December 31, 2011
December 28, 2011
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
2008 Random House Audio
Readers: Arthur Morey, Daniel Passer, Kimberly Farr and Rebecca Lowman
Finished on 11/29/11
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.
Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.
It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.
Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.
And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.
This is one of those occasions in which I went into the reading of a book completely cold. I had no idea what the story was about; never even read the back cover. I had it on my shelf (I’m not even sure where or when I got it), but came upon the audio version (online) through my local library. I decided to give it a try and was spellbound; all four readers were superb and the story was captivating. Initially, I preferred the present-day narrative over that of Ann Eliza’s story, but as the novel progressed, I found myself looking forward to the shift back to her tale.
Now that I’ve enjoyed the audio version of the book, I’m looking forward to reading my printed copy sometime in the future. I learned a great deal about the Mormon Church and its history, but would like a chance to go back and read it, concentrating more on the historical details and less on the fictitious character, Jordan Scott, and the mystery of his father’s murder.
I’m also looking forward to reading the author’s earlier novel, Pasadena, which I’ve owned for close to a decade!
Go here to listen to David Ebershoff describe The 19th Wife.
Click here to visit the author’s website.
Final thoughts: A thought-provoking story that would make for a great book club selection.
Books to add to my TBR list:
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
The Mormon War: Zion and the Missouri Extermination Order of 1838 by Brandon G. Kinney
December 23, 2011
Thanks to Cornflower, I just discovered the following from Sir Roy Strong's A Country Life: At Home in the English Countryside. As Karen states, this resonates with so many of us during this Christmas season.
“Christmas is Janus-faced. One side is joy, the other grief. It opens gates of memory firmly locked into a corner of the mind for the rest of the year. But when the festive season beckons those gates open and the past comes back to take us in its embrace. Christmas is always as much about those not there as about those present. The card no longer received because the sender is no more, the telephone which does not ring this year to remind us of a friendship around the globe, the person who is not at the table, the visit which is no longer made.
“But then the sadness fades, for that gate lets in not only tears of grief but those of joy, and thankfulness, too. Memory’s sacred role is to hold in the mind all those whom one has loved. At Christmas they come tumbling back in a season when recollection pulls strongly on the emotions. How often over these days leading into the New Year does the conversation harken back to times past, to people and events long since gone.....
“Always the twelve days of Christmas take on the character of a garland of friendship through time, for not only those of yesterday are recalled, but those of today rekindled. We are reminded of their centrality in any life. Age and bad times make them a bedrock, giving us strength to go forward into whatever the new year will bring.”
Thinking of those of you who have recently lost a loved one.
December 22, 2011
One Good Dog by Susan Wilson
2010 Macmillan Audio
Readers: Fred Berman & Rick Adamson
Finished on 11/10/11
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
“One Good Dog is a wonderful novel: a moving, tender, and brilliantly crafted story about two fighters—one a man, one a dog— hoping to leave the fight behind, who ultimately find their salvation in each other. Susan Wilson’s clear and unflinching style is perfectly suited for her story that strips away the trappings and toys we all hide behind, and exposes our essential need to give and accept love in order to thrive.” — Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
Adam March is a self-made “Master of the Universe.” He has it all: the beautiful wife, the high-powered job, the glittering circle of friends. But there is a price to be paid for all these trappings, and the pressure is mounting—until the day Adam makes a fatal mistake. His assistant leaves him a message with three words: your sister called. What no one knows is that Adam’s sister has been missing for decades. That she represents the excruciatingly painful past he has left behind. And that her absence has secretly tormented him all these years. When his assistant brushes off his request for an explanation in favor of her more pressing personal call, Adam loses it. And all hell breaks loose.
Adam is escorted from the building. He loses his job. He loses his wife. He loses the life he’s worked so hard to achieve. He doesn’t believe it is possible to sink any lower when he is assigned to work in a soup kitchen as a form of community service. But unbeknownst to Adam, this is where his life will intersect with Chance.
Chance is a mixed breed Pit Bull. He’s been born and raised to fight and seldom leaves the dirty basement where he is kept between fights. But Chance is not a victim or a monster. It is Chance’s unique spirit that helps him escape and puts him in the path of Adam.
What transpires is the story of one man, one dog, and how they save each other—in ways they never could have expected.
Ok. I agree. This sounds like a pretty tired, sappy story. But I’m a sucker for dog books and this one had been recommended to me by one of my customers. When I saw that it was available through my library, I figured it was time to finally give it a try. It’s a very quick and entertaining (read: light-weight and predictable) story, which I enjoyed listening to as I shelved books at work, drove around town and cleaned up the kitchen in the evenings. I’m not sorry I listened to it, but I doubt I would’ve stuck with the written edition. Narrated from both Adam and Chance’s points-of-view, it’s definitely not of the same caliber as The Art of Racing in the Rain (be sure to click on the link if you want to see Annie-Dog pictures!) or The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, the latter of which is one of the finest books I have ever read.
However, fans of Marley and Me (click on link to see our beloved Sidney) will enjoy having their heartstrings tugged once again.
December 20, 2011
Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Audio 2011 Harper Collins
Reader: Therese Plummer
Finished on 11/3/11
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
The critically acclaimed and bestselling author of The Condition returns with a powerful and affecting drama of faith, doubt, and redemption as one woman uncovers the truth about her family, her beliefs, and herself.
It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city’s archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.
Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother, Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Shelia’s younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila’s questions and refuses to defend himself.
As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family’s history of silence—and the resilience of its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman’s quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh’s most ambitious novel to date.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audio book and thought the reader did a great job. The story is suspenseful and reads like a mystery, keeping me guessing up to the final pages. The narrative is nonlinear, flowing back and forth in time, revealing the facts slowly and delicately. The characters are well-drawn and likeable; I cared about each and found myself thinking of them long after I finished the book. My only complaint centers around the transitions between chapters. Shelia tells the story in first person and her chapters alternate with those of her brothers, which are told in third person. The transitions between chapters work fine on the printed page, but they are abrupt and confusing in the audio format. This minor quibble wasn’t terribly annoying, especially since I had the hardcover to thumb through when I hit an odd transition.
I read Mrs. Kimble (Haigh’s debut), several years ago and enjoyed this novel much better. Now I’m anxious to try Baker Towers and The Condition to see how they compare.
Final thoughts: I was swept away by this thought-provoking novel and think it would make for a great book club discussion. As mentioned, I own the hardcover edition and plan to keep it for a future reread.
The paperback edition is due out on January 17th. I prefer this new cover over the hardcover edition, don’t you?
The following is an reposting of a post from December 2006.
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, 2011
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!)
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 16, 2011
December 13, 2011
December 3, 2011
From their website:
"Bookstores hold a place in the hearts and times of our community. They are places to discover an author, a story, a life. Nothing affords the conversation and interaction among books and book lovers that a bookstore does. In the future, whether you download your story or pluck a volume off a shelf, a bookstore will be able to accommodate. But in order for bookstores to flourish and thrive, we must expose future generations to the unique pleasures they offer. On December 3rd, 2011, take the child in your life to a bookstore. Watch his face light up as you give him free access, not just to a new book, but to tomorrow." —Jenny Milchman
Click here for more information.
December 1, 2011
by Lark Carrier
I'm not sure how long we've had this little book in our Christmas collection, but it's really more my daughter's than mine. I think I bought it for her because we lived out in the country and because she and the main character share the same name. It's a sweet little book, illustrated with pretty water color drawings.
I wrote about this album two years ago. For those of you who missed it, here's that post once again:
Have I really been listening to this album for 20 years? My husband would say it's been at least an eternity. But then he doesn't really care much for George Winston. He says it sounds like someone's tuning a piano for hours on end. What does he know? ;) I think it's gorgeous, meditative music and it never fails to put me in the holiday spirit.
I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite track, but since my daughter was born in December (almost 26 years ago!), and I listened to Pachabel Canon in D major at the end of every "Mommy & Me" prenatal exercise class, I'd have to say Track # 9 is right up there. But then so is the beautiful Joy (known also as Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring), which my brother used to play on the piano when we were kids. And then, of course, there's The Holly and The Ivy. Simply lovely. Makes me wish I knew how to play the piano.
I notice the 20th Anniversary Edition has two extra tracks (A Christmas Song and Sleep Baby Mine). Hmmm, might be time to invest in an updated album. I'm sure my husband wouldn't mind. This one's getting a bit worn out.
My good friend Nan listens to this every year on the 1st of December. I wonder if she has the new edition? I also wonder if she was listening at the same time as I. I'll bet her husband doesn't roll his eyes when he walks in the room while it's playing. ;)
November 23, 2011
- texts, emails and phone calls from my daughter
- a polite customer
- heated seats
- safe bike trails
- red wine
- voicemail from my granddaughter
- dark chocolate
- snail-mail from old friends
- ripe avocados without bruises
- my Annie-Dog
- a dream job in a bookstore
- new friendships
- comfortable jeans
- my siblings and their families
- a box of books in the mail from my mom or a good friend
- Keurig coffee!!
- great neighbors
- a dedicated biking partner
- a dry basement
- 4 wonderful, loving parents
- American Express Blue Cash Back
- old friends
- back rubs
- a good night's sleep
- my blog-mates
- the warmth of the sun
- a day off
- the opportunity to reconnect with childhood friends (thanks, FB)
- my books
- the opportunity to travel to the coast and mountains
From USA Today (11/22/11):
Cowboy hats and bolo ties mixed with the majestic chandeliers of the East Room for a toe-tapping series of performances by Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Darius Rucker, James Taylor, The Band Perry, Lauren Alaina and Micky.
"Tonight, we are turning the East Room into a bona fide country music hall," Obama said. Only days after wrapping up a nine-day trip through Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia, the president told guests that Johnny Cash "was really singing our song when he sang, 'I've been everywhere, man.'"
Obama said country music tied together many threads of the nation's immigrant heritage, from the Irish fiddle, the German dulcimer, the Italian mandolin, the Spanish guitar and the West African banjo. "At its most pure, that's what country music is all about — life in America. It's about storytelling — giving voice to the emotions of everyday life."
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a pink silk pantsuit, watched from the front row to a set list of country music past and present.
Bentley opened the concert by telling the audience that his thoughts were with members of the military and their families and then broke into a stirring rendition of "Home," his current hit.
Taylor, wearing a tan Stetson hat with his blue suit, sang his 1970s hit "Riding on the Railroads," and performed a version of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman." Krauss performed an acoustic version of "When You Say Nothing At All," her 1995 hit song. Lovett reprised his 1994 hit, "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Country star Willie Nelson's influence loomed large over the show. Kristofferson and Rucker performed "Pancho and Lefty," a 1983 hit by Nelson and Merle Haggard, while Alaina did a rendition of Elvis Presley's "You Were Always on My Mind," which Nelson turned into a Grammy winner, also in 1983.
Some of the most recognizable country standards were featured, with Alaina covering Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter," and The Band Perry performing Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."
Rucker, the former front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, got a shout-out from Obama — "Hootie's in the house," Obama told the audience — and later performed his contemporary hit, "I Got Nothin."
By the end of the night, the entire ensemble was on stage as Kristofferson led them in an uplifting version of "Me and Bobby McGee," the song Kristofferson co-wrote with Fred Foster and was later sung memorably by Janis Joplin.
Obama said the concert was a fitting tribute to the impact of country music on American life. Since first running for president, Obama said, "I've hopped on planes to big cities. I've ridden buses through small towns. And along the way, I've gained an appreciation for just how much country music means to so many Americans."
In 2009, Mrs. Obama created a White House music series that has celebrated jazz, country, classical, Motown and Latin music. She has also arranged salutes to Broadway, the music of the civil rights movement and Judith Jamison, an Alvin Ailey dancer and artistic director.
"Country Music: In Performance at the White House" will be broadcast Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on PBS stations and shown at a later date on the American Forces Network to military service personnel around the world.
November 20, 2011
No, not blogging! As noted in my previous post, I no longer hesitate to give up on a book if it fails to capture my attention. Lately, I’ve given up on several books, but rather than post a separate entry for each, I thought I’d lump them all together. I know there’s no reason to bother with the DNFs, but my memory isn’t what it used to be and I need all the help I can get to remember what I’ve read or attempted to read so I don’t accidentally buy a book I’ve already tried. Please tell me you all suffer from the same problem!
So, very briefly, here’s what failed to capture my interest:
by Donna Tart
by Julia Glass (audio)
Listened to over 100 pages before finally calling it quits. I read and enjoyed Three Junes when it first came out, but haven’t read anything else by Glass. I haven’t given up on her yet.
by Mary Doria Russell
Listened to a chapter or two and gave up. The reader was putting me to sleep! My husband, stepdad and two good friends loved this book. I’ve enjoyed everything by Russell, so I’ll have to try the printed format.
by Marisa de los Santos
I gave up after about a hundred pages. I couldn’t get interested in Pen’s story and thought the writing was very disjointed and the plot lacking. This is so disappointing, especially since I loved Belong to Me and Love Walked In. This new novel almost feels like it was written by a different author. I’ve read several reviews on Amazon and have to agree with those who gave it only one or two stars.
Now to go read more of Jack Finney’s Time and Again, which has captured my interest!
November 17, 2011
Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons
2008 Grand Central Publishing
Rating: 3/5 (So-So)
For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly—happily married, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does… in loss.
After Cam’s death, Lilly takes a solitary road trip to her and Cam’s favorite spot in Maine, the place where they fell in love, and where their ghosts still dance. There she looks hard to her past—to a first love that ended in tragedy, to meeting Cam, to a marriage filled with exuberance and safety—to try to make sense of her future. It is a journey that begins with tender memories and culminates in a revelation that will make Lilly reevaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run...
There was a time when I finished every book I started, no matter how dull or how poorly written. It felt wrong to not keep plugging away at a book that had come highly recommended or one I’d received as a gift or one by a favorite author that I’d been longing to read. Several of my favorite books have taken well over 50 pages to draw me in, so I always felt I should give each and every book I pick up a decent chance. As the years have passed, I’ve been less inclined to follow this principle and these days I have no trouble tossing aside a book that hasn’t grabbed my attention in the first 50 pages. Life is too short, blah, blah, blah.
So why do I hesitate to give up on an author who repeatedly fails to impress me? It’s one thing to continue to follow an author who runs hot and cold (Anita Shreve, for instance), but to keep reading one whose novels never live up to the one you first fell in love with? That’s just silly, don’t you think? I wrote the following over four years ago, after reading Up Island, also by Siddons:
It's been almost six years since I discovered Anne Rivers Siddons and her remarkable saga, Colony. I loved that book and felt as though I'd found another Rosamunde Pilcher in Siddons. I went on to read Islands and Sweetwater Creek, but neither impressed me nearly as much as Colony (Islands earned a 3/5 rating; Sweetwater a 2/5). The House Next Door was quite good, but more of a horror story than Siddons' typical works.
And now I've read Up Island. It wasn't a bad read, but it certainly wasn't another Colony. I enjoyed it for the most part (although toward the end, I found myself getting impatient, wanting to be finished and on to something else). Siddons is quite a descriptive writer, but I wouldn't go so far to say she's a lyrical author (Pat Conroy and Rosamunde Pilcher are two who do excel at painting a vivid picture in my mind's eye).
And now I’ve read another that fell short and left me wishing for more. As the closing chapters drew near, I found myself flipping back and forth, trying to sort out the details, which were muddled and vague. The ending was abrupt and completely unbelievable; I wish I had someone with whom I could to discuss the paranormal aspects (reminiscent of The House Next Door). And, looking back on the entire narrative, I realize that there were many unresolved plot lines and ridiculous scenes and dialogue.
It’s definitely time to call it quits on this author. I’m not reading as often as I’d like and there are far too many talented authors I’d rather read.
November 15, 2011
November 11, 2011
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
Mystery (#6 in the Maisie Dobbs’ series)
2009 Macmillan Audio - Unabridged
Reader: Orlagh Cassidy
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
Nominated for a Macavity Award for best historical mystery
Christmas Eve, 1931. On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the Prime Minister's office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certain demands are not met—and the writer mentions Maisie by name. Tapped by Scotland Yard's elite Special Branch to be a special adviser on the case, Maisie is soon involved in a race against time to find a man who proves he has the knowledge and will to inflict destruction on thousands of innocent people.
In Among the Mad, Jacqueline Winspear combines a heart-stopping story with a rich evocation of a fascinating period to create her most compelling and satisfying novel yet.
Among the Mad is another enjoyable installment in the Maisie Dobbs series. It’s not one of my favorites, nor is it one that I’ll remember too vividly, but I was entertained while listening.
Jacqueline Winspear has given us such a gift: an appealing, interesting, complex heroine, intriguing mysteries, and much information about society and life in this particular time period.
Go here to read her complete review.
I have enjoyed all of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, but this one is my favorite after the first one. There is a great deal of psychology involved, especially relating to the minds of WWI veterans. I found it sad, yet interesting and educational. It makes me wonder about our veterans of today. Are their needs being met?
Go here to read her complete review.
I have only one more book remaining of Winspear’s mysteries in my stacks. I hope she continues to write about Maisie and would love to see all of these books filmed. Wouldn’t they make a lovely BBC series?
November 9, 2011
The following are the most popular book club books during October based on votes from readers and leaders of more than 32,000 book clubs registered at Bookmovement.com:
1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
4. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford
5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
6. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
7. The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
10. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
These are all such wonderful books (although, I wasn't very impressed with Sarah's Key)! I've highlighted the ones I've read and hope to eventually read the other four.
Click on the titles to read my reviews.
November 7, 2011
Go here for more details and read ad-free!
Brought to you by your favorite Barnes & Noble bookseller. ;)