May 29, 2013

Forever Young

Daughter, sister, mother, friend. 
Forever loved forever missed.
2.17.81 - 5.28.05

May 18, 2013

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
2013 Scribner
Finished on 4/24/13
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

An extraordinary and heart-rending book about good people, tragic decisions and the beauty found in each of them.
 ~ Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief

Publisher’s Blurb:

The debut of a stunning new voice in fiction—a novel both heartbreaking and transcendent.

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the Western coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the winds. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M.L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinary compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer.

Do you see that? A 5/5 rating! It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had one of those and Stedman’s debut novel deserves nothing less! I’m not even going to knock off any points for the slow start, because that could easily be attributed to my fatigue from an exhausting week at work. Once I got a few pages in, I was hooked and could barely set the book aside. I even read a few pages while fixing dinner!

On a violent ocean:
There are times when the ocean is not the ocean—not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.

On the persistence of the passage of time:
The wind had kept up its sullen howl. The late-afternoon sun continued to shine in through the window, laying a blanket of bright gold over the woman and her almost-baby. The old clock on the kitchen wall still clicked its minutes with fussy punctuality. A life had come and gone and nature had not paused a second for it. The machine of time and space grinds on, and people are fed through it like grist through the mill.

On isolation:
Anyone who’s worked on the Offshore Lights can tell you about it—the isolation, and the spell it casts. Like sparks flung off the furnace that is Australia, these beacons dot around it, flickering on and off, some of them only ever seen by a handful of living souls. But their isolation saves the whole continent from isolation—keeps the shipping lanes safe, as vessels steam the thousands of miles to bring machines and books and cloth, in return for wool and wheat, coal and gold: the fruits of ingenuity traded for the fruits of earth.

The isolation spins its mysterious cocoon, focusing the mind on one place, on time, one rhythm—the turning of the light. The island knows no other human voices, no other footprints. On the Offshore Lights you can live any story you want to tell yourself, and no one will say you’re wrong: not the seagulls, not the prisms, not the wind.

The Light Between Oceans is the type of book that could easily be read in a few days, but I took my time, slowly savoring the lyrical prose, dreading the turn of that final page. However, as the conclusion drew near with an ominous sense of foreboding, I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the words, holding my breath as the tension mounted. Each of the characters faced a moral dilemma with no perfect solution; the heartbreak of both was inevitable. And yet, in spite of this tragic story, I came away from it with a feeling of satisfaction.

Final Thoughts: 

An outstanding debut that is sure to be a winner among fans of literary fiction and book clubs alike. Stedman’s vigorously evocative narrative, along with a strong sense of place, depicts the powerful isolation and ultimate desperation of an Australian lighthouse keeper and his family. The author’s skill in crafting a thought-provoking and gripping tale, peopled with fully-realized characters (who in spite of their flaws, will win over even the harshest of critics), is more characteristic of a seasoned writer than one fresh to the world of bestsellers. I anxiously await her second endeavor and meanwhile, I plan to listen to the audio version of this remarkable novel. Kudos, Ms. Stedman!

May 15, 2013


Summer in April?

First green smoothie
(soymilk, berries, kiwi, mango, honey and kale!)

Neighborhood park


May 2nd!
Could've been worse.

Birthday gifts!
Variety is the spice of life.

Kentucky Derby
I picked Orb!

 Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Nanny and granddaughter bookclub choice.

Rod's birthday gifts from our sweet girl.

Porch-sitting in spring.
Neighbor's gorgeous tree is bursting with blossoms.

First scoop of the season!

May 11, 2013

Those We Love Most


Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff
Hyperion 2012
Finished on 4/14/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

A bright June day. A split-second distraction. A family forever changed.

Life is good for Maura Corrigan. Married to her college sweetheart, Pete, raising three young kids with her parents nearby in her peaceful Chicago suburb, her world is secure. Then one day, in a single turn of fate, that entire world comes crashing down and everything that she thought she knew changes.

Maura must learn to move forward with the weight of grief and the crushing guilt of an unforgivable secret. Pete senses a gap growing between him and his wife but finds it easier to escape to the bar with his friends than face the flaws in his marriage.

Meanwhile, Maura's parents are dealing with the fault lines in their own marriage. Charismatic Roger, who at sixty-five, is still chasing the next business deal and Margaret, a pragmatic and proud homemaker, have been married for four decades, seemingly happily. But the truth is more complicated. Like Maura, Roger has secrets of his own and when his deceptions and weaknesses are exposed, Margaret's love and loyalty face the ultimate test.

Those We Love Most chronicles how these unforgettable characters confront their choices, examine their mistakes, fight for their most valuable relationships, and ultimately find their way back to each other. It takes us deep into the heart of what makes families and marriages tick and explores a fundamental question: when the ties that bind us to those we love are strained or broken, how do we pick up the pieces?

Deeply penetrating and brimming with emotional insight, this engrossing family drama heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

I’ve had Lee and Bob (ABC NEWS anchor) Woodruff’s dual memoir, In An Instant, on my shelves for several years, but haven’t gotten around to reading it, in spite of strong initial interest. When Lee’s debut novel hit the shelves, I knew it was something I wanted to read, even before I read the publisher’s blurb on the back cover. Yes, I’m a sucker for attractive cover art.

I quickly became engrossed in the narrative: Woodruff’s smooth writing pulled me in from the opening pages, and I wound up reading late into the night on more than one occasion. However, I never felt fully invested in this family’s sad situation. I found myself comparing Woodruff’s story to that of Anna Quindlen’s, in her unforgettable novel, Every Last One. While Quindlen’s book had me sobbing as though I had a personal relationship with her characters, Woodruff had me feeling somewhat apathetic and blasé. This is not to say that Woodruff’s writing is poor or boring, but she wasn’t able to make me care about any of her characters. Maura, Pete and Roger never captured my heart or sympathies, and I felt as if they were constantly held at arms-length from the reader. I wanted to like June’s mother, Margaret, but I felt her characterization never rang true. Her behavior and general attitude about life is depicted like that of an older, pragmatic woman (or perhaps a woman living in the Fifties or Sixties) rather than one in her early 60’s. She is stoic in her grief and somewhat of an insecure prude with a mean, manipulative streak, when faced with her own demons.
Margaret thought about how you could spend your life trying to stay well, buckling your seat belt, eating organic food, wearing sunscreen, and then bad things could still rise up out of nowhere. Senseless things. She shook her head and pushed those thoughts away. She needed to make the marinade and get dressed for bridge.
Surprisingly, this is the only passage I marked in this book of 300 pages. Even more surprising (at least to me) is that I never once shed a tear. I find myself wondering if I’ve become numb (or immune?) to stories of loss or if Woodruff misses the mark when it comes to relating the intricacies of grief. I guess I won’t know until I read another book about the death of a loved one. 

Final Thoughts: 

Did I say I liked this book? ;) I really did, but it wasn’t as remarkable as I imagined it would be. Who knows. Maybe her memoir will knock my socks off.

May 6, 2013

The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave hits the shelves tomorrow morning! 

I plan to post my review in the next few days, but wanted to let you know that it is, in a word,


Better than the Twilight trilogy.

Better than the Hunger Games trilogy.

Better than The Passage trilogy.

Imagine a mash-up of Ender's Game, The Road and The Hunger Games.

Don't care for teenage angst and silly romantic head games? Not to worry.

Oh, and, my husband thought it was great, too!

Happy Reading!

The Twelve

The Twelve by Justin Cronin (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy)
Fiction (Horror; Post-Apocalyptic)
2012 Random House Audio
Length: 26 hours, 23 minutes
Reader: Scott Brick
Finished on 4/8/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

In The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic tale continues with The Twelve.

In the present day: As a man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos, desperate to find others, to survive, to witness the dawn on the other side of disaster. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother; Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver”; and April, a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a minefield of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

A hundred years in the future: Amy, Peter, Alicia, and the others introduced in The Passage work with a cast of new characters to hunt the original twelve virals… unaware that the rules of the game have changed, and that one of them will have to sacrifice everything to bring the Twelve down.

I listened to Justin Cronin’s amazing novel, The Passage, last fall and loved it, giving it a near-perfect rating of 4.75/5. When it came time to read The Twelve (Book Two in the trilogy), I debated as to whether I should listen to the audio or read the ARC. I opted once again for the audio, as I had so enjoyed Scott Brick’s narration of The Passage and assumed that listening to him read this follow-up would be just as enjoyable. And, of course, my Nano is much more convenient than lugging such a chunkster around with me, not to mention the fact that I can listen to close to 2 hours every day while working on various projects at work before the store opens.

I should’ve chosen the ARC.

Listening to the audio version of such a weighty epic is quite the challenge. Cronin’s narrative is far from linear and, from beginning to end, new characters are introduced, old favorites discarded, storylines intertwine, and time and location shift relentlessly. With a printed edition, the reader is able to discern these shifts with visual cues on the page, whereas the audio only allows for a brief pause in narration. I found myself listening to many chapters more than once and whined to my husband (who was reading the ARC at the same time as I was listening to the book) about the need for a timeline, list of characters and a map to keep track of the comings and goings of the huge cast of characters. Ha! Lo and behold, at the back of the book there is a “Dramatis Personae,” to which I referred on several occasions. I was even tempted to tear it from the book and carry it with me as I listened, but decided to keep the ARC intact. With that said, I will definitely keep it handy when it comes time to read the final installment in this trilogy. I may even read a few chapters to refresh my memory before diving into The City of Mirrors, which is due to hit the shelves sometime in 2014. Or, better yet, I’ll peruse Cronin’s website and check out the forum posts and discussions.

Final Thoughts: 

Not as solid as The Passage, but entertaining nonetheless. It took me close to a month to listen to the 26+ hours of narration and by the time I finished, I wasn’t sure what to think of the epilogue (my husband was no help either, as he was just as confused as I was!), but I was happy to have completed the book and look forward to the final installment… which, by the way, I plan to read rather than listen to. I’ve learned my lesson!

May 4, 2013

Magpie by KHUSHI

I recently discovered this song on Turntable Kitchen, which I found when I clicked on a link at Two Tarts (one of my favorite foodie blogs!).

I love the Internet.