Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

The New York Times had an interesting article last week essentially contending that Bret Easton Ellis' controversial American Psycho has turned out to be prescient of our current climate. Patrick Bateman, Ellis' first-person narrator is filled with bloodlust, is materialistic (well, of course he is, this was written in the 80's), and, surprise!, obsessed with a certain Donald J. Trump.

James Patterson has recently announced that he wants to make more money put books into the hands of people who have abandoned reading by introducing Book Shots which will be published by Little, Brown. These will be books of no more than 150 pages, costing less than $5 a piece, plot driven and, eventually, sold in nontraditional locations. Patterson will write some of the novellas, his team will write others and he will handpick the rest. What are your thoughts about this? I'm kind of for anything that puts books in people's hands.

Writer Ann Patchett is co-owner of a book store in Nashville, called Parnassus, which has just started sending a book mobile around town to food truck rallies, farmer's markets, and outside restaurants. Parnassus on Wheels has it's own web page and Twitter, updating readers as to where they can find the van as it moves about. I'd be so excited if I found a book mobile to explore when I was at the farmer's market! "In Greek mythology, Mount Parnassus is the home of literature, learning, music, and, I think, a few other valuable things," said Patchett, explaining the name of the bookstore.

Have you been keeping up with The Morning News' Tournament of Books? Care of Care's Books and Pies has been working her way through all of the books and I'm thoroughly enjoying reading her opinions of the books in the running.  

Also, in case you missed it, the Once Upon A Time challenge, hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings, has begun. I'm looking forward to getting back to my fairy tales!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
Published April 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: bought this one for my Nook
Narrated by: Orlagh Cassidy and Adriana Trigiani

Publisher's Summary:
The fateful first meeting of Enza and Ciro takes place amid the haunting majesty of the Italian Alps at the turn of the last century. Still teenagers, they are separated when Ciro is banished from his village and sent to hide in New York's Little Italy, apprenticed to a shoemaker, leaving a bereft Enza behind. But when her own family faces disaster, she, too, is forced to emigrate to America. Though destiny will reunite the star-crossed lovers, it will, just as abruptly, separate them once again—sending Ciro off to serve in World War I, while Enza is drawn into the glamorous world of the opera . . . and into the life of the international singing sensation Enrico Caruso. Still, Enza and Ciro have been touched by fate—and, ultimately, the power of their love will change their lives forever.

My Thoughts:
This is the fictionalized account of Trigiani's grandparents' love story and it's a story Trigiani clearly loved writing. Her grandfather did apprentice as a shoemaker and her grandmother was a seamstress. Trigiani pulled in her grandmother's love of Enrico Caruso, her own love of opera, and spent twenty years thinking about the book.

The Shoemaker's Wife is a paean to the details and beauty of everyday life. At the same time, it is a sweeping saga that spans an ocean and decades. Trigiani does a magnificent job of bringing a scene to life for her readers, the colors, textures, and smells. It's the kind of book I usually eat up.

So why didn't I love this book?

Perhaps because Trigiani so wanted us to love the book, she wanted us to love the story of her grandparents. She wanted it to be sweeping and beautifully told. Here's the thing - I could see the majesty of those mountains, imagine the bustle of turn-of-the-last-century New York/New Jersey setting, feel the textures of the costumes and hear the glory of the music. But I didn't feel the emotions, not to the extent I should have to feel the pain, the love, the joy of Trigiani's characters. Some of that I attribute to what felt like a need to tell me how I should feel and why, a need to remind me, in some cases, again and again and again. Some of it was that the emotions just got lost in all of the words. Oh so many words. Fifteen discs that could have been twelve or thirteen. The Shoemaker's Wife is a wonderful story, but there's just too much of it.

A word about the narration: Orlagh Cassidy does a wonderful job with the narration, the Italian names and phrases rolling off her tongue. Then, for some inexplicable reason, the narration changed and suddenly Trigiani was narrating. It's her story, I'm sure she knew what she wanted it to sound like. But her voice is just not as pleasant, her style doesn't flow as easily and I didn't enjoy it as much.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The List - Spring Reading

So, yeah, that whole #readmyowndamnbooks thing is a great idea, in theory, but Netgalley had so many shiny new books that called to me. And TLC Book Tours had a couple of books I couldn't pass up even as I'm trying to pull away from scheduled reviews. Plus, there are book club selections to be read.

What I'm saying is, my spring is pretty filled up with books I need to read once I finish the books I have going right now. I'm looking forward to all of them so it's not going to be a terrible task to do the reading (although I will have to battle The Big Guy to get the iPad as much as I'm going to need it). Here's what's on the agenda:

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

At The Edge Of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

When The Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi

A House For Happy Mothers Amulya Malady

Beyond The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

The Secret Daughter by Shilpa Somaya Gowda

I'm pretty excited about all of these but I'm also hoping to add in a couple of more books from my shelves and my Nook. I did, after all, recently download Notorious RBG and I'm so eager to get to that one. Of course, that's what I saw about all of my pretties when I look at them!

What are you hoping to read in the next couple of months?

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Published July 2012 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: bought this one for my Nook to read with my book club

Publisher's Summary:
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide.

There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the “Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

My Thoughts:
I picked this book for my book club for two reasons, I've been wanting to read some Bohjalian for a long time and I felt like the subject matter was something that could really tie in with world events right now.

Bohjalian certainly has a story to tell here and the events of the Armenian genocide and the war the helped to hide it made for an interesting read. When I could get past the often confusing structure of the thing. Bohjalian uses multiple points of view and both third-person and first-person narrators. He switches rapidly between points of view and I often had to go back a few sentences to try to figure out whose story I was reading about now. Worse yet, it made it harder for me to get emotionally involved in the story. And it's a story that should break your heart.

I was grateful to Bohjalian for the way he consistently was able to bring the worst of the outrages to light but pull away before it became too difficult to continue. I was also grateful for the incentive to look into the Armenian genocide more deeply - and to compare what happened then to what happened to the Jews twenty plus years later in Germany and again today in Syria. It's about hatred and the ease with which people are willing to decide an entire race of people is less than human.
"My name is not "YOU PEOPLE." But an alien from another world trying to make sense of some of the conversations I have had with virtual strangers over the years might suppose that it is." 
Sounds like a lot of what I hear daily. It's a first step onto a very slippery slope.
"...the short answer to that first question - How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? - is really very simple. You kill them in the middle of nowhere."
That's what happened to the Armenians when the Turks drove them into the desert of Syria. It's also what happened when the Nazi's first walled off the Jews then put them onto trains and took them out into the country. Think it can't happen again? All it takes is for the world to decide they don't want to get involved, that they can't go against a country that's an ally. Let The Sandcastle Girls be a wake up call.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Life: It Goes On - March 27

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it! We enjoyed dinner with my parents; my sister, her daughter, her husband and his parents. Everyone contributed and it was delicious. Easter really seems to kick off the lighter food eating season and I love the foods! My mom bought, and my brother-in-law built, for my dad some raised garden beds which the guys spent a couple of hours putting together and getting set up on the garden. It was a sunny day and we all enjoyed being able to spend some time outdoors.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I started The Girl Who Played With Fire which is a little slow going so far, a lot of catching up new readers with the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Simon Vance is narrating and I love him as a reader but his Lisbeth Salander seems to have a Cockney accent. I'm not sure why they would not have gone with someone who could handle Swedish accents. 

Watching: Basketball this weekend, The Voice, and Selfridge on PBS tonight. 

Reading: I read a childhood favorite (and book on my Classics Club list), A Little Princess then moved on to something that couldn't be any more different, Alicia Nutting's Tampa, which is disturbing, to say the least. I'm also reading Anna Quindlen's Miller's Valley, which I'm enjoying every bit as much as I was hoping I would. 

Making: Hmmm, it was a lazy week in the kitchen this week, some sandwiches, salads, soups. For Easter I did make a layered lettuce salad and a cheesecake. 

Planning: Nothing on the calendar this week we have to do. We may just keep the calendar clear.

Thinking About: Gardening and bringing more color to our outdoors. 

Enjoying: Having all three of my kids with us today for the holiday.

Feeling: Tired. Is it bedtime yet?

Looking forward to: Getting my hair cut and colored this week. It's way past time!

Question of the week: What do you most look forward to in the spring?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Once Upon A Time X

Thanks to Wendy from Musings of A Bookish Kitty, who brought it to my attention that the Once Upon A Time challenge started this week. Hosted by Carl, of Stainless Steel Droppings, is hosting the challenge for the tenth year and there are a lot of ways you can join in by reading, watching, or even gaming about fairy tales, folktales, myths, and fantasy.

There are several levels of participation:

The Journey which only requires that you read one related book between now and June 21st which is when the challenge ends

Quest the First asks that you read five related books in the next three months.

Quest the Second requires that you read one book from each of the four genres.

Quest the Third involves you doing one of the above plus a June read of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream or a viewing of one of the movie adaptations.

Short Story Quest is just what the name suggests and only requires that you read one or more short stories that will fit the genres.

Quest On Screen involves viewing any movie(s) that fit within the genres because, as Carl says, great stories aren't just told on the page.

Quest The Game is also just what the name suggests. I'm not a gamer so I'm clueless as to what kinds of games might fit into these categories with the exception that I know there are a lot of fantasy games. Apparently, there are also a lot of table top games you might try your hand at.

Sound like fun? No? Well, head on over to Carl's post and let him explain it. He does a much better job of it! Trust me, it's fun!

As for me, here's my plan:

The Journey - I'll read Marissa Meyer's Cinder which I downloaded to my Nook something like two years ago.

Quest the Third - I may try to read A Midsummer Night's Dream as well but I'll definitely plan on watching at least one movie adaptation. I'd like to find the 1968 version with Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, Ian Richardson and Ian Holm...or the 1999 version starring Kevin Kline, Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Stanley Tucci, and Christian Bale...and definitely Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy. 

Short Story Quest - you know I've got all of these fairy tale books that have kind of gotten ignored of late, including a lovely new edition I got for Christmas from Mini-me and Miss S.

My spring is pretty busy already so I'll probably only have time for a few short stories through May but come June, I'll be all over it! Won't you join us?!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
Published April 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: the publishers and TLC Book Tours

Remember last week when I hadn't finished this book when I was scheduled to review it? I finally finished it this past weekend and ended with somewhat mixed feelings about the book.

What I liked: I very much enjoyed Winspear's exploration into the life of Indian immigrants living in England between the World Wars, from young ladies who came to England as ayahs (nursemaids) only to be let go by the families who had hired them with no way home to Indian women who married British men and British women who married Indian women. All had such varied experiences and allowed Winspear to bring some Indian culture into the story.

The characters are familiar friends, although I wished we would have seen more of Priscilla (Maisie's outspoken friend) and Maisie's father who both liven up the books when they're around.

Winspear never gives away her mysteries; on the other hand, as Maisie begins putting the pieces together, it answer is always based on clues that Winspear has given readers along the line. It give me the chance to be challenged to try to solve the mystery but I'm never so far ahead of the game that things get dull.

The title is so well suited to the story, with both the young women who have traveled to England for a new life and Maisie who is planning on traveling to India leaving everything most loved.

With World War II looming on the horizon, Winspears' characters are being to see it coming and it raises some interesting moral questions which trouble Maisie and, I imagine, will cause her a lot more trouble in the new book.

What I didn't like: The relationship between James and Maisie seems stagnant and it's hard, given Maisie's thought process, to imagine that they are really as in love as Winspear tells us they are. Billy seems to be the character who will never live happily ever after, once again suffering in this book. It's a good friend to Maisie and I wish Winspear would have found a different way to move him forward without moving him backward first.

Honestly? It dragged a bit, with a lot of internal dialogue as Maisie pondered whether or not she should leave England for an extended trip following in her mentors footsteps. The idea seemed to come to her suddenly without a good explanation as to why she felt she should make the trip and then a lot of the book was spent as she tried to make herself take the leap.

Of course, we know now that there's another book after this one, but Winspear could easily have left readers with this book as the last in the series. So many things were tied up, with Billy, Sandra, and Frank all settled and the investigative business shut down. If she'd wanted to end the series in just the kind of way I like book to end, without everything ending neatly, she could easily have left us wondering where Maisie's journey would take her and whether or not she and James will every end up together. Clearly, that's not what she's doing but one does wonder if Winspear's grown tired of the series as was and is bringing Maisie back for a different kind of adventure. I've enjoyed the books enough that I'm sure I'll go along for the new ride with Maisie.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Day In The Life

Thanks to Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity for hosting "A Day in the Life." With any smalls left in my house, my days are a lot less crazy than Trish's and many of yours but still there never seems to be enough time in a day.

Last year I wrote about a day in my working week life. It's pretty much the same this year, with the added addition of two adult children back in the house. This year I decided to share a day in my life on a weekend. Which, as it turns out, is not all that much more exciting!

8:30 a.m. It's Saturday and I have no small children so I sleep in when I can. I still set an alarm because I'm a night owl and, as much as I want to make sure I get eight hours of sleep on weekend nights, I don't want to sleep the morning away.

8:40 a.m. I love big breakfasts - just not necessarily for breakfast. So even on Saturdays, breakfasts are usually quick and easy. Today it's a couple of Eggo waffles with some peanut butter and a little maple syrup and a giant mug of coffee.

9:00 a.m. Time to watch Rick Steve's Travels. Saturday mornings, from the time we get up until 9:30 are all about the travel shows on public television.

9:30 a.m. After cleaning the kitchen, it's time to take The Big Guy's car in for an oil change and tire rotation. I might have gotten a little cranky about having to get dressed earlier than I usually do on the weekends.

10:00 a.m. It's quieter around here on Saturday mornings than it is in the evening and easier for me to find the time to sit down at my computer and read some blogs.

I follow 82 blogs these days, down considerably from what I used to and I have trouble keeping up with those. Several are inactive but I keep them on my blog roll in the hopes that my friends will return. One of the blogs is one a friend battling cancer started to record her fight. She died several years ago but I can't bring myself to delete the blog.

11:10 a.m. Laundry time. Ugh - it never ends. Truly. Usually I try to get started earlier on Saturdays.

11:40 a.m. Time to tidy up around here and de-winterize. Blankets are going into storage, snowmen are getting packed up, and I switched to my spring purse.

12:15 p.m. I'm battling a headache and nothing sounds good so I just nosh on some leftover egg noodles with Parmesan cheese.

12:35 p.m. I give up and go up to my room, where it's quiet, for a quick nap to see if I can shake this headache.

2:10 p.m. Oops! That nap got away from me! Time to get cleaning and check in with Miss H to see how the packing is going for her trip to Boston. It's, in fact, not happening. We have a little chat about getting a list started and making sure everything she wants to take is clean before I head downstairs to dust.

3:00 p.m. Miss H's bestie comes over to show off her new car. And to help Miss H pack, thank heavens.

3:15 p.m. Yep, it's time to switch the laundry and fold a load. I warned you this was not going to be exciting!

3:25 p.m. Time for a little plant control. I bring in several pots of herbs over the winter which more than doubles the amount of plants I usually have in the house. If it's growing, it's now overgrown. That big plant? Started life as a housewarming gift in my first house in 1986 in a 4" pot. It's almost impossible to control and drops leaves like crazy but after 30 years, I can't get rid of it!

3:50 p.m. Quick run the vacuum over the first floor of the house. With cats and dust allergies, my vacuum gets a lot of use.

4:15 p.m. Time to pick up BG's car.

4:30 p.m. I've been using BG's anti-perspirant for the past few days and I'm tired of smelling like Timber. Time for a quick run to Walgreen's while I'm out. I see one of Mini-him's friends and end up chatting for a while.

4:50 p.m. Finally time for some reading. I've just gotten a book that's scheduled for review on Tuesday. No way I'm going to have time to finish it before then but I want to get far enough in that I can post something about it.

5:40 p.m. Back to laundry. Starting to sense a theme to my weekends?

6:10 p.m. The cats remind me that it is past their dinner time.

6:15 p.m.  I've got to make a couple of pies in the morning so I grab some recipes and put together a grocery list.

6:30 p.m. We're living large tonight - McDonald's for dinner. Because I just couldn't be bothered to make dinner and we don't have a lot of time to go out.

6:50 p.m. Time to shower (finally!) and get my face on. Saturdays are my day for a nice long shower; you'd think I'd want to get to it sooner.

7:40 p.m.  Head out the door for the Omaha Film Festival.

8:00 p.m. Pick up our tickets from will-call, browse the festival's auction, get our popcorn (because, as you know, we hadn't eaten in a very long time!), and meet up with our friends.

8:40 Movie time! We watch a movie called "Trivia Night" then enjoy a questions and answer period with the movie's director and writer/lead actor. One of the fun parts of the festival is getting to interact with the talent.

10:40 p.m. Because, as I've already pointed out, we haven't eaten enough, we and our friends swing by for a reverse happy hour. Some wine and beer, some appetizers, and some good conversation - right up until we realize they have just turned off the parking lot lights which must mean it's...


You'd think that would be the end of my day but you would be wrong. We still need to swing by the grocery store. We get home about 12:25 a.m. It is then that we remembered that we have to get up early and that it's time to switch to Daylight Savings Time. When will we ever grow up and become responsible?!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Life: It Goes On - March 20

So, it snowed yesterday. Lovely giant flakes that lasted about 10 minutes at a time for a couple of times. Just enough to remind us that it's still March.

We've been living vicariously through the kids this week. Miss H returned yesterday afternoon from her week in Boston. She is exhausted but they had so much fun. They visited Cambridge and rubbed elbows with some Harvard smarties, toured the Sam Adams brewery, spent a good part of one day at Fenway Park, walked the Freedom Trail, and ate at the Union Oyster House - the oldest restaurant in the United States. They may have also each drunk their weight in beer and whiskey. Miss H assured us, though, that she will not be using the word "wicked" as an adjective any time soon.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Well, I was hoping to be through The Shoemaker's Wife but I didn't go into work one day so missed that listening time. One more day. Not sure what I'll listen to after that. Something completely different, I know that much.

Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in
Finian's Rainbow
Watching: "Finian's Rainbow" on St. Patrick's Day, The Voice, and a lot, a lot, of college basketball. I even filled out a bracket this year. I'm sorry Michigan State. It was probably me picking you to make it to the finals that caused you to lose in the opening round.

Reading: I finally finished Leaving Everything Most Loved yesterday but haven't settled on something new just yet. I read a few pages of Beryl Markham's West Into The Night but, while I liked the writing, it just wasn't doing it for me. I may just sit down in front of one of my bookshelves today and try a bit of this and that until something clicks.

A little St. Patrick's libation
with our reubens.
Making: Another chocolate French silk pie on Monday because Pi Day,  grilled burgers, taco salad, reuben sandwiches on Thursday for our version of corned beef and cabbage, and a double batch of reuben dip for my guys to take to parties.

Planning: A graduation party for Mini-me and his girl. Both will graduation in May from different colleges a week apart. Wanna know why we love Miss S so much? When asked what foods she wanted to have at that party, she asked for olives and pickles. That's it. How easy is that?

Thinking About: Making some changes in my life. More on that when there's something to really talk about. For now, I'm just thinking.

Enjoying: Working on ideas for some changes in our backyard. We've got a tree we'll be taking down this spring (although probably not until after the party) which will leave a blank space. Flower bed? Water feature? Sitting area? And how about some new things for the patio? Just dreaming for now.

Feeling: Frustrated by the political rancor and the divisiveness that seems to grow worse daily.

Looking forward to: Bloggiesta this week. My list of things to do around here is long but I'll be happy if I can get even half of it done. I remember how much I learned during Bloggiestas the first few years I was blogging - after every event my blog looked different! I was so grateful to the people who were willing to show a newbie how to get things done. Still grateful to the people who take time out of their lives to get the community together to help each other.

Question of the week: What do you most look forward to as the days grow longer and warmer?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Oh, Hey, It's Bloggiesta Time!

I've been putting off signing up for Bloggiesta this time, not sure what my schedule for the week was going to look like and wanting to make sure that, if I did sign up, I had time to commit to it. Turns out, I think I do!

Then the question becomes "what do I want to accomplish this week on the blog?" I've played a bit with the look of the blog lately, adding a new header a couple of weeks ago. I'm not 100% sold on it so I may tweak that, but it's not a priority. Eventually I'll be moving to WordPress but not this week. That's something Mini-him is going to help me with soon.

Here's what I know, for sure, that I need to take care of:

  1. Comments: I need to catch up on the comments left this month.
  2. Mail: I've been doing better on this lately, but there's always cleaning up to be done.
  3. Bloglovin': This should be at the top of the list - I've got about 100 posts I haven't read as of today and want to make sure I take time to read and comment on all of them.
  4. Mini-challenges: I've been doing this almost seven years now so it's harder to find mini-challenges that work for me, but it's always worth checking out.
  5. Clean Up Sidebar: There's not a lot to do, but I do want to do some cleaning up and rearranging.
  6. Catch Up My Calendar: I'm trying to free read as much as possible but I do have some books on Netgalley that I need to make sure I read before they archive, book club reads and at least one scheduled review. Gotta make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.
  7. Prep Some Posts: I'm remarkably scheduled ahead a couple of weeks for reviews but I'd like to get the rest of those weeks filled in to give me more reading time in April. 
  8. Visit New-To-Me Blogs: I can't keep up with the blogs I follow already but I'd hate to think there's a great blog I don't even know about yet!
  9. Clean Up Labels: The never ending task. Ugh. UPDATE: everything's gone I wanted to get rid of. Next Bloggiesta I'm going to work on adding labels to the posts without labels and adding some new labels to old posts.
  10. Books Read List: This is one of those tasks I've started and never quite finished. 
  11. Clean Up Old Posts: If I'm really crazy and knock out everything else, I'd love to go back and make sure older posts are all formatted the way I like them to be now. I did a fair amount of this while I was cleaning up labels. I'm calling that good enough for now.
Whew! I hope my family isn't planning on eating this week! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear

Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear
Published April 2014 by Harper Collins Publishers
Source: the publishers and TLC Book Tours

Publisher's Summary:
London, 1933. Two months after Usha Pramal's body is discovered in the waters of a city canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs for help. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates they failed to conduct a full investigation. Usha had been staying at an ayah's hostel, a refuge for Indian women. As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel's other residents. But with this discovery comes new danger, as a fellow lodger who was close to Usha is found murdered.

As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case, and by a growing desire to see more of the world. At the same time, her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore.

My Thoughts:
I've been enjoying Maisie Dobbs for a few years now, thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours, and, since I like to try to read mysteries in March, I didn't hesitate to jump on board for March 2016 Month of Maisie Readalong to celebrate the release of the 12th book in the series. Unfortunately, because of a mailing mixup, I only received the book a few days ago and haven't had time to finish it yet.

Still, I've gotten far enough in to be able to tell you that this one is not only giving me exactly what I want and expect in a Maisie Dobbs mystery, it's got the connection to India and you all know how much I love novels about India. Over the past few years, I've tended to pick up books here and there throughout the series and it can be a little jarring to go backwards in Maisie's story or jump well ahead. This time, though, this one immediately follows one I have read and I'm better able to enjoy the arc of Maisie's life. I'm also impressed by Winspear's ability to pull in just enough of the history of the characters to introduce them to new readers without boring those for whom these characters are already old friends.

All that being said, I'll be back later this week for a full review of the book once I've had time to finish it. Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for once again including me in the Month of Maisie Readalong! For the full list of the books being reviewed, including a month of reviews for the new book, Journey To Munich, check out the full tour schedule.

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Leaving Everything Most Loved, Elegy for Eddie, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other national bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Find out more about Jacqueline at her website,, and find her on Facebook.

Monday, March 14, 2016

13 Ways of Looking At A Fat Girl by Mona Awad

13 Ways of Looking At A Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published February 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

My Thoughts:
I'm not really sure what drew me to this book. Having struggled with body image and weight most of my life, I suppose I'm always looking for people who can poke fun at it without being mean, people who seem to really understand what it's like to go through life in a body you're never comfortable in. Somewhere in the pitch for this, I understood there would be humor. In other reviews of the book, they talk about the book being "bitingly" funny.

For me, not so much. The novel is really a series of stories in Lizzie's life. Early on, I did find some humor in some of the stories, oddly when Lizzie was at her heaviest, a time you would expect to feel most sorry for her. But thin Beth (as she later preferred to be called in her effort to redefine herself), was much more painful to read about. As she struggles to lose the weight, she finds less and less to be happy about in life. She stops taking joy in music, she loses touch with the friends who "knew her when," and her marriage suffers because nothing is more important to her than her body.

It's not just Lizzie who is heavy; her mother's weight eventually results in the health problems we're always warned about. When Lizzie's thin and her mother's gone, Lizzie spends a lot of time looking for comfort in heavy women. She also spends a lot of time judging other women and worried that others are still judging her.

Which was all just to hard for me to read. To consider the idea that I could spend the next couple of years fighting my own struggling only to still not be happy with my body, to lose the inability to enjoy food (and, dammit, I really don't want to do that!), to still feel like my weight defines me, perhaps more than ever.

This was, obviously, a tough read for me. I suppose that means Awad struck at truth; she certainly made me have all of the feelings about Lizzie.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Life: It Goes On - March 13

Happy birthday to my Daddy! We're headed into Lincoln shortly to celebrate. Pie will be involved. I'm about to put the second pie into the oven.

Miss H is winging her way to Boston today for the week with a group of friends. Several months ago her friends decided that she should be in Boston to celebrate her first St. Patrick's Day as a legal drinker. They have plans for so many fun things while they're there, including a tour of Fenway Park. Miss H is a Yankees fan but she can't pass up seeing one of the great ballparks. Can't wait for the Snapchats to start coming in!

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, weather-wise. We never get out of winter this easily. But the forecast for the next week is showing only rain and warm temps so I think the only thing that will stop the dinners on the patio we've had this week will be rain, not snow.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Heading into my final week of The Shoemaker's Wife. I'm enjoying the story but at 15 discs long, this one is easily 3 discs too long. Too much unnecessary description, too much repetition.

Watching: Movies: the latest James Bond movie, Spectre; a gem that The Big Guy found starring Ben Kingsley called Learning To Drive; and an independent movie called Trivia Night which we saw at the Omaha Film Festival.

Reading: Trying to finish a book for review for this week (a Maisie Dobbs mystery) and this month's book club choice, The Sandcastle Girls.

Making: A killer beef stroganoff - one of my faves that I don't make nearly often enough. Also, did I mention pie? Tried a lattice top for the first time on raspberry pie; lesson learned - make the lattice on the counter and then transfer to the pie. Also, making Ree Drummond's chocolate french silk pie which was a big hit last year when I made it for my dad's birthday.

Planning: The 40 Bags In 40 Days work continues. I'm diving into closets - the coat closet, linen closet, etc. I spent a lot of time sorting papers this week. Every time I do this, I realize how much of it I don't need to keep any more with the internet.

Thinking About: All of the new-to-me books that came into my house this week. A box of six books arrived from Better World Books on Friday. Everything I ordered has been on my list of books I want to read for at least a year. Also, I downloaded West With the Night by Beryl Markham (you'd know her from Paula McLain's Circling The Sun), Notorious RBG, and Behind The Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley (you'd know her form Jennifer Chiavarini's Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

Enjoying: A lot of time this weekend with friends and family - drinks with Miss H and friends on Tuesday, happy hour Friday night with Miss H and BG that stretched out for more than two hours, movie and reverse happy hour with friends last night, and birthday dinner for my dad today. Wow - that looks bad. Honestly, I don't usually drink this much!

Feeling:  Tired. Stayed up late last night, lost that hour, and then BG accidentally set his alarm clock so that it went off an hour earlier than I had planned to get up. It's going to be an early bedtime for this girl!

Looking forward to: Book club this week.

Question of the week: What's the best movie you've seen lately?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Gems

This week I'd like to share a couple of quotes from Elizabeth Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton. The book is not long and the writing is spare, every phrase and sentence needs to be meaningful. These were two of my favorites:
"It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it's the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down."
I find this doesn't just apply to our daily lives but really seems to be something I'm seeing a lot of in this presidential campaign season. As she so often is, Strout is spot on with this one. Right alongside that idea of a political connection comes this:
"It has been my experience throughout life that the people who have been given the most by our government - education, food, rent subsidies - are the ones who are most apt to find fault with the whole idea of government."
Hmm, reminds me of some of my customers, who, strangely, feel we need to discuss politics sometimes when they call.

This is, I think, my favorite gem from the book:
"I have sometimes been sad that Tennessee Williams wrote that line for Blanche DuBois, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Many of us have been saved many times by the kindness of strangers, but after a while it sounds trite, like a bumper sticker. And that's what makes me sad, that a beautiful and true line comes to be used so often that it takes on the superficial sound of a bumper sticker." 
Shouldn't we always be able to count on the kindness of strangers, shouldn't that be a good thing? It's something of a way of life here, yet I know there are those that mock the kindness of people in the  Midwest.

What book gems have you come across lately?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wait For Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories by Craig Johnson - Guest Review

Wait For Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories by Craig Johnson
Published October 2015 by Penguin Books
Source: our copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Ten years ago, Craig Johnson wrote his first short story, the Hillerman Award–winning “Old Indian Trick.” This was one of the earliest appearances of the sheriff who would go on to star in Johnson’s bestselling, award-winning novels and the hit television series Longmire, now streaming on Netflix. Each Christmas Eve thereafter, fans rejoiced when Johnson sent out a new short story featuring an episode in Walt’s life that doesn’t appear in the novels; over the years, many have asked why they can’t buy the stories in book form.

*Oops - the hubby read this one for review before Christmas but Christmas being Christmas, we both completely forgot to have him write his review. Sorry, Penguin!*

The Big Guy's Thoughts:
I have read a couple of other Longmire books and both were a fun read and having been a fan of the show for the past few years I have become invested in the characters.  The only problem is, having seen the shows first, I couldn't help but compare the people in the book to the people in the show.  It took a bit of reprogramming, but I was able to reconcile the Longmire family.

Being attention deficit this was a good read for me, new story every 20 pages and 'look a squirrel'!  Despite being short stories they had a lot of commonality: the usual setting, characters and diverse personalities of the series.

For Longmire fans, Western fans, mystery fans or anyone that likes a good series of stories, I highly recommend Wait For Signs.  What's not to love about a guy who has a character recommend the assisted living facility as the place to ring in the New Year or uses the phrase "boy howdy?"

Thanks for the review, honey! Now we just need to get caught up on the newest season of Longmire on Netflix! Thank goodness Johnson has given the show's writers plenty to work with for a good long while - we'd had to get stuck with another show where the show had outpaced the author's ability to write source material (I'm looking at you, George R. R. Martin!).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case by A.M. Rosenthal

Thirty-Eight Witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case by A. M. Rosenthal
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
In the early hours of March 13, 1964, twenty-eight-year-old Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was stabbed to death in the middle-class neighborhood of Kew Gardens, Queens. The attack lasted for more than a half hour—enough time for Genovese’s assailant to move his car and change hats before returning to rape and kill her just a few steps from her front door.

Yet it was not the brutality of the murder that made it international news. It was a chilling detail Police Commissioner Michael Joseph Murphy shared with A. M. Rosenthal of the New York Times: Thirty-eight of Genovese’s neighbors witnessed the assault—and none called for help. [Rosenthal said "any journalist would call this "the telling detail," the detail that would catch readers attention, rather than the brutal murder.]

To Rosenthal, who had recently returned to New York after spending a decade overseas and would become the Times’s longest-serving executive editor, that startling statistic spoke volumes about both the turbulence of the 1960s and the enduring mysteries of human nature. His impassioned coverage of the case sparked a firestorm of public indignation and led to the development of the psychological theory known as the “bystander effect.”

My Thoughts: 
I can't remember when I first heard about the Kitty Genovese murder; it seems to be a story that comes up from time to time when we again have a case where people who might have acted to prevent a tragedy did nothing. Thirty-Eight Witnesses was originally written about a year after the murder and is just now being released with a new introduction by Mr. Rosenthal.
"Are the people who turned away that one night in Queens, each in a separate decision, any more immoral or indecent or cowardly because there happened to be thirty-eight, than if there were just one of them? Does God judge by the individual or by head count? And what if we hear the scream but cannot see the screamer? Of all questions about silent witnesses, to me this is the most important."
Rosenthal raises a lot of questions in the book about what caused so many people to remain silent, why the murder would have been more of a story initially had it occurred on Park Avenue, and why the police became the number one target immediately after the story broke. Rosenthal does a fair job of answering where he can and being clear when he is only offering an opinion. He does not attempt to imply that this is a strict recall of the facts; it is clear that Rosenthal is offering his impression of the case and its handling. He can become a bit repetitive but there is so much here that is, forty years later, still important today.
"At first there was, briefly, the reaction of shared guilt. Even people who were sure that they certainly would have acted differently felt it somehow. "Dear God, what have we come to?" a woman said one day. "We," not "they."  
For in that instant of shock, the mirror showed quite clearly what was wrong, that the face of mankind was spotted with the disease of apathy - all mankind. But this was too frightening a thought to live with and soon the beholders began to set boundaries for the illness, to search frantically for causes that were external and to look for the carrier."
We are all too often stunned by violence around us, adamant that things must change. Often we bind together in times of crisis. But "we" almost always fall away from that. Remember how unified our country was fourteen years ago? Hard to remember in these divisive times.

Winston Moseley
An interesting point about the New York Times reporting of the case is that Winston Moseley's race was never mentioned. According to Rosenthal, the paper did not publish the race of a suspect if it weren't pertinent to the case. Given that this murder happened in 1964, I find this remarkable. Frankly, it would be a remarkable thing these days.

When I finished reading this little book, I had to do some more research.

Location of the initial attack
Some reports say there were actually more than 38 witnesses, some say far fewer. In the case of Kitty Genovese, there weren't 38 people who actually saw her being attacked; in fact, after the first attack, only one person actually saw Winston Moseley stabbing Kitty Genovese. But there were plenty of people who heard her screams who were counted among the thirty-eight witnesses. One reporter contends that Genovese, in fact, could not have screamed after the first attack due to her wounds and that where calls to the police, none of which was documented by the police.

The site of the final attack and Ms. Genovese at work
What hasn't changed since 1964? We still see, all too often, what became known after Genovese's assault as the Bystander Effect. And we still see people afraid to call the police or sure it will do no good.

What has changed because of the Kitty Genovese murder? Shortly after Genovese's death, New York City revamped their cumbersome telephone crime reporting system; at the time of her death, it would have been a convoluted process for anyone who heard Genovese's screams to report the attack. Eventually, though, Genovese's death would lead to the development of the 911 emergency reporting number.
"That is the power of the Genovese matter. It talks to us not about her, a subject that was barely of fleeting interest to us, but about ourselves, a subject never out of our minds."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Life: It Goes On - March 6

Not quite officially spring yet, but I can't put the lovely snowy scene any more! Starting to think of gardening, bringing the pretties back on the porch, and dinners on the patio.

We've had a fun, busy week, with a lot of it spent celebrating Miss H. Her 21st birthday was Tuesday and we lunched and shopped; Friday she had a dinner party for friends and family. She is still partying, having gone off to Kansas City this weekend for fun with friends. Oh, to be young again!

Today is tax day for this girl. Woohoo. I'm hoping to knock out all four sets today but I also having cleaning and laundry that needs to be done. And, of course, series finale of "Downtown Abbey" tonight. We're going to miss this show and the distraction it brings from remembering that tomorrow is Monday.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'm about half way through The Shoemaker's Wife. My little quibble this week is Trigiani's need to give detailed descriptions of every character, no matter how insignificant role they play in the story. But, again, still enjoying the story and the glimpse into immigrant life in the early years of the last century.

Watching: Last night we watched "Steve Jobs." Even if this movie were not based on real life, it would have been a fascinating look at one man. This is another one that the Oscar noms didn't get wrong - Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet were fantastic. I found an interesting article on that explores what was fact and what was fiction in the movie (you know how I like to dig further!).

Reading: I finished 13 Ways of Looking At A Fat Girl (painful read) and started Mennonite In A Little Black Dress, which is the perfect followup to lighten things back up. Next up I'm hoping that the Jacqueline Winspear book I'm waiting on for a review shows up soon. If not, I'll start on my book club read for this month, The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

Birthday lunch, birthday dinner, my "granddaughter" at the party, and the whole family

Making: My big hit this week was chocolate mini cupcakes with peppermint frosting for Miss H's dinner party. Which I forgot to take a picture of; trust me, they were very cute!

Planning: On helping Miss H get ready for an 8-day trip to Boston with friends next week and celebrating my dad's birthday. I'm thinking pie will come into play for that! What sounds good, Dad?

Thinking About: What I need to get done before Mini-me and Miss S's graduation party in a couple of months. A party is always a good incentive to get things done around the house that you've been wanting to get done, isn't it?

Oscar Party
Enjoying: Girls' night at an Oscar watch party. My friend holds the party every year and we all have such a great time critiquing the fashion and the show. What did you think of the show this year?

Feeling: Tired. I really need a new pillow; I swear I'm spending half my nights trying to maneuver my pillow into a comfortable position. I hate shopping for new pillows, though; hate paying what it costs to get a decent pillow, especially since I might not even like it after I get it. This all drives The Big Guy crazy!

Looking forward to: A thunderstorm this week (as long as it's not severe!). Love watching the lightning, listening to the thunder and sitting at an open window watching and smelling the rainfall.  

Question of the week:  What is your favorite thing about spring?