Monday, February 29, 2016

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson
Originally published 1938
Published by Persephone 2008
Narrated by Frances McDormand

Publisher's Summary:
A governess is sent by an employment afency to the wrong address, where she encounters a glamourous night-club singer, Miss LaFosse.

My Thoughts: 
Seriously? That's the summary? Okay, first of all, why are there spelling errors in it? Also, yes, it's an accurate summary, technically that is what happens in the book. But there's something of a spoiler in it, which is just wrong to begin with, and the story is so much more than that.

Miss Pettigrew is actually quite a bad governess. She's bolloxed her "career" so badly that her landlady has threatened to evict her if she doesn't get a job the day she is sent to Miss LaFosse's door. She is dowdy spinster with a moral compass so far up her butt (sorry, Mom!) she hasn't had any fun her entire life. She is self-aware enough to know that she is a screwup and knows that she will be in the bread line if she doesn't get the job with Miss LaFosse.

One of my all-time favorite books is Stella Gibson's Cold Comfort Farm which is, apparently, a parody of exactly this kind of book. So it would stand to reason, then, that I might think this book was a bit of silliness, right?


Almost eighty years after it was first published, I found it to be utterly charming. The circumstances of life may be different these days but Watson's characters could very well exist in today's world. Would it be believable that a woman might reach the age of forty and never have been kissed? Unlikely but not impossible. It is possible that a woman might find herself very much in Miss Pettigrew's situation. Is it likely that a person would walk into a woman's apartment and get completely swept up into that woman's life without that woman ever wondering why the person was even there? Doubtful these days. In rare lulls, I found it hard to believe that Miss LaFoss wouldn't think to ask Miss Pettigrew why she happened to come by that day.'s a story and one that I was more than willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy. Because it was a delight to watch Miss Pettigrew bloom and find hidden reserves she didn't know she had, to see her lose her prejudices. The more I grew to care about her, though, the more the title of the book kept coming back to haunt me. After all, Miss Pettigrew is only going to get to live for a day. I didn't want her to have to go back to her life before Miss LaFoss.

Frances McDormand is a marvelous narrator, easily able to create different voices for the many characters in the novel. I'm certain she was chosen because she played Miss Pettigrew in the film adaptation but I hope it is not the last book she narrates. And now, to find the movie to watch

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Life: It Goes On - February 28

Spring is coming! Spring is coming! (sorry, George R.R. Martin!) It's been in the 40's during the week (with is above average) and our last two weekends have been glorious. Doors and windows open again this weekend and walks outside. I think we're going to survive.

Miss H even laid out in shorts and a tank top yesterday to catch some rays. While she watched "Fuller House" on her lap top. And cried over it. Anyone else's kids as excited as my daughter about this show?

This Week I'm:

Listening To: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani - I'm about 3 1/2 discs in and enjoying it and finding it a good listen. Although I must admit that I found it odd when Enza and Ciro kissed for the first time after only knowing each other a short time and having just buried her beloved sister. But I'm along for the ride so I'll get over it. It's fifteen discs total so it will take me a good month to finish if I don't make any trips to Lincoln to visit my folks.

Watching: I've been imposing TCM on The Big Guy a lot the past month as they highlight movies that have been won Oscars in the past decades. Friday night he told me that "Laura" was "boring," a movie that IMDB rates 8.1 and Roger Ebert gave 4/4 stars. Although he did agree that Gene Tierney was beautiful and he did appreciate Vincent Price being in it. You can see the kind of struggle I've been facing this month.

Also, last night BG and I went to see "Spotlight." Wow! I haven't seen all of the movies up for best picture tonight but I definitely will not be surprised if this one wins. The acting is fantastic, particularly Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffle. It's one of those stories you know, but you really don't know. The extent of the coverup and lack of follow up on early leads in the priest abuse case in Boston is mind boggling.

Reading: I started 13 Ways To Look At A Fat Girl yesterday after finishing The Madonnas of Leningrad on Friday, which was one of my own damn books and on my ereader so it satisfied two of my reading goals for the year. I may try to squeeze in another of my own damn books before starting this months' book club selection. Would you recommend any of these?

Making:  It's warm, it's cold - and our dinners have reflected that! Chicken noodle soup one night, tacos on the patio last night. Today I'm making goodies to take to a party. I'm thinking brownie cheesecake bites but I'm stuck on an appetizer. Any suggestions for something fun and different?

Planning: On doing taxes this week. Yippee.

Thinking About: Some projects I want to get done around the house. Now to talk BG into them!

Enjoying: Time with Mini-me today. He works with Bhutanese senior citizen immigrants and today we're talking a lot about what happens to make people leave their homes and travel to an unknown country. Sorta timely, I think.

Feeling: Tired of extras - extra layers, extra sweeping, extra drive time, extra blankets. I'm ready to lighten up!

Looking forward to:  An Oscars watch, ladies night party tonight.

Question of the week:  What was the best movie you watched this year?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Gems

For the first few years after I started blogging, I took notes for reviews like crazy when I was reading. Somewhere along the way, I decided that was pulling me away from just getting swept up in books. Now I mark a few passages that especially speak to me but, otherwise, take very few notes.

Except when I'm reading on my Nook, when it's easy to drag my finger along the page and tape "Highlight." Just the other day I realized that Nooks keep all of the notes ever taken on any books read on it. So many little writing gems that I never shared in my reviews. So, periodically, I'll share some of them and I'd love to have you share the things you've found that particularly stand out in books you've read.

First up, from Where'd You Go, Bernadette:
"Chihuly are the pigeons of Seattle. They're everywhere, and even if they don't get in your way, you can't help but build up a kind of antipathy toward them."

I found this so funny because here in Omaha we're very proud of the Chihuly pieces we have. Imagine comparing something so beautiful to a pigeon!

"Maybe that's what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place."
To which I say, Amen. I couldn't get through life without believing this.

Do you own a Nook and were you aware that it retained all of your notes and highlights? If not, I highly recommend checking it out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
Published by Viking January 2016
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives collide in ways that have irreversible consequences for them all.

My Thoughts:
In June of 2009, I read Lee's The Piano Teacher. It was one of the first books I reviewed (as you can tell by my review!). I didn't do a favorite books list in 2009 so I don't know if it would have made a top ten list that year; but, six years later, when I was pitched this book, I still remembered being really impacted by that book. I was eager to see if Lee could have that kind of effect on me again.

I'm afraid I have mixed feelings about The Expatriates. 

The expatriate community is, perhaps, the most important character in the book. Because of Hong Kong's unique history, its expat community and relationship with the people of the city is also unique. Each of the ladies finds themselves in a different place in the expat community which is much less homogenized that you might imagine yet remains limited to certain parts of the city. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the lives of these people who live in something of a state of limbo.

As a mother, I absolutely connected with Margaret's story, her pain, her inability to move on from the terrible thing that happened to her family.  Hilary was tougher to connect with, to understand; she is a woman who seemed to want a child for all of the wrong reasons (although her situation is certainly not uncommon). I never could connect with Mercy, someone who seemed to have decided that she would never do anything right and seemed resigned not to bother to try. She may have been the character closest to Lee's heart, though; both are daughters born of Korean parents in a different country.

It took me a while to really be pulled in equally to each woman's story but when they all began to become intertwined, I definitely enjoyed the book more. Unfortunately, the ending struck me as both too neat and tidy (although I did appreciate that not all loose ends were tied up) and incredibly hard to buy into. Still, for a look into a world that is utterly unique and for Margaret's story alone, The Expatriates was well worth reading.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name Is Lucy Barton  by Elizabeth Strout
Published by Random House Publishing Group January 2016
Source: my ecopy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher

Publisher's Summary:
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

My Thoughts:
I met Elizabeth Strout, as most of you did, when I read Olive Kitteridge  (my review). I think it's one of the best examples of how to get readers to connect with an unlikable character. It is a book that has stuck with me, one I recommend to everyone. Five years later, I jumped at the chance to read Strout's next book, The Burgess Boys  (my review ). Hhmmm, it sort of seems like I forgot to write the rest of this review, which tells me something about the way I felt about this book. But I did love that Strout took on a big issue and I still liked her writing.

Here, Strout has cut way, way back. Not in any way to suggest that there is not a lot here to consider but Strout has managed to say it in the fewest words possible and in the things that are left unsaid.
"Telling a lie and wasting food were always things to be punished for. Otherwise, on occasion and without warning, my parents - and it was usually my mother and usually in the presence of our father - struck us impusively and vigorously, as I think some people may have suspected by our splotchy skin and sullen dispositions.  
And there was isolation."
The Bartons were desperately poor, an excuse for them to be ostracized in Amgash on it's own. But there was much more going on in the Barton household and it isolated the family both literally and figuratively - "Lonely was the first flavor I tasted in my life."  Strout gives readers only brief glimpses into the past but it's enough to understand Lucy's pain as an adult, the choices she makes, and the disconnect she feels from her family. More importantly, Strout also makes readers understand why someone who has suffered, as Lucy has suffered, still longs for a connection with a mother she can't help but love.

It may well be time for my book club to read another book by Elizabeth Strout; there is a wealth of things to discuss in My Name Is Lucy Barton, a wealth of things to think about it. It is a book that will stay with me.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Life: It Goes On - February 21

I was half tempted to break out a springish Life picture for today given the weather we've had the past week. Three days in a row in the upper sixties, sunny - easy to think that we won't see any more snow this year. But we live in Nebraska so we know this is just a reward for surviving this far and that winter will be back.

In the meantime, we are loving sitting out on patios and decks, leaving doors open, and only needing light jackets outside!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day on Friday. I sat in a carwash line in no small part just to have an excuse to be in the car long enough to finish it. Adored it! I think I'll be starting Adriana Trigiani's The Shoemaker's Wife on Monday but I may change my mind and go with something that's completely different from what I've been reading.

Watching: A friend and I went to see "Brooklyn" the other day. We both really liked it a lot and agreed that Saoirse Ronan deserved her Oscar nom. In many ways I enjoyed it more than the book, although there is a lot that might have been done to show how overwhelmed Eilis was when she got to Brooklyn and the part where she returned to Ireland might have been longer to better explain why she did what she did.

Reading: Finished My Name Is Lucy Barton (so spare and yet so emotional) and will finish Thirty-Eight Witnesses today (it's crazy short). Next up? I'm not sure exactly but I'm leaning toward The Year of Reading Dangerously or Mennonite In A Little Black Dress, both my own damn books and both nonfiction which I'm yearning to read more of this year.

Making: Tacos, tuna salad sandwiches, ravioli casserole, bean enchiladas and chicken nachos - nothing that required much effort. Yesterday I did make lemon bars to take to a friends and today I'm getting ready to throw a turkey in the oven. Because, apparently, it should be used during February according to BG.

Planning: Nothing on the calendar again this week which means that I'll have time to work more on the 40 Bags In 40 Days project which I'm woefully behind on. Between my freezers and fridge I threw three grocery bags of stuff away this weekend - I was happy to be getting rid of stuff we couldn't use but a little horrified to have let that much food go to waste.

Grateful for: Some time with Mini-me today, just BG and I. Love having all of the kids around together but we don't get to see Mini-me that often and it's fun to have his whole focus to ourselves! 

Enjoying: Nice wine, great friends and gorgeous weather! Did you all take advantage of National Drink Wine Day as an excuse to pop open a bottle?

Feeling: Energized to lighten the load - look out family, I'm coming to your room next with bags and a desire to purge and cull!

Looking forward to: Having Mini-him back tomorrow from Colorado and hearing about his adventures. He's been gone several days and one of the things he's done is to go to the Stanley Hotel (made famous by Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining).

Question of the Week: What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

BBAW - What Have You Read And Loved Because of A Fellow Blogger?

Well, this snuck up on me...again. Thanks to the ladies at Estella Society for hosting this year and bringing this community building event back to life. If you don't have a blog, you might think this event doesn't have much to offer you. But you'd be wrong. Because this is a great chance to get to learn about books and what people who love books (and read a lot of books) read and love.

Today our wonderful hosts have asked us to talk about the books we've read and loved because a fellow blogger introduced us to them. Oh. So. Many.

The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Murial Barbery. I'm not sure which blogger introduced me to this book; I'm inclined to think it was an accumulation of reviews that convinced me to pick it up. And then, for a good third + of the book, I was not very happy with those people. Then everything changed and I ended up deeply attached to the characters. It's one of the reason I find it so hard to give up on books now. You just never know if a book will turn for you.

In my twenties, I read a lot of Stephen King. And then I didn't. I didn't read any Stephen King at all. But a group of book bloggers have convinced me to take up the master again, most notably in 2013 when I joined them in reading King's Under The Dome, which weighs in at over 1000 pages. But it's King so it flies a long. King keeps the action moving along and the cast is large, but he also manages to draw the reader into their lives and care about them. And I defy you to see where this one is going. Seriously, if you tell me you figured it out before King laid it out, I'd be tempted to call you a liar. Extra fun when you get to talk about it with other people!

Ti, of Book Chatter, loves Haruki Murakami. Loves him. Writes about his books so eloquently that she had convinced me that I really needed to read one of his books sooner rather than later. And then she put together a readalong of The Windup Bird Chronicles and I was in. And I was hooked. I had no idea what the hell was going on a lot of the time but talking about it with other people and allowing myself to just make of it what I would turned out to be the perfect way to read this one and to fall in love with Muraki's style. I enjoyed it so much that when Ti talked about rereading Kafka On The Shore last year, I didn't hesitate to join her.

Maybe my favorite ever book that I was convinced to read by other bloggers was Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow. I don't read much science fiction or fantasy and no space travel. The Sparrow is all of those things. But it's so much more. It's a book that a year and a half later is still making me think, still touching my heart. I keep very few books after I've read them. I know the chances of me rereading a book is small. This one, though, this is one that I'm certain I will reread again. Soon. I've read a lot of books I've loved in the past few years but very few that have impacted me in the way this book did. Andi of Estella's Revenge sold me on this book and Trish of Love, Laughter, and A Touch of Insanity put together the readalong that got me to read it. Thanks to both of them!

What books have you read and loved because of a blogger?

Monday, February 15, 2016

If You Give A Girl A $20...

So, I haven't been to my local library book sale in about three months. Highly unusual for me but between not having time, not particularly being in the mood to listen to a book, and being perfectly content to listen to podcasts during my drive time there just wasn't any need. And, to be honest, I hadn't been finding things that really tripped my trigger lately so I decided to give it some time.Here's what happens when you've just revamped your book wish list, you haven't been to the library sale in months, and you've got a $20 bill in your pocket. While I'm not necessarily doing very well #ReadingMyOwnDamnBooks, I'm bound and determined not to spend any money on books that aren't already on my list, books that have remained on the list even after I've culled it. These eight were all on that list and came in just under that $20. Because if I've got that much cash, it's a pretty sure bet than I'm going to spend that much! Blood and Beauty I got in hardcover but the rest are all audiobooks.

Every time I pick up a batch of new audiobooks, I spend some moments sitting in the car afterward choosing the book to listen to first. Some poor schmuck sat behind me waiting for I don't know how long today while I was doing that. Sorry buddy!

I chose Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day to listen to first and I am loving it after just a half a disc. Frances McDormand (who starred in the movie adaptation) narrates and she does a terrific job. I was tempted to run a few more errands this afternoon just so I could listen to more!

Which of these have you read? What would you recommend I listen to next?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Life: It Goes On - February 14

Happy Valentine's Day - a day to celebrate love of all kinds, I think, not just a day to celebrate having a significant other. After 36 years of being together, we don't do much to celebrate any more; we'll grab a bite to eat at one of our favorite Chinese places but it's not at all a fancy place and exchange more practical gifts than we did long ago. Will you be doing something special today?

As I was working on my calendar into March yesterday, I realized that we are just one month away from Daylight Savings Time. I know a lot of you don't like it but this girl lives for it. It's been so cloudy and grey here all winter in the mornings that we haven't even benefited from early light. I can't wait!

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Music-wise, a lot of Post Modern Jukebox; as for podcasts, I'm almost caught up with this season's Serial; and Thursday I started listening to Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Watching: Well, the Super Bowl, of course. I was in a room full of Denver Broncos fans so there was a lot of cheering. I was happy for a good game and a room full of "my" kids. This weekend, The Big Guy and I have watched "The Martian" and "Bridge of Spies." We really enjoyed both of them a lot. Both Matt Damon (The Martian) and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) gave terrific performances.

Reading: I finished Janice Y. K. Lee's The Expatriates on Friday and am working to finish up the two Sherlock Holmes novellas we're reading for book club this week: A Study In Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles. After that, I'll start My Name is Lucy Barton. I've got several Netgalley downloads that will publish in March so I'll probably be working on them for the next couple of weeks.

Making: BG made a couple of pizzas this week, including one using leftover Buffalo Chicken Dip; crab linguine, and some hot ham and cheese sandwiches. We've had sandwiches like these from a local restaurant and decided to try making them at home. If I had remembered to half the butter topping they wouldn't be overwhelmed by poppy seeds but otherwise they were a big hit with the whole family.

Planning: With the start of Lent also came the start of the annual 40 Bags In 40 Days event. I, of course, completely spaced starting on Wednesday. Sundays are supposed to be days off but I'll be using today to get caught up and put together a plan of attack for the rest of the time. With four of us in the house again this year, I don't think I'll have any problem getting rid of 40 bags of stuff. Which is a little horrifying considering I work year round to try to keep clutter down.

Grateful for: Being an old dog who is able to learn new tricks. We've been making some changes at work lately and there are a lot of my co-workers who are digging in their heels. I'm not a big fan of change but it is inevitable and the way you've been doing something for 20 years isn't necessarily the best way any more.

Enjoying: The antics of our cats. Had to really keep our eyes on our big guy last Sunday; he kept trying to grab food off the table. At one point I caught him trying to hide under the table cloth, ready to launch a sneak attack! Next party: 1) remember to move the chairs away from the table and 2) keep the meat and salty foods away from the edges. This crazy cat loves crackers and chips!

Horses out on the town - dashboard cam
Feeling: A little bit shook by quite a few violent events relatively close to what we've always considered a "safe" part of town. I know violence can strike any where but when rapid gunfire wakes you up at 1:30 in the morning, it's too close to home. Oddly, that same night, four horses got loose from a nearby acreage and went wandering through neighborhoods and down major streets...followed by cruisers. Talk about a slow speed chase!

Looking forward to: Book club this week. I'm putting together some things for this month's meeting to try to keep us on topic for a better part of the get-together. If you're part of our group reading this, get ready for a quiz about Sherlock Holmes!

Question of the week: Are you a saver or someone who would join the 40 Bags In 40 Days challenge?  I don't say "hoarder" because I don't necessarily think that people who like to save things are necessarily hoarders. I'd say you've crossed the line into hoarding when you've started having to create paths through your stuff or you've lost a cat in your house. I hope none of your fall into that category!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Love Is In The Air

It's that time of year again...Valentine's Day is just around the corner and a post about books about love is in order. The thing is...I don't read that many books that are, strictly speaking, love stories.

I used to, as most young women do - The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, Love Story by Erich Segal. Most of my favorite classics are love stories - all of Jane Austen's books, Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet, Age of Innocence.

As an adult, if I'm picking up a book that's, at its heart, a love story, I tend to gravitate toward something that has a unique story. That's what drew me to the modern books above. An affair set during World War Two and a love story set during the Vietnam war, people of two cultures coming together - both young and old, dual love stories - both doomed, a man with autism, a quadriplegic, a fantastical love story, and a hidden love between two women. Some of them made me cry, some of them made me laugh, all of them touched my heart.

What are you favorite love stories? Are they traditional? Quirky? Straight up romance?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
Published by Counterpoint Press in October 2008
Source: Bought it. In 2009.

Publisher's Summary:
Some families appear destined for catastrophe: meet the Troutmans. Hattie's boyfriend has just dumped her, her sister Min is back in the psych ward, and Min's kids, Logan and Thebes, are not talking and talking way too much, respectively.

Then there's the past, in which Min tried to kill Hattie once and to kill herself a lot, in which Min threw the kids' father out of the house, in which Hattie dropped out of school, in which Logan and his friends kidnapped a friend and drove around town with him in the trunk, and in which Thebes frequently impersonated their troubled mom in order to cut class." "So, when Hattie returns to take care of her niece and nephew, she's rapidly freaked out by the realization that the responsibility is in fact far greater than she'd expected - cute as it may be, for example, that Logan is infatuated with acerbic New York Times Magazine interviewer Deborah Solomon, and charming as Thebes's hip-hop vernacular is, she's in danger of becoming their surrogate parent. She decides to take the kids in the family van (think Little Miss Sunshine) to go find their father, last heard to be running an idiosyncratic art gallery in South Dakota.

My Thoughts:
Because NPR introduced me to it and because I found it in a clearance bin, I had to buy this book. Then I started this blog and free books started showing up in my mailbox and so many new books came to my attention. Books that were already on my bookshelves languished. Including this one. Then, on someone's blog, I saw Miriam Toews' name and remembered this book. Then, too, came #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks and I knew it was time to pull this one off the shelf.

The premises of the book isn't anything new - family member called in to care for children in need, family takes a road trip, quirky family members clash and come together - and Toews' precocious little girl came off a little too quirky and precocious for me sometimes.

But Toews also offers enough that's original and a depth that's sometimes lacking in these kinds of stories. Hattie isn't the family member who rushes in to save the day - she rushes in as much to escape her own situation as to help anyone and she is utterly clueless about what to do. The trip to go find the children's father? That's Hattie's out, because there's no way she's going to be the person left taking care of her niece and nephew. The kids? Not just quirky but seriously screwed up by a father who left them and a mother who spends most of her time out of touch with reality. The trio is just as likely to have really terrible things happen along their journey as they are to bond. In the end, Toews doesn't feel the need to tie everything up with a pretty little bow, not every problem is solved. Just the way I like a book to end, just as any real life story would.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove  by Fredrik Backman
Published  July 2014 by Atria Books
Source: bought this for my Nook

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My Thoughts:
When one of my book club members pitched this book, she did so because it was recommended to her by a friend in another book club who compared it to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Not necessarily a selling point for at least one of our members, who found herself constantly wanting to slap Harold Fry.

Ove is not Harold Fry. Ove is a man lost without the love of his life, a woman who may have been the only person who ever really understood him. He is the very definition of "curmudgeon." He is a slave to routine, a stickler for the rules, and buried by his own opinions. "Ove was so weighed down with anger." He has no tolerance for other people and makes no bones about it. He is, frankly, a pain in the ass as a neighbor. Not the kind of guy you would want to befriend, even if you could.


As Backman moves back and forth between Ove's past and the present, we begin to understand what has made Ove so bitter but also how it is that a wonderful woman could fall in love with him.
"...everywhere, sooner or later, he was stopped by men in white shirts with strict, smug expressions on their faces."
"He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had."
When a new woman comes into his life, she pushes every button he has. Then along comes another person that cracks Ove's hard shell. And another. We begin to see that, underneath that shell, there is a man with a heart.

I loved the way that phrases come back again and again in the book. "People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had" just pages after the above quote. Again and again Backman uses some version of the phrase "chooses what sort of man he wants to be" to highlight the events that caused Ove to become who he would become. And this:
"Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn't."
I didn't expect to love this book. I'd heard enough good things to assume that I would like it. But a book with a crabby widower at it's center? Not something I assumed I would be able to relate to...just goes to show that you don't have to be able to relate to a book to find the common humanity in it. This book spoke to me.
"...time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person's life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps."
Because no one warned me, I'm warning you. This is obviously a book meant to pull at your heartstrings. I knew that from the beginning. I did not see that it was a book that was going to make me cry for the last 25 pages. But then I'm a sucker for a sweet moment, a touching gesture. So be warned. And if you don't feel just a little bit sappy by the end of this book, I'm going to call you Ove.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Life: It Goes On - February 7

This has certainly been a weird week. Blizzard conditions shut down a lot of the state on Tuesday, including much of Omaha. Which meant all four of us got to stay home from work and be lazy (other than the scooping, of course!). Today temperatures are in the 40's - warm enough that we left the back door ajar for a while so the cats could rove in and out and for me to ditch socks for one day. Have I mentioned before how much I hate socks?

The new picture on the left is one that Mini-me took last winter on a trip to Colorado. I mentioned the other night that I was looking for a winter picture for my winter posts and he remembered this one. Perfect say I!

This Week I'm:

Listening To:  Radio Lab, Serial - Season 2, The Moth, StoryCorps and Happier. I'm planning on heading over to my library book sale on Thursday - I'm feeling ready to start a new audiobook finally.

Mini-me & Miss S
Watching: Mini-me's girlfriend being inducted into an honor society through her university. We were proud to stand up as her family when families were introduced - we really do think of her as one of ours. And just look how happy she makes Mini-me!

Reading: I finished The Flying Troutmans this week and started Janice Y. K. Lee's The Expatriates. I really enjoyed her book The Piano Teacher (review here) and can already see that this one is going to be just as sad a book.

View from my window
on Tuesday
Nerd Things:  I spent most of my snow day reworking my books-to-read lists. I had books on a spreadsheet, on Goodreads, on Pinterest, on little sheets of paper in a desk drawer. I'm down to just the spreadsheet and Goodreads now and there are no duplicates between the two any more. I'm actually working on getting rid of my Goodreads account. I rarely use it any more for updates, haven't been active in any of my groups for quite a while, and have no interest in supporting something owned by Amazon. I still need to move about 350 more titles to my spreadsheet and export my books-read list; I may need another snow day to get it all done!

Making: Creamy cauliflower soup (a do-again recipe but with tweaks - definitely one that needs to sit for a day or two), chili (maybe the best I've ever made according to BG although I have no idea what I did differently!), indoor s'mores, bean dip, stuffed banana peppers, and chicken alfredo.

Planning: An impromptu Super Bowl party for a dozen of Mini-him's friends. BG is headed to Lincoln to a friend's party and I was planning on sticking close to home getting some things caught up. But you know me well enough by now to know that I'm not turning down a chance to have "my" boys over!

Grateful for: Lotions and cremes and lip balms. I cannot possibly drink enough liquids to keep my skin hydrated this time of year.

Enjoying: Time with family. Friday night Mini-me, BG and I enjoyed an art/science/awareness gallery opening about water. Saturday was Miss S's induction ceremony followed by some book shopping and dinner at one of our favorite places with Mini-me, Misses H and S, and BG.

Feeling: Happy - we took Miss H to a bookstore and she actually bought more books than I did! She loves the New York Yankees and managed to find four books.

Looking forward to: A normal week. Maybe this will be that week anyway.

This week's question: What would you do with an unexpected snow day?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Nelly Dean: A Return to Withering Heights by Alison Case

Nelly Dean: A Return To Wuthering Heights by Alison Case
Published by Pegasus February 2016
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
A novel that re-imagines life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ loyal servant, Nelly Dean.Young Nelly Dean has been Hindley’s closest companion for as long as she can remember, living freely at the great house, Wuthering Heights. But when the benevolence of the master brings a wild child into the house, Nelly learns she must follow in her mother’s footsteps, be called "servant" and give herself over completely to the demands of the Earnshaw family.But Nelly is not the only one who finds her life disrupted by this strange newcomer. As death, illness, and passion sweep through the house, Nelly suffers heartache and betrayals at the hands of those she cherishes most, tempting her to leave it all behind. But when a new heir is born, a reign of violence begins that will test even Nelly’s formidable spirit as she finds out what it is to know true sacrifice. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.

My Thoughts:
I tend to have mixed feelings about books spun off of classics (as I do with fanfic, as well) and I tend to stay away from them. I know I miss some fine books because of this. I know this because many of the ones I have chosen to read, I've enjoyed a lot (The Flight of Gemma Hardy, for example). Add Nelly Dean to that list.

I've read Withering Heights twice and I must say that all I can really remember about Nelly Dean is that she was a servant at Wuthering Heights who told the story of Heathcliff and Cathy to Mr. Lockwood. She is largely regarded as an unreliable narrator, given her closeness with the families. That is Case's jumping off point for Nelly Dean.

Nelly is, again, telling her story to Mr. Lockwood, this time in writing. Up front she admits that she previously told him the story she wanted to tell him. Now, she says, she wants to give him the full story, the story of how she came to be so deeply involved with the Earnshaws and, later, the Lintons. Of why she was willing to stay with the Earnshaws despite the violence, poverty, and cruelty. In Nelly Dean, Nelly is the focus of the very story she previously told Lockwood. While Nelly was a relatively minor characters, although crucial, in Wuthering Heights, she was witness to most of what she recounted. Making her the center of the same story in this book was a interesting and effective choice by Case. It allows her to explain Nelly's motivations and also allows her to look more deeply into the circumstances, miscommunications, and tragedies that resulted in the events of Wuthering Heights. 

Periodically, I felt like the book dragged a bit but, overall, I enjoyed Nelly Dean quite a bit. And understood all of the characters a better. I've never much cared for Wuthering Heights; maybe if I gave it a third chance with the background Case offers, I might appreciate it more.