Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway - The Reluctant Matchmaker


The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington Books, 2012

Format?  oversized paperback
Source? The publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviews
FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Reluctant Matchmaker from the publisher; however, the following review and the opinions offered below are without bias.

Why? I love reading about other cultures...and this one is about a modern young Indian woman trying to navigate life in the United States as well as hold on to the traditions honored by her family.

Title?  Prajay asks Meena to find a suitable wife for him...not exactly what she had in mind...pretty literal title

Cover? I like the cover ok...just in case the reader can't tell which culture the book is about...but I never envisioned the traditional Indian dress nor the Taj Mahal looking building while I was reading The Reluctant Matchmaker...quite the contrary, I envisioned a thoroughly modern setting including office buildings, apartments, and even Meena's parents' contemporary home.

What Now?  I'll be passing this one on to another blogger who'd like to read it :) Just leave your blog address and email address in the comments section if you'd like to win.  I'll notify the winner 1 week from today.

Golden Lines

The boys were just investments in the future, while I was more like a hothouse plant, meant to be nurtured until they could find me a decent husband and give me a reasonable sendoff by way of marriage.  But that was the Indian way, so I didn't complain.

I glanced at Prajay's hand as I reclaimed my own.  He thrust it in his pocket immediately, so I didn't have a chance to look at it closely.  His face told me he'd felt something, too, because he looked uneasy.  But he was a man, and what did men know about magnetic undercurrents and those small signs of connection between a man and a woman?

But I'd never considered myself a good Indian girl.  I wasn't bad, but neither was I a soft and malleable ball of putty that could be molded by my parents.  Or anyone else.  I was a modern woman with modern ideas.  One of these days I'd find my own man.  In my own way.

Why were some intelligent males so dumb when it came to women and relationships?

"An old widow should be reading scriptures, eating vegetarian food, and knitting sweaters.  Instead Akka insists on drinking liquor and eating meat," Mom grumbled once in a while.  Sometimes I wonder if she was adopted or something.  She's so different from my father and their other siblings."

Summary

31 year old Meena Shenoy is an unmarried Hindu career woman.  Her family supports her independence while at the same time still would like to see her marry a traditional young man from their same KonKani caste.  She falls for her boss who calls her in on a special assignment.  Meena meets with him thinking that he is going to admit his attraction to her as well...when, in fact, he wants to hire her to find his perfect wife.  

What I Liked

Vocab and foods - I don't know a lot about Indian culture except that I'm not fond of Indian food :( Curry, in fact, is one spice that I shy away from, no matter what.  While the story itself had some issues that bothered me throughout, I did enjoy the cultural exposure. 

I didn't know it was illegal to use cell phones while driving in New Jersey?  While this was certainly not a huge part of this book, I love little tidbits like this.  

Brother Maneel falling in love with a Muslim woman/parents' reactions - while on the surface the immigrated families seem to have assimilated into American culture, they find it very difficult to let go of some traditions.  

Akka - the wise aunt who helps Meena navigate both worlds.

Family, family and more family...the positives and negatives

What I Didn't Like

Meena's attitude and stubbornness - I didn't care for Meena and still don't.  She seemed spoiled and immature...these characteristics may be the result of her age and lack of responsibilities, but I still couldn't warm up to her.

I'm too small whine...Prajay wanted a 6 ft woman??  I got tired of Meena's obsession with her small stature and Prayay's obsession with finding a 6 ft woman...his list of characteristics he was looking for in a wife was ridiculous.

Overall Recommendations

If you enjoy multi-cultural ladies' fiction without too much depth, you might enjoy this one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

TLC Book Review - Vanity Fare Dec. 26


Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell
HarperCollins, 2013

Format? oversized paperback

Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclosure - I received a complimentary copy of Vanity Fare from the publisher.  The following review and opinions are my own and offered without bias.

Why? a woman reinventing herself, literature, food and coffee...bring it.

Cover? I'm gonna be honest here...the cover is probably was drew me to this book in the first place...I have a weakness for pretty old books :)

Title? a literary play on words...which also happens to have pretty important meaning for the story.

What Now? I don't usually hold on to books like this...but this one really hit the spot for me.  I dove into Vanity Fare in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy.  As a mother, I simply could not and still cannot imagine the depths of that community's pain...especially the families of the ones who were killed. 
I was numb for days...and I needed something to occupy my brain...I'm picky about women's lit. but Vanity Fare was perfect.  Enough wit, enough lit, enough likeable characters, enough believability and yes, even a happy ending, not perfect...but happy.
Sometimes we just need that.

Golden Lines

A Room of One's Scone
Take a moment - two moments, even - for yourself.  Remember how it felt, how it smelled, how it tasted to relax for five minutes with a deliciously creamy pastry just perfect for pairing with a cup of tea.  Remember what it was like before you did things like count carbohydrate grams and obsess over a teaspoon of butter? (31)

Midtown Manhattan. The library. I started to get all excited just thinking about it. (72)
"Simon won the James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef two years running, he was named Best New Pastry Chef in Bon Appetit, he - "
"I get it.  Simon is a star. He won't be measuring flour." I really didn't need for him to make me feel any stupider. (75)

Dr. Lowell chuckled a little, then glanced at the clock on the table between us and edged forward on her seat.  "Your assignment for next week is twofold: figure out your limits for your date, and figure out how to solve your mother's problems so she can get out of your house.  She'll make you crazy, and I should know." (138)

 This was life. My life.  And I loved it, and deserved not to have to change it because my husband was a cheating asshole.  (189)

He loped up the last couple of steps and pulled me up against his chest, his scent immediately surrounding me.  I sniffed it all in while my arms crept around his waist.  Still holding me, he walked into my apartment and kicked the door closed.
"Finally" (393)

 Summary

Molly's husband Hugh leaves her for a younger, sexier, more successful blonde.  With a degree in English literature and the past 6 years spent at home as a mommy, Molly knows she has to find a way to support herself and her son Aidan, especially after Hugh announces that his business has gone belly up.
Through a mutual friend of theirs, John, Molly gets involved in a copyediting opportunity on the ground floor of a brand new bakery positioned next to the NY Public Library.  Her task is to come up with a way to meld the two...come up with a gimmick of sorts to bring in the customers and satisfy the English baker, Simon, who accepts nothing but the best and is accustomed to having things his way.  Molly, Simon's partner Nick, and John put work out the professional details while Molly, her mom, her friends Keisha and Lissa as well as little Aidan, work on the personal.  And, then, of course, the personal and the professional intersect...
of course ;)
  
What I Liked

Classic literature is embedded everywhere in Vanity Fare...I loved that!
Molly is in therapy...and that's not a big deal.  Geez, we need so much more of this kind of attitude in the media.
 Molly is a sad divorcee and she is tempted to fall into some of the stereotypical pitfalls of her situation...but she doesn't. She is smart, she takes her life one day at a time (sometimes minutes at a time) and works to make it better.  She takes her life into her own hands and doesn't allow what someone else has done to her to define her. 

I keep telling  myself that I'm not a romantic...but I do like a little romance when it's wrapped up in a story like this one.  Real life romance on equal terms.

Even though this story has a couple of real winners in its female characters, there are several more who are true female friends.  We also need more of this in the world...more people who have our backs...through thick and through thin and over long periods of time.

What I Didn't Like

Simon - didn't like him from the first time he entered the story.

Hugh - what a whiner...that's all.

Natalie and Sylvia - why do women have to be such bitches to other women? Ridiculous.

Some of the humor at first was a little corny...but it grew on me as I got to know Molly. 
  
Overall Recommendation

If you need a quick feel good read in front of the fireplace with coffee (specifically a latte) and a mouth-watering pastry, and don't mind some girl talk as well as a few thumping hearts along the way, this is your next read.

 The Author


  
Other Stops on the Tour

Wednesday, December 26th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, December 27th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Friday, December 28th: The Book Garden
Wednesday, January 2nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, January 3rd: My Bookshelf
Monday, January 7th: BookNAround
Wednesday, January 9th: girlichef
Thursday, January 10th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, January 14th: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Tuesday, January 15th: Sweet Tidbits
Wednesday, January 16th: Proud Book Nerd

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!


These two were ready to open presents last night!
The cat peeking out from under the tree made it almost too difficult for Layla to bear :) 


Now we're enjoying some much needed quiet time together :) 

Merry Christmas to all!
With wishes of Joy, Hope, and Peace!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Giveaway Updates

As much as I love giveaways, I'm the slowest and most distracted person when it comes to actually mailing the prizes out.  

I actually have 3 prizes in mailing envelopes, with the winners' addresses printed on them and everything...just riding around in my car. 
Oy.

Then, I have 3 others on my desk that need to be packaged.



I had 10 responses to the Historical Holiday Blog Hop



And, I offered 10 books as choices for the Gratitude Giveaway in November.

As I typed this post, I realized that the total number of books in this post is 26.
26.

If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.

The 6 people who've already won will, of course, receive their books shortly...I will take them to the post office on Dec. 26 to keep them from getting mixed up in holiday mail.

But, each of the 10 people who entered the Historical Holiday Blog Hop will also win the books they chose instead of the two chances I originally offered in this giveaway.

And, I will choose a winner for each of the 10 books offered as choices in the Gratitude Giveaway instead of the 1 chance offered originally.

26 books...26 book lovers...1 book blogger who is thankful and grateful and wishing to spread as much joy and peace as possible this Christmas season and on throughout the year.

Joy.
Peace.
Love.

I think we could all use some.

I'll be emailing winners tonight!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quiet Time - I still believe.

I've been quiet for the last few days...on purpose. 
I'm still not sure I'm ready to talk about it. 
 
My heart is in Newtown, CT...and the only thing...the only thing that makes sense to me right now is my faith.
 
The. Only. Thing.
 
A friend of mine shared a post from another blogger (new to me) that helps me with my words.
 
I still believe.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

These Things Happen - TLC Book Review


These Things Happen by Richard Kramer
Unbridled Books, 2012

Format? Hardback

Source? The publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclosure - The publisher provided me a complimentary copy of These Things Happen; however, my review and the opinions expressed therein are my own and offered without bias.

Why? it's family...it's NYC...it's contemporary fiction by an author whose been involved in two of my all-time favorite television series, "Thirtysomething" and "Once and Again"...there was no way I was passing up on this one...and boy, am I glad I didn't.

Title? These Things Happen is generally something a person says to dismiss an event that will soon be forgotten and for which there is no answer or explanation...that's not even close to what's happening within the covers of this book.

Cover? The Empire State Building...bc this book is as NYC as a book can get with its references to streets, the theatre district, landmarks, apartment buildings, shops, culture

What Now? this one's a keeper...to the glass bookshelves it goes.  Wow.


Golden Lines

"So how was school?" George says.
"Thrilling," I say, "when it wasn't enriching.  Donald Rumsfeld came and read to us from The Red Pony.  And Micah Kinzer saw a black person, and even got pictures, with his phone." (24)

Once again I think maybe I'll just pop my head in at the kitchen door to see if Wesley wants me to make him a nice panino in the press his mom gave me Christmas last year; he must need something, as he's fifteen and its 2:42 and he's probably in there growing. (40)

Kenny's cell phone rings.
"I thought you turned it off," I say.
"I'm not totally sure how to do that.  Just let it ring."
So we do.  But we don't do anything else, either, as each of us knows it will ring again in a moment.  Which it does.  
"You should get that, Dad."
"That's what they invented voice mail for," says Kenny.
"It's also why they invented hammers," I say.  "Because I'm going to smash that thing.  Because this place is too small for you, me, and the entire gay and bi-curious population of the whole world, all of whom have your cell number." (73)

"I'm the mother," she says.  "And I want my son." (127)

"But I'm bigger," I say, "than whoever that person who'd think that is, or say it."
"Don't be bigger. Please. The size you are is fine. Even if you're a hypocritical, racist homophobe, as has been fully proven today." (160)

"It's awesome, you know," Wesley says, using the word his mother so dislikes.
"What is? The sky?" 
Wesley laughs.  "A day.  A lot can happen in a day, I mean.  If that makes any sense."
"It does." The thin, curved moon, like the wandering element of an emoticon, is clear again. "That's what days are for." (255)

Summary

Theo and Wesley are 10th graders enrolled in a posh NYC college prep private school.  Their lives are filled with activities and lessons designed to attract Ivy Leage colleges.  These are smart kids...kids that keep you guessing what they'll say next and especially what kinds of questions they'll ask next.
Kenny is Wesley's father, a high profile lawyer who specializes in defending LGBT rights, who agrees that Wesley should live with him and his partner George for a couple of months "to get to know his father."
Kenny's partner George owns the restaurant that they live above and brings his colorful previous life as an actor into their partnership as a softening agent of sorts to Kenny's business sense and constant worklife.
Kenny's ex-wife and Wesley's mother Lola is an uptown editor and married to an opthamologist, Ben.

An act of violence brings them all to the table to figure out who they all are really and how best their lives should continue.
A touching, moving, serious and funny 24 hours in one family's life.

What I Liked

the sarcastic humor - don't try to drink your coffee while reading this book...these characters are funny and full of one liners that catch you off guard...you can almost hear the pretend accents they use as they zing the lines at one another -  this aspect reminded me of how Robin Williams always switches voices within just one character..."Mrs. Doubtfire," specifically, kept popping in my head :p

constant references to literature, movies, plays and Broadway shows

George is a cook and owns an Italian restaurant called Ecco...so there is magnificent food, food and more food throughout this story as well...but not just thrown in any way...a variety of foods, brief snippets of their origins and history, and some preparation offered purposefully as important parts of these characters' lives.

the hard questions, the unacceptable "I don't knows."
the reminders that we don't really know ourselves as well as we think we do

Every single one of these characters is flawed in some way...but there are no apologies...they are who they are.  We never know the bad guys...as a matter of fact, they are only given about 2 seconds worth of book time and are not even described (which is as it should be).  The focus is on these characters and their families and how they make sense of the world, their places in it, things they don't understand, and how truly naive they are for thinking they are in some way in control of the events in their lives.


What I Didn't Like

Lola - I don't blame Lola for anything, so don't get me wrong here.  Lola is very much the scapegoat character...her biggest "flaw" is one that even the most progressive minded people in the world have as well. I have this picture in my head of her swooping in and out of her family with the clicking heels and long trench coat...expecting everyone around her to jump.

Overall Recommendation

I want everybody to read this.  I don't know nor do I care if everyone likes it.   Just read it.  If you walk away with even just 5 minutes worth of questions or a  re-examination of who you are based on your pre-conceived notions and stereotypes, then it's been worth it.

The Author

Richard Kramer



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Other Stops on the Tour


Tuesday, November 6th: What She Read …
Thursday, November 8th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Friday, November 9th: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, November 12th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, November 13th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, November 14th: Lectus
Monday, November 19th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, November 19th: Books, Thoughts, And a Few Adventures
Wednesday, November 21st: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, November 26th: Veronica MD
Tuesday, November 27th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, November 28th: Chaotic Compendiums
Monday, December 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, December 4th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, December 5th: Dreaming in Books
Thursday, December 6th: Shooting Stars Mag
Thursday, December 13th: Beth Fish Reads (guest post)
Friday, December 14th: Peppermint PhD
TBD: Bonjour, Cass!
TBD: Books ‘n Crannies












Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TLC Book Review - The Round House


The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Harper Collins, 2012

Format? Oversized paperback-ARC

Why?  I've always been interested in Native American culture...in our area the Choctaw Indians are still in existence and seem to live somewhat successful lives, especially in and around Neshoba County, Mississippi. 
However, a cultural disconnect and stereotypes still abound as the Mississippi Band of Choctaws still struggles to find its place within modern culture and somehow hold on to its own spirit and stories.

Cover? My copy is an ARC and is different from the final copy...my cover is the outside of an old building, with peeling paint...obviously a literal representation of the round house itself which is the center of this story more symbolically than literally.

Title? Again, while some events do happen in and around the literal round house, I think there's a much more symbolic weight to the representation of the spiritual place where modern law collides with tribal law.

What Now? Oh man, you have no idea how my brain is spinning and how much more I want to read, Erdrich's work and others.  


Golden Lines

Where is your mother? (3)

She doesn't know who the man was, Joe.
But will we find him? I asked in that same hushed voice.
We will find him, my father said. (11)

My father had become convinced that somewhere within his bench briefs, memos, summaries, and decisions lay the identity of the man whose act had nearly severed my mother's spirit from her body.  With all that we did, we were trying to coax the soul back into her.  But I could feel it tug away from us like a kite on a string.  I was afraid that string would break and she'd careen off, vanish into the dark. (45)

I don't want your kidney.  I have an aversion to ugly people. I don't want a piece of you inside of me. I'd rather get on a list. Frankly, you're kind of a disgusting woman.  I mean, I'm sorry, but you've probably heard this before. (125)

I won't get caught, he said.  I've been boning up on the law. Funny. Laugh. He nudged me with his shoe.  I know as much law as a judge.  Know any judges? (161)

On what land? Was it tribal land? fee land? white property? state? We can't prosecute if we don't know which laws apply. (197)

She was wearing my father's robe.  I checked that night to see if she was wearing his robe on purpose, and sure enough she got into bed wearing it. (245)

I was always there, said Cappy.  Every morning.  I always had your back. (291)

Even I didn't want to know what I knew.  The best thing for me to do was forget.  And then for the rest of  my life to try and not think how different things would have gone if, in the first place, I'd just followed Bugger's dream. (310)

They'd built that place to keep their people together and to ask for mercy from the Creator, since justice was so sketchily applied on earth. (315)


Summary

A terrible crime is committed against Joe's mother.  To make matters worse, because of complications between tribal law and state laws, the man who is responsible may never be punished.  With the help of his friends Cappy, Angus and Jake, Joe maneuvers between a boy's world and the adult world to help his father find and prosecute the man who attacked his mother...His father, a judge, must carefully navigate a legal system that does not honor Indian laws on the reservation and has failed time and time again through deep and twisted loopholes that go back hundreds of years to bring justice for his people.  
A story of honor, love, loyalty and survival.

What I Liked

The Indian spirit world interwoven within the story and the history of the Ojibwe.

The stories of the older generation...still honored...still listened to by the younger generation...even as they walked their daily lives in a modern white man's culture. 

Grandma Thunder, Grandma Ignatia and Mooshum - just when things would get too intense, the lives of the older generation would resurface...either with a visit from the boys or Mooshum's dreams.  What lives they led!  Some may think parts of their stories are harsh or even TMI at times, but I think the old stories have to be comprehended from the perspective of the storytellers and how they interacted with one another and survived some of the worst days their tribe had ever experienced.  These are the stories that a person could sit and listen to for hours.

Linda Wishkob - The Round House is full of tough as nails women...who somehow survive some of the worst trauma and treatment imaginable...Linda's life is one that was on track to be snuffed out early, but she believed her spirit was saved for a reason.  I do too.

Joe's parents, Bazil and Geraldine - he was her strength and then she was his.  Nuff said.

What I Didn't Like

Father Travis - creepy Catholic priest...I won't even give him the pleasure of writing about him any more.

no quotation marks...I've seen this format several times this year, but it didn't bother me as much in The Round House - I don't ever remember being confused as I read even though I did have to backtrack a couple of times to make sure who was saying what...and if anyone was really saying something or not.  

The sadness that sometimes life can't be made right again.  The loss and the pain stay with the victims forever...and change them...the greatest challenge is surviving.
What a story.

Overall Recommendation

Anyone remotely interested in Native American stories will eat this one up.  The Round House will stay with me for a while.


The Author


Louise Erdrich

Harper Collins site

Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, October 22nd: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 24th: Oh! Paper Pages
Monday, October 29th: West Metro Mommy
Thursday, November 1st: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Tuesday, November 6th: Conceptual Reception
Wednesday, November 7th: Sweet Tidbits
Thursday, November 8th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, November 13th: In the Next Room
Monday, November 19th: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Monday, November 26th: Lisa’s Yarns
Tuesday, December 4th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, December 5th: Books, Thoughts and a Few Adventures
Thursday, December 6th: Veronica MD
Tuesday, December 11th: Book Chatter
Wednesday, December 12th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, December 13th: Broken Teepee
Friday, December 14th: Seaside Book Corner
Monday, December 17th: World’s Strongest Librarian

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Historical Holiday Blog Hop


Amy at Passages to the Past is hosting her first Historical Holiday Blog Hop this year :) 
I'm in Dallas and completely forgot to post this yesterday :/

Because of my tardiness I'm offering two winners 1 book each (up to $15 each) shipped directly from Amazon.com.  Your selections should be historical fiction of course and preferably something published this year or to be published in early 2013.  

All you have to do to enter is comment on this post, leaving your name, blog name and email address so I can contact you if you win.  Please also tell me your favorite historical fiction from this year and the selection you'd like if you are one of the two winners :)

That's it!:) 

Don't forget, of course, to hop around the other blogs to see what they have to offer as well!!
Happy Hopping!





Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gone Girl - E-Book Review


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Format? Ebook on my Nook


Why? Are you kidding me??  Have you seen all the reviews in Bloggieland??  I also had a Barnes&Noble gift card; how could I pass this up?

The Title? Amy's parents wrote a series of books called Amazing Amy and the title is a play on words about the different kinds of girl Amy was through all her adventures.

The Cover?  Amy's blonde blonde hair against a black backdrop...

What Now?  Gone Girl isn't a re-readable kind of book (not for me anyway)...part of its lure is the unknown that keeps sneaking up on you as you read...so I would be passing it along if it wasn't forever in the bowels of my Nook :/  

 
Golden Lines
 
**For the first time in a while, I didn't mark any Golden Lines as I was reading...I had to find these after the fact.  I'm not sure what that means yet...even though the dissertation brain disease is trying to analyze the crap out of it :/
Part of Gone Girl's pull is the unknown, so I purposely picked Golden Lines that would tease.

There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.

The street is billowing, and Nick pulls me close and smiles that smile again, and he takes a single lock of my hair between two fingers and runs them all the way to the end, tugging twice, like he's ringing a bell.

I felt giddy, felt for a moment we were all pretend people: Let's play the Missing Wife game!

"She's a planner - she doesn't, you know, wing anything.  She likes to make lists and check things off.  Get things done.  That's why this doesn't make sense - "

"That's a shitty thing to say, Nick."
"It's a shitty way to feel, Amy."

I opened it gingerly as if a head might be inside.  I found only a creamy blue envelope marked
FIRST CLUE.

In my pocket, my disposable cell phone made a mini-jackpot sound that meant I had a text:
im outside open the door

"We never went to bed angry."
"Not Wednesday night?'? Boney asked.
"Never," I lied.

I'm so much happier now that I'm dead.

Nick must be taught a lesson.  He's never been taught a lesson!  He glides through life with that charming Nicky grin, his beloved child entitlement, his fibs and shirkings, his short-comings and selfishness, and no one calls him on anything.

Something bad was about to happen.  My wife was being clever again.

"Play nice, Nick."

"Just like your dad.  We're all bitches in the end, aren't we, Nick? Dumb bitch, psycho bitch."

Go burst into tears then - the first time I'd seen her cry since she was a child.  She sat down on the floor, straight down, as if her legs gave out.  I sat down beside her and leaned my head against hers.  She finally swallowed her last sob and looked at me.  "Remember when I said, Nick, I said I'd still love you if?  I'd love  you no matter what came after the if?"
"Yes."
"Well, I still love you.  But this breaks my heart."  She let out an awful sob, a child's sob.  "Things weren't supposed to turn out this way."

Summary

Nick has a "less than ideal childhood."
Amy has a "less than ideal childhood."
Nick and Amy are married.  
Amy disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary, and Nick is blamed.
Nick is innocent...well, sortof.
You think you know the rest of the story.
But, you don't.
Not even close.


What I Liked

Humor - If I wasn't breathing heavily to recover from shock or sucking in air over the most recent language bomb, I was laughing. 

Shock Value - I have no idea how many times Flynn smacked me in the head. Literally...smacked. me. in. the. head...I don't remember being this surprised by the events of story in a very long time.

The Pull - the only thing I know to compare it watching Shark Wek...you know there will be sharp teeth, chills, biting, blood and fish guts...and even though most, if not all, SharkWeek fans would never ever want to see any of the shark action in real life, we can't take our eyes off the screen.

The format - days gone...the alternating point of view between Nick and Amy for the same timeframes after she goes missing  may very possibly be genius.  It adds that "oooh, I can't believe she said that...now let's see what he'll come up with in response to the same scenario" feel to Nick and Amy's story...also how Flynn delivers some of her punch...different people remember events in their own creative ways sometimes.

Go (Margo) - Nick's twin sister - seriously, the only character in this story that I actually liked...the only one with any sense...funny and a mouth like a sailor

Betsy Bolt - Tanner's wife...the way she hit Nick in the face with jellybeans - Betsy made me snort!

 
What I Didn't Like

Amy, Nick, Rand and Marybeth (Amy's parents), Boney and Gilpin (the two cops in charge of the investigation), Tanner, and pretty much anybody else in Flynn's novel.
Good luck trying to find a character in Gone Girl that you actually like...and let me know how that works out for you.

When I finished Gone Girl, my first reaction was anger...truly...
First of all, my Nook said we had about 25 more pages to go, so I kept thinking something else would happen...but then I swished to the next page and found out it was the last page followed by 25 (pages) in Acknowledgements and excerpts from Flynn's other novels.
Rarrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
But, still, I honestly don't know if I've ever finished a novel with so much negative emotion...but not for the book itself, the author, etc.
I don't really even know yet how to wrap my mind around it.

**I started this review a couple of months ago.  In response to a very dear friend who asked me last night what I thought of the book, I decided it was time to finish this review...I still don't know how to wrap my mind completely around this book...I really don't.

Amy's quizzes -I probably disliked Amy's quizzes at least partially bc I disliked her so much...but I really disliked the quizzes...hated them, in fact.

 
Overall Recommendation

Read it if you want your chain yanked...and are not afraid of some pretty seriously crude language used by both main characters.  A few times, the language felt like being punched in the face...just not the kind of stuff I hear everyday...and I teach on a college campus.  In the Acknowlegements, Flynn warns her own kid away from reading Gone Girl until he's 24...I think maybe 30 is better.  Flynn obviously uses the language for emotional zing/shock factor and oh, it worked.

 







Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TLC Book Review - Cascade


Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara
Viking Penguin, 2012

Format? Hardback

Why? Love, love, love historical fiction...especially American historical fiction

Title?  pretty simple...the name of the town, the river and the waterfall...but does indicate twisting, swirling, fast and slow moving water...like life sometimes

Cover? the colors make me think of Dez's postcards...the head is hers with the bun and of course the Cascade waterfall...which figuratively I think is Dez's life and what goes on in her head, so it fits.

I was reminded of? The Chaperone - Cascade takes place in a different part of the country than The Chaperone, but the early timeframe of Dez's life with Asa is the same as Cora's adult, married life.  The parallels were really intriguing...I kept wondering what Cora might be doing when Dez wonders about the dust storms and the state of the nation at that time.  Cora's husband fared much better than Dez's father after the stock market crash, so it's also a look at two opposite sides of life during Roosevelt's New Deal era.

I was also reminded of the song Que Sera Sera - whatever will be, will be...the future's not ours to see, Que, Sera Sera.

What Now?  This is O'Hara's first novel...I will definitely be reading the next one :) Cascade is now in its place on the shelves of my antique secretary...a keeper for sure :)

Golden Lines

"No babies means you can leave" (35).

She told Abby how Rose - "Yes, that sweet old lady Rose, of all people" - with absolutely no self-consciousness, taught her, before she left for Chicago, how to calculate dangerous days: lying quietly with a thermometer, keeping charts (35).

Art News was reporting a turn away from Cubism, the hard times triggering a return to Realism.  Thomas Hart Benton was the man of the hour, celebrated for his scenes of everyday life rendered in a sinewy, pulsating style.  He and his followers were breathing new life into a representational style that critics were starting to call American Regionalism.  He was teaching in New York, at the Art Students League, a place Dez imagined with "everyone's there but me" despair (41).

"I want children and I want Dr. Proulx's opinion why they're not coming, damn it.  I'm entitled to that!  I'm a little sick of my friends looking at me like - The house is a disaster."  His voice rose.  "My wife's only friend the traveling Jew-man" (53).

If the worst happened, if the reservoir was built in Cascade, she would record it all, maybe in a series of panels, explore what it meant to dismantle a town, to disincorporate it, to move everybody out and say this place no longer exists.  In Europe, she had seen murals depicting the rape of Europa, the fall of Rome.  You could tell whole stories with mural panels.  In Paris, in the twelfth arrondissement, painted on the side of a courthouse, was a depiction of the French revolution, which began with early fires lit by insurrectionists and ended with Marie Antoinette's neatly guillotined head falling into a bucket (73).

 What was meant to happen would happen, she told herself (133).

The word itself - divorce - was startling, so vulgar and cheap, one she couldn't imagine applied to herself.  Someone asking, "Are you married?" And having to say, "I'm divorced" (145).

That was the thing about signs.  You could read them any way you liked (161).

And that was the saving grace of art.  As soon as you started to immerse yourself,  even slightly, you could be swept up, absorbed (180).

So many contingencies marked our destines (191).

"I'm so sorry, but life is full of tough choices between less-than-perfect alternatives" (272)

"Cry and get it out," she said.  "Then get over it, because it wasn't meant to be" (272).

Summary

Dez (Desdemona) is an artist who, in her father's wealthy days, traveled and trained in Europe with plans to take her art to NY. During the Great Depression, after her father's bankruptcy, Dez marries pharmacist, Asa, so that she and her father will have a place to live, only to find herself in a lonely traditional marriage in her hometown, Cascade, MA after her father dies only two short months later.

Asa pressures Dez for children...it's the natural order of things in a life he's grown accustomed to, and he cannot understand why Dez doesn't feel the way he does.  An old threat re-surfaces in Cascade :  the water commission pinpoints either Cascade or another neighboring small town as the site for a reservoir to provide water for Boston.  The reservoir will completely destroy the town and everything its people have ever known.  Dez's art is noticed when she begins painting a series of postcards of Cascade...the past, the present and the possible future.  Dez also meets Jacob, another trained artist who is also the son of a Jewish traveling salesman.  Jacob is selling his father's wares after his father's death.  Dez and Jacob begin spending time together painting, and Dez begins to imagine what life might be like if she wasn't trapped in her life with Asa.    Divorce isn't acceptable yet, but neither is a Jewish partner.  Dez's life becomes one big domino game of sorts.  Each decision she makes, each action she takes, begins a chain of events that she can only ride through...just like the unpredictable river.

What I Liked

A book that makes me think...and Google :) 
Spanish Flu 1918
The Great Depression
Roosevelt's New Deal politics - Emergency Banking Act
Works Progress Administration
Art history and movements
Shakespeare
Nipmuks
Dust Bowl
Shakespearean Theatre
NY newspaper business and illustrators/photographers
red auction flags for those whose houses were foreclosed by the bank
prejudice against Jews in the U.S.
early years of WWII
politics - land ownership vs the government needing the land...and taking it

I'm not an artist.  From the very beginning of the story, it is apparent that Maryanne O'Hara is or was or is in some way deeply connected to an artist or artist(s)...it's not just the art history and the way she weaves the facts into the story; it's the descriptions of the painting process...the closest I can come to describing the experience of reading these portions is watching Bob Ross paint on PBS when I was a kid...so effortless, the way he talked us through each stroke...not like a boring instruction but almost a Think Aloud if you will...even if you're not an artist, and have no experience with the mediums Dez uses, you can't help but be pulled in by O'Hara's words.

I was afraid a few times that Dez was going to become one of those half insane love lost kinda women who pine away for the rest of their lives over what they thought should have been...thank heavens that wasn't the case.  Dez isn't superwoman, by any stretch of the imagination, but she does find a way to put one foot in front of the other...even on the worst imaginable days.

The frank discussion and inclusion of women's sexuality in the narrative.  As forward as the times were becoming, I was so sad for Dez when she had to wait and wait and wait with growing despair to find out if she was pregnant.  I wanted so much to go buy her a pregnancy test!  Any woman who's ever been in that particular situation will appreciate Dez's trauma.


What I Didn't Like

Asa's indignance that Dez had married him to save her father and that she had never really loved him.  He had carried a torch for Dez a long time...I'll give him that.  But, he himself admitted that his own mother had encouraged him to quit waiting around for Dez...she was out of the country, painting...Did he really expect her to just come home and be his dutiful wife, have his babies and be content to cook and clean and socialize with the other traditional ladies in their church and community??  Pretty unrealistic expectations I thought...for a man who seems to be realistic in every other way.
I do understand, however, that at the point some women began to assert their independence and to imagine another life besides that of wife and mother, it was almost as difficult of an adjustment for the men in their lives as it was for the women themselves.  

Jacob - listen, Mister...make up your mind what you want...and take into consideration the irreparable damage you can cause when you pull others into your decision making...at first I was ok with Jacob, but then he just kindof pansied out.  I was very suspicious of his intentions as well...especially later in the story.

The ending - wow...caught me completely off guard...I was sad at first but then I realized the theme that runs through this novel is that everything happens for a reason...and that the choices we make set in motion events that can't be stopped.


Overall Recommendation

American historical fiction fans, here's one for you.  A great story of a very realistic woman, trying to balance her personal life with the professional, choosing not to have children, and making decisions that affect her life as well as those around her...but decisions that have to be made.

The Author






Other Stops on the Tour

Monday, December 3rd: Booktalk & More
Tuesday, December 4th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, December 5th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, December 6th: Book Journey
Friday, December 7th: JulzReads
Monday, December 10th: …the bookworm…
Tuesday, December 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, December 12th: Shall Write
Thursday, December 13th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Friday, December 14th: A Reader of Fictions
Monday, December 17th: Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 18th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, December 19th: I’m Booking It
Thursday, December 20th: Dreaming in Books
Wednesday, December 26th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, December 27th: Books and Movies
Wednesday, January 2nd: Lisa’s Yarns 
Thursday, January 3rd: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, January 4th: A Bookish Way of Life











Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Salon - The Exams Approacheth Edition





Ahhhh, the two weeks before exams...ahhhh, the freaked out students who've done no work all semester long and now miraculously "need" a C for scholarships, academic probation, GPA, yada, yada, yada.  And...here comes the kicker, ya'll...I'm a meanie if I don't let them make up all the work they've missed since August and give them their C or B or even A.  

Don't worry.
I'm the meanie.
I. do. not. let. them. make. up. work. they've. missed. since. August.
will
 not.

For many of my students, it's time to grow up.  It's time to realize that actions have consequences...and that the big boy and big girl world won't wait around for you if you choose to slack off.
Amen.

Since this is not an academic blog, that's all I'm gonna say about that.
Period.

I've been reading student essays and research papers this week, so my personal reading and writing was stymied this past week.  I did manage to read Erica Bauermeister's School of Essential Ingredients and The Lost Art of Mixing though and posted my review of TLAOM at 11:40 p.m. of the day it was due.  
I almost completely forgot it.  
**smacking forehead**

Oy.

My brain tends to be addled some during heavy grading periods so I've managed to pick up quite a few silly news articles this week...it's always interesting to me what my brain focuses on during times of high stress :/
Take a look at these:


Elmo puppeteer - I thought Sesame Street was safe...and this just made me sad.

Florida man chokes in roach eating contest trying to win a snake - While I would never wish for anyone to die, I just sorta feel like if you are going to eat roaches, well, I'm assuming this result would be something that you should have contemplated??  Surely somebody somewhere could've found this guy a book to read??  Yeesh.

Organic Eggs Scorecard - this made me mad.  I've been paying over a dollar more for every carton of eggs I buy bc I buy Eggland's Best.  They are on the freaking bottom of this list.  They tricked me!! I. hate. being. tricked.

Classic first lines  - cool booky stuff here...some memory joggers and some TBR teasers :)

The cast of Les Mis - my big giant whopper Les Mis keeps moving from my dresser, to the nightstand, now to my desk at home.  I cannot watch this movie until I've read this book...but you've got to love this month's Vogue spread of the cast.  

Barnes and Noble Best Books of 2012 - another list...anybody else out there like me who can't get enough of these lists :)

I haven't posted my winners yet, but will do so after church today :) I've got a little surprise too :)



Saturday, December 1, 2012

TLC Book Review - The Lost Art of MIxing


The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
Penguin, 2013

Format? oversized paperback ARC
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclosure - I received a review copy of The Lost Art of Mixing from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.  However, all opinions and comments below are my own.

Title? I believe the title is a play on words about the mixing of people and how are lives are made up of those we choose as well as those we're born with...and how sometimes the mix is even better than any of the ingredients by themselves.  The idea of mixing as an art, rather than just a haphazard grouping of people by chance, I think is perfect for Bauermeister's characters.

Cover? Tom looks in the window at one point during the story...as does Finnegan, and each sees the life inside of the restaurant.  The warmth of the wood and the feel of Italy on the cover of my ARC makes me want to read the book.

Why? I've had The School of Essential Ingredients on my TBR shelf for over a year...When the opportunity arrived to read The Lost Art of Mixing for TLC Book Tours, I jumped at the chance to read both it and its predecessor.  

What Now? I didn't like The Lost Art of Mixing as much as The School of Essential Ingredients, but I'm anxious to read Joy for Beginners.


Golden Lines

Memories turned into recipes, recipes turned into stories (57).

Lillian's love for her kitchen was the radiant gratitude of an artist for a space where imagination moves without obstacles, the small, quiet happiness of finding a home, even if the other people in it are passing through - maybe even a bit because of that (68).

Lillian knew that time was the only real solution for grief, but the loss of her mother had also taught her that unlimited lengths of time were nothing to be counted on (88).

The similarities between Charlie and Lillian were obvious --- their mutual love of food, the way they changed others' lives through the simple act of feeding them.  But where Charlie had been the warmth of sun on a beach, Lillian was more like fall, loss and bounty brought together (192).

Summary

In the follow-up to The School of Essential Ingredients, Lillian, Chloe, Isabelle, Tom, Al, Louise, and Finnegan's lives intertwine and sometimes intersect.  They don't all know each other, even those who do know each other don't always know each other well, and they certainly don't all realize how their lives affect one another.  Each is dealt cards that he/she must live with and adjust to while also living their lives as honestly and as purposefully as possible.  


What I Liked

Reconnecting with some of the characters from The School of Essential Ingredients - especially Lillian and Tom's story...their story was, for me, the one that kept me going.  

Chapters that switch points of view - I like characters and I think in a book like this where the plot is about how these characters interact with one another...or not, it's very effective to give each his/her own voice.  I even was interested in the chapters/sections on Louise and Al even though they were the least likeable characters for me.

The connections, the near misses of the characters' lives - I swear I could not help thinking about the "6 degrees of separation" game.

The theme of customs and rituals...from illness to marking a milestone birthday, numbers, etc.  While food still plays a major role in The Lost Art of Mixing, the traditions of life 



What I Didn't Like

Al and Louise - their story seemed so out of place to me...seriously, at the beginning I was afraid Al would turn out to be a weirdo...and then, once I met Louise, I realized exactly why he had issues on top of issues.  Of course, she also brought her issues to the table and WHAM, you've got a pretty impossible situation.  Given the overall positive vibe from The School of Essential Ingredients, I didn't expect this negative picture.

Louise - a seriously unlikeable character for me...I never liked her...ever...even at the end where there might possibly be a chance.

Abbey - I wanted to slap her and tell her to chill out.  Good grief...Isabelle's diagnosis was sad enough as it was without Abbey (the doctor) treating her own mother as an item on her to-do list.


Overall Recommendations

Anyone who likes to read about food, people's histories and how those histories make them who they are, including how they react with others will like this book.  The Lost Art of Mixing isn't exactly the same as The School of Essential Ingredients though, and I think it's important for readers not to expect that same "warm fuzzy feeling."


The Author





Other Stops on the TLC Book Tour

Friday, November 2nd:  Life in the Thumb
Monday, November 5th:  She is Too Fond of Books – Spotlight on Bookstores guest post
Monday, November 5th:  Savvy Verse and Wit
Tuesday, November 6th:  Stephanie’s Written World
Wednesday, November 7th:  Book Chatter
Thursday, November 8th:  Books and Movies
Friday, November 9th:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, November 12th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 13th:  girlichef
Wednesday, November 14th:  Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, November 15th:  2 Kids and Tired
Friday, November 16th:  Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, November 19th:  WV Stitcher
Tuesday, November 20th:  Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, November 21st:  Silver and Grace
Friday, November 23rd:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 26th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, November 27th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Wednesday, November 28th:  Book Dilettante
Thursday, November 29th:  Southern Girl Reads
Friday, November 30th:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Monday, December 3rd:  Just Joanna
Tuesday, December 4th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, December 5th:  HopefulLeigh
Thursday, December 6th:  Sidewalk Shoes
Friday, December 7th:  Book Addiction