Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Published May 2009 by Gale Group
Source: Bought it

Publisher's Summary:
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what it’s like to literally lose your mind...


My Thoughts:
This one's been around getting great reviews for a while but it was the urging of my friend, Mari (Bookworm With A View) that convinced me to pick it up and read it. For some reason, though, it just never seemed to make it to the top of my to-read-next list. So I put it on my TBR Challenge list to make sure I found time for it this year. Now I'm kicking myself, wondering why I didn't listen to Mari sooner!

In Alice, Genova has crafted a character that most of us can't relate to in regards to her professional life but certainly any wife or mother can relate to her. By giving Alice such a high intellect, such a demanding and respected career, and, in particular, a expertise in linguistics, Genova is able to convey so much - this disease can strike anyone; it's difficult, even for those operating at the highest levels, for people to catch the early signs; and no matter where you start, this disease will take you all the way down.

Still Alice is packed with the information about Alzheimer's disease but it rarely feels like Genova is showing off her research. Instead, again because of Alice's education and career, it feels entirely organic that she and her husband would rabidly research what Alice is facing, what her treatment options are, and the kind of support system there is available. And because we follow Alice to her doctors' visits, we're also privy to some of the hardest moments - the empirical proof that Alice is failing despite everyone's best efforts.

But it was the more personal moments that repeatedly brought tears to my eyes. When Alice literally tears her house apart looking for something...but she can't even remember what she's looking for. When she empties all of the kitchen cupboards because she thinks everything is in the wrong place, only to discover that she's walked into the wrong house. When she can't remember who one of her daughters is, even though she remembers the other two children and when she doesn't remember that the babies she is holding are her grandchildren.  By far and away the thing that got to me the most was the list of things Alice made for herself early on to gauge how far along her Alzheimer's had progressed.
Alice, answer the following questions:1. What month is it?2. Where do you live?3. Where is your office?4. When is Anna's birthday?5. How many children do you have?
Throughout the book, Genova comes back to this series of questions. Every time, Alice's answers become less and less accurate until she no longer knows the correct answers. By then, though, she doesn't know that she is wrong.

I'm about the same age as Alice and to say that this book scared me is an understatement. Twice while typing this review, I had what we often call "brain farts" when I had to stop and think about the spelling of words I've known since childhood. But now, as I'm sure I will for a while now, I find myself wondering if those were just brain farts or the insidious first signs of early onset Alzheimer's disease.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The List - A Wish Book Book List


If you're of a certain age, you remember the excitement you felt when the Sear's Christmas Wish Book, that glorious catalog toys that came out every fall, arrived at your house. My brother, sister and I would each take turns going through every page of that catalog, circling the items we just had to have for Christmas. My parents were both teachers - needless to say, we were lucky to get even one of the things we thought we absolutely had to have.

These days my wish list is likely to be vastly more practical (I asked for a new coffeemaker for our upcoming anniversary, after all). But I sure would love to have a Wish Book show up on my door step that was full of all of the books! If it did, here are some books I'd circle, some new, some old:

1. Five Days At Memorial - Sheri Fink
2. Lit - Mary Karr
3. An Exact Replica of A Figment of My Imagination - Elizabeth McCracken
4. A Summer of Hummingbirds - Christopher Benfry
5. The Golem and The Jinni - Helene Wicker
6. Burnt Shadows - Kamila Shamsie
7. Lila - Marilyn Robinson
8. The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters
9. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
10. The Custom of The Country - Edith Wharton
11. Texts From Jane Eyre - Mallory Ortberg
12. A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea - Dina Niyari

Yep, that would keep me pretty happy for a while on a deserted island!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell

Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
Published January 2009 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: my audio copy of the book was purchased at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room.

Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person ...

Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper.

My Thoughts:
First off, as you might expect with a book about a reformed mob hit man, there is a lot of violence in this book, of a very graphic and sometimes gruesome nature. To the point where I had to fast forward past a key scene in the book when I wised up to what was about to happen because there was no way I could listen to it.

Despite that, I really enjoyed this book; so very different from anything I've read before.  When it came out, this book got rave reviews from so many bloggers that I respect. But I never was quite sure I would pick it up. I even passed it up twice at the book sale. How could I have doubted Jill, Jill, or
Diane? Beat The Reaper is darkly funny, wickedly smart, and will have you rethinking some things you thought you knew. You may also never want to visit a hospital again.

Peter Brown is a man in need of constant chemical stimulation to keep going and the writing goes at the same pace. As Brown makes his way through a typical (well, right up to the point where Squillante makes an appearance and things get even more tense) day, he shares his history as Peitro Brnwna. Pietro was abandoned by his parent and raised by his grandparents who befriended the family of a mob lawyer as a way to get in with the mob so he could find the people who killed his grandparents. Turns out, killing was a thing he was good at and the mob was glad to have him...until. Brown may be living a new life now but he hasn't lost his edge and his pessimistic, sarcastic outlook on life.

I was really impressed by Bazell's knowledge for medicine, anatomy, and the inner workings of a hospital. Then I read that Bazell wrote this book during the end of medical school and the beginning of his residency. Because, apparently, that wasn't time consuming enough. By the way, he also has a degree in writing. Which explains why a writer can write so convincingly about medicine and a doctor can write so well. Now how to explain how he could write so convincingly about the mob!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Life: It Goes On - October 26

I can't believe it's the last week of October! We've had such an un-Octobery October - more rain than usual but mostly sunny and warmer than usual days. Today we had dinner on the patio in shorts and t-shirts - love it! I need a lot of days like today to store in my memory to help me get through winter.

We have such a busy week this week (see "Looking forward to:");  I'm not sure when I'll find much time to read other than during my lunches and I've hardly picked up my book all weekend. I hate to lose the reading momentum I've had lately! As I contemplate setting up a "Lisa" room and having a reading spot, I've been looking at my bookshelves and thinking how much I'd love to get to so many of those books.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll start Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. It's a long 'un so it's probably take me all of November to get through. Just now when I looked to check how to spell Ghosh's name, I found out this is the first in a trilogy. I'm kind of hating that - this better be something that works as stand alone.

Watching: Nothing new to report here other than some Husker volleyball. Hoping the Royals will bounce back tonight!

Reading: Joanne Harris' (Chocolat) Five Quarters of The Orange. There is just a Frenchness to Harris' stories that I love.

Making: Baked chicken for the coming week, lasagne for dinner today (including a broccoli version for Mini-me), more fried apples, and a pizza with a crust we bought at the French bakery which I will happily drive across town to get more of.

Peter Quill
Planning: A costume for NebraskaCon (Nebraska's ComicCon) for Mini-him. He'll be going as Peter Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy which you'd think would be fairly easy. But you'd be wrong. "It's all in the details," he tells me as he draws me into coming up with ways to create each piece of the costume. Seriously, why can't he just go as Captain America again? We have that costume and I worked my butt off for him to only wear it twice!

Grateful for: Having my family around today to celebrate my birthday early. It makes getting older not quite so bad!

Enjoying: The weather, the weather, the weather!

Feeling: Like my knee will actually be healed enough for me to dance at my nephew's wedding in a couple of weeks. I was beginning to wonder but two great days in a row have encouraged me.

Looking forward to: my birthday, our 32nd anniversary, my mom's birthday, and Miss H's move. The big move is Saturday. I have a notebook devoted to what to pack, what to buy, what to take for the moving day kit. I'm starting to get used to the idea that Miss H is moving. But, oh how I am going to miss her!

What are you looking forward to this week?

Friday, October 24, 2014

This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash

This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash
Published: reprint edition September 2014 by William Morrow Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
After their mother unexpectedly dies, twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, aren’t expecting to see their errant father, Wade, ever again. But the ex–minor league baseball player who’s been gone for years has suddenly appeared at their foster home to steal them away in the middle of the night.

Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for them, and quickly turns up unsettling information linking their father to a multimillion-dollar robbery. But Brady isn’t the only hunter on the trail. Robert Pruitt, a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated in alternating voices that are at once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a soulful story about the emotional pull of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

My Thoughts:
Not gonna lie - didn't even read the summary for this one until just now. Didn't read it when it was pitched to me because it, frankly, didn't matter what is was about. I was so impressed with Wiley Cash's debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, that it was a given I would read this one. My mom is of the same opinion - she texted me and asked to borrow it as soon as she read on this blog that I was reading it.

As he did in A Land More Kind Than Home, Cash delivers a mystery told from multiple points of view, including that of a child, filled with tension and characters that gradually reveal themselves.

Easter's and Ruby's lives have been filled with pain and difficulty. Their mother's choices have forced Easter to grow up quickly and take Ruby under her wing. After their mother's death, the girls are living in a foster home but Easter has plans to get them away before they are shipped off to live with grandparents they have never met in Alaska. Wade was definitely never a part of her plan and she is none too happy to have him back in her life, especially because he's brought serious trouble into their lives. Easter, like most kids, desperately wants a parent to love, though, and Wade just might not be as bad as she's thought.

The changing narratives made this one a bit of a slow start for me but I was soon caught up in the story. The tension Cash created made it a book I couldn't put down. I had to make sure the girls would be okay, I needed to know that the bad guys would get theirs and I wanted to figure out if Brady and Wade would do the right thing. Wiley Cash has quickly become one of my favorite authors and I'm glad to read he's currently at work on a third novel.

Baseball plays a big part in this book; Wade and Pruitt have both played minor-league ball and they are a sad note on what can become of a person when their dreams aren't reached. But it's the 1998 home run record chase between Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs that it the running background of this story. We watched went to a game at Busch Stadium between these teams and followed the battle between the two men closely so this piece of the book pulled me even more deeply into the book.

There is a clear sense of the south throughout this novel, although there is also the feeling that it could have been set in any part of the country giving it a broad appeal. The writing is sharp and there is plenty here that book clubs would find discussion worthy. I highly recommend This Dark Road To Mercy, a terrific sophomore effort.


Thanks for the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. For other opinions, check out the full tour !

Wiley Cash is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home. A native of North Carolina, he has held residency positions at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica
Published January 2013 by Penguin Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given.


My Thoughts:
I've read and enjoyed Bauermeister's previous books, The School of Essential Ingredients and Joy for Beginners so I didn't hesitate when I was offered this book for review - almost two years ago. I have no idea why I didn't pick it up sooner...just look at that cover, it calls to you to pick it up and read it.

In The Lost Art of Mixing, Bauermeister returns to Lillian's restaurant, the stories of some of the characters we met in The School of Essential Ingredients, and the food that brought them all together. Here Lillian plays something of a background role, allowing the other characters to step forward. Like her other book, The Lost Art of Mixing is less a novel and more a chronological series of short stories exploring the lives of people with a tie to Lillian and their ties to each other.

One knock on Bauermeister is that everything ties together in the end just a little too neatly but I didn't feel that way; there is more a sense that chapters in these characters lives have ended. There are open ends, relationships that end, and the looming specter of Isabelle's Alzheimer's.

It's a book about relationships, communication, and our stories - how they are written and how they can be revised. It stands to reason that, as in any book, I cared more about the stories of some characters than I did about others. While Isabelle's story was touching and often difficult to read, it was Al and Louise's story that I found most compelling. Bauermeister explores how our lives can carry on even as what we say, what we don't say and our assumptions gradually build on a foundation of anger and resentment until things finally have to change.

Nothing really awful will happen in Bauermeister's books. Some will say that's a flaw. But her readers take comfort in knowing that, even as her characters face adversity, the worst life has to offer will only happen off screen.

Monday, October 20, 2014

By A Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman

By A Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman
Published June 2004 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: I bought my audiobook copy at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Private investigator Tess Monaghan doesn't know quite what to make of her new client, Mark Rubin—a wealthy Orthodox Jew who refuses to shake her hand and doles out vitally important information in grudging dribs and drabs. The successful Baltimore furrier claims he and his beautiful wife had a flawless, happy marriage. Yet one day, without warning, Natalie gathered up their children and vanished—and the police can't do anything because all the evidence indicates she left willingly.

But the deeper Tess digs, the more she suspects that the motive behind Natalie's reckless flight lies somewhere in the gap between what Rubin will not say and what he refuses to believe. An intricate web of betrayal and vengeance is already beginning to unravel, as memory begets rage, and rage begets desperation . . . and murder. And suddenly the lives of three innocent children are dangling by the slenderest of threads.

My Thoughts:
My third Lippman book, my second Tess Monaghan. As much as I enjoyed Lippman's What The Dead Know, I was more than half tempted to give up on the Tess Monaghan series after the disappointing No Good Deeds which I thought was overly complicated.

In By A Spider's Thread, Tess's personal life plays a much smaller part in the story but there is still plenty to learn about Tess here. This one really made me want to go back and pick up the series from the beginning and find out what makes Tess Tess.

The twists and turns of By A Spider's Thread were more than enough to keep the story interesting and the reader guessing. Lippman gives enough clues to allow readers to start to figure out things on their own - and if you're really paying close attention, you might even figure it out before all is revealed. Even so, it was interesting to watch it all play out. Perhaps the best part for me was that once the big finish played out, Lippman didn't spend a ton of time closing things down, something writers all too often get bogged down with. All in all, a very satisfying listen!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Life: It Goes On - October 19

A huge thanks to Andi of Estella's Revenge and Heather of Capricious Reader for all their work pulling together another edition of Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-thon (and all of those people who organized cheerleaders, hosted hours, and donated prizes!). There were nearly 1000 readers, from all corners of the world who participated this fall - I know I commented on blogs in France, Norway, Denmark and Russia. So great that this largely solitary activity has brought so many people together!

As usual, I didn't make it the full 24 hours and was distracted a good chunk of the rest of the time. Once Miss H is all moved, I'm hoping to set up an office/reading room in her room (sshhh - don't tell her!) and I'm hoping to get much more reading done for the spring 2015 edition!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll finish up Josh Bazell's Beat The Reaper. I am really enjoying this one; really original and, boy, has it got me thinking. Film rights have been acquired with an eye toward Leonardo diCaprio as lead actor which would just be wrong. Peter Brown is a very large, Jewish man. Anyone buy Leo as that?

Watching: We have not added one new-this-season show to our rotation. So...football, baseball, Person of Interest, The Voice. You know, the usual.

Reading: According to Goodreads, I've now read 65 books this year. Barring a massive reading slump, my goal of 75 books this year should be met by the end of November. I moved Still Alice off my nightstand and The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler onto it.

Making: Egg casserole inspired by my garden harvest on Thursday, baked potato soup, homemade pizza, and fried apples today after a trip to the apple orchard.

Planning: On spending this week getting Miss H ready to move into her new digs next weekend. Happy for her. Not so much for me - this mama does not like her chicks to leave the nest even though I know that's what they're meant to do. On the plus side...reading room!

Grateful for: My kids who can be wonderfully thoughtful. Mini-him walked in this morning with Dunkin' Donuts for us and Mini-me went to spend the afternoon helping his grandparents. No matter what else my kids do with their lives, I wanted them to grow up to be good people who are happy in their lives. So far, so good!

Enjoying: The wonderful fall weather we've been having. The Big Guy and I took off for Nebraska City today (home of many apple orchards and the birthplace of Arbor Day). We picked up some of our favorite apples (which you can't get any where else), hit up a couple of wine tastings, enjoyed a picnic lunch, collected fall leaves, and checked out the Living History exhibits at Arbor Lodge (home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day). We had so much fun!

Feeling: See "Planning."

Looking forward to: Book club this week! I missed last month with a nasty cold and I can't tell you how much I miss these ladies!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's On Like Donkey Kong!


I must be excited for Dewey's this year - I actually woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. If you know me, you'll know how weird that is - I am so not a morning person. Although I am a middle-aged person and I find myself awake in bed earlier and earlier on the weekends. Must find a way to stop doing that - Z-Quil at night, maybe? But I digress. On with the reading!

Up and ready!
Today's opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I'm in the heartland of the United States, almost the true center of the country.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? This Dark Road To Mercy - I loved Wiley Cash's previous book, A Land More Kind Than Home so hopes are high for this one.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I didn't, gasp, actually pick up any snacks this time.  Although The Big Guy did pick up some Halloween candy yesterday. What were the chances that was going to last until Halloween anyway? So I guess I'm most looking forward to a couple mini Kit Kats in the late hours as a reward for staying up late.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Oh, what do you not already know between my About Me page, all the memes I've done over the years, and the fact that I spill my guts to you every Sunday? Have I ever told you how much I like my collections? Frogs, a napkin collection handed down from my mom, old books, sugar and creamer sets, witches, boxes, a bottle collection that belonged to my grandma, and lots and lots of sets of dishes. That's secretly why I have to keep decluttering my house - to make room for my collections!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I'm going to give myself permission to take at least one nap and make sure I participate more in the activities. After all, what's the point of participating in a world-wide event if you never interact with the other participants? I was, by the way, the 725th person to sign up this year!

HOUR 2 UPDATE:

Pages Read: 46
Books Read:
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 30 mins
Mini-Challenges:
1. Voted for coffee (#TeamTrollope) at Fig and Thistle's picture challenge
2. Posted a picture on Twitter of one of my bookshelves for The Book Monster's "Shelfie" challenge

HOUR 5 UPDATE:

Pages Read: 106
Books Read: 0
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 20 mins
No New Mini-Challenges
Haircuts: 1 (not even mine - had to cut Mini-him's hair for a wedding)

HOUR 8 UPDATE:

Pages Read: 179
Books Read: Finished Ann Leary's The Good House
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 45 mins
No New Mini-Challenges
Meals Eaten: 2
Needy, Distracting People In The House: 2

HOUR 9 UPDATE:

Pages Read: 240
Books Read: 1
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 45 mins
Mini Challenge: Show It Off!, hosted by Dead Book Darling, a photo of a prized signed book
Character Cheering, hosted by Love, Laughter, And A Touch of Insanity

My Late Night Buddy
HOUR 20 UPDATE:

Pages Read: 440
Books Read: 2 - just finished This Dark Road To Mercy
Hours Spent Cheerleading: 1 hr 45 mins - a cheerleading failure!
Mini-Challenge: The Pet Parade, hosted by Estella's Revenge
Meals Eaten: 3
Football Games Watched: all of one plus several others out of the corner of my eye - very distracting
Unexpected Guests: 1

That's it folks. I'm calling it a day. Oh so much less reading than I was hoping to get done...once again. I really did think I'd have two books finished before the Husker game came on but no such luck. After that, it was tough to get back in the groove. I've gotten a bit of a second wind but I have a feeling I'd walk up in a few hours asleep on the couch with a book at my feet and a major back ache. I never did find time for those naps I had planned! What fun to spend so much time talking to people on Twitter, checking out mini-challenges, and giving myself permission to read as much as I could for the past 20 hours!

End of Event Meme:

Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 19 - it was all I could do not to just take a "little" nap, i.e. fall asleep for the night on the couch

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Every year I think I need to add mysteries. Literary fiction is fine early on but later on, you need short books, graphic novels or mystery/thrillers to keep going.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No - it was great! So many people do such great work to make this event something that pulls readers together worldwide.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? As a cheerleader, I really liked the spreadsheets as a means to make sure everyone got contacted and to provide each other updates on the blogs on our list.

How many books did you read? 2

What were the names of the books you read? Which book did you enjoy most? The Good House, This Dark Road To Mercy - I really liked them both a lot.

Which did you enjoy least? n/a

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? You have to make a choice - more comments (i.e. shorter, more generic) or more personal comments directly relating to the post you are commenting on. To do the latter, you've gotta know going in, cheerleading will take a chunk of time.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'll definitely participate again and absolutely cheer. I'd like to say I'll be able to do more, but we'll have to see what life is like by then.






Friday, October 17, 2014

It's Readathon Time, It's Readathon Time!

It's time for the fall edition of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. You know what that means - I'll get very excited about the stack of books I'm going to get read on Saturday, I'll stock up on snack foods and beverages to keep me going, and I'll...fall asleep only about an hour later than I usually do. In my defense, I do stay up pretty late to begin with. But after fighting through the first couple of these and not even enjoying my last few hours of reading (plus spending all of Sunday groggy after only a few hours of sleep), I've pretty well backed off the idea that I'll make it all 24 hours.

This time, I'm also going to try to be less focused on reading (although, I know, that is what the title of the event says this is about) and more focused on community. I'll be cheerleading again and I'll try to do several of the mini-challenges. Since I know that a lot of you don't care about any of this, though, there will be only one post that I'll just update.

Here's what I'm hoping to get read:


I'm reading Ann Leary's The Good House right now for book club on Tuesday and it will be up first to get finished.

Then I'll move on to Wiley Cash's This Dark Road To Mercy which I'm reading for an upcoming TLC Book Tours stop.

Then, if by some miracle, I'm still awake and have time, I'll start From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg which is on my Classics Club list and which I was recently inspired to pick up while reading Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn
Published August 2014 by Viking Adult
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for a honest review

Publisher's Summary:
In this family history interwoven with recipes, Kathleen Flinn returns readers to the mix of food and memoir beloved by readers of her bestselling The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good explores the very beginnings of her love affair with food and its connection to home. It is the story of her midwestern childhood, its memorable home cooks, and the delicious recipes she grew up with. Flinn shares tales of her parents’ pizza parlor in San Francisco, where they sold Uncle Clarence’s popular oven-fried chicken, as well as recipes for the vats of chili made by her former army cook Grandpa Charles, fluffy Swedish pancakes from Grandma Inez, and cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts. Through these dishes, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories, and how cooking can be a form of communication.


My Thoughts:
During 2011's Fall Feasting I was introduced to Kathleen Flinn when I read Kitchen Counter Cooking School (which still lives with my cookbooks). A year later, Fall Feasting found me reading Flinn's The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. Needless to say, when the publisher offered me the chance to read Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, I didn't hesitate.

With The Sharper Your Knife, Flinn caught some grief for using food as metaphor for life. Clearly, judging from the title, Flinn didn't care. For Flinn, her whole life is about food as metaphor; it played such an important part in her life. Her grandfather wooed her grandmother with food, her father honed his cooking chops preparing meals for hundred of soldiers when he was enlisted, her grandmother kept her children alive through desperate times by means of her ability to make a meal from whatever she could find, and her own family survived lean years by surviving off the land. Like Flinn, my own family is an American Midwest family and Flinn's stories couldn't help but make me think of the way food has played a big part in our lives.

By introducing readers to so much of her family history, Flinn shows how each of them contributed a piece to make her the person she is today. She certainly has some interesting characters on her family tree and life in a family of five children is always full of stories. Although Burnt Toast is not a long book, and there are recipes included in each chapter just as which Flinn's previous books, it still feels like it could have been edited down a bit more, particularly when it came to details about the lives of Flinn's siblings. Still, in the end, much of that detail served to show the kind of people Flinn's parents were and to show why, when the worst happened, Flinn turned to food to save herself and her mother through food.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sarah's Key by Tatiana DeRosnay

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
Published October 2011 by St. Martin's Press
Source: I purchased my audiobook copy
Narrator: Polly Stone

Publisher's Summary:
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

My Thoughts:
de Rosnay here has taken a little known piece of French World War II event and crafted a story about a fictional family destroyed by it with that of a modern journalist who discovers a link between her in-laws and the Jewish family. Which is an interesting, although improbable, idea. Most people seem to love this book. I had a lot of problems with it. Not the least of which is the fact that I'm getting really tired of books that have dual story lines with one set in the past. So often one takes a back seat to the other, often the one I'm more interested in. As it did for me here.

Also it didn't seem to me that de Rosnay could decide whether or not Sarah was naive as a typical ten-year-old or amazingly perceptive; in the beginning, she only knew that secrets were being held from her yet later she seemed to have been aware of much more about what was happening in her world. And then there was the love story twist - which almost made me stop listening to the book before I got to the end. I knew, long before we reached that point, that de Rosnay was working that way (it's a given when the husband is kind of a lout that the marriage will end, isn't it?).  I just hated the idea that the whole story had been a way to bring these two people together.

The reason there are so many books with World War II as a central point is because there are so very many stories to tell. I had never heard of the Vel' d'Hiv roundup before; Tatiana de Rosnay, who is French and went to school there in the 1970's, had not been taught about it.

A race at the Veldrome d'Hiver

Memorial to those taken July 16 and 17, 1942
On July 16 and 17, 1942, French police rounded up more than 13,000 Jews, more than 4,000 of them were children. They were taken to the Veldome d'Hiver were they were kept largely without food and water and without sanitary facilities. From there, they were transported to French interment camps to be shipped to Auschwitz later for extermination. The Vel' d'Hiv roundup accounted for more than a quarter of the Jews shipped from France to Auschwitz. Of the 42,000 total who were sent there, only 811 returned. Although the Vel' d'Hiv was not the first roundup, it was the largest and the one that finally caused public outrage and increased resistance efforts.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Life: It Goes On - October 12

Happy Sunday! What a beautiful weekend we've had - temps have been cool but warm enough to be outside enjoying the sunshine, changing leaves and fall smells (I like to pretend that smell is NOT decaying plant life!).

Finally - I feel like the knee is getting back to being a useful part of my body. Everyday a little less pain, a little more functionality. It felt good enough for me to go to Junkstock yesterday and traipse up and down the hills. Lots of fun stuff there but so many people I had a hard time really getting to look at things. I did find a wonderful new pumpkin covered in book pages and got some great ideas for projects.

Happy birthday, today, to my brother! We are what some people might call Irish twins, less than a year separates us. He's a biologist by profession but a wonderful photographer as well. Check out his website - he has a great eye!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Thanks to some extra driving this week, I finished Laura Lippman's By A Spider's Thread on Friday and will start Josh Brazell's Beat The Reaper on Monday.

Watching: Football, baseball, The Voice - the usual.

Junkstock - on a farm in the middle of the city!
Reading: I finished Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good this week, Kathleen Flinn's latest as part of Fall Feasting and started Erica Bauermeister's The Lost Art of Mixing. Later this week I'll start Ann Leary's The Good House for book club.

Making: Pumpkin bars - I have finally almost used up all of the pumpkin that The Big Guy bought last winter in a mad desire to eat everything pumpkin!

Planning: On spending today getting my house put back in order. The dining room table we've been refinishing is reading to be put back together and we need to start getting things organized for Miss H's big move.

Grateful for: Great friends that make me laugh!

My newest pumpkin
Enjoying: Finding a new local (-ish) winery that makes a respectable wine and has a very nice venue with a beautiful view from the deck. Always fun to discover new places in your own backyard.

Feeling: Like I need the weekend to be about two days longer. I got a lot of play time in yesterday, which was great, but there is so much I need to get done.

Looking forward to: A clean house - I feel like things have gotten out of hand in the past few weeks while I've been a gimp. I still can't get down and scrub the floor but that's what the rest of my family is for, right?

What are you looking forward to this week? What ways have you been finding to enjoy autumn?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Brief Moment of Weightlessness by Victoria Fish

A Brief Moment of Weightlessness by Victoria Fish
Published June 2014 by Mayapple Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours

Publisher's Summary:
A Brief Moment of Weightlessness is a collection of short stories that illuminate the beauty and extraordinariness of “ordinary” lives. Each explores the human desire for connectedness and grace. The stories range from large upheavals such as how a marriage shifts when a spouse loses a limb or how a girl reconfigures her world when her father goes to jail, to smaller moments such as when a woman experiences wonder again on a visit to a nursing home with her child and their dog, or when a man finds redemption in the midst of tragedy after being bitten by his dying dog. These illuminating, heartbreaking, poignant, astute stories take on serious issues of death/dying, injury, infidelity, aftermath of war, estrangement and more, but without a sense of gloom that could overwhelm them. They often, though not always, find that glimmer of hope or opportunity, and they are told in a voice that can cut to the quick of a character or conflict, with endings that don’t always resolve neatly. These stories explore, dissect and celebrate those small moments within the larger events that make all of our lives extraordinary.


My Thoughts:
When Lisa of TLC Book To,urs asked if I would be willing to read and review this collection of short stories, she suggested that if I was short on time I only needed to read and review one story. Honestly, I was fairly certain that was what I was going to do. Well, maybe not just one story but no more than a couple. I wanted to make sure I left plenty of time this month for books that weren't scheduled review books, books I "wanted" to read.

It turned out, though, that this was a book I wanted to read.

I have had mixed feelings about short story collections. On the one hand, they are generally meant to be a collection tied together and I feel like I should read the books straight through. But I've often felt like I'd prefer to read one at a time, perhaps carry a collection in my purse for those times when you need something short to read. These stories, though, wouldn't let me do that.

Fish fills her stories with snapshots of quiets lives, lead by ordinary people dealing with both simple and complex issues. Fish keeps the focus on her characters and how they deal with loss, grief, self-doubt, war's effects, marital struggles. Her writing is quiet but assured, drawing the reader into the lives of people they feel they know. My favorite stories were those of Adam, a war veteran who appears in two stories told from very different points in his life (Green Line and The Last and Kindest Thing); Claire, a woman who discovers that her sweet and boring life isn't so bad after all (What Is The Color Blue); and Emily who struggles to keep it all together while her son battles cancer (Sanctuary Therapy).

For more thoughts about A Brief Moment of Weightlessness, check out the full tour. Thanks to Lisa of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

In addition to writing short stories, Victoria Fish is pursuing her Masters of Social Work. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Hunger Mountain, Slow Trains, Wild River Review, and Literary Mama. She lives with her husband and three boys in the hills of Vermont. A Brief Moment of Weightlessness is her first book.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
First Published 1895
Source: I bought this for my kids through the elementary school

Goodreads Summary:
During an unnamed battle, 18-year-old private Henry Fleming survives what he considers to be a lost cause by escaping into a nearby wood, deserting his battalion. He finds a group of injured men in which one of the group, the "Tattered Soldier", asks Henry, who's often referred to as "The Youth", where he's wounded. Henry, embarrassed that he's whole, wanders thru the forest. He ultimately decides that running was the best thing and that he's a small part of the army responsible for saving himself.

When he learns that his battalion had won the battle, Henry feels guilty. As a result, he returns to his battalion and is injured when a cannon operator hits him in the head because he wouldn't let go of his arm. When he returns to camp, the other soldiers believe he was harmed by a bullet grazing him in battle. The next morning he goes into battle for a 3rd time. While looking for a stream from which to attain water, he discovers from the commanding officer that his regiment has a lackluster reputation. The officer speaks casually about sacrificing Henry's regiment because they're nothing more than "mule drivers" and "mud diggers". With no regiments to spare, the general orders his men forward. In the final battle, Henry becomes one of the best fighters in his battalion as well as the flag bearer, finally proving his courage as a man.


My Thoughts:
Blah, blah classic. Blah, blah first book that portrayed war realistically. Blah, blah must read. So I did. And now I can mark that off my list. I'm not saying it wasn't well written; there were parts I really thought were brilliant. Then there were parts that I thought were just overblown wordiness.

Honestly, some of the time, I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on and I'm not sure that Crane even knew. Maybe that was the point? That in the chaos of battle, things get turned topsy-turvy and you can't tell which way you're going? I swear there was a long scene, though, where wounded soldiers were fleeing the battle scene and then troops racing into battle overtook them.

I couldn't find a good summary of this book that gave you the idea of what the story was about without giving away the whole book but I'm not sure it matters. This book is much more about what is going on in the heads of the soldiers, Henry's in particular, than in their movements. Henry vacillates between being concerned that he won't be courageous to feeling he is, indeed a courageous man; between feeling certain that he is a coward to being certain that running was the right thing to do; between feeling terror in the face of the enemy and pure, animal hatred of them. For a man who was born after the Civil War and, at the time he wrote this book, had never experienced war, Crane seems to have had a firm grasp on the inner workings of a young soldier's mind.

So I know it was a good book. But I was bored by it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lust by Diana Raab

Lust by Diana Raab
Published February 2014 by WordTech Communications
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
A passionate journey through private emotional moments, Diana Raab's LUST voices the pain of loneliness and the heart's yearning for love while transcending the depths of human desire. In her fourth book of poetry, Raab employs narrative verse that is alive, titillating, and seductive. LUST examines the emotional and physical complexity of love, helping readers navigate the risks of intimacy as we move toward the realization that every experience enriches our lives, whether we perceive it as joy, pain, or out of the ordinary. Yet for all their psychological richness, the poems simplicity and accessibility will resonate with women and men across all walks of life. LUST is a book you won't put down and won't soon forget.


My Thoughts:
Mini-me, who will shortly graduate from college with a degree in studio art and a great appreciation for modern art, doesn't understand how little I "get" about modern art. What's more, I sort of feel the same way about poetry. I often read it and feel like I'm not "getting" it. Or maybe there is no hidden meaning and I'm just overthinking it.

I felt both ways about Diana Raab's Lust. Given the title, I was certain that all of the poems must have some sexual undertone. So I was certain that if I didn't find it, I must just be missing it. But maybe there were poems in the collection that really were just abut relationships and sex and carnal desire wasn't involved. After a couple dozen poems, I stopped trying to analyze each poem and just took them for what I was getting from them. Which is how I view modern art these days.

When asked what kind of reader was the ideal reader for this collection, Raab said "VERY VARIED!! MEN AND WOMEN ... NOT RELIGIOUS ... SENSUAL .. LOVING.. SEXUALLY ACTIVE. EUROPEAN SENSIBILITIES PERHAPS." Okay, well, I certainly don't have European sensibilities (I live in the Midwest, for heavens sake!), I am religious, and I haven't considered myself "sensual" for a long time. Still, I like to think I'm open-minded so I agreed to read and review Lust. After reading How To Build A Girl, Lust felt relatively tame, certainly not "dirty."

Raab writes not just about physical lust but emotional lust as well as love, longing, and loss. There are poems of infidelity, lost love, passion, addiction, and regret. Truly the gamut of human emotions when it comes to our need, our lust, for intimacy with another.

If I were an Audible member, I could have gotten this on audio. I really wish I had been able to do that; I think hearing these emotions voiced would have added tremendously. Because, even though I enjoyed the collection, I still have a hard time powering through a book of poetry for review. It seems that poetry should be read a little at a time - like good chocolates, each bit should be rolled around on the tongue and savored.

For other opinions about Lust, please visit the other stops on this TLC Book Tour. Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

Diana Raab is an award-winning poet, memoirist, and believer in the healing power of the written word. She began crafting poems at the age of ten when her mother gave her her first Khalil Gibran journal to help her cope with her grandmother and caretaker’s suicide. A few years later she discovered the journals of diarist Anaïs Nin and learned that, like Raab, Nin began journaling as a result of loss (the loss of her father). Much of Raab’s poetry has been inspired by Anaïs Nin’s life and works.

She is the author of four poetry collections, My Muse Undresses Me (2007); Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008); The Guilt Gene (2009); and Listening to Africa (2011). Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Rattle, Boiler Room Journal, Rosebud, Litchfield Review, Tonopah Review, South Florida Arts Journal, Prairie Wolf Press, The Citron Review, Writers’ Journal, Common Ground Review, A Café in Space, The Toronto Quarterly, Snail Mail Review, New Mirage Journal, and Jet Fuel Review. She is editor of two anthologies, Writers and Their Notebooks (2010) and Writers on the Edge (2012), co-edited with James Brown. Both these collections have submissions from poets and prose writers.

Diana has two memoirs, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal (winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction and the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir), and Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey (winner of the 2011 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction). She is a regular blogger for The Huffington Post and writes a monthly column for the Santa Barbara Sentinel, “The Mindful Word.” She lives in Southern California with her husband, and has three grown children. She is currently working on her doctorate in psychology and is researching the healing power of writing and creativity.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Life: It Goes On - October 5

If I had not already resigned myself to the fact that fall has arrived, this week would have forced it on me. Monday I wore capris to work, Tuesday  I carried an umbrella, Thursday I wore a jacket and Friday I had to bust out a sweater. We even had to cover plants one night when we had a frost warning. I'm not quite ready to give up on my peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and flowering pots. The herbs will have to move inside for the ... well, you know, that nasty six-letter word that is the season that lasts entirely too long.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Sarah's Key yesterday. I know it's a much beloved book but for me it was a real disappointment. I'll start Laura Lippman's By The Spider's Thread tomorrow.

Watching: The baseball playoffs. We don't watch a lot of baseball here but when those 150 regular season games are nearly over and the games start to really count, then we get interested. Boy, are the Kansas City Royals giving fans something to cheer about this year - their first time to the playoffs since 1985 and three extra-inning games in a row. Very exciting. 1985 doesn't seem that long ago in some ways until I remember that we were still three years away from having our oldest and had only just moved to Omaha. We hadn't yet bought our first ever brand-new car or become homeowners. We still had all four of our parents and six of our grandparents. My how our lives have changed since the Royals last played when it really meant something!

Reading: I finished my 60th book of the year yesterday and started Kathleen Flinn's Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good. I was, however, an utter failure at the FrightFall read-a-thon, forgetting entirely that I was planning on devoting more time to reading during the week and had planned to read a thriller.

Making: Beef stroganoff, pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting, barbecued chicken pizza and, today, BLT's - because we've still got just-picked tomatoes to use and there's not a better way!

Planning: Not so much my plan as Miss H's - she is thinking of moving out with a couple of friends so we are starting to think about what she will take, what she will need, and, incidentally, if she can really afford it. I'm not sure she's quite ready for it and I'm finding out that I'm definitely not. But when your kids are grown adults, there are somethings we've just got to accept. Even if inside, you're not happy.

Grateful for: The Big Guy - again - for being so patient with me the past month as I've battled a cold, a stomach bug, and the knee recovery (will that ever end???). He's been so patient and has taken such good care of me!

Enjoying: Getting my fall stuff out and up. I've used so much from my yard this year that I don't even have room for my pumpkins.

Feeling: Like it's time for me to just push on through the pain that is my knee these days. BG was a wreck last night when he came home and found out I'd been up on a step stool when there was no one home but I'm tired of sitting around.  If my dad can keep going with his back sore all of the time, I can buck up and get off my butt!

Looking forward to: Many birthday celebrations this month - two nieces, a brother, a cousin, a nephew-in-law, myself, and my mom - plus BG and I will celebrate our anniversary and the 35th anniversary of the day we met!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran

How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
Published September 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.

By sixteen, she's smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She's writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?

My Thoughts:

Warning: If you are bothered by the "f" word, this is not the book for you. If you are bothered by wanton sex in a book, this is not the book for you. If the idea of a teenaged girl having sex with adult men, drinking and drugs, raunchy descriptions of sex bother you, this is not the book for you.

I like to think I'm pretty open-minded, that I understand things are sometimes in a book because that's the way life would be for these characters in these situations and the writer is just being honest. But, honestly, this was over the top for me.

I understand that Johanna is a girl raised in poverty in a tough part of England, a girl who has never fit in - overweight and oversmart. A certain amount of rough language and drinking is bound to be involved in her life. I'm just not sure Moran needed to be quite so graphic about it all. To be fair, the really raunchy part of the book isn't even that long (although there was a fair amount of sex talk and the "f" word throughout). Then, too, there is the fact (well, rumor has it that this is a fact) that the book is something of a roman a clef, so maybe Moran just felt like these things needed to be included in "her" story.

Caitlin Moran
When Johanna decides to reinvent herself, it's not necessarily to be the "bad" girl, the girl who will sleep with anyone and drinks herself into a stupor every night. But things get away from Johanna even as she thinks she has it all under control. She convinces herself that she is a good person for making other people happy even when she is doing things she doesn't enjoy or want to do. It's not a bad thing to think about - "women having their sexuality mediated through men's gaze."

Fortunately for Johanna, she is, as I mentioned, a very smart girl. Her wit, her encyclopedia memory of the mountains of books she's read, her references to pop culture all served to make me like her enough to suffer through Dolly and to hope she finds her way back. Plus, you have to cheer for a girl that wants to be a writer and who decides this is the way to pull her family out of poverty. And, who of us hasn't spent some angsty time as a teenager trying to figure out who we are and how we fit into the world. Also, a lot of the book is very, very funny. But I will definitely NOT be passing this one on to my mom.

For other thoughts about this book, check out the full TLC Book Tour.




Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Published May 2013 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: I bought this one in paperback after I couldn't get to the copy I bought for my Nook when it died. Yeah, that's annoying!

Publisher's Summary:
London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance from a mysterious benefactor, Eva d'Orsey, whom she's never met.

So begins a search that takes Grace to a long-abandoned perfume shop on Paris's Left Bank, where she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

My Thoughts:
This book was suggested by one of my book club members. I pick most of the books but since she's someone I can count on to read the book and come ready to discuss it, I knew it was worth going with despite a cover that made me wonder if it might not be a little too light.

It was not. The Perfume Collector has surprising depth. Tessaro weaves some very heavy topics into her story: the plight of orphaned children, alcoholism, gambling, infertility, infidelity and rape. Then she layers in guilt, lies, obsession, oppression, the lack of options for women in the mid-twentieth century, and Nazis. You didn't see any of that coming when you saw that cover did you?

There's a hook I saw coming well before the big reveal (and I'm certain I'm not alone in this), but Tessaro still managed to make it poignant. By that time, readers are so attached to Grace that you can't help but feel her pain. Eva? Well, now, she's a bit harder to become attached to. Eva is forced to grow up fast and lives her life in a way that hardens her. Still, I couldn't help but understand and feel that she did what she had to do even before I knew why.

Curiously, the perfume parts of the story often got to be a little much for me and I found myself skimming over them. But the hint of romance Tessaro introduced was never allowed to overshadow the real story and I appreciated that; in fact, it was used as a point of emphasis.

Sadly, I was sick the day that the Omaha Bookworms met to discuss The Perfume Collector. I would loved to have been able to talk about this one with my girls!