't help but wonder if Jiles might have stretched that bit out a bit more; I would happily have read another 100 pages. But then, the story Jiles wanted to tell was told by the time she reached that last chapter. Maybe she should have left it there? Either way, Jiles would have left the reader wanting more and that's never a bad thing.
I'm just waiting now for the announcement that News Of The World has been optioned for a movie adaptation. I'm casting it in my head even now.
Thanks for the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions, check out the full tour.
Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.
Find out more about Paulette at her website.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
If I'm reading again, it's probably time to start readathoning again, right? I think I've earned the right to just sit and read as much as I want to for a couple of weeks. Who am I kidding? We've all earned that right!
First up is Michelle's High Summer Readathon. Michelle's readathon's are always very relaxed and last a while so it's usually pretty easy to find time in that two week period to sit down and read. Never as much as I want there to be but given that my calendar for the month is pretty empty (other than just spending as much time on the patio as possible), it might just work this year.
Tucked right into the middle of the High Summer Readathon is the 24 in 48 Readathon, hosted by Rachel, Kristen, and Kerry. The idea here is to read for 24 of the 48 hours of the weekend of July 22 and 23. Rachel created this readathon because she could never handle reading the full 24 hours of Dewey's readathon but liked the idea of cranking out that many hours of reading in one weekend. Since I can never seem to get more than a few hours of Dewey's in either, I think this might just work for me. If I can get my family to play along better for this one. That's a big "if."
Because I couldn't really think much past the wedding for the past two months, my reading commitments are minimal this summer. Which means that I can pretty well read whatever catches my fancy during the readathons. I'm ridiculously excited to just grab a big pile of books and go to town!
Monday, July 10, 2017
Published June 2013 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: bought for my Nook to read with my book group
Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own.
As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.
I picked The Engagements for last month's book club selection for a couple of reasons: I'd read and really enjoyed Sullivan's Maine and I imagined a book that dealt with marriage from a number of points of view would make for a interesting discussion.
Coming at a book from five different story lines is tough to pull off and tough to read. Early on it felt like I was reading a collection of short stories. As so often happens when a book moves back and forth between story lines, the shift between stories sometimes felt abrupt and even frustrating when I had to try to get back into a different story line. Like a short story collection, some story lines here were stronger or more interesting throughout the line. The unifying theme throughout was marriage (and the role of those diamond rings that come with it) but Sullivan also touched on a lot of other themes as well - infidelity, women's role in the workplace, grief, parental relationships and expectations, financial hardship, divorce, and ethical dilemmas. There is a woman in this book that will probably speak to every woman who reads it.
By looking at women from several generations and walks of life, Sullivan is able to explore women's changing roles in society, to look at the ways society at large has changed, and also to look at the strength of women from many different angles.
Of Evelyn, who married in the 1930's and whose life's passion was teaching, Sullivan wrote:
"It was expected that she would quite her job after marriage, as most women did, and she did quit, for a while, to be with Teddy [Evelyn's son], and to open up a job for someone else during the later years of the Depression. There was real bitterness aimed at working girls at that time, especially the ones with husbands."Through Kate, who abhors the idea of marriage, Sullivan gives us this:
"Through centuries and across cultures, women were intimidated and coerced into marriage, through horrible means - kidnapping, physical violence, even gang rape. In eighteen-century England, the doctrine of coverture dictated that a woman had no legal rights within a marriage, other than those afforded her by her husband. Early American laws replicated this idea, and did not change until the 1960's. Before then, most states had "head and master" laws, giving husbands the right to beat their wives and take full control of family decision making and finances, including the woman's own property."An excellent reminder of why I marched in the Women's March back in January. We've come a long way, thanks to those who fought before us. It's easy to forget that, as Sullivan reminds us in Evelyn's story line, even in the 1970's there had to be cause for a divorce and the woman was often the party who suffered the most embarrassment even when it meant she had to accuse her husband of wrongdoing.
Frances Gerety was a real woman - the real person who came up with that iconic signature line for De Beers diamonds. Not long ago it was voted the best advertising slogan of the 20th century. Her life, and her storyline, are as interesting as any of the others in the book. In Sullivan's hands we see Gerety as someone who was married to her profession, never "had never wanted to marry or have children." Perhaps as a working woman who was always treated (and paid) as inferior to her male counterparts, Gerety didn't see any reason to seek that out in her personal life as well.
In a book titled The Engagements, I didn't expect to find feminism. But, as Sullivan follows the trail of a ring through the book, she also follows the trail of women finding their own voices and their own way.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
This Week I'm:
Listening To: I listened to podcasts through last week, including Happier, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Reading Women. I'm really enjoying catching up on them and may continue that for at least another week before I start another book.
Watching: Veep with The Big Guy, The Mindy Project and Orange Is The New Black with Miss H, Game of Thrones with BG and Mini-him, and I am now all caught up with Grace and Frankie which is just for me. I'm pretty sad that I'll now have to wait for the next season of that one. Obviously, the television has been back on in my house!
Making: So I listened to BG when we ordered food for the reception and we had a lot left over. A lot. By Friday, I was begging not to eat something that made use of the leftovers in any way. Which is to say that, mostly, I have not been making anything.
Planning: A trip to Milwaukee in August to see our kids. And that, folks, is how I'm getting over my blues!
Thinking About: Picking up some classes. I'd talked about it a while back but never figured out how I was going to make time for it. Mini-him will return to school this fall and I decided if he can figure out how to work full-time and carry three classes, I should be able to manage at least one. Now to figure out what I want to take.
Enjoying: Quiet. BG is a person who needs to go, go, go. Which is good, because as I have needed time to collect myself this week, he has been off finding ways to entertain himself and leaving me the house to myself.
Looking forward to: Getting back to blogging regularly and visiting blogs. I miss my people!
Question of the week: My reading schedule will be pretty open this summer. What's the one book you are looking forward to reading that I should pick up?
Saturday, July 8, 2017
Since I tend to suffer from post-big event letdown in general, I should have seen post-wedding letdown coming. And I did... sort of. But, damn, I had no idea it would hit so hard and take almost a week for me to seriously start feeling like myself again.
The most curious thing has happened this week, though. That reading slump I've been more or less mired in all year? Suddenly, I find it has lifted. Just like that, the thing that has always been my go-to when I needed a lift has come back to me - books.
Granted, that fog my brain has been in for months as I worked to plan, order and create, has lifted; and I have more free time again. Still, I was surprised when I found myself able to actually focus on a book for long periods. I started a book Tuesday that I will finish today and I'm eager to start a new one tomorrow.
I suspect it will take a few days longer to completely get over the blues, especially as I continue to pull leftover tamales and tortillas out of the freezer and try to sell the wedding items we'll never use again (100 chair covers, for example). But, I'm happy to say that the therapy I've always counted on is, once again, working. I'm reading!
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
|photo taken by my brother|
at the wedding reception
My kiddos got here last Saturday night and we went non-stop through this past Sunday night. My scheduled plan for the week sort of went out the window when they showed up a projects yet to be completed. But it all got done and the things that didn't happen weren't noticed by anyone else Saturday. We had a wonderful weekend that was everything my son and his bride wanted it to be. We even had our own fireworks show!
With company just all leaving on Monday, I'm only now able to finish putting my house back together. Needless to say, my week below will mostly be a recap of the wedding week. Next week, it will be back to business as usual. I'm sad it's all over but also really needing to get back to my routine.
This Week I'm:
Reading: Not one word from the Saturday before last until today. Might be the longest I've ever gone without reading a book. I did start The Widow of Wall Street today.
Listening To: Songs from the wedding playlist. The bride and groom put together all of the music for the reception, with lots of input from their siblings and parents. We had a glorious evening last week singing together and driving Mini-me crazy as we threw out ideas faster than he could decide on them and add them.
Watching: This will come as a shock, particularly to those who know The Big Guy, but I'm not sure the television was on anywhere in my house for an entire week. It was kind of wonderful.
Making: In the kitchen - runzas, manicotti, and we grilled. Mostly we made decorations for the wedding reception, including a fabric letters that spelled out the kids' names, Just Married, and the date that we mounted to barnwood. I also made the boutonnieres for all of the guys and put together the fresh flower bouquet for the bride as well as nosegays for the moms and my mom.
Planning: Nothing in the planning stages at the moment. Thank heavens!
Thinking About: My head is filled with memories from the past week. Time spent getting to know Ms. S's mother better, hearing all four of my kids out on the patio laughing and singing together, seeing my son's face as he saw his bride for the first time at the wedding, watching my parents dance at the reception.
Enjoying: See pic. Bottom left is at the reception on Saturday night; bottom center and left are at the post-wedding dinner held by my parents in their backyard. You may notice the bridal pup curled up at their feet. He's a great dog but a constant "what do we do with Jasper" conundrum last week!
Feeling: So many emotions. I'm prone to crying at any moment. So happy for the kids, sad it's all over, sad to have them gone.
Looking forward to: A long weekend in Milwaukee. I don't know when it will be but I'm going to need one soon!
Question of the week: How to you get over the letdown after a big event?
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Reprint published June 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
After the death of her beloved mother, Martha Jefferson spent five years abroad with her father, Thomas Jefferson, on his first diplomatic mission to France. Now, at seventeen, Jefferson’s bright, handsome eldest daughter is returning to the lush hills of the family’s beloved Virginia plantation, Monticello. While the large, beautiful estate is the same as she remembers, Martha has changed. The young girl that sailed to Europe is now a woman with a heart made heavy by a first love gone wrong.
The world around her has also become far more complicated than it once seemed. The doting father she idolized since childhood has begun to pull away. Moving back into political life, he has become distracted by the tumultuous fight for power and troubling new attachments. The home she adores depends on slavery, a practice Martha abhors. But Monticello is burdened by debt, and it cannot survive without the labor of her family’s slaves. The exotic distant cousin she is drawn to has a taste for dangerous passions, dark desires that will eventually compromise her own.
As her life becomes constrained by the demands of marriage, motherhood, politics, scandal, and her family’s increasing impoverishment, Martha yearns to find her way back to the gentle beauty and quiet happiness of the world she once knew at the top of her father’s “little mountain.”
|Martha Jefferson Randolph|
In the 1970's my family loaded up in the station wagon, hitched on the pop-up tent camper, and headed off on three-week vacations. One of the places we went was Monticello. Even then I was impressed with the unique home, beautiful grounds, and amazing innovations used by Jefferson.*
When I was asked to review a book called Monticello, I didn't even read the publisher's summary. Whatever the storyline was, I was in.
I was delighted to find that Gunning's story centers around Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter. Martha has not just returned from France with a heart made heave, she has also returned with eyes opened to the realities of slavery. Not only that, but she becomes ever more aware of the relationship between her family and the slave family, the Hemings, particularly the beautiful Sally, who is actually Martha's aunt.
Martha is constantly reminded, though, that her very way of life depends on those slaves, both as the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and the wife of Tom Randolph. It is Martha's marriage to Randolph that forms the core of the novel, although Martha's father is never far from the story. While the two came from similar backgrounds and shared conflicted feelings about slavery, his volatility and bouts of depression, made their marriage often times very difficult for Martha. Gunning has combined the story of their very interesting life together, Martha's relationship with her father, and the slavery issue in a book that managed to keep my attention when very little else could.
As I always do when I'm reading fiction based on the lives of real people, I had to do some research to see how much of what Gunning wrote was based on reality. I was please to find that Gunning has based the book on Martha's own letters to her father and his to her and set those interactions into a story that's setting and other details have been thoroughly researched. If you're going to write about about real people, it's the only way to tell their story.
Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to putting it into my mom's hands soon. For other opinions about the book, check out the full tour.
About Sally Cabot Gunning
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*I was also impressed by my dad's ability to convince a tour guide to allow him into areas that no other visitor is allowed to see, simply by telling her that he was an American History teacher. He may also have batted his baby blues at her.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Bracing myself for the coming week which is bound to be worse, emotion-wise.
I have no reviews written for this week, at this point, and I'm unlikely to get any written so the blog will likely go dark until the Fourth of July.
b>This Week I'm:
Listening To: Podcasts again this week, including episodes from Happier, Stuff You Should Know, and Futility Closet. I probably won't start another book for a couple of weeks until I'm back into a five-day work week routine. Then I'll start Middlesex.
|Steven Branscombe, USA Today Sports|
Watching: College World Series and The Mindy Project for the most part.
Reading: Not much between being busy during the evenings and being distracted.
Making: Shredded chicken for the wedding. Otherwise, the cooking around here has been pretty minimal, as befits summer.
Planning: See the past several weeks.
Thinking About: See the past several weeks.
Enjoying: My kids got home last night. We haven't gotten to spend much time with them yet because they are staying with a friend. They had to bring their dog with them and he can't stay at our house with our cats. I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days with them before the rest of the people start arriving.
Feeling: See first paragraph. Excited, happy, sad, angry (that's a long story), depressed, giddy. See, I told you I'm a roller coaster of emotions!
Looking forward to: The wedding on Friday!
Question of the week: Best tip for remaining calm - go!
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Published June 2017 by Penguin Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that’s about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie’s become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret’s toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie’s boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn’t Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret’s apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend’s whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret’s disappearance.
Fallon's You Know When The Men Are Gone, a collection of short stories about the people of Fort Hood (my review), was one of my favorite books of 2014. In her first novel, Fallon returns to what she knows, the people who live on the periphery of the action. In The Confusion of Languages, she draws on her own experiences as an Army wife in Jordan to craft her tale of friendship, marriage, and communication.
Fallon has managed to combine the intimate details of a friendship and two marriages with the tension of a mystery that builds throughout the book. This is a book about the little things we do and say but it's also about the things that are left unsaid and how those things can tear life apart.
Back and forth we go, between the minutes ticking off as Cassie waits for Margaret to return and the pages of Margaret's journal which Cassie begins reading while she impatiently waits. Back and forth we go, too, between the way we feel about these two women.
Cassie has longed to be a mother for so long that when she gets the opportunity to mentor Margaret, she treats her much more as a child than a friend. But is she right to insist that Margaret follow the rules just as she has, to stay in the safe places? Or, by following the U. S. Embassy's guidelines, are Americans living in Jordan missing out on the opportunity to connect with the people of Jordan, to create a greater bond? There is no easy answer, as it turns out.
The Confusion of Languages is not just about the confusion when people of two different languages try to communicate. It's the confusion caused by two cultures meeting and the confusion between people of very different backgrounds trying to build a relationship.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Narrated by Amy Poehler
Published October 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: bought the audio version
In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," "Plain Girl Versus the Demon" and "The Robots Will Kill Us All."
Confession: I'm not necessarily Poehler's biggest fan and had never seen Park and Rec until Miss H made me watch on episode on Netflix recently. Amend that - I wasn't necessarily Poehler's biggest fan. After listening to this book, narrated by Poehler, I may not be her biggest fan, but I'm definitely a big fan.
Poehler is one funny lady, who has certainly paid her dues. She's done improv on the street, she's done improv in nearly empty studios. Making the cast of Saturday Night Life might seem like the greatest job on earth but Poehler is quick to remind listeners that finding your place there and living through the long hours and quick turnaround times is no glamour job. But it was that job that made Poehler a household name and gave her the opportunity to move onto film and Parks and Rec, And those jobs have given Poehler the opportunity to give back to other comedians as a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade which operates the only improv and sketch comedy training center in the country.
Poehler talks a lot about her career, but she is equally forthcoming with her personal life. She talks about her upbringing (her parents even both read portions), her marriage to actor Will Arnett and her divorce from him, her friendships, the famous people she has known, her pregnancies and her boys and her own self-image.
That last chapter, "Plain Girl Versus The Demon," really made me sit up and pay attention. "That voice that talks badly to you is a demon voice," made me want to put this book in every young girl's hands. Unfortunately you can't do that because this is a grown up book with cursing and sex and drugs. But, if you listen to it and also have a young daughter, you should absolutely take notes because Poehler things to say I wish I had said to my daughter as she was growing up. "The scary part is that the demon is your own voice," "You may even have days or years when you think the demon is gone but it is not." Be vigilant, in other words. But also this: "if you're lucky, there's a moment in your life where you have some say as to what your currency is going to be" and this "decide early on what your currency is going to be and let go of the rest."
Time travel comes up a lot in the book and it's not until nearly the end when Poehler really talks about what she means when she says she believes in time travel and it kind of makes sense when you think of it that way. I'd tell you the secret but you really need to discover it for yourself.
There's an entire chapter about Parks and Rec which includes run downs on all of the key actors in the series and convinced me that when this actor says the cast was like a family she really means it. The chapter about how robots are going to take over the world is hilarious. The chapter about books she would write about divorce is both hilarious and extremely sad.
Yes Please is probably perfectly funny in print. But in print you don't get narration by Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, and an entire chapter written and read by Seth Meyers. You wouldn't get the cadence and intonation of Poehler's voice. Yes Please is not all hilarity and it's not perfect. But I highly recommend this book.
Also, there's a very high probability that I will soon start binge watching "Parks and Rec."
Monday, June 19, 2017
|Bottom: as the 80+ mph winds blew through and branches came|
down and as the storm moved out
We were fortunate in only losing a couple of good-sized branches from one of our big trees and a lot of leaves and small twigs all over the yard, but it has meant The Big Guy has had to take time to chop the branches down and get everything cleared up and hauled off to the drop site.
We did enjoy spending yesterday at the College World Series. Miss H picked up four tickets for BG for Father's Day so she, he, Mini-him and myself soaked up the sun, the fun and the atmosphere. We don't have a dog in the fight but it's always a great place to mingle with new people from all over the country who have come to cheer on their teams. It's billed as the Greatest Show on Dirt and the atmosphere around the stadium is pretty great, too.
This Week I'm:
Listening To: Podcasts, podcasts, and more podcasts. I've listened to episodes of Reading Women, Happier, You Must Remember This, and Get Booked.
Watching: Still Grace and Frankie, The Mindy Project, This is Us plus we started Veep. And, of course, CWS games.
Reading: I finally finished The Confusion of Languages and tried to get back into The H Spot but it's just too heavy for me right now. Not sure what I will pick up after I finish The Engagements for book club.
Making: Chicken, lots of chicken. Miss H is doing a kind of diet and chicken is on the menu for her a lot. Consequently, it's on the menu for BG and me as well.
Planning: We're almost there, folks, and the actual planning is basically done. Now the planning is all about making sure it all goes off without a hitch.
Thinking About: How much cleaning I'd still like to get done around my house that may, or may not, actually get done. Let's face it, I'm probably the only person that will notice if all of the door frames haven't been wiped down.
|1st tomato of 2017!|
Feeling: Happy - harvested my first tomato of the season.
Looking forward to: My kids getting here on Saturday!
Question of the week: I'm headed off to book club this week. I'm still tweaking the schedule for the rest of the year. What book is the book you always recommend to book clubs?
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Published June 2017 by Random House Publishing
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
When Apollo Kagwa’s father disappeared, all he left his son were strange recurring dreams and a box of books stamped with the word IMPROBABILIA. Now Apollo is a father himself—and as he and his wife, Emma, are settling into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Apollo’s old dreams return and Emma begins acting odd. Irritable and disconnected from their new baby boy, at first Emma seems to be exhibiting signs of postpartum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go even deeper. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.
Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood, to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest, which begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts, takes him to a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever.
Book two, this week, of the books I judged by their covers. Book two, this week, of the books I judged by their covers whose covers turned out to be right. Well, this one was also pitched to me as a dark fairy tale and I've been feeling like it was time to get back into fairy tales.
That reading rut I've been in for months? This might just be the book that pulls me out. It's not my usual read, very deep into the fantasy realm, but it's also the first book that I've literally been unable to put down in months. Maybe because I needed something that completely took me away from reality. Maybe because sometimes going outside of your comfort zone is exactly what it takes to remind you how great reading can be.
The Changeling is gruesome, and scary, and twisty. It builds slowly, feeling like a perfect ordinary, if somewhat sad story. Then suddenly, the book takes off and LaValle takes readers on a macabre adventure that sucked me in and made me forget where I was and how long I'd been reading.
LaValle included copious references to fairy tales and literature that, of course, appealed to me, including making his lead characters a librarian and a buyer/seller of books. The man clearly knows his way around the book world and the history of stories.
Paul Beatty (author of The Sellout) compared The Changeling to the work of the Coen brothers. The Fargo kind of Coen brothers movie seems more than an apt comparison with an ordinary setting, a lot of unexpected twists and tension, and a whole lot of blood. That gory factor generally turns me off in a book or a movie. But the Coen brothers have a way to do it that I can handle. Victor LaValle seems to have that same touch. Maybe because it feels appropriate where it's used, but also because the stories have so much more to recommend them.
I've never heard of LaValle before. A review on Vulture.com called LaValle a "prolific horror master." Now, I'm not a big fan of horror, not in my movies and not in my books. I don't want to read a book that makes me even more afraid of the bad things that really could happen to me. But if his particular brand of horror combines characters I care about in great story lines and I can don't feel like I won't be able to walk into my own house alone after dark, I might just have to give his work another try.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Published May 2017 by Grove Atlantic
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
Miss Burma tells the story of modern-day Burma through the eyes of Benny and Khin, husband and wife, and their daughter Louisa.
After attending school in Calcutta, Benny settles in Rangoon, then part of the British Empire, and falls in love with Khin, a woman who is part of a long-persecuted ethnic minority group, the Karen. World War II comes to Southeast Asia, and Benny and Khin must go into hiding in the eastern part of the country during the Japanese Occupation, beginning a journey that will lead them to change the country’s history.
After the war, the British authorities make a deal with the Burman nationalists, led by Aung San, whose party gains control of the country. When Aung San is assassinated, his successor ignores the pleas for self-government of the Karen people and other ethnic groups, and in doing so sets off what will become the longest-running civil war in recorded history. Benny and Khin’s eldest child, Louisa, has a danger-filled, tempestuous childhood and reaches prominence as Burma’s first beauty queen soon before the country falls to dictatorship. As Louisa navigates her newfound fame, she is forced to reckon with her family’s past, the West’s ongoing covert dealings in her country, and her own loyalty to the cause of the Karen people.
I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but, let's be honest, covers are important. When you're browsing the book store or web page or Netgalley, it's the book cover that will make you pull a book off the shelf (either literally or figuratively). It's the cover of Miss Burma that grabbed my attention first. But it was the book's description, and its reference to the Karen people, that made me request the book.
In Mini-me's final year of college, he took a volunteer position at the Intercultural Senior Center where he met Karen refugees (among a number of other cultural refugees). It was the first time I had heard about this minority people who been persecuted in their homeland for centuries. When I read the summary of this book and saw that it was about these people and their struggles, I couldn't wait to read it.
The book spans decades, from young Benny becoming an orphan to an adult Louisa making a final appeal to try to save the Karen people. As the spotlight moved from Benny and Khin to Louisa, I sometimes had a hard time figuring out who the focus was meant to be on and I had a tough time shifting my own interest from Benny and Khin to Louisa. Which is not to say that Louisa was not as interesting a character as her parents. In fact, Craig's characters are all fascinating and complicated, as are the relationships between the characters.
This is a tough read. Terrible things have been done to the minorities in Burma, not just by the majority but also by the British, the Japanese and the Americans. Terrible things are done to the people in this book and Craig does not shy away from details. She clearly wants readers to understand the horrors that humans are capable to committing. The atrocities are not drawn out, though, because this is a story about one family's part in the Karen's struggle and in their own struggle to understand and live with each other. The fact that Benny is Jewish is also an underlying storyline that impacts the family throughout their lives.
It's always a good thing to read venture afield in your reading, to learn about other lands and other peoples. It's especially valuable exercise when a book is as well done as Miss Burma. It is an emotional work that was at once hard to read and hard to put down.
|The real Louisa and her father, Saw Benson (which was the name Benny became known as in the book)|
Only after finishing the book did I discover that this is more than just a novel based on historical fact; it is a novel very closely based on Craig's own grandparents and mother. I almost certainly would have read the book differently had I known that going in so I'm glad I didn't. But it absolutely makes me think differently of the book knowing how much of the book was real.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
've hardly read a page and even forgot to finish up the two reviews I have in draft that are well on their way to being finished. That may well be how the next three weeks go reading- and blog-wise as we work to get final things done around the house and put the finishing touches on wedding "stuff." I'm trying to skim over blog posts but I'm unlikely to have time to comment until July.
As much fun as the wedding planning has been, and as excited as I am for "wedding week," I'm also kind of looking forward to life returning to normal.
This Week I'm:
Listening To: I finished Amy Poehler's Yes Please, which I really enjoyed. With only two weeks weeks of driving to work before I have the week off for the wedding, I'm not planning on starting a new audio book right now. I've been listening to the news and plan, for the next couple of weeks, to listen to podcasts during drive time. I'm WAY behind on those!
Watching: Grace and Frankie (into Season 3 now and I'm going to be so sad when I'm all caught up and there are no more binge sessions to be had!), The Mindy Project (laugh out loud funny), hockey and basketball finals (the only time of the year I care about either one of these professional sports), and the first episode of the new season of Orange Is The New Black.
Reading: See above.
Making: Salads and dinners on the grill. Does having my great-niece bake brownies count for actually making something?
Planning: You already know this answer.
Thinking About: My sister and brother-in-law as they settle into their new house. They arrived yesterday and were greeted by their daughter, her SO, and her SO's parents who brought lots of food, gifts, and laughter - just what the doctor ordered after an extremely stressful week. Wish I could be there to help her!
Enjoying: Spending time with our great-nieces who came and helped me work on some projects for the wedding, including filling 102 cans with dirt and planting flower seeds.
Feeling: Depends on the hour of the day.
Looking forward to: Seeing my kids in just 13 days!
Question of the week: What's your best "how to stay calm" tip?
Posted by Lisa at 11:16 AM
Sunday, June 4, 2017
The Big Guy and Mini-him returned from a long weekend in Milwaukee exhausted and full of stories of the fun they'd had. Makes me eager to get back up that way myself before the summer is over. I'm going to need a beach fix after I get through the wedding!
I'm reading! It took a book that was out of my usual wheelhouse to do it but I'm happy to say that I finally found a book that made me stay up past my bedtime reading. It got me to rethinking what I'm otherwise reading at this time. While I absolutely loved Ruby, I decided to skip moving onto another literary fiction audiobook for now and I've lightened up my nightstand reading as well. It's going to be hard for me to focus on books through the rest of this month and I've just got to acknowledge that and work around it.
This Week I'm:
Listening To: Yes Please by Amy Poehler which I downloaded through Audible and can listen to while I'm painting this weekend. I may look for something similar when I finish it rather than launch into my last book on CD, Middlesex, which is quite long and sure to require more thought.
Watching: Game of Thrones (we have GOT to get through season 6 before season 7 starts!), more Grace and Frankie (I'm seriously loving this show) and, this morning, on one of those weird channels I'll never find again, a show called Brain Games which we all three really enjoyed and which makes me want to work on word puzzles.
Reading: See above and in the sidebar. Siobhan Fallon, Confusion of Languages, is the author of You Know When The Men Are Gone which I was so impressed with so I have high hopes for this one.
Making: Not much creativity in the kitchen this week. Mostly salads and some grilling.
Thinking About: The people of London. We are living in scary times.
Enjoying: Knocking a big project off my to-do list this weekend - I am finally getting the guest room painted. Can't wait to get it all put back together and different curtains hung.
Feeling: A little bit sad. I've know for weeks that my sister was moving and I'm very excited for them as they set off on their new adventure. I've even seen packed boxes piling up and lots of empty shelves. But it wasn't until I went into the bathroom there the other night and there was nothing left in there except soap and a hand towel that it really hit me that she won't be just two minutes away from me by this time next weekend.
Looking forward to: A virtual bridal shower for Miss S in just a couple of hours. It just occurred to me that in just 26 days she won't even be "Miss" S any more. Then what to call her? Mrs. S?
Question of the week: What's your go-to meal for summer dinners?
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Read by Cynthia Bond
Published April 2014 by Crown Archetype
Source: purchased my audiobook copy at my local library book sale
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city—the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village—all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother.
When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.
Some book reviews need to percolate in your brain awhile after you finish a book, allowing you time to gather your thoughts and process what you've just read. Some book reviews need to be written immediately so the feelings the book has generated shine through.
I'm not really sure which is the better approach for Ruby. I know that I will be thinking about this book for a very long time; perhaps I'd be more articulate if I gave myself more time to absorb Bond's story.
On the other hand, I've just finished it and I need to talk about it; I only wish I could do it justice. Because this is a book that needs to be read; we need to force ourselves to face the things in our world that are horrific and unimaginable. Ruby is filled with those things. It is a punch to the gut over and over again. I wanted to keep thinking to myself "it's only a book, it's only a book." But, the thing is, that it's not. The things that happen in this book happen in real life and, like the citizens of Liberty Township, we are too quick to turn a blind eye, to allow people to hide behind screens like religion and to believe that things cannot change.
The publisher's summary only hints at the kind of person Ruby has become when the book begins. After a lifetime of being the victim of monstrous men and women, Ruby has turned inward to try to hold onto the only thing she has left in the world. She is, both literally and figuratively, a mess. Through flashbacks readers discover the evil that has been done to Ruby. But it is not Ruby alone who has suffered and Bond helps readers to understand the domino effect that abuse causes. She makes us see that as much harm can be caused by those who turn away as from those who perpetrate abuse. As much harm is caused by those who turn a blind eye to racism as by those who practice it.
Bond's writing is both beautiful and graphically violent. You know the old trope "show me, don't tell me?" Bond is brilliant at showing readers what she wants them to see. The land around Liberty Township, the way Ruby's hair cascades down her back after Ephram washes it, the men who cluster harmlessly on the porch of the P & K grocery only to become entirely different people when they leave that place, the uptight and self-righteous way Ephram's sister Celia lives her life. It was like watching a movie play out in my head, which made the terrible things that happened that much more difficult to hear.
"She wore gray like rain clouds and wandered the red roads in bared feet. Calluses thick as boot leather. Hair caked with mud. Blackened nails as if she had scratched the slate of night. Her acres of legs carrying her, arms swaying like a loose screen. Her eyes the ink of sky, just before the storm."
"He sat alongside the crowd of men parked on their stools outside P & K. Who read their papers, played dominoes and chewed tobacco. Toothpicks dangling. Pipes smoking. Soda pops sweating. Just as they had the day Ruby arrived back in Liberty. When she'd stepped from the red bus, the porch had crowded her with their eyes. Hair pressed and gleaming like polished black walnut. Lipstick red and thick, her cornflower blue sundress darted and stitched tight to her waist. Ephram had watched her light a cigarette and glare down at the crowd on the market porch in such a way that made folks feel embarrassed for breathing."
Bond reads the audiobook and it is one of the cases where there could not have been a better person for the job. She knows exactly how to sooth the listener, how to build the tension, when to let things settle in slowly. I highly recommend the audio version of the book. I also can't recommend highly enough Andi's review of this book on Estella's Revenge. It is what convinced me to read this book even though it scared me enough to put it off for a while.
Be warned, the book is filled with sexual and racial violence. It is not for the faint of heart. But it is also a story about love. About the ways that the lack of love in a life can hurt but also about the ways that love can save, the love of a man for a woman and the love of a mother for her children. You will cry, you will be awakened to things you might prefer be left unknown, but you will also be left with hope.
Monday, May 29, 2017
|The guys are at the beach|
This Week I'm:
Listening To: While I'm driving, still Ruby, which is such a tough read. These past few days, I'm enjoying the quiet of BG being gone.
Watching: Lots and lots of Grace and Frankie while I'm working on projects in the family room and quite a few episodes of The Mindy Project during the evenings when Miss H and I are hanging out. Also, while my dad, a huge fan of it, was here today, we watched the Indianapolis 500.
Making: Tuna salad, grilled burgers. Otherwise, Miss H and I have been eating a lot of takeout.
Planning: On getting on the ball and getting some painting done tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll get some of the other things on my list checked off as well.
Thinking About: Remember how last week I was feeling remarkably calm? Yeah, this week, I'm thinking about all of the things and I'm pretty sure I will never get it all done.
Enjoying: Some time with my sister before she moves. We went to the town my dad grew up in and put flowers on the graves, visited my mom's cousin, and stopped at the ice cream place my grandpa and grandma used to take us to when we were little. It was a good afternoon!
Feeling: Remember how last week I was feeling remarkably calm? Yeah, this week, not so much. Even with the long weekend. How can it only be 33 days to the wedding?!
Looking forward to: Next weekend, we're having a virtual bridal shower for Miss S. She can't get down here to have a real one so my sister and and sister-in-law have put together a Facebook Live shower. Party goods have been sent and food is being shipped so it will feel like a real shower. They are the best aunties!
Question of the week: I'm kind of a chihuahua and I'm trying to find ways to keep myself calm the week of the wedding (short of medication and alcohol!). What are your best tips for keeping calm?
Posted by Lisa at 12:04 AM
Friday, May 26, 2017
Published May 2017 (reprint) by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.
An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.
**I don't know what I said about this book when it arrived in the mail that made my husband decide it wanted to read this book. Whatever it was, it convinced him that he needed to read this book right away. I told him he could as long as he wrote a review. Now that he's finished, maybe I'll finally get to read it. In the meantime, here's his review.**
The Big Guy's Review:
Yes, this book caught my attention, not only by the look, but also because it has a large number of essays on a great variety of topics, which fits my attention deficit personality. Evidently I have been living in a can as I was not that familiar with Neil Gaiman's work outside of Coraline, but I will now seek out some of his other stories.
This book provides one with a real insight into Neil's life, works, thoughts on literature, music, art, history and all of the good things in life. He opens up about his childhood and how he had his nose in a book most of the time and was a ward of the librarians as he did not always have the funds for his habit and all of the authors and titles he would have liked to read. I get the image of Neil as that egghead junior chicken on the Foghorn Leghorn cartoon.
In his formative years Neil explored deep recesses of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Graphic Novels (before they were called that) with many authors I am not familiar with and also plan to explore. I can really relate to the content of his genre choices as a youth as I was provided with many horror, fantasy and good choices of mainstream books from an intelligent brother, a few teachers and an old family friend as a teen.
Having written some in college and having too many excuses to not write now, I haven't written much in a long time. Gaiman's insights might just motivate me enough to start doing some short stories. I think this book is an outstanding read, certainly for anyone interested in writing, but also for anyone interested in good literature, so I give it two thumbs and a big toe up.
Thanks for your review, BG! You always come at a book from a different angle than I would. For other opinions about The View From The Cheap Seats, check out the full TLC tour. Thanks to the ladies at TLC for including us on the tour!
Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and his blog.
Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble