Monday, May 28, 2012

A Book Week in Review…

My Dad with my then newborn son, Max
My Dad had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery last week.  He is 80 years old.  No time is a good time to have a heart attack…but at 80, it’s even tougher.

So, I dropped everything and drove 4 hours to my home in Oklahoma to be with my family at the hospital.  (Update: Doctors are thrilled at his recovery…but because of his age, it will be a long process).
Needless to say, I dropped all my book related issues:   I was in the middle of reading a book, had a review to post on our May book club book, and a myriad of other book related balls up in the air when I had to grab the batmobile to speed out of town.

Here are my expedited thoughts on my unfinished book week:
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
My enjoyment rating:  Did Not Finish
Genre:  General fiction
Source: Library copy
Objectionable material:  None (to the point where I stopped reading at least).
This was the first collateral damage of my sudden departure.
Grace Winter was on day 5 or 6 in a lifeboat, along with 40 or so other survivors, after the ship in which she was sailing, sank. 
The first 20 pages or so were rather enthralling.  I was eager to find out their fate.  But the longer they were on the boat, the less I cared.  So when I forgot to put it in my bag, and then it was due to be returned to the library, I had very little remorse that I hadn’t finished.  I haven’t thought another thing about Grace and her shipmates since.   
If someone has read this and thinks it’s worthy to check back out again, let me know.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
My enjoyment rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Genre:  Southern fiction
Source: Personal copy
Objectionable material:  the odd cuss word; veiled rape scene.
May Book Club Choice

Swan Lake (yes…that is her name) and her family have descended on her grandparents’ farm for the summer.  After a suicide, her father losing his job and a threatening, abusive neighbor shake up their idyllic summer plans, Swan and her family must learn to depend on one another and God through faith. 
This was a typical southern novel – juvenile characters facing the battle of good vs. evil with added family angst.  The writing was lovely, but the storyline meandered a bit.  Lots of characters, but not all necessary or well developed.  However, the book club ladies liked it, and our discussion made me like it better than I first thought (which is often the case).  I would be willing to give this author another chance, should she choose to write another book. 

June book club choice:  Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth

Don’t Sing at the Table by Adriana Trigiani
My enjoyment rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Family memoir/self help
Source: Nook
Objectionable Material: None

Popular author, Adriana Trigiani, has written a poetic memoir about her Italian immigrant grandmothers, Lucia (Lucy) and Viola: their families, their growing up years, their professions, their talents, their heartbreaks, and their joys.  Loved reading about these two very unique and special individuals.  But the book turned “self help” through some of the chapters, and that wasn’t nearly as successful (and almost awkward) as reading about Lucy’s and Viola’s lives.  

Made me reminisce about my own very special grandmothers. 

However, I’m so glad I read this first before starting The Shoemaker’s Wife – I think it really sets the stage for Ms. Trigiani’s newest novel.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I am in Tulsa with my Dad who is now recovering from triple bypass heart surgery.    Will be on a bit of a reading hiatus until I return home.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May Mother Daughter Book Club’s Big Surprise!

For May – we read, Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine.  I read this book in March and adored it (5 stars!!!).  You can read my review here.

For our last book club meeting of the year – we wanted to do something special for the girls, so prior to our meeting I emailed Ms. Levine to ask if she would be willing to “skype” into our meeting and be a part of our discussion – and guess what – she agreed!
Last night, for about 30 minutes, the girls were able to visit, discuss, ask questions and just be silly with Ms. Levine.  Ms. Levine was a dream – she delighted the girls with stories about the genesis of the book, about her mother, her visits to Little Rock – and ultimately, what kind of “drink” she would be (a theme she uses throughout the book – she answered, “something fizzy that would eventually go flat!”  And the ultimate compliment was that she interrupted her own children’s bedtime routine to talk to us!  That is a huge sacrifice!  Oh -- and both moms and daughters LOVED the book too!!!  One said, "this was the all time favorite of all the books we've read." High praise.
Our book club now ventures into uncharted waters:  all of our girls are off to middle school next year – some of them will be separated for the first time since Pre-K.  We are determined to keep this going, but it was with a sense of bittersweet that as I looked at this group, that there is a possibility that that was our last meeting.  With schedules, homework, an after school activities – it’s going to be that much more difficult to keep our “band of daughters” together.  But we are committed to the task. 
Wish us luck.
Over the summer, we normally don’t meet, but have committed to read The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  Mr. Stewart is a resident of Little Rock – we are already working angles to see if he will meet with our group in person!!  Got any connections?!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review -- Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray
My "appreciation" rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source:  Nook
Genre:  YA fiction
Potential objectionable material:  graphic descriptions of death and deplorable living conditions

For the record, “mommy porn” got nothing on Joseph Stalin...

Fourteen year old Lina and her family have been forcibly removed from their home in Lithuania and shipped via train to Siberia to work in a prison camp at the onset of WWII. Their father, having been removed by the NKVD (the Soviet secret police), is missing as well and Lina is determined to find him through her “secret messages.”

In harrowing detail author, Ruta Sepetys, brings to life the forgotten story of Stalin’s obliteration of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania) during WWII. This was an illuminating account of what happened to nearly 20 million Russians, primarily doctors, authors, professors and other intellectual and political dissidents, who were shipped to Siberia under Stalin’s fascist regime.

It’s hard to say whether I “enjoyed” this novel. It was so brutal at times I nearly stopped reading. But Ms. Sepetys does such an amazing job recreating the misery and bleakness of what Lina’s family endured (and the hundreds of thousands of those that these characters represent) that I felt I owed her the respect of finishing her novel.

Personally, most WWII historical fiction that I have read focuses on Germany or the Holocaust during WWII. I was extremely appreciative that I could learn about another “front” of the WWII story.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review -- Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Book source:  Public library
Genre:  Classic fiction
Objectionble material:  None...that I can remember
Read it for Ladies of Literature book club

Dear Ms. Hurston:
I must admit – I was a reluctant at first. I got bogged down with the afro-centric dialog. I was reading pages over and over again, just to understand. But suddenly, like reading Shakespeare or Jane Austen, it all started to make sense – beautiful, beautiful sense. It wasn’t always easy – but it was worth it.  

You have written a coming of age story like no other: Janie Woods -- granddaughter of a former slave, no memory of either her mother or father, who sets her sights on a life of love and adventure.

But her grandmother marries her off, against her will, to a man twice her age. Unhappy, she leaves him for Jody Starks, the man she thinks will make her dreams come true. But he belittles her and forces her to work in his store, while he reaps all the glory and money. 

Finally, you provide Janie with Tea Cake – a man full of adventure and ideas. In spite of the murmurings of the town folk – Janie leaves with Tea Cake to work the “muck” – the growing fields of the everglades -- where they befriend characters like, Motor Boat, Stew Beef, Coodemay, Bootyny – and a whole host of others who laugh and gamble and dance the days away.

But you still don’t make things easy for Janie – you take her to the depths of degradation as an abused wife, to surviving the devastation of a hurricane. Then you put her in a position know woman should have to face – choosing one’s own life over that of your spouse.

Finally Ms. Hurston – you give us Janie – a woman who survived it all – who lived to tell about it. And did so with love, honor, and without regret.

Thank you for the privilege of marveling over your brilliant words.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gerbera Daisy Diaries Under Construction!

I have a new look!!! Still needs some tweaks -- but I needed something much more peaceful and organic.  Hopefully I've achieved my goal. Thanks to Brooke at Leelou Blogs for waving her magic wand. 

What do you think?