Thursday, December 19, 2013
Published January 2014 by Random House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other: his school uniform draped over his wooden desk chair, his sister arguing over the breakfast cereal, the click of his mother’s heels as she crosses the kitchen. But when the three of them leave home, driving into a dense summer fog, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with life as Byron understands it. While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year-old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same.
What happened and who is to blame? Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, James, and together they concoct a plan. . . .
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was one of the surprise hits of 2012, charming and intimate, and thoughtful. With Perfect Rachel Joyce again brings her readers an intimate, thoughtful story but Perfect is more sad than charming and there is a much greater sense of tension underlying the story.
Joyce moves her story back and forth in time between the story of Byron, his mother and friend James and the story of Jim, an adult with severe mental illness thrown out of the institution he has called home for most of forty years when the government shuts it down. Both stories are full of interesting characters but it was somewhat difficult to become attached to many of them because they are hiding so much throughout the book some of which is never fully revealed. That may be intentional - we never truly do know everything about the people we know. I sometimes wanted to shake Diana, Byron and James who continued to misread situations and do the wrong thing but, again, this is probably much more realistic and certainly was integral to the story line.
Joyce's writing style clearly stakes her books in the England, full of descriptions of the land and mannerisms of speech that are unique to the area. She can get a bit wordy and I sometimes had to go back and reread passages because of the phrasing but, overall, I enjoy Joyce's writing, her ability to create characters who are at once interesting and common.
Perfect is a book that will make readers think - about the secrets we keep, about trying to fit in, about hidden motivations, about mental illness. This would make a good book for book club discussions. And any book that can make me think is a winner in my book. For more opinions about Perfect, check out the full TLC Book Tour.
Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Posted by Lisa at 7:11 AM
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Yesterday I baked the first of the Christmas cookies and today made the first of the candies. Today I'll also bake the sugar cookies that we'll decorate as a family. The rest will have to wait until I get through all of the gift making. One more gift to buy and my shopping will be done although I'm bound to end up helping the kids with their shopping.
Here's What I'm:
Listening To: Peter Mayle's A Good Year which I was surprised to discover (despite the fact that the same name should have clued me in!) was the basis for the movie by the same name starring Russell Crowe which I watched earlier this year for Paris In July.
Also, I finally turned on the Christmas station on the radio and broke out the Christmas CD's at home. As much as I love the music, I get so tired of it by the time Christmas rolls around if I start listening to it too early.
Watching: We rented Life of Pi this week and have been calling our big male cat Richard Parker ever since. What a beautiful and thought provoking movie. I'm thinking I really need to get around to reading the book soon - maybe before the end of the year.
Making: I finished my secret project Friday night. Since it is something that had to be designed and then ordered, I don't know what the finished product looks like yet and it's making me a little twitchy. I got the material for fleece blankets last week but have yet to start making them.
Planning: On finishing the books about their parents for the Big Guy's siblings this week.
Grateful for: All of the help BG's been giving me with the Christmas shopping this year.
Loving: The aroma in my house right now. I'm simmering a pan of apple slices, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel. Yum!
|Photo rights - Nile Kemble|
Thinking: Christmas is going to be very different this year with my kids' crazy work schedules. Do. Not. Like. I have five days off; a couple of them have little more than 24 hours.
Looking forward to: Celebrating Mini-me's birthday tomorrow. After the scare with had this year, it's an extra special day. He and I will meet to go shopping then all five of us with have lunch together and frost Christmas cookies. It's going to be a good day!
What are you looking forward to this week?
Posted by Lisa at 1:40 PM
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Published September 1996 by Chronicle Books
Source: audiobook purchased at my local library book sale
Narrated by: Frances Mayes
Buying a villa in the spectacular Italian countryside is a wonderful fantasy -- even if 17 rooms and a garden in need of immediate loving care are included in the asking price. Frances Mayes -- gourmet cook, widely published travel writer, and poet -- changed her life by doing just that. Sprinkled liberally with delicious recipes for inspired Italian dishes, amusing anecdotes about the risks of being your own contractor, and a savvy traveler's reminiscences, Under the Tuscan Sun is Mayes's enchanting account of her love affair with Tuscany: of scouring the neighborhood for the perfect panettone and the perfect plumber; of mornings spent cultivating her garden, and afternoons spent enjoying its fruits in leisurely lunches on the terrace; of jaunts through the hill towns in search of renowned wines; and the renewal not only of a house, but also of the spirit.
First off, Under The Tuscan Sun the book is definitely not Under The Tuscan Sun the movie. It took me the better part of the first CD of this audiobook to get over that. True, the movie is no great masterpiece but it has a charm I enjoy. Plus, it's what I was expecting with the exception of a few changes they had made that annoyed the heck out of the people who read the book before they watched the movie. The truth of the matter is that no matter which order you took these two in, you were in for a shock. There was almost nothing left of the book by the time they made the movie. An American woman buys a house in a small Tuscan village that needs a tremendous amount of work. Polish workers, an owl in a storm, a man that leaves flowers every day at a shrine in the wall around her property - that's about as much as the movie and the book have in common. No ugly divorce, no Italian lover, no lesbian friend who shows up pregnant.
Instead Mayes and her husband bought the house and fixed it up over a number of years, the better part of which they spend in San Francisco where they both have jobs. Over the next few years, they will learn that things operate just a little differently in a country where three hour naps in the middle of the day are the norm, that it's still possible to celebrate a Christmas is more spiritual than commercial, and that living off the land will reap rewards that far exceed the work involved. The Mayes' loved Italy before they ever bought Bramasole; in Under The Tuscan Sun Mayes' reveals how the wine, the land, the people, the history, and the food made them fall in love with the village of Cortona.
I've become convinced, over time, that authors make the best narrators for their books. After all, who would know better just how the writer was hearing the words as he or she wrote them? Mayes certainly would as well; unfortunately, she isn't the best person to read them, at least not for me. There was something jarring about hearing a Southern voice talk about Italy I suppose and Mayes' voice is not the soothing Southern voice that can lull me into loosing track of time. Her style of reading is surprisingly hard, in fact. I seriously thought about just picking up the book and giving up on the audiobook. But I had time in the car to "read" the book; not as easy to find that time when not driving so I soldiered on and I got more used to Mayes' reading. I would, however, recommend reading her books rather than listening to them.
Posted by Lisa at 8:59 PM
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Published April 2013 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy purchased for book club
In this irresistible memoir, Anna Quindlen writes about a woman’s life, from childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, using the events of her life to illuminate ours. Considering—and celebrating—everything from marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, parenting, faith, loss, to all the stuff in our closets, and more, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen uses her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages. Quindlen talks about:
Marriage: “A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.”
Girlfriends: “Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. ”
Our bodies: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come.”
Parenting: “Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”
Candid, funny, and moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.
I cannot wait to discuss this book with the Omaha Bookworms tonight and I am so hoping that we'll get a good turnout. For us a good turnout will mean us we'll have ladies any where from their mid-thirties to sixty and I'm eager to see what ladies of different ages think about it. I am just eight years younger than Quindlen so most of what she has to say resonants with me. I'm sure that the ladies that are closer to Quindlen's age are even more likely to be able to relate to what she has to say, particularly when she writes about aging and mortality.
When she writes about parenting, Quindlen writes about not only what it's like to be a parent but how parenting has changed and how her own perceptions about her mother and grandmother have changed over time. It can't help but make readers revisit the say they felt about their mothers growing up, especially if you grew up in the time when mothers stayed home and raised their children. It didn't take reading Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake for me to appreciate all that my mom did for me, including letting me have much more freedom than I thought I had. But Quindlen did make me stop and consider what my mom gave up when she had children.
Quindlen also writes about her faith, solitude, and the stuff we all have. All of it comes off as if you were having a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee.
"Perhaps only when we've made our peace with our own shelves can we really be the kind of friends who listen, advise, but don't judge, or not too harshly."Ms. Quindlen seems to have made peace with herself. In Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, she is becoming a friend to all women, sharing what she has learned with all of us.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
I have stuffed tissue up my nose (sorry for that visual!) and plugged away on the decorating. I've done some new things this year which is always fun but makes the whole process take longer. Everything is up now but I still need to decorate the tree. Honestly, it's my least favorite job, although I think this is largely my own fault because it has to be just so and therefore takes much longer to do than it should!
Here's What I'm:
Listening To: I continue to listen to Under The Tuscan Sun and, although I'm still not enjoying the narration, I've gotten over the fact that it's not like the movie and am enjoying it for what it is.
Reading: This week I read Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake which I'll review this week and can't wait to discuss with the Bookworms this week. It's a book I would recommend to all women of a certain age. I've started Rachel Joyce's Perfect for an upcoming TLC book tour. With Christmas gifts to make, though, I'm not sure how much more reading I'll get done this year when I'm done with that one.
Making: This week I'll start making fleece blankets for the great-nieces and nephews...again. Apparently they were such a big hit last year that the kids want more. Which warms an auntie's heart but definitely means my reading time will take a hit. Also have another project to work on but it will have to stay top secret until after the holidays.
Planning: On getting started this week with Christmas baking. The kids love to help with most of it so it requires some planning to find times that work for all of us.
Grateful for: Kleenex Ultra Soft.
Loving: That Miss H has finally started college. She was not excited to start but did it for us. We are so proud of her for the effort she's putting out so far. We just want to make sure she has options in life.
Feeling: Overwhelmed - I can't believe there are only two weekends between now and Christmas!
Looking forward to: Spring. Is it bad that I'm already so over winter and we haven't even had a real snowfall yet? On the plus side, before long, the days will soon start getting longer.
How are you handling the holidays this year? Are you finding the time to get it all done or have you made changes to make your life easier this time of year?