Thursday, March 21, 2019

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
Published 1991 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: bought my copy of book club

Publisher's Summary:
In this debut novel, the García sisters—Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía—and their family must flee their home in the Dominican Republic after their father’s role in an attempt to overthrow a tyrannical dictator is discovered. They arrive in New York City in 1960 to a life far removed from their existence in the Caribbean. In the wild and wondrous and not always welcoming U.S.A., their parents try to hold on to their old ways, but the girls try find new lives: by forgetting their Spanish, by straightening their hair and wearing fringed bell bottoms. For them, it is at once liberating and excruciating to be caught between the old world and the new. How the García Girls Lost Their Accents sets the sisters free to tell their most intimate stories about how they came to be at home—and not at home—in America.

My Thoughts:
Last spring my husband and I went to hear Julia Alvarez speak and were both so impressed with her story and what she had to say about being an author. I knew it was time to read some of her work so I put this book on my book clubs list for 2019 to make sure that I did just that. I decided to start with her first novel, a book that is very much based on her own life history.

What I Liked:

  • I loved getting the story from multiple points of view - each of the girls and both of their parents get a chance to shine and let readers see where they came from and how that past affected their acclimation to a new culture. Every one of them had a very distinct voice.
  • Alvarez really brought the culture and history of the Dominican Republic alive.
  • I appreciated looking at immigration from the point of view of a family that not only came from wealth but was very familiar with the U.S. before they arrived. Still, the change was difficult as Papi was not able to pick up work in the U.S. as a doctor. And in this land built of immigrants, those whose families had been here longer were quick to try to squash the newbies. 
  • The relationships between the immediate and larger families felt very real. These sisters had each others backs but they also had their quibbles with each other and resented being lumped as "the four girls."
What Didn't Work As Well For Me:
  • I understand why Alvarez told her story in reverse chronological order but by the time I got to the end of the book, I was struggling with remembering which of the sisters had grown up to do what. I think I would have been happier with a more linear story line that allowed me to stack experiences on each other for each of the girls and the family.
  • Because of the reverse chronology, we also don't get what feels like a more traditional ending. I'm not sure I felt satisfied, then, by the ending which was actually the beginning. 
Will I read more by Alvarez? Absolutely. I know she has more to teach me about the land of her family. I'd also like to pick up some of her poetry. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Read by Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chris Chalk, Rutina Wesley
Published Published September 2017 by Scribner
Source: purchased my print copy, checked out audiobook copy from my library

Publisher's Summary:
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds. Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

My Thoughts:
My god, does Jesmyn Ward know how to rip your heart out of your chest. Ward makes readers see what it's like to live your life without hope of something better. The pain of these characters is so raw.  I needed there to be a bad guy, someone to blame for what was happening to these characters. But the bad guy here isn't a character in this book. But then, you already know that.

Parchman prisoners
It would be easy to put that label on Big Joseph. He really is a terrible person. But he's a product of his environment. It would be easy to call Leonie a terrible mother. She is. But she, too, is a product of her environment, a young woman who is desperately in love with a man whose parents will never accept her, a mother to two children she can't care more about than she cares about herself, and a sister who cannot stop grieving.

She is not alone in her grieving. Pop and Mam are grieving Given as well. They are all grieving Mam who has not yet succumbed to the cancer that is slowly killing her. But she is already gone from their lives in so many ways. And Pop is carrying a grief that none of them know about. That will come out in the stories Pop tells Jojo about his time in Parchman, the Mississippi State Penitentiary as a young man and the boy he tried to save.

I bought this book shortly after it came out but for some reason I never picked it up. When I saw I could get the audiobook, I grabbed it. I cannot recommend the audiobook highly enough. The readers are all excellent and add so much to the story. In fact, I'm not sure I would have felt the way I came to feel about Leonie were it not for Retina Wesley's reading.

Things got a little hard to follow toward the end of the book. The supernatural element that Ward had used so effectively to tell her tale really took over the book and, for me at least, things got a little muddled. It is to Ward's credit that I had been, until that point, perfectly fine with the supernatural element as it is something I often struggle with in a book. For those who don't have that problem, the ending may not bother you.

I don't know that I will be able to read this book again but I will probably keep it on my shelf. Just the sight of it while be a good reminder of this country's dark past and the way that past continues to echo through the generations.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Life: It Goes On - March 17

That image looks like some kind of joke (Sorry, folks, Nebraska is closed). Sadly, it's not. Two days last week the entire western half of the state was closed down due to a massive blizzard. Even as that was happening, rapid melting and heavy rains caused catastrophic flooding that has washed out roads, stranded entire towns and destroyed others, and resulted in significant loss of livestock. Amazingly, only two people are known to have died, so far. Where we are at is unscathed but even here, there are a number of highways leading out of town that are closed. It will take years to recover from this.

In the first column, the 2nd and 3rd pictures are of Offutt Air Force Base; in the 4th column, that is ice that has washed down the river and stranded on land; the bottom right picture is the route I take when I go to the town I grew up in, a town that is now completely isolated.

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry and am nearly down with Tara Westover's Educated. I'm hoping to finish it in the next couple of days then I'm on to Tara French's The Trespasser.

Watched: Um. Some college basketball. Bill Maher's show. The Voice. I've been home alone a lot this week and have had the t.v. off as much as possible.

Read: I'm reading this month's book club selection, How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.

Made: Ebelskivers, reubens, fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches. Nothing fancy here this week as we try to adjust to some schedule changes that are impacting meal times.

Enjoyed: Spending time with my parents this afternoon. I've hardly seen them since Christmas what with our snowy winter.

This Week I’m: 
Sandra, Elena, Sonia, and Ruth - gifts
from my sister in their temporary
home. How cute are they?!

Planning: On finishing up some painting projects, finding homes for some new things I've gotten, doing some painting in Miss H's room, and getting at least seven more bags out of my house as part of 40 Bags In 40 Days.

Thinking About: All of the Nebraskans impacted by the blizzard and the floods.

Feeling: Cranky.  I came home from work on Friday to find that my garage door wouldn't go up. Or down all of the way. Finally got a guy out this morning and spent $400 I could have found much better ways to spend.

Looking forward to: Book club on Tuesday and possible a couple of days off this week.

Question of the week: Have you ever volunteered to help after a natural disaster?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The River Swimmer by Jim Harrison

The River Swimmer by Jim Harrison
Published January 2013 by Grove/Atlantic Inc.
Source: purchased

Publisher's Summary:
The River Swimmer is Jim Harrison at his most memorable: two men, one young and one older, confronting inconvenient loves and the encroachment of urbanity on nature, written with freshness, abundant wit, and profound humanity. In “The Land of Unlikeness,” Clive—a failed artist, divorced and grappling with the vagaries of his declining years—reluctantly returns to his family’s Michigan farmhouse to visit his aging mother. The return to familiar territory triggers a jolt of renewal—of ardor for his high school sweetheart, of his relationship with his estranged daughter, and of his own lost love of painting. In “The River Swimmer,” Harrison ventures into the magical as an Upper Peninsula farm boy is irresistibly drawn to swimming as an escape, and sees otherworldly creatures in the water. Faced with the injustice and pressure of coming of age, he takes to the river and follows its siren song all the way across Lake Michigan.

My Thoughts:
Jim Harrison is one of those authors who I’ve been reading about for years but never actually reading. I mean, I own one of his physical books which sits collecting dust on my shelves and I even requested this one from Netgalley before it was released. Still I hadn’t read any of his work.

Sometimes I think we know too much about authors, we have the ability to learn things about them that may color our impression of them to such an extent that we put off reading their books. I hadn’t felt that way about Harrison until he died last year and something someone said about him at that time put me off. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. Perhaps something along the lines of “man’s man.” Which, of course (although why “of course” I cannot say), meant he wrote books for men and; therefore, not for me. Ridiculous, I know, and I’m a little embarrassed about what that says about me.

But I’m bound and determined to go back and read the books I requested on Netgalley that I never got to when I had the chance before they were published. So I bought The River Swimmer. And now I am kicking myself for not picking up Harrison’s work sooner.

To be sure, the two novellas in this book are about men and the first of the novellas, The Land of Unlikeness, is about a 60-year-old man facing a kind of crisis of identity and direction. There’s nothing in either of the novellas to which I can especially relate (other than that both stories are set in the Midwest, which may have been all it took). It didn’t matter. Harrison’s writing sucked me in and his characters intrigued me. The man can absolutely make a scene come alive. Both novellas have elements of humor, which I enjoyed; but The River Swimmer is also brutal. Both served to bring emotion to the stories.

The Land of Unlikeness is an intimate story; we are mostly living in Clive’s head as he returns to his childhood home to care for his mother and, in the process, examine what has become of his life. As he works to rebuild his relationships with his family, Clive also comes to realize that home is enough. In The River Swimmer, Harrison takes us on the journey of a 17-year-old man child as his life takes him from his tight-knit family farm on an island to Europe. There is an element of fantasy in this story and an element of the old-fashioned tall tales but it comes down to be the story of one person trying to find his place in the world.

As further incentive for you to try Harrison, specifically for those of you who have seen and loved the movie Legends of the Fall, Harrison wrote the novella on which that movie is based. I’ll definitely be finding that other Harrison book on my shelves and then I need to get my hands on Legends of the Fall!

Monday, March 11, 2019

How To Be A Bawse: A Guide To Conquering Life by Lilly Singh

How To Be A Bawse: A Guide To Conquering Life by Lill Singh
Read by Lilly Singh
Published March 2017 by Random House Publishing
Source: my audiobook copy checked out from my local library; I also have a copy I purchased for my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
Lilly Singh isn’t just a superstar. She’s Superwoman—which is also the name of her wildly popular YouTube channel. Funny, smart, and insightful, the actress and comedian covers topics ranging from relationships to career choices to everyday annoyances. It’s no wonder she’s garnered more than a billion views. But Lilly didn’t get to the top by being lucky—she had to work for it. Hard.

Now Lilly wants to share the lessons she learned while taking the world by storm, and the tools she used to do it. How to Be a Bawse is the definitive guide to conquering life. Make no mistake, there are no shortcuts to success, personal or professional. World domination requires real effort, dedication, and determination. Just consider Lilly a personal trainer for your life—with fifty rules to get you in the game, including:

• Let Go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Temptation will try to steer you away from your goals. FOMO is just a test of your priorities, a test that a bawse is ready to pass.
• Be Nice to People: Treat niceness like an item on your daily to-do list. People will go out of their way to help and support you because you make them feel good.
• Schedule Inspiration: Lack of motivation isn’t permanent or a sign of weakness. Expect it and proactively schedule time to be creative.
• Be the Dumbest: Challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. It’s a vital way to learn and improve.

Told in Lilly’s hilarious, bold voice and packed with photos and candid stories from her journey to the top, How to Be a Bawse will make you love your life and yourself—even more than you love Beyoncé. (Yes, we said it!)

WARNING: This book does not include hopeful thoughts, lucky charms, or cute quotes. That’s because success, happiness, and everything else you want in life need to be worked for, not wished for. In Lilly’s world, there are no escalators, only stairs. Get ready to climb.

My Thoughts:
I don't remember where I first heard about this book. I didn't know then, and I didn't know when I started listening to the book, who the heck Lilly Singh is and why she might have any idea how to conquer life. But the book got a lot of buzz when it came out and the audiobook was available when I needed a book that I could listen to right away. So How To Be A Bawse it was.

Guys, Lilly Singh is really funny. She is also very self-aware and extremely hard working. Even though I'd never heard of her before, she has earned a People's Choice award, two Teen Choice Awards, and ranks tenth on the Forbes list of top-earning YouTube personalities. None of that came without a lot of effort. Singh doesn't presume to suggest that she hasn't made any mistakes along the way but she has learned a lot as she worked to build up her brand.

Sure, we're not all going to reach the same levels Singh has reached. You do have to have a certain personality type to do some of what she has done. But so much of what she suggests her readers do are things we can all try, things we are all easily capable of doing.

Be Nice to People, for example. It takes very little effort to choose to be nice; which just need to remember to do it. Give a compliment, say good morning, treat everyone the same way you treat the "most important" person in a room. In If You Can Do It, You Don't Have To Say It, Singh, suggests that we stop telling people what kind of person we are and what we can do and just showing them by doing the things. Simply, right?

It would never have occurred to me that this was going to be a book I would want to read again. But there is seriously a lot here to think about and I'm glad that I have it on my Nook to pick up again to remind myself of what Singh has to say. I'm not trying to conquer the world but I'm always game to try new ways to conquer life. Whether or not that makes me a bawse, I can't say. But I might as well shoot for that, right?!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Life: It Goes On - March 10

Huzzah! I think we are going to survive winter! The moisture falling out of the sky the past couple of days has been rain (after six more inches of snow on Thursday); and, let me tell you, it's melting like crazy with temps above freezing. Today we are even getting sunshine! My kitty is loving that the sunny spots on the wood floors are actually warm this morning.

Moving on, happy birthday this week to two of my biggest supporters, my dad and my uncle! Thanks to both of them for all of the support they've shown this blog over the years and all of the reviews they've contributed. Love you both!

It's been a busy week around here. Mini-him's car is in for repairs. Instead of paying for a car rental (accident was his fault so his insurance won't cover that), he's been relying, as Blanche Dubois would say, on the kindness of others. I don't mind playing chauffeur too much as it means I get to spend a lot of time with him, which I always enjoy; but, it has taken a bite out of my evenings.

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing Thursday. If this is a book you haven't read yet, but want to read, I highly recommend the audio version. The readers were exceptional. Friday I started Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry strictly based on the fact that it appeared on a lot of 2018 "Best of" lists. I didn't even read a synopsis before I downloaded it from my library. More than an hour into it, I still don't know where Halliday's going with it.

Watched: Some Westworld, some You, and some college basketball. Other than that, not much.

Read: I finished Jim Harrison's The River Swimmer Friday but have yet to pick up another book.

Made: With all of the running around, I ate out a ridiculous amount this week. I did make some French onion soup the other night. It's so simple to make, I don't know why we don't have it more often.

Enjoyed: My first ever campaign launch. Mini-him and I drove across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to watch Bernie Sanders kick off his 2020 campaign. Correct me if I'm wrong, Mom and Dad, but I believe the first time I heard a presidential candidate speak was in 1968 when Robert Kennedy's campaign train stopped in the town. I don't remember a thing he said (I was 7 at the time), but I do have a vivid memory of the crowd and the excitement. In 1976, again before I could vote, I got to hear two presidential candidates speak, including Jimmy Carter who is the only candidate I've ever heard speak who actually won the election.

This Week I’m: 

Planning: To continue 40 Bags In 40 Days. Yesterday I worked on my dining room. I didn't get rid of much in there but did get things reorganized. There's one thing I'd love to get rid of but it was my mother-in-law's (it was her sister's and something she wanted when her sister died) and the Big Guy loves it. But, guys, it's seriously not my style. I can't imagine it will ever come out of the buffet!

Thinking About: Heading down to the Omaha Women's Day March. For some reason, at the last minute, the Omaha organizers decided not to do the march in January with everyone else in the world. Just as well, temps that day were in the teens. But I'm feeling super productive today so we shall see if I want to put a halt to accomplishing things around here.

Feeling: Like taking my own spring break from work. I'd love to have a week to work on projects, hit up some thrift and antique stores, read guilt-free, and just putz around.

Looking forward to: Seeing my mommy and daddy on Thursday. I've hardly seen them since Christmas, what with all of the snow on the weekends!

Question of the week: I have six sets of dishes, four are china. I'm seriously thinking of getting rid of my everyday dishes and using one of the sets of china for everyday. It sort of seems silly to only use them on a dozen or so times a year. Have any of you done this? If so, how long did it take for you to break enough of the china to decide it was a bad idea?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Custom of The Country by Edith Wharton

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
Originally published in 1913
Source: my copy purchased for my Nook...because I couldn't find my print copy*

A scathing yet personal examination of the exploits and follies of the modern upper class. As she unfolds the story of Undine Spragg, from New York to Europe, Wharton affords us a detailed glimpse of what might be called the interior décor of this America and its nouveau riche fringes. Through a heroine who is as vain, spoiled, and selfish as she is irresistibly fascinating, and through a most intricate and satisfying plot that follows Undine's marriages and affairs, she conveys a vision of social behavior that is both supremely informed and supremely disenchanted. - Anita Brookner

My Thoughts:
I am a little embarrassed to admit that I've been doing such a bad job with reading classics that I've sort of forgotten what it takes to read one. Patience. A time commitment. An understanding that there may not be a lot of action and there will be a lot of detail. Fortunately, because I had picked this book for my book club to read, I had to make sure I had read it.

And I'm so happy that I did because Undine Spragg turns out to be one of the great bad girls of literature. I really can't believe that her name isn't as well known as Becky Sharpe (Vanity Fair) and Scarlett O'Hara (Gone With The Wind). In fact, she may be worse than Scarlett O'Hara - Scarlett, at least, was trying to save Tara when she married again and again for money instead of love. There is nothing that Undine cares about more than Undine. As much as I disliked Becky Sharp for the better part of 700 pages, eventually I came to hope she found happiness. Undine, not so much; I never stopped disliking her.

Which just goes to show that you can dislike a character and still enjoy a book about them.

Also, that I will find pleasure in anything that Edith Wharton writes. I adore the way she skewers the privileged classes and those who aspire to join them (I do love me some snarkiness in a novel!).
"The affair was a 'scandal' and it was not in the Dagonet traditions to acknowledge the existence of scandals."
I adore her descriptions:
"...her pale soft-cheeked face, with puffy eye-lids and drooping mouth, suggested a partially melted wax figure which had run to double-chin."
 "...what Popple called society was really just like the houses it lived in: a middle of misapplied ornament over a thin steel shell of utility. The steel shell was built up in Wall Street, the social trimmings were hastily added in Fifth Avenue: and the union between them was as monstrous and factitious, as unlike the gradual homogenous growth which flowers into what other countries know as society, as that between the Blois gargoyles on Peter Van Degen's roof and the skeleton walls supporting them."
Most of all, I adore the way she sees the truth of people:
"Mabel had behaved 'beautifully.' But it is comparatively easy to behave beautifully when one is getting what one wants, and when someone else, who has not always been altogether kind, is not."
I must admit that I had my doubts about choosing Wharton for book club. But it was a success; while people acknowledged that it was slow going getting started, they got more and more wrapped up in it and found they had to find out what would happen to Undine. Undine never disappointed. And neither did Wharton.

*I have a very old copy of this book. I'm pretty sure that I've used it somewhere around the house for decorative purposes. Therein lies the problem with decorating with books!

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Read by Julia Whelan
Published February 2018 by St. Martin's Press
Source: my audiobook copy checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter north where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Cora will do anything for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. Thirteen-year-old Leni, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, has little choice but to go along, daring to hope this new land promises her family a better future.

In a wild, remote corner of Alaska, the Allbrights find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the newcomers’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own.

My Thoughts:
Confession: I have never read a Kristin Hannah book before. Not even The Nightingale, which everyone has read. Why not? I can't really recall what put me off her books; probably something that someone I respect said about her writing or one of her books. And I don't know when this happened; but somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that most stories can be told in 400 pages or less. So maybe the size of Hannah's books as contributed to my reticence.

I got some of what I was excepting from Hannah in this book - a novel that could have been edited down about 40 or 50 pages, a story in which there is only black or white, and a fair amount of emotional manipulation. And the other hand, I got what I was expecting from Hannah in this book, characters I found myself caring about and some twists to the book that took the story in directions I wasn't a good way.

Hannah makes sure we don't forget that this book is set in a time when women did not have the options and the rights we have now. In 1974, Hannah reminds us, women couldn't even get credit cards or bank accounts without a man signing for her. Which leaves very few options for a woman who finds herself needing to break away from her husband, even if she were emotionally capable of doing so, which Cora was not.

Hannah's family owns a travel lodge in Alaska so she clearly knows what she's talking about when she describes the beauty of the state, the challenges faced by those who live there, and the battle between those who preferred Alaska to remain untouched and those who wanted to make it more accessible for tourists. She sort of skates over the second of those, uses the third in a fairly predictable way, but oh my, does she do a marvelous job making readers see what draws people to settle in a place that is so harsh and inhospitable so much of the time.

I chose this book for my book club to read this year and read it now as a pre-read to make sure it was one that will work for us. There are some triggers in this book that readers should be aware of including abuse, quite a lot of violence, and murder. But I do think it will make a good book club choice, partly because of those triggers, partly because of the flaws, partly because of the setting and time period, and partly because of the characters. I'll let you know what the others think of it once they read it as well.

I would recommend the audiobook version of this book - Whelan does a fine job of reading it.

At some point, I imagine that I will read Hannah's The Nightingale so I can see what all of the buzz was about. Maybe then, I'll be able to decide if her writing works for me or not.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Life: It Goes On - March 3

Life: it goes on. And so does winter. And so does the snow. I'm starting to feel like a broken record. While I appreciate that the snow has not fallen during morning rush hour (for the most part), we've had three Saturdays in a row with snow and a fourth forecast which makes getting out and doing things on the weekend tricky. Not to mention dangerous. On the plus side, the sun is shining today and my family will be together (albeit some of them by FaceTime, for a family birthday dinner); both Miss H and Ms. S celebrated birthdays on Friday. Hope you've all found things to celebrate this week as well!

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished Lilly Singh's How To Be A Bawse (loved it!) then started Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children which I immediately gave up on when I found out it was abridged. Instead I started Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing. Wow.

Watched: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the new season of The Voice (at the end of every recent season I say I won't watch the next one but I'm like a moth to the flame), and today I've "watched" Disney's Tarzan and 10 Things I Hate About You while I get some things done around the house.

Read: Not much this week but I did start Jim Harrison's The River Swimmer and I'm enjoying Harrison's writing.

Made: Chicken chili (a definite repeat); cranberry, white chocolate scones (which is a try again recipe); and today I'm making fettuccine al Fredo and cheesecake for the birthday dinner (Miss H's choices but I think we'll all be in a rich food coma when we finish!).

Enjoyed: Book club Tuesday, lunch with friends yesterday (and I got to meet one of my friend's 6-week-old little girl!), and dinner with friends here last night.

This Week I’m: 

Planning: More painting projects and I'm pulling out some spring decor, despite the weather.

Thinking About: My sister and hoping every day finds her feeling better.

Feeling: Tired. I really have to start getting more sleep during the week. It's starting to have an effect on my weekend energy level and that's not acceptable.

Looking forward to: 40 Bags In 40 Days, which starts on Wednesday. I've actually already conquered a couple of areas and gotten rid of three bags.

Question of the week: I've been seeing a lot of deconstructed furniture on Instagram. Have any of you ever done that? I'm intrigued but a little terrified of buying something and then ruining it.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

It's that time again - time to go through all of my "saves" on Facebook and get around to reading (and sharing) the bookish posts. Because I have 72 unread saves!

First up, some links about historical fiction:

*BookBub gives us a list of 18 Fantastic New Historical Fiction Books for Book Clubs. These are no longer necessarily "new" books but there are still some excellent choices for book clubs. My club will be reading Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone, which is included on the list.

*Also from BookBub, 28 Historical Fiction Novels That Will Make You Cry. I've read 12 of the books on the list and can attest to 11 of them having made me a teary, often sobbing, mess.

*BookBub also give us 26 Ridiculously Good Historical Fiction Books, According To Readers. Many of these appear on the other lists but there are some surprises here as well, including Larry McMurtry's Dead Man's Walk.

*From Bustle comes a list of 11 Historical Romances To Pick Up Instead Of Re-Reading Pride and Prejudice. Now, I am always for a re-read of Pride and Prejudice but I'm not opposed to finding other books that will give me the same feels. I've only read a couple of these so I can't vouch for the staying power of these books, but I'm up to giving them a try.

If you're looking for other books to give you all the feels, check this out:

*Book Riot gives us a list of 8 Tragicomic Memoirs to Make You Laugh and Cry.  I've never read any of these book, but several are on my bookshelves.

And I'm finally getting around to looking at the best of 2018 lists. You know, so I can read all of the books on them that I never got around to reading last year!

*Time magazine's Best Fiction Books of 2018. I've read three of these books; two of them appeared on my 2018 best-of list. I read the third this year and I can assure you it will not be appearing on my best-of list for the year. Just goes to show there are all kinds of opinions.

*Oprah magazine's 15 Best Books of 2018: New Books We Loved This Year.  At lot of the same books here which always makes me want to read those particular books, if I haven't already.

*The New York Time's 10 Best Books of 2018 also has some duplicates but, again, some the other lists didn't include. Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday, appears on all three of the lists - how is it I never heard of this book until I looked at these lists?!

Finally, for a different kind of best-of list, here are The 2018 National Book Award Longlists. I'm pretty stoked to find An American Marriage on this list, as well as all three of those best-of lists. I read it in February last year and knew as soon as I finished it that it would be one of my faves for the year and that it would probably appear on a lot of other lists as well. Now to get to some of those other categories as well!

Monday, February 25, 2019

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
Read by David Sedaris
Published June 2008 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
“David Sedaris’s ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art,” (The Christian Science Monitor) is elevated to wilder and more entertaining heights than ever in this remarkable new book.

Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths. Culminating in a brilliant account of his venture to Tokyo in order to quit smoking, David Sedaris’s sixth essay collection is a new masterpiece of comic writing from “a writer worth treasuring” (Seattle Times).

My Thoughts: 
I have loved listening to David Sedaris on the radio for years but for some reason, I have never picked up one of his books. But Miss H and I were headed off on a road trip and I thought Sedaris would be someone we would both enjoy.

But we ended up with the Big Guy with us and only got a couple of hours of the book "read" as we drove. Much of it, while humorous, was not the laugh-out-loud funny I was expecting, the kind of the thing that would make the miles speed by. Still, I love Sedaris' stories about life, which are often as poignant as they are funny.

The other day I was driving home from work on treacherously dangerous roads. Traffic was creeping along, the kind of thing that normally ratchets my stress level up to 11(Spinal Tap reference there). But, thanks to not finishing this book on the road trip, I was listening to David Sedaris reading some of the funniest parts of this book. I was literally laughing out loud as I drove. I was fine with creeping along. I was fine with the idea that my commute was going to take longer because I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

This is Sedaris reaching middle age, looking back at how he got where he is at, coming to terms with life as he lives it now, and exploring death. This could all be pretty heavy stuff, maybe even maudlin; but Sedaris always manages to find the humor in situations. For example, when he was growing up, his parents often went away for a week, leaving their children in the (usually) capable hands of a babysitter. Except the time Mrs. Peacock came to stay with them. This is the stuff that could scar children and, in a way, I suppose it has. But listening to Sedaris talk about being required to use Mrs. Peacock's back scratcher on her as she lay on her stomach on his parents' bed is hilarious. Think of your reaction to watching a companion stumble and fall to their knees - your first reaction is to make sure that your friend is fine. Once that's confirmed, you are welcome to laugh at hilarious way your friend's arms waved about as they hit the ground. We know that Sedaris has survived all that life has thrown at him and now it's perfectly acceptable to laugh at his stories about trying to quit smoking even as he ties that into the story of his mother dying of lung cancer.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Life: It Goes On - February 24

I'm actually writing this post a day early. We are in a blizzard warning with a forecast of up to a foot of snow...and wind. Which may mean that main power stations will go down and tomorrow we could be without power. Even as I type, I've got all of our electronic devices powering up to full power, I'm powering up all the backup chargers, and I'm overheating the house so we can stay warmer a bit longer if we lose heat. If we're lucky, it will be so warm in here later this evening that we can wear shorts for a brief time (just kidding; I don't want to pay that kind of power bill!). So far, it's only raining so the snow didn't start as early as they predicted - fingers crossed, we don't get the worst of it. Have I mentioned how tired I am of winter?!

**AMENDED: We ended up getting about 9" of snow with winds up to 40 mph. Mercifully, we did not lose power and, once I knew everyone I care about was safe, it was fascinating to watch and beautiful. But no fun at all, this morning, to clear back off the driveway, sidewalks, and patio! Also, in a tiny fit of "I'll show you, winter," I took down all of my winter decor. Yep, I really showed Mother Nature!

Last Week I:

Listened To: The rest of Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone, which I was pre-reading for a future book club selection and started Lilly Singh's How To Be A Bawse. I actually own Singh's book on my Nook but I was looking for something shorter to listen to that I could get right away. I'm really enjoying it and think I'll be glad I have it in "print" to refer back to. Now to check out Singh's YouTube videos.

Watched: I finally started the most recent season of Orange Is The New Black. I think this is going to be an even tougher season to watch than previous seasons. The Big Guy and I also watched Abducted In Plain Sight, which Miss H has been begging me to watch so she could have someone to talk to about it. Have you seen it? Do you want to talk about it, too?! I had to keep reminding myself that times were different then and people were more trusting. Still!

Read: I finally finished Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country, but now until after my book club meeting was scheduled to meet (although that had to be postponed, thanks to last Tuesday's snowfall). I have forgotten out to read classic literature, apparently. I'd certainly forgotten that it takes time. Today, assuming we still have power into the evening, I'll start Jim Harrison's The River Swimmer.

Made: Chili, rice pudding, spaghetti with meatballs - stick to your ribs kinds of warm foods.

Enjoyed: One day of warm temps and sunshine - I was so productive that day! I've started some small projects around the house that I hope to finish this weekend. I've gotten a couple of things painted that I've been meaning to get to for a long time. I also got my shelves rearranged in my office, which makes me ridiculously happy.

This Week I’m: 
Planning: On finishing the pieces I painted and stripping a stool BG used when he was a kid to reach the sink. It's been many different colors over the years and I'm eager to see what's under all of those layers.

Thinking About: 40 Bags In 40 Days, which starts soon. I am so ready to combine that and what I've learned from Marie Kondo! Although, as I've been swallowed into Instagram home decor accounts, I'm seeing a lot of people buying up thrift finds that are exactly like things I've long since gotten rid of because they weren't "stylish" any more and I was tired of them. It does make me rethink getting rid of things!

Feeling: I have had a headache for the better part of the week, thanks to the weather. Needless to say, that makes me lethargic. I'm feeling like it's time to pull up my big girl panties and just push through it.

Looking forward to: Spring. Seriously, I can't even think of anything else right now.

Question of the week: See above - if you're like me, what are you most looking forward to about spring?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mama Shepp's Family Recommends - This Blessed Earth: A Year In The Life of An American Family Farm

It's been much too long since I've posted a recommendation from my family. It's certainly not that they don't read; I've got some voracious readers in my family! The other day, my uncle emailed that he'd read the book that is both the All Iowa Reads selection and the One Book One Nebraska selection for 2019, Ted Genoways' This Blessed Earth.

It's that second selection that has also created some controversy. Nebraska's been picking one book for the state to read for 15 years and an endorsement's been given by the sitting governor every time he's been asked - except for this year. So, when my uncle also passed along his review of the book, I asked if he might let me share it with you and he agreed. Here's he's review:

This Blessed Earth ~ A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm
by Ted Genoways

'Great Plains Distinguished Book Award'

Smithsonian Institution's list of 'Best History Books of 2017'
'All Iowa Reads' choice for 2019
a favorable review by the New York Times

This non-fiction book is the story of Rick Hammond, his daughter Megan and her fiance Kyle Galloway of York County, Nebraska, and their lives raising crops and cattle on their relatively small family farm.

From one harvest to the next the reader learns how farming has changed since passage of the Homestead Act, which gave American farmers 160 acres of land at no cost, requiring only that the farmer lived on the land and developed it. Since then, the gradual development of labor-saving machinery, hybridization of plants, chemicals to fertilize or to kill insects or undesirable plants, consolidation of land under fewer and fewer owners, and increasing competition from food producers elsewhere in the world the world of the family farmer has changed remarkably since this reader was growing up in a small farm town during the 1950s and 1960s.

Since the creation of the 'Great Plains Distinguished Book Award' Nebraska's Governors have routinely recognized the award winning book by issuing a proclamation. That state's current governor declined to recognize this book, telling a Lincoln Journal Star newspaper reporter that this book “..was written by a political activist. He's somebody who is out-of-touch and it was not going to be something that united Nebraska”.

From the prospective of this reader (who grew up in a farm town, attended school with farm kids but has lived his adult life in cities of 150,000 to 300,000 people) this book gave an informative, sympathetic, and true picture of the lives of folks who do their best to make a living on the land, dealing with the uncertainty of weather and commodity markets.

- Thanks, U.S.! -

Monday, February 18, 2019

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Place by Gillian Flynn
Read by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, Robertson Dean
Published May 2010 by Turtleback Books
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

My Thoughts:
I've had this book in print for several years; I bought it and Sharp Objects after being impressed with Flynn's Gone Girl. I read Sharp Objects but it wasn't until after I watched the HBO mini-series of that book that made me decide it was time to read this book. Fortunately, my library had it on audio which always makes it easier for me to find the time for a book.

Let's be honest, Dark Places could be the title of any of Gillian Flynn's books. Like her others, Dark Places is a deeply twisted story and, yes, dark, novel, filled with complex characters and no easy answers. Libby is not a likable character - truth be told, none of the characters is likable. And yet, you can't help hope that she will find what she is looking for, be able to find some healing.

The book alternates between present day, as Libby begins working with the Kill Club to try to find out what really happened twenty-five years ago, and 1985, where Flynn alternates again between Ben's and mother, Patty's, points of view leading up to the night of the murders. It's a slow build, as we meet all of the characters and move back and forth in time, but all of the build is essential to keep readers guessing. You all know by know that my track record of solving the mystery is not great and this one lands on the side of "I did not see that coming." I'm still a little unresolved about how I feel about the ending; but I was satisfied. If you read this one, I'd love to hear what you thought of it.

Because of the way Dark Places is formatted, it really calls for multiple narrators and this cast of readers did not disappoint. I definitely can recommend the audiobook version of this novel.

A warning - there is quite a lot of foul language and some very gruesome scenes. This one is not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life: It Goes On - February 16

I'm starting to feel like a broken record, a whiny girl who's just realizing that she lives someplace where it snows and gets cold. We haven't even had a blizzard this year, or even a major snowfall. But, seriously, I can't tell you how much I hope that ground hog was right and we'll magically wake up, one day soon, and find that winter is over early. We don't. Winter, of course, will always last at least six more weeks after Ground Hog's Day. Which means another month or so of dangerous commutes, worrying about family on the road (because worrying is one of my strengths), and scooping in the bitter cold. I'd plan a trip somewhere warm, but then I'd have to worry about sitting in a plane while it's being de-iced and knowing for sure that we'll likely skid off the end of the icy runway. Do you see where my brain is going, people - I NEED spring!

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames (in my review, I'll tell you why I should listen to Sedaris whenever I'm driving in the winter) and I restarted Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone (her descriptions of winter in Alaska are making me realize, even more, how whiny I'm being), which my book club will be reading later this spring.

Watched: Agatha and The Truth of Murder on Netflix in which the filmmakers imagine that Ms. Christie's 1926 disappearance was the result of her attempting to solve a real murder mystery from six years earlier. It's not high art, but I did enjoy it.

Read: I finished Golden Child and started Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country, which is my book club's classic selection for this year. I always enjoy reading Wharton but you can certainly not count on a happily-ever-after ending.

Made: Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with cherry preserves and mashed potatoes for Valentine's Day dinner at home. We far prefer to eat a really nice dinner at home that day to going out.

Enjoyed: Valentine's dinner with my sweetie, watching BG teach the cat how to play poker (she was oddly fascinated when he brought a deck of cards which somehow lead to them playing poker!),  happy hour(s?) with my friend, and cocktails with book club friends on Friday evening. We got together because one of our friends who has moved to St. Louis was in town.

This Week I’m: 

Planning: Finally finishing Miss H's room! Her "new" desk is painted and in her room and her new shelves are finally hung. We've got to paint the mirror above her desk (the desk really being a vanity), rehang artwork, and finish cleaning and organizing her closet. Then it's on to my office, which has, once again, become a dumping ground. Also, I have that empty shelf I freed up a couple of weeks ago which is just begging to be filled.

Thinking About: Happily-ever-after endings. We talked about this Friday night when one of my friends mentioned that she read that people were really wanting books with happy endings during this time of political turmoil.

Feeling: Productive.

Looking forward to: Book club this week and a little thrift store shopping.

Question of the week: How about you - are you finding yourself reaching for books with happy endings more and more?

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Golden Child by Claire Adam

Golden Child by Claire Adam
Published January 2019 by SPJ* for Hogarth
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters—leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

My Thoughts:
"Hey, would you like to read this book set in a place you have an interest in and on Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint?" Why, yes, yes I would, thanks. Sometimes it doesn't take much to talk me into taking a chance on a book. This was a chance well worth taking.

If you have children, one of them has probably asked at one time or another "who's your favorite?" Of course, your answer is "I love you all the same," or something to that effect. The truth might not be so simple. There are bound to be days when you do favor one child over another. But what if you always felt that way? What if you really couldn't understand one of your children and one of them truly was the golden child? But you love them both, right?

Joy is willing to hold Peter back so that Paul will not be left alone. Clyde can see what Peter could be if he were allowed to learn at his own pace and how Peter might be able to pull himself up out of the poverty in which generations of his family have lived. They both mean well. But sometimes that's just not enough. And, sometimes, difficult choices have to be made.

There are a lot of characters in this book and not nearly enough time to delve deeply into each of them and yet I never felt like I was missing anything. Adam makes sure readers know everything they need to know about each character to understand the dynamics between them, to understand why they do what they will do. Much of that is due to the fact that she paints such a vivid picture of Trinidad, the landscape, the politics, the culture, the gap between the haves and the have-nots, the people. The island feels at once beautiful and dangerous.

Claire Adam's debut is one of those books that's going to make it difficult to pick up another book for a bit. It simply requires time to think about it, to feel it more deeply.

Thanks so much to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. As always, for other opinions, check out the full tour.
Purchase Links

Claire Adam was born and raised in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She lives with her husband and two children in London, England. GOLDEN CHILD is her first novel.

Connect with Claire on Twitter.

*Yes, that SJP - Sarah Jessica Parker!

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Woman In The Window by A. J. Finn

The Woman In The Window by A. J. Finn
Read by Ann Marie Lee
Published January 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: my audiobook copy checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

My Thoughts:
Finn makes it clear early on that The Woman In The Window is an updated take on Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Rear Window: a character stuck in a confined space spies on the neighbors, often using a camera to get even more intimate, witnesses a crime but can't make the police believe it happened. I was so in, right from the start. And then things started to resemble a different work and Finn started to lose me. Like Paula Hawkins' The Girl On The Train, we have an unreliable narrator who drinks too much, has a mystery in her background, sees something no one believes she's seen - and that's not the end of the similarities. I began to wonder what the point of listening on was. And then Finn pulled a Gillian Flynn Gone Girl and dropped a big reveal well before the book was done. One that I had figured out really early on in the book. C'mon Finn, give me something that I can get invested in.

Still, I sorta liked Anna, even while I wanted to slap her upside the head repeatedly (I swear, I'm not really as violent as I would appear to be from the number of times I threaten to slap a book character!). I wanted to find out what was going to happen to her and I almost began to believe the resolution Finn was steering me toward. I mean, if he was channeling Flynn, that resolution might have been the one Flynn went with. But, Finn kept reminding me that this is a book solidly based on Hitchcock movies. And still, I did not figure out where he was taking us (although in retrospect, I should have figured it out much earlier). Kudos to Finn.

And you know what? In the end, I'd have to say, despite all of that, I did enjoy this book. Who'd a thunk it? There were some interesting twists and, by god, I really wanted Anna to be ok so I had to stay to the end to watch over her.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Life: It Goes On - February 10

It's snowing. Again. I am so over winter. Over the cold. Over the bad roads. Over worrying about my family out on the bad roads. I'm annoyed that I've reached the point of winter where, when the temperatures are in the twenties, we say it is "not too bad out." When I take down the touches of red and the hearts I put out for Valentine's Day, spring is going to be creeping in around here. I'm not going to put all of the snowmen away, though; that's tempting fate even when I wait until the end of March to do it!

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished Gillian Flynn's Dark Places and I'll go back to David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames, which we started last weekend on our trip.

Real versus movie Cheney
Watched: We went to see Vice last night and were both blown away by Christian Bale's performance and by transformation makeup team did to make him look like Dick Cheney. All of the performances were great (although I did have a hard time separating Steven Carell's Donald Rumsfeld from some of Carell's zanier character's, at times). It's an eye-opener of a movie, if even a fraction of it is true (and it seems to be fairly well based on fact). Cheney comes off as a manipulative, dangerous, power-hungry man. Who also happens to be a loving family man.

Read: I raced through The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man, partly because I had to get a review written for Friday but also because it was just that much fun. I read enough of it to the hubby to convince him to pick it up next.

Made: Chicken and stuffing casserole, lobster pasta, taco salad, beef/vegetable soup - we were mixing it up this week.

Sookie likes the recliner, too!
Enjoyed: Our new recliner. The Big Guy's been begging for years for a new recliner but I really, really don't like the look of most of them. Or want to pay the price they want for the ones I have found that I like. But I liked the look of the recliners Sarah, of Sarah Joy, bought a couple of months ago and when she posted her review of the recliners last week, I ordered one. If we like it as much as she likes hers, we'll probably order a second one. Then all three of us will be able to stretch out at the same time and no more whining about who gets the comfy seat!

This Week I’m: 

Planning: On finally getting Miss H's room put back together. Although, maybe not entirely. Turns out we don't actually have any of the paint left from the top part of her walls. So all of the spackling I filled holes with will just be white spots on her walls while we figure out if we want to try to color match some more paint of just repaint the top part of her walls a different color.

Thinking About: How much I need to get done around here after spending the better part of last week's evenings doing taxes.

Feeling: Conflicted. On the one hand, I raced through Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and was all geared up to purge things from this place. On the other hand, my Instagram feed is filled with squares from people who create the most amazing places with things they've thrifted and picked. I so want to head to the thrift stores - both to drop off bags of stuff I don't need but also to look for new things I do "need!"

Looking forward to: A more relaxed week.

Question of the week: How are you all surviving winter? It seems like even the places that are normally warm are getting snow or unusually cold temperatures!

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson
Published January 2019 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
He’s back. Even older. Even funnier.

It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!

Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.

Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson that will have readers howling out-loud at the escapades and misfortunes of its beloved hundred-year-old hero Allan Karlsson and his irresistible sidekick Julius.

My Thoughts:
Ten years ago Jonas Jonasson published The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. It was his first novel and it sold ten million copies. It's one of those books that keeps showing up different places because it keeps finding new fans. And those fans weren't finished with Allan Karlsson.

A couple of years ago, that book was recommended to me and I meant to read it. But you know how that goes. But at least when the sequel was pitched to me by the ladies at TLC Book Tours, I didn't hesitate. Of course, I meant to read the first book first. But I didn't. And while it might have helped some, it absolutely is not necessary to have read the first book before reading this one. But this one will probably convince you to read the first one anyway, so maybe just read them in order.

Despite the humor of the book, Jonasson has a lot to say about politics and the political environment in which we currently find ourselves. Which brings me to a warning: Jonasson takes aim at a lot of political leaders in this book. But mostly as Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. So if you're a fan of either of those men, you might not care much for this book. On the other hand, if you're not, you're going to enjoy this book that much more.

If it were up to me to give you a summary of this book, I'd pretty much leave it off before that second sentence even finished. Because this is a book that keeps surprising you with the absurd situations that Allan and Julius find themselves in and you just need to let it be a surprise. If you read this book and tell me you see things coming before they happen, I will likely call you a liar. Jonasson takes readers to places you can't imagine Allan and Julius will find themselves as the uranium situation develops. My only little quibble with the book is that it landed a bit too softly for my tastes, although I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that you know all along that things will end well for these two old men.

I wonder how much longer Allan Karlsson can live. I feel like he just might have another book in him.

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

Purchase Links

About Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson is the author of the international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, now a major motion picture. Prior to his success as a novelist, Jonas was a journalist for the Swedish newspaper Expressen for many years, and later became a media consultant and founded a production company specializing in sporting events for Swedish television, which he sold before moving abroad to work on his first novel. He is the author of the internationally successful novels The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All. He lives on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

Find out more about Jonas at his website, and connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

One Word - 2019

I started thinking about what my One Word for 2019 would be back in December. I wondered if it was even worth bothering with – my track record on following up with my One Word is not good. But hope springs eternal, as they say, and I wanted to try again. For a long while, I considered the word “no” as my word for 2019. “No, you may not have a second donut,” “No excuses, get to the gym,” “No, I’m sorry but I don’t have time to do that thing you are asking me to do.” But no matter how hard I tried to think of it as a positive thing, “no” still felt negative. So I took to the internet. What were other people choosing? And then, without even looking at the person’s reason for choosing the word, I found someone who had chosen the word “enough” and I knew that was my word, too. 

Merriam Webster has these definitions for “enough:”
  1. occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.
  2. in or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction; fully, quite; in a tolerable degree.
  3. a sufficient number, quantity, or amount.
Oxford Dictionary also includes:
Used to indicate that one is unwilling to tolerate any more of something undesirable.

I chose the word “enough” to:
  • Remind myself at meals to stop eating when I’ve had enough, to drink enough water, to get enough sleep, to work out enough,
  • Say “no” when I’ve done enough already or have enough to do already,
  • Remind myself to make enough time for the things that are important and the people I care about, 
  • Be happy with what I have
  • Remind myself that I am enough. As Stuart Smalley used to say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” I was a joke when they did the skit on SNL all of those years ago but it really is something we all need to remember.  I really am smart enough, skilled enough, talented enough, creative enough to take on anything I choose and strong enough to bear anything that life throws at me. 

Going forward, the goal is to really work, each month, on new ways to implement this word into my life and to be mindful of it every day.