Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

The ladies at The Broke and The Bookish this week are asking us to list the top ten books that were hard for us to read. These are all books that either broke my heart or made me afraid to turn the page, knowing that something terrible was about to happen.

First up, the tear jerkers:

1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - this one may appear on all kinds of lists for me; it's here this week because it made me literally sob...in the lunchroom at work

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - Didion writes about the death of her husband and her first year without him

3. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen - if I'd had any inkling of the terrible thing that was going to happen in this book, it might have fallen into both categories. Instead, I only experienced shock and then the terrible sadness that followed.

4. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - desperate poverty, abusive teachers and clergy, and an alcoholic father; need I say more?

5. Sophie's Choice by William Styron - because I knew what was meant by Sophie's choice when I read the book but also because of her time in a concentration camp, my heart ached for Sophie throughout this one

Now for the books that put me on edge:

6. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver - long before I reached the shocking points of this book, it was hard to read about a woman who really did not like her own child

7. The Kite Runner by Kahlid Hosseini - from the brutal rape early on to the journey back to Afghanistan to save a friend abandoned decades earlier, I was on edge throughout this book

8. City Of Women by David R. Gillham - in the midst of WWII, the wife of a soldier finds herself caught up in an effort to save Jews and the line between right and wrong is not always entirely clear

9. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash - the tension in this book begins almost from the beginning and never lets up until the horrific, shocking conclusion

10. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - the true story about one man's survival, against all odds after being lost at sea for 47 days only to be "rescued" by the Japanese and put into prisoner of war camps

What books were hard for you to read? Was it because they were emotionally charged, horrific, scary, or hard to read simply because they were so bad?

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Published: April 2013 by Doubleday Publishing
Narrated by Rachel Leigh Cook
Source: why yes I did buy both the book and the audiobook...again

Publisher's Summary:
Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.

My Thoughts:
I can't even count the number of times Miss H and I have watched the movie adaptation of this book so it was hard to get the image of Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, and Emily Blount out of my head as I listened to this book. Honestly? I never did - not even when the descriptions of the characters didn't match those images at all. And I was okay with that.

While I found that the movie adaptation has stuck pretty close to the book source, particularly in tone, there were some differences. The nightmare that is Miranda Priestly and the cold-heart that is Emily (Miranda's other assistant) in the book were really amped up in the movie. I didn't like Miranda any better in the book but it was easier to warm to Emily.

It was less easy to warm to Andrea's boyfriend and friend in the book. I get that her job had become all-consuming and she just didn't have time for them. But, in the book, their biggest beefs seemed to come from being unable to get ahold of Andrea during the day, a time of day that most of us wouldn't expect others to be able to just stop what they're doing at work to talk to us. Even in the movie I found them to be a bit annoying, unable to understand that the job was what it was and Andrea had made a commitment to stick it out for the year. Christian (played so charmingly by Simon Baker in the movie) played a smaller role in the book and had no impact in the "straw that broke the camel's back" the ended Andrea's career at Runway and Andrea's parents played a much larger role.

Rachel Leigh Cook, as the narrator, conveyed the wit and snarkiness of the book perfectly. I definitely enjoyed this book, it's just plain fun, and it was just the right "read" to cleanse my listening palate.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Life: It Goes On - September 28

Wow - September is almost over and I've hardly gotten a chance to really enjoy it! Just as I was feeling good enough to start walking again, I caught my annual nasty fall cold. Ergh! I even had to miss book club and you know how much I love my book club girls!

Big doings in Omaha this weekend - the world's, world's, second biggest rodeo was held here this weekend. If you believe everything you've ever heard about Nebraska, you're sure to think we'd all be heading there. Truth is, I don't know anyone who went. But still, it's kind of cool to have hosted it.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Still Sarah's Key. There are some things about it that are really annoying me but I'm pretty hooked on it now. It'll take me another week or so to finish it yet.

Watching: "The Voice!" So glad it's back on and I'm thinking that Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani are fitting right in. Although, Gwen, girl, you know I love you but please stop focusing on the fashion.

Reading: I put aside How To Build A Girl for a bit so I could squeeze in a "banned" book during Banned Books Week. I hadn't intended to read one this year but I just couldn't let it pass unnoticed. Thought I'd pick up a quick read so I read Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. Not so quick - oh my goodness did my copy have tiny little print! But it has been challenged and it also counts for The Classics Club challenge so it's a win. Yesterday wrapped up A More Diverse Universe. I was hoping to squeeze in another book for that but with book club and review books, I only got Chef read.

Making: Yeah, nothing. The Big Guy's been pulling more than his fair share of weight in the kitchen this month! I did scrounge up the energy to make some chocolate chip cookie dough. But it took two days to work up to actually baking the cookies. This morning I threw together crock pot macaroni and cheese. A new recipe so we'll see how we like it.

Planning: Oh, who am I kidding? I'll just be happy if I can get the house back to respectable and some meals on the table this week!

Grateful for: Heating pads. I've been moving that bad boy from one achy place to another this week.

Former Nebraska star and current Kansas City Royal, Alex Gordon
Enjoying: Watching the Kansas City Royals make the baseball playoffs for the first time since 1985, even if it is as a wildcard.

Feeling: Energized. I'm ready to start walking, I'm ready to do fall cleaning, I'm ready to do fall yard work. I'm just ready to be able to do things again!

Looking forward to: My favorite indie bookstore in town is moving locations and reopens in their new spot this week. Looking forward to checking it out. Because you know I need some new books!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fairy Tale Fridays - Bit and Pieces

I got a new fairy tale book last Friday when I stopped at Half-Price Books to sell some books. I always hit up their clearance section, sometimes with good luck, sometimes not. The books are always a bargain and yet I often pick them up and then put them back down. But when I found Kate Bernheimer's Horse, Flower, Bird, I didn't hesitate. It will be full of modern, grownup fairy tales that just might be the kick I need to pull out my basket of fairy tale books and get back to reading them.

I read an interesting article on Tales of Faerie about the tale of the frog prince and wondering if it was meant as a statement about the marriageable age of girls in medieval times. The princess in this tale gets a bad rap as being selfish and not keeping her promise. But we seem to be overlooking the fact that the princess also appears to be a very young girl,  one we would certainly consider too young to be marrying. She is, after all, playing with a ball when she meets the frog, a ball she is so fond of that she will promise anything to get it back. Is it any wonder, then, that she would act immature later when the frog tries to force her to keep her promise?

The Guardian, this week, posted this quiz about the Brothers Grimm and their fairy tales. Don't even ask me how I did. So embarrassing! I need to go grab my book and catch up on my Grimm tales!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic - When Life and Reading Come Together

You know, if you've been reading this blog for even a few months how much I love football. I'm watching with a touch of guilt these days (the long-term brain damage to players all so I can enjoy myself) and, while I don't necessarily feel that the sport is too violent, I do have concerns about the violence of players off the field. Which, of course, is big news these days.

I was reading Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast just as the
Adrian Peterson case came to light. For those of you who don't follow football or tuned out when his case was all of the news, Peterson is being investigated for one count of child abuse and was indicted on another count. I am by no means condoning what Peterson did (he has admitted to whipping his four-year-old son with a switch so many times he lost count) but I can't help but think that he may well have been "disciplined" this way himself. We're prone to parent as we were parented. And while Peterson certainly went far beyond what could, under any circumstances, be considered appropriate discipline, our society's take this type of discipline has changed tremendously since Peterson's parents and grandparents may have punished him. Which is where Hemingway comes into the picture.

Hemingway and his then wife Hadley had a little boy he called Bumby (I hope to shout that was not the child's actual name!). The two of them worked and were away from home during the day (although why Hemingway needed to leave the apartment to write in a cafe was unclear). There were, Hemingway writes, no babysitters then and it was "wrong to take a baby to a cafe in the winter...even a baby that never cried and watched everything that happened and was never bored." Their solution?
"Bumby would stay happy in his tall cage bed with his big, loving cat named F. Puss. There were people who said that it was dangerous to leave a cat with a baby. The most ignorant and prejudiced said that a cat would suck a baby's breath and kill him. Others said that a cat would lie on a baby and the cat's weight would smother him. F. Puss lay beside Bumby in the tall cage bed and watched the door with his big yellow eyes, and would let no one come near him when we were out..."
The biggest problem people who knew about this had was the cat. Never mind that the Hemingways were leaving their very young child alone all day, trapped in what even Hemingway calls a cage. People who leave their children alone for any, any, length of time these days are routinely brought up on charges. I'm not sure that Hemingway's peers would have given much thought to whipping your child with a switch. For our children's sake, thank God times have changed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Published September 1997 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: bought this one for only $2 - a steal!

Publisher's Summary:
In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human."

My Thoughts:
I wanted to sit right down as soon as I finished this book, while things were still fresh in my mind, and write my review. But I couldn't. I just could not begin to wrap my head around what I had just read and put my thoughts into words. A week later, I'm still not sure I can.

It's a complicated plot that shifts back and forth in time, from the initial days when the singing is first discovered, to forty years later when the sole, broken survivor of the expedition is being interrogated to find out the truth of what happened, to the time of the expedition, and back into the future again. It's tricky to get started but, done well, that kind of storytelling can really draw readers in. And Russell does it well.

What else does Russell do well in The Sparrow?

  • She makes your brain work. She challenges readers to examine their beliefs about religion, faith, science, our assumptions about the universe, and the things we do with the best of intentions. A good book will make you think. A great book will make you think long after you've finished the book. In that sense, The Sparrow is a great book.
  • She makes you care, deeply, about her characters - the broken ones, the strong ones, the funny ones, the ones who take themselves too seriously. And then she breaks your heart by killing them (that's not a spoiler - you know right at the beginning of the book that many of these people will die). Seriously. Breaks. Your. Heart.
  • She wrings all of the emotions out of her readers. All of them. I laughed with these people, I cried with these people, I was amazed with these people. I wanted to shake them at times and fold them into my arms at others. I was exhausted when I closed this book.

Big thanks to Andi of Estella's Revenge (her review) for convincing me that this is a book I need to read and to Trish of Love, Laughter and A Touch of Insanity for putting together a readalong that sparked me to pick it up and gave me the opportunity to talk about the book with others who were reading it at the same time.

The Sparrow is easily one of my favorite books of this year...maybe any year. I can't wait to read the sequel, Children of God,
"Once, long ago, she'd allowed herself to think seriously about what human beings would do, confronted directly with a sign of God's presence in their lives. The Bible, that repository of Western wisdom, was instructive either as myth or as history, she'd decided. God was at Sinai and within weeks, people were dancing in front of a golden calf. God walked in Jerusalem and days later, folks nailed Him up and then went back to work. Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God? A vanishingly small number of people would recognize God, Anne had decided years before, and most of them had simply missed a dose of Thorazine."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chef by Jaspreet Singh

Chef by Jaspreet Singh
Published April 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: I have no idea - if you loaned me this one, let me know so I can give it back!

Publisher's Summary:
Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years.

Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, nestled in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier. At twenty thousand feet, the glacier makes a forbidding battlefield; its crevasses claimed the body of Kip's father. Kip becomes an apprentice under the camp's chef, Kishen, a fiery mentor who guides him toward the heady spheres of food and women.

In this place of contradictions, erratic violence, and extreme temperatures, Kip learns to prepare local dishes and delicacies from around the globe. Even as months pass, Kip, a Sikh, feels secure in his allegiance to India, firmly on the right side of this interminable conflict. Then, one muggy day, a Pakistani "terrorist" with long, flowing hair is swept up on the banks of the river and changes everything.

My Thoughts:
I'm a huge fan of books set in this region of the world but the books I've read have all been women's stories. Chef gave me a look at a new part of the Indian subcontinent from the male point of view.

In 1947, when the British abandoned their rule of the subcontinent, they split what was then Indian into the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Kashmir was connected to both India and Pakistan and has been, since the partition, a battle ground between the countries.

Kirpal Singh's story looks at the impact of that tug-of-war on the people of the region as Pakistanis battle Indians, Muslims battle Hindus. Through food, Kishen begins to teach Kirpal to look at the world more openly but it is when he falls in love with the "enemy" that he truly understands the futility of all of the violence and lost lives.

Despite some violence, this is, at heart, the quiet story of a quiet man whose beliefs are constantly shaken when those around him abuse their power and allow hatred to rule their lives.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Salon - September 21

Bloggiesta success! I've gotten so much done this weekend! Not much of it shows but I'll have my book reviews caught up and scheduled, four other posts are written and scheduled, my feed reader was empty as of midnight, I've spent a lot of time on my labels and they are looking much better (although I doubt I will get them entirely cleaned up yet), and I'm working on a mini-challenge that will be very noticeable in my family room (assuming I get it done). I'm not sure how much more I'll get done - I've got a lot of reading to do in the next couple of days before book club on Tuesday, company coming today, and The Big Guy gets back today from a work trip.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I started Sarah's Key this week. It's a book that switches back and forth in time and it's a little jarring on audio when it does that. Otherwise, I'm enjoying it.

Watching: The Roosevelts on PBS. So interesting and I've learned so much. Now I want to get to Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time and The Bully Pulpit. Oh yeah, and football.

Reading: I'm racing through The Perfume Collector before book club on Tuesday. I didn't know anything about it going in but I guess I was under the impression that it would be a little bit on the light side. Enjoying it much more than I expected.

Making: With BG gone and the kids at work so much this week, I haven't made much at all. Mini-me spent the day at home yesterday so I did make him some pizza and caramel chocolate brownies.

Planning: I started a book reorganization project as a mini-challenge that I need to get finished and I'll probably continue to tweak for the next week or so.

Grateful: I miss BG when he's gone but I've got to admit, I have enjoyed the quiet while he's been gone!

Enjoying: Saturday night with Miss H. She unexpectedly had the night off and we haven't gotten to have any time together in much too long.

Feeling: Like it's time to embrace fall. Even though I did have to turn the air-conditioning back on this weekend. Never mind - the fall decorating is going up and I had a pumpkin spice frappucino the other day.

Looking forward to: Book club Tuesday - love my evenings with these ladies!

What are you grateful for this week? Have you started to wrap your mind around the fact that fall is here?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bloggiesta - OLE!

With a knee that still doesn't allow me to do a lot of the bigger projects I should be doing on weekends (who knew that a meniscus repair would take so long to heal? not this girl, I'll tell you that!) and The Big Guy off on a business trip through the weekend (don't tell the bad guys who might try to break into my house that!), this is the perfect weekend for me to work on my blog. But I know me and I know I'll be distracted by a lot of bright and shiny objects along the way, including books I want need to read. So I'm not going to get overly ambitious with my plans. Here's what I'd like to get done:

1. Clean up my email - of course this is on the list, it's always on the list!
2. Write three book reviews - started all three
3. Check out the mini-challenges and try to do at least one **I've decided on my challenge but it will take some time so I'll do it tomorrow and post pics**
4. Solve my Nook problem - I've got too many books on my Nook I want to read soon
5. Write a Fairy Tale Friday post - started
6. Write a bookish news post
7. Catch up on my feed reader - I'm actually actually in pretty good shape with this for a change
8. Check out other bloggers who are participating to see what they are getting done
9. Spend some time cleaning up tags
10. Get my book club blog up to date
11. Write 2 Top Ten Tuesday posts - started

Okay, well maybe a little ambitious but many of these things won't take too long. No pressure; I'll get done what I get done.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
First Published 1964 (3 years after Hemingway's death)
Source: I paid for this one

Publisher's Summary:
Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.

My Thoughts:
Who'da thunk it - the only Hemingway book I've ever read and actually enjoyed would be a memoir? If you're a Hemingway fan or even a person who feels like you "should" read Hemingway, I'd definitely recommend A Moveable Feast. As a look into life in Paris in the 1920's. As a window into the lives of several literary greats. And as a honest look into a few years of one young author's life.

I put this book on my nightstand and read a chapter at a time, each an individual story about an event, person, or part of Hemingway's life in Paris. Reading it this way is probably one of the reasons I appreciated this book as much as I did; I'm not sure I would have had I tried to just read straight through. Then I might not have appreciated gems like this:
"The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit's foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit's foot long ago and the ones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there."

The title, as the publisher's summary says, refers to a literary feast but I could easily have read it as part of Fall Feasting. Hemingway writes extensively about eating and drinking in the bistros and restaurants of Paris and other European cities he visited. I kept having the urge to go sit at a little table in a quiet cafe and while away the afternoon drinking wine and writing. While Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, were poor and he talks about going hungry and cold because of it, it's plainly clear that he knew it was the price to pay for living the life he wanted and never seemed to feel sorry for himself. It pained him more to be without books until he discovered the "library" in the legendary Paris bookstore "Shakespeare's." Hemingway was not just a writer, he was a voracious reader and I finally found at least one thing I could really like about him. That and his willingness to admit his flaws, including the infidelity that cost him his marriage to a woman who clearly adored.

I'm so glad I finally got brave enough to pick this book up!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
First Published 1925
Source: my audiobook was purchased at my local library book sale
Narrator: Virginia Leishman

Publisher's Summary:
This novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman's life, a day that is also the last day of a war veteran's life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloway's preparations for a party she is to give that evening, Woolf ultimately manages to reveal much more; for it is the feeling behind these daily events and their juxtaposition with the journey to suicide of Septimus Smith that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness.

A 1925 landmark of modernist fiction that follows an the wife of an MP around London as she prepares for her party that afternoon. Direct and vivid in its telling of details, the novel shifts from the consciousness of Clarissa Dalloway to that of others, including a shell-shocked veteran of World War I whose destiny briefly intersects with hers.

My Thoughts:
While Virginia Leishman's narration was wonderful, I really found this book difficult to listen to; it was just much too easy for my mind to wander and when I came back to the book it felt that I really hadn't missed anything. That's not a fault of the book; it's not a book meant to keep a reader rapt with action. In fact, there's very little action. And that was Woolf's point - the idea that there's a lot to be learned from the smallest actions of life.

Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours (which was inspired by Mrs. Dalloway), says of Mrs. Dalloway: "Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English..." I feel like I missed that in listening to the book. So while I can say that I've read Mrs. Dalloway, I don't feel that I've really appreciated the book, as much as I enjoyed it. Somewhere on my bookshelves, I have a copy of this book and I'm almost certain to be picking it up and rereading this book one day. There is just so much to think about in the book and I feel like I didn't give it the attention it deserves.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall Feasting 2014

Every fall, as the temperatures begin to drop and the days grow shorter, I find myself thinking more and more of spending time in the kitchen - simmering soups, baking breads, creating casseroles. I've also found myself drawn to reading more about food and for the past few years and spent a good part of my reading time devoted to books that relate, in some way, to food. I seem never to have any shortage of books to choose from and, even without picking up any new "foodie" books this year, I've got plenty to read again this year.

Since I also signed up for the Foodies Read challenge again this year, I'll be knocking that challenge off with this reading as well. And, because my first book for Fall Feasting 2014 will be Jaspreet Singh's Chef, I'll also be satisfying the A More Diverse Universe challenge. Win-win!

The books in my pile for this year are:

1. Chef  by Jaspreet Singh
2. Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes
3. The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
4. Five Quarters of An Orange by Joanne Harris
5. Harvest by Richard Horan
6. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
7. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Finn

What's your favorite foodie book? Favorite cookbook?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Life: It Goes On - September 14

Goodness, I certainly didn't mean to go quiet for the entire week. But then when you haven't finished a book in over a week, there are no reviews to post. The past couple of days I've finished three so next week will be better. Also spent a lot of time throwing myself a pity party (I'm still brushing confetti out of my hair); the knee swelled up and was quite sore for a few days and I didn't accomplish much.

So glad that it finally started to feel better by Friday, just in time for me to feel good enough to go to the Omaha Lit Fest, organized by author Timothy Schaffert. Friday night was the opening night party complete with great eats, wonderfully quirky artwork, a photo booth, and a poetry brothel (yeah, you read that right). And did I mention authors? Yeah, got a chance to meet and talk with them as well. Saturday afternoon there were four panel discussion with a variety of authors including talks about music in books and writing historical fiction (or is that merely fiction set in the past?). So fun to see all of the amazing literary talent we have in Nebraska!

Luckily The Big Guy, who came to the opening night with me as he always does, only knows about one of the books that I bought and had signed. But, seriously, you all know how hard it was for me to walk away without buying one of every book by every author!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: As an antidote to Mrs. Dalloway, I decided to go in the extreme opposite direction and started Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada. Hard not to picture Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway as the lead characters as I listen.

Watching: Because we are rabid Husker fans and our game didn't start until 9:30 our time last night, we stayed up until 1:30 watching football. In a garage so that a lot of people could watch since it wasn't on a channel that most people get. Did I mention that it was only in the 40's last night? Thank heavens for those wonderful big heaters and no wind!

Reading: My heart is still recovering from The Sparrow today. I meant to draw it out over the month of the readalong but I just couldn't. I'll be thinking about it for a long, long time. I'm still trying to decide what to start today.

Making: BG has been taking good care of me and doing most of the cooking for the past week but I did have a crate of peaches that I had to deal with - 11 quarts of frozen peach slices and 7 pints of peach freezer jam. Oh yeah, and chili one night because it was just that darn cold out.

Planning: To kick off my now annual Fall Feasting reading soon. More on that to come.

Grateful for: The efforts of everyone involved in pulling together the Omaha Lit Fest and to the authors who took the time to talk to those who attended. It's a great asset for Omaha and I really wish more people knew about it. Every year the crowds are bigger and bigger which is encouraging!

Enjoying: Feeling good enough to finally be able to really get things done around here. I won't be down on my hands and knees anytime soon but I'll be able to get back to some walking this week and (I never thought I'd hear myself say this), I can't wait!

Feeling: Ready for fall. It took me two weeks to finally accept that summer is over and I'm not ready for it to be as cold as it was last week yet, but I could really get into a pumpkin latte right about now.

Looking forward to: Finishing our refinishing of a dining room table we bought a few weeks ago. I can't wait to get it done and into my dining room!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Life: It Goes On September 7

Well, this girl has learned, the past couple of weeks, that she does not like being an invalid. Tuesday I had surgery to repair two tears in my meniscus. They had told me I might be crutch free the same day. They lied. I will admit, I was a bit like toddler who refuses to learn to walk because he can crawl faster. I could move along pretty fast with one crutch but had to slow down considerably without it. I'm so ready for my knee to finally be back to 100% - I can't wait to put my tennies back on and hit the treadmill again.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll finish Mrs. Dalloway this week and then will probably spend a couple of days catching up on podcasts. I'm not sure what to think of Mrs. Dalloway; I think I would enjoy it a lot more if I were reading it even though the narrator is really quite good.

Watching: "Manhattan," "America's Got Talent," and lots of football. Oh mercy, did my Cornhuskers give me a scare Saturday. I clean when the games get tense - even with a bad knee, I got a lot of cleaning done Saturday!

Reading: Goodness, am I enjoying The Sparrow. 

Making: Homemade ice cream, guacamole, beef salsa dip, peach/rhubarb crisp. We've been eating well this weekend.

Planning: Trying to get back into the swing of things gradually this week. I've got some projects that got interrupted that I'm anxious to get finished up this weekend.

Grateful for: All of the support I've gotten from family and friends this week!

Enjoying: A lovely evening with great friends last night on the patio followed by a lovely afternoon with our boys and their girlfriends this afternoon on the patio.

Feeling: Blessed.

Looking forward to: The Omaha Lit Fest this coming weekend. Some very interesting authors will be speaking and I'm looking forward to some new books!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Death of a Cad: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M. C. Beaton

Death of a Cad: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M. C. Beaton
Published February 1987 by St. Martin's Press
Source: my audiobook purchased at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
When Priscilla Halburton-Smythe brings her London playwright fiancé home to Lochdubh, everybody in town is delighted . . . except for love-smitten Constable Hamish Macbeth. Yet his affairs of the heart will have to wait. Vile, boorish Captain Bartlett, one of the guests at Priscilla's engagement party, has just been found murdered-shot while on a grouse hunt. Now with many titled party guests as the prime suspects, each with a reason for snuffing out the despicable captain, Hamish must smooth ruffled feathers as he investigates the case. When the hidden culprit strikes again, Hamish will find himself trying to save Priscilla from a miserable marriage-and catch a killer before he flies the coop.

My Thoughts:
Perhaps you'd like to read my previous thoughts on this book? Because, I'm embarrassed to say, I've listened to it before. In my defense, it was five years ago and all of the Hamish Macbeth books are "Death of...." books so it's hard to remember which you have read.

Luckily, I enjoyed this one both times I listened to it. Hamish is so lovelorn, pining away for Priscilla and battling to solve not one, but two murders despite the best efforts of his boss and Priscilla's father.   These are cozy mysteries in the best sense, filled with quirky characters, lots of fun trying to solve the mystery and murders that really don't take center stage.

I'm headed back to the library book sale this week to pick up some more audiobooks - I hope the Macbeth mystery that I passed on in lieu of this one is still there. Because that one I definitely haven't read!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott

Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott
Published September 2014 by Harper
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
In Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, bestselling author Karen Abbott tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything—their homes, their families, and their very lives—during the Civil War.

Seventeen-year-old Belle Boyd, an avowed rebel with a dangerous temper, shot a Union soldier in her home and became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her considerable charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to enlist as a Union private named Frank Thompson, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the war and infiltrating enemy lines, all the while fearing that her past would catch up with her. The beautiful widow Rose O’Neal Greenhow engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians, used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals, and sailed abroad to lobby for the Confederacy, a journey that cost her more than she ever imagined. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring—even placing a former slave inside the Confederate White House—right under the noses of increasingly suspicious rebel detectives.

Belle Boyd
Abbott’s pulse-quickening narrative weaves the adventures of these four forgotten daredevils into the tumultuous landscape of a broken America, evoking a secret world that will surprise even the most avid enthusiasts of Civil War–era history. With a cast of real-life characters, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, Detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor NapolĂ©on III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy shines a dramatic new light on these daring—and, until now, unsung—heroines.

My Thoughts: 
Rose O'Neal Greenhow
I had previously been aware of Rose Greenhow and recently learned about Elizabeth Van Lew (my review of The Spymistress) but I had no prior knowledge for Belle Boyd or Emma Edmonds. Let's be honest, I had not prior knowledge of a lot of the information that Abbott includes in Liar Temptress Soldier Spy. Wow, does she pack a lot of information into this book, not just information about these four ladies but about the movements and battles of the Civil War and the politics. For this girl, raised on the history of the Civil War, this book was fascinating.

Emma Edmonds
Moving in chronological order, Abbott moves in and out of the stories of Boyd, Van Lew, Edmonds, and Greenhow looking at what caused them to be spies, how they were able to obtain and move the information they received, and the tremendous dangers each of them risked. Abbott also looks at how each interacted with important figures on both sides of the war including Boyd's correspondence with Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Greenhow's run ins with detective Allen Pinkerton, and Van Lew's infiltration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Their methods varied widely - Boyd and Van Lew exploiting their sexuality while Edmonds hid hers - as did their openness about their actions. Boyd was particularly open about her hatred of the Yankees while Van Lew tried to hide behind a facade of loyalty to the Confederacy even as she funneled information and escaped prisoners north.

Elizabeth Van Lew
History fans and those who enjoy books about the impact of women on history (and make no mistake about it, these ladies made a tremendous impact), this book is well worth it's over 400 ages. Well researched and extremely thorough, Liar Temptress Solider Spy is written in narrative form that never feels dry and is thoroughly engrossing.

For other opinions about this book, check out the full book tour at TLC Book Tours. You can also listen Tom Ashbrook of NPR's "On Point" interviewing Karen Abbott here. I always enjoy listening to authors talk about their works and this just happened to be on the radio yesterday exactly when I turned it on.

Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose. She is a regular contributor to Smithsonian.com, and also writes for Disunion, the New York Times series about the Civil War. A native of Philadelphia, where she worked as a journalist, she now lives with her husband and two African Grey parrots in New York City.

Thanks so much to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Sparrow Readalong

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is a book I would never have come across if it weren't for blogging. It's science fiction, not exactly my usual read, definitely not a part of the book store I ever browsed. But bloggers love The Sparrow and when Andi of Estella's Revenge raved about it a few months ago, I knew I was going to read this one. So I bought it and I've been waiting for it to be the right book at the right time. That time came when Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity announced that she was going to be reading The Sparrow in September and asked for people to read it along with her. I'm in! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day

I'll be celebrating my day off by doing no labor whatsoever, just a lot of reading. Thanks to all of those who worked so hard to build this country up.