December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It's been quite hectic around here, what with several birthday celebrations and some very long (but fun!) days at work. Sunday was my first day off in two weeks and now we're in for the final day before all the returns & exchanges begin (which I get to avoid this year!). The past couple of days have been a little rough and I'm hopeful that our customers will be on their best behavior tomorrow... patience are beginning to run a bit thin. Thankfully, I get a nice break starting on Christmas Day, as we head to Oregon for some well-deserved R&R. I have nothing on the agenda other than to sleep later than 5 a.m. and read for more than 10 minutes before bed. Can.Not.Wait!

With all the hustle and bustle, though, this poor blog has been sorely neglected. I've fallen behind with my reviews and pretty much failed on the Instagram holiday postings. Oh, well. My shopping is done and my gifts are wrapped and shipped. This photo will have to suffice for a Christmas greeting, though, since we never got around to ordering cards this year. Not the best, but at least we're all smiling. ;)

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2015.

December 7, 2014

Penguin UK Books - Book-a-Day Challenge

December is always a crazy busy month for me. Yes, I know. It is for everyone, but I work in retail (B&N) and from about mid-November until after New Year's, I'm worn out. Gone are the days of baking dozens of cookies from scratch or decorating the house from top-to-bottom, not to mention writing the traditional Christmas letter and having my cards in the mail before my birthday. By the end of the day, all I want to do is kick my shoes off, pour myself a glass of wine and either curl up with my current book or veg in front of the tv. The weekends are full of chores and errands (and now shopping and wrapping!!), so there's little time to relax and enjoy the season.  I can't imagine how exhausted my co-workers with little babies or small children are feeling this month! Ho ho ho.

In an effort to keep this blog alive through the rest of the month, I thought I'd share my Instagram photos, since I'm obviously not going to get any book reviews posted, as I had hoped I could.

I don't remember where I first learned about the Penguin UK Book-a-Day Challenge, but I'm in and it's been fun (and easy!) to pick a book to feature for each day's theme. Enjoy! {Be sure to watch the Secret Santa video on Penguin's website. Very entertaining!}

Week One:

1. Iconic First Line

2. Last Read

3. On My Christmas List

4. For Chilly Nights

5. Quintessentially British

6. Everyone Should Read

7. Childhood Favourite

November 22, 2014

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
2013 Hachette Audio
Reader: David Pittu
Finished on October 9, 2014
Rating:3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the criminal underworld.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and his talisman, the painting, places him at the center of a narrowing, even more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of striking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night-and-tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

I’m not even going to try to discuss the literary merit (or lack thereof) of this novel, as there are numerous articles available on the Internet that debate both sides of this argument. I, however, am not a critic, nor am I a literary scholar. When I select book to read, I either trust an author’s past history with books I’ve previously read or I rely on word-of-mouth, whether from fellow bloggers, co-workers, friends or relatives. I look forward to each new book, hopeful that I will be both entertained and enlightened.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Goldfinch is THE most talked about novel of 2014. Weighing in at 771 pages, it was not up for debate as to whether I would read the print version or listen to the audio. I do most of my reading in bed, so the weight alone was enough to convince me to listen rather than read. This format is always a nice way to pass the time at work before the store opens, but, honestly, Theo’s internal monologue went on and on and on! The beginning of the novel is very compelling and I couldn’t wait to find an opportunity to listen to another chapter, but unfortunately the pacing is uneven and the book began to feel like a slog (albeit a nonetheless compelling train wreck of a slog) by the midpoint. Tartt is quite a storyteller, though, and I remained curious, anxious to see how it would all play out in the end for Theo. Plus, David Pittu is an excellent reader (with a great Russian accent), so I stuck with it and finished the novel in just under six weeks. It’s a good thing I didn’t choose to read the ebook edition, as I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the patience to see it to the very end. With that said, the story and characters are embedded in my memory, as is the case with most of the audiobooks I’ve experienced. Will they remain? That is yet to be seen.

Final Thoughts:

Masterful? Perhaps to some. Immense? Without a doubt. Worthwhile? Debatable. Lyrical? No. (If you’re looking for a lyrical work of literature, once again I highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.) Regrettable? I’m not sorry I read The Goldfinch (as a bookseller, it’s always good to be knowledgeable about the bestsellers, particularly during the holiday madness season), but I doubt it’s one about which I’ll gush to a tentative customer.

How about you? Have you read this chunkster? Do I dare try The Secret History, which has been languishing on my shelves for years?

November 19, 2014

November 16, 2014


Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Finished on September 23, 2014
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Ruth Reichl is a born storyteller. Through her restaurant reviews, where she celebrated the pleasures of a well-made meal, and her best-selling memoirs that address our universal feelings of love and loss, Reichl has achieved a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, with this magical debut novel, she has created a sumptuous, wholly realized world that will enchant you.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie initially feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.

To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to come to terms with her fears, her big sister, and her ability to open her heart to love.

It’s been many, many years since I first read Ruth Reichl’s witty memoir, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table. As I recall, I enjoyed the first half of that book much more than the second half, laughing aloud at some of her childhood memories, as well as her anecdotes about her mother, “the notorious food-poisoner known forevermore as the Queen of Mold.” When Delicious! first appeared on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, I knew I had to give it a try, especially after reading so many glowing reviews by fellow bloggers. I quickly fell into Billie’s new life in New York, enjoying all the foodie details and atmosphere of both the city and the publisher’s offices, when the narrative shifted abruptly. As is my custom, I hadn’t read the publisher’s blurb prior to reading the novel, so I wasn’t prepared for the sudden demise of the fictitious magazine, Delicious! While I enjoyed the letters between Lulu Swan and James Beard, I preferred the foodie aspect of the novel more than the contrived World War II storyline.

Final Thoughts:

Part culinary fiction, part historical fiction (with a predictable mystery thrown in for good measure), this ambitious debut novel was a bit too bland for this reader. Good but definitely not delicious!

November 11, 2014

Bird's-Eye View (IV)

America's Finest City
San Diego, CA
October 2014

Click on photo for full-size viewing.

November 9, 2014

Paris Letters

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
2014 Sourcebooks
Finished on September 2, 2014
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Finding love and freedom in a pen, a paintbrush… and Paris

How much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this question to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street—who doesn’t speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can never return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to find a way to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves—words, art, and Christophe—to figure out a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever.

Another selection for the 2014 Paris in July reading challenge, this one turned out to be a winner! I managed to read the entire book in just one week, which these days is a huge accomplishment for me. Littered with two dozen Post-It Notes, this book is one I plan to hang on to for future reference, right next to Eloisa James’ Paris in Love. I don’t know when, but I’m definitely planning to visit Paris… someday!

Inspiration to De-Clutter:
By night, I moved on from my closets to delve into my cupboards. I tossed dried-up nail polishes and hairbrushes. I only used one hairbrush. Why did I have six? I used up the rest of my teeth whitening gel. I gave up on and tossed the recipes I’d clipped for dishes I never made. I tossed the free CD of weird music I never listen to from that yoga class I stopped going to. The old yoga mat, the deflated yoga ball, the broken yoga straps, the expired yoga membership…tossed. Half-filled journals of half-baked ideas, the stack of phone books from the last five years [who uses phones books anymore?!], broken flowerpots that I kept with thoughts of making something crafty from them, the broken frames I meant to fix…tossed. Makeup samples, swag from film industry party gift bags, sunglasses with scratches [eh-hem], a home phone even though I didn’t have a land line anymore, chargers for cell phones I didn’t have anymore, computer boxes for computers I didn’t have either, instruction manuals for electronics that I didn’t even remember having, the wrong-sized vacuum bags I never returned, checkbooks for accounts I no longer had…tossed. And loyalty cards that promised savings on everything I bought. Tossed. I’d save more by not buying.

This brought a smile to my face:

By June, the sixth month into my journaling year, I had crossed plenty off my list of unfinished business and let go of many items, such as most of my books and one of my guitars. I was ruthless. I knew, without knowing where I was going, that I wouldn’t need this stuff when I got there.

But one item stopped me in my tracks.

My Kris Kristofferson album.

I haven’t owned a record player since my single-digit years, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of this album. This record was pilfered from my parents’ collection. When I was a kid, I would gawk at this album cover and stare into his steely blue eyes. Kris Kristofferson was a real artist. A great lyricist and a pretty good actor. When I looked at Kris, I thought, “This guy is so good at everything he does. And what he does is so cool. I want to do something cool.” I kept the album.

On the magic of bookstores:

My haste to get outside is based on an exciting call I received after lunch. The book I ordered has arrived at the local English bookstore. There is something poetic about a good old-fashioned bookstore. I used to have Amazon deliver books to my door. I’ve always had a love for mail. And these days, I’ll be the first to brag about the convenience and pleasure of e-books. The instant access to English books in a French-speaking land is a magical delight. But there is magic in traditional bookstores too. It’s a magic you can feel in the air. The smell of aging paper, of ink, and of people. And in Paris, some of those people were Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

Final Thoughts:

This delightful memoir, with its black-and-white drawings and countless travel suggestions, is the perfect armchair guide to "La Ville-Lumière.” Not only do I plan to peruse it again at a later date, I’ve also just discovered the author’s blog, which I know will keep me entertained for many, many months. Paris Letters is all that Eat Pray Love hoped to be, but without the prayer and the navel-gazing.

November 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

October 2014
Del Mar, California

November 3, 2014

That Part Was True

That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay
2014 Grand Central Publishing
Finished on August 21, 2014
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good!)


Publisher’s Blurb:

I’m sending you, hopefully unscathed, a jar of my favorite chili jelly. Serve it with corn fritters.

You’ll thank me.


I am sending you Grandmother’s Christmas Cake recipe. She was not my grandmother. She was the grandmother of a school friend of mine… I made my ginger biscuits (what you might call cookies) once for Erica’s grandmother and she gave me this recipe in return. It made me feel at the time as though I were a treasured granddaughter, and I have that same marvelous belonging feeling every time I make the cake, which I do, every Christmas.

Perhaps you will, too.


When British lover of novels Eve Petworth writes to successful American author Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cooking and food, sparking a relationship that transforms both their lives. As their friendship blossoms, the details of their unsettled lives unfold for one another: Jack has a colorful group of friends and a rotating group of admiring young women in his love life, but he feels ultimately unsatisfied.

Eve, who had a distant relationship with her own mother, is now struggling to overcome the tension she has with her own soon-to-be married daughter.

Now when each of them offers, from behind the veils of semi-anonymity and distance, wise and increasingly affectionate counsel to the other, they both begin to confront their problems and plan a celebratory meeting in Paris—a meeting that Eve fears can never happen.

Dear Mr Cooper,

I could probably contact you more directly by e-mail, but the effort of handwriting will encourage me to choose my words carefully and I am conscious that I am writing to an author.

I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your book ‘Dead Letters’ very much. The scene where Harry Gordon eats the peach (‘leaning over and holding back his green silk tie with one arm while the juice christened the shirt cuff of the other’) introduced a moment of summer into a watery English day. And it reminded me, as well, of the most decadent pleasure that comes with eating fully mature fruit—sadly, a rarity.

With best wishes,

Eve Petworth

And so begins Deborah McKinaly’s delightful novel, That Part Was True.

After several heavy reads and a few disappointments, it was so refreshing to pick up McKinlay’s novel and fall immediately under the spell of her lovely writing. Part epistolary, part love story, this charming book could have easily turned out to be a contrived, silly “romance,” but that was simply not the case. Eve and Jack and the novel’s supporting cast of characters are fully fleshed-out and the dialogue rings true. While I enjoy a novel set during World War II, it was refreshing to read a contemporary book set in England, with a culinary backdrop, and the exchange of letters and recipes (via snail mail, not email!) between two strangers.

On Friendship and Food:
Maybe she wasn’t fair. Maybe she was dark and round. Everything about her was comforting. Her simple name, the recipes, the way she wrote. She wrote well—plainly and directly, but at times lyrically. His food friend. It seemed at times his best friend. Mutton is good with plums, she’d said.

I liked hearing about the plums, he wrote. Eve had told him about the tree in her garden. She could see if from her kitchen window and she marked the seasons by it. She could not bear waste, she said, and maybe the love of cooking had started there. She never wanted to see the fruit, the beautiful rich ripe fruit with its soft bloom, lying abandoned and rotting. She liked something to come of it. She liked to see the jars of preserves lining her larder. Took real pleasure in it—the regularity of it. And then, of course, the taste. The closer the cook was to picking, the better the taste was. The intensity of flavor was lost so quickly.

I know what you mean about the effect of proximity to flavor, he wrote:

It’s the same with fish. I used to go out to Nantucket at New Year’s, just before the final dive. Just before the water was too cold for the divers. I’d go there just to eat scallops. The last of them so rich tasting and yet clean at the same time.

It’s strange how these missives from Eve, so recently added, were fast becoming part of the fabric of his life. When he read them, he felt like himself. Like his best self. He detected on her ivory-headed notepaper the fine, fresh scent of herbs.

On Reading:
At first she'd read fast, as if she were clinging to a moving vehicle, pulled along by the pace of the plot. But then she'd slowed, deliberately, to appreciate the writing—the humor in the choppy sentences, the evocative descriptions of meals and scenery. She'd felt the heat when there was heat, and the fear when there was fear, and the loneliness that underlay the story coming off the page. It had done what good stories always do, made her forget her own.

On Simple Pleasures:
The next day Jack got up late. The sea and the sky were merged and steely, and there was a heavy frost. He lit a fire and put on some music. Then, in a kitchen unencumbered by pretension or waste, he sliced six onions and put them in a heavy skillet in some melted butter on a low heat. Conscious of the pleasant sensation of sighing contentment—Jack found the process of caramelizing onions as warming as a hot bath—he left the pan and the butter to do their work and went back to the fire and sat down with a book.
Eve made the bed as precisely as she did everything else, and drew the same sense of pleasure from its smoothed surface as she did from the rows of preserves labeled and dated in the pantry. She was feeling terribly, unaccustomedly content; she had the weekend to herself. She had enjoyed the visits from Ollie and Izzy, so much more frequent lately, but quiet had always been restorative to Eve. The thought of a whole weekend alone in a well-stocked house, with just a book and a fire for company, made her feel calm, protected from sudden eddies. Despite her progress, she still needed these havens.

Final Thoughts:

With a perfect (yet unpredictable) finale, That Part Was True is the proverbial Feel Good read that is sure to delight readers who fell in love with Me Before You, 84, Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Shell Seekers. This is such a perfect book to curl up with on a rainy Sunday afternoon, along with a cup of hot tea and a couple of slices of buttered toast with cinnamon sugar or homemade jam. My only complaint? I didn’t want it to end. And now I have another great book to recommend to customers this holiday season. (All the Light We Cannot See is the other title I will recommend enthusiastically.) I eagerly anticipate McKinlay’s next endeavor!

October 19, 2014

{Gratitude Lately}

Lately, I've been thankful for

Neighborhood trails
for afternoon walks

Fall colors
with birds chirping

Blue skies,
Smiling at me...

Splashes of red

Perennials that never fail to please
(Sedum, 'Autumn Joy')

Undemanding lilies

Roses that continue to blooming

Neighborhood parks
for future Husker recruits

Children laughing
in the park

Falling gas prices

Hardy annuals
and garden angels

Former Boy Scouts
who keep my fires burning

and Happy Hour on the patio,
followed by a Husker win!

Happy Sunday, friends!
What are you grateful for this week?

For more Gratitude posts, click here

October 18, 2014

The Circle

The Circle by David Eggers
2013 Random Audio
Reader: Dion Graham
Finished on August 26, 2014
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb:

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Chilling ~ The Washington Post
Prophetic ~ The New York Times
Marvelous ~ The Economist
Gripping ~ The Sunday Times (UK)
Provocative ~ USA Today
Terrifying ~ Publishers Weekly
Potent ~ Time
Foreboding ~ Los Angeles Times
Powerful ~ Newsweek

Well, that just about sums it up. I’m not sure I can come up with another adjective for this enthralling tale, one which held my attention from cover to cover. Oh, wait. I just did.

I joined Facebook in 2009, and over the past few years, have added Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Goodreads. I never thought I’d spend as much time online as I do know, and after reading Dave Egger’s novel, I’m starting to reconsider my “social footprint.” It’s been almost a month since I finished The Circle and I continue to mull over the story, chatting with my husband about its timely implications with regard to social media, privacy issues and online security breaches. I listened to the audio production (read by Dion Graham) and was anxious to return to this compelling story at every available opportunity. The novel’s frenetic pace is perfect for an audio book and I caught myself holding my breath on more than one occasion.

On the appeal of TruYou:
Ty had devised the initial system, the Unified Operating System, which combined everything online that had heretofore been separate and sloppy—users’ social media profiles, their payment systems, their various passwords, their email accounts, user names, preferences, every last tool and manifestation of their interests. The old way—a new transaction, a new system, for every site, for every purchase—it was like getting into a different car to run any one kind of errand. “You shouldn’t have to have eighty-seven different cars,” he’d said, later, after his system had overtaken the web and the world.

Instead, he put all of it, all of every user’s needs and tools, into one pot and invented TruYou—one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person. There were no more passwords, no multiple identities. Your devices knew who you were, and your one identity—the TruYou, unbendable and unmaskable—was the person paying, signing up, responding, viewing and reviewing, seeing and being seen. You had to use your real name, and this was tied to your credit cards, your bank, and thus paying for anything was simple. One button for the rest of your life online.

To use any of the Circle’s tools, and they were the best tools, the most dominant and ubiquitous and free, you had to do so as yourself, as your actual self, as your TruYou. The era of false identities, identity theft, multiple user names, complicated passwords and payment systems, was over. Anytime you wanted to see anything, use anything, comment on anything or buy anything, it was one button, one account, everything tied together and trackable and simple, all of it operable via mobile or laptop, tablet or retinal. Once you had a single account, it carried you through every corner of the web, every portal, every pay site, everything you wanted to do.

And those who wanted or needed to track the movements of consumers online had found their Valhalla: the actual buying habits of actual people were now eminently mappable and measurable, and the marketing to those actual people could be done with surgical precision. Most TruYou users, most internet users who simply wanted simplicity, efficiency, a clean and streamlined experience, were thrilled with the results. No longer did they have to memorize twelve identities and passwords; no longer did they have to tolerate the madness and rage of the anonymous hordes; no longer did they have to put up with buckshot marketing that guessed, at best, within a mile of their desires. Now the messages they did get were focused and accurate and, most of the time, even welcome.

Final Thoughts:

The Circle is not my first encounter with Dave Eggers’ writing. I actually started Zeitoun (a nonfiction work about a man, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who was arrested after helping his neighbors during Hurricane Katrina) several years ago, but had to set it aside and, unfortunately, have never returned to it. I now plan to go back and read it from the very beginning, as it was quite compelling.

If you enjoyed the film The Minority Report (loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name), or thought Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was a great read, this is just the book for you! Prescient, intelligent and highly addictive, this novel is one you won’t want to miss.

More praise for The Circle:

The Circle is Brave New World for our brave new world… Now that we all live and move and have our being in the panopticon, Egger’s novel may be just fast enough, witty enough and troubling enough to make us glance away from our twerking Vines and consider how life has been reshaped by a handful of clever marketers…. There may come a day when we can look back at this novel with incredulity, but for now, the mirror it holds up is too chilling to LOL. ~ The Washington Post

A vivid, roaring dissent to the companies that have coaxed us to disgorge every thought and action onto the Web…. Carries the potential to change how the world views its addicted, compliant thrall to all things digital. If you work in Silicon Valley, or just care about what goes on there, you need to pay attention. ~ The Wall Street Journal

Eggers reminds us how digital utopianism can lead to the datafication of our daily lives, how a belief in the wisdom of the crowd can lead to mob rule, how the embrace of ‘the hive mind’ can lead to a diminution of the individual. ~ Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A deft modern synthesis of Swiftian wit with Orwellian prognostication.” ~ The Guardian (UK)

“A stunning work of terrifying plausibility, a cautionary tale of subversive power in the digital age suavely packaged as a Silicon Valley social satire. Set in the near future, it examines the inner workings of the Circle, an internet company that is both spiritual and literal successor to Facebook, Google, Twitter and more, as seen through the eyes of Mae Holland, a new hire who starts in customer service . . . Eggers presents a Swiftian scenario so absurd in its logic and compelling in its motives . . . sneaking up on the reader before delivering its warnings of the future, a worthy and entertaining read.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred)

October 15, 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn
Nonfiction/Travel Memoir
2014 Sourcebooks, Inc.
Finished on August 13, 2014
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

How her daughter and her passport taught Jennifer to live like there’s no tomorrow.

Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. So she decides to save up and drop everything to travel with her daughter, Katie, on a whirlwind European adventure before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, Jennifer is determined to jam her daughter’s mental photo album with memories—just in case.

From the cafés of Paris to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Jennifer and Katie take on Europe one city at a time, united by their desire to see the world and spend precious time together. In this heartwarming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped vanquish her fear of dying… for the sake of living.

When my daughter was 10, I took her to London for two weeks while my husband stayed home and slaved over a hot computer (his choice, mind you). I’ll never forget one of my girlfriends remarking on how brave I was to travel overseas by myself with a fairly young child. It never occurred to me to be afraid. And, it wasn’t as if I was going to be completely alone. At the time, one of my best friends was living in London and not only did she and her son join us on several excursions in and around London, but she also supplied me with all the pertinent information I needed in order to travel by bus and train to see Stonehenge, Bath, Salisbury, Windsor and Hampton Court Palace when she wasn’t able to accompany us. We did just fine and it was truly a lovely and memorable holiday.

(Squinting in the hot sun!)

Two years later, after receiving a small inheritance from my grandmother (who adored traveling just as much as I do), I asked Amy to pick another destination for a Mother-Daughter adventure. We had already gone skiing in Breckenridge and spent a long (albeit chilly!) weekend shopping, playing tennis and lounging by the pool at the Hyatt Regency in in Scottsdale, so I was curious to see what she would pick for our next getaway. A fashionista in the making, she chose New York City! And again, a friend exclaimed that I was “so brave!” to travel to the Big Apple without my husband, let alone with my 12-year-old daughter. I wasn’t worried. I have a great sense of direction (as does Amy), our destination didn’t require learning a new language, and we didn’t have to worry about looking the opposite direction while crossing the street. How dangerous could it be? It turned out to be another wonderful vacation filled with 10 days of sightseeing, museums, shopping, Broadway shows, fine dining, long walks (from the Guggenheim Museum down to Battery Park), and pampering in a beautiful hotel. We both had a blast!

So when I came across Coburn’s memoir in the travel section at Barnes & Noble, I was immediately drawn to the colorful cover art (as well as the subtitle), and decided it was not only the perfect choice for the Paris in July reading challenge, but one which would also appeal to my insatiable wanderlust. Amy spent some time in Paris while studying Fashion Merchandising at TCU, but I have never been. Last year, I devoured Paris in Love by Eloisa James and was looking forward to another book filled with travel anecdotes, as well as one that could provide me with specific recommendations for restaurants and hotel accommodations. While not terrible, We’ll Always Have Paris was nowhere near as good as Eloisa James’ memoir and I wound up with far less than half the Post-It Notes marking pages of beautiful passages or travel information for future reference. While both writers delve into their personal histories, sharing their thoughts on death and struggles with grief, James’ writing is tender and lyrical with a fine balance of humor thrown in, while Coburn’s is flat and, at times, whiney. I was surprised, the further I read, that Coburn’s book not only includes her trip to Paris and London in 2005, but also Italy in 2008, Spain in 2011, and Amsterdam and Paris in 2013. This, along with alternating narratives about her parents and her childhood may have been a bit ambitious for one book; the travel segments are glossed over and the transitions between narratives are anything but smooth.

Final Thoughts:

A fairly quick read, but not worth owning. If you must, get it from your local library. Or better yet, get a copy of Paris in Love by Eloisa James. That one’s a winner!

October 12, 2014

Sunday Salon

Yay, me! Another Sunday Salon post and it hasn't even been a month since the last one I shared. I'm on a roll! :) 

Let's catch up, shall we?

Reading:: I've just about made it to the last quarter of The Dog Stars (Peter Heller) and I'm so anxious for my husband to get some free time to read this excellent post-apocalyptic novel, which came highly recommended by a good friend. There was actually a point at which I was ready to call it quits, but as soon as I turned the next page, I was hooked! I haven't heard too much buzz about this book from other bloggers. Have any of you read it? I can't wait to see how it ends!

Finished:: Since my last SS post, I've managed to finish Ruth Reichl's novel, Delicious, and Donna Tartt's chunkster, The Goldfinch. I'm hoping to get my reviews written in the coming week, but since I'm still playing catch-up (posting reviews from August reads), I'm not going to worry too much if those don't get written until next weekend. In any event, neither of these two books wowed me, but I'm glad I read/listened to them.

Listening:: Since finishing The Goldfinch, I haven't been able to settle on a new audio book, which is a bit distressing since I've come to love audios as a way to help pass the time while performing mundane projects at work. I had hoped to listen to All the Light We Cannot See (which I loved in the print format), but my library's downloadable edition doesn't not allow for Apple products. Very disappointing! I'm currently downloading Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury), as well as 13 1/2 (Nevada Barr) and The Tortilla Curtain (T.C. Boyle). We'll see which captures my interest when I had out for my afternoon walk.

Ignoring:: Yes, I still have 11/22/63 (Stephen King) on my Nook, but haven't felt compelled to return to it just yet. I think I set it aside when I started East of Eden, and I definitely plan to get back to it. Just waiting for the right moment. Perhaps in a couple of weeks when I fly out to California...

Next Up:: I have a huge pile of books on my nightstand, but I'm hoping to continue with the stack I put together for my Top Ten for Spring list. That list was probably a bit too ambitious for me, as I'm easily distracted by the latest and greatest in new releases at work. I will have finished five books in that stack when I finish The Dog Stars and I'm really looking forward to diving into the remaining six books. Maybe it's time for some nonfiction... I've had A Homemade Life on my shelves for a such a long time and, who knows, maybe I'll get inspired to do more cooking from my cookbooks once I read her foodie memoir. Couldn't hurt!

Planning:: We're getting together for dinner with a friend at our favorite Mexican restaurant, so I don't need to worry about what to fix for dinner and can enjoy the afternoon, once I finish a little housework. It's a gorgeous day and I plan to head out for a walk before the rain arrives later this afternoon. I don't think it's going to be terribly warm (mid-60's), but the sun is shining and I'm anxious to see some of the pretty trees as I make my way down the bike trail. 

Anticipating:: Did I mention a trip to California? :) Yep, I'm heading out to San Diego & Manhattan Beach for a week! I'm super excited to finally meet my great-nephew...

Declan Jackson
(5 months)

... and spend some time with the rest of the family. A large group of us are gathering in MB for a cousins' reunion, which should be great fun!

I hope everyone is having a nice, relaxing Sunday. Time to head out for that walk!