Friday, November 21, 2014

Thoughts on Laura Ingalls Wilder

A picture of Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls,
taken at about the time of The Long Winter
As I've written a bit about in the past, I've been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books to my daughter.  We made it up through Little Town on the Prairie, at which point I realized that my daughter is young enough and Laura is old enough that she can't relate to her right now.  I'm sure that we (or she) will finish out the series when she's older.  I may finish re-reading it on my own, but I have THIS GEM coming to me next month (squeals in excitement!)

My daughter loves Laura, and I love that she loves Laura, but I have to say that it is not completely unproblematic,  There were times when I questioned my decision to read these books to my daughter, and there ended up being a few conversation coming out these books that one would not expect to have with a 5 year old.

There is also the Rose aspect.  There is a question about how involved Rose Wilder Lane was in these books.  Some say that she simply proof read and "cleaned" up the manuscripts.  Other people believe that she actually wrote them.  Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, but her presence--especially in the later books--is obvious.  Rose Wilder Lane was, along with Ayn Rand, one of the "mothers" of the American Libertarian movement.  I'm sure there are people who think this is oh-so-interesting--a number of people in my family might fall into that category--but I do not.  So, there is that.

I'm not going to write a full review of each book, but I am going to jot down a few thoughts on each.  Let me say, before I start, that--despite what I might say--I love these books, even with their flaws to the modern eye.

Little House in the Big Woods  My daughter and I loved this book.  However, I know a fair number of parents who read this to their kids and HATED it.  You see, there is not actually a plot to this book, which understandably rubs many the wrong way.  I guess I just spent enough time reading history books and memoirs to read it as that rather than a novel.  My daughter, however, related deeply to Laura in this book and I think that is what led her to want to read more.

Farmer Boy So, can I just say that this is a weird book?  It's about Almanzo, so that in itself is strange--it is sort of outside the LIW universe.  But, even more than that, this book is NOT like the others  From reading this book, it sounds like Almanzo (which, by the way, should be pronounced al-MAN-zoh, not al-MAHN-zoh, as is said in the TV series) grew up in this strange world of unlimited rich food,  Seriously.  After reading just one description of a "normal" breakfast (and there are many such descriptions), it is a wonder that these people didn't all die of heart attacks at 16.  There is one part where the 4 Wilder kids eat a whole barrel of sugar in, like, a week.

It's all incredibly unbelievable.  However, in The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure theorizes that the world of Almanzo's childhood is actually Laura's fantasy world--it is everything she did not have as a child.  It's an interesting theory and one that I can easily buy, but it doesn't change the fact that this book is weird!

Little House on the Prairie  This was the most problematic of all the books.  For one thing, this book is probably closer on the fiction side of the spectrum than any of the other books (besides Farmer Boy).  The chronology of the books is a bit off, but the events in this book took place when Laura was about 3 years old, not 5 years old as said in the book (and it should come before Little House in the Big Woods).  So, most of this came from "constructed" memories, not true memories.

This is also the book that raised the toughest questions with my daughter.  You see, Ma Ingalls--the sweet, unassuming Caroline Ingalls--was a raging racist.  This is the book that actually contains the sentence "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."  And, yes, Ma says it.  Oh, and guess what ONE SENTENCE my daughter decided to repeat over and over again?  Yeah....

There is an argument that this is just reflecting what people felt at the time and that sentiment is very troubling to me.  I don't doubt that people felt that way--I know that they did!--but that doesn't make it okay.  And just saying, well, that's the way it was is like saying slavery is okay because that's just what people did.

And here is where I'm torn.  As an adult, I can recognize this as a popular and UGLY sentiment in a period of time.  However, my daughter does not see that.  Laura idolizes her Ma and Ma can do no wrong and then there is this.  I'm not saying the book should be banned or edited, but I wish I had taken this into account and maybe, well, skipped this book until my daughter was older.

The site of the Ingalls home on Plum Creek
Walnut Grove, MN
On the Banks of Plum Creek This is probably my favorite book of the series. And it has Nellie Oleson, and that is all I really need to say about this.

By the Shores of Silver Lake We also greatly enjoyed this one.  It helped that we read about Laura and her mother and sisters arriving in De Smet as we were actually driving into De Smet.  I mean, how cool is that????  The one interesting thing is that Laura talks about how grand the Surveyor's house is--where they get to stay rent free (and, literally, eat everything in sight) on winter.  That house still stands and I would guess is is maybe about 1000 square feet.  We didn't get to tour this house, but we will the next time we go (and there will be a next time!)

The Long Winter So, this is an interesting book in a couple of ways.  For one thing, it is kind of a downer.  There is evidence that the Ingalls were not quite as isolated as depicted in this book, but it is definitely not a book you want to read when you are down in the dumps.  I mean, nothing terrible happens, no one dies, but....

The second point is that this is probably the most accurate description of what Seasonal Affective Disorder feels like.  I have battled with bouts of that and I realized that Laura Ingalls Wilder was writing exactly what I felt during those times.  The term she frequently uses is "dumb and stupid" which, to our modern ear, would initially mean something else but it is a very, very accurate descriptor.

This is also the first book where I started noticing strange episodes that didn't really fit into the plot but were more like rants about Libertarianism.  Mr. Edwards (who never, ever has an orangutan in the books--sorry, Michael Landon) shows up out of the blue--he hadn't been seen since Little House on the Prairie--to go off on how he defrauded the government by lying about his situation so that he wouldn't have to pay taxes!  And this is supposed to be a good thing!  Rose Wilder Lane strikes again!

Nellie Owens, one-third of the deliciously evil Nellie Oleson.
She was Laura's foil when the Ingalls lived in Walnut Grove.
Little Town on the Prairie  At this point, we are entering YA territory--which is all fine and good, but my 5 year old could no longer relate.  Personally, though, I quite liked this book.  There are hints of romance and Nellie Oleson returns!!! (Nellie Oleson is actually a composite of 3 girls from Laura's childhood.  In reality, the "Nellie Oleson" from Laura's time on Plum Creek is not the same one that shows up in De Smet).

There are some more soap box speeches from Rose in this book, which is annoying, but my daughter didn't even notice it and, for me, it gave me a chance to indulge in adolescent eye rolling.  It was probably fortunate that my daughter wasn't too attached to this book so that we didn't have a repeat of the "The Only Good Indian.." episode when we came to the scene where Pa performs in a skit in blackface  Ugh....

So, all in all, am I glad I read these books to my daughter? Yes.  She found a heroine to look up to who breaks the mold and is a strong female role model.  In retrospect, I probably would have postponed Little House on the Prairie and Little Town on the Prairie until she was older, but she now has the books on her shelf and she can re-read them when she feels ready.  Or before our next visit to Laura-country....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop: Thanksgiving Yummies....

This week, Mama Kat suggests:
Share a Thanksgiving recipe you will be cooking up this month.

I'm a pretty good, albeit frequently disinterested, cook.  Sometimes, I just don't think I have it in me to cook one.more.meal.  Yet, there are times when I really put my chef on and Thanksgiving is one of those times.

I make a mean Thanksgiving dinner--I think I inherited this from my mother who made hundreds of holiday meals.  Sometimes she'd make more than one large meal for one holiday.  I remember a time where she made 3 Christmas dinners over two days (a Christmas Eve lunch, a Christmas Eve dinner, and then a Christmas dinner) so that everyone could fit a home-cooked meal into their schedules.

I am not that crazy.  If you don't make it to my Thanksgiving dinner then you are just plain out of luck.  I haven't yet settled on all the details for this year's dinner, but here are a few guarantees.  I will include links to recipes where I can and please excuse my liberal use of the Food Network.

First off, the bird.  This year, I'll be using a this recipe from Anne Burrell. I used another one of her recipes last year--it looks like it was the same technique, but a different flavor profile--and it was quite tasty.  I'm a believer in brining but, folks, there is no way I can brine a bird in my fridge.  Instead, I've developed an method using a Coleman and ice bags.  I know, high tech.

I may be the chef, but the hubs is in charge of carving

My dressing recipe (I don't do stuffing because I'm not a fan or salmonella) is also from Food Network.  I don't even know who these guys are--I certainly haven't seen their show--but the recipe is excellent.  And it can be made a day or two in advance and then just popped into the oven after the bird is out.  I've made this for the past several years, always to rave reviews.

I may make this recipe for a veggie dish.  I've made it in the past and it is delicious, but it is something that needs to be whipped up right before serving.  It's done on the stove, so oven space is not an issue, but it is usually so hectic in the kitchen at that time. If it were up to me, I'd make these (which I make at least once a week), but the oven issue kind of rules that out.

I'm trying to avoid Green Bean Casserole.  I hate the stuff, but my husband loves it so who knows how that one will turn out.  As for dessert, we'll be getting a pumpkin pie from Costco.  I make a fantabulous pumpkin pie, but I hate making pie (and it is one.more.thing I'd have to make).  Costco's pumpkin pie is better than most and my husband loves it, so there you go.  I will, however, will be making Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie, which I'll actually make up today and freeze until the big day.

And, as I promised, a recipe.  This is for Corn Pudding and it is a staple for Thanksgiving in my family.  The first time my husband had it, he fell in love with it.  It's pretty simple and it is one of those dishes you just put in the oven with the dressing and what not once the bird comes out.  It isn't the fanciest of dishes, but it is yummy!

Thanksgiving Corn Pudding
2 cans of cream-style corn
1 can of corn niblets
1 sleeve of saltine crackers, finely crushed (reserve 1/4 cup for topping)
1 teaspoon dried mustard

Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter


1. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT the reserved 1/4 cup of saltine crumbs and butter and pour into a buttered casserole dish.

2. Cook for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Just before the time is up, melt the butter and combine with the reserved saltine crumbs.

3. When the 35 minutes are up, remove the casserole and sprinkle the crumb mixture over the pudding. Return to the oven for an additional 10-25 minutes. The pudding will be done when the center isn’t sloshing around.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty
Published: July 29th, 2014
ISBN: 9780399167065
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 / 5
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?  

What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

My Thoughts:
This is yet another case of me being late for the party.  It seems everyone has been reading Liane Moriarty, yet this is the first of her books that I've picked up.  I actually have a couple of her books on my e-reader waiting to be read, but I decided to start with this one as it is the most recent and is currently getting quite a bit of buzz.

Folks, I could not put this book down.

I can relate to it--not with the murder or abusive husbands, but with the having kindergarten-aged children as my youngest started kindergarten this year.  And, boy oh boy, am I glad that she isn't at the school in this book.  Yikes!

I really liked the three women.  I could understand why Celeste stayed with her husband, which is saying a lot in today's climate (that's all I say to keep myself from crossing the line into Spoiler Land).  And Moriarty does another great job with Jane by creating a character who is completely framed by her past.

And Madeline....there have been many times in my reading life when I've hated characters I was supposed to love, but I think this might be the first time I loved a character I was probably supposed to hate.  Madeline has a short temper, is clique-y, and has no qualms about starting trouble wherever she goes....and I simply adored her!

Now, I must end my gushing because there was something about this book I really did not like.  You see, it fell into one of my biggest pet peeves.  It took some serious topics--which I commend Moriarty for tackling--and treated them almost too lightly in too much of a satirical light.  To be fair, while I was bothered by this in Big Little Lies, it was far less than in some other books (such as Julia Fierro's Cutting Teeth).  Perhaps that the setting of this particular book--moms of kindergartners--was a bit too close to me, but I couldn't help feeling uncomfortable with some of the tone of this book.

But, while I was uncomfortable at times, I was never so uncomfortable that I would actually put the book down, so that is saying something.  I'm also to accept that Moriarty never goes so far that I felt that the book even nears the line between my own discomfort and general inappropriateness.

In the end, I did enjoy this book, even though I wished at times things were toned down a bit.  It also introduced me (finally) to a great author who deserves all the accolades she is currently enjoying.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review: "Away" by Amy Bloom

Away Amy Bloom
Published: June 24, 2008
ISBN: 9780812977790
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Goodreads First Reads Program
Rating: 2 / 5

Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Bloom’s work–her humor and wit, her elegant and irreverent language, her unflinching understanding of passion and the human heart–come together in the embrace of this brilliant novel, which is at once heartbreaking, romantic, and completely unforgettable.

My Thoughts:
I really, really thought I would love this book.  The summary sounded fascinating and I was quickly pulled in by Bloom's writing.  She has a poetic voice that I found hypnotic.  Unfortunately, that was not enough to save this book for me.

I tried to put my finger on what went wrong for me and I came up with two big problem areas.  The first was the story itself.  From the summary, it sounds like this is one of those vast novels, but then you look and the book is less than 300 pages.  There are basically 3 sections of this book--New York, Seattle, and Canada/Alaska and Bloom just sort of drops the reader in each one--and I had a lot of trouble buying how Lillian got to Seattle and then to Alaska.  Bloom also dives a bit in to the world of the soap opera dramatics, which did not appeal to me.  I felt that a lot of what happens to Lillian just wasn't necessary and I would have rather that Bloom had used those pages for something else.

The other problem was Lillian herself.  I just never felt any connection with or sympathy for her--which is strange because I can understand the desire to find your child, but it just didn't ring true for me with Lillian.  I never felt that I was able to get into her enough to feel her compulsion to go on her trek to find her daughter.  Instead, she seemed like such a survivor (and I don't mean that in an entirely positive sense) that I couldn't see her give up her comforts to return for a daughter she was told was dead.

It's a shame as I think that Bloom is a fantastic writer and this book sounded great, but it just didn't work for me.

I won a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads Program.  I was encouraged, but not required, to post an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

by Amy Bloom

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (11/17)

I've made it halfway through NaBloPoMo successfully....I still have a few gaps in my schedule to fill, so it is still up in the air if I can finish the month out.

This past week was a crazy one for me, so I didn't get as much reading done.  Also, my husband took my daughter to school several days this past week, so I didn't make much progress on the listening.

Luckily, this coming week looks like I'll have more reading time available.  The fun thing is it is book club week (making weird Oprah noises as I say that).  Hmm, it is strange that I bring Oprah up while talking about my book club this month because, well, she's on my naughty (or at least annoying) list. You see, our book this month is Cheryl Strayed's Wild.  As I've said, this one was a re-read for me.  The first time I read it, I had gotten it out of the library.  When we decided to do it in our book club, I decided to get the Kindle edition.

Well, I apparently got the "Oprah" edition of the book.  So, there would be these underlined passages in this book that if you clicked on them, or even near them, you'd be taken to "Oprah's thoughts."  Well, a lot of these passages are multiple paragraphs long and it was very tricky to scroll to the next page without unwittingly clicking on the Oprah section.  So, I couldn't care less what Oprah has to think, so that was pretty annoying.  Worse, though, was that when you clicked back to the book, it took you to an entirely different page!  Ugh!  Oprah....grrr!

Okay, enough about that...

Last week, I finished reading..
He Walks Among Us by Richard and Renee Stearns.  (This one was for my church book group and I won't be reviewing it.  It was good though...and it convinced me that we should be sponsoring a second child through World Vision!)

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (This book is the one where my daughter started losing interest--not really in Laura, but she just couldn't relate to it anymore.)

Right now, I'm reading....
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat by Sofie Kelly.  Cozy mysteries are my "treat" books.  I love them, but I can't really concentrate on them if I'm feeling stressed or pressed for time).

The Magician's Lie by Greer MacAllister

Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman (I'm going to be reading this one for quite some time...I'm reading one story a night!)

How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.  (Starting this one with my daughter tonight!)

I'm also listening to....

Still working on last week's audio books, but I'll be starting this one this morning at the gym:

I'll probably only be able to listen to this one when I'm at the gym, so I'm seeing a lot of workouts in my future!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

YouTube Sunday: "I Killed My TBR" by ClimbTheStacks

I recently came across this video, which hit me where it counts.  My TBR, as I've mentioned over and over again, is out of control.  I actually have (had) two actual, scheduled-out lists going, one for my Kindle and one for hardcopy books.  I'll admit, the Kindle list still exists, although I'm giving myself ample permission to DNF anything that doesn't pull me in quickly

As for the hard copies, well, the schedule is gone.  Unless I have a review due, I read what I want, when I want.  I'm not quite ready to purge unread books, but I won't say that option is out of the picture.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - November 15

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.

So, I had planned to do a post about the beautiful fall colors today.  Well, the weather decided not to cooperate as we have had rain for days and even a "winter storm" yesterday (no snow...just freezing rain).  Now, of course, the weather is lovely but I don't have the opportunity right now to get some pictures.

Instead, I have pictures of our cat.  Yes, cat pics.  Sorry, but it is the best I can do right now.

We've had Alice since the end of August and, well, we're all still adjusting.  She's very different from our former cat, who was just the sweetest thing you can imagine.  Alice is far more independent and less cuddly.  If I'm sitting at one end the couch, I should be very honored if she decides she wants to curl up on the other end.

Of course, she's still young (we think she's just about to hit her first birthday) and she does have two young kids to deal with here, so that makes things a bit more difficult.  My daughter just really, really wants a cuddly cat and Alice is having none of that.

All that being said, Alice has her positives.  For one thing, she's gorgeous!  She is also pretty playful, which is fun.  She also likes to find strange small place to explore, which gives me plenty of photo ops!

Book Review: "The Language of Sisters" by Amy Hatvany

The Language of Sisters Amy Hatvany
Published: September 3, 2002
ISBN: 9780451207005
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 / 5

Ten years ago, Nicole Hunter left her troubled home behind her, unable to cope with the demands of a life with her disabled sister, Jenny. But when a shattering event turns her world upside down, she finds herself back in her hometown, caring for her pregnant sister and trying to heal her embattled relationship with her mother. And when she is faced with the most difficult choice of her life, Nicole rediscovers the beauty of sisterhood-and receives a special gift that will change her life forever...

My Thoughts:
I have to be honest, I almost put this book aside.  It was not due to any fault of the book, it was just that the subject matter was incredibly distressing to me.  I guess it is a credit to Hatvany that she could write about the situation so well that it left me physically shaken.

So, yes, let's just say this is not a "fun" read.  Trust me, it's far more intense than the summary would lead you to believe.  It's pretty raw and heartbreaking--but I soon went from wanting to stop to not being able to put it down.  Hatvany does well with highly emotional material and this is no exception.
I felt for Nicole--she had it coming from both sides.  Not only did she have to take over the care of her sister, but she also had a bevy of unresolved issues with her mother.  Her childhood friend comes back into the picture, who becomes a lifesaver to Nova (and she's kind of a kick--right when the reader needs something a little lighter going on in the story!).  Hatvany said in the afterward that she has a sister with the same disability as Jenny, so I'm pretty sure that much of this came from the heart with her...and you can tell.

There is a bit of romance in the novel, but not so much that it overwhelms the plot.  I think the story could have stood on its own legs without the romance, but its presence didn't really distract me.  I think the more important aspect was the relationships Nicole had before she returned to Seattle.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for something "light" to read.  However, this is something I would heartily recommend it to someone looking for something that will hit their emotions with both barrels.

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

The Language of Sisters
by Amy Hatvany

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop: 3 of My Favorite Things

This week, Mama Kat asked: Share a list of some of your most recent favorite things

As I've mention a thousand few times lately, things are crazy over here.  By the time this post goes live, I should be over the worst of it and will be able to start planning Thanksgiving, but right now, I'm treading water.

So, when I was asked about my most recent favorite things I had to think hard to come up with something.  Number one was sleep, but I would hardly call that a "recent" favorite thing.  But, I did come up with 3 things that are just tickling my fancy right now.

Yogi Egyptian Licorice Tea.  Seriously, folks, this is the best stuff ever.  I've been going through it so quickly that I've set up an Amazon subscription for it.  I'm a fan of Yogi teas in general, but this one is the one that I reach for most often.  Of course, if you don't like licorice, you might want to reach for something else (the Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut is also good, and so strong it is practically coffee), but if you like Licorice, give this one a try.

Sheldon gives Amy a panic attack!
Seriously, this was the best thing I've seen on TV in ages. .  SHELDON!  AMY!  I have yet to get this off my DVR, I just love it so much!

Sunday Night Football
I'll refrain from making any comments about the Chicago Bears because I don't want upset certain members of my family I'm a good person, but thanks to Aaron Rodgers, I'm tied for first in my Fantasy League (against a bunch of Seahawks fans...I'll refrain from making any comments about the Seahawks because my entire husband's family are fans I'm a good person).  I needed it after last week when the Packers had a bye--thank you so much Philip Rivers, who I've since traded to my brother-in-law.  Apparently, I'm 4 weeks away from the Fantasy play off which, if I make it, I'll most likely be playing against my husband, which will be about as stressful as a Packers-Seahawks game.  Sigh!

There you go, 3 things that are making or have made me happy recently.  Enjoy and, um, GO PACK GO!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: "Milk Glass Moon" by Adriana Trigiani

Milk Glass Moon Adriana Trigiani
Published: January 9, 2002
ISBN: 9780345445858
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3 / 5

Milk Glass Moon, the third book in Adriana Trigiani's bestselling Big Stone Gap series, continues the life story of Ave Maria Mulligan MacChesney as she faces the challenges and changes of motherhood with her trademark humor and honesty. With twists as plentiful as those found on the holler roads of southwest Virginia, this story takes turns that will surprise and enthrall the reader.

Transporting us from Ave Maria's home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Italian Alps, from New York City to the Tuscan countryside, Milk Glass Moon is the story of a shifting mother-daughter relationship, of a daughter's first love and a mother's heartbreak, of an enduring marriage that contains its own ongoing challenges, and of a community faced with seismic change.

All of Trigiani's beloved characters are back: Jack Mac, Ave Maria's true love, who is willing to gamble security for the unknown; her best friend and confidant, bandleader Theodore Tip-ton, who begins a new life in New York City; librarian and sexpert Iva Lou Wade Makin, who faces a life-or-death crisis. Meanwhile, surprises emerge in the blossoming of crusty cashier Fleeta Mullins, the maturing of mountain girl turned savvy businesswoman Pearl Grimes, and the return of Pete Rutledge, the handsome stranger who turned Ave Maria's world upside down in Big Cherry Holler

In this rollicking hayride of upheaval and change, Ave Maria is led to places she never dreamed she would go, and to people who enter her life and rock its foundation. As Ave Maria reaches into the past to find answers to the present, readers will stay with her every step of the way, rooting for the onetime town spinster who embraced love and made a family. Milk Glass Moon is about the power of love and its abiding truth, and captures Trigiani at her most lyrical and heartfelt. 

My Thoughts:
So, yeah, I gave this book 3 stars--but I feel I have to explain that rating a bit.  I actually liked this book more than I enjoyed any other 3 star book, but I just didn't feel I could give it 4 stars.  I gave he two books that precede this one the series (Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler) 4 stars each and, despite the fact that I enjoyed this book, it just wasn't as good as the other two.

First off, this is not a stand alone book.  If you haven't read the two previous books, this one will make no sense.  I'm not counting that against Milk Glass Moon, but I do feel I should say that.  However, for those of you who have read (and enjoyed) Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon will feel like coming home.  The characters are still as lovable and quirky as ever .... which is both good and bad.

It's great if you want something familiar.  Yes, the fact remains that no one has really changed--including Ave Maria.  Because of that, this book felt a bit stalled as the characters haven't really developed since the first and second books.  Ave Maria is still dealing with the same feelings that she doesn't belong that she did in the first book, feelings that I felt had been (or should have been) resolved already.

This book also seemed to lack any real plot.  It takes place over about 4 or 5 years and at times it really feels like Trigiani is just skipping through time.  Without a strong plot to hold such a long time period together, an author has no choice but to write only on the topmost layer of things.

I guess what I'm saying here is that it was like visiting old friends who are always the same, but it wasn't a satisfying read.  I'm glad I read it, but I think I could only recommend it to people who are fans of the first 2 books and want a "check in" with the characters.  There is one more book in the series, which I will be reading at some point in the not-so-distant future, and I hope that Trigiani returns to storytelling with the conclusion to this series.

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