December 31, 2006

Top Ten of 2006

Orchard Window by Daniel Garber

I had a very good year of reading. I finished 73 books and gave up on an additional 17. Since I've already written fairly lengthy reviews for each book, I won't add any additional comments in this post. Click on the book title to be re-directed to the specific review within my blog.

Except for #1, these are in no particular order:

1. The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak (A+)

2. The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and A Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas (A+)

3. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (A+)

4. Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik (A+)

5. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (A+)

6. Isabel's Daughter by Judith Ryan Hendricks (A)

7. These Granite Islands by Sarah Stonich (A)

8. Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts (A)

9. Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler (A)

10. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (A)

Honorable Mentions (all A or A- ratings):

An Ocean Apart by Robin Pilcher
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Marley & Me by John Grogan
A Still Life by Louise Penny
Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier
Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Favorite Thrillers/Mysteries:

Promise Me by Harlan Coben
Rules of Prey by John Sandford
Shadow Prey by John Sandford
Mind Prey by John Sandford
Secret Prey by John Sandford
Certain Prey by John Sanford
Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy
Shrink Rap by Robert Parker
Blue Screen by Robert Parker
Melancholy Baby by Robert Parker
Shadow Man by Cody Mcfadyen

Favorite Detectives - Lucas Davenport (John Sandford's "Prey" series) and Sunny Randall (Robert Parker's "Sunny Randall" series)

Favorite Characters - Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas) and Liesel Meminger (Markus Zusak's The Book Thief)

Best Classic - The Good Earth

Best Young Adult Fiction - The Book Thief

Best Memoir - The Exact Same Moon

Best Re-Read - Odd Thomas

Most Humorous - The Exact Same Moon, Shrink Rap, and Summer in Tuscany

Biggest Tear-Jerker - Marley & Me and The Book Thief

Quickest Read - The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry (awaiting review)

Most Evil Villain - Bekker (John Sandford's Eyes of Prey)

Scariest Read - The House Next Door

Most Disappointing - Forever Odd, Julie and Romeo, Swallows of Kabul, We Are Welcome Here, and The Thirteenth Tale

New (to me) Authors to Watch - Markus Zusak, Louise Penny, Tim O'Brien, Sarah Waters, Cody Mcfadyen

December 30, 2006

A Circle of Quiet

A Circle of Quiet (The Crosswicks Journal – Book One) by Madeleine L’Engle
Nonfiction – Spirituality/Autobiography
Finished on 12/18/06
Rating: C- (2/10 Boring)

Maybe next December I should plan to limit my reading to thrillers and fluffy romances. Three disappointing books in a row makes me wonder if the fault lies in the book or, rather, in the distraction of the holiday season. Whatever the reason, I doubt I’ll be reading any more by L’Engle. I read A Wrinkle In Time a few years ago and didn’t think it was nearly as good as did some of my friends. This past summer I read Two-Part Invention (another Crosswicks Journal – Book Four) and it took well over 70 pages before I became interested in that. I think the main reason for my appreciation (and high rating) of that particular book was due to the subject matter. Dealing with my own grief this past year, I found comfort and validation in L’Engle’s words. Unfortunately, A Circle of Quiet failed to deliver the same emotional insights and I wound up skimming the majority of the book.

December 28, 2006

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan
Finished on 12/12/06
Rating: C- (2/10 Boring)

Publisher Blurb (inside jacket):

As book reviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air and contributing to many publications, Maureen Corrigan literally reads for a living. For as long as she can remember, books have been at the center of her life, a never-failing source of astonishment, hard truths, new horizons and welcome companionship. Now Corrigan has added a volume of her own to the shelf of classics, by writing about her life of reading with all the attention to complexity, wit, and intelligence that any good book – or life – deserves.

It’s been over two weeks since I finished this book. I’ve celebrated a birthday, traveled to Texas to see our youngest daughter graduate from college, baked cookies, shopped for/wrapped/shipped Christmas gifts, put up Christmas decorations, sent out Christmas cards, and celebrated Christmas with family and friends. Suffice it to say, I’ve been a little bit busy. Perhaps I was even a bit distracted while reading the book and that’s the reason for such a poor rating.

It’s no surprise that as a lover of books, I love to read about other book-lovers, reading groups and bookstores. I’ve read several works of nonfiction that fall into the bibliophile category: So Many Books, So Little Time (Sara Nelson), Ex Libris (Anne Fadiman), The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (Lewis Buzbee), and Book Lust (Nancy Pearl), as well as many fictional works that focus on the love of books and reading. More often than not, the author’s thoughts and reflections are very similar to my own and I find myself highlighting passages and quotes, nodding in agreement, softly murmuring, “Me, too.”

I’ve had Corrigan’s book (subtitled “Finding and Losing Myself in Books”) on my TBR list since first hearing about it last year. Bybee (of Naked Without Books!) saw it mentioned in one of my posts and was kind enough to send me her copy all the way from South Korea! Unfortunately, this book was pretty much a disappointment (although, you wouldn’t know it judging from all the post-it flags marking passages to quote in this review). The book is a bit scholarly, reminding me of the critical essays I read in college. Fresh Air’s executive producer, Danny Miller, wasn’t too sure about Corrigan when she sent him some book-review clips, saying, “No thanks. We think you’re too academic for the show.” Hmmm. That’s how I felt about her book! I don’t mind reading an analysis of a work of literature, but a little bit goes a long way, especially during the hectic weeks of December! I also feel Corrigan came across as a bit of a literary snob, talking down to her readers:

“These people – let’s call them the Bounderbys – see books only as commodities. (A refresher: Mr. Bounderby is the ‘eyes on the bottom line’ businessman whom Dickens lampoons in Hard Times. One advantage of a grad-school degree in English is that you can insult people more elegantly.)”

I have to confess that I even wound up skimming the second half of the book. I never skim and normally would’ve have quit after 50 pages or so, but I really wanted to give this one a chance, especially since a fellow blogger took the time to send it to me AND that it’s one I chose for my From the Stacks’ Challenge.

In spite of such a disappointing review, I do have some favorite passages:

“…I still feel an upsurge of curiosity every time I rip open another cardboard book box to look at the new title inside. There’s always a chance that this new novel or work of nonfiction will be a book I’ll love, a book that I’ll pass on to friends and rave about on Fresh Air; a book that changes the way I ‘read’ my own life. For the chance of finding such magic – as I do maybe ten times a year – I misspend hours of my life reading what turns out to be the wrong books: biographies promoting glib psychological keys to their subjects, or novels that go nowhere, or mysteries narrated by cats. No pain, no gain.”

“…I live an intensely bookish life during a resolutely nonliterary era. An absurdly small number of people in America care about what I or any other book critic has to say about the latest novel or work of nonfiction. Despite the proliferation of mega-bookstores and neighborhood reading groups, most Americans are indifferent to the lure of literature: in fact, according to a Wall Street Journal article of a few years ago, some 59 percent of Americans don’t own a single book. Not a cookbook or even the Bible. Just as I find that statistic incomprehensible, a lot of people consider what I do for a living fairly pointless, as the epigraph to this book demonstrates. All that reading and so little material reward.”

“Think of this book as analogous in method to those marvelous mongrel texts written by M.F.K. Fisher or Laurie Colwin that combine recipes and revelations about food with autobiographical digressions. Some people live to eat; others of us live to read. In both instances, the particular hunger and the life are absolutely intertwined.”

“I think, consciously or not, what we readers do each time we open a book is to set off on a search for authenticity. We want to get closer to the heart of things, and sometimes even a few good sentences contained in an otherwise unexceptional book can crystallize vague feelings, fleeting physical sensations, or, sometimes, profound epiphanies. Good writing is writing that’s on target; that captures, say, the smell of sizing on a just-sewn garment the way no other known grammatical scramble of words has before. (Ann Packer’s recent wonderful debut novel, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, did just that.) Those are, unfailingly, the sentences that we reviewers quote in our reviews because they leap out and offer those cherished ‘Aha!’ moments in reading. Little wonder that one of the most overused words in favorable reviews is the adjective luminous.”

In addition to sharing her thoughts about books and reviewing for Fresh Air, Corrigan includes several lengthy anecdotes about the adoption of her daughter from China. I’m not sure the juxtoposition of these two subjects works well together in a single book and might be better suited as separate memoirs. Having just visited Amazon for further information, I discovered this blurb from Publisher’s Weekly. Nice to know I’m not alone in my opinion of this book!

From Publishers Weekly:

Corrigan, the book reviewer for NPR's Fresh Air and mystery columnist for the Washington Post, makes her own book debut with an often longwinded and tedious account of how books have shaped her life. It's clear from every page that Corrigan is obsessed with reading books. Her compulsion is a bit far reaching, however: she offers books as the reason why she delayed getting married and why she adopted her daughter in China. She intersperses lengthy descriptions and analysis of her favorite books, like Jane Eyre, Lucky Jim and Karen (Marie Killilea's memoir of her daughter) with stories from her own life. At times, the book reads like a feminist diatribe against the injustices female authors (and graduate students) have endured and the stereotypical portrayal of female characters. In its favor, the book allows readers to reexperience some perennial favorites, such as Pride and Prejudice and The Maltese Falcon. Corrigan does speak to the ability of books to provide escape and solace, and for the creation of characters we can relate to, but these few gems are buried deep in text so thick and analytical that the reader is often left gasping for air.

December 24, 2006

Christmas Is Love

I bought Christmas Is Love for my daughter 15 years ago. I've always loved the artwork of Joan Walsh Anglund, receiving my first little book (A Friend Is Some Who Likes You) from my best friend back in 1968. I never really gave much thought to the cute little faces in Anglund's books until fairly recently when Amy said, "Ewww! You mean the book with the kids who don't have mouths or noses?!" Well, gosh. I guess I never paid that close attention, but it obviously bothered my daughter. :)

In any case, I like the simple words and sweet pictures. Perfect reading material for a toddler or young child. Or an adult, for that matter.

Christmas is peace and snow so white,
Christmas is home and candles bright.
Christmas is presents under the tree,
Christmas is friends and family.
Christmas is stockings hung in a row,
Christmas is sleighbells across the snow.
Christmas is music in the air,
Christmas is giving everywhere.
Christmas is toys and sugar plums tart,
Christmas is joy in every heart.
Christmas is prayer and one star above,
Christmas is children,
Christmas is love.

Merry Christmas to all my friends and family who visit my blogs!

A Christmas Memory

In my rush, I forgot to include my favorite passages from A Christmas Memory in yesterday's It's Fruitcake Weather post. It's been a year or two since I last read Capote's short story, so early this morning while the house was still quiet, I poured a cup of coffee and settled in to reread this favorite Christmas story.

Favorite passages:

We eat our supper (cold biscuits, bacon, blackberry jam) and discuss tomorrow. Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and oh, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings: why, we'll need a pony to pull the buggy home.


Now, with supper finished, we retire to the room in a faraway part of the house where my friend sleeps in a scrap-quilt-covered iron bed painted rose pink, her favorite color. Silently, wallowing in the pleasures of conspiracy, we take the bead purse from its secret place and spill its contents on the scrap quilt. Dollar bills, tightly rolled and green as May buds. Somber fifty-cent pieces, heavy enough to weight a dead man's eyes. Lovely dimes, the loveliest coin, the one that really jingles. Nickels and quarters, worn smooth as creek pebbles. But mostly a hateful heap of bitter-odored pennies.


The black stove, stoked with coal and firewood, glows like a lighted pumpkin. Eggbeaters whirl, spoons spin round in bowls of butter and sugar, vanilla sweetens the air, ginger spices it; melting, nose-tingling odors saturate the kitchen, suffuse the house, drift out to the world on puffs of chimney smoke. In four days our work is done. Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on window sills and shelves.


A Christmas Memory is the classic memoir of Truman Capote's childhood in rural Alabama. Until he was ten years old, Capote lived with distant relatives. This book is an autobiographical story of those years and his frank and fond memories of one of his cousins, Miss Sook Faulk. The text is illustrated with full color illustrations that add greatly to the story without distracting from Capote's poignant prose.

December 23, 2006

It's Fruitcake Weather!

Well, maybe not fruitcake weather. (Does anybody even eat fruitcake?) Every Christmas (for at least the past 20 years) I make a couple of batches of Shortbread cookies. The recipe is very easy and I can get anywhere between 12-13 dozen cookies from a single batch (ideal for those Christmas Cookie tins/plates I like to give to neighbors and friends).

I originally discovered these delicious little bit-size cookies in 1972. My mom had made several dozen for a holiday open house and my brother and I just happened to find them in the basement freezer. I'm not sure how many we ate on the sly, but they
are quite addictive, especially when chilled. Hmmm, I hope I did a good job hiding my stash this year!

December 18, 2006

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Carl's G.I.F.T. Challenge Post #4

Tis the season to be jolly, but Charlie Brown, feeling that the Christmas message is lost amid all the seasonal glitter, has the blues. Psychiatrist Lucy suggests a cure: get involved with the Christmas play! When our hapless hero sets out to find a Christmas tree to use as a stage prop, he unknowingly takes a step toward discovering the holiday's true meaning. The scraggly tree that thrives on a "little love" and a timely assist from Linus make the message of the season come shining through. Winner of the Emmy and Peabody awards.

It's been at least 25 years since I've seen A Charlie Brown Christmas. I have a copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi Trio) on cd and listen to it every year, but haven't watched the tv special since I was a teenager (if not younger!).

Thanks to Carl's G.I.F.T. Challenge, I decided to pick up a copy of the dvd while I was out shopping the other day. My 4-year-old niece came over to help me with some Christmas decorating and once we finished, we sat down to watch Charlie Brown. Maddie settled in with some colored pencils and paper and informed me that she was going to draw pictures since she really didn't like Charlie Brown. (Of course, she'd never actually seen Charlie Brown and didn't know who he was, but who am I to argue with a 4-year-old?)

I wish I had thought to take a picture of her! She was completely engrossed in the program and, much to my delight, didn't complain when asked if she would mind if we could watch it again. What fun! And how delightful to see all those familiar characters after all these years. Of course I remember Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Woodstock, and Snoopy. But then there's the rest of the gang: Schroeder, Sally, Pigpen, Violet, Sherman and Freda. My favorite is Snoopy. He just cracks me up and I laughed out loud several times during this movie.

In addition to all of Snoopy's crazy antics, my favorite part is the closing scene in which the gang gathers around Charlie Brown's Christmas tree (which they've decorated for him) and sings my favorite Christmas song, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing."

It's been over a week since I watched this dvd with Miss Maddie. I think I'll fix a cup of hot cocoa (with marshmallows, of course!) and watch the show again tonight.


December 14, 2006

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

Carl's G.I.F.T. Challenge Post #3

For today's Thursday Thirteen & Carl's G.I.F.T Challenge, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite Christmas decorations. Several of these items were gifts to me from my godmother (Miss Leslie) when I was a very little girl. In spite of my recent birthday (yesterday!), I am not terribly old. However, I tend to think of some of these ornaments as antiques. Maybe I should reevaluate that way of thinking and, instead, consider them cherished treasures.

This musical angel plays Silent Night.
I don't remember when Miss Leslie gave it to me,
but it's been around for quite some time.

This little Santa isn't as old as some of my other decorations,
but he's quite dear to me.
I love to collect little objects depicting "readers."

Ah, now this dear old fellow is almost as old as me! My godmother gave him to me on my 2nd birthday (1963). He takes two large batteries, one in each boot, and when the switch is turned on, he waves his wand (which lights up) and shakes his bell, turning his head from side to side. I can't imagine Christmas without him!

As one who loves to bake Christmas cookies for friends and neighbors,
this little guy just makes me smile. I bought him over 25 years ago.

A friend gave me the snowman on the right and I've since added to the collection (even have a couple of rabbits for springtime). I leave these guys out all winter, since they're not really Christmas decorations. You can read more about Dedham Pottery here and here.

I love the intricate detail of this angel.
It's really no bigger than my thumb!
A gift from Mom & Bill (purchased in Germany).

This is a photograph of me (on the bottom step) and my two older brothers.
My younger brother wasn't born yet.
I believe this picture was used for our Christmas card in 1963.
We were living in Lenoxville, Quebec at the time.

Ah, one of my all-time favorite ornaments.
This was given to me by my godmother.
It's held up very well after all these years!

My mom tells me that my great aunt Helen gave this to her in the late 50s. It was my favorite ornament as a child and Mom was kind enough to let me take it when I moved out.

One of the first ornaments I bought as a young wife and mother.
Living in San Diego, I must've romanticized the idea of snow!

Paddington Bear.
A favorite childhood book and a cheerful bit of London for my tree.

Hmmm, another snowman. I see a trend...

I have so many other favorites (homemade ornaments from my daughter's preschool days; a little birch canoe to remind me of a special vacation on Lake Vermillion; a ceramic polar bear), it was very difficult to choose this final item. The reason I selected this photograph of me and my then 2-year-old granddaughter is that it represents the meaning of Christmas. Being with those you love, doing what you love the most. What could be more special than reading to a child on Christmas Eve?

December 13, 2006

Stuart McLean At the Vinyl Cafe

Carl's G.I.F.T. Challenge Post #2

One of my dearest friends gave me a copy of Stuart McClean at the Vinyl Cafe - The Christmas Concert (cd) a few years ago. I love it for so many reasons.

1. It was a gift from a kindred spirit whom I've know for almost 10 years. We met in an on-line book forum, back in 1997, and have become the closest of pals, in spite of having never meet face-to-face.

2. The Christmas Concert (and all the Vinyl Cafe recordings) is a Canadian broadcast (and I'm half-Canadian).

3. The concert was recorded on my 35th birthday (December 13, 1996).

4. The stories make me laugh out loud, even though I've heard them several times now. Laughter is always a good thing, especially during the holidays when stress levels are high.

If you haven't had the opportunity to listen to a Vinyl Cafe broadcast, I strongly urge you to tune in for a show. Here's some listener information from their website:

Broadcast time:

Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. (10:30 NT) on CBC Radio Two
Sundays at 12:00 p.m. (12:30 NT) on CBC Radio One

United States Broadcast Information

The Vinyl Cafe is heard Saturday mornings on Radio Two and Sundays at brunch on Radio One. The show features music - both live and recorded - stories and the misadventures of Dave, the owner of the "Vinyl Cafe", the world's smallest record store, where the motto is "We may not be big, but we're small." The show also features Dave's wife, Morley, their two children, Sam and Stephanie and assorted friends and neighbours.

Or, if you can't tune in to CBC, head over to Amazon and buy a copy of the cd and start a new Christmas tradition. My favorite segments are:

Good King Wenceslas and Angels We Have Heard on High

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (performed with a mandolins, fiddle bass, guitar and banjo, of all things!)

Story: Dave on the Roof

Story: Dave Cooks a Turkey (this is quite long, but worth sitting and listening to, perhaps with a glass of wine or cocktail. It's hysterical!)

Silent Night

I love the music and Stuart is a joy to listen to. He's very entertaining and has a lovely sense of humor. There are several other Vinyl Cafe cds and books that I may just have to order. Thanks, Nan, for introducing me to this wonderful broadcast!

December 11, 2006

The Swallows of Kabul

The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
Finished on 12/9/06
Rating: C (3/10 Ho-hum; not a keeper)

In the middle of nowhere, a whirlwind spins like a sorceress flinging out her skirts in a macabre dance; yet not even this hysteria serves to blow the dust off the calcified palm trees thrust against the sky like beseeching arms. Several hours ago, the night, routed by the dawn and fleeing in disorder, left behind a few of its feeble breezes, but the heat has scorched and smothered them. Since midday, not a single raptor has risen to hover above its prey. The shepherds in the hills have disappeared. For miles around, apart from a few sentries crouched inside their rudimentary watchtowers, there is not a living soul. A deathly silence pervades the dereliction as far as the eye can see.

For a book I didn’t really care for, I sure used a lot of Post-it flags! The writing is rich and lyrical – I’ll give it that. But I never felt drawn in and struggled to stir up any empathy for Moshen, his wife Zunaira, Atiq the jailer and his dying wife, Musarrat. Of course I felt a grave sense of sadness for the terrible torment inflicted by the Taliban on the Afghan people, yet this story fell flat, even as the predictable finale drew near.

I had The Swallows of Kabul on my TBR list for a couple of years and finally decided to buy a copy rather than check one out from the library. I had great faith that it would be a wonderful read, especially when Kailana, Lotus and Booklogged all spoke so highly of it. The cover is embossed with a gold sticker that reads, “Like Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, this is a superb meditation on the fate of the Afghan people.” – Publishers Weekly. Hmmm… I loved The Kite Runner. It made my Top Ten in 2004. Unfortunately, The Swallows of Kabul failed to deliver and won’t even make my Top Hundred. Rats. I really was looking forward to another great book. I guess I’ll just leave you with a few of my favorite passages and let you decide for yourself if this much lauded book is one you’d enjoy.

The shopkeepers have put their smiles in the storeroom. The chilam smokers have vanished into think air. The men of Kabul have taken cover behind shadow puppets, and the women, mummified in shrouds the color of fever or fear, are utterly anonymous.


And then came the Russian tidal wave, with an apocalyptic armada and its triumphant massiveness. The Afghan sky under which the most beautiful idylls on earth were woven, grew suddenly dark with armored predators; its azure limpidity was streaked with powder trails, and the terrified swallows dispersed under a barrage of missiles. War had arrived. In fact, it had just found itself a homeland…


Behind opaque veils, stepping like sleepwalkers, sparse flocks of women hug the walls, closely guarded by a few embarrassed males. And everywhere – in the squares, on the streets, among the vehicles, or around the coffee shops – there are kids, hundreds of little kids with snot-green nostrils and piercing eyes, disturbing, sickly, on their own, many barely old enough to walk, and all silently braiding the stout rope they’ll use, someday soon, to lynch their country’s last hope of salvation.


Without letting go, he looks all around to be sure it’s safe for him to speak. Then he clears his throat, but his emotion is so great that his voice comes out in an almost inaudible quaver: “Do you think we’ll ever be able to hear music in Kabul one day?”

“Who knows?”

The old man strengthens his grip, extending his skinny neck as he prolongs his lamentations. “I’d like to hear a song. You can’t imagine how much I’d like to hear a song. A song with instrumental accompaniment, sung in a voice that shakes you from head to foot. Do you think one day – or one night – we’ll be able to turn on the radio and listen to the bands getting together again and playing until they pass out?”

“God alone is omniscient”

A momentary confusion clouds the old man’s eyes; then they begin to glitter with an aching brightness that seem to rise up from the center of his being. “Music is the true breath of life. We eat so we won’t starve to death. We sing so we can hear ourselves live. Do you understand, Atiq?”

December 10, 2006

The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 12/4/06
Rating: B+ (7/10 Good)

My husband and I live in a modest, two-story house that was built back in the 1930s. The rooms are fairly small, especially by today’s “Super-Size Me” standards, but we make do as it’s just the two of us. We’re willing to give up a lot (attached garage, decent closet space, walk-in pantry, jetted tub…) to live in a beautiful, tree-lined neighborhood where one actually knows (and socializes with!) one’s neighbors. One thing we weren’t willing to give up, however, is space for all our bookcases. (Yep, I got lucky and married someone who loves to read just as much as I do.)

Shortly after moving in, we discovered we had room for a couple of bookcases in our dining room. I found a style I liked at Pottery Barn and quickly placed my order for two, one for each side of the opening that leads into the living room. They’re not really “his” and “hers” since in addition to some of Rod’s nonfiction favorites, one has a couple of shelves devoted to family pictures and cookbooks (the latter of which one could argue do belong to Rod, as he benefits from my frequent use of them). However, the other bookcase – my bookcase - is full of books that I’ve read and loved and hope to someday read again. This is my “keeper” bookcase. (I’m working on filling another in the living room.)

I rarely re-read books, but my ultimate (yet, probably unrealistic) goal is to work through all my stacks of unread books so that someday I can start in on all my favorites for a second go-around. This is not to say that I never read a book twice (and I have mixed feelings about doing this, but I’ll save that for a future post). Not only did I read Mary Lawson’s debut novel Crow Lake twice, but I read it twice within one year (six months, to be precise). I was so impressed with Lawson’s lyrical prose, I decided to nominate it for a book group I’d recently joined. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, never growing bored with any of the familiar details or the absence of plot discovery.

I was thrilled to learn of Mary Lawson's new novel, The Other Side of the Bridge, and couldn’t wait to treat myself to a copy. I can’t say I was disappointed, but it certainly didn’t have the same magic as Crow Lake and was a bit of an uneven read. Not difficult to begin, but nothing about the two storylines took hold until about midway in. The characters weren’t quite as endearing as those in Crow Lake (I still smile when I remember the comic relief provided by precocious two-year-old Bo) and it lacked the strong sense of place I so loved in Lawson’s debut novel (although both are set in isolated rural communities in northern Canada). However, the family drama was just as intense as that in Crow Lake and I found myself holding my breath, my pulse quickening, as the final pages drew near, the proverbial train wreck unfolding before my eyes.

This novel has stayed with me much longer than I would’ve thought, given that I didn’t think it was a great book while reading it. However, I continue to think about Arthur, Ian and Laura (and even the despicable, devious Jake) and know that this is one I’ll read again. Probably not in the next six months (or even a year), but someday. You know, when I finish all those books in my To Be Read stacks.

A favorite paragraph:

“So what you doin’ for your birthday?” Arthur said. His voice, breaking in on the quiet, made Ian jump. Days spent with Arthur consisted of vast rolling plains of silence with the odd half-dozen words dropped into them like stones, and the stones always took him by surprise.

Publisher Blurb:

Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a local farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and World War II is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful, and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman arrives in the community, their frayed relationship comes close to the breaking point.

Flash forward twenty years. It is now the 1950s. Ian Christopherson, a na├»ve young man, accepts a job on the farm. Long obsessed with Arthur’s wife, Ian is like a fuse waiting to ignite the powder keg of emotions around him.

December 8, 2006

Wintertime Supper

December is such a hectic month and there are many nights I simply don't feel like cooking or going out (or in this case, I had made Nordic Potato Dill Soup from a recipe I'd used once before, but this time around it simply didn't look appetizing when it came time to eat!). I try to keep a quart of buttermilk in the 'frig for nights such as these. There's something comforting about having breakfast for dinner, don't you think? Just say "No" to Bisquick and go here for Rod's delicious pancakes.

And no, I didn't mistake this for my food blog. Just thought I'd tempt you with some comfort food. I do, however, plan to start incorporating more of my daily life and photos in this blog. I'll continue to post recipes over on my Kiss the Cook blog, but most of my nature-type photos will move over here from my gardening blog. I feel the need to simplify and three blogs is a bit much.

I See the Moon...

The Moon

That orbed' maiden
With white fire laden
Whom mortals call the Moon.
- Shelley

I took this photograph yesterday morning. It was a whopping 7 degrees.