Sunday, January 31, 2016

Life: It Goes On - January 31

Last day of January? Hell, yes! It's been a month that's good to have behind us. Winter, surgeries, sad things. On the plus side, we had attended a wedding, spent time with friends, and we got to celebrate this guy's birthday this past week!

We're bracing for a big snow starting tomorrow night, possibly up to 19". By "bracing," I mean "planning how I'll spend the day I won't go into work." Which probably means we'll only get enough snow to make it a real pain in the ass to get back and forth to work but not enough to prevent me from going. That's how it usually works. I think it's a safe bet that the groundhog wouldn't see his shadow here on Tuesday. I can never remember if that means an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Podcasts, still. I listened to an interesting story on "Stuff You Missed In History Class" about Queen Victoria which made me want to rewatch the movie "Young Victoria" and do a little research. Love when that happens!

Watching: At the moment, I'm watching the 1995 remake of "Sabrina," starring Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear.

Reading: I'll finish Alison Case's Nelly Dean today. Nelly Dean was the narrator of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. I'm never sure about books based on characters in other books but I'm enjoying this one quite a lot so far.

Making: Miss H was heading down to Kansas City to celebrate Christmas with them this weekend so this week was all about finishing up their gifts. Somehow I neglected to get a pic of the final products but here's an idea of what we did.

Planning: On spending today putting my house back in order. I've been back and forth to Lincoln three times this week, had book club one night, and celebrated The Big Guy's birthday two nights. Needless to say, this place could use some TLC!

Grateful: To still have both of my parents with us. I watched a family put their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother to rest on Monday and was, once again, reminded that I am no where near ready to do that. Love them both so much!

Enjoying: Still being in my pajamas at noon. Which, to be honest, is not that unusual on the weekend.

Feeling: Proud of my dad. He spoke at the funeral the other day and did such a wonderful job. He ended his talk with the most perfect line.

Looking forward to: Reading all day on Tuesday. C'mon snow!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fairy Tale Fridays - Coloring Books

Have you taken up coloring yet? It's certainly "the" thing for adults these days and there's a full range of prices and subject matter of books and you can spend up to $100 for a good set of colored pencils. Furthermore, I read recently that coloring is good for you - it helps relieve stress and engages your mind in ways that other activities don't. Miss H has never stopped enjoying coloring so she's very excited about the grown up options available these days.

I haven't taken it up yet - there seems to be little enough time to do the things I'd like to do as it is. Still, I used to enjoy coloring quite a lot and I enjoy doing things that allow me to be creative.  I may have actually been the one to color in a lot of those maps the kids used to have to do for school. Don't tell the teacher!

And now? Fairy tale coloring books! They might be just the thing to convince me to take up the colored pencils. After all, I'd be getting to combine two things I enjoy.

Have you joined the coloring book crowd?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Amelia Earhart: Beyond The Grave by W. C. Jameson

Amelia Earhart: Beyond The Grave by W. C. Jameson
Published by Taylor Trade Publishing January 2016
Source: egalley courtesy of the publisher

Publisher's Summary:
This well-researched book is a biography of the life—and disappearance—of Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator who was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic in 1928. But did Amelia’s plane really crash and sink in 1937, or was her fate entirely different?

My Thoughts:
I've had an interest in Amelia Earhart since I was a young girl, buying the official story of the mystery of her disappearance in 1937. It wasn't until I got much older before I became aware of the many theories of what might really have happened to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. But what I had been aware of, before this book, was the idea that Earhart and Noonan had survived for some time after their plane initially crashed and the so-called discoveries of the crash site based on recovered airplane pieces.

What I was not aware of was the enormous number of theories as to why Earhart was actually making that fateful flight, whether or not she and Noonan survived the crash, and what became of them if they did survive. Jameson is not only well aware of the many theories but has collected research on many of them and determined that the most feasible of the theories is that Earhart's flight was a ruse to allow her to spy on Japanese activities on the Marshall Islands, that she and Noonan survived the crash of their plan, that they were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and that both returned to the U.S. where they lived the remainder of their lives under aliases.

Earhart certainly was not the aviatrix we were all lead to believe she was.
"Earhart possessed a set of skills and accomplishments related to flying and was fearless, to be sure, but not necessarily any more so than a number of other female pilots of the time. She was no better or worse than the rest, but as a result of fearlessness and a desire to break down certain social barriers along with a clever publicity and marketing campaign, she managed better breaks than her contemporaries. She was, without a doubt, the most famous."
I'm okay with the idea that Earhart wasn't the greatest female pilot; I don't think that takes anything away from what she was able accomplish for women.

Other researchers have latched on to Earhart's weaknesses as a pilot, her recklessness (rather than fearlessness), and her willingness to rely on her husband and promoter G. P. Putnam as reasons that her flight was doomed every step of the way. Other researchers have also floated a number of theories as to what happened on that flight and what became of Earhart and Noonan. Jameson seems to rely entirely on those researchers in determining which of the theories he believes is true.

While he does advance a number of the theories, Jameson often seems to dismiss theories and evidence that don't advance the theory he supports. He also seems to accept as fact a number of things that seemed, at best, suspicious to me.

For example, he relies heavily on the "evidence" presented by a yman named Robert Myers who was a very young man who was allowed to spend a lot of time around Earhart and her crew as they prepared for her final flight. The problem with this, for me, is that the stories Myers told were the recollections of a man many years after he purportedly overheard conversations, the recollections are the interpretations of a young man of parts of conversation he overheard rather than conversations he was a part of, and that Jameson believes Myers' recollections to be fact based on Myers passing a lie detector test decades after the events occurred. I would think a person that has been telling himself the same stories for decades would have come to believe them to be fact, making a lie detector test pointless.

Jameson certainly raises some questions for me, and I don't entirely rule out the possibility that Jameson may be correct. There are just so many questions raised by everything he relies on. The woman many believed was Earhart, for example, Irene Craigmile Bolam, seemed to run with a group of people involved in aviation. I can't help but think that if Earhart were trying to escape her past, she wouldn't put herself in a position where questions might be raised.

My biggest problem with this book, though, is the fact that it is one of a number of "Beyond The Grave" books that Jameson has written. I'm lead to believe that Jameson has picked historical mysteries, done research into the research on each, and grabbed onto a conclusion that would create the biggest buzz. I haven't read any of Jameson's other books so this is just a feeling I have and I may way off base about his body of work.

Too many questions, not enough answers for me to really enjoy this one.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Life: It Goes On - January 24

Life: It Goes On - this seems to apply more than usual this week.

My mom had a knee replacement on Monday. She's got a long road of recovery ahead of her but she reports that she's already walking better than she was before the surgery. The fact that can happen always makes me think of the opening sequence of that old t.v. show, The Bionic Man, when they talked about making him "better, faster, stronger." I never ceased to be amazed by her strength.

The Big Guy had a scan recently and a scope procedure this week which both confirmed that he remains cancer free after over four years. Anyone who's come through cancer knows that there will always be things to deal with in the aftermath, but, as we like to say when we start to feel sorry for ourselves, it beats the hell out of the alternative!

Lastly, my parents lost a dear friend last week. She had her husband have been friends of my parents for over 55 years. He was my dad's first principal; she was one of the nurses in the delivery room when I was born. Can you even fathom having people in your life that you've been friends with for so long? Betty's family will have to figure out how to go on without their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, beloved wife. My parents will have to adjust to life without another of their friends.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: More radio time this week but still catching up on my podcasts. "Catching up" may not be entirely accurate. "Keeping up" might be a better phrase. I did wish I'd had an audiobook Tuesday when, thanks to a rush hour snowfall, my 30 minute commute took almost two hours.

Watching: Movies: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Inside Out. We liked them both. In fact, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was one of the best adaptations of a 1960's television show I've seen; they played it very much like the tone of the television show.

Reading: Why didn't any of you warn me about the sadness that is the ending of A Man Called Ove??? I seriously cried in a hospital waiting room! I started books, switched books, and reorganized my reading plan this week. Because of the archive dates on books from Netgalley, I decided to wait on reading My Name Is Lucy Barton until later and started Nelly Dean (she of Withering Heights). I also started Why We Write About Ourselves and decided that it's a perfect nightstand book. I'm moving The Flying Troutmans off the nightstand and I'll read it when BG decides he need the iPad.

Making: Pork roast, tator tot casserole, cheeseburger pie, runzas, fettucine alfredo. I've decided cooking is fun again! This week I'm planning to try a couple of new recipes including a crockpot chicken marsala. What's been cooking in your kitchen?

Planning: The past couple of weeks have been busier than usual with more on the calendar, longer work hours, a week of being down with a cold. My plan for this week is to get my house back in order.
Good thing my mom's room was big!

Grateful for: Family. In the University of Nebraska fight song, there is a line that says "we all stick together in all kinds of weather." That's my family. I'm sure hospitals never know what to make of us but we travel in packs when it's time to support one another.

Enjoying: Watching my daughter stretch out on the floor in my mom's hospital room the other day with a book. There are four readers in my immediate family. Miss H was not one of them. Now that she's really discovered how relaxing reading at bedtime can be and how great it is to have a book to pass time, I think we may just have a fifth reader!

Feeling: It's been a week of feeling all of the things.

Looking forward to: Thanks to last week's winter weather, book club had to be postponed. So this week I'm once again looking forward to spending an evening with my ladies, talking about A Man Called Ove. I wonder if anyone else cried?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey by Reid Mitenbuler - Guest Review

Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America's Whiskey by Reid Mitenbuler
Published by Penguin Publishing Group May 2015
Source: courtesy of the publisher

When I was pitched this book, I knew immediately it was one that my husband would enjoy. I was right!

Publisher's Summary:
In this savory history of bourbon whiskey, journalist Mitenbuler recounts the journey of this archetypal American libation: distilled from a mix of half corn and half rye, wheat, or other grain, and aged in charred-oak barrels. The narrative follows from bourbon’s backwoods origins, through its patriotic ascension in the late 18th century over British-associated rum, to its modern maturity (after a flirtation with gangsterism during Prohibition) as the creature of multinational corporations. Mitenbuler engagingly explores the science and lore of whiskey-making and the resulting subtleties of taste, both lampooning the new wine-style whiskey connoisseurship and wallowing in it (let the “concentrated bursts of honey, spice and vanilla flavors unwind on your tongue,” he murmurs). But bourbon’s convoluted cultural associations fascinate him just as much: its protean links to cowboys, blue-collar joes, and Wall Street bankers, and the fake advertising backstories about rugged individualist founders sprouted from Kentucky hollers. Mitenbuler’s prose is relaxed and mellow with a shot of wry; his entertaining, loose-limbed narrative revels in the colorful characters and droll hypocrisies of capitalism at its booziest.

The Big Guy's Thoughts:
A very interesting book that outlines how bourbon shaped and has been a huge part of American history since before the American revolution.  I was amazed how much the growth of this country and bourbon production, sale and consumption was integrated with many points in history and in many circles of society, high and low.

Many of the fathers of our country including Jefferson and Washington had stills and whiskey was thought to have medicinal qualities, so they provided rations to their fighting men in the field.  Lewis and Clark carried significant whiskey rations on their legendary trip across America.  Mitenbuler goes through the entire history of America from the not only the American Revolution but our Civil War where whiskey was thought to improve fighting skills.  Obviously used as a pain killer in the gory field medical hospitals, but i would imagine to summon up courage to go into battle in the first place as well.

Mitenbuler spends a good deal of time discussing whiskey and prohibition and the beginnings of moonshiners  which was the humble beginnings of America's beloved sport of NASCAR auto racing.  Mitenbuler reviews a great deal of history over the various whiskey brands, families and companies rise and fall through history before and after prohibition.  There were quality issues that brought about government regulation for safety of our fine American beverage and also the oak barrels and charcoal aging process developed over the years.

So the book covers the vast impact that whiskey has had on American society from the settlement of our country, through our wars, the business side of it's development through today's resurgence across the globe.

Having enjoyed some of the spirits myself, good and bad through my personal history, I really never thought of whiskey having this much impact on our society in the past and to this day.  A very enlightening read.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life: It Goes On - January 17

Moving a little slower than the usual Sunday morning pace today. Our friends' daughter got married last night and we partied until the wee hours. No, I'm not hungover. But I am a little crippled up from nine hours in high heels, something I very rarely wear. Perhaps a good excuse to put my feet up and do a lot of reading on this ridiculously cold day.

Listening To: This week's podcasts included All The Books, Freakonomics, Radiolab, and Dear Sugar.

Watching: Elementary, Downtown Abbey, Black List, and football (of course!). Although yesterday was not a good day for the teams we were cheering for.

Reading: Remember that promise I made myself a couple of weeks ago to read my own damn books? I'm not doing so well with that one but I am enjoying reading whatever I feel like reading next. I finished The Swans of Fifth Avenue and Amelia Earhart: Beyond The Grave and I'm now racing through A Man Called Ove for book club on Tuesday.

Making: Beef stroganoff, pork chops and mashed potatoes, chili - I've been back in the kitchen this week! I'm planning on prepping some meals for the coming week today including runzas and enchiladas.

Planning: Miss H and I will head off to my parents later today; my mom is having her knee replaced tomorrow so we'll be keeping my dad company in the waiting room. The rest of the week will be a play-it-by-ear week as she recovers. Her goal is to be able to dance at my niece's wedding in October - I have every faith her in ability to get there!

Grateful for: Hot coffee on a cold day. Miss H's friend gave me this cup for Christmas - isn't it pretty?

Enjoying: Great times with great friends.

Feeling: Like I should get off the computer and get something accomplished. But it's so much more fun to visit blogs than to clean!

Looking forward to: Book club this week!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
Published January 2016 by Delacourt Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher by way of Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a prestigious husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.

Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrĂ©e into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.

Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years.

My Thoughts:

  • The perfect juxtaposition to my first book of the year (Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman), in The Swans of Fifth Avenue Melanie Benjamin tells the tale of a group of 1950's socialites enjoying the world just before feminism really took off. Even with all of the money, the jewels, the fashion, the staff, these women were entirely reliant on rich men and their worth seemed to be completely based on their look. For a brief period, Babe worked as a fashion editor at Vogue. It helped her refine her style but was also the last time she was any thing other than William Paley's wife, style icon, queen of the swans. Some of the other swans also had brief careers but, ultimately, they all spent the rest of their lives working at marrying well.

  • I've learned through listening to Melanie Benjamin talk about her writing, reading her books, and doing some follow up research, Benjamin does a bang up job of researching her books. This book is no exception. As it's about a more current subject than her others, it's easier to do a little digging and check the facts. There may be some places where Benjamin has played with the facts but certainly nothing major as far as I can see. Which, for me, makes the fiction piece all the more impressive when it's been worked entirely into the known.
  • Benjamin may have painted Babe Paley as a more sympathetic character than I've seen her portrayed elsewhere, but she also doesn't shy away from showing Paley's real warts. She was, for example, a terrible mother and Benjamin's Babe doesn't seem to feel much guilt about it.
  • Conversely, Benjamin manages to make Capote not an altogether unlikable character (at least early on) by letting readers see into his childhood and the difficulties he faced as a gay man in the 1950's.               
  • The book may be about all of Capote's swans but it is, at it's heart, the story of the love that Babe and Truman shared, both of them desperately seeking someone who would love them for who they really are. Babe let Truman see the woman, literally, behind the mask, something even her husband was not allowed to see. 
  • In the end, Truman Capote became a caricature of his flamboyant younger self, someone who flaws seemed to have become ever more exaggerated. Benjamin paints a picture of a man so desperate for success and fame that he betrays the confidence of those he claimed to love but so lost that he doesn't truly understand why.
  • Babe, on the other hand, faced death as exactly the woman she spent her life creating. Dying of cancer, she planned her entire funeral, right down to the catered food, the wine, and the flowers.                                                              In Benjamin's hands, Babe Paley, a woman who had it all, became someone I pitied as she laid dying, surrounded by children who there out of obligation and estranged from the only man she'd truly loved.
  • Bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed this The Swans of Fifth Avenue!

Monday, January 11, 2016

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
Published by Ebury Publishing  June 2011
Source: bought my copy for my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.

My Thoughts:
Caitlin Moran and I have very little in common. Except that we're both women. And that seems to be enough for me to be able to connect with her. Moran calls proudly calls herself a "strident feminist." I'm content to just call myself a feminist but I'm glad that there are people like Moran out there, loudly calling for the rights of women.
"Because it's not as if strident feminists want to take over from men. We're no arguing for the whole world. Just our share."
Exactly! Although I do think the world would be a much better place if more women were running countries.
"...we need to reclaim the word "feminism." We need the word "feminism" back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent of American women would describe themselves as feminist...I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of "liberation for women" is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Vogue by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good SH*# GET ON YOUR NERVES? or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?"
How To Be A Woman is part memoir, part feminist manifesto. Moran begins every chapter talking about events in her own life, events that all women face at some point in their lives. Events like getting her first bra, having her first period, encountering sexism, deciding to get married, deciding to have children (or not). Moran has strong opinions, doesn't shy away from the F word, and talks about some issues (such as abortion) that make this a book that might make this a tough read for some women. On the other hand, Moran is brutally honest, extremely honest, and has things to say that every woman needs to read.
"Accepting you're just some perfectly ordinary woman who is going to have to crack on, work hard, and be polite in order to get anything done is - once you've gotten over the crippling disappointment of your thundering ordinariness - incredibly liberating."
Moran doesn't contend that, in order to be feminists, all women need to be striving to rise to the top. Instead, she contends that being a feminist is something that every women, not matter your background, ambition, or political leaning, should get up on a chair and shout "I AM A FEMINIST!" For Moran, being a feminist is about being in charge of who you are and having choices in life.

My copy of the book is now heavily highlighted. I'd love to share all of those passages with you. I may at sometime in the future. How To Be A Woman works right into my word of the year, "happier," in giving me the push to insist on equality, choice, and change. For me. For my daughter and my nieces. For all women.
"In the 21st century, we don't need to march against size-zero models, risible pornography, lap-dancing clubs, and Botox. We don't need to riot or go on hunger strikes. There's no need to throw ourselves under a horse, or even a donkey. We just need to look it in the eye squarely, for a minute, and then start laughing at it. We look hot when we laugh. People fancy us when they observe us giving out relaxed, earthy chuckles."
Perfect book to start a new year!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Life: It Goes On - January 10

How are you all surviving this crazy winter weather we're having the past couple of weeks? We've had such a good winter (and by "good" I mean not wintery at all!) but suddenly we're battling subzero temps. Blankets in the car, hat/scarves/mittens every time you walk outside, frostbite in minutes cold weather. I'm not a fan. On the plus side, the roads and sidewalks are, for the most part, dry so getting around is not tough. As part of my "happier" year, I'm really trying to make myself look on the plus side more often.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Podcasts, podcasts, and more podcasts. Turns out that having so many podcast episodes hanging out there that "needed" to be listened to stressed me out a little every time I opened my podcasts. So, in addition to listening to a lot of them the past couple of weeks, I've deleted a lot of older episodes or episodes that didn't sound like they'd be of interest. I am really sad that Nerdette has not had a new podcast in months!
Kelsey Robinson, Kayla Banworth, and Jordan
Larson-Burbach - Nebraska alumni

Watching: The new season of "Downtown Abbey," as much football as I can find, and the USA women's volleyball team winning three matches this weekend to lock down their 2016 Olympic ticket. Three former Husker volleyball players are on the team so we love being able to watch them doing so well.

Reading: I finished Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman (strident review this week) and started Melanie Benjamin's Swans of Fifth Avenue which I'm hoping to finish today. They were perfect foils for each other! Next up is A Man Called Ove for bookclub.

Making: I worked longer hours this week so The Big Guy did most of the week day cooking (love that he does this!). This weekend I've made beef stroganoff, beef enchiladas, fajitas, steel cut oats with orange-flavored cranberries and golden raisins, and rice pudding.

Planning: Diving into my closet for the semi-annual sorting, tossing, and reorganizing. This is one chore I really enjoy doing.

Grateful for: Road crews that have kept the roads in great shape despite all of the snow and wet stuff we've had lately.

Enjoying: A new haircut.

M's Pub at the heart of Omaha's Old Market
Feeling: Heartsick - on of Omaha's landmark buildings burned yesterday. It sits in our Old Market district which is one of the go-to places and housed one of our favorite restaurants.

Looking forward to: A more normal week. Regular working hours, nothing on the agenda, time to read and cook and put my house back in order.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Faithful Place by Tana French

Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad Series #3) by Tana French
Published by Viking Penguin July 2010
Source: this one is all mine

Publisher's Summary:
Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin's inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.

But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn't show. Frank took it for granted that she'd dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.

Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he's a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he's willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

My Thoughts:
I'm done. I've now read all five of the Dublin Murder Squad books. I'm so sad.

I read the series out of order, sort of. I was introduced to French's books with book four in the series, Broken Harbor and then read The Secret Place when it came out. In August, I went back to the beginning. Which leaves me ending with Faithful Place.

Because French brings one or two characters from one book into the next, it's probably best to start with book one and work your way through the books, although it's certainly not necessary. On the other hand, had I done that, I would not have ended my French reading spree with what I think is the best of the books.

Frank Mackey first appeared in the second book, The Likeness. I did not like him at all. He was a cop who was all about getting the results that he wanted and his methods were not entirely on the up and up. He was not a nice guy.

In Faithful Place, French takes us back and let's us see what made Frank Mackey the person he became. A tough neighborhood, abusive parents, and terrible heartbreak turned a young boy into a tough guy who's not necessarily interested in the rules. Frank's also really, really not interested in getting involved again with his screwed up family. So unwilling to do it that his ex-wife and seven-year-old daughter have never even met any of them except one sister. When she calls him in hysterics, though, and drops the name of Rosie Daly, Frank can't help but be pulled back in and we spend a lot of time getting to know them and his complicated relationship with them.

As interesting as solving the case is, the relationship between the characters and Frank's relationship with Faithful Place were the most interesting things about Faithful Place. Frank still may not be the nicest guy or most ethical cop, but he's a complete person, a devoted father with a sad past and a deep love for the girl he thought left him. I've kind of got a soft spot for ol' Frankie now.

Now how much longer to I have to wait for the next book?!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Best of 2015 - Finally

In prior years, I've made my best-of list before the very end of the year. Sometimes that's been fine. Other times, I've ended the year with a book I wish I would have put on the list. Like this year. Tana French's Faithful Place nudged out her The Secret Place at the end. I actually read four of her books this year and I liked all of them a lot. But Faithful Place stood out.

Some books appear on both my fiction and audiobook lists. My nonfiction reads were a big disappointment in 2015, very few standouts. Hoping to improve on that in 2016! The books are in no particular order other than that Station Eleven and Life After Life are definitely my two favorites books of the year. Were any of these hits with you?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Faithful Place by Tana French
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Last Night At The Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert
Room by Emily Donoghue
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

Brain On Fire by Susannah Catalan
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Tiger Heart by Katrell Christie

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Room by Emily Donoghue
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Finn by Jon Clinch
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Heidi Durrow
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Froer

Monday, January 4, 2016

Not So Much Challenges As Reminders

New year - new attitude. These things I'm signing up for may be called "challenges" but this year I'm thinking of them more as reminders rather than challenges.

It's not that I "have" to read more nonfiction, or classics, or books written by authors of color or set in other countries. But I want to and it's just so darn easy to grab the nearest novel written by a white person set in the United States. I like to think that I'm a smart person and I think my reading should, to some extent, help make me smarter. Also, I'm missing out on some great books if I'm not looking to broaden my horizons. So, for 2016 I'll be utilizing the following "reminders" to help steer me to read the things I want to read.

2016 Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader: I'll be shooting to reach the Seeker level which is 11-15 nonfiction books during 2016; my goal is to average one nonfiction book a month, at least. Because I will be reading some Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2016. And The Emperor Of All Maladies. And...oh, I have so many great nonfiction books already on my bookshelves that I can't wait to read!

Diversity On The Shelf 2016 hosted by Akilah at The Englishist: Because this is, again, just a reminder, I'm signing up at the lowest level, First Shelf, which only requires that I read 1-6 books written by and/or about persons of color. Let's face it, things have gotten a little ugly in the U.S. of late when it comes to race relations. I'd like to do my part to try to understand all sides, not just my own.

Women Challenge #4 hosted by Peek-a-booK!: Let's face it, I may not really need this reminder. I've signed up the past two years at the highest level, Wonder Woman, which requires that you read 20+ books in the year written by women. I've blown that out in about half the year both years. But, as there continues to be a running battle in the book world about the difference between the way male and female authors are treated, I don't want to become complacent.

I gave some serious thought to the Journal in January challenge hosted by She is too fond of books but decided I didn't want to add anything more to my daily schedule right now as I'm working to make some other changes in the way I spend my time. Now, if she decides to challenge me later this year to get back to my journaling, I may just take her up on it!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Life: It Goes On - January 3

New Year's selfie - selfies should not
be taken after too many drinks!
Happy New Year! Hope you've all had a good start to 2016! We kicked off the year with a very relaxing, very long weekend and enjoyed ringing in the new year with friends we've been celebrating with for the past few years. Very low key but yummy noms, good drinks, and the kids were able to stop in to spend some time with us as well.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: As my word of the year is going to be "happier" and as my reading for the New Year's Resolution challenge will revolve around reading things that will help make that word a reality, some of my listening will also focus on that word. Hence, I'm kicking off the year getting caught up on Gretchen Rubin's podcast, "Happier."

Watching: We rented the latest Mission Impossible movie and "Trainwreck" this weekend and hope to get to "The Martian" this afternoon. We finally got back to watching a couple of episodes of "Longmire" and caught the latest "Sherlock" episode (holy twistiness!) on t.v. Mostly, as the college football season comes to an end, we've watched a lot of college football.

Reading: My last book of 2015 was Tana French's Faithful Place (review this week) and started 2016 with How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. I have been reading parts to my husband. He is not as amused as I am by Moran, especially the bits I've read him about pubic hair. Yeah, it's that kind of book.

Making: Shredded seasoned chicken breast which we've used on buns with barbecue sauce and on stop of rice with rogan josh sauce, ham and baked potato soup - mostly, though, we've noshed on a lot of leftovers from all of that Christmas cooking.

Planning: On heading off the the YMCA shortly - third day in a row. Because part of being happier in the coming year is being smaller and more fit.

Grateful for: This four-day weekend I've been enjoying. My department will be working at half staff this coming week and it's going to be ridiculously crazy. Good thing I'm going in well rested and relaxed!

Mini-me's girl and The Big Guy
Enjoying: A couple of hour with Mini-me's girl before she headed off to Texas for a four-month stint finishing up her final practical for her degree. She was only home for a couple of days between a Christmas trip and heading down to Texas but she's one of our kids now so we couldn't let her go off without seeing her!

Feeling: Like I should have taken down the Christmas decorations this weekend. But it's so much work! I can leave them up through the twelve days, right?

Looking forward to: Continuing organizing this week. Because it's the first of the year and with all of the upheaval of the holidays, it needs to be done. Kitchen is just about done - even the doors are closed and no one can see in the cupboards or pantry, I swear I feel a weight off my shoulders!

What are you looking forward to this week? Do you anticipate a letdown after all the busyness of the holidays?

Friday, January 1, 2016

First Book of the Year 2016

First Book of the Year is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey, who asks readers to post what they've chosen for their first read of the new year, be it a reread, a guilty pleasure read, a book you've been meaning to get to for a long time, or a book that will set the tone for your reading in the coming year.

The problem with having fewer reading commitments for me has always been making the choice of my next read when I can chose anything I want. Whenever I finish a book, it's always takes some thinking to decide what's next. Some of that depends on what I just finished. Do I want more of the same? Was it a disappointment and I really want to pick up something I know will be better? Was it great and I'm concerned that the next book won't be able to measure up?

I finished 2015 with Tana French's Faithful Place, perhaps my favorite of her five books. I knew what I picked up next needed to be something completely different or it would be hard to measure up. I was fairly certain I wanted read nonfiction next. But what? I did get Stacy Schiff's The Witches for Christmas and I've been wanting to get to The Emperor of All Maladies for a long time. But...I felt like I needed something lighter. I want to make a greater effort to read off my Nook in 2016 so I picked it up to see if there was something there that suited. And, sure enough, there it was:

I love Moran's sense of humor and, after previously reading her Moranthology, knew she'd have a lot to saw about feminism and being a woman in the 21st century. I've only read the Prologue so far and I'm hooked.

What are you reading heading into 2016?