Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Today in Literary History

On June 30, 1936, the epic novel Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, was published.

Can you imagine what life would have been like without this work or the movie?

The year I started our book group, I knew that my book choice would be Gone With the Wind.  I'd never read it before and knew it was quite a bit different and better than the movie (isn't that always the case?).  I wasn't sure if my fellow groupies would be willing to imbibe a 1000+ page tome, but they reluctantly agreed (we took an additional month to read it).  I loved the book.   I can't remember per se, whether it was a clear winner for everyone, but it met and exceeded all my expectations.   My only disappointment was having obvious preconceived notions of Rhett and Scarlet, considering the number of times I had seen the movie.  Oh how I wish I could have gone into the book and imagined both of those characters in my own little brain.  I wonder what they would have looked like? 

Have you ever read Gone With the Wind?  Did you have any "ode to joy" feelings after reading it?

Check out this article on the History website:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review -- Medium Raw

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let’s get this out up front: The F bomb is ABUNDANT in Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. It’s how he has made a living – first as a foul mouth chef, now as a foul mouth TV travel host. The F bomb is so copious that if it were buck-shot loaded into a shot gun and fired at the book, all you would have left hanging from the spine was a few tattered pages that looked a lot like Swiss cheese. But if you have read his first book, Kitchen Confidential, or followed his TV show, you would know this – so I was prepared for battle when I cracked the cover on his most recent rant, restaurant subculture tell-all, memoir.

In essay style – Mr. Bourdain takes on every known enemy from Food Network, to Alice Waters (the Mother Theresa of the organic, sustainability food movement) to Ronald McDonald himself. He gives us background into the secrets of Top Chef (but not as much as I would have liked!). He talks bluntly about protecting his daughter from the chicken nugget, his suicidal moments following the end of his first marriage and tasting menus at 4 star restaurants (oh, and a superstar chef, named David Chang, who I had to Google to figure out who he was).

But his most brilliant chapter/essay is My Aim is True – about Justo Thomas, who is in charge of preparing all the fish for Le Bernardin – Chef extraordinaire Eric Ripert’s celebrated restaurant. In exquisite form, Mr. Bourdain takes us through a “day in the life” of Justo, as crates of every known type of fish must be filleted, scaled, deboned, and precisely portioned out for the various chef’s preparations. It is like a seafood symphony what this man is able to accomplish. And at the end, Mr. Bourdain does something that proves he isn’t as hard-hearted as he appears to be.

I sheepishly admit I like Mr. Bourdain’s snarky, snide, comic, vitriolic, commentary. I love his show and loved KC. This book, however, seemed like much of the same – and even I – who was prepared for the language, grew weary of reading yet another expletive -- which is why this is a 2 star book and not a 3.

So, if you are interested at all in reading Medium Raw – I would recommend (much against the publisher’s wishes) finding yourself a big comfy chair at Barnes & Noble (or your book store du jour) pulling a copy from the shelves and reading the chapters entitled Lower Education, I’m Dancing, and My Aim is True. You’ll be spared many of the F bombs, but left with some of the most emotional and best writing of the book.

Book source:  Gift for me my husband.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

For nearly two weeks, I have had a series of disappointing reads.  Last week it was Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.  This week I finished two that were less than stellar:

The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross
Embers by Sandor Marai

And I didn't finish one, which in hindsight, I probably should have finished over the other two:
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

It's been a while since I've absolutely fallen in love with a book.  I'm due an "I can't put this down -- why don't you kids stay in front of the TV a little while longer" novel.

Currently, I've hijacked my husband's Father's Day present.  Do you ever do that -- buy him something you secretly want for yourself?  I bought TWO things for him with that M.O. -- James Taylor and Carole King's CD, Live at the Troubadour and Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

So far, it's everything you'd expect from Anthony Bourdain -- language, drugs, alcohol and food.  I adored Kitchen Confidential and DVR regularly, No Reservations -- but I haven't found the groove yet with this book.  It's a series of essays -- so it is a bit disjointed.  I just finished a splendid chapter called LUST, on various meals he has eaten both domestic and exotic.  I think when he is writing about food he is brilliant. 

My TBR/Reading ADD issues continue this week.

I made two book purchases over the weekend:

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly McNees
Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay-for the rest of her life.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

This is a relatively new novel, so I was completely surprised to find it marked down 50% at Barnes & Noble over the weekend!  As a B&N member I received an additional 10%, so this hardback novel was only $12.  Cheaper than a paperback!  I'm not sure why - is it not selling? 


A Long Long Time Ago but Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
Whimsical, wise, beautiful, magical, and at times heartbreaking, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True weaves together two remarkable stories, reimagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one unforgettable love affair.

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

I've been enchanted by this cover since this book was released.  And, as the winner of the Pen/Hemingway award, I'm hoping it merits its accolades.

My previous TBRs are still lurking in the stack....but my attention as been drawn elsewhere.  I'm sure by next week, something else will have lured me away from the above!

What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

I will never be Dooce or CJane or Nie Nie (nor do I want to be) -- but it is wonderful to be recognized by your community as a blog worth reading.

Thank you to Little Rock Family magazine -- an "award-winning parenting publication serving parents in central Arkansas. The magazine is the area's premier family resource publication produced for busy parents who are in need of timely, local information for their families" -- for recognizing my blog as one of value.

Please check out the link and the other awesome Little Rock bloggers!

Book Review -- Embers

Embers by Sándor Márai

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In a castle at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, an old aristocrat waits to greet the friend he has not seen for forty-one years. In the course of this one night, from dinner until dawn, the two men will fight a duel of words and silences, of stories, of accusations and evasions, that will encompass their entire lives and that of a third person, missing from the candlelit dining hall—the now dead chatelaine of the castle. The last time the three of them sat together was in this room, after a stag hunt in the forest. The year was 1900. No game was shot that day, but the reverberations were cataclysmic. And the time of reckoning has finally arrived.

YAWN. This was a snoozer. I almost initiated the 50 page rule, but after abandoning my last literary work (which I should have swapped with this one), I decided I needed to persevere.

The last 100 pages are the main character’s dialogue. Seriously. 100 pages of one man talking. I found myself skipping vast passages -- I thought it would never end.

The only redeeming value in this book – it is exquisitely written – and there is an interesting love triangle that evolves over the last half of the book.

Ultimately, this was a highly intellectual and symbolic book, and I am neither.

Book source: Public library

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Did Not Finish -- Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

I started this yesterday and was about 80+ pages into it when I stopped for no other reason than it felt like I had read it before in some version or another:  Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat Pray Love, or any other travel/romance/memoir.  Elizabeth Bard's story was charming and romantic and her descriptions of Paris completely indulgent.  But, I've decided that unless it's MY story of living in Paris or some other exotic destination, I'm done with reading other people's travel stories.  My dream is to take my daughter to Paris when she is 12 -- just the two of us -- and spend a week in the City of Lights -- then I promise I will right a book about our adventures!

If travel memoirs are your thing -- I think this would be a worthy choice. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review -- The Icing on the Cupcake

The Icing on the Cupcake: A Novel The Icing on the Cupcake: A Novel by Jennifer Ross

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

No one likes to be dumped.

Especially by your fiancée.

But Ansley Waller finds herself dumped, discarded and almost immediately replaced by her fiancée with her sorority sister. What is a girl to do other than pack up for New York City to reconnect with a grandmother she’s never met, start a “cupcakery” on the Upper East Side and try to mend her broken heart.

I’m not a prolific “chick lit” reader – but Jennifer Ross’s The Icing on the Cupcake was a reasonable representation of the genre.

Ansley shows great determination when she arrives in New York by honing her baking skills and putting them to use as the proprietor of her own shop. While living with her grandmother, Ansley helps her navigate the red tape of a potential audit with the IRS, all the while trying to determine if her grandmother’s financial advisor, Thad, is at all interested in her or not.

There is an additional layer to this novel that includes Ansley’s family cook book – a collection of multigenerational recipes from Ansley’s ancestral maternal grandmothers. It is a priceless heirloom, and recipes submitted to this tome are considered sacred. What the reader learns is that it is more than a cookbook – but a history book as well.

And the cupcake recipes included in the book look delicious! I was going to attempt to bake one of the more “simple” recipes but A) Even I couldn’t find potato starch and B) when it’s 101 degrees outside, the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven. No way!

However, what was a pleasant enough story ends in a very bizarre, “Fatal Attraction” scenario that comes completely out of left field. It was just plain silly and odd. And that soured the whole book.

Sum it up: If you like chick lit and cupcake recipes, but don’t care about a wacky ending, this is the book for you.

Book source: Thank you to Jennifer Ross for a copy of this book. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

It is still Monday isn't it? I can still post this as long as I get it in before midnight, right?!

Life has has prohibited me from blogging in the past few days -- I love being busy and doing things with my kids -- but miss talking about my books.

Also, I'm not sure if you are as demented as I am -- but I'm a tad obsessed about all things ROYAL -- so I did watch footage of this (and, no, I don't speak Swedish!):

I'm a sucker for Royal weddings -- and am old enough to remember getting up at 2am to watch Lady Diana wed Prince Charles. How romantic (OK, not the outcome of said wedding, but the event itself)!!

My reading accomplishments this past week were minimal:

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See -- this book was a huge disappointment.  I think I'm done with this author.  But a great book group night.

Almost done:
The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross -- for a "chick lit" contribution, this has been quite pleasant.  I've enjoyed Dallas sorority girl, Ansley, and her obsession with baking.  I'm determined to try one of the MANY cupcake recipes included in the book -- but most of them are way over my baking head!

To read this week:
I'm a bit ADD when it comes to my TBR list -- last week I had listed Embers and Evangeline as the next in line -- but since then, I've picked up at the library:

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again.
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Newberry Award Winner)
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.
When You Reach Me

add these to the previously aforementioned and:

As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I'm not sure where to start!  Any suggestions on what I should pick next? 

What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Group Night/Book Review -- Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

We honored our deceased book club member, Peggy, in fine form tonight. We remembered her quirks, her defiant opinions, her love of music and books, her spirit – and topped it off with some wonderful food! She would have been proud! We missed her!

I’ve mentioned that we chose Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls because she was one of Peggy’s favorite authors – she adored Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love. I was never fond of either of these works, so I was hoping for “the third time is a charm” cliché to take affect with this book, it was not to be.

Pearl and her sister, May, are “beautiful girls” of Shanghai, living a privileged lifestyle and taking advantage of the cultural diversity. Things soon change has their father gambles away the family fortune, only to be left with his daughters as collateral. In order to satisfy his debts, the girls are sold to husbands in America. In an effort to avoid this arrangement, they delay and avoid their current circumstance, only to get caught in the Japanese invasion. Their only hope for survival now is to make the exodus to American in hopes of finding their “husbands.” Once there, life as “beautiful girls” is lost, and dreams are shattered.

Lisa See tapped into a fabulous cultural story lost to most Americans – the vast number of Chinese who came to this country during both the Japanese invasion and after the Communist revolution. I was unaware of the history of “paper-sons” or of Angel Island. What was disappointing was the writing and story didn’t match the intrigue of history. Much like the story of Chinatown in Los Angeles, the characters often seemed like studio fronts—detailed on the outside, but nothing else inside. Pearl and May have such a dramatic and complex history, but the dialogue between the two is very one dimensional.

Additionally, this sweeping family narrative was hastily butchered in the last ¼ of the book – as if the author decided, “oh, I need to try to finish this in 300 pages, how can I wrap up all my lose ends.” It was nearly a unanimous decision tonight at book group that the ending was AWFUL. Bad. Really Bad. Cliché bad. Freshman English 101 bad. And what was a tolerable book up until that point, completely crashed and burned upon closure.

Which almost seemed appropriate – Peggy would have loved to dissect the ending and would have been voicing her opinion of it (one way or the other) until the final word. And most likely, would have had all of us persuaded into sharing her view of the book in the end.

Book source: Library copy

An interview with author Lisa See about Shanghai Girls

Next month: Our group voted on Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks for our July book club choice. It is one of my Women Unbound reading challenge books – so I’m happy!

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Library Loot!

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg and Eva that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

My work hours have been reduced this summer because I need to be home with my kids.  Luckily, my library branch has been more than generous to allow me to work a much more flexible schedule so I can get my job done, but be home when my kids get home from their morning summer camp (have I mentioned that I LOVE my job??).  Today was the second day of Summer Reading Club so before the mass of children entered my stacks, I grabbed a few of the new picture books (and some old) before they disappeared off the shelves.  Normally I have time to straighten my area after the whirlwind of children depart, but not today.  I'm sure it will be waiting for me in the morning!

Children's Picture Books:
Lives of Extraordinary Women by  Kathleen Krull
The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve
LMNO Peas by Keith Baker (reminds me of Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, don't you think?)
Chester's Back by Melanie Watt

Additionally, it's book group night tomorrow night, and we have two choices, so I checked out each of them just in case I decide to read both:

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In this profoundly affecting memoir from the internationally renowned author of The Caged Virgin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells her astonishing life story, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, to her intellectual awakening and activism in the Netherlands, and her current life under armed guard in the West.


Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women
In this captivating book, award-winning journalist Geraldine Brooks offers an intimate, often shocking portrait of the lives of modern Muslim women, and shows how male pride and power have warped the original message of a once-liberating faith. "A valid, entertaining account of women in the Muslim world."--The New York Times Book Review.

Which one would you choose?

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

I had quite a productive week -- I finished
Two of the three were well worth my reading time.  The other, not so much.

Currently, I'm in the middle of reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See for book group on Thursday. This was supposed to be our May discussion book, but for only the 2nd time in 7 years we had to cancel.  This is our in memoriam book discussion for our dear friend, Peggy, who died in January after battling pancreatic cancer for 8 months.  She was a huge Lisa See fan, and this was one of the last books Peggy was able to finish before she died.  We wanted honor her by reading this as a book group. Unfortunately, May proved to be a big obstacle for many of our attendees, so in order to honor Peggy as we should, we postponed until June. 

Once I'm done with Shanghai Girls, my book queue for the week looks like this:

Embers by Sandor Marai (this got bumped down the TBR pile from last week due to Mother/Daughter book group choice)
A brilliantly crafted novel about one man's betrayal of his talent, his friends, and his principles-a work of demon energy, startling imagery, and utter originality.

The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross
In this delectable novel—complete with recipes—Jennifer Ross frosts a sweet story of a young woman fulfilling her dreams, one delicious cupcake at a time.

Evangeline by Ben Farmer
A brilliant debut novel of an epic love story and harrowing journey from Nova Scotia to New Orleans in pre-Revolutionary America

The Icing on the Cupcake: A Novel
Evangeline: A Novel

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mother Daughter Book Group/Book Review -- Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s been two months since I wrote about our Mother Daughter book group – last month M/D book group conflicted with my daughter’s year end dance recital, so we couldn’t attend. Daisy daughter read, Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows, but I didn’t make the attempt. This month, the choice was Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – and the opposite occurred – I finished it, but Daisy daughter didn’t. And I’m almost glad that was the result.

I had serious issues with this book. I know this is supposed to be a “classic” work of juvenile literature, but at the end I was left scratching my head and asking, “why?”

Ten year old Winnie Foster is an overprotected child ready to explore the nearby forest. On the day she makes her escape, she discovers Jesse Tuck relaxing by a nearby spring, only to wonder why he is being so secretive about it. Thus begins a tale of an eternal spring, a kidnapping by the Tuck family, a blackmail by a stranger in a yellow suit, a murder and a jail break, all wrapped up in a cloud of immortality.

One reviewer said, “Babbitt asks profound questions about the meaning of life and death, and leaves the reader with a greater appreciation for the perfect cycle of nature. Intense and powerful, exciting and poignant, Tuck Everlasting will last forever--in the reader's imagination.” None of that was obvious to me. What this reader’s imagination was left wondering was why a writer would craft a kidnapping where the 10 year old LIKED being kidnapped and was HAPPY with her new found kidnappers. This message really disturbed me. There is nothing to like or be happy about being kidnapped. Period. It is evil and criminal. I suppose there is the whole argument out there for children who are being abused by parents being rescued – but that isn’t the case here. Winnie is in a perfectly loving family and is kidnapped because she has knowledge of the “fountain of youth.”

Another issue that disturbed me was the strange man in the yellow suit that followed the Tuck’s on their escape with Winnie, blackmailed Winnie’s family for his knowledge of her whereabouts. In my opinion, evil just compounds itself with this individual’s actions. And the hole just keeps getting deeper: the blackmailer is then unintentionally killed over his actions, and ultimately, Winnie willingly lets herself become an accomplice to the crime, when she substitutes herself for the accused.

I had so many issues with the message of this book it is crazy.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, we are not meeting this month to discuss Tuck Everlasting. We have a small group to begin with – so if anyone is absent, it makes for an impossible discussion. Thus is the case this week – we have two families out of town on vacation, one with other plans, and that only leaves 2 daughters and 2 moms -- so we canceled.

I’m not sure where I missed the big picture. I would be happy to discuss this with anyone who will shed “light” on the importance of this book.

Next month: We are having a Mother/Daughter book night/movie night with the opening of Beezus and Ramona.

Hopefully, no one is kidnapped.

Book source: Public library

View all my reviews >>

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Blogger Hop June 11-14

Book Blogger Hop is sponsored by Jennifer at Crazy for Books and she says:


In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun! This is a weekly event! And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added! We get nearly 200 links every week!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know! Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added! And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!
So, I hope you have fun hopping around the book-bloggersphere over the weekend -- and if you happen upon me, please stop by and say hi, and tell me what you are reading this weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Library Loot!

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg and Eva that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

When you are a library employee, Library Loot, could be a daily post! I come home with an armful of books nearly every day after work. However, this week is the 1st week of vacation, so I'm at home with my children, resulting in quite a hefty library bag when we went this morning because I had things on HOLD to pick up.

Children's Picture Books:
Fanny and Annabelle, by Holly Hobbie
Princess Party by Joy Allen
Go-Go Gorillas by Julia Durango
My Father Knows the Names of Things by Jane Yolen (my favorite kids author!!)
The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan
Princess PartyGo-Go GorillasThe Sandwich Swap Fanny & Annabelle My Father Knows the Names of Things
Juvenile Fiction:
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (Mother Daughter June Book Club choice)

Tuck Everlasting

Adult Fiction:
Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See (June Book Club choice)

Shanghai Girls

What's in your library bag this week?

Book Review -- Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Turner is bullied, beaten, struck out, and left out on a raft.

Not a pleasant welcome for the preacher’s kid to Phippsburg, Maine.

I adored author Gary Schmidt’s juvenile novel, The Wednesday Wars, and wanted to follow it up with another of his offerings. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, did not disappoint.

From the moment Turner moves to Phippsburg, it seems that everything that can go wrong does: he irritates an elderly resident to the point where he must serve his “time” reading to her and playing the organ on a regular basis; he can’t seem to hit the baseball or jump into the local swimming hole, thus becoming the kid that everyone picks on; and then, after being taunted by local bully, Willis Hurd, he lands a punch on his face, only to get Willis’s much harder right hook that lands squarely on his nose.

The one thing that does go right for Turner is his friendship with Lizzie Bright Griffin, an outsider (because she is a Negro) who lives on Malaga Island across the bay from Phippsburg. Lizzie’s family and ancestors have inhabited Malaga Island for years, but that is about to change when the local establishment in Phippsburg wants them removed, so they can create a tourist attraction.

Based on actual historical events from Malaga and Phippsburg – Mr. Schmidt has created a novel worthy of adult readers as well as adolescents.

Turner is a young man every parent would be proud of – but somehow that is lost on Mr. Buckminster, who seems more concerned with pleasing his congregation than trusting his own son.

The relationship between Turner and Lizzie is honest and fresh and mature beyond their years -- but without being romantic. They see beyond their differing skin color and into the depths of their hearts. Their devotion to one another is Shakespearean, and somehow, that plays out in the end. 

Ultimately this is a book about love, trust, integrity, friendship, loss and forgiveness.

And when my boys grow up, I want them to be just like Turner Buckminster.

For a brief history of Malaga Island, check out this clip:

Book source: Public library

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book Review -- My Name is Mary Sutter

My Name is Mary Sutter My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How many things did you want to be when you grew up? It’s a common refrain from my daughter – “When I grow up, I want to be a waitress at IHOP!” Her love of pancakes currently outweighs her long term life goals. But at least, heaven forbid, it’s an option.

For Mary Sutter, her dream of becoming a surgeon was not an option. Prepared as a midwife by her mother, Mary has midwifery in her veins. But she dreams of something more. Her solicitations to train at the hands of other doctors are turned down. That doesn’t stop Mary. On the eve of the Civil War, Mary travels from her home of Albany, NY, to Washington DC, where she begs and pleads with every medical professional she encounters to give her a chance, they all tell her to go home. Even Dorothea Dix, a woman who is in charge of organizing nursing for the anticipated onslaught of war casualties, tells her she isn’t wanted. Thus, Mary’s courage and stubbornness take over, and she witnesses and participates in the horrible suffering that the Union is about to encounter.

I was very skeptical of this book at first. The first 60 pages were slow to develop. We meet Mary in Albany where she lives a privileged life with her mother, sister and brother. The author also introduces Thomas Fall, a potential suitor for Mary, but who ends up falling in love with her sister Jenny. It was all very awkward and one dimensional for me, and I nearly gave up on this book.

However, my patience paid off, and once Mary decides to make the break from the safety of home to pursue her dreams, the book really takes off and the author finds her groove.

I loved Mary’s narrative once she arrives in Washington DC. The author does a fabulous job of intertwining historical figures (Pres. Lincoln, John Hay, Dorothea Dix, among others) with fictional characters. I must admit a bias here, having lived in DC for many years, I love most books dealing with or talking about our Nation’s Capital. This is no exception. The author’s description of 19th century, Civil War-era Washington DC was perfectly swampy and sticky. Even modern day DC hasn’t changed much (except the cows grazing on the Mall are gone).

Mary really blossoms as a character under the worst possible circumstances. She assists a Dr. Stipp in a deplorable hospital, treating patients with very few supplies. She witnesses the butchery the doctors are reduced to perform on the wounded in an attempt to save their lives. But she preservers. This is what she wants to do, and she goes to the White House herself in order to obtain the necessary supplies to help the wounded.

The Civil War back drop was also well done. The author’s research was evident as she describes military maneuvers, battle formations, leadership conflicts and the devastation of war. I also appreciated the author’s ability to bring to light how the Civil War really changed the medical field. So much of what we know now about infection and sanitation was learned as a result of this awful war.

Finally, there was an interesting love triangle the author deftly wove throughout this book. It was always in the shadows, never taking away from the seriousness of Mary’s goal of taking care of the injured. And it left you guessing until the end. It was a pleasant surprise.

I ended up adoring Mary and her bravery. I truly enjoyed the author’s writing and appreciated her comprehensive research.

For the sensitive reader: There are many detailed battle scenes, descriptions of remidal surgery and hacking amputations. And one "F bomb."

Although, not one of my original selections, this book qualifies for my Women Unbound Challenge.  A worthy contribution.

Book source: Public library

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Web Address!

I've taken the plunge and have "bought" my own domain name -- -- it should take effect in a couple of days.  I think you will be automatically directed to the new site, but just in case, I didn't want any of you to get lost!

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

If you've been following me for any time, you realize I just finished the monstrous, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  I wanted to follow that up with something a little less daunting, so I'm nearly thru with My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira -- a historical fiction account of a woman named, Mary Sutter (duh?) who is trying to become a surgeon during the Civil War.  It started out slowly, but has picked up speed and interest in the last 100 pages or so.  My review should be posted tomorrow. 

Once that is done, I plan on starting a juvenile fiction selection - Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt (In 1911, Turner Buckminster hates his new home of Phippsburg, Maine, but things improve when he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a girl from a poor, nearby island community founded by former slaves that the town fathers--and Turner's--want to change into a tourist spot).  I read Mr. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars earlier in May and absolutely adored it.  I wanted to give another one of his works a try and this was on the shelf at the library.  Following that, I'm going to end the week with Embers by Sandor Marai (A brilliantly crafted novel about one man's betrayal of his talent, his friends, and his principles-a work of demon energy, startling imagery, and utter originality).  I friend of mine recommended it to me and said I could finish it in 2 days tops! I'll gladly take that challenge. 

The above is only made possible by the fact that it is the first week of summer vacation and my kids have swimming lessons all week!  I can accomplish major reading goals lounging in a pool chair!

What are you reading? Leave a comment with your current reads.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bedtime Stories

A few of our favorite picture books to report on this week:

The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle

From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—The dastardly Captain Purplebeard and his greedy crew are on the track of "…a shipload of treasure!...Diamonds and rubies and gold beyond measure…." They set sail in their ship, The Black Hole, following a mysterious fiddle player who has a treasure map. Heedless of the subsequent verses of the fiddler's song, which warn of some sort of monster "pirate cruncher," the motley crew also disregards certain other strange happenings and perseveres to their ultimate end. Their fate is told mostly in rollicking but sometimes uneven rhymed text. The striking illustrations in bold colors are digitally rendered with great effect, delineating each individual pirate and slyly hinting at the surprise that's coming—visual clues that every self-respecting pirate lover will delight in pointing out knowledgeably after the first reading. An amusing book to savor and enjoy.
This was a delightful pirate tale -- with a twist!  My 7 year old had to explain the "moral" to me at the end.    And the illustrations are fantastic!

From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 1—"This is the story of Suzy Sue, and the fateful day when she went…Achoo!" So starts this amusing tale of good manners and hygiene. Suzy Sue doesn't know the proper etiquette for sneezing and covering her mouth and nose. Thank goodness for her bevy of farm animals that can teach her all about it. The book covers a few of the big items, such as bathing, polite eating, sharing, and kindness, and highlights "the golden rule" in the process. The painted illustrations complement the text well. The author tries to tell the story in rhyme, but it doesn't always pan out. Still, the story is mildly humorous, and younger children will find the pictures of the animals appealing. The size and layout of the pages make this title appropriate for group sharing. While it's not the most complete book in this genre, it does hold its own.

Nothing like being taught manners by a bunch of farm animals! When my son burped at the table tonight, he immediately sited this book.


A Small Brown Dog with a Pink Nose by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—Amelia wants a dog. When her persistent requests are repeatedly denied, she begins to pretend that she has a dog named "Bones," and gradually her mother and father go along with the game. Then, when her pet "gets lost," there is nothing for them to do but help Amelia find him. The search leads to an animal shelter and a real Bones to take home. The final spread, "Amelia's Guide to Getting Your First Dog," dispels any doubt that the child's actions were deliberate. Amelia is an endearing character, and Hunter's portrayal of her perfectly matches Stuve-Bodeen's text. The digitally enhanced, cheery pictures are airy and use simple shapes and colors. The almost comic-book format takes the eye quickly from one part of the page to another, leading readers through the story. This title is a good choice for a one-on-one read-aloud or for children to enjoy on their own.

Even I, the most ardent of "we are NEVER having a dog" mothers, was tempted by this delightful, persuasive, little girl and her quest for a family pet.

What bedtime/picture books were your favorites this week?

Friday, June 4, 2010

My best impersonation of Homer Simpson!


OK that was lame -- but -- it's not too late to take advantage of National Donut Day!

Most national donut chains (Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts) are offering free donuts to patrons.  At DD, I think you have to buy a beverage to get your free glazed treat.

For more information -- check out Krispy Kreme's website and their participating stores. We are headed there after school for our "last day of school" treat!

I'm a purist and prefer glazed.  How about you?

Oh, and is it DONUT or DOUGHNUT???