Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

by Ayana Mathis. 3 stars

Ayana Mathis is a gifted writer but I really did not enjoy this book as much as I expected to from the glowing reviews. I was really hoping to connect more with the characters, especially Hattie. My parents were from Philadelphia as well and stuggled through the Depression also. We had a huge family and very little money but my mother always gave us love and affection, which didn't cost a thing. I think Hattie's tragic losses during this time pretty much altered and mostly ruined her other children's lives and this was so frustrating and sad to me. She raised all of them like an automaton, never giving them the love and tenderness they needed, I guess she couldn't give of herself again after that kind of pain. Life is about choices we make too and she picked a drinking, philandering, gambling man for a husband and we see this same trait in just about all of her sons. The women all seemed to be filled with serious emotional mental health issues, some totally debilitating. Hopefully Hattie saves one from the next generation at the end but the rest was just so very depressing to me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee

This combines two of my favorite topics- American history and food. In 1784 Thomas Jefferson makes a deal with his slave, James Hemings. James will travel with him to France and be trained in the fine art of French cooking, and will then bring this knowledge back home to train the slaves at Monticello. After this service is completed, James is to be granted his freedom. Much of the story involves the events that are going on in France at the time, the revolution against the monarchy of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I found it fascinating to see what people were eating in those days both in France and America, necessity and availabilty played a factor in the daily diet. Jefferson was always on the lookout to bring new ideas back home to his beloved country to make it the best place it could possibly be. He kept amazingly detailed records of every little plan and item puchased in regards to his estate and the care of his slaves, and was always experimenting with new ways to improve life for himself and those around him. The history of food is a fascinating story all in itself. So much of what is now Southern and American food is a fusion of so many different cultures, not just of French influence. Many of the foods and dishes were African in origin, what the slaves were used to in their native homes- Ngombo (gumbo), okra, black-eyed peas, hoppin' john, and so many more. Some of the French ideas brought back were macaroni and cheese, creme brulee, French fries, Champagne, and sauces. My biggest disappointment in this story is the lack of information about James Hemings. I would have loved to have had some perspective from his point of view, what his life was like both in France and then when he returned to America, and then when he finally became a free man. It is so sad that his experiences and feelings are lost to us.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Discovery of Witches

By Deborah Harkness. 4 stars.

If you liked the Twilight series, you may enjoy this much more sophisticated version. Scholar Diana Bishop comes across an ancient manuscript in Oxford's Bodleian library that draws the attention of the supernatural characters of witches, daemons, and vampires. I love the little tidbits of historical events and figures that are woven through the story and am quite looking forward to the next installment where the two lovers, Diana and Matthew, step back into the past. They must try to make sense of the Discovery of Witches texts and what this means for the survival of the three races. Will they able to solve the riddle in time as they battle the forces that are out to stop them? Can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

5 stars

I loved this book and really hope that they make it into a movie. This is a wonderful story of survival and a strong and enduring bond of love that develops between these two beautifully drawn characters.

TJ is a sixteen year old cancer survivor who is on his way with his tutor for the summer, thirty year old Anna Emerson, to meet his family in the Maldive islands. The charter plane they are on crashes in the Indian Ocean and the pilot is killed. They wash ashore on a deserted island and must find a way to survive until help arrives. Only it doesn't...

I don't want to give too much away, I'll just say this was a riveting read that taps every emotion.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

12-21 by Dustin Thomason

An ancient Mayan codex is found that will unearth and perhaps unleash the beginning of the end of the world that will occur on December 21, 2012 as a team of doctors and specialists race to prevent the spread of a new epidemic and find a cure before it is too late. If you liked Michael Crichton's novels, you will really enjoy this. Dr. Chel Manu is an expert in Mayan culture and language and works with artifacts and antiquities at the Getty Museum. Dr. Gabe Stanton works on neuroscience and specializes in prion disease research. The two work together to use their unique talents to make sense of the symbolism and clues found in the manuscript for a cure as to what may have happened to the lost civilization of the once mighty Mayan culture, and what may become of ours. Rated 4 (of 5) stars!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I don't get a lot of roses from this bush but when I do they are spectacular. I didn't record the name of this variety but the colors are so pretty- a blend of white, cream, pale yellow, peach, and pink.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

This was a totally unexpected version of what could have been up with the three Wise Men from the Bible, (these were more like wise guys). We know nothing about the real trio from the Bible itself but somewhere along the way someone attributed the names Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar to this band of visitors. Seth Grahame-Smith takes us on a wild adventure as they try to spirit the Holy Family away from legions of Roman soldiers and the crazed order by King Herod to kill all of the firstborn of Judea. What a wild ride this was. Totally gruesome in many ways and difficult to hear, but it certainly was a very violent culture with persecution and executions being the order of the day. The author captured a feel of this time very well, especially with his portrayal of the sheer madness of Herod. The end of the book was wonderful, I love how everything was all tied together. I was really worried about the book being too disrespectful of Christian belief, but it was really in the end about how the love for others can transform even the most hardened heart and that there is a God above who will show us the way if we open our eyes and hearts. 3 stars

Titanic by Deborah Hopkinson

The story that we all know, told from the perspective of the survivors. Loaded with photographs and detailed information, this is a well written account of this event in history. Recommended for all ages. 4 stars

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

An incredibly sweet young adult novel good for any age! Beautiful. 5 stars.

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

Easily one of the best books I've read this year. This is the story of Aminata Diallo who was stolen from her village in Africa in the mid 1700's when she was 11 years old. Her grueling journey in the slave ship and the conditions there are tragic and so graphically recounted. How anyone survived even this part was mind boggling. On board the ship she recounted the names of the slaves there so they would feel that they had meaning in this world and that by speaking their names they would not be forgotten. Later in life she keeps The Book Of Negroes, a census of the black population that want to create new lives for themselves in Nova Scotia. Aminata's story is a tribute to the pureness of her heart and spirit, so movingly told by Lawrence Hill. She is sold into slavery in South Carolina, her family is torn from her, yet she somehow endures. She learns to read, write, and she is a much needed midwife, a skill she learns as a child from her mother in Africa. We follow her to New York, to Canada, back to her African home, and finally to England where she becomes the face of the Abolitionist movement.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe

The title of this novel is somewhat misleading, it is really just a run of the mill Brooklyn deli and the author has a Korean wife and in-laws. I was expecting more of true glimpse into the Korean culture but didn't really see so much of that, it was more of an aside to the story. The memoir is almost equal parts about the purchase and running of the family deli and the author's work as an elite journalist at the Paris Review. I had absolutely no desire to hear about Mr. Howe working for George Plimpton in Manhattan. The author then goes down among the unwashed masses to help run the deli which mostly sounded like such pretentious snobbery to me. Like it was a science experiment or something. Very disappointing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Next To Love by Ellen Feldman

3 stars. "War... next to love, has most captured the imagination." - Eric Partridge

Next To Love follows the lives of three women from a small town in Massachucetts from 1941 to 1964. Most of the novel takes place during the war years and what happens to them and their spouses who are all soldiers fighting in Europe. The only character I felt was more developed was Babe, the other two I didn't get much from although I was hoping to. The whole story just fell kind of flat for me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Wow. I listened to the audio version of this book, so beautifully narrated by Anne Noelani Miyamoto. Her character's voices and the pronunciations of the Hawaiian names and language really brought this story to life for me. I fell in love with sweet Rachel, Katherine, Kenji, Papa, Uncle Pono, Halleola, and Ruth. Spanning the years from 1896 to 1970, this is the story of Rachel Kalama, diagnosed with leprosy and sent to live on Moloka'i in the Kalaupapa settlement. Very difficult to hear is the ravaging effect of this brutal disease and the way the inflicted were treated by the outside "clean" world. I had heard of the colony long ago but did not know much about it. This novel helped me to better understand the people who made a life for themselves there and feel more compassion by seeing it from their perspective.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Calico Joe by John Grisham

I am not a baseball afficionado by any stretch of the imagination but I did thoroughly enjoy this book. It is told by Paul Tracey whose father was a pitcher for the Mets back in 1973. Along comes the fictional Calico Joe who is a rookie with the Chicago Cubs and breaks onto the baseball scene in a big way. He breaks records every time he steps up to bat and wins the admiration of baseball fans everywhere, regardless of who their home team is. Warren Tracey, Paul's dad, is a bitter kind of bully whose career is going nowhere. The story is about the sad relationship between this man and his family, the world of baseball, this amazing phenom from Calico Rock, Arkansas, named Joe Castle, and a boy who is caught between his admiration for this incredibly gifted man and loyalty to a father who is less than worthy of it. One fateful day at the ballpark changes the lives of everyone and the world of baseball will never be the same.

4 stars and highly recommended. A story of redemption and forgiveness that is suitable for everyone.

The Expats by Chris Pavone

2 stars. This book took forever to really get started, at least the first 10 chapters were of basically nothing. I'm not entirely sure why I stuck it out with this one, it was a bit of a torture.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I had such a difficult time getting to sleep last night after finishing this book. There were elements of it that were very beautiful, but mostly it was tragic and quite heartbreaking at the end.

The story takes place in the Hunan province of China in the early nineteenth century and goes into a lot of fascinating background about what it was like to be a girl and a woman in that culture. Snow Flower and Lily are joined by a Diviner and a Matchmaker to be "old sames" for life, also called laotong. This is an even more intimate type of relationship for these girls than a marriage as they share all of their feelings, hopes, and dreams together over their lifetimes through the secret writings of women called "nu shu". They send their messages to each other via the fan while they are apart.

I was unaware of the total horror of the practice of footbinding that killed one in ten and crippled countless more for life. I thought they just kind of wrapped the foot in bindings so it didn't become wide, flat, and too large. I didn't know it involved the breaking of bones and total re-forming. Stomach churning stuff.

Life takes very different paths for these women and one is not at all what it should have been, so incredibly sad. I don't want to give too much away in the review but I would highly recommend that you read this book. Aside from what was mostly a difficult and desperate way to live, they had some touching and lovely customs and a strong devotion to family and honor. 5 star rating.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

This is the story of Anna and Trudie, a mother and her daughter living in Weimar during World War II. The story bounces back and forth from 1997 to the 40's and is told from both women's perspectives. Trudie is now a German studies professor in Minnesota and her project is to interview mostly German women and some of the Jewish survivors to find out exactly what life was like for them and what choices they made when war was going on all around them. It's an interesting and different point of view from most Holocaust novels. It is natural to wonder just what you would have done if you were in those exact circumstances. Who is to know for sure? I always believed that I would be a part of the Resistance but maybe if my life and family were brutally threatened, I may have kept my head down and pretended not to notice anything so nobody noticed me. It's so hard to say sitting in our comfy home and not knowing the horror and constant fear that was the Nazi regime. Anna herself would be the ideal interview if Trudie could just get her to open up and speak of things she has spent her whole adult life distancing herself from. (Anna was the mistress of an SS officer). Jenna Blum, the author, works with the Steven Spielberg Holocaust Remembrance project and has conducted numerous interviews similar to those depicted in the book, which I thought helped to bring these stories to life so well. I would give this a rating of four stars. The one thing that really bothered me was the complete lack of quotation marks from all of the dialog. I don't think I have ever read a book that had this peculiar style going on. It was distracting trying to figure out who was speaking or if it was just a thought.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Boy in the Suitcase

by Lene Kaaberbol, narrated byKatherine Kellgren 2 stars After reading so many highly rated positive reviews I gave this book a chance and really didn't care for it at all. I know I am in the minority here but I found very little that was appealing about this novel. I listened to the audio version and it was my least favorite narration ever. The narrator sounded like a very angry Judy Densch and I had to keep turning down the volume because I felt like I was being yelled at. An unpleasant experience.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

A beautiful story and inspirational story about two Italian immigrants and their life in Italy and America in the early 1900's. The tale starts in Italy and the imagery from this fabulous author makes you feel like you are really there, in the mountain villages among these good people. Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravenelli are destined to be together. I love the thread of love of family and making a better life for those that you love that runs through this book. I didn't want this tale to end, I felt like I was an extended part of the family. I could almost smell the tomatoes and garlic simmering on the stove while everyone was gathered around the table. I loved the part describing New York City in the early 19th century. We have been to Ellis Island recently and I could see everything so clearly in my mind when Ciro first arrived. I just can't get over how much Adriana Trigiani depicted everything so perfectly, truly a gifted writer.

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

I listened to the audio book of this wonderful story, so beautifully narrated by Valerie Leonard. Sarah Prine's diary covers her life journey in the Arizona Territories from 1881 to 1901. I totally fell in love with her and Captain Jack Eliot and their sweet and sometimes sassy love story. What a perfect pair they made for each other. It is incredible to me what it took for these men and women to carve out a life and livelihood in this harsh era and wilderness. Sarah was a tribute to the fierce fighting spirit of the pioneer women who would stop at nothing to make a safe and happy life and home for those that they loved. Her character was so inspirational to me, she made me laugh out loud and cry as well. Loved this book! 5 stars.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Strawberry Yogurt Lemon Cake

I had quite a surplus of strawberries from Costco and stumbled across this yummy recipe via Pinterest. You can find it here at A Spicy Perspective. I really liked it but would change the glaze to a lighter cream cheese drizzle and add a little bit of lemon zest instead of the overwhelming lemon juice glaze in the original recipe. It was way too tangy for me, maybe I overdid it with the juice. Pucker power, baby!

A Thousand Splended Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This remarkable story spans three decades in Afghanistan, from the Soviet invasion to more recent post- Taliban days. We get a much closer look and idea of what it is really like to be a woman in this war ravaged country through Mariam and Laila. They form an unbreakable alliance after years of being married to the same brutal man, Rasheed. It is heartrending to see what happened to the women there, with no power to defend or represent themselves for justice and the most basic humanitarian treatment. Often in our own busy lives, we don't give too much thought beyond the quick news blurb or more statistics coming from Afghanistan. This beautiful, yet incredibly sad book shows the hopes, dreams and spirits of these two remarkable women. Their dignity and bravery in the face of such malice and degradation is an inspiration. They care about what women everywhere do- love, protecting their children, and having a purpose and happiness in their lives. 5 stars

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

What a delightful tale that I never get tired of. This was the audio version narrated by Rob Reiner, he did a really fabulous job. Loved it! This is a family movie that is one of our top five favorites of all time. (Billy's shirt with one of our favorite lines from the movie)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Laundry Room Makeover

This project was long overdue. The laundry room became the dumping ground for all objects that needed a temporary home. It got to the point where there was just a path to the freezer and the washer and dryer. Sad. I chose a pretty blue called Blue Cosmos which is actually prettier and more vivid than it shows in the pictures. I chose a brighter white for the cabinets and it was really the perfect finishing touch. The cabinets were all re-organized also and everything put away neatly. The finished look really is so cheery and it makes doing the laundry much more pleasant.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Review and rating of 4 stars.
I began this story on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, it just so happened to show up from my holds list at the library.
Tess Collins is a maid in Cherbourg who wants a better life for herself and flees to the docking area of the new luxury ship Titanic hoping to find employment and passage there. She meets up with the true life character of Lady Duff Gordon, the famous fashion designer. Hired on as her assistant, they make their way to New York and of course we all know what happens on the way.
This story deals mostly with the trials after, how the survivors cope with the loss and their actions, the media circus, and lack of acknowledgement of responsibility and cover up from the White Star line. Tess is torn between two love interests and she eventually has to make the decision to stand up for herself and the truth, to follow her heart, and whether or not to abandon her dream of becoming a successful dressmaker under Gordon's tutelage.
An interesting blend of fact and fiction that prompted me to look up some of the characters in the story and to learn more about the aftermath of this tragedy that so could have been prevented. I also learned that Lady Duff Gordon was supposed to sail on the Lusitania and had to cancel due to illness.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The best granola in the world

This is Alton Brown's recipe for granola. I think it is the best I have ever had and so easy to make. Why would you ever buy it again after finding out about this incredible treat? Recipe courtesy of the Food Network: Ingredients 3 cups rolled oats 1 cup slivered almonds 1 cup cashews 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1/4 cup vegetable oil 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup raisins Directions Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

God Save The Sweet Potato Queens by Jill Conner Browne

This was just okay for me, mildly amusing in places but never outright hysterically funny. I listened to the audio version while out on my walks and enjoyed the author's reading of it. I can't get enough of Southern stories and charm so maybe this is why I was initially drawn to this. I wish that I had known years ago that basically all you need to do well in life is a title, a tiara, and a sassy attitude. Would have saved a lot of time :)
Not a complete waste but I won't be pursuing any more of the Queen's adventures.(3 stars out of 5 and I'm being charitable).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

I swear that this is my last Stephanie Plum novel. I mean it this time. No different than the ten installments before this one, I feel that the author is just coasting at this point. The one thing that saved it for me was that I got it from the library and didn't plunk any of my own money down on it.
Stephanie and Lula in another madcap misadventure as the most inept bounty hunters on the planet, dining on Cluck in a Bucket chicken and doughnuts. How hilarious! Let's not leave out Lula's outrageous fashion sense, skinny clothes on a plus sized body, and her prized Via Spigas. Rex living in his soup can must be the longest lived hamster in rodentdom considering his spotty diet. Morelli and Ranger are the same old story, I used to care but don't anymore. Did you know that Ranger favors the color black and basically gives hot, steamy glances while uttering his one word of "Babe"? Grandma Mazur is still up to the same old schtick. Stephanie's mom is just waiting for the respectable hour of 5 or something so she can begin to drink, while Dad waits for his lovely Italian dinner to be laid out, rolling his eyes and muttering behind the newspaper. And of course you can add the random wacky and very unlikely villains to bring the whole story together. I just can't go through this again. Ever.
1 star rating.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Maid by Kimberly Cutter

The tale of the remarkable patron Saint of France, Joan of Arc. A well written biography of Joan's incredible, yet short life and her rise from plain peasant girl to the holy leader of the French army. Their bloody, uphill battle was to reclaim their country from the Goddons, Burgundians, and English and to restore King Charles to his rightful place on the throne. (Fat lot of thanks she gets from him for her victorious efforts). Over the centuries there have been debates on whether she was indeed sent by God to save France and whether her visitations from Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret were real or the ravings of an unbalanced and delusional girl. I have always believed Joan's claims to be true, she was declared a Saint in 1920 by the Catholic Church. She was also the patron saint of my mother, Joan, and I was named after my mom. So Jehanne d'Arc has always held a special fascination for me for this reason as well.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Edited to add: There was one incident in the story that bothered me and I just couldn't forget about it. I wasn't exactly sure at the time what I was reading, it was so evil and horrific I thought it couldn't possibly mean that. After a battle Joan wanders off by herself, which in and of itself seemed highly unlikely since they never left the Maid unprotected without a guard. She hears something odd and wanders to a barn where Baron Gilles de Rais is there with a dismembered child. She leaves without saying anything to anyone? I thought maybe the child was killed in the battle, but sadly this was not the case. After doing some further research, I learned that de Rais was a monstrous child murderer thought to be responsible for over 100 children's death and was eventually hanged. It is just hard to get past this addition to the novel and impossible to believe that Joan witnessed this atrocity and did nothing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic Remembrance

Today marked the 100th anniversary of the tragedy that was the sinking of the Titanic. I wonder what it is exactly that keeps us so fascinated with this event in history. I think for me it is the stories of all of the people who were on the ship, so many with hopes and dreams of a new start in America. The known tales of chivalry and bravery from eyewitness accounts, tales of not so honorable behavior, and the countless tales of love and bravery that we will never, ever know about from those who perished. I think we are all still a bit stunned that the ship really was so fallible and not the perfect, unsinkable feat of engineering that it was touted to be. So many fascinating components to this story aside from the human element captivate us as well. The maritime history, the mix of such different people of such wildly different backgrounds and means, the technology that we have now to get that far down on the ocean floor and see it all again. So many things about this, all still so fascinating.
I know that these people are all at peace now and that their lives and memories will probably always be with us in some way.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day at the Mall

Billy and I had a great afternoon together on Friday. We went to lunch at Zeek's Pizza and then to Bellevue Square to visit all of our favorite places. Billy built a Star Wars jet at the Lego store. Haven't really been in there in a long while, it used to be his favorite place a few years back. Now I think it is Kenneally Keys with the music books and electric pianos, followed closely by Game Stop.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt- 4 (of 5) stars.
There is no doubt that this book had a lot of violence in it, it reminded me a lot of a Coen brothers movie. This is the tale of Eli (the narrator of the story) and his brother Charlie Sisters who are a couple of hired guns out in the Old West on the trail of a prospector in California during the Gold Rush. I never thought I would be this drawn in to a western but it was really more of a story about the relationship between the brothers and the various characters that they meet up with and how circumstances change them. A very fast and enjoyable read if you can make it past the cavalier violent acts and some really gross surgical procedure scenes. I really liked Eli and was rooting for him to take a different trail in life, not the one he fell into step with mostly out of love and admiration for his older brother.
Really awesome artwork on the book cover. One of the best I've seen this year.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Bunny

We went to Crossroads Mall for lunch and there were lots of Easter festivities for the kids there. We passed by this happy bunny on our way into QFC, he was really into it! I love to watch the little ones having such a good time. Some of the adults are a hoot too.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games movie

We went to see The Hunger Games last night. I liked it quite a bit but there were a few things that did not live up to my expectations. I thought Peeta's character in the movie was not particularly well portrayed. You really fell in love with his gentle sweet nature in the novel and I just did not pick up on this so much in the film. It was a great help to have read the book, so many details were left out. I know, the book is always better...
Jim was appalled at the subject matter of children pitted against children to the death and this was a very difficult part of the story for me as well. An allegory for real life where our children are sent off to war and we watch the devastation unfold in our 24-7 age of media coverage, perhaps.
I would give 4 of 5 stars and recommend it, but not for younger children under 13.

Friday, March 23, 2012

22 Britannia Road

Author: Amanda Hodgkinson
4 (of 5) stars

This is the story of a Polish couple and their son from Warsaw and what happens to them both during and after World War II. Silvana is forced to flee and survive in grueling conditions, unimaginable to most of us today. They spend a lot of the wartime dwelling in the forest, living like animals. The odds of coming through this ordeal alive are staggering. Starvation, freezing, German soldiers, disease and illness are everyday battles for this mother trying to protect her child.
Janusz goes off to fight for Poland and gets separated from his unit, and eventually ends up with the British army. He tries to build a new life on 22 Britannia Road for his wife and son when the war is over. So much has happened between the couple in the past years that this may be one battle too difficult for them to overcome.
I really loved the story and had such a soft spot in my heart for Janusz, he tries so hard to make things right and normal for his family. You can't help but root for him to bring it all together somehow and start the post-war healing process.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Springtime Snoopy Tree

I started decorating the house for spring and Easter this week. This tabletop tree features Hallmark Peanuts ornaments since I've always had a soft spot for Snoopy :) More decorations to come this weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs
2 stars. The following contains some spoilers.
Grandfather Abe lived on a remote Welsh island in 1940 in a very strange orphanage where all of the children had special abilities. The orphanage is bombed and destroyed in a German air raid. Jacob returns to this place from present day to unlock the secrets of his grandfather's odd, secretive past and his gruesome death with the stories Abe has told him and the old, eerie photgraphs he has seen. He steps into a "time loop" where these people all live on in their strange little world.
I think that this story had the potential to be something great, the premise was an interesting one and time travel is always fascinating fuel for the imagination. It just sort of fizzled somewhere along the line. The book was peppered with vintage "peculiar" and just downright creepy photographs, many obviously doctored. These characters that were just randomly thrown in there didn't have much point, the photo just happened to fit in the weird category so it was added to the story.
The book came to an abrupt end just as it was starting to pick up some steam. They literally sailed off into the sunset. Must be setting up for a continuation which I definitely would not read.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

5 (out of 5) stars. Highly recommended, young adult fiction.
This was a powerful and deeply moving story about a kid growing up in a town near New York City in 1968. There were so many other characters that we got to know and love in the process. Some that we may have thought were just lost causes who win us over when we get to know them and walk a mile in their shoes. I laughed, I cried, and mostly I think I learned to be a bit more kind hearted and forgiving of others. Nobody is completely what they seem on the surface, and if we can take the time to listen and learn, the world would be a much better place.

Shamrocks and Bells Of Ireland

I couldn't resist picking up the pretty shamrock plant (oxalis) and Bells of Ireland that they had at Trader Joe's today. I mixed in some white daisies and the Bells have little white flowers fixing to come out. The pretty little Donegal porcelain vase with the Claddagh was a gift from my sister when she visited Ireland.

Bella's Beauty Day

Bella went for her pampering at Petco. Hair, nails, the works! I loved the welcome sign they had out for all of their canine customers :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Please Look After Mom was a heartbreaking read that tells the story of a Korean woman who is left behind at the Seoul subway station and goes missing completely. Her husband and children search the city for her but mostly it is their hearts and memories of Mom that are searched and related here in this story. Did any of them truly know Mom, what her hopes and dreams were? How could they have lost her so long ago and not even have seen it? This novel brought up so many thoughts and feelings that cross any cultural divide and speaks to all of us about what is most important in life and how we need to see past the business or busy-ness of our everyday lives and connect more deeply with our closest, most important people. If I could have just one more day to spend with my own Mom every second of it would be precious.
People are people no matter what country or culture you were raised in. All of us have dreams and the basic need for love and connection. It makes me so sad to think of all of the countless souls out there in the world that feel that they are pretty much alone, without a feeling of purpose or appreciation.
This was a wonderful story about family and love that will stay with me for a long time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

If you could go back in time and change an event, which one would it be and why? How would that alter the course of history? This is the premise behind King's latest novel of that fateful day in American history when JFK was assassinated. The main character travels back to 1958 and spends some time there in preparation for foiling the attack by tracking down and killing Oswald. King has a story telling gift like no other, drawing you back in time and making you feel nostalgic for those simpler times. I really loved the book although I think it could have been a lot shorter and still been effective. 840 pages is a pretty hefty read.
When all is said and done, the past just does not want to be changed.
It's a Wonderful Life just like it is!