February 29, 2012

The Venice Experiement

The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad by Barry Frangipane with Ben Robbins
Nonfiction – Travel Memoir
2011 Savory Adventures Publishing
Finished 2/19/12
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Lured by Venice’s colorful history, Barry Frangipane was determined to experience its labyrinth of walkways, canals, and bridges, as more than just a tourist. With this in mind, he convinced his wife Debbie to join him in this grand experiment, a year long cultural immersion in the most legendary city on earth.

Through their initiation into Venetian society, Barry and Debbie discovered the close-knit family of inhabitants and innumerable cultural oddities of living in Venice, the improbable city built upon millions of tree trunks driven into the mud sixteen centuries ago. From the exasperating bureaucracy to high tides endangering their ground-floor apartment, these expatriates get far more than they bargained for.

The quintessential storyteller, Barry leads us deep into the inner workings of life in Venice. With his inexhaustible humor, he draws the reader effortlessly into his daily exploits, a journey filled with a cast of remarkable characters who will touch your heart.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read an entire book in one weekend. Granted, the font size is almost as large as that of a “large print” book, but once I started reading, the pages practically turned themselves. I wound up spending most of a Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch, lost in the magical city of Venice.

I have several pages marked with sticky notes for future reference (yes, I will get to Italy one of these days!), but upon reflection, it was not the writing (which reads like a personal travel journal or blog), but rather the destination that held my interest. Frangipane’s humor was lost on me, and as a matter of fact, there were a few instances in which I thought he was rude toward—and disdainful of—tourists in general and his wife in particular. Had I not been so interested in reading about Venice, I might have called it quits.

On Venice:

Slowly, Venice came into view. All the bell towers seemed to grow as we neared the city, with the famous campanile towering over Saint Mark’s Square.

As we left the station, the city of water opened itself up to us. The Grand Canal, directly ahead, was bustling with activity. Two vaporetto, or waterbus, stops perched on the edge of the canal with people waiting at each one. We watched people going about mundane daily routines in this exotic place that seemed to emerge directly out of the sea. Traveling down the canal were merchant boats carrying wine, toilet paper, and Coke, while a UPS boat delivered packages to businesses on the canal. Palaces rose up from the water with beautiful blown-glass chandeliers glistening in the windows. The aroma of fresh pastries filled the air.

Travel Notes:

San Daniele, a quiet little spot in the foothills of the picturesque Dolomites, was home to arguably the best prosciutto in Italy. Tiny restaurants specializing in the local delicacy were found on every corner. Many of them offered beautiful views from outside terraces, where thin slices of prosciutto were served on silver platters paired with homemade grissini breadsticks and white wine.

Serene canals near Fondamenta Misericordia along the backside of Cannaregio.

Rialto market at sunrise and Piazza San Marco at midnight.

Go here to read more about Barry and Debbie's venture in Venetian travel tours.

Debbie now has a cooking show, which you can learn more about here.

Final Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised when I received The Venice Experiment from Bellezza—she knows my passion for travel & foodie memoirs so well—and was delighted to add the book to my stack for the Venice in February Reading Challenge.

This is neither A Year in Provence nor Under the Tuscan Sun, but I was entertained nonetheless.

February 25, 2012

The Midwife of Venice

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
2012 Galley Press
Finished 2/16/12
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Venice Challenge #2

Publisher’s Blurb:

Not since The Red Tent or People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. Hannah Levi is renowned for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but his payment is enough to ransom her husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can she refuse her duty to a woman who is suffering? Hannah’s choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the child and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life. Told with exceptional skill, The Midwife of Venice brings to life a time and a place cloaked in fascination and mystery and introduces a captivating new talent in historical fiction.

I came upon the ARC of this book one day at work. It was right around the time I was putting together a stack of books for the Venice in February Reading Challenge, so I quickly snatched it up, eager to try another new author.

Photo Credits

Venice 1575:

During the full moon, unseen currents ran in the canals, washing over the crumbling walls and wetting the slimy steps of the ghetto. At high tide, acqu alta*, the entire campo disappeared under a layer of mud. Tonight was such a night. Hannah held up her skirts as she, the Conte, and the Rabbi made their way across the campo toward the gates, the Conte grasping her elbow to prevent her from slipping in the silt. Overhead in her building, shutters opened. A tiny flicker of a candle showed through the window and then the shutters banged closed. Hannah shivered as a rat leapt into the canal, leaving greasy ripples in the water.


Hannah stood on the dock for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Venice was awakening. Morning sun glinted on the water, infusing it with the luminescent colours of Murano glass. The canal was filled with boats jostling for right-of-way. Barges spilling over with apples and pomegranates, round and succulent, lumbered toward the Rialto market. A fishmonger on the opposite side of the canal held up snapper and tilapia, their scales pearly white in the first light of dawn. The shops along the strazi teemed with early morning shoppers. Water sellers trudged back from the wellhead in the piazzetta, their buckets sloshing.

I enjoyed the book well enough, but was more drawn to Hannah’s story than Isaac’s. I would have liked to have seen more accounts of Hannah’s midwifery prior to her visit from the count, as well as more details of her relationship with her husband. The plot lacks depth and, with the exception of Hannah, the majority of characters are one-dimensional and forgettable. In spite of these quibbles, I found the narrative entertaining and suspenseful and might be convinced to give the sequel a try, depending on the early reviews.

*Acqua Alta: (Italian: 'high waters') is the term used in Veneto for the exceptional tide peaks that occur periodically in the northern Adriatic Sea. The peaks reach their maximum in the Venetian Lagoon, where they cause partial flooding of Venice and Chioggia; flooding also occurs elsewhere around the northern Adriatic, for instance at Grado and Trieste, but much less often and to a lesser degree. The phenomenon occurs mainly between autumn and spring, when the astronomical tides are reinforced by the prevailing seasonal winds which hamper the usual reflux. The main winds involved are the scirocco, which blows northbound along the Adriatic Sea, and the bora, which has a specific local effect due to the shape and location of the Venetian lagoon. (Source: Wikipedia)

February 18, 2012

6 Years!

Good friends
good books --
we want to
hang on to

Last Wednesday marked the 6th anniversary of Lesley’s Book Nook (now known as Prairie Horizons).

Really? Six years?!

When I first started blogging about books, I never imagined I'd stick with it for all these years. I have two other blogs that I no longer post to and my poor, pathetic cooking blog that is rarely ever added to. (And which is in desperate need of a makeover with all new photos!) Over the years I grew weary of the pressure to write reviews and got bored with my template, often considering ditching the whole thing for more time to read, but I could never bring myself to say goodbye to all the great friends I’ve made over the years. Andi, Heather, Nat and Nancy, you guys are probably the bloggers I’ve known the longest. We met on a couple of Yahoo sites prior to blogging and I think it was Andi who convinced me to give it a try. Since then, I’ve seen other online friends join in on the book chatter (Nan & Kay) and while some have left for good (if you’re reading this, please know that I miss your posts*), others have quit and returned (much to the joy of this reader). Many of you are like sisters to me (Bellezza, Wendy, Joy and SuziQ) and I hope we get a chance to meet some day. Some of you share my enthusiasm for travel (Stephanie & Iliana), cooking & photography (Pam), and many others are simply faithful readers, virtual friends with whom it's a pleasure to stay in touch, discussing whatever arises (Staci, JoAnn, Kelly and Kathy). And then there are bloggers whom I’ve recently met (Linda & Trish) who feel like kindred spirits. You all enrich my life every single day. What a great community of which to be a part! Why in the world would I want to leave? Especially now that I’ve found my blogging mojo with this new template and discovered how easy it is to change up my header and sidebar. Life in the blogosphere is very good.

Getting nostalgic as I started to compose this post, I glanced back on my previous blogiversary posts (somehow, I missed the 5th!) and thought it might be fun to repost a little bit from each.

Year One:

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. I can't believe how quickly the time has flown since I first posted my review for Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonder.

It's been quite a year of emotional healing. I owe a lot to all my new friends who share my joy of reading (and kitties, inclement weather, cooking, gardening and random musings). I love reading all your comments and visiting your blogs.

I'm thankful for the warmth of friendship I've discovered within the blogging community and treasure each and every one of you. I look forward to many more years of writing and fellowship.

Year Two:

It’s important to have a sense of place. To feel that you belong somewhere, to feel committed. For some people, place begins with another person and everything – from friends to the Japanese maple in the yard – grows from that. But sometimes, it works the other way. You find a place where you belong. And the people find you. Gathering mussels, picking beans, eating blackberry pie. (author unknown)

During the past two years, I have found a place where I belong. I love sharing my thoughts about the books I've read, the places I've visited, the beauty in nature, and the new music I've discovered. And, I've discovered so many new authors and books thanks to all of you fabulous bloggers. My life is richer since I began blogging and I've met so many intelligent, funny, and kind new friends. I simply can't imagine ever giving this up! So here's to many, many more years of friendship and books.

Year Three:

Blogging has been such a rewarding experience and, although there have been times when I've felt too busy to post, I can't imagine my life without my blog and blogmates. Thank you all for helping to enrich my life. I've enjoyed each and every enthusiastic comment, felt each tender virtual hug in times of need, and am grateful for every one of you.

Year Four:

I've been busy catching up on my book reviews and just realized that my blogiversary came and went (yesterday). Have I really been blogging for four years?? I had to double-check to be sure. The time has certainly flown by! I want to thank each and every one of you who take the time to stop by and read my reviews, leave comments, and hang in there when I get quiet.

Keeping with the tradition of blogiversary give-aways and as a thank you for your loyal readership and comments, I would like to offer a gift of appreciation. Leave a comment between now and February 29th, indicating you’d like to be included (you must include your email address), and I’ll draw a winning name to receive a box of a dozen gently used books (including one audiobook) from my shelves. Due to the size and weight of the box, I will have to restrict this give-away to the U.S.

Human beings are meant to connect.
Laughter and good wishes
are an appropriate response to new adventures,
and gratitude for what has been
often walks hand in hand
with joy in new possibilities.
Whether it’s a traditional house-warming
or a modern blog-warming,
the point is the same:
life is better in community.

~ Linda, at The Task at Hand

* the other Lesley, Marcia, Robin

February 16, 2012

The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides
2011 MacMillan Audio
Reader: David Pittu
Finished 2/8/12
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

Publisher’s Blurb:

It’s the early 1980s—the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafes on College Hill, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.

Leonard Bankhead—charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy—suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old “friend” Mitchell Grammaticus—who’s been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange—resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it sounds like the intimate journal of our own lives.

After reading Wendy’s glowing review for The Marriage Plot, I decided to throw my name in the hat and try to win the audio version of the book in her giveaway late last year. I was thrilled to win and began listening as soon as I finished my previous audio book. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the book nearly as much as Wendy did or nearly as well as Eugenide’s previous novel Middlesex (which made my Best Of 2007 list). I found the plot terribly depressing and didn’t care for any of the main characters. I almost quit listening on several occasions, but kept at it, hoping it was merely a dislike for the reader and not the story. I enjoyed all the early references to literature, but they weren’t enough to sustain my appreciation for this over-hyped novel.

On Books:

To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters. There were a whole lot of black-and-white New Directions paperbacks, mostly poetry by people like H.D. or Denise Levertov. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition of Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeleine has surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-size but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn’t trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for “Artistic,” or “Passionate,” thinking you could live with “Sensitive,” secretly fearing “Narcissistic” and “Domestic,” but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different, depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: “Incurably Romantic.”

These were the books in the room where Madeleine lay, with a pillow over her head, on the morning of her college graduation. She’d read each and every one, often multiple times, frequently underlining passages, but that was no help to her now.

Apparently I’m not in the minority. Amazon readers are all over the board with almost as many 1 and 2 star ratings as 4 and 5 stars. I’m not sorry I read (or rather, listened to) the book, but it’s not one I can recommend, nor will I listen to the audio a second time. In spite of my overall reaction to the novel, I believe it would make for an excellent book club selection. There’s a lot to discuss and it would be interesting to see which character is most liked or disliked. Stay tuned for my give-away.

Final thoughts: I loved Middlesex, so I certainly won’t dismiss Eugenides based on this disappointment.

The Marriage Plot is a character-driven, literary novel which will appeal to readers who enjoy literary fiction. Also readers who survived college and its aftermath during the early 1980s in the United States will find a lot to love about Eugenides’ latest effort. I found the novel to be an intellectually stimulating, greatly satisfying reading which I can highly recommend. (Wendy, of Caribousmom)

Go here to read Wendy's complete review for The Marriage Plot.

February 14, 2012

True Love

A Poime for Lesley

Is it too much to ask of life
That we run our race with one true friend?
That when we sleep we slumber deep,
And then our fences kindly mend?

That hearth and home be bright and warm,
A lovely, lively place?
And can we find some peace of mind,
A partnership of grace?

Should not our souls be free to fly?
And when we strive we do beseech
The stars agleam - so bright, they seem! -
Could our grasp this once exceed our reach?

It must be so! What else explains
The love I've found, this joyful song to sing?
You brought a light to deepest night
And made a fool a king.

Perhaps it is that Poe was wrong,
That what he said was false and sad;
It seems there is some trace of it,
Some bit of balm in Gilead.

Recollect emotion in tranquility
Is what Wordsworth said to do;
And thus I came (however lame)
To make this poime for you.

Rod Scher

February 11, 2012

Death at La Fenice

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
Guido Brunetti Series #1
1992 HarperCollins
Finished 2/5/12
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb:

There is little violent crime in Venice, a serenely beautiful floating city of mystery and magic, history and decay. But the evil that does rear its head on occasion is the jurisdiction of Guido Brunetti, the suave, urbane vice-commissario of police and a genius at detection. Now all of his admirable abilities must come into play in the deadly affair of Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor who died painfully from cyanide poisoning during intermission at La Fenice. But as the investigation unfolds, a chilling picture slowly begins to take shape—a detailed portrait of revenge painted with vivid strokes of hatred and shocking depravity. And the dilemma for Guido Brunetti will not be finding a murder suspect…but, rather, narrowing the choice down to one.

“A splendid series…With a backdrop of the city so vivid you can almost smell it.” Sunday Telegraph (London)

It’s been almost five years since I first heard about Donna Leon’s “Venice” series. I was chatting with a customer about some of my favorite mysteries writers and he asked if I had ever read any of Leon’s mysteries. When I told him I hadn’t, he practically insisted I stop reading my current book and immediately start in on the Guido Brunetti series. I’m sorry to say I only made a mental note to give the book a try, but I have Bellezza to thank for giving me the incentive to finally pick up this literary mystery.

Guido. What a great name. Move over, Lucas Davenport. I’ve found a new love. ;)

Guido Brunetti, a commissario of the police for the city, was first through the door…He was a surprisingly neat man: tie carefully knotted, hair shorter than was the fashion; even his ears lay close to his head, as if reluctant to call attention to themselves. His clothing marked him as Italian. The cadence of his speech announced that he was Venetian. His eyes were all policeman.

Brunetti has a wry sense of humor and I enjoyed the conversations (as well as his internal monologue) between him and his supervisor, Vice-Questore Giuseppe Patta.

“It sounds like you’re making excuses for her,” said Patta, then added, “Is she pretty?” Brunetti realized Patta must have found about the difference in age between the dead man and his widow.

“If you like tall blonds,” Brunetti said.

“Don’t you?”

“My wife doesn’t permit me to, sir.”


“Now pay attention, Brunetti.” Brunetti nodded. “I want the name of anyone who was in the dressing room, or near it, last night. And I want to find out more about the wife. How long they’ve been married, where she comes from, that sort of thing.” Brunetti nodded.

“Brunetti?” Patta suddenly asked.

“Yes, sir?”

“Why aren’t you taking notes?”

Brunetti permitted himself the smallest of smiles. “Oh, I never forget anything you say, sir.”

I also enjoyed peeking into Brunetti’s personal life:

He opened the door, glad of the warmth and smell he associated with the apartment: lavender, wax, the scent of something cooking in the kitchen at the back; it was a mixture that represented to him, in a way he couldn’t explain, the existence of sanity in the daily madness that was his work.

“Is that you, Guido?” Paola called from the living room. He wondered who else she might be expecting at two in the morning, but he didn’t ask.

On Venetian commerce:

A half hour before his appointment with Signora Wellauer, he left his office and walked slowly up toward Piazza San Marco. Along the way, he paused to look into shop windows, shocked, as he always was when in the center of the city, by how quickly their composition was changing. It seemed to him that all the shops that served the native population—pharmacies, shoemakers, groceries—were slowly and inexorably disappearing, replaced by slick boutiques and souvenir shops that catered to the tourists, filled with luminescent plastic gondolas from Taiwan and papier-mache masks from Hong Kong. It was the desires of the transients, not the needs of the residents, that the city’s merchants answered. He wondered how long it would take before the entire city became a sort of living museum, a place fit only for visiting and not for inhabiting.

On Venetian crime:

Brunetti often mused that the crime rate in Venice was low—one of the lowest in Europe and certainly the lowest in Italy—because the criminals, and they were almost always thieves, simply didn’t know how to get away. Only a resident could navigate the spiderweb of narrow calles, could know in advance that this one was a dead end or that one ended in a canal. And the Venetians, the native population, tended to be law-abiding, if only because their tradition and history had given them an excessive respect for the rights of private property and the imperative need to see to its safekeeping. So there was very little crime, and when there was an act of violence or, much more rarely, a murder, the criminal was quickly and easily found: the husband, the neighbor, the business partner. Usually all they had to do was round up the usual suspects.

On Venice, the city:

Brunetti walked up toward the hotel, still lighted, even at this hour when the rest of the city was darkened and sleeping. Once the capital of the dissipations of a continent, Venice had become a sleepy provincial town that virtually ceased to exist after nine or ten at night. During the summer months, she could remember her courtesan past and sparkle, as long as the tourists paid and the good weather held, but in the winter, she became a tired old crone, eager to crawl early to bed, leaving her deserted streets to cats and memories of the past.

But these were the hours when, for Brunetti, the city became most beautiful, just as they were the same hours when he, Venetian to the bone, could sense some of her past glory. The darkness of the night hid the moss that crept up the steps of the palazzi lining the Grand Canal, obscured the cracks in the walls of churches, and covered the patches of plaster missing from the facades of public buildings. Like many women of a certain age, the city needed the help of deceptive light to recapture her vanished beauty. A boat that, during the day, was making a delivery of soap powder or cabbages, at night became a numinous form, floating toward some mysterious destination. The fogs that were common in these winter days could transform people and objects, even turn long-haired teenagers, hanging around a street corner and sharing a cigarette, into mysterious phantoms from the past.

I thought it was terrific read and can’t wait to return to Venice and see what’s in store for Guido. (Did I already mention that I love that name? And what a likeable character!)

Final thoughts: Quite the page-turner, Donna Leon’s debut mystery is satisfying and a series that I’m anxious to continue reading.

Books added to my TBR list:

Teatro La Fenice

The Teatro Fenice has a remarkable history. It was first constructed after a fire destroyed Venice's leading opera house, the San Benedetto Theatre, in 1774. Bearing an appropriate name, La Fenice (The Phoenix) was inaugurated on May 16, 1792. During the 19th century, La Fenice housed the three great Italian composers of the period: Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti's work all premiered there. Tragically, a fire in December 1836 razed the building to the ground, but it was rebuilt and opened again in December 1837. La Fenice's international renown was firmly established when it initiated the First International Festival of Contemporary Music in 1930. Fate struck again in 1996 when another fire claimed the building. At last the restoration work is complete and La Fenice has once again been raised from its ashes and restored to its former glory! (Information from Divento)

More cover art for Death at La Fenice:

February 9, 2012

To the Moon and Back

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell
2011 Sourcebooks
Finished 1/29/12
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

The hardest part of love is moving on…

It’s been a year since Ellie Kendall’s husband, Jamie, was killed in an accident, but she’s still haunted by his memory. In fact, she finds herself talking to him regularly. At the urging of Jamie’s successful actor father Tony, Ellie moves to London’s glamorous Primrose Hill, where nobody knows her past…

But even in her new home—and with her hardworking new boss, Zack McLaren; and Jamie’s best friend Todd to distract her—Ellie can’t seem to leave Jamie behind. Will Ellie stay stuck in the past? Or will she realize the man of her dreams is flesh and blood—and right in front of her eyes…

I first learned about Jill Mansell and her latest novel, To the Moon and Back, last fall after reading Bookfool's glowing review. Eager to try a new author, I added the title to my list, but I need not have bothered as Nancy was sweet enough to send me her copy. I finally moved it from one of my towering stacks in my office to one of my towering stacks on my nightstand, vowing to read it in January. Success!

Reminiscent of Bridget Jones’ Diary and Holly’s Inbox, I was quickly drawn into Ellie’s story, enjoying the London setting and all the wonderful references to England. (I am such a British word nerd and have to make a conscious effort to not say “queue” or “lorry” or “Bloody Hell!” after reading these sort of books.) Nancy said she whipped through it in a couple of days, but it took me closer to a week. Of course, I’ve been juggling a few books at a time (not my usual routine), so I may have been able to finish this one in a few short days, had I been reading it exclusively. As Nancy said, it’s fun and breezy, and the pages practically turn themselves.

So why didn’t I love it? The three main male characters never sounded convincing. I couldn’t get past the fact that they sounded more like women than men. What do you think? How often do you hear a man say “thingy?” As in, “What was that invention thingy he’d heard about? Some kind of dexterity test connected to your computer that you had to pass before it would allow you to access the internet.” And, “But since he hadn’t had that particular invention thingy installed, he hadn’t even needed to do that.” Or, what about this, “Earlier, as he’d been standing outside the restaurant taking a phone call, a girl in a pink coat had caught his eye as she headed down the street towards him. Her hair was long and dark, her eyes light brown, her cheeks rosy, and the effect she’d had on him was extraordinary; he couldn’t stop looking at her. Whoever she was, he wanted to know more. Heavens, what a weird feeling; he’d never experienced anything like this before.” Heavens? Really? Do men say that? Even in their heads?

I enjoyed the book, but found myself getting a bit restless, wishing for something a little more literary or thought-provoking. Can I finally admit that chick-lit is not my thing? But maybe it’s yours. If you’re in the mood for a fluffy British romp, Jill Mansell may just be your cuppa tea.

Go here to read Nancy’s review.

Final thoughts: What the heck is a wine gum?

Pretty British cover art:

February 7, 2012

Winter Wonderland - Part II

Sunday, February 5th.

Everything always looks better if the sun's shining, don't you think? Annie does.

Click on photos to enlarge.

February 6, 2012

Winter Wonderland - Part I

February 1st. Early morning. Looking west from my kitchen.

February 4th. Early morning. Looking north from the dining room. (And, no. Our phone lines are not usually that low!)

Neighbors helping neighbors.

Heavy, wet snow.

Pretty, but...


We lost power sometime during the night and it was out until 10:30 that morning. I made a run to Scooter's for coffee and after breakfast we headed to the living room to curl up with our books. This is where we spent the day. My computer was off the entire day!

Temperature on Monday, January 30th: 69 degrees

Temperature on Saturday, February 4th: 33 degrees

Total snowfall: 14 inches in 24 hours