May 30, 2014

{this moment}

 ~ A Friday ritual ~
A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
A simple, special, extraordinary moment. 
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


May 19, 2014

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fiction (Classic)
1952 Penguin Books
Finished on 3/27/14
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb:

In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new, rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives, nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness, enveloped by a mysterious darkness.

First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.

The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay.

I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer—and what trees and seasons smelled like—how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich.

I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you wanted to climb into the lap of a beloved mother. They were beckoning mountains with a bright grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding—unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of est. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains.

And so begins John Steinbeck’s masterpiece, East of Eden.

Several years ago, I posted a list of my favorite classics, followed by another list showing those that failed to impress me. Prior to reacquainting myself with all of these titles, I would have said that I’m not a big fan of the classics. I typically read only one or two a year (if that), just to satisfy a mild curiosity about one I may have missed in high school or college. But, apparently, these two lists indicate that I have found several classic novels quite enjoyable, if not memorable. There are even a couple that I’ve read more than once and a few that I’d like to re-read someday. The Grapes of Wrath, which I read in high school (probably 35 years ago!), is one that remains a favorite. I’ve read other novels by Steinbeck, but that particular saga is one I always remember with great fondness.

In addition to ignoring the classics, I also tend to shy away from large books, too impatient to get to all the others I’ve got stacked up around me. But when Trish mentioned that she was going to spend the month of March reading East of Eden, I decided it was time to dust off my lovely Steinbeck Centennial Edition of East of Eden and join her. I am so glad I finally took the time to read this book, as it is such a readable classic. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down! It’s quite long (601 pages, to be exact) and nearly every single page filled with text and very little white space. And yet the pages flew! It still took me almost the entire month to read, but I never once felt bored or grew tired of Steinbeck’s writing, in spite of his occasional diatribes, which he is prone to incorporate throughout his novels. Had I read this in college, I probably would have had to analyze these diatribes, as well as the biblical imagery, themes such as good versus evil, characterization and plot. One of the benefits of reading a classic later in life is that, if I choose to, I can simply enjoy the story. And I did! I liked the characters I was supposed to like and despised those who were evil (Lee and Cathy, respectively). And, having grown up in California, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Steinbeck’s descriptions of the landscape and vegetation.

On California's flora:
On the wide level acres of the valley the topsoil lay deep and fertile. It required only a rich winter of rain to make it break forth in grass and flowers. The spring flowers in a wet year were unbelievable. The whole valley floor, and the foothills too, would be carpeted with lupins and poppies. Once a woman told me that colored flowers would seem more bright if you added a few white flowers to give the colors definition. Every petal of blue lupin is edged with white, so that a field of lupins is more blue than you can imagine. And mixed with these were splashes of California poppies. These too are a burning color—not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies. When their season was over the yellow mustard came up and grew to a great height. When my grandfather came into the valley the mustard was so tall that a man on horseback showed only his head above the yellow flowers. On the uplands the grass would be strewn with buttercups, with hen-and-chickens, with black-centered yellow violets. And a little later in the season there would be red and yellow stands of Indian paintbrush. These were the flowers of the open places exposed to the sun.

Under the live oaks, shaded and dusky, the maidenhair flourished and gave a good smell, and under the mossy banks of the water courses whole clumps of five fingered ferns and goldy-backs hung down. Then there were harebells, tiny lanterns, cream white and almost sinful looking, and these were so rare and magical that a child, finding one, felt singled out and special all day long.

Final Thoughts:

I’m glad I finally made time for this wonderful, albeit ambitious, novel. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the film (the 1955 original), starring James Dean, Raymond Massey and Julie Harris. I finally turned it off after close to an hour; it was so disappointing and not at all what I envisioned. I wonder if I’d enjoy the mini-series (starring Jane Seymour) any better? Nonetheless, reading East of Eden has inspired me to make time to re-read The Grapes of Wrath, as well Travels with Charley, which is another favorite. Thanks for the nudge, Trish!

May 18, 2014

Gratitude Lately

Lately, I've been thankful for

Shorts, sandals and afternoon walks
with the world's best dog

Air conditioner repairmen
with good news on
 a blistering hot day
(in May!)

New discoveries that
satisfy a sweet tooth

Weather reporters, safe basements
and a little something
 to calm the nerves

 Down comforters, heated car seats 
and the knowledge that summer 
is really just around the corner.

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

May 12, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
2013 Hachette Audio
Reader: Robert Glenister
Finished on 3/18/14
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

When The Cuckoo’s Calling was first published, I didn’t give it even a cursory glance. I’d never heard of Robert Galbraith nor had I heard anything good or bad about this new mystery. Once it was revealed that the book was written by J.K. Rowling, I still wasn’t interested. I enjoyed the first three of four books in the Harry Potter series, but I never did go any further and finish up with the remaining books. But, then I started reading positive reviews for this new book and decided to get a copy for my husband to try. He wound up loving it and thought I would, too. He also said he’d be interested in the next book once it’s released. So, I decided to give it a go. The audio version was available at my library, so I downloaded it to my Nano and spent the next three weeks listening to it while I worked or drove around town. As with most mystery series, I enjoy the character development almost as much as trying to solve the mystery and Rowling delivers in both areas. I came to care about Cormoran Strike, as well as his temporary assistant, Robin, and I never did figure out the whodunit part of the book! Well done, Ms. Rowling!

Final Thoughts:

I’m not sure why I’m so surprised that J.K. Rowling was able to write such a compelling mystery, but I am, and she did! The Cuckoo’s Calling is evenly paced and well-written, a very satisfying read. I can’t wait until June 19th when the second book in this series, entitled The Silkworm, is released. This time, I’m going to read it before my husband!

May 10, 2014


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
2012 Penguin Group
Finished on 3/25/14
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that someone is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now—reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “Internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers—not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained—and captivated—by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say…? 

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you…”

Attachments is a fast, funny romantic comedy about three people at the end of their 20s, at the end of the last Millennium. It’s a book about falling in love with the person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Even if it’s someone you’ve never met.

Yes, I’m a sucker for romantic comedies; When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’s Diary… you get the picture. Last year I fell in love with Rainbow Rowell’s teen sensation Eleanor & Park, so I was more than excited when Bellezza sent me a copy of Attachments, which of course, languished on my nightstand for far too long. I finally picked it up and before I knew it I was sucked in, unable to put it down! I loved the email format, which alternates with Lincoln’s internal monologue, but it took me a long time before I could keep the two young women straight. You know how it is when you read a thread of emails. You stop looking at the name of the sender and just read the content. (Well, maybe not in really life, but I do this a lot when I read an epistolary novel.) I had to constantly remind myself who was married and who had a boyfriend. But otherwise, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to get back to the book at the end of the day. I enjoyed the snappy dialogue between Beth and Jennifer and found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, which is always a sign of good book!

The novel is set in 1999, which quite honesty doesn’t feel like it was 15 years ago! Doesn’t it seems like just a few years ago we were all in a panic about Y2K? Like Eleanor & Park, Attachments is full of pop culture, which makes for a fun read for this nostalgia lover.

Rowell is quickly becoming a favorite author and now I’m eager to give Fangirl a try. I’m so sorry I missed her book signing at our store last year, but she’s a local writer, so maybe I’ll get another chance!

Final thoughts:

I loved this book! With a likeable cast of characters, snappy repartee, tenderness that avoids sappiness, and local references to Lincoln and Omaha, as well as to the publishing industry (which I’ve grown more and more familiar with in the years my husband has been writing and editing for a national publishing company), Attachments has all the ingredients for a great beach read. This one’s going on my re-read shelf!

Go here to read my review of Eleanor & Park.

May 7, 2014

Wordless Wednesday {sort of}

Happy Birthday, Mom!
I love you!
Bandon, Oregon

May 6, 2014

A Circle of Wives

A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante
2014 Atlantic Monthly Press
Finished on 2/20/14
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher’s blurb:

Following her internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling debut novel, Turn of Mind, Alice LaPlante returns with a searing and spellbinding psychological thriller of marital deception, revenge, and murder. In A Circle of Wives, three women discover just how fine the line between love and hate can be, as the ultimate betrayal shatters their marriages and threatens their dreams.

When Dr. John Taylor turns up dead in a hotel room, the local police uncover enough incriminating evidence to suspect foul play. Detective Samantha Adams, whose Palo Alto beat usually covers petty crimes in the wealthy town, is innocently thrown into the high-profile murder case that is more complicated than any she has faced before.

A renowned reconstructive surgeon and a respected family man, Dr. Taylor was beloved and admired. But beneath his perfect fa├žade was a hidden life—in fact, multiple lives. Dr. Taylor was married to three very different women in three separate cities: Deborah, a calculating, high-society housewife; MJ, a free-spirited accountant; and newlywed Helen, an ambitious oncologist. When all three women show up at his funeral, suspicions run high. And as the curious circumstances surrounding his death emerge, Detective Adams finds herself drawn into the entanglements of their relationships, tracking down a murderer through a deceitful web of domestic discord.

A haunting and complex novel of family secrets, A Circle of Wives dissects—with scalpel-like agility—the intricacies of desire and commitment, trust and jealousy. With a riveting combination of suspense, vivid prose, and remarkable character insight, Alice LaPlante has crafted a provocative and surprising thriller of passion and obsession.

Narrated from four points of view, this fast-paced mystery had me reading late into the night, yet failed to impress me like LaPlante’s debut novel, Turn of Mind. I returned to the book every day, eager to discover the identity of the killer, but the dialogue and characters (particularly Sam) didn’t ring true. The death of Dr. Taylor is Sam’s first murder case and she seems far too ditzy (a la Stephanie Plum, minus the car explosions and clumsiness) to be in charge of such an important investigation.

Final Thoughts:

I loved LaPlante’s thought-provoking debut thriller, Turn of Mind, and am so sorry that she was unable to avoid the sophomore slump with A Circle of Wives. In spite of my disappointment, I believe LaPlante is a talented writer and I look forward to her next endeavor.

Click here to read my review of Turn of Mind.

May 4, 2014

Gratitude Lately

Lately, I've been thankful for

Friday mornings
 and beautiful commutes

A host, of golden daffodils...
Fluttering, dancing in the breeze

Full tires, smooth trails
 and the wind at my back

 A happy girl who reminds me 
to slow down and enjoy our walks

Friday night decisions
 and dining with friends
 at a neighborhood bistro

Porch sitting 
and neighbors who share
 their shady trees

Local author events

And, bare trees that allow
 beautiful sunsets to peek through.

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

May 2, 2014

Edgar Award

And the winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel is...

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger

This is so well-deserved and I'm so happy for Kent! Congratulations!!

If you haven't had the chance to read this amazing novel, I encourage you to pick up a copy today. You can read my review here.