Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review -- Please Don't Eat the Daisies AND The Snake Has All the Lines

The Snake Has All the Lines
Please Don't Eat the Daisies

BooksPlease Don't Eat the Daises AND The Snake Has All the Lines by Jean Kerr

My enjoyment rating:  both -- 4 out of 5 stars -- but an edge to Snake!

 Book source:  Public library

Jean Kerr was a mother of 6, the wife of famed theatre critic, Walter Kerr, a playwright, author, and laugh out loud funny woman. Her essay/anthologies – Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (made famous by Doris Day and David Niven Hollywood style) and The Snake has All the Lines – are delightful vignettes into her life in 1950s suburbia. If blogging had been a staple of society in mid-century America – she would have been Dooce, Pioneer Woman, and Jen Lancaster, all wrapped up in one!

Even though over 50 years have passed since many of these essays were written, most remain timeless. One of her funniest is the opening “index” to Daises – where she rationalizes the reason she wants to become a writer is so she can sleep late in the morning. Sounds perfectly acceptable to me! She also tackles buying a new home (more of a gothic castle, really), dieting (they dieted in the 50s?) and home decorating (lots of wall paper!). Mixed with these are some that didn't fare so well – most notably meeting with your theater producer. Obviously, many of her references are dated – TVs with knobs, letters with $.10 stamps (or was it less?), names of medicines and food that were meaningless to me and Broadway actors long dead. But that didn’t minimize her quick wit and funny anecdotes.

In addition to her writing, cartoonist Whitney Darrow Jr., has perfectly illustrated her books to mirror the craziness of her life.

Over all, I think I preferred Snake to Daises (in Snake, Jean writes an AMAZING tribute to her mother – something I think EVERYONE should read!)– but both were a joy to read, and highly recommended. I recently checked out Penny Candy, another one of Jean Kerr’s books and I look forward to continuing my adventures with Jean Kerr!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Will be back soon!

It's PTA fundraising time again, so volunteer responsibilities have taken over book blogging.  That, and I had to spend 4 hours in a cardiologist's office today for my very first stress test. 
I learned I had "mitral valve leakage" -- I'm still not sure what that is!
Good news...I've finished three books, now I must find time to review them!

Friday, February 18, 2011

February Book Club Book Review -- The Coral Thief

The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott: Book Cover
BookThe Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott

My enjoyment rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Book club Rating: This only managed a C from my book club members.

Book Source:  Book club kit from public library.

Summary from B&N:
Paris, 1815. Daniel Connor, a young medical student from Edinburgh, has arrived to study anatomy at the Jardin des Plantes—only to realize that his letters of introduction and precious coral specimens, on which his tenure with the legendary Dr. Cuvier depends, have been stolen. His thief turns out to be a beautiful woman who lives in a shadowy realm of outlaws, philosophers, and émigrés. As Daniel falls in love with her, he discovers a radical theory of evolution that irrevocably changes his conception of the world.

We all were underwhelmed by Ms. Stott’s The Coral Thief. Our biggest complaint – what was the big deal about coral and why should we care? Ms. Stott, via her novel, never answered that question. None of us knew how significant this plant/animal was in the scientific theory of the time. In fact, in the book Reef Madness by David Dobbs it says, “Few questions in 19th-century science aroused more controversy than the origin of coral reefs.” Obviously, her book was written to explore this fictionally – but the story never did capture the intrigue surrounding this “controversy.” Also, the “romance” created between Daniel, the young scientist, and hardened coral collector, Lucienne, never developed. It was hard to determine why a woman in her 40s would be so smitten with a twentysomething. When asked by my husband to give a quick synopsis of the book – I replied, “It was a 19th century version of Ocean’s 11 –but instead of breaking into a vault in Vegas – these “thieves” were trying to break into a scientific laboratory/museum.” It did not generate the energy I was expecting.

In spite of the shallow story line – I LOVED Ms. Stott’s writing. Her descriptions of post revolutionary-Napoleonic France were amazing! I was completely immersed in the atmosphere of Paris. Also, her side story detailing the exile of Napoleon was intriguing too – so much so, that I want her to write a book about him and his life on St. Helena island. That side story was much more captivating than coral. Because of her writing, I’m tempted to read her first book, Ghostwalk – a novel centered on the life of Sir Isaac Newton.

Our March book club choice:

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Book Cover

I've had this book for 5 years -- I'm VERY happy to be taking it off my library shelf.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February Mother/Daughter Book Club -- Washington City is Burning

Washington City Is Burning

Book: Washington City is Burning by Harriette Gillem Robinet

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Daisy Daughter rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I suggested this book as something we could read for Black History month -- from the dust jacked it seemed to have a nice blend of historical facts surrounding the British invasion of Washington DC during the war of 1812, the role slaves played in maintaining the White House and a fictional story involving a 12 year old slave, Virginia of Madison, who is brought from President Madison's plantation, Montpelier, to serve her master, and his wife, Dolley.

I cringed the entire time I read this...I thought is was overly repetivite (how many times was the author going to mention "Washington City"),  and that it really sugar-coated the plight of slaves.  This was one of my LEAST favorite books we've read as a group, and I was ready for the girls to complain vocally at how much they hated it.

Once again, I totally misjudged them -- they loved it!  And I have to mention that one of our girls, probably the most advanced reader in our group, and who is VERY particular about her literature, LOVED it too.  They really empathized with Virginia and her bondage.  One of the most memorable scenes, and one the girls mentioned over and over during the discussion, was when Virginia sits on a hot cooking pot, to keep her overseerers from realizing they are cooking a stew, something they were forbidden to do.  She is burned so severly by this act, that she suffers terrible scarring on the backs of her legs. 

This was also one of the most "serious" discussions.  The girls can get rather silly during our meetings, but this one stayed on focus and topic.  I was very proud of them.

So, another successful book group night.

For March, we are reading:

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
This will be our first non-fiction book.  We've gone from the War of 1812 to World War II.  Both Daisy daughter and I read it early this year and loved it.    Hoping the other girls do too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

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.

We've gone from being completely SNOWED IN -- to -- opening up the windows in the house and wearing shorts!!  Crazy weather!

But it did allow me to finish quite a few (in my world anyway) books this past week:

FINISHED (Not yet reviewed)

The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (our book club choice for February)

The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott: Book Cover

The Snake Has All The Lines by Jean Kerr
Please Don't Eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr (both were delightful, but a bit dated)

Go to fullsize image
Go to fullsize image

Washington City is Burning (Mother/Daughter book club selection for February)
Washington City Is Burning

Nothing!  I have quite a few to choose from, but haven't decided what to tackle next. 

Have a great week -- hope you are enjoying similar springtime weather as we are here -- it's glorious!

What are you reading?

Winner -- Follower Love Giveaway Hop!

Yi Wen Liang

 Thanks to all who entered.

True Random Number Generator

Min: 2
Max: 122
Result: 106

Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowed In

It's another snow day -- no school, no library -- but it's amazing how books still open and pages still turn when everything else is closed!

I'm wrapped up in The Coral Thief and envisioning post revolutionary France and the isle of St. Helena where Napoleon was exiled. 

Love being lost in book fantasy in the middle of
snow storm.

Carry on.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Follower Love Giveaway Hop!

Chocolate is overrated -- what everyone wants this time of year is a good book -- and a little romance to go with it!

And to thank my readers and to "show them some love" I am giving away the following:

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Summary from Goodreads:

Rachel has always been the good girl- until her thirtieth birthday, when her longtime friend Darcy throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiance. Rachel is completely horrified. She pretends it didn't happen, maybe it will all go away-and so will her feelings for this guy. She prays for fate to intervene, but when she makes a choice she discovers that the lines between right and wrong are blurry, endings aren't always neat, and you have to risk all to win true happiness.

Entering is EASY -- no tweeting, texting, twirling, or tiptoeing -- you must either BE a follower on GFC or BECOME a follower and fill out the attached form. One entry for everyone!

Giveaway is open from:
Tuesday, February 8th until Sunday, February 13th at 10pm CST
(sorry folks, must pick a winner before I go to bed!)

Winner will be chosen via and notified via email. They will have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

A HUGE thank you to Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer for hosting this wonderful blog hop.

If you are looking for other ways to spread the love before Valentine's Day, please check out the other participating blogs:

Monday, February 7, 2011

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.

Kids were out of school on Friday because of snow, more snow in the forecast for this week -- if I see another flake I think I will freak!  I live in the South for a reason! 

As for books....


Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (5 out of 5 book I've read in a long time!  Newbery Medal Winner of 2011)

Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman (4 out of 5 stars -- life in the maternal trenches behind the white picket fence)


The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (February book club choice)

The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott: Book Cover

Washington City is Burning by Harriett Robinet (Mother/Daughter book club choice)

Hope you live someplace warm and sunny, and if you do, may I come visit?!

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review -- Planting Dandelions

Planting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated Life
Planting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book source:  Received an ARC from the author (I was not compensated in any way for my review).

Sensitive reader:  Language, including the F-Bomb; some sexual innuendo.

Book release date:  April 2011

Dandelions – the pesky weed that proliferates most yards that all master gardeners spend countless hours and noxious chemicals trying to eliminate. In Kyran’s world, they are harvested for chains, eaten in salads, blown for wishes, and admired for their brilliant yellow color. Much like the metaphor of making lemonade out of lemons, Kyran is taking her marital and maternal dandelions and manifesting them into bouquets.

In “Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life” we are smacked in the face in the opening chapter with a fist full of dandelions and her admitted infidelity – a brawny way to welcome us into her world. It was not an easy transition, but it was brutally honest, and it sets the stage for her blunt and razor-sharp narrative.

It is always reassuring to read other mothers’ tales and trials and Kyran shares with us the best: From an unplanned pregnancy, to forgetting to pick up her child at kindergarten, to a repeatedly absent Tooth Fairy, to trying to control her children’s intake of sugar, and toy gun control. One of my favorite anecdotes is when Kyran finally succumbs to the evils of sugar, “When my oldest turned one, I made him a whole wheat carrot cake with pineapple sweetened cream cheese on top. Two years later, it was a homemade chocolate layer cake, frosted with butter cream, for my middle child. Three years after that, I ran by the warehouse club and picked up a slab of corn syrup and hydrogenated oil, spray-painted blue, for the baby.” (Quote from the uncorrected proof). I wanted to jump with joy and scream – "I’m not the only one!" Now, if I could only get someone to admit that for all of the portraits they have of their first child – very few exist of their youngest! We are not that much different after all “we few, we happy few, we band of Mothers.” Whether we are attachment moms or helicopter moms or accidental moms, and most recently, tiger moms – we forget, we yell, we neglect, we protect and we love unconditionally. Our hope is that through all of our effort and mistakes our children turn out descent and normal, without any memorable material to write a book about us later.

Kyran branches out into other “field notes” as well – from the threat of losing their home to foreclose, her Southern husband and sons, her shopping spree on 5th Avenue (an absolute MUST read!) and her green-card status (even I, who lived three years in the Great White North, and who knows Oh Canada by heart is still not sure where Newfoundland is, and whether or not it is really a province). She also reminisces about a particular dress – one that I imagine would have been worn by Goldie Hawn on Laugh In – that reminds her of her youth and whether that woman still exists. It is a beautiful reflection on a rich life that continues to evolve.

The only portion of the book where I winced and read with one eye closed was the section where she talks about exploring postpartum sex with her husband. When you see a fellow PTA mom walking down the street, some visuals are better left unimagined.

Planting Dandelions is a candid portrayal of what life is like in the maternal trenches behind the white picket fence and a welcome addition to the stay-at-home-mom genre.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review -- Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest

My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Source:  Public library (but I loved it so much, I will be purchasing a copy for my own library!)

Juvenile Fiction -- Newbery Medal Winner 2011

Abilene Tucker is riding the rails, quite literally, into the town of Manifest, Kansas.

She’s been shipped by her father to spend the summer with Shady Howard– and man she has never met, but is trusted by her father to care for her during the summer.

There she meets up with Lettie and Ruthanne, who become her companions on a quest to determine the meaning behind a box of mementos discovered under the floorboard of her room: a map, a cork, a fishhook, a sliver dollar, a fancy key, and a tiny wooden baby doll.

Thus Abilene begins a summertime odyssey to learn the secrets of her past and of the city of Manifest.

No mincing words --  I adored this book.

Author, Clare Vanderpool, has created a vintage story that bridges two time periods – that of WWI and the Depression, with a cast of captivating & quirky characters (everything from bootleggers, and miners, to a gypsy and a nun!) and a main character, Abilene, who will run away with your heart.

I was completely transformed back in time – I felt like I was walking in stride with Abilene. Every clue she uncovered and every story she heard was as if I was learning it with her. It was also particularly endearing because much like Manifest, my ancestors were a part of a small town Manifest-like community – that this book could easily been about their lives.

The only thing I that I regret, was taking far too long to finish (so many obligations this week). This is a book that needs to be read in a day or two to fully embrace the richness of the narrative.

This was absolutely deserving of the Newbery Medal Award this year…and so far, my favorite book of 2011.

For a clip from the author, please check out this related video:

View all my reviews