Monday, March 31, 2014

Mama Shepp's Family Recommends: The Taliban Cricket Club

Back in December, The Rhodys (that is to say my aunt and uncle who live in Rhode Island) recommended Timeri Murari's The Taliban Cricket Club. Sadly, that recommendation got lost in my email. Thank goodness for Bloggiesta for allowing me to find this recommendation again.

The Rhodys call The Taliban Cricket Club "a very simple and very endearing adventure story with nice thrills and tension and lovely human interest insights." It is, they say, a "relaxing satisfying beach read" with an "Afghani feminist-type heroine." You know how much I love a book set in Afghanistan!
And guess what? I have this book! Which probably means that my mom took their recommendation to heart when she got it and then passed the book along to me.

Here's what the publisher has to say about The Taliban Cricket Club:

Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist who works for the Kabul Daily in Afghanistan. She takes care of her ill, widowed mother and her younger brother, Jahan. But then Rukhsana is summoned to appear at the infamous Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and their quiet and tenuous way of life is shattered.

There, the malevolent minister, Zorak Wahidi, announces that the Taliban has found a new way to pursue the diplomatic respect it has long been denied: cricket. On the world stage of sports, the Taliban will prove they are a fair and just society. Rukhsana and several other journalists are to report that a tournament will be held to determine who will play for Afghanistan. Anyone can put together a team. Women are forbidden to play. The winners will travel to Pakistan to train, then go on to represent Afghanistan around the world.

Rukhsana knows that this is a shameful, and deeply surreal, idea. The Taliban will never embrace a game rooted in civility, fairness, and equality, with no tolerance for violence or cheating. And no one in Afghanistan even knows how to play the game.

Except for Rukhsana.

This could be a way to get her cousins and her brother out of Afghanistan for good. But before she can organize a team, the terrifying Wahidi demands her hand in marriage. He finds her both exciting and infuriating, and wants to control her unruly, willful nature. The union would be her prison, stripping away what few freedoms she has left under Taliban rule and forcing her away from her family. Not marrying Wahidi, however, might mean her death. Her family rallies around her, willing to do anything to protect her, even if it means imprisonment or worse.

But Rukhsana realizes that Wahidi may have given her a way out, too. With the help of her loyal, beloved brother and cousins, she forms her own cricket team and sets about teaching them how to win their freedom—with a bat and a ball.

Inspired by the Taliban's actual and unprecedented promotion of cricket in 2000 in an attempt to gain acceptance in the global community, internationally bestselling author Murari weaves a riveting story of strength, hope, and soaring human triumph that proves no tyranny is ever absolute in the face of love.

Have you read this one?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Life: It Goes On - March 30

Or does it? After battling a nasty cold that settled in my lungs for the past five days, it feels like life may be going on but it's going on without me!

Today it's supposed to get up to 73 degrees - this girl is planning on letting the sun help her heal with a book in my hands. It's a good excuse to sit around and read a lot but I'm getting so far behind on household stuff. The Big Guy's been a huge help - but then he gave me this stuff so he, ya know, owes me and I had to wait on him last week. We are, quite possibly, the dullest couple in America lately!

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: Still Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Librivox has redeemed itself and the book is easy enough to listen to (although I swear there was a set template that all girls' books of this period used).

Watching: Still basketball, plus The Voice and some old movies on TCM (including The Great Race yesterday - best cake fight scene ever!).

Reading: Finishing up Paul Adam's Paganini's Ghost then it's back to The Goldfinch so I'm ready for book club this month. I only have one scheduled review book for April so this weekend I put together a kind of plan for April reading to help me get caught up on those but what will come first is any body's guess!

Making: Chocolate peanut butter cookies.

Planning: On getting caught back up with 40 Bags In 40 Days this week.

Grateful for: Albuterol and Kleenex.

Baker's Candies - the green ones are my favorites!
Loving: Baker's chocolates. The Big Guy stopped at the factory the other day and brought me home a bag for a treat.

Feeling: Frustrated. I'm really starting to sound whiny in this post, aren't I?

Thinking: It's time for a trip to the garden store. We're got to change up some things with our gardens this year and I need to get some ideas for how to make that happen.

Looking forward to: Being productive again!

Hope you've had a better week! What are you looking forward to this week?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Late, As Usual, To The Bloggiesta Party

Four days, y'all, four days I had to do Bloggiesta this spring and here it is Saturday already and I'm just getting started! I caught a cold Tuesday that has knocked me on my butt and I've done almost nothing for the past five days. At least I don't have to make up an excuse to just sit on the computer for the next day or so! With a limited amount of time to work on the blog, my goals are modest:

1. Clean up email (of course!)
2. Clean up blog reader (I'm actually in good shape already with this one so it shouldn't take long)
3. Clean up downloads file
4. Clean up picture files
5. Set up spring reading plan
6. Check out the mini-challenges to see if there's anything that will help me
7. Update Challenges Page
8. Work on tags

Thanks to April at The Steadfast Reader for the mini-challenge urging us to work on the look of our blogs, you'll notice big changes have been made. I haven't been happy with the background for a while (that's not true, I loved the background but in my heart I knew it made things look too busy), the width of the columns and total blog and I've been toying with changing the sidebars for some time. What do you think of the changes?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Published June 1992 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: downloaded to my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Her husband is two centuries away, she is related to her lover's mortal enemy, and her neighbors think she's a witch.

My Thoughts:
Sometimes I stumble across a book and pick it up because I'm drawn into it by the publisher's blurb alone. Sometimes I'll read a book because I get caught up in all of the buzz about it. And then there's Outlander which I was forced (yes, forced!) to read. I'm looking at you, Cheryl.

Clan MacKenzie Crest
I had never heard of this series until I started blogging and two things about it immediately put me off: time travel and the fact that it was part of a series that, at that time, was six novels and over 7000 pages long. I had no intention of starting something that might suck me into that much of a commitment.

But some people are persistent and when I found it was a Nook Daily Deal for only a couple of bucks, I bought it. A Goodreads readalong scheduled for February and March convinced me to read it sooner rather than later.

Soooo....yeah, after 764 pages, I'm not really sure how I feel about Outlander.

On the one hand, it turned out that the time travel thing didn't really bother me (although I think it might if I continued with the series). In fact, I enjoyed seeing how Claire juggled her modern sensibilities and medical knowledge with the knowledge that she couldn't let the truth about where she came from be known. Certainly it is a rollicking adventure, filled with intrigue, narrow escapes, very bad guys, and lots and lots of sex (frankly, well more of it than I needed to read about but which I know a lot of people really enjoy about this book!).

Clan MacKenzie tartan
What held me back, then, from thoroughly enjoying Outlander? The violence and brutality. I know, I know, it was a much different time and place. Still, three attempted rapes on the same character seemed excessive to me. And when Jaime literally beats Claire to teach her a lesson, my feminist hackles were raised, especially when she forgave him and he admitted to being turned on by it. Later he even says to her "...dinna suppose anyone's tried to hurt ye on purpose before, Sassenach." What??? He had just don't exactly that earlier! Don't even get me started on all of the brutality inflicted on Jaime. And every bit of every scene of violence is told with excoriating detail, including what it takes to try to mend the damage. It began to feel more than a little gratuitous to me.

The question now becomes, will I continue the series? You know by now that I'm not good about reading series any way, so even if I had loved this book, the chances are good that I never will pick up Dragonfly In Amber (the second book in the series). But...there's a part of me that really does want to see how Claire deals with the dilemma of changing the past and her own past (which is actually the future). And will she ever go back to Frank, her first husband? I suppose it comes down to this - if Dragonfly In Amber shows up as a Nook Daily Deal or on Barnes and Noble's clearance shelves or someone puts a copy in my hand, yes, I'll read it.

What might make me change my mind? The upcoming Starz series by the same name. The scenery, sets and casting look great and I'm a sucker for anything set in Scotland. Heck, the actor playing both Jack and Frank Randall even comes from the same clan as my ancestors. Now I just have to talk The Big Guy into paying the extra for the Starz channels!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
Published April 2014 by Spiegel and Grau
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
A beautiful young woman appears fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub at the Frangipani Hotel in Hanoi. A jaded teenage girl in Houston befriends an older Vietnamese gentleman she discovers naked behind a dumpster. A trucker in Saigon is asked to drive a dying young man home to his village. A plump Vietnamese-American teenager is sent to her elderly grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City to lose weight, only to be lured out of the house by the wafting aroma of freshly baked bread. In these evocative and always surprising stories, the supernatural coexists with the mundane lives of characters who struggle against the burdens of the past.

Based on traditional Vietnamese folk tales told to Kupersmith by her grandmother, these fantastical, chilling, and thoroughly contemporary stories are a boldly original exploration of Vietnamese culture, addressing both the immigrant experience and the lives of those who remained behind. Lurking in the background of them all is a larger ghost—that of the Vietnam War, whose legacy continues to haunt us.

My Thoughts:
As a person who grew up with the Vietnam War (and it's resulting unrest in the U.S.) as a fact of life, I've always been fascinated by this country and its history. It's no surprise, then, that I jumped at the chance to read this book, even with my spotty record with short story collections.

As with all short story collections I've read, there were uneven place in this collection but, overall, Kupersmith did not disappoint. Vietnamese culture and traditional ghosts and superstitions blend with the more recent ghosts of the Vietnamese war as Kupersmith tells the stories (and often lets her characters tell the stories) of those who live in Vietnam, those who fled the country and those who have returned. To be honest, some of the stories left me wondering if I had missed a deeper meaning, or at least some clue in the story that would have made me understand it better. But I'm a literalist (yes I did just make up a word), less inclined to allow myself to just fall into the fantasy so I'm sure some of that is on me, not Kupersmith.

In the opening Boat Story, where a Grandmother asks if we can ever really escape our past, Kupersmith reminds her readers that we all have our own ghosts even as she begins to introduce readers to a Vietnamese mindset that allows the unbelievable to be the means to explain the unexplainable.

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour. Kupersmith is a young writer (younger than my oldest!) and I'm looking forward to reading more by her. I'm hoping she'll continue to draw on her own heritage for inspiration; she has a talent for making it come alive on the page. For other opinions about this book, check out the full tour.

Violet Kupersmith was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1989 and grew up outside of Philadelphia. Her father is American and her mother is a former boat refugee from Vietnam. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College she received a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to teach and research in the Mekong Delta. She is currently at work on her first novel.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life: It Goes On - March 23

Is it spring? Is it winter? Apparently Mother Nature's just not sure yet. Which, I suppose, is par for the course in March. But after the coldest winter EVER (okay, maybe not EVER, but in decades), I'm ready to be able to throw open windows, haul out the flower pots, and enjoy evenings on the patio.

In the meantime, 40 Bags In 40 Days continues and having to be inside is helping me make great progress with that. From things as small as reducing what I'm carrying in my purse to the pickup load that The Big Guy took to the landfill today, I'm making great progress. All this from someone who makes a regular habit of purging "stuff!"

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: I'm essentially caught up with podcasts so this week I'll start listening to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It's one of the books on my Classics Club challenge list. I've got some doubts about it but have given myself permission to give up on it early if I'm not enjoying it.

Watching: Miss H and I watched a couple of episodes of "Orange Is The New Black" on Netflix but mostly it's been a lot of basketball for this girl. My Husker men got knocked out early but the women are moving on and our Creighton Bluejays play their second game tonight. But I'll watch any game...and I have!

Reading: I finally finished Outlander and will have a review this week. Right now I'm reading The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith, also for a review this week.

Making: We're back to comfort food this week: asparagus/mushroom soup, brownies, homemade mac and cheese, and steel cut oatmeal.

Planning: We've been doing some major furniture rearranging this past week and we'll be getting that wrapped up this week and 40 Bags In 40 Days will continue. Even BG is getting on board!

Grateful for: A job where I could decide at 11:30 on Friday that I wanted to leave to go home and watch basketball and it was okay.

Loving: Seeing green in my lawn!

Feeling:  A lightness every time I finished sorting through a new area.

Thinking: I need to kick it up a notch on the working out and kick in with my new eating plan.

Looking forward to: Starting some building projects - shelves in a couple of rooms and a platform bed. I cannot find the shelves I need so I'm just going to have to make them. I have never used a power saw before - this could get interesting!

What have you been watching this week?

Friday, March 21, 2014

The List - Spring Reading

I missed the Top Ten Tuesday the other day where bloggers were encouraged to list the books they're hoping to read this spring so I'm  jumping on the bandwagon here.

I'll spend the first couple of weeks wrapping up my chunksters, Outlander  and  The Goldfinch and have a couple of TLC Book Tours on tap. Then I'm going to throw in a few books for review and try to finally get to my mysteries.

1. Casebook by Mona Simpson for a TLC Book Tour

2. The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith for a TLC Book Tour

3.  Paganini's Ghost by Paul Adam for Mystery May

4.  The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

5. The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace

6. There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband And He Hanged Himself : Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

7. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

Silly me, I'd thought to list ten. Then I remembered spring is really only about two months long. This will do. I'll save those other books for will be  here before you know it! What are you looking forward to reading in the next couple of months?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why No Reviews This Week?

Why no, no I have not finished one single book in the past two weeks. These two biggies are killing me! Now that I'm caught up with The Goldfinch, I'll finally be able to finish Outlander but The Goldfinch is getting set aside for a while to read a book for a scheduled review. So, maybe next week I'll actually have two reviews!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Life: It Goes On - March 16

Good morning from cold Omaha, where two days ago is was 75 degrees but last night it snowed. 

We had another mini-staycation last night, which was also a belated birthday celebration for Miss H. We headed into Lincoln and picked up one of her friends to go to dinner and spend the night. My brother and his wife were in town to watch the boys from her alma mater play in the high school boys' basketball tournament so we got to spend some time with them which was nice, too. Picture to the contrary, we did not put my brother to sleep!

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: I got caught up this week on podcasts for NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, TED Talks Audio, and the New York Times Book Review. 

Watching: Basketball, basketball and more basketball. 

Reading: I got almost finished with Outlander before I had to put it aside to read half of The Goldfinch for book club this week. I'll finish up Outlander this week and then start Violet Kupersmith's The Frangipani Hotel for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

Making: Raspberry bread pudding for my dad's birthday dinner. 

Planning: To continue with "40 Bags In 40 Days," hosted by Ann Marie at White House Black Shutters. Thanks, Lisa (Books Lists Life) for bringing this to my attention. The goal is to "declutter, simplify, decrapify, and get rid of things you don't need." I'm late to the party but I'm going to take today to get caught up. You know how much I love to do this!

Grateful for: Getting to spend so much time with family this week. 

Loving: Those 75 degree days we had. The lawn is ready for spring, we got to walk outside in shorts, and plans are in the works for some new things for the patio. 

Feeling: Tired. Our hotel room thought it should be 80 degrees no matter what we set the thermostat at. I'm not ready to sleep in that kind of heat yet!

Thinking: It's time to start composting again. I've felt a little guilty all winter throwing things away that I know I put in the bin if it were warm enough for them to decompose. 

Looking forward to: Book club Tuesday night!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The List - Book Series For Children

I'm not much for reading book series. I struggled to come up with five series I wanted to read more of when I wrote The Fives recently. But book series have always been popular with my kids. I think one of the best ways to turn a child into a reader (or at least help them to understand that reading can be fun), is to find a series they can't get enough of. 

It worked for my brother. He struggled as a reader until someone put a Hardy Boys book into his hands. I can't say they made him a book lover, but he did read them as fast as he could get them and they did make him a much better reader. I'm not sure he would have been able to manage a Master's degree without them. 

I recent reshelved the children's books that I'm keeping for the someday grandchildren and thought I'd share with you the book series that my kids loved.

Mini-him's Favorites:
Hank The Cowdog by John Erickson - smart and funny

Goosebumps by R. L. Stine (and company) - not what I would have chosen but he loved them and I was all for anything that made him want to read

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz - both the boys loved these books but they are certainly too scary for some children

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling - another series the boys both loved; 
Mini-him had to have the new books the day they came out and didn't do anything but read until he finished each book.

Mini-me's Favorites:
The Shadow Children by Margaret Peterson Haddix - his first foray into dystopian literature

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket - witty word play and marvelous characters but there is a lot of darkness to these. We do not recommend the movie, though; what a disappointment!

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynold Naylor - he loved them so much, he made his own dust jackets for them 

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey - just plain fun and his  introduction to graphic novels

Miss H's Favorites:
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park and Eloise by Kay Thompson - see, Miss H, just because you can sometimes be naughty, doesn't mean we don't still love you!

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish - great fun for kids to see that they aren't the only ones who struggle learning the English language (did you know that Amelia Bedelia was first published in 1963?)

Olivia by Ian Falconer and Madeline by Ludwig Bemelman - Miss H loved reading books where a girl could have adventures and even save the day

Both of my boys still love book series; Mini-him just finished the fifth book in the George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series (a.k.a the Game of Thrones series) and Mini-him is reading Oryx and Crake, the first book in Margaret Atwood's Madd Adamms series. 

What series did you love as a child? If you loved them then, do you still find yourself drawn to them?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Published 1849
Source: downloaded from Librivox

Set in the industrializing England of the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts of 1811-12, Shirley (1849) is the story of two contrasting heroines. One is the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose bare life symbolizes the plight of single women in the nineteenth century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention.

My Thoughts:
First things first - if you ever consider reading this book, read it. Do not listen to it. It is incredibly slow going and Bronte is as much about making social commentary as she is about telling a story. This was also my first real disappointment with Librivox; in a book this long, there were a LOT of narrators and some of them were really not good making it even more difficult to stay focused on this book.

Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite books and I so wanted to love this one, too. But Shirley is an entirely different kind of book. Bronte doesn't even introduce readers to the eponymous Shirley until Chapter 11; much of the first ten chapters focused on setting up the political and religious atmosphere of the area and introducing characters that were primarily involved in the book for that purpose only. To be honest, to the end I felt like the book should have been titled "Caroline" rather than Shirley.

Charlotte Bronte
Perhaps if I had had some idea what the book was about before I started it, and almost certainly if I had read the book instead of listening to it, I would have appreciated it more. Bronte's given her reader much to consider in Shirley including the economic impact of the industrial revolution, the role of women in society, the role of the clergy in rural England, and class structure. It even helped me put some of my favorite books into a better historical context. The treatment of "the help" really stood out for me in this one. More than once it was suggested that the serving girl walk a gentlewoman home because it's not safe for the gentlewoman to be on her own. Apparently, though, it was perfectly acceptable for a young working girl to do so.

If there weren't at least a thousand books I want to read, I might try reading Shirley in print. But there are, so I never will. I'd much rather find the time to reread Jane Eyre  and fall in love with Charlotte Bronte again.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life: It Goes On - March 9

It's spring, it's spring! Or at least, it finally feels like we're almost there. We're supposed to get a few really warm days this week and dinner on the patio is a real possibility for the first time in five months. I'm headed off shortly to pick up some paint supplies - I've had a couple of pieces of furniture I've been wanting to paint and I think today I'll be able to get outside to do that.

The Omaha Film Festival was held this week and we headed off yesterday to catch a block of comedy shorts. We're always impressed with the quality and variety of movies they have at the film festival. It's fun, too, to people watch; such a wide variety of people attend from the predictable "artsy" crowd to middle-aged suburbanites (us!) to young people.

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: I'm all caught up with Radiolab, Freakonomics, and The Splendid Table podcasts and now I'm working on catching up with NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcasts.

Watching: Hollywood Game Night hosted by Jane Lynch (one of my new favorites for watching while walking on the treadmill), new episodes of Person of Interest and Elementary, and lots of basketball, both high school and college. Our Husker men and women are making for some exciting games this year and we're loving watching Doug McDermott and his Creighton Bluejays make a run at the Big East championship in their first season in the league.

Reading: I'm over 400 pages into Outlander now but I've got to tell you, I'm having some real problems with this book. Because I'm reading it with a readalong group, I'll plug along but I can't see myself continuing on with the series. Half way through the book there had already been three rape attempts on the lead female character. I'm also going to start The Goldfinch this week for discussion with the Omaha Bookworms next week.

Making: Nothing memorable last week but this week I'm making a couple of surprises for my Dad for his birthday.

Planning: Another staycation next weekend. If I'm going to play away a chunk of next weekend, though, I need to make sure I've got things in order before I leave.

Grateful for: Being close to family - this week is my dad's birthday and they are coming in to have dinner at the restaurant Miss H works at so she can be his waitress. So happy to be able to have these times together.

Loving: An article I read yesterday about a family of five that downsized into a 665-square-foot home. I'm so inspired to get back to reducing the amount of "stuff" we have. Now if I can just convince The Big Guy that the fact that we have room to keep something doesn't mean we should.

Feeling: Like dancing. I've got Pandora running and I'll be dancing my way through the house cleaning this afternoon.

Thinking: I wish I worked four-day work weeks. There is just not enough time on a weekend to get everything done that I want to get done and still have time for fun.

Looking forward to: Heading down to a deli across town today which has a university student art display up; Mini-me has some work up. His stuff is unique and I can't wait to see how it compares to what his fellow students are doing. No water color landscapes for our boy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

Question for you - if you're a person who is able to set aside a book that's not working for you, how many pages do you give it before you make that call? Does that number vary based on the length of the book? I'm trying to give myself permission to give up on books but I'm never quite sure at what point I can feel like I've given the book a fair chance.

Mystery March is looking more and more like a complete bust. I need to  read half of The Goldfinch for book club this month; I want to finish Outlander, I've got another TLC Book Tour coming up this month and I'm hoping to finish my nightstand book for Classics Club. I just don't see a whole lot of room for mysteries in there, do you? Now I'm thinking Mystery May.

Solomon Northrup's 12 Years A Slave was adapted into the movie by the same name and John Ridley won an Academy Award Sunday night for his screen adaptation of it. Have you read this book? I'm not sure I could watch the movie - a couple of the ladies at the party I was at the other night said they were sobbing through the last 15 minutes of the movie. I don't need to make a public spectacle of myself but I'm okay with a reading a book that has that same effect on me. Every year after I watch the Academy Awards, I'm just certain that I'll pick up several of the books that were turned into movies in the last year. I even pick up some of the books but I haven't actually read many of the recently nominated books. Hmm, maybe a challenge for next year?

These books arrived at my house this week:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Now if I were reading three books a week, this would not be a problem. But I'm not. So it is. Also, it's hard to read the books that I already own when there are new books to be read. Did you pick up any new books this week?

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh

The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
Published March 2014 by Crown
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights—is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to lay her spirit properly to rest. Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn’t be trusted. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, until they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.

My Thoughts:
I don't recall what it was about the pitch from Lisa at TLC Book Tours that made me interested in reading this book; almost as soon as I started reading it, though, I thought I'd made a mistake. In fact, I kept wondering, early on, if I would even finish it. Because even though there's not actually magical realism in the book, there is the feel of it and if you've read this blog long enough, you know I have a problem with magical realism. Ron Rash (Serena) has taught me to love the Appalachian mountains, though, so the story of a family living in a small town in West Virginia intrigued me enough to keep me reading. Plus, it's a book primarily about the relationship between sisters and I'm always interested in books that deal with that complex relationship.

The book wasn't without problems for me. Train hoppers that turn out to be really great guys who will go out of their way to help a couple of girls, for example. I'm not saying there aren't perfectly nice people who ride the rails, but I'm betting that the majority of them are a lot less likely to accept strangers into their trust than the people Jazz and Olivia met were. Some things were just too tidy for me - despite the fact that Hobbs, who the girls meet on the train - is a train hopper, it turns out he's just happened to come near to home again despite circumstances that should rightly have had him running the other way.

Still, as these two sisters danced around each other and their relationship with their trouble mother, I started to get over the fact that I felt like Olivia was a flake and that Jazz was one hundred percent correct to be fed up with having to look out for her. Both sisters struggled with guilt over their mother's death, kept secrets from each other trying to protect themselves and their mother, and both had no idea how to deal with the other. By having both sisters narrate the book, Walsh allows us to know, and understand, both of them and hold out hope they will also come to understand each other (which, let's be honest, we know they ultimately will).

The book covers a wide range of themes: love of many types, mental health, alcoholism, family relationships, and the impact "home" can have on a person. For a story just over 300 pages, Walsh packs a lot into her story. At times it was a bit too much for me but in the end I was not disappointed to have read this story about what it means to accept people for who they are.

For other opinions about this book, check out the full tour. Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. THERESE WALSH is the author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and the cofounder of Writer Unboxed. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Life: It Goes On - March 2

What a fun weekend we're having - despite having record cold temperatures. Yesterday was Miss H's 19th birthday - she's finally legally an adult in Nebraska which means I don't, technically, have any children left. How can that have happened? I swear it was only yesterday I was bringing my first baby home from the hospital! She had to work all day so her day was a bit muted as far as a celebration but we made sure to work in some fun things.

Tonight I'm headed off to an Oscar's party - my friend Cheryl hosts it every year and it's so much fun. We're vocal about fashion, compete to see who can guess predict the most winners, and enjoy fun cocktails and great food. I'm looking forward to it! I'd glam up to go but too many diamonds would look silly with the parka I'll be forced to wear to get there.

Friday night The Big Guy and I headed off for a staycation here in town. I highly recommend it. If it had been nice, we could have walked every where we went. So relaxing and we used it as an opportunity to eat at some places we don't go very often. We're planning another one in a couple of weeks when we'll head to Lincoln. Hopefully it will be nice enough then to get out and about more!

Here's What I'm:

Listening To: Podcasts this past week and I'll probably spend much of the next few weeks catching up with those. I'm all caught up with Satellite Sisters and I'm working on getting caught up with Radio Lab now. Did you know there used to be 415 days in a year??? Okay so it was 450 billion years ago but still. I learn so much every time I listen to Radio Lab!

Watching: The Voice and a lot of college basketball. I'm a little lost since the Olympics ended!

Reading: I finished The Moon Sisters this morning for a TLC Book Tours review tomorrow and now I'm back to Outlander.  I really need to get started on The Goldfinch which is the March/April selection for the Omaha Bookworms as well.

Making: Shredded chicken lasagna, chicken enchiladas and, for Miss H's birthday, key lime cupcakes.

Planning: To avoid going outside as much as possible this week. I'm hunkering down until the above average temperatures move in next week.

Grateful for: A husband I enjoy spending time with.

Loving: Orange - I'm obsessed with the color right now. I've used it to accessorize in Mini-me's room/the guest room and now I'm looking for other places I can use it. Pulled out one of BG's grandma's bowls for some Halos in the kitchen and it makes me happy to have the bit of color on a dreary winter day.

Feeling: Like the weekends are much too short. Why is the more fun you have packed into these two days, the faster they go by?

Thinking: I may have packed too many book commitments into March. I'm not sure I'm going to get any mysteries read at all!

Looking forward to: I think I've covered this already - Oscar party tonight and warmer temperatures!