Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (12/15)

I didn't post one of these last week because, well, it's December and things are crazy.  There you go.  I was also going through a real reading slump.  I think I went about 5 days without reading anything, which is pretty much a record for me.  I had to do something practically unthinkable to break that slump....but I'll 'fess up to that in a minute.

I also wanted to let you all know that I'll only be posting this meme and the Saturday Snapshot for the rest of the year.  Any reviews that I write before then will be scheduled for 2015.  This is my gift to you...quit reading blogs and get stuff done.  Or read a book instead.  Everything I do, folks, I do it for you.


Right now, I'm reading....

  • Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman...still.  I don't know if I will ultimately review this book.  Frankly, it doesn't seem very "reviewable" to me.  But I will say this, if you are looking to read these tales, this is a great version.
  • The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer.  Fun times, folks. 
  • I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy.  I wish I had more time to read this one as it is quite intriguing.  December is not good for this bookworm.
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.  Admittedly, my daughter and I haven't made much progress with this one in the past couple of weeks.  Daddy has been putting on Christmas movies, which edges out our bedtime reading.  Grrrr!
  • Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiograpy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Too cool for words.
I'm not going to go into my audiobook titles because, well, we're just listening to Christmas carols.  All the time.

Since my last post, I read:
  • The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley (review to be posted 1/14/15)
  • I have to admit this?  Really?  Okay, I read...Grimm: The Chopping Block by John Passarella

Feel honored...I haven't even admitted to my husband that I read that Grimm book.  I don't do tie-ins.  I don't read horror.  But, frankly, it was the only thing that was going to get me out of my slump.  I don't know if I'll review it because, if I write a review, it will probably be the longest review I've ever written.  I would be dissecting that book.  I don't know if dare step into that black hole and show my geekiness to the world.  On the other hand, I think THAT shipped sailed when I added the next Grimm book to my Kindle.  Look, there are only 2 TV shows I actually make a point to watch and, if they ever came out with a tie-in novel for The Big Bang Theory, I'd probably read that too.  So, there....

Friday, December 12, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - December 13

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

First of all, I'm sorry for posting this late--but it really wasn't my fault this time!  I do these ahead of time and schedule them and, when I went to get my pictures ready for this post, we had a massive windstorm that knocked out our internet, cable, and phone (we still had power, but most people lost that as well).  The power did come on the next day, but I was so swamped with Christmas program stuff that I didn't get a chance to sit down until later and then, when I did, I realized that the internet going down did something to my computer or photo editor or whatever and I couldn't get back into my pictures.

I'm hoping to get THAT solved by next week, but here is a preview of what I was going to post....

Last weekend, we took the kids to the Festival of Lights at the Portland Grotto, which is a retreat center across town.  We've gone most years, weather permitting, and we just love it.  I hope that the pictures I took turned out (and I can get to them) because it was just lovely.

But, here is a taste...a selfie of the hubs and I!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: "The Boston Girl" by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl Anita Diamant
Published: December 9, 2014
ISBN: 9781439199350
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 5 / 5

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie's intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can't imagine - a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today." She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant's previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

My Thoughts:
The only other book by Anita Diamant I've read is The Red Tent, which is one of my favorite novels.  Because of that, I was a little surprised at this one as it is so completely different.  The Red Tent is lush and evocative.  The Boston Girl is a Jewish Grandmother recounting her life.

And it is absolutely delightful!

I think this book hit me on two emotional levels.  For one thing, Addie Baum reminds me of my grandmother.  Sort of.  On the surface, there probably isn't that much in common between Addie, a Jewish girl growing up in the North End of Boston, and my grandmother, a Norwegian girl growing up in small town North Dakota, other than they are about the same age.  But, Addie reminded me of what I always pictured my grandmother to be as a young woman--spunky and ahead of her time.

The other tie for me was that this book takes place in Boston and I lived there for 3 years.  While I don't miss the city, it is fun to read about place with which I'm familiar.  Diamant vividly creates early 20th century Boston and it was great fun for me to take a trip back in time with her.

This book reads exactly like what it is: a grandmother telling her granddaughter about her life and what shaped her into the woman she became.  There are several times in the book where Addie makes asides, telling her granddaughter not to tell her mother something or, well, hinting about things that happened in her life that probably wouldn't be proper to talk about (her granddaughter, as you discover at the end of the book, gave up the hinting and just lays at all out--I almost snorted tea through my nose when that little bit came up!).

This was one of those books that I just could not put down--I plowed through it in a little over a day, which is pretty fast for this mother of young kids.  Yet, I still kept scratching my head about how this was so different from Diamant's The Red Tent.  I guess it is the measure of a skilled author to be able to write in such different voices.

I highly recommend this book to, well, just about anyone.  Just be warned...if you think you'll be reading something along the lines of The Red Tent, you'll need to adjust your expectations (trust me, it will be worth it!)

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

The Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant

Friday, December 5, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - December 6

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Wow!  Life has been busy for us!  I'm feeling rather tapped out at the moment, so I apologize if this is a less than interesting Saturday Snapshot this week.  I don't have any kind of a theme, just 3 pics from this week.

We decorated the house on Saturday night...our practice has been to do that the night before the first Sunday of Advent so the kids will be surprised in the morning.  They are surprised and it is delightful, but I'm afraid this might be the last year of that tradition--my daughter has been asking to help us decorate so we may have to actually involve the kids next year.

In any case....decorating the house has posed some challenges this year...specifically Alice.  This is not the first nor the last time I caught her...


In other news, I got an early Christmas treat for myself this week.  Actually, it was supposed to be in my hot little hands in September, then November, and finally December...but I'm so glad it is FINALLY out!

Finally, I snapped this one at the end of my daughter's dance lesson.  It was just too unbelievably cute!  (and, in case you're wondering, she's waiting for her end of class sticker).

Book Review: "Landline" by Rainbow Rowell

Landline Rainbow Rowell
Published: July 8, 2014
ISBN: 9781250049377
Genre:Women's Fiction
Source: Library
Rating: 3 / 5

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My Thoughts:
I love me some Rainbow Rowell--both Eleanor and Park and Fangirl are on my "highly recommended list.  When I found out about her newest book, I knew that I would be reading it.
Unfortunately, this may have been a case of unrealistic expectations on my part.  I can't be sure, but I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it had not been written by Rainbow Rowell.  It's not badly written, but it just didn't feel like a Rowell book for me.  At first, it reminded me of Jennifer Weiner (whom I enjoy) and then, when the magic realism kicked in, it reminded me of an American Cecelia Ahern (whom I enjoy).  It did not, however, seem like it was written by the same person who wrote Eleanor and Park and Fangirl.

I never felt that Rowell reached the emotional heights (or depths?) that she had in her other books.  I kind of felt that Georgie always knew what the problem was with her marriage, so she never really had any big revelation.  And, this may just be my prejudices, but I didn't really like Georgie.

I will say that the book did keep my attention, even if I found parts of it lacking.  While I felt that Rowell never dove deep enough into the plot, I was at least interested enough to turn the page.  And, honestly, I think someone who has never read anything by Rainbow Rowell would probably enjoy this book more than I did.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

by Rainbow Rowell

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Club Business: What to Suggest? 2014 edition

It is a about this time of year when people start asking for ideas for books to suggest for their book clubs for the upcoming year.  Not only do several Facebook status updates show up on my feed, but I have a number of people who ask me directly for books I think their clubs might enjoy.

I've already posted about what I'll most likely suggest for my book club, but I thought I'd put a list together of books I've read this year that I think would make good discussion fodder.  I did not absolutely enjoy each and every book on this list, and not every book that I went gaga over ended up on this list, but I think this is a good place to start if you just don't have a clue what to suggest.

I'm only including books that I've read (and, in a couple of cases, re-read) from January - November 2014 and are listed in the order that I read them.  Some of the books were released this year and others are a bit older.

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell
This is a bit of tough one to read, but well worth it.  It deals with a number of issues around mental illness and Corwell hits the nail on the head with it.  It does strike me as absolutely crazy that Crowell is a Pacific Northwesterner and not a Brit--but that's just a testament as to how well she developed the voice of this book.

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit
This is one that I was a little lukewarm on, but I still think would lend itself to some great discussion.  Also, it seems that I'm in the minority about my feelings in the book.  The viewpoint of this book, the plural first-person, might be a roadblock to some readers, but it is definitely unique.

West of the Moon by Margi Preus
This is a middle-grade to young adult book, which might automatically cross it off some lists, but it is definitely worth the read.  It has a fantastic heroine, a fast-paced plot, and a bit of magic realism thrown into the mix.  Plus, it is a quicker read than some of the books on this list, which might lend itself well to a summer selection or for the month after you read War and Peace.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
This book was nominated, and made it to the finals, of the Goodreads best book of the year in both the Best Fiction and Best Author Debut categories, but I still think it hasn't yet received the recognition it deserves.  This is a beautifully heart-breaking novel about 2 Afghani women, separated by about 100 years, and the trials they face.  It is both timely and timeless and a definite must for people who enjoy the books of Khaled Hosseini.

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
If your group likes character-driven novels, this one should be right up your alley.  It's a quiet book in that there isn't a lot of "big" moments in the book, but the prose can't be beat.  It's a great novel to discuss family and secrets.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Hurry and read this one before the movie comes out!  I actually don't know when that is supposed to be, so you probably have time--but don't put it off.  This is based on a true story and is brought to life in the most heart-wrenching way.  All the accolades for this book are well-deserved.  That being said, if they plan to stick with Jennifer Lawrence playing Agnes, I hope they wait for about 20 years to make the movie when she's actually the right age for the character!

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This one was actually suggested as a possibility for my book club last year and wasn't picked up, so it might show up again for this year.  It's a tear-jerker folks.  Seriously, if you make it through this book with a dry eye, you do not have a soul.  I think it is probably especially poignant for mothers, so if you have a lot of those in your group, be sure to stock up on tissues.

Wake by Anna Hope
This one deals with the aftermath of war, specifically on the women (in this's a historical novel set after World War I).  This one really gave me much to think about when I hear of young men and women heading into combat now and I really believe that this book is one that should be read with an eye on the modern world.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Have you ever read a book about hoarding?  Well, if not, here you go!  However, lest you think this book is TLC material, I assure you that it is well worth the read.  Jewell does an excellent job of developing the family at the center of the novel and chronicling the mother's descent into a full-blown illness (which is what it is) that I couldn't put it down.

I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
When I read this, I stated that this might be my favorite book of 2014.  It definitely still holds the title for best novel of the year for me, and is right there with Amy Poehler for best book.  This is another historical novel (yes,I know this list is historical-fiction heavy, but that is what I read most), this time set during the Civil War where a woman passes herself as a man to follow her husband into battle, a scenario that was surprisingly common.  This book could have been a sappy romance, but McCabe was able to rise above that and write something that is so much more.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This is definitely one of the "it" books this year and I think you'll hear quite a bit about it for a while, so I won't go into too much detail other than its Historical Fiction (surprise!) set, mostly in France, during World War II.  The two main characters, a young German soldier and a blind French girl, are captivating and the story is sublime.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I've now done this book in 3 different book clubs and it has been a success every time.  This is a definite must for lovers of literature, especially those who are on Team Bronte (any of the Brontes will work).  It's very dark and twisty, so I recomend discussing it in October!

Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen
I think it is almost unfair to say that this is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet.  Instead, it is a fantastic (historical, again) novel that happens to have as its main character a woman who also shows up in Romeo and Juliet.  Since I think everyone is more than familiar with Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, everyone should come into this book from the same knowledge point, which is helpful in book clubs.  It's a fun read and one that evokes a bit of a story we all know, but is its own work at the same time.

Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler
Up until this book, I could have said that these were the best novels to suggest--the fact that this list is so fiction-heavy is purely coincidental.  However, I have no choice but to break the fiction-streak and include this book.  Yes, it's a funny (okay, outright hilarious) book.  But it's also completely thought-provoking.  It recently won the Goodreads Award for best Humor book of 2014 and, while that is a well-earned award, I almost feel it should have won Best Memoir as well.  Heck, maybe it should have won Best Business book!  Let's just say it is the best book of the year, okay?  This was one of these books that actually impacted the way I think about myself and the world and one I think everyone should read--or listen to.  As I said in my review, this is a case where I would recommend audio over long as you have have headphones!

So, there you have it...a handful of suggestions to get you going.  Of course, these are only the books I read last year--I had to limit it somehow or this list would never end.  If you are in a book club, I'd love to hear what your 2015 books are.  Once my club's schedule is finalized, I'll share it with you all!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: "Astor Place Vintage" by Stephanie Lehmann

Astor Place Vintage Stephanie Lehmann
Published: June 11, 2013
ISBN: 9781451682052
Genre: Chick Lit / Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (Kindle)
Rating: 3 / 5

The past has a seductive allure to Amanda Rosenbloom, especially when it comes to vintage clothing. She’s devoted to running her shop, Astor Place Vintage, but with Manhattan’s rising rents and a troubled economy, it’s tough to keep the business alive. Meanwhile, she can’t bring herself to end an affair with a man who really should be history. When Amanda finds a journal sewn into a fur muff she’s recently acquired for the shop, she’s happy to escape into the world of Olive Westcott, a young lady who lived in New York City one hundred years ago.

As Amanda becomes immersed in the journal, she learns the future appeals to Olive. Olive looks forward to a time when repressive Victorian ideas have been replaced by more modern ways of thinking. But the financial panic of 1907 thrusts her from a stable, comfortable life into an uncertain and insecure existence. She’s resourceful and soon finds employment, but as she’s drawn into the social circle of shopgirls living on the edge of poverty, Olive is tempted to take risks that could bring her to ruin. Reading Olive’s woes, Amanda discovers a secret that could save her future and keep her from dwelling in the past.

It’s Olive, however, who ends up helping Amanda, through revelations that come in the final entries of the journal. As the lives of these two women merge, Amanda is inspired to stop living in the past and take control of her future. 

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books that has been on my radar for a while but I just now had the chance to sit down and read it.  It was definitely a promising prospect--the plot convention of two stories separated by time is something that appeals to me, as is the time period of Olive's story.

And, indeed, there were things I found enjoyable.  I really loved how Lehmann took the time to juxtapose the New York City of 1907 upon the New York City on 2007.  She does an admirable job of really going over the geography of the city and how things have changed.  I also appreciated the period photographs she included in the book.

I also found Olive's story line intriguing.  A young woman who, through no fault of her own, falls from her place in society but still has the gumption to pull herself up and achieve her dreams.  Lehmann spends quite a bit of time highlighting Olive's naivete in the ways of passion, which actually fits quite well into her character and serves to draw a clear distinction between the life she lost and the life she had to live.

On the other hand, I found Amanda's story line almost unbearable.  A woman who has been a 6 year relationship with a married man and then wonders why she's stuck?  That is just a tired story that's been told too many times.  I never felt any empathy for Amanda and, therefore, had no patience for her.  I can see how Lehmann was trying to tie the characters of Olive and Amanda together, but it either just didn't connect, or it connected too easily to be believable.

There were some other issues with this book.  I respect Lehmann's attempt to illustrate the issues women had to face in the early 20th century in Olive's narrative, but she just tried to cram too much in.  She talked about religion, women in the workplace, childbirth, birth control, sexual fidelity, and immigration.  Phew!

I also didn't find Lehmann's style as readable as I thought I would.  She isn't a difficult author to read, but there is just something a bit uncomfortable in her voice that I found a bit irritating.  It was almost as if she were not completely natural in her writing.

I think if this book had been just about Olive, I would have loved it.  As it is, it was just a lukewarm read for me.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Astor Place Vintage
by Stephanie Lehmann

Monday, December 1, 2014

November Wrap-Up / It's Monday....What Are You Reading? (12/1)

First off....did you notice?  I did it!  I posted every day in November!  NaBloPoMo..I own you!

But...don't expect me to keep that up.  I do hope to be posting more often than not, but I won't be posting every day.  For one thing, I don't think I'll be doing YouTube Sunday on a regular basis.  I am going to continue to at least try to do Mama Kat's prompts each week but, again, I can't promise it will be every week.

Okay, onto the recap.

This is a combo weekly/monthly recap, so I'll bold the items I read/listened to this week.

In November, I read....

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline
Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiani
The Language of Sisters by Amy Hatvany
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (review to be posted 12/9/2014)
Away by Amy Bloom
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
He Walks Among Us by Richard and Renee Stearns (no review)
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (no formal review, but included in this post)
Joining Jesus on His Mission by Greg Finke (no review)
The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister (review to be posted 1/13/2015)
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat by Sofie Kelly
One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp (no review)
Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann (review to be posted 12/3/2014)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (review to be posted 12/5/2014)

Right now, I'm reading....
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (with my daughter)
The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley

Last Month, I finished listening to....
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, narrated by Amy Poehler

Right now, I'm listening to...
The Ramona Quimby Collection by Beverly Cleary, narrated by Stockard Channing
Christy by Catherine Marshall, narrated by Kellie Martin this week....

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch, narrated by Rachel Dratch

So, there you was a pretty productive month, even though this past weekend was decidedly not productive.  Oh well!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

YouTube Sunday: "Wild" Chat by Wallace Yovetich

This is it.  The last day of NaBloPoMo.  I have to admit that I'm writing this post far in advance, so I'm not sure I can say I was successful.  I hope I was, but by the time this goes live we'll know for sure.

Anyway...."Wild."  I've talked a lot about this lately because it was this month's Book Club selection and the movie is coming out this week!  The movie is pretty big for me because I am going to see it....with friends!  I think the last movie I saw in a theater with friends (instead of the hubs) was Les Miserables.  So, yeah, it's been a while.

In honor of that, here is a great piece on the book by Wallace Yovetich.  She has included the trailer to the movie at the end, so if you haven't seen it yet, there you go--and you may now debate the appropriateness of a nearly-40 year old Reese Witherspoon playing a mid-20's Cheryl Strayed.  (Personally, I don't care anymore, but a lot of people like to talk about that....)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - November 29

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Thanksgiving pictures!

I don't have too many pictures to post because I was too busy cooking....*

...all this food...yep, I made every dish (with the exception of one pumpkin pie, which my husband got at Costco.  I did, however, make 2 pumpkin ice cream pies, which are much, much better than plain old pumpkin pie!

* in case you are wondering, my apron says, "It's hard to be humble when you are from The College of William and Mary."  GO TRIBE!