Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween
The Wicked Witch 
of the 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published September 2011 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: this is my copy bought to read with the Omaha Bookworms

Publishers Synopsis:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

My Thoughts:

 At some point in The Night Circus Morgenstern uses the word "enchanted" to describe Le Cirque des Reves. I had only just used the word "enchanting to describe this book. As in, I was utterly and completely under Morgenstern's spell almost throughout this book as she wove back and forth in time, back and forth between points of view. 
"The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl."
As much as the circus is the centerpiece of the novel and certainly a character in the book, Morgensterns human characters carried the book for me and their story arc pulled me along. That little girl, Celia, tugged at my heartstrings from beginning to end.

 I'm sure I've mentioned here before that I have a problem with magic in books and it is what kept me from reading The Night Circus despite all of the rave reviews I've read. I needn't have let it concern me. The fact that magic was so central to the book took the story into the fantasy realm far enough for me to not try to reconcile it to reality yet it I was enough concerned with what was happening to the characters to often forget that magic was even a part of the story.
"Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchon, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound."
Morganstern started The Night Circus seven years ago during NaNoWriMo. For those of you considering committing 50,000 words to paper in November, the lesson is to not give up at the end of the month - keep at that book. Tweak it, edit it, add to it, delete from it...stay with it. You never know what your vision might become.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
Published October 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: my copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours and the publisher in exchange for this review

Synopsis from the publisher:

It's been six years since Pen Calloway watched Cat and Will, her best friends from college, walk out of her life. Through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—urgently requests that the three meet at their college reunion, Pen can't refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will on a journey around the world, with Pen's five-year-old daughter and Cat's hostile husband in tow. And as Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now.

My review:

De los Santos is the author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me. I have them both; I haven't read either of them. So I can't tell you whether or not you're going to like this one because you liked those or dislike this one because you disliked one or the other of those. What I can tell you is that I liked this book...a lot. I think as much for the fact that it was a book that came into my hands at just the right time. I have not read a strictly women's fiction book for quite a while now and I was due. Plus this is a book about so many of the things I love a book to be about, friendship and family, plus de los Santos throws in a bit of mystery to make things interesting.

The characters in Falling Together felt real to me, maybe not exactly the kind of relationships I myself had/have but the kinds of relationships I imagine I would like to have had. As so many books do, this has, perhaps, a bit too much thrown in. It's not enough, for example, that Pen has a child, out of wedlock. Instead she has to have had her daughter with a man who was going through a divorce but ends up back with his wife and Pen ever after has to deal with the wife who hates her because she and Patrick had this child together. But I enjoyed de los Santos' writing enough to forgive her this and a plot that seemed to go on a little too long (again, as I so often find, a book that could have done with a bit  more editing to make it a little tighter). And I will, finally, get the other two books pulled out of where ever they are and get them read...although I may save them to read at just the right time so that I can enjoy them as much as I enjoyed this one.

To read other reviews of Falling Together, check out other reviews on the full tour. Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Salon - October 28

Hoping this is finding all of my east coast friends, followers and family members safe and ready for Hurricane Sandy. Fingers crossed that "they" are wrong and this won't be as bad as predicted.

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: Foo Fighters's 1997 release "The Colour and the Shape. Fifty-two years old and these guys can still make me want to do a little head banging. And then my neck gets sore and my head starts to hurt - getting old sucks.

Watching: Lots and lots of baseball - Miss H has fallen in love with the sport and we have watched at least some of every single playoff game and the world series. Sadly, her beloved Yankees bowed out early but it looks like her choice to win the World Series might just sweep her grandpa's even more beloved Detroit Tigers. And the rotten kid doesn't even feel a bit guilty cheering against them.

Cooking: Ebelskivers (Danish pancakes) to celebrate the birthday of one of Mama Shepp's girls on Monday and today I'm making cheesecake to celebrate Papa's and my thirtieth wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

Making: Big changes in my basement. I've been tweaking it ever since Mini-him moved home but it just wasn't working for me. So yesterday I started a major rearranging project that I'm very happy with so far. Every single thing in the basement will get reviewed to see if it's worth finding a new home for and I am being ruthless. I've even gotten The Big Guy on board which is a rarity; he hates getting rid of anything. Must be my anniversary present from him!

Grateful for: Thirty years with The Big Guy. They have not always been easy years but we have also had so much happiness together, raised three wonderful children, and grown to understand what it means to be committed to one person for the rest of your life. I can't imagine anyone else I would rather spend another thirty years with!

Happy about: Having utterly overcome my dislike, in recent years, of fall. I have absolutely enjoyed the colors, the smells, the foods, even the cooling temperatures. I know it means winter is just around the corner (which I hate!), but this year I've refused to let that ruin three months for me.

Looking forward to: A nice quiet week with time to finish up my basement project, time to read, and time to get my house put back in order. Between a vacation trip and being sick, things have kind of fallen apart around here. What are you looking forward to this week?

I'm finishing up Marisa de los Santos' Falling Together for review this week and then I don't have a single book I'm committed to reviewing on schedule for the rest of the year. So, yeah, I guess I'm looking forward to reading whatever I feel like for the rest of the year. What are you reading?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Published April 2009 by Penguin Group
Source: this one is mine

In post-World War  II Britain, Faraday, a country doctor raised by working class parents, is called in to care for an ailing maid at Hundreds Hall, an 18th-century estate where his mother once worked as a maid. While there, Faraday befriends the family of the house, Mrs. Ayers, who continues to exude the charm and grace of a period which is fast fading, daughter Caroline who has returned home to care for her brother, and son Roderick who has returned from the war wounded.

Faraday begins treating Roderick's injuries, giving him an excuse to visit Hundreds often. He is drawn to the family and a way of life he has admired all of his life. But times are changing and the family is struggling to maintain their hold on their land and their way of life. The house and the family are both fading, as are those around them. An estate nearby has even had to be sold to an American family who bring with them a brother, and maybe an opportunity for Caroline to find a husband who can help the family.

In an effort to make an impression on the American family, the Ayers' host a cocktail party for their neighbors. But when disaster strikes during the party, it is only the start of a downward spiral for the family and the house. Faraday becomes more and more entangled with the Ayers but even he has a hard time finding an explanation for what's happening that makes sense. Is the cause madness or is there something evil about the house?

In The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters has crafted a story that echoes Gothic novels without resorting to the cliches they entail, largely because she has made the cause of the problems at Hundreds Hall ambiguous. Is there an evil presence at work, a ghost or an inherent evil in the house itself? Is everything that happens the result of one person's efforts to drive a family mad? Or is it merely the stress of the struggle to adjust to a new way of life? Has hysteria overtaken the family or is there a "some dark germ, some ravenous shadow-creature, some 'little stranger' spawned from the troubled unconscious of someone connected with the house itself?"

The Little Stranger is as much a book about class structure and the advent of socialism in Britain following World War II as it is a book about a haunted house. At one point Faraday is trying to work out the issue with another doctor and he says " It's as if - well, as if something's slowly sucking the life out of the whole family." "Something is," the other doctor tells him. "It's called a Labour Government.The Ayers' problem - don't you think? - is that they can't, or won't, adapt." Faraday himself, whose parents worked themselves to death to send him to school to become something more, wrestles with with his own awe of the upper class, his desire to be a part of it.

Those who have read a number of Waters' books, and like this one, tell me it's not her best. Which makes me even more anxious to read more of her novels because I really, really liked this one a lot. Seriously, I was afraid to read parts of this book too late at night and I loved the subtle way Waters did that. Nothing in your face, no blood and gore, no "here's what you should be afraid of." It's just the way I like scary movies; the unknown is much more frightening to me than a vampire. The idea rather than the reality. In the end, I'm still not sure what happened at Hundreds Hall, leaving me still thinking about the book weeks after finishing it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pin It And Do It Update

Yeah, well, this is definitely going as expected. I really thought that even eight pins would be easy for me this month but so far I have not made one single recipe or done one single craft. Luckily, I still have a week left and I have knocked a few things off thanks to my book and Missouri boards.

1. Read Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. I loved the other two books I read by Chabon so I pinned this one as soon as I learned about it. It certainly had its good points but not the originality I was expecting.

2. Our first stop on our long anniversary weekend was the former river town of Weston, Missouri. How can a town be a former river town, you ask? This is what happens when the river changes course - not always of its own free will. The downtown is lovely - full of old houses and shops. I think the economy has had an impact (there were a number of empty buildings) but we still found plenty to enjoy. McCalley's was one of the places I had pinned to visit, a small house set up on the hill with every room filled with gift items at very reasonable prices. Shockingly, I walked out empty handed, even though all of the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas items were half price. Oh, and Weston is where the drinking our way across Missouri began - we visited the McCormick's Distillery store and sampled vodka...before lunch!

3. The next stop on our trip was the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City - specifically we went to see the Picasso exhibit they had. I'm not a big fan of modern art but the photos in the exhibit were interesting and the original building of the museum itself is worth seeing.

4. After the museum we headed down to the Power and Light District for cocktails at The Dubliner followed by dinner and cocktails at Gorden Biersch Brewery Restaurant. Oh. My. God. The food there was soooo good! If I lived in K.C. (and especially if I were 25 years younger), I'd be heading to the Power and Light District on a regular basis. Turns out our hotel was only about a five minute drive from the district, which is a good thing after all of those cocktails. Don't tell anyone, but we knocked off half a bottle of champagne when we got back to our hotel which we polished off in mimosas for breakfast. I swear, we don't normally drink like this!

5. Our next stop was Columbia, Missouri where we tried a new place for lunch, Mugs Up. Another couple of weeks and this one would have been closed for the winter as there is no indoor seating. We went with my brother and his wife and we had a round of root beer floats and chili dogs (well, except for my brother who was surprised to find that his bar-b-que sandwich was basically a sloppy joe). Tasty and inexpensive.

6. Every trip to Columbia includes a trip out to Rocheport and Les Bourgeois Vineyards. I can really only count this as a pin because we tried a new-to-us wine while sitting out on the terraces on the bluff overlooking the Missouri, LaBelle/Vignole. I think they are working to rename this one, thus the double name. It's a nice light white wine for a beautiful afternoon outdoors.

7. Because we hadn't already had enough to drink (yeah, right), we capped off the night by swinging by Tropical Liquors, another place we have been to previously, although never to this location and we actually tried new drinks. Honest to god, they give you your blended drinks in a plain white styrofoam cup, to-go in essence although open alcohol in the car is not legal in Columbia. Clearly this is not a problem for Trops because the original location is right across the street from the police station. But we had to take ours to-go because we had nephews to visit. Where we stayed until we were good to drive...honest, Mom.

Not pinned because we've done this many times and didn't try something new but I still wanted to share with you in case you're ever in Columbia, was Shakespeare's Pizza. The original location is right next to the University of Missouri campus so if you go on the weekend, go early and be prepared to wait. There are other locations which is just dandy if you're a townie but we visitors love the original location.

Now, strictly speaking, I have done seven pins. But I feel I cheated a little bit on two of them since they were placed I've been before. So my goal is still to complete three more pins in the next week. Food will definitely be involved!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books To Get In The Halloween Spirit

This week, with Halloween only a week away, the ladies at The Broke and The Bookish are asking us to give you our top ten books to get you in the Halloween spirit. I don't read many scary books so my ideas about getting you in the Halloween spirit will not have you hiding under your covers at night.

1. The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid Of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd:
For the little ones, this is a marvelous story about being brave plus you can make it interactive. All three of my kids loved it when they were little.

2. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: the classic tale of the ill-fated Ichabod Crane.

4. The Little Stronger by Sarah Waters: Is the house haunted or is someone manipulating its inhabitants?

5. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: a classic ghost story

6. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: The issue with this one is that you may go mad trying to read it before the scary house in it makes the inhabitants mad. Mini-me loved this one.

7. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman: Zombies. Graphic novel. This one series comes highly recommended by Mini-him.

8. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: Okay, I haven't actually read this one but since I'm going to soon I'm hoping it will get me in the Halloween spirit and I'm on a haunted house roll here.

9. Anything by Edgar Allan Poe - seriously, anything.

10. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: The carnival is supposed to be one of the joys of childhood but not in this tale. Scarier than monsters are the things that are supposed to be safe.

What do you read to put yourself into the Halloween spirit?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Salon - October 21

Just back from a very relaxing, very fun early anniversary celebration weekend. I wish I would have had time to get more shopping done; but while I vastly overestimated the amount of munchy food we needed in the car and the amount of reading I'd get done, I vastly underestimated that amount of time we'd spend in the car. Still, I got to spend four hours here:

Les Bourgeois Winery - Rocheport, Missouri

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - I've been wanting to read it and decided it would be a good one for The Big Guy and I to listen to on our trip this weekend.

Watching: The Missouri River valley from atop a bluff, sitting at a winery with my brother and his wife, enjoying the colors of the season and some very nice wine.

Cooking: Homemade chocolate sauce for one of Mama Shepp's boys who just had surgery and loves to have my shakes. I wasn't home to make him shakes this weekend but I'm hoping his real mom did. Also made up a breakfast pastry using crescent rolls, cream cheese, and peach freezer jam. Yum!

Making: a fleece blanket for a Christmas gift. I've made a lot of them for other people but for some reason, never for my own family.

Grateful for: The Big Guy - a weekend dedicated to just the two of us was a wonderful way to remind ourselves that after 30 years we're even more sure than we were in 1982 that this is the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with.

Happy about: Having great kids who I left home alone this weekend, fully confident that they would not take advantage of having the house to themselves. I came home to a clean kitchen and everything neat and tidy.  

Looking forward to: Dinner tomorrow night with one of our pseudo daughters to celebrate her birthday, book club on Tuesday, and plenty of reading time this week. I'm focusing on foodie books this week - right now I'm reading Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris (the 3rd in a series which started with Chocolat). What are you reading? Any big plans this week?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fairy Tale Fridays - The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Published January 1990 by Penguin Group
Source: this copy is from my personal library

I had never heard of Angela Carter until I went to the Omaha Lit Fest a couple of years ago. As you know from all of the gushing I've been doing about it ever since, the day revitalized my interest in Fairy Tales in a big way. The name Angela Carter came up again and again and I knew I was going to have to read some of her stories. In keeping with the season, I decided it was time to pick up The Bloody Chamber. 

In The Bloody Chamber, Carter adapts old European fairy tales to give them a more modern feel with a distinctly feminine twist. Hers is an original style the retains elements of the traditional style, draws from Edgar Allen Poe then turns these stories "R" rated, yet cerebral. Very bloody, very sexual - these are not stories for everyone.

Karen Jones
I generally have a problem with short story collections. I know they are meant to be read straight through, there is generally a thread running through the stories tying them together which will be lost if they are read piecemeal. Such is the case with The Bloody Chamber but, for a change, I was able to stay with the book. Oh sure, it's really short, only 123 pages. But the horror element, and the role of women in these tales is so strong, it pulls the reader from one story to the next. Some stories are even more closely tied together - two versions of the Red Riding Hood story, for example, and a number of werewolf stories.

Did Carter live up to my expectations? Well, yes. Her writing in amazing, although I'm not sure that I liked all of the stories. Heck, I'm not even sure I understood the deeper meaning of some of the stories. But I will definitely read more of Carter's work. And I'll be in good company; on the Barnes & Noble website, the editorial reviews for The Bloody Chamber were written by Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, and Joyce Carol Oates. I'll bet they all understood the meaning of the stories!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cat Thursday

Now you see why these cats, which were never supposed to come live in my house, are never going to live any place else again. Just makes you have to say "aahhhh," doesn't it?

Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where In The World Are You Reading? Cafe Style

The October theme for "Where In The World Are You Reading" is cafes or coffeeshops or teahouses or bars? or anywhere you hangout to grab a bite to eat or a drink and do some reading. 


I don't read much in cafes or coffee shops - mostly because I don't spend much time in them. I'm the person in the drive-thru lane getting that coffee or sandwich to go. One season Miss H's volleyball team practiced at a school too far from home to go home while she practiced but just close enough to a Starbucks to allow me an hour of reading. It was a fine way to fill that time but a Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks. Aroma's Coffee House, on the other hand, is a great place to grab a tasty beverage and enjoy some time with a book.

Located in Omaha's historic Old Market district, Aroma's makes great use of the inherent ambiance of being in an old building but for me the best part is sitting out front on a beautiful fall day. I must admit that as great as it is to sit and read out front, it can be a bit distracting. People watching in the Old Market is almost as entertaining as the food, shopping and music are. This weekend is the Omaha Lit Fest - if I were going to be able to go, I'd definitely be heading over to spend a bit of Saturday out front of Aroma's with one of my new books.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Salon - October 14

Despite an epic failure to get much reading done during Dewey's 24-Hour Read-A-Thon, I did stay up until the wee hours finishing a book and cheering on the other participants so I'm getting a late start on Sunday.  

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: Sarah Jarosz on Pandora. I first discovered her on Austin City Limits. Here she is performing Tom Waits' "Come On Up To The House" but she writes marvelous things herself.

Watching: "Shadowlands," the 1993 movie about the relationship between C.S. Lewis and American poet Joy Gresham starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. It's directed by Sir Richard Attenborough who is so well known for directing movies on a grand scale but this is a lovely movie on a very human scale.

Cooking: I tried a new pumpkin cake recipe to take to a dinner party last night. I'd found the cinnamon cream cheese frosting a couple of weeks ago but was disappointed with the cake recipe I tried previously. The recipe I tried last night was delicious and is definitely a keeper.

Making: A trip to the bookstore to pick up Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus., which the Omaha Bookworms are reading for October. I definitely should have picked it up before the readathon - it looks like I'll be spending a lot of today reading as well!

Grateful for: a job and a manager which allowed me to rearrange my schedule spur of the moment this week. I'm lucky to have found a place where they understand that family comes first and foremost.

Happy about: my mom coming through surgery so well on Friday.

Looking forward to: an anniversary trip The Big Guy and I are taking to celebrate our 30th anniversary. It's been several years since we've gone off on our own. We're planning on some shopping, some wonderful food, a couple of fine museums and time at one of my favorite places. I'm going to have to see if I can find an audio book for the trip that we will both enjoy.

What are you reading this week? Anything you're looking forward to coming up?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon

Woohoo! It's time for the fall edition of Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon and I'm finally ready to get reading. I'm not going to have as much time to read today as I'd hoped and this evening I've got plans with friends (I really could not think of a way to say "I'd love to see you but I've got to read" that didn't make me sound anti-social!). I'm thinking I'll be lucky to get in 12 hours of reading. But I'm going to give it my best shot and see what I can get read out of my Fall Feasting books. Yesterday I picked up Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House so that will give me a chance to break things up a bit. I really need to read The Night Circus for book club this month but have yet to pick it up. If I'm out and about today, I may get it and move it to the top of the pile.

UPDATE ONE: Well, this might just be the least amount of reading I've ever gotten done during a readathon - at least so far! I did finish The Little Stranger and have gotten a good start on Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee. But it is slow going so I turned to Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight which I've been reading as my "oops I forgot to bring my book up to bed" read and am really enjoying. Next I'm off to cheerlead for a bit.

UPDATE TWO: Yeah, well, the reading? Not so much. But I did go do about an hour and a half of cheerleading and completed one mini-challenge. I Heart Monster challenged us to get outside and take a break (which, let's be honest, is about all I've been doing, except the outside part). I went outside and harvested sage, rosemary, lavender and chives and pulled the annuals all out of their pots in the backyard. My house smells great now with all of those fresh herbs in vases waiting for me to have time to tie it up to dry! Now I've got to make a pumpkin cake and get it in the oven. Then I'm back to reading...although I'm not sure what's going to grab my fancy next.

UPDATE THREE: Goodness, we had a lovely dinner with good friends but between the getting ready and the time we spent at their house, seven hours passed. I'm back to reading - still plugging away with Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee, although, honestly, it's really not a good choice for a readathon book. In fact, nonfiction, readathons and I really don't mix well. My goal at this point, though, is to finish it, do some cheerleading and call it a night. 

Books Finished : 1
Pages Read: 287
Mini-Challenges Completed:1
Hours Cheerleading: 3 hours

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cat Thursday - Computer Cat

Our cats have been into a lot in the few weeks they've been here but they've yet to sit on my keyboard. That I know of - although the table clothe on my dining room table is often askew when I get home from work.

Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guest Review: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
Published July 2012 by Scribner

My mom sent me a text the other day and asked if I wanted a review of this book. Of course, I told her. I don't think I know this one. And then I saw the cover and realized that I have seen this book on some of your blogs but, for some reason, I must have skipped right over it. Reading my mom's review, I can see now that it was a big mistake. Here's what Mom thought of The Light Between Oceans:

Tom Sherbourne is a returning Australian WWI veteran who carries with him a lot of baggage from the war and from his childhood. On his arrival home, he is fortunate to get a job as a lighthouse keeper and because of his fine work, he is given a promotion and sent to Janus Rock on a temporary basis. (We later learn much more about his childhood and how it impacts him as a husband.)

On the boat on his way to western Australia, he prevents a fellow passenger from being raped. He thinks it is the end of the story. Keep this in mind. While he is in Point Partegeuse waiting to go to the island, he meets a young girl (Isabel) who is highly attracted to him. It is a brief encounter and he soon sets off to perform his duties. Janus Rock is 100 miles off shore; remember that this is 1916 and it takes about seven hours to reach the island by boat. No one lives on the island except the lightkeeper. A supply boat comes only every three months and the men stay only briefly as they unload the supplies. When the first boat comes, a letter from Isabel is enclosed and thus begins a sporadic correspondence. When Tom’s stint is up, he is given shore leave, he goes back to Partegeuse and marries Isabel, and they take up their solitary life on the island–Tom has proven his abilities and is given a permanent position.

 Life seems to go along well and they seem to love their life on this island. They learn to cope and to adjust and to adapt to married life. Isabel becomes pregnant and has a miscarriage which causes her great grief. Soon she has another miscarriage and later she carries a son for seven months before he is stillborn. She is devastated. (Imagine being alone during these events.)

And then one day life takes a dramatic change when a small boat washes on shore carrying a dead man and a very young live baby. Isabel convinces Tom to not report the incident much to his unrest. He finally gives in, buries the body, and Isabel who is still able to nurse the baby adores her, names her, and Lucy becomes a part of their life. It is a wonderful life for all of them until their three years are up and they go home on shore leave and learn the story of the man and the baby.

From this point on the story becomes extremely intense and the reader is torn in what should be done. Tom’s conscience becomes bothered, Isabel becomes more possessive of Lucy, and tension develops. Things come to a head after Tom and Isabel head back again for shore leave and Lucy is baptized.

To tell more would spoil the story for the reader. Suffice to say you will be conflicted in your feelings and you will come to know the characters so well that when you finish the book, you are not ready to put these people out of your mind.

This is Stedman’s first novel and she has done a superb job of writing the plot. That would have been enough to make the book one that you would not want to put down. In addition, she has a wonderful way of using descriptive words and phrases–example: The thunder became frustrated when it could not keep up with the lightning. Stedman is from Australia and she has done an excellent job of injecting native flora and fauna and describing the landscapes.

It is probably obvious that I loved this book and am eager for Stedman to write another. It would make a wonderful book club book as there is so much material for a very deep discussion.

Thanks, Mom! Mmmm, maybe we'll have to think about this one for next year's Omaha Bookworms multi-generational book.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Rewind

This week for Top Ten Tuesday, the ladies at The Broke and The Bookish are letting us pick a topic that we missed or to which we want to add a second round. Well, since this is only the second time I've done a Top Ten Tuesday, I got to choose from all of the previous topics. I've chosen to collect the Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read, in no small part as a reminder that it's time to get around to them. In no particular order, here are the books I really need to make time for:

1. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: This one has appeared in so many movies that I've loved. If the authors of the screen plays thought the book was important enough to include, it's probably something I need to read. Although, I must admit, it makes me a bit nervous.

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: When I was in junior high, I read a couple of things by Ray Bradbury and loved them. How, then, to explain me never having read his manifesto against censorship? I have no answer. Ryan, of Reading In Taiwan, reminded me in a Banned Books Week post last week, why I need to make time for this one.

3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: I've seen numerous adaptations of this one and love the story. I like Dickens, even when he challenges my patience (as he so often did as I read Bleak House).

4. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins: As much as I love books of this era, it's inconceivable that I've never read anything by Collins.

5. The Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett: Historical fiction + blogger recommendations + Mini-me's best friend's recommendation = why have I not read anything by Follett yet? 

6. Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi: This one was sitting on my nightstand for four years but somehow never managed to work its way to the top of the pile. In the meantime, I've read a lot of books about the women of Afghanistan and Iran and I'm constantly drawn to books in this region of the world; this is obviously a book that is right up my alley.

7. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: I think the title says it all. How could you not want to reading a heartbreak work of staggering genius?

8. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Alice Walker (The Color Purple) said of this novel, "There is no more important book." 


9. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton: You're all probably very aware of how much I love Wharton (lord knows I've told you often enough!), but I've never read this one. It comes highly recommended to me by JoAnn of Lakeside Musings and I trust her taste implicitly.

10. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt: I'd never heard of Byatt before I started blogging but as soon as I did, this one started being one of "the" books that is universally loved by bloggers.