Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Did Not Finish -- Down The Nile

Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff
Book: Down the Nile:  Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney

I gave this the "50 page" rule and gave up.  Just didn't connect with her writing or her journey. 

Here is a synopsis for those who may want to give this a try:

When Rosemary Mahoney first planned to take a solo boat trip down the Nile, she could not have imagined all the complications that she would eventually face. For one thing, Egyptian women don't row on the Nile; for another, safety-minded tourists don't venture many places in this country of festering civil unrest. An experienced (and apparently fearless) rower, Mahoney persisted in this ambitious project, but she might not have succeeded if she had not won the advocacy of a Muslim sailor. In Down the Nile, she takes readers with her on an unforgettable trip down the world's most historic river.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review -- The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife

My enjoyment rating: 4½ out of 5 stars

Book source:  Library copy

Sensitive reader:  minor sexual innuendo

I’ve never read a single word written by Ernest Hemingway. An embarrassing confession coming from someone who likes to read as much as I do. But after reading Paula McClain’s “The Paris Wife” I am convinced that Hadley Richardson, his first wife, was the catalyst that set his brilliant career in motion.

On a trip to visit a friend in Chicago, Hadley meets a charming, athletic, much younger man, who goes by the nickname of “Wem” (among others). After a brief courtship, and long distance relationship, that included LOTS of love letters, they marry and set off for Paris where they are convinced his art and talent will be nurtured by the artist-expatriates who have settled there. There they find romance, hardships, anger, have a child, imbibe on lots of alcohol and, ultimately, another woman, who will destroy everything they have.

I was absolutely engrossed in this novel from the first page. Told from Hadley’s point of view…I honestly felt like I was reading her memoir. And after I was done, I wished she had written one, because I wanted more.

Obviously, this is historical FICTION, but I thought the author excelled at creating a complete picture of their relationship – their life in Paris, their travels, the marital conflict, and their associations with the literary giants of the time – Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was so real, which is why I’ve had such a hard time letting go of Hadley since I finished the book. She got under my skin -- this extremely talented, intellectual, creative, women who was the first causality in Hemingway’s grandiose career.

We know so much about him, even without having read a single word, I’m glad Paula McClain has given us a glimpse of what Hadley’s life was like.

The author has a great website that includes pictures of Hadley and Ernest, their Paris apartment, and "fact vs. fiction" section that reveals much more about their lives and their acquaintainces. 

And as a side note...the actress, Mariel Hemingway, is Hadley's granddaughter. 

Here is more from the author:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mom & Me Matinee Giveaway -- tickets to Hairspray at The Rep!

Wow -- I'm so excited about this giveaway -- because it's for THE REP!  I have TWO tickets for the April 9th, 2pm matinee to giveaway to a follower (preferably one that lives in Arkansas!)

I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon with your daughter than at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre's special matinee showing of their latest production, Hairspray.

Based on the film by John Waters, it's 1962, and pleasantly plump Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire: to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to dancing queen…but she must use her newfound power to vanquish the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a TV network - all without denting her 'do!

And it's more than just the show, it's an event that includes:

Lunch & Shop from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

- Lunch provided by Chick-Fil-A

- Jewelry by Rae Ann Creations

- Handbags by Thirty One

- Candles and more by Scentsy

- Hair by Staci Roberts

- Custom Frames by The Sassy Polka Dot

- Special Hairspray Cake by Covered in Cake

- Complementary hairspray donated by Matrix and State Beauty Supply

From The Rep's Flickr stream

Then, after all that fun, you get to enjoy the production at 2pm, followed by a meet & greet after the show!

And since I'm the queen of easy giveaways...all you have to do is fill out the form below. 

No teasing your hair, or buying a can of Aqua-Net, or any hair gel application necessary.

The giveway will be open from Monday, March 28th -- Sunday, April 3rd.

(giveaway will end at 10pm CDT, because I have to go to bed.  I will use to determine a winner.  If you do not respond in 24 hrs to my email, I will select another.  Also, if you are chosen and can't use the tickets, please contact me so I can make someone else happy!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Going Out of Business Part 2

That Borders bookstore near my folks' house in Oklahoma? It was in the final days of their closing and they were down to the bare shelves over the weekend, so I succumbed took advantage of their huge sale prices and bought a box load of books.  Really, I need to seek treatment for this...but at roughly $4 a book, it's still cheaper than one pair of shoes.

In no particular order:

The Devil's Company

Saving Ceecee Honeycutt

Diamond Ruby: A Novel

No Angel (The Spoils of Time, #1)

Band of Angels: A Novel

Ferris Beach

The Camel Bookmobile

Skeletons at the Feast

The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay

A Beautiful Place to Die

The White Tiger

Every Man Dies Alone

The one I left behind:

The Seamstress

Dang it...I should have grabbed that one too.

Monday, March 21, 2011

And the winner is...

#14 -- CINDY
True Random Number Generator
Min: 2
Max: 107
Result: 14

Thank you to ALL who entered my Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Group Treats!

I forgot to mention in my book group post that I made some awesome treats for our monthly meeting.

It was one of our members' birthday, so I made a Cherry Pudding Cake (without the trace of pudding).  It's a recipe I make quite often (originally found in a Weight Watchers magazine).  It's fool proof and YUMMY!

1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3tbsps butter, chilled

1 package of white cake mix (I used Pillsbury)
3/4 c water
3/4 c applesauce
2 eggs
1 (20oz) can light cherry pie filling

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare 9x13 baking pan with non stick spray.
  2. Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a bowl; mix with pastry blender or fork, until crumbly.  Set aside.
  3. With electric mixer on low, beat cake mix, water, applesauce, and eggs in a large bowl for about 30 seconds.  Increase speed to medium and mix for about 2 minutes.  Pour batter into pan; spoon pie filling evenly over top of cake mixture; sprinkle topping mixture over pie filling.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
My next treat is from Southern Living -- Loaded Baked Potato Dip.  They recommend serving this with waffle fries (found in the frozen potato aisle), but I knew they wouldn't travel well (nor did I have an oven to prepare them on site), so I served it with "dip" Fritos and veggie Ritz Crackers -- still really good!  This would also be great scooped on a baked potato!!!

1 (2.1 oz) package of fully cooked bacon slices
1 16 oz container of sour cream
2 cups (8oz brick) freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c of green onions
2 tsp hot sauce or Tabasco

Microwave bacon according to package directions until crisp; drain on paper towels.  Cool 10 minutes; crumble or chop; stir together back and next 4 ingredients.  Cover and chill 1-24 hours before serving.  May be stored in frig for up to 7 days.

(This was the first time I've ever used pre cooked bacon and it worked great --- kept from "stinking" up my kitchen.  But to save money, you can easily fry bacon and prepare it as described.  But not having to clean up was great!)


Friday, March 18, 2011

March Book Group and Book Review -- The Shadow of the Wind

My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book group rating: A
Challenge requirement:  What's in a Name 4 (book with movement)
Book Source:  Library copy
Sensitive reader:  profanity (including F bomb), sexual innuendo, violent situations

Daniel Sempere is the son of a bookseller. His life is books. With one trip to the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” in the heart of Barcelona, Daniel’s life if changed forever with the discovery of “The Shadow of the Wind,” a novel by reclusive author, Julián Carax. He becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the author and his other rare books. His curiosity turns deadly as Daniel uncovers a multi-layered story of love, friendship, violence, destruction and the power of literature.

It was unanimous – book club LOVED the book! One of the best books we’ve read as a group in a very long time.

There was so much to discuss -- every topic we delved into led to other story lines and other characters, and other scenes that were SO memorable – as if we were uncoupling a set of matryoshka dolls.

We thought the author, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, did an amazing job creating two parallel stories within one – Daniel’s search for the reclusive Julián Carax and the underlying story of Julian’s childhood and his eternal love for Penelope, sister of his best friend Jorge.

There were twists and turns at every chapter. The imagery was extraordinarily beautiful. The entire story was centered in the heart of Barcelona, and we all felt as if we had been on the streets watching this saga unfold. There wasn’t a single scene that didn’t involve rain or damp or snow or mist – I shivered and felt the gloom envelope me throughout my reading.

We spent much of our discussion reading aloud some of our favorite passages (there were so many it’s impossible to reprint them here). We heaped high praise on the translator, Lucia Graves, for her ability to bridge the eloquence between the original Spanish and the English translation. It was truly a work of art.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some criticism…some of us thought that the author didn’t portray the age of the characters accurately enough or the timing of significant events. Also, because of the complexity of the characters and story line, it was difficult at times to keep it straight. I would explain in more detail, but those events are so crucial to the story line, I don’t want to spoil it!!

This was a treasure to read and a treasure to discuss. A perfect book club selection.

For a brief discussion from the author about The Shadow of the Wind AND his second novel, The Angel's Game, please check out the related video:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop!

Erin go Bragh!

Be on the look out for little Leprechauns giving away books on blogs all over the bloggersphere thanks to the ladies over at Books Complete Me and Kathy at I am a Reader not a Writer.

You would think my offering would be green, or Irish, or having to do with Guinness beer, or Shepherd's Pie -- but in fact, I will be honoring
Women's History Month (the month of March is designated by the Library of Congress, "to pay tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.")

In fact, my own personal reading has been focused on Women's History -- either historical -- or historical fiction.

With that in mind, I am giving away ONE paperback copy of

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier: Book Cover

From Publishers Weekly:

The discoveries of fossils on the beaches of Lyme Regis, England, in the 19th century rocked the world and opened the minds of scientists to the planet's unimaginable age and the extinction of species. Though attributed to men of consequence, the first remarkable finds were made by the poor working-class Anning family—and their young daughter, Mary. Chevalier wraps the history with a tale of the friendship between Mary and Elizabeth Philpot, a gentlewoman also fascinated by the creatures of stone, in a time when women were thought to be ill-suited to the work or incapable of understanding the scope of their finds.

The giveaway is open from March 17-March 20th
(I will pick a winner via on Sunday night at 10pm CDT -- because if it's any later, I will be asleep!) 

It is SO easy to enter -- really -- so easy -- just fill out the form below. 

No tweets, re posts, hand-jives, or gargling required.

Would I like for you to become a follower? Sure...all bloggers are a bit narcissistic and want to feel the love -- but I would also like for you to come back and visit, because I've got a hip cite.

So, following is not required, but welcomed.

And just in case you have forgotten, all of these super-dooper blogs will be offering giveaways as well.
Go see what literary shamrocks they have available!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Going Out of Business

Borders recently announced that is was closing many of its stores in the coming months.  We don't have a Borders here in Arkansas, but the store around the corner from my folks' house in Oklahoma is closing at the end of March.  My mom asked me the other day if I needed any books? Really, Mom, what a question!!  Need books -- I never need books -- but I want them like I want chocolate, or donuts, or a shopping spree to Target-- it's a addiction that will never be satisfied, and the more I buy the more I want!

Since I am such an obedient daughter, I couldn't deny her request, so I sent her a list of a dozen titles that I have wanted to read and asked to to pick a few and surprise me.

This is what she brought to me this weekend:

Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste: Book Cover
Summary B&N:
An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s revolution.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers: Book Cover
Summary by B&N:
The heroine, Angel, is a young woman who was sold into prostitution as a child. Michael Hosea is a godly man sent into Angel’s life to draw her into the Savior’s redeeming love.


Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay: Book Cover
From the Washington Post:
...a magnificent tale of love, loss, betrayal and redemption…Characters appear like an endless stacking nest of Matryoshka dolls, one more fascinating and intriguing than the next…The complex story is multi-layered and labyrinthine so that the reader, just like these characters, does not know whom to believe or distrust…Toward the end, with many unanswered questions swirling, the author lets the truth ebb and flow until a final riptide of revelations leaves the reader profoundly moved.

Thank you Mom for my treat!  At least they don't have any calories!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Mother Daughter Book Group

Disaster.  Tonight's meeting was an absolute disaster.  The girls were uninterested, ill-mannered, and totally unfocused.  I'm not sure if it was the book or the moon -- but if I could call "do-overs" this would be the night.

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's We read The Candy Bomber -- a book that both Daisy daughter and I loved -- but wasn't particularliy a winner with the group.  It was our first venture with a non-fiction selection, so maybe that had something to do with it.  Regardless, they spent more time discussing what book to read NEXT month, than they did about Col. Halverson's heroic efforts during the Berlin airlift.

Oh well, maybe next month will be better.

After much deliberation, they selected:

My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald  
My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald: Book Cover

Summary: Twelve-year-old Lucy Desberg is a natural problem-solver. At her family’s struggling pharmacy, she has a line of makeover customers for every school dance and bat mitzvah. But all the makeup tips in the world won’t help save the business. If only she could find a way to make it the center of town again—a place where people want to spend time, like in the old days. Lucy dreams up a solution that could resuscitate the family business and help the environment, too. But will Lucy’s family stop fighting long enough to listen to a seventh-grader?

Monday, March 14, 2011


Another gold mine find at the library used bookstore -- vintage 1965 Betty Crocker cookbooks for kids:

Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook


Betty Crocker's parties for children [Book]

They were each is really good condition and only $1/each!  The illustrations are fabulous!  Now I can add these to my collection with my personal, original copy of:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Literary Auction!

Last year I was overwhelmed by the task of organizing our annual gala PTA fundraiser at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock.

This year, I have a wonderful chairman who has done all of the planning, leg-work and logistics.  However, I've been there to offer whatever assistance I can to make her job easier.

Once again, though, I was able to collect a few copies of signed books for our auction.  Although not as plentiful as last year, here are our offerings:

Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman (Kyran is one of our PTA moms and we are thrilled to have her book in our auction!)
Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman: Book Cover

Carry the Rock by Jay Jennings: Book Cover

The Ugly Truth (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #5) by Jeff Kinney: Book Cover

And finally -- my JACKPOT!

The title and signature speak for themselves! (And my secret -- I was able to get TWO signed -- so I can keep one!!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bedtime Stories!

It's been awhile since I've posted about the picture books we read at home.  Primarily because Daisy Dad does story time while I'm doing something much more entertaining like cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry.  I'm the first line of defense for ALL the new picture books that are processed at the library, so I usually grab them before they go on the shelves.  I've gathered some great ones in recent weeks, unfortunately they haven't made it to the blog.

However, Daisy Dad was gone the other night so the mantle was passed to me and I read a doozie!  This was one of the funniest books I've read in awhile, and GREAT illustrations too!  Highly recommended!

Jake Goes Peanuts by Michael Wright
Jake likes peanut butter, but he doesn’t like anything else! Will his parents be able to convince him to try other things?

You'll be making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by the end of it! 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My March Monthly Reading Objectives

At the beginning of the year, I made my "top 10" reading goals for this year.

Number 7 was the following:

7. Plan ahead! One of my biggest hang ups is not thinking in advance about what I want to read -- I'm always being swayed by what's on the shelf at the library or what I see on other blogs (simply known as reading ADD). In order to take control of my shelves, I plan on a personal monthly reading list that I can check off when I'm done. It will include my required reading (all book club books/challenge books) and the titles I WANT to read.

So for the month of February I made a list of the following that I either needed to read or wanted to read:

Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman (ARC received from the author) -- DONE!

Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott (required monthly book club selection) -- DONE!

Washington City is Burning by Harriet Gillem Robinet (required mother/daughter book club selection) -- DONE!

Please Don't Eat the Daises by Jean Kerr (personal elective) -- DONE!

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (juvenile fiction choice for Black History Month) -- DONE!

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (elective for Black History Month) Did not start

Down The Nile by Rosemary Mahoney (personal elective) still working on

I'm not the most ambitious reader, most bloggers can read that many in a week...but I do have to cook dinner for my family occasionally!

As for March, this is what I have planned -- and I'm taking into consideration that A) I have a 500+page book I'm reading for book club and B) Next week is the final week before our PTA fundraiser, so I doubt I will accomplish much reading -- so 5 books will be more than I can handle:

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (required book club selection)

Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell (required mother/daughter book club selection -- I've already read this -- whew!)
Electives:  This month is Women's History Month -- so my electives will fall into that category:
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (juvenile historical fiction; on my shelf)
Summary from Amazon: Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, Chains addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals. Isabel tells the story of her life as a slave. She was sold with her five-year-old sister to a cruel Loyalist family even though the girls were to be free upon the death of their former owner. She has hopes of finding a way to freedom and becomes a spy for the rebels, but soon realizes that it is difficult to trust anyone. She chooses to find someone to help her no matter which side he or she is on.
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y Lee (adult historical fiction; on my shelf)
Summary from Amazon: Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances.
Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the WWII Front by Ellen Hampton (non fiction WWII; library copy)
Summary from Amazon:  Women of Valor tells the extraordinary story of the Rochambelles, the only women's unit to serve on the front lines of World War II. Some of them had been proper young ladies stranded abroad by the German invasion of France; others had scaled the Pyrenees by night to escape the Nazi occupation. All of them had a deep desire to help liberate their nation, and if they couldn't fight, driving an ambulance would have to do. Organized in New York by a wealthy American widow determined to create an all-female ambulance corps, they served with unflinching courage--saving soldiers from burning camps, dodging bombs, bullets, and mines, and even talking their way out of German hands. With colorful, brave characters and fierce battle scenes, Women of Valor is both a gripping and delightful read.
Hope to finish from February: 

Down The Nile by Rosemary Mahoney (personal elective -- still working on)

Wish Me Luck!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review -- Left Neglected

Left Neglected

My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars (possibly 2.5 out of 5)

Book source:  Public library

Sarah Nickerson has it all – a highly successful career, three beautiful children (named, crazily enough, after Peanuts characters – Charlie, Lucy & Linus), a house in the suburbs, a vacation home in Vermont, and an adoring husband. All of it comes crashing down with one single incident – trying to talk on her cell phone while driving. After suffering a terrifying car accident, and incurring a head injury, it is during her hospital recovery that Sarah discovers she can’t recognize anything to her LEFT – the left side of her body, the left side of a book, the left side of the room. Thus diagnosed with a neurological disorder called, “left neglect,” she must rebuild her life, but she will soon learn that all may not be “normal” again.

I’m going to have a hard time reviewing this book without comparing it to Ms. Genova’s first book, Still Alice. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for awhile – and with such expectations and with such adoration of her first book, I suppose it was impossible for this book to measure up. And it didn’t.

For much of the story – told in first person – I felt like I was reading someone’s blog. Now, as bloggers, that’s not entirely bad – but this was a novel and I expected more – more tension, more struggle, more heart, more of everything. I never felt overly connected to Sarah and her family before, or especially, after her accident. Her treatment and therapy, which was integral to her recovery, seemed like child’s play. Her angst over whether she would ever return to work again seemed superficial. Her struggle to reconnect with her mother after a long and sustained absence, seemed clichéd. And her final therapy break through on the ski slopes of Vermont seemed way too easy.

Of course, Ms. Genova excels in writing about the scientific nuances of this disorder – her background as a PhD in neuroscience lends to a complete and total embrace of what happens to a person with left neglect – I just wish the story had measured up to her expertise.

So, I was terribly disappointed by this book. Which is why I am reluctant to read an author I REALLY like more than once – I hate when I compare their works against each other.

For other reviewers who liked it more than I did – please check out:

Julie at Knitting and Sundries
For more from the author about the condition of Left Neglect, please view the attached video:

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review -- Bud, Not Buddy

My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book source:  Public library

Reason I read it:  Black history month -- mother/daughter book club 2nd runner up!

Awards:  Newbery Medal Winner 2000

Bud, Not Buddy has a collection of clues: A handful of flyers and a bag full of rocks, that his mother left him. Without any knowledge of why these items are import, Bud, Not Buddy, is determined to discover their meaning – and his intuition tells him they will lead him to his father!

Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal winner 2000), from author, Christopher Paul Curtis, is the emotional story of Bud (named so after a flower – and informed by his mother that he should never let anyone call him Buddy!), who after his mother’s death, is put in an orphanage and subsequent foster care. After being locked in a barn by his foster parents, Bud escapes to begin his quest for his father. What he finds will surprise him, but it’s the family he is searching for, nonetheless.

I adored this story. Bud is a kid you want to wrap your arms around and bundle him up to care for at home. His search to find his father is full of accounts that no child should endure, but somehow, he finds a way. Your heart aches at the trials and difficulties he faces, but it is a testament that it truly takes a village.

This was the losing selection for our February mother/daughter book club – I’m so glad I decided to read it anyway. Understandably an award winner!

For more from the author -- please check out the related video: