Friday, October 30, 2009


What do the following words have in common?


Give up?

How about if I add these words:


As you have probably guessed, these words comprise Noodlebug's current vocabulary.  He seems to be experiencing a word explosion right now and every day brings a new one.  It is an exciting time.  Although I have to admit, I find his baby babble very endearing.  20-25 word vocabulary at 17 months. Not bad.  Must be all those books I force him to read  read with him every day.

Now, if we can just get him to say "trick or treat."  Mama needs some chocolate.

Happy Halloween!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I received an advance copy of this book from Random House. (Thank you!!!)

Reading this book directly after Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL just about gave me whiplash.  Whereas
Brown seems to think that readers have the attention spans of gnats, Irving takes his time with his story whether his readers get impatient or not. 

LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER begins with a father and son working in the cookhouse of a logging camp in northern New Hampshire.  One fateful night, a tragic accident occurs that forces the father and his ten-year-old son to flee Twisted River and its vengeful constable.  The story spans fifty years and follows the father and son as they try to move beyond the past and make peace with the present. They always seem only one step ahead of the constable who is determined to kill them both.

It is difficult to describe this book with any accuracy.  It is much more than a tale of revenge and flight.  It is a story of relationships, survival and loss.  Irving is a truly gifted writer.  He takes his time with the story making sure the reader has a feel for the landscape as well as the characters within the book.  At the book's end, the reader knows the characters so well that it feels as if you have lived a lifetime with them.

This book makes a great read for fall/winter as most of it takes place in cold wintry climes.  I felt as if I had to wrap up in a blanket when I read it because Irving was so successful in conveying the cold and chill of the various locales. The story moves back and forth through time in a way that could sometimes be confusing but was ultimately effective. You often discover what happens to characters before you discover HOW it happened. 

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A beautifully written and moving book that provides just enough of a challenge to make one feel as if you have accomplished something. Irving has redeemed himself in my eyes after his last disastrous novel. (UNTIL I FIND YOU)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend Update


It was a difficult weekend.  My family stood in line for three hours to get the H1N1 shot on Saturday. We are all vaccinated now but it was a long and difficult morning. There is a lot of stress and strife in my family right now that we are trying to work through. I'm desperately fighting off depression and trying to focus on all the good things around me like the beautiful fall weather and the fact that we are entering the holiday season which I always look forward to.

I am still working on Irving's book. I made a special trip to the bookstore with Noodlebug yesterday and bought AS Byatt's THE CHILDREN'S BOOK.  This morning, I heard from GoodReads that I won a copy of Michael Chabon's new book which is exciting. 

If I am sporadic in my posting over the next few days, please know that I am reading and will be posting reviews soon. And I'm reading all of your blogs and comments!!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In the Pile

So much to read, so little time!!!!

I am currently working on John Irving's latest work, LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER. Reading this book directly after THE LOST SYMBOL is making my head spin.  They couldn't be more different. Irving is such a gifted writer and readers really have to take time with his books.  The book will be released on the 27th and I hope to finish it by then.

Also in the pile of books I'm looking forward to reading:

CHRONIC CITY by Jonathon Lethem
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo
ANGEL'S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I have owned the Doctorow, Russo and Ruiz Zafon books for awhile but can't seem to get to them.  I am still on the waitlist at the library for the Lethem book but I am almost there! It is my last Fall Into Reading book so I'll have to add to that list.  I also have two nonfiction books that sound really good:



What books are you currently excited about reading?

Friday, October 16, 2009

LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon returns for another cryptic adventure in Dan Brown's latest novel, THE LOST SYMBOL.  In this Langdon episode, the Masons and their ties to secret mystical knowledge are the center of the action.  Langdon is called to Washington DC by an old friend only to find a grisly clue left just for him in the Capitol rotunda.  Langdon must race against time to solve an ancient Masonic mystery while a madman holds one of his dearest friends hostage.

Dan Brown has discovered a successful formula for his thrillers and fans will recognize it in this newest work.  It is as if Brown simply takes the structure from his previous two books and inputs new information.

1) Langdon discovers cryptic and/or grisly clue in a famous place
2) Langdon must race against time to solve puzzles that involve famous people/places/items
3) Langdon enlists the help of a beautiful brainy woman
4) Langdon solves all the mysteries but withholds his discoveries from the rest of the world
5) the bad guy(s) are insane fanatics that are part of ancient cults/religious groups

There is really nothing new to add to this list in THE LOST SYMBOL.  Dan Brown writes all of his books as if they are screenplays.  He doesn't take the time to truly develop any of his characters. He is a good storyteller but he is not a very good writer.  His chapters are short and choppy and Brown feels as if he must end every single chapter with a cliffhanger. I almost heard "DA DA DUM!!!" at the end of each chapter. My main beef with Brown is that I feel he condescends to his readers. He feels we do not have the capacity to enjoy stories that SLOWLY unfold or make us work in any way.  His plot twists were so obvious and heavy-handed in this latest tale that there were absolutely no surprises.

I expected Brown to court more controversy with this book but the entire work seems to attempt to recruit readers into the Masons.  Langdon spends the whole story talking up the Masons and how great they are.  This book should also give Noetics a boost.  Brown's historic facts are always fun and readers are sure to flock to the internet to look up much of the information.  Perhaps the book will encourage more people to visit the nation's capitol.

BOTTOM LINE:  This is a tough one.  Was I entertained by this book?  Yes.  Is it a good book?  No.  I would recommend this book as a vacation read.  If you have read Brown's other works, this one will feel VERY familiar to the point of being old hat.  However, it is a quick entertaining read if that is all you are looking for. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vote for Matt Logelin and the Liz Logelin Foundation

Hello Friends.

Many of you know that one of my favorite blogs is written by Matt Logelin. Matt lost his wife 24 hours after his daughter was born. His daughter was born two months before my son.  Matt has struggled with living life without Liz while being a wonderful father to Maddie.  He blogs about his adventures and started the Liz Logelin Foundation to bring financial relief to widows and widowers of small children who are struggling.

Matt's story really moves me because I not only think about what it would be like to miss my child growing up but also what it would be like to raise my child without my husband. I think it is so amazing that Matt has turned his grief into something so powerful and positive.  He and his beautiful girl Maddie are currently in India while Matt writes a book about his life with Liz and his subsequent loss.

Matt is nominated right now in two different contests that could get money for the Liz Logelin Foundation. Read about them here.  All you need to do is click and vote. It's free and could make a real difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I received a copy of this book through Barnes and Noble's First Look program.  I have been really impressed with B&N's picks and this one is my favorite so far.

THE POSTMISTRESS takes place in the early years of WWII in both Massachusetts and London.  In a small town on Cape Cod, Postmaster Iris James runs a tight ship until one day, she decides NOT to deliver a letter.  On the other side of the Atlantic, American Frankie Bard is working for Edward R. Murrow delivering coverage of the war in Europe for American listeners.  One night, in a bomb shelter, Bard meets a young doctor from a small town in Cape Cod.  The stories of the two places become inextricably linked from that point forward.  The story moves back and forth from the United States to Europe and uses the radio as a transition point.  The reader can be in London "listening" to Bard's latest report and be transported to New England to the small Cape Cod town mid-chapter. These transitions are abrupt at first but the radio proves to be a compelling link among all of these storylines. The book brings those early years of the war to life and reminds all of us what a much different war it was for those in England and Europe than for those of us in the United States. Frankie Bard witnesses unbelieveable tragedy and loss that left me weeping many times throughout the story.  Blake weaves a deft tale about the consequences of war on relationships, love and secrets and the choices we have to make in difficult times.

This book reminded me of what a powerful tool radio is. I happen to be an avid NPR listener. There is something so intimate about radio.  There is no intrusion of images and it often feels as if the radio personalities are in the room with you. With radio, new stories can be fleshed out and more in depth than the 15 second snippets you get with television.  In WWII, this was the main source of news for everyone.  It connected the United States with the rest of the world.  Blake reminds us of all of that through her book.

This book will be released in February 2009.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  This is a very moving work that really brings those early WWII years to life. It would be a great companion book to THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY.  However, this book has a greated depth of emotion and power to it somehow. Keep a kleenex nearby!

YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

I read Margaret Atwood's previous novel, ORYX AND CRAKE, many years ago when it first came out. I wish I could remember more of it because many of the characters from that novel appear in her latest work, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD.

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD follows the stories of two women, Ren and Toby, in the aftermath of worldwide plague.  Also known to a certain religious group as The Waterless Flood.  The story moves back and forth through time as the two women remember the events leading up the Waterless Flood. Both women were members of a religous cult-like group known as God's Gardeners.  These individuals were a type of ultra-environmental group that considered it their responsibility to bring gardens back to Earth while storing the DNA and attributes of animals that had gone extinct.  They are an anti-technology, vegetarian, foraging group that utilizes the trash and scraps of the outer world in order to survive.  As Ren and Toby remember their days with the Gardeners and the subsequent events leading up the plague, they try to figure out how to survive and what to do next. The story is interspersed with sermons by the Gardeners' leader, Adam One, that reveal the tenets of their religious views.

Atwood is very skilled in apolcalyptic futurist literature. The chilling nature of her books lies in the fact that the events are entirely plausible. In this book, a corporation security group known as CorpSeCorps has taken over control of the world. Protein is so lacking that people are willing to take it in the form of SecretBurgers, not knowing exactly WHAT type of protein they are consuming. All carbon-based refuse is turned into Garboil to fuel vehicles. This includes human bodies. Animals roam the earth that come not from nature but from laboratories such a liobams (lion/lamb hybrid) and rakunks (raccoon/skunk hybrid).  It is a bleak look at the future but a compelling one.

BOTTOM  LINE: Recommended. Atwood is a gifted writer.  I did not find this book an especially quick read. The characters were not especially compelling. However, you cannot help but get drawn into this glimpse into our possible future and the possible consequences of our current actions.  It is not clear whether Atwood gives the human race a reprieve or not but the ride itself is fascinating.

Catching Up...Again

I am behind!!!  I have two reviews to post on Atwood's YEAR OF THE FLOOD and Sarah Blake's POSTMISTRESS.  I have started reading Dan Brown's LOST SYMBOL and I just received an advanced copy of John Irving's LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER which I am really looking forward to reading. It is pouring down rain right now and it is perfect reading weather but I will be at work today.  Maybe hubby will build us a fire tonight.

I also received an e-mail that I have been selected for the WaterBrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program.  I'm going to try it out and see if it fits my "blogging with integrity" guidelines.  As always, if I am selected to review one of these books, I will explicitly state where I received the book.  If you are interested in joining the program, click here.

I spent a blissful four days at home with my little one. It makes it that much harder to go back to work today.  I will just sit back and work and enjoy the rain on my office window.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Side Effects of Parenthood

As most of you know, I am the mother to a 16-month-old boy.  Over the past 16 months, I have been surprised by how emotional I have become about children in general.  Many years ago, I served on the board of a group of young professionals supporting a local children's hospital.  I was in charge of volunteer opportunities.  We would often host parties, storytimes and crafting events for the children.  One of my fellow directors would always help with supplies and setup but would never stay for the parties. She was a young mother of two and said it was just too hard for her to see the sick children at the hospital. I could not understand this. I loved children and, while it was sometimes difficult to see the more dire cases, I always found it incredibly rewarding to be with them at those parties.  Now, I wish I could go back in time and apologize to that woman.  If I were in the same position now, I would probably have to drop off supplies and decorations and leave as well.

I am reading a really great novel right now about WWII.  I just finished a scene where a young pregnant mother and her toddler son are trying to evacuate Berlin by train. In the scene, the toddler gets separated from his mother on the platform and she can't get to him through the throng of people. As I read this, I felt my throat tighten up and I had trouble breathing.  I imagined that little boy as my son and I got really upset.  This happens a lot now. I hear about a child who is ill or a child who has fallen under some kind of harm and I can't help but think...what if that were my child?  There but by the grace of God...

Granted, I am an emotional person anyway.  But parenthood makes you more vulnerable somehow. While I don't hover over my child or constantly worry about him, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am that my child is safe and healthy.  So, if I get a little emotional over a book now and then, I'm going to give myself a break.
Not long ago, I was reading a book about an Indian raid on a North Texas ranch in the 1800's.  Several small boys were murdered in the first few pages.  I put the book down and never read any further. I'm going to give myself permission to do that from now on.  I'll blame it on hysterical motherhood.

TOUCH OF MAGENTA by Linda Loveland Reid

My book club selected TOUCH OF MAGENTA for our October book.  At our book club meeting next week, the author will be joining us which should prove for interesting discussion.

TOUCH OF MAGENTA tells two different stories of two women in California.  Corri returns home to Sonora in Northern California in 1971 for her mother's funeral. As she sorts through her mother's affairs, she begins to uncover family secrets and realizes she may not even know her own true identity.  In 1895, Pegeen defies social convention and prejudice by running away with her Chinese lover. When tragedy strikes, Pegeen must travel the world in order to protect what she holds most dear. Spanning decades of time and several continents, TOUCH OF MAGENTA reveals how the lives of these two women are connected and the effects of family secrets.

This book reminded me a great deal of of THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN.  This book follows the stories of these two women concurrently and slowly reveals one family's hidden secrets and their consequences. The story itself was great. Even though it becomes clear what the outcome will be, Reid finds the perfect pace in revealing this family's truths.  My only complaint was the unnecessary romantic arc in the 1970's storyline.  It slowed the story down and served no real purpose that I could tell.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. This was an enjoyable book that made me think a lot about families and whether we can ever really know the truth of our pasts.  While the 1970's story could be slow and sometimes dragged a bit, the book was solid overall.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fun with Anagrams

I heard about a website where you can type in your name (or any set of words) and get a list of possible anagrams.  I thought I'd share it with you since so many of you are fellow bibliophile/logophiles. 

My favorite anagram for my name?

Mama Easily

Although being a mama may NOT be the easiest thing I have ever done, it is EASILY the best thing I have ever done! 

Here is the website.


Before I begin this review, I must warn you that I am a fan of Southern lit so I may be a bit biased.

Because I enjoyed the YA-YA SISTERHOOD books, I have been looking forward to the release of Rebeccas Wells' lastest book. THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILY PONDER follows the adventures of Calla Lily Ponder and her town of La Luna in Louisiana. Calla and her hometown have a special connection to the moon. Calla's mother, M'Dear, owns the Crowning Glory Beauty Porch and teaches her daughter all her wisdom concerning the healing qualities of hair grooming and the Lady of the Moon.  As Calla grows up, she faces several painful losses and must find her place in the world and grow into the wisdom that her mother taught her.

I really enjoyed this book. While the YA-YA books dealt with some difficult and painful issues, Wells is much more spiritual and gentle with this book. It is a softer and more sentimental view of a girl growing up.  I found myself underlining many of the bits of wisdom that M'Dear offered.  The story wraps you up in the world of a small town and leaves you yearning for a simpler time.  Calla is such a plucky likeable girl that it is easy to get caught up in her story.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. Though some might find the story a simply retreading of a tale that has been told many times before, I found this book to be charming and comforting. Several passages may bring tears to the eyes of some readers as it did mine. The ending may be a little too tidy for some but this is a nice pleasant vacation read.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Jennifer Weiner excels at creating characters that are relatable for your average woman.  She does not disappoint with her latest book, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.  Although as different as night and day, Addie and Valerie are inseparable friends until high school when Valerie becomes a cheerleader and Addie retreats further into books. A fateful night changes everything for the two of them and they drift apart as Valerie drops Addie and Addie spends the rest of her high school days subjected the very worst type of bullying.  Years later, Addie has changed her life after enduring a great deal of tragedy.  Just as she begins to get her life together, Valerie shows up on her doorstep on the night of their high school reunion claiming to need help for something horrible she has done.

This would make a terrific vacation/beach read. The story moves along quickly and Addie proves to be a very interesting and multi-layered character. Valerie is completely unlikeable and remained so for me all the way through the book. The story is billed as a tale about friendship but, for me, it was much more a story about Addie finding herself and coming into her own.  The ending was a little too pat for my taste but it was a decent read overall.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. Fans of Weiner will not be disappointed. Addie is a terrific and interesting character. However, the big mystery was overblown and obvious and Valerie is the worst type of friend. I think many readers will feel a little frustrated with the ending. Save this one for a vacation read.