Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books and Cooks Best Reads of 2009

How does a book wind up on my Best of the Year list? Here's what I wrote last year, and it still stands:

...a book that lands on my Best Reads list has that extra something that I find hard to define. These books have touched me, and have stayed with me, some for nearly a year now. They have surprised and impressed me. They are not necessarily what the critics would call the best books, but they are the books that have affected me most deeply.

The above stack is in no particular order with one exception.

Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life was my favorite book of 2009. I knew while I was reading it that it would be. The writing is sublime, and Molly has opened her heart for all of us to peer inside. I could go on and on about her lemon cake which I've made at least four times already and is my daughter's favorite cake.

Vicki Forman kept me spellbound with This Lovely Life, a memoir chronicling her life as the mother of a severely premature baby and then child. She broke my heart and gave me cause to cheer all at once. Simply stunning.

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth was an instant love affair for me, full of nearly unbelievable tales of her years as a midwife in the East End of London. For those who enjoy a graphic medical book, this one is gripping.

Ah, Too Many Cooks. I was nuts about Emily Franklin's memoir of how she feeds her family. Similar in format to A Homemade Life, this had a twist of its own, that of young children. A great read and brilliant recipes, too.

The World in Half is a book I wish I would see around more. Cristina Henriquez tells a quietly beautiful tale of a girl simultaneously losing her mother and searching for her father; instead she finds the most touching friendship I've ever read about.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan packs a punch. The story of a young black man returning home after serving his country is shocking and unputdownable. I'll be suggesting this to my bookclub for 2011.

Ellen Baker's Keeping the House was one of the first books I read this year and it's still with me. Loved this family saga set in Midwest, full of twists and secrets. It was a love affair for me from beginning to end. Would love to see more from this author.

How could you forget The Help by Kathryn Stockett? A totally satisfying read set in the South in the 1960s, I cannot wait to reread this one for bookclub next November.

Ruth Rendell's 1977 masterpiece A Judgement in Stone retains it's creepiness and sense of place 30 years after the fact. A divine story of suspense.

The Dream was my first book of Harry Bernstein's but his second - my mistake. A simply told memoir of a life and a family and a love that now seems extraordinary - to Mr Bernstein, it was just life.

Here's to 2010 and all the great books that are to come! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Books of 2009

There they are. This is the project I mentioned last week, the messy one my husband wished would disappear. Early in 2009 I started stacking up the books I'd read and before I knew it, I realized it might make a cool photo at the end of the year. So, here they are, minus library books, and a few that annoyed me enough that I've already gotten rid of them. If you click on the photo you can see what is there.

Here are my reading statistics of 2009 (as of right now, and I reserve the right to change these numbers before the end of the year). Here are last years statistics for comparison.

Total books read: 104

Female authors: 89
Male authors: 15

Fiction books: 79
Nonfiction books: 25
Memoirs: 19
Memoirs that are food related: 9
Nonfiction books that are not memoirs: 6 (sad)

Young adult books: 9 + 5 Harry Potter books
Mystery: 15
WW2/Holocaust: 9

ARCs: 29 (obnoxious)

Books that were re-reads: 7

Books published in:
2009: 42
2000-2008: 44
1990-1999: 9
1970-1989: 3
1940-1969: 6
1900-1939: 0
pre-1900: 0

Total pages read = 36,144 divided by 104 = 347.5 average pages per book

Ok, so lets assess all this. First off, it seems I have read way too many ARCs and not enough books of my own choosing. On the one hand I am torn on this subject; I have found some great authors/books that I might not have chosen on my own, on the other hand, I definitely had less 'wow' books than I've had before and more 'fine' books.

I should really read more male authors, and more general nonfiction. I've called this the year of the memoir and that was surely the truth.

I was happy when I totaled up my pages read for the year. I was a little bit afraid that I would find that I read more books, but less pages than last year! That was not the case, as I read nearly 30% more pages than last year - nice!

What about goals? I like to be non-goal oriented when it comes to my reading. It's the only way for me, I think. Having said that, there are a few things I'd like to do this year. I would really like to read more of my Persephone books and Viragos. Another thing I'd like to do is read more of my really thick books. I think I tended to avoid them last year thinking if I was reading 700-800 page books, I'd never have anything to post about. Now that I practice Blog Simplicity, I am not going to worry about that and just read whatever I want. Here are a few books I have in mind.

Coming up later this week, my favorite books of 2009!

In case you are wondering, I got to stay home for Christmas! It was totally blissful watching all that snow come down and know I had nowhere to go. I cooked a great meal and had friends over for Christmas dinner.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feel like a chat? Plus book porn.

I'm feeling rather chatty today. It's been a busy morning. Before eleven AM I dropped the girl off at school, got gas and groceries, made 6 jars of butterscotch (see last post), wrapped my Christmas gifts, and am on my fourth load of laundry. Whew! I am rushing, rushing, rushing, because I have a movie date with my coworker/friend this afternoon. It is a rare day that we can get together and see a movie in our favorite genre - The British Period Film - we are seeing An Education. My husband thinks I'm nuts to go see this since there are all sorts of 'nominated' films out there. Whatever. If he was being really nice today, he'd let me see a double feature and go to Young Victoria, as well, but it is not to be. In addition to all this rushing, our Christmas plans are now up in the air due to this new storm coming through the Midwest. I'd just as soon stay home than go to Iowa (so not festive), so perhaps I will get my dream to stay home this year. Doubt it.

I really, really, want to get a few reviews, well, not reviews, my reactions to books up in this space before the end of 2009. I am going to try, but not kill myself over it - I am operating on Blog Simplicity here you know. Next week will be devoted to my 2009 statistics and favorite books of the year, as well as sharing a book project I've been working on all year and my husband wishes would disappear (it's messy). I am a general pessimist in life, but must be an optimist about books, as I've been reluctant to post favorites until now. What if the best book of the year came along? But alas it has not.

In lieu of reviews/reactions and the like, here are the books that have come into my home over the past few months.

These are from Bookcloseouts -they were having a crazy 50% off fiction sale. I'm really curious about the Sarah Rayne (it sounds creepy and suspenseful) and excited about the Linda Holeman, an author under published in the US.

Well this is a lousy photograph, it's very grey here. I'm super excited about The Madness of a Seduced Woman, I loved this author's book, Anya. Has anyone read this?

Here are some new books I couldn't resist.

And here are some more. I'm reading Daphne: A Novelright now and it's quite good.

If I had more time, I'd give you more links here, but I've got to go! Cheers!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Red Letter Day

Today is truly a Red Letter Day for me. Last night I finished my


book of the year. For the past few years I had trouble breaking 80, which I finally did in 2008 so this is really a great achievement for me. Will I ever do it again? Who knows, but I'll have a bit of fun bragging about 2009.

You might be wondering what book was my 100th of the year. That honor goes to Persephone's The Carlyles at Home by Thea Holme. I'll be honest and tell you I didn't know a thing about author Thomas Carlyle before I began this book but that mattered not a whit. What I am interested in, and what this book provides, is a peek into everyday life in a Victorian home.

From finances to home renovations, illnesses, noisy neighbors, and particularly servants, Thea Holmes has woven a picture of the day to day life of the Carlyes. The most prominent subject in the book are the servants that revolve through the Carlyle's door. One after another they arrive, some are competent, others steal, some stay a few weeks, others a few years. Jane adores some of them, but that adoration almost always turns into distaste. Jane Carlyle would surely have agreed with the sentiment 'good help is hard to find.'

I've read here and there that the Carlyle marriage was famously unhappy. That is not evident here. Perhaps I shall have to read the sections on the Carlyles in Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages which has been sitting patiently on my shelves.

It was fortuitous that Persephone published a picture of Jane Carlyle on their daily blog recently(page down to December 2). Isn't she lovely?

I'll end today with a little, okay a BIG treat. I came across this post on Smitten Kitchen (great recipes) the other day, and having all the ingredients in the house I made this crazy delicious yet super easy butterscotch sauce. OH MY. Is this stuff ever amazing. I found the last box of jars at the grocery store, and my yearly neighbor gift giving quandary has been solved. I bet you wish you lived next door right about now, no? ;-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spotlight on: The Moonflower Vine

It is in the heat of summer that The Moonflower Vine begins. Youngest daughter of the Soames, Mary Jo, describes the annual pilgrimage to her parent's farm in Missouri where she and her sisters converge on their elderly parents for a 'vacation' that is part obligation, part reunion. These adult daughters allow themselves to be parented as they help out with what seems like a primitive farm. Everyone seems to resist intrusion on this short time together, yet social obligation intrudes. We see what appears to be a happy family, led by God-fearing father Matthew and thick-skinned and hardworking mother Callie. We see what looks like an ordinary family gathering, with openness and good-will all around. We wonder what author Jetta Carlson could possibly have to say about this ordinary seeming group of people for 300 or so pages.

And then.

The story changes from first person to third as each member of the family is revealed to us, one by one, from Matthew, to Callie, sandwiching their daughters, including one who is deceased. Suddenly our preconceived notions are shattered. What looked like one thing is shown to be very much another as the inner lives of these characters are revealed, showcasing most prominently their romantic lives.

This is heady stuff, let me tell you. I was a little bit shocked (and disgusted by one of the characters) in 2009, think what original readers of this novel thought in 1962! I was taken in by the tagline of this book:

A Timeless American Classics Rediscovered - An Unforgettable Saga of a Heartland Family

Saga? Rediscovered classic? Count me in.

I began this book knowing only what the back cover said. Didn't read the introduction, nor the 'extras' in the back. Didn't read any spoiler-y reviews. Thus, I think that is how this book is best approached, though of course now you know more than I did!

In any case, I do recommend The Moonflower Vine: A Novel (P.S.). For the surprising turns it takes and for the gorgeous cover you can gaze at on your nightstand.

Friday, December 11, 2009

'And In the End'....they fizzled

I bet the title of this post really makes you want to keep reading! As we near the end of 2009, my thoughts are turning to what were my favorite books of the year. Not wanting to be rash, I'm keeping my mind open to current and recent reads. But let me tell you, not a one is making my list! Sure, there are plenty of good books, but I'm looking for WOW books. I keep having the same problem lately - a book starts out really well, and then, well, it fizzles, it just doesn't maintain the power it had at the beginning. Here are a few examples.

The Day the Falls Stood Stillby Cathy Marie Buchanan was I book I expected to love. I loved the cover, loved the topic of Niagra Falls in the early 20th century, and devoured the vintage photographs so wonderfully included. The story focuses on Bess, once well to do, her family is now down and out, clinging to their old life by a social thread. Bess falls in love with The Wrong Sort of Boy, Tom Cole, grandson of a heroic riverman and a bit of a hero himself. The story becomes partly one of war and how it changes everything, one of industry and debate as the power of the falls is utilized for electricity, and one of life and tragedy. Overall I liked this book, though I would say I loved the first half and found it to be a pageturner. As I continued reading, I found myself less interested in the characters and somewhat unsurprised by the twists and turns at the end.

Changing gears a bit, I came across Minette Walters as an author comparable to Barbara Vine. I was sold! I chose to read Walters' debut novel, The Ice House: A Novel. The Ice House began well, as a body is found in the ice house of a country manor, a place where a man, the husband of the current resident, disappeared. There has been a murder investigation here before - coincidence? This was sort of a quirky murder mystery. I mean, I don't' read many books when the police force comes across as incompetent and the suspects practically seem to be egging them on. Everyone is lying in one way or another. I liked this book right up until the end, when the tone changed from quiet and suspenseful to crowded and confusing with a lot of people showing up and shouting at one another. I read somewhere that Walters doesn't know who is responsible until she's written half of the book, and I'm not so sure I like this idea. Perhaps I prefer a more 'crafted' book in which hints are dropped and feelings are alluded to along the way. Not to say I won't try Walters again - I definitely will.

Now I'm off to make lentil soup - it's soup season here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Club Wrap-Up

My book club met at my house on Monday evening to discuss our last book of the year and vote on books for 2010. Tasty chocolates and lemon cake were served!

The book we discussed was The Book Thiefby Marcus Zusak which was my choice. I was really pleased with the response - several people 'loved' it, most liked it a lot, and only 1 person didn't like it - she's tired of holocaust books - understandable as we've read quite a few this year. My thoughts from my first reading of The Book Thief can be found here. My response this time was more subdued. The first time around I *loved* the book and cried and cried. Knowing what was coming lessened the emotional impact for me this time around, though I still enjoyed the book very much.

Last month my book club discussed The Gargoyleby Andrew Davidson, the story of a severely burned man who is visited in the hospital by a woman, Marianne, who claims to have been his lover in medieval Germany and relates stories about their pasts. She is undeniably convincing. The book is extremely graphic, detailing the medical condition of the burn victim, so graphic that reading about his miserable childhood and sordid life were a 'break' from the burn unit. I found this to be an interesting and engaging read. A couple little issues I had: 1. I though it would have been interesting if the author decided that Marianne did not age (can you tell I bought into the story!) and 2. I didn't care for the drug-withdrawal apparently Dante-esque (I haven't read him) visions explored towards the end of the book. I actually skipped this part; I wanted to get back to the story and I found this tiresome. Everyone in our group enjoyed this book to one degree or another.

Here is our book list for 2010:

1. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
2. Child 44, by Tom Rod Smith
3. The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
4. The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton
5. Plan B: A Novel, by Jonathan Tropper
6. Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel, by Audrey Niffenegger
7. Sarah's Key, by Totiana de Rosnay
8. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

What do you think? I feel rather so-so about this list. As always, I am let down by some of the books suggested (The Shack? Thank goodness that didn't make the cut.) and surprised by the books voted in. There are 3 I've read, including The Help which is my pick. I've wanted to read 2&6 so I'm pleased about those. My husband has been bugging me to read Vonnegut for years so he is pleased about that;I'm not so sure. 4 seems fluffy, and 5, well I'm just not interested in that At All!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Second in a Series

They're YA, they're page turners, they're both the second book in a series, and they're both from the library and need to go back!

Susan Beth Pfeffer's the dead and the goneis the second in her series of an apocalyptic future in which the moon has been thrown off course. Everyhing is a mess, the weather in particular, which is making it difficult for life to continue. I really liked the first book in this series, Life As We Knew It, and actually wasn't that interested in this installment until I heard there would be a third book involving the main character from the first book. Whew! So, this installment follows New Yorker Alex Morales as he deals with the fallout of this new existence and his new role of 'man around the house' for his two sisters. Alex's story was different in that he seemed to have more resources for food as well as relationships outside his family through school and church. Speaking of church, the Morales family are devout Catholics and their faith is referred to again and again. Readers with a low tolerance for religion may find this tiresome. While I did find this to be a quick read and a page turner, I never felt an emotional connection with Alex nor as drawn in to the story as I was with Pfeffer's other book. Despite this, I still plan to read the next book in the series to see what happens next. I'm fascinated by this future Pfeffer has imagined.

I was waiting, waiting, waiting(!) impatiently for Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)to arrive at the library last Friday. It did, and I finished it Sunday morning. What a ride! Fast paced and exciting, this book picked up where The Hunger Games left off. Heroine Katniss is being targeted by The Capital as Someone Who Might Ignite a Rebellion and they decide to show her who's boss! Do they ever. Was anyone else a little surprised at the direction this book took? I was not expecting more of, you know. But it worked. And the ending was great - a cliffhanger, but what did you expect!? I'll be first in line (at the library) for the third installment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What's Cooking?

Here are a few things I've cooked up this Fall.

Oh boy I can taste these peppers! Roasted in the oven with tiny tomatoes, basil and olive oil these were divine. This recipe came from Nigel Slater's latest book, Tender.

My big green pot has been in heavy rotation.

Here is Emily Franklin's Gross-Looking but Very Delicious-Tasting Red Lentil Soup from Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes(loved this book). The recipe name is hers.

My family wouldn't touch this once they heard the word LENTIL. Sheesh. I liked this soup and might have liked it more if I had blended it. The best part about it was how easy it was to make.

I am sadly lacking a photo of the gorgeously colored cauliflower cheese soup from Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals.

I've been a fan of Jamie's for years and I think he genuinely wants us to cook and eat better. I also think this is his best cookbook to date that will get the average person to achieve this. It's accessible, fun to read, and contains lots of 'take it to the next step or keep it simple' sort of recipes.

Next up, are my divine baked beans.

My grandmother was an amazing cook and she made the best baked beans ever. My favorite meal of hers was made up of these beans, roasted loin of pork and homemade cole slaw. I can still taste it and I haven't eaten it since I was a kid. These beans took me back. I combined two recipes to make these beans, using navy beans, lots of bacon, molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard and maple syrup. They spent about 7 hours in the oven and they were truly amazing. Served alongside ham steak and great cole slaw, I had a happy family.

Here is the Cuban style black bean stew from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show.

That's a ham hock in there. I'm still not too sure how I feel about those. This was a tasty supper. Here is how I served it; over brown rice and topped with cheese and homemade guacamole. My family will eat about anything topped with cheese and guacamole. Except lentils.

Now I'm hungry. Luckily I have some of the bolognese sauce I made for dinner last night left over. Cheers!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Books from Britain Part 1 of ??

I always seem to read a disproportionally high number of books by British authors, but I think this year there has been a record number. Now that it is so easy to order from a particular depository of books I seem to order one book here, one book there (there is no minimum order for shipping).

While I am on the topic of this depository I thought I'd share a few tips I've gleaned from shopping there. First, there are two websites you can order from: the dot com and the dot UK. The prices are slightly different so check both places. Second, the preorder prices are AMAZING especially at the dot com site for some reason. I bought Nigel Slater's new book on preorder for a song, and have bought paperbacks, retail price $13-14 for $5-7. So, if there is something coming out you know you've got to have; preorder it!

Now for a few things I've read:

The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

Well, we know I love a good Victorian romp, and that is just how this engaging and entertaining book begins, with two somewhat-aged actresses looking for a new profession. Cordelia becomes a Mesmerist, Rillie her assistant. This is all fun and successful, but these two 'ladies' have secrets. Oh, do they have secrets! Suddenly, almost unexpectedly, things become much more Dark and Sordid, but also much more interesting. Scandal and murder and a Victorian style court case round out this book. This is just the sort of comfort reading I love to fall into. A delight!

Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

Shifting to the 20th century, this is the second of Worth's trilogy of her life as a nurse in the East End. I adored the first in the series, The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times, and knew I had to have this. Worth is a master storyteller and one immediately becomes engaged in the tales she tells. Shadows of the Workhouse is made up of three stories, two real heart breakers that sandwich a lighter tale about a Nun Worth lived with.

Overall, Worth gives a fascinating peek into a world we rarely read about, that of the poor of the East End. This is a great book for lovers of social history, as well as medical history. I didn't find this book quite as engaging as the author's first, but still a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Falling in Love with Louise

Receiving Louise Penny's The Brutal Telling (An Armand Gamache Novel) as an advance copy (thank you Minotaur Press/St Martins Books and you too FTC) turned out to be one of those miracle reading moments, the ones when you don't really know what you're getting into and it turns out to be a great reading experience.

The Brutal Telling is the fifth in Penny's Three Pines/Chief Inspector Gamache series set in a tiny village in Quebec. A village that sounds so charming you would love to visit it - except for the fact that murders keep occurring there.

The Brutal Telling is about the murder of a hermit who lived up in the woods amongst some of the world's most valuable antiques. As far as the mystery goes, I pretty much figured out who-done-it from the very beginning. Obviously, what I liked so much about this book was not so much the mystery aspect, but the characters that populate these books such as Chief Inspector Gamache. He is one of those 'knowing' souls, he sees and hears things the rest of us pay no attention to. He is polite, well dressed and he loves good food. Oh does he ever! I loved, loved, loved, reading about all the tasty things these characters were eating all the time. For me this novel was more about the why? and what if? than the who.

Well, I liked this book so much that I immediately went looking for books 1-4. And I wanted to read them RIGHT NOW! But I managed to ration myself to just one, reading Penny's first book Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Three Pines Mysteries) and enjoying it immensely as well. This cleared up some the past history and relationships for me that I read about in book five and this time around, I wasn't so certain who the murderer was.

Now I am greedily holding on to books 2-4. I've decided to reward myself with book 2 when I go to the in-laws for Christmas. They're lovely people but Christmas there tends to be a bit....dull. It's handy to have a book to immerse yourself in. You know.

Friday, November 20, 2009

They Bake Cakes

As I try out my new format, I've been trying to consider what ties my recent reads together and how to group them for review. This batch was easy, as they all focus on baking (and life).

Set in post-genocide Rwanda, Baking Cakes in Kigali: A Novel by Gaile Parkin is the story of cake baker Angel. Everyone around comes to her for her brightly colored cakes (it's funny that the characters think our traditional white wedding cakes are BORING!) when they have a special event. Parkin tells her story through Angel, she is a natural sounding board for her clients and we get to know the various characters and how their lives have changed since the atrocities. Parkin has the ability to write about horrible subjects with a light hand, making this an accessible book. It is simply a novel, one that happens to be set in Rwanda. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Many thanks to Bantam Dell for this review copy.

Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker is Gesine Bullock-Prado's memoir of how she left the Hollywood rat race (she worked for her sister...get it...Bullock) to open a small bakery in Vermont with her husband. I enjoyed Bullock-Prado's voice, her straight talking, no-nonsense style appealed to me and made for a quick and fun read. While the greatest appeal of this memoir is probably for those who enjoy time spent in the kitchen (there are recipes!) , Bullock-Prado speaks to all who wonder if they dare to follow their dreams. Many thanks to Broadway Books for this review copy.

Fellow blogger, pastry chef, and Paris resident David Lebovitz has written a funny and charming book, The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City, encompassing a few of my favorite subjects - food, cooking it, eating it, shopping for it, and Paris. I've read a number of 'American moves to Paris and is surprised by how different things are there!' books, and had high hopes that this one would cover some new ground. I was happily satisfied. I loved Lebovitz's dry sarcasm and stories of his adventures in Paris, foodish or not. Lebovitz has included recipes at the end of each chapter and I'm looking forward to trying his dulce de leche brownies and chocolate yogurt snack cakes.

These folks are not the only ones who bake cakes! I do too. We have a birthday coming up next week, number 8, and The Girl wanted Molly's lemon yogurt cake. That's my girl. But. Can you imagine if I serve this to a bunch of second graders and they !gasp! didn't eat it and I had to throw it away? I would cry. So we have agreed on cupcakes for friends and lemon cake for the household. Good plan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Hello there.

I didn't expect to be gone quite so long. I've been up to a few things since my last appearance here.

I've been on a fabulous trip to Boston. Oh, how we loved Boston. It fit us to a T. And we rode the T. Ha! If you get a chance to go to Boston you won't want to miss taking a tour with this gentleman. He works for the Freedom Trail Foundation.

We ate A LOT of seafood. Here is the rundown for me (my goal was to have seafood for lunch and dinner every day):

lobster roll x 2
crazy good lobster bisque
clam chowder x 2
my first raw oyster (I don't think I get the appeal)
some whitefish

Yum! And The Girl discovered that she loves mussels. Who knew? I mean, she wouldn't try a hush puppy but she eats mussels.

I spent a lot of time volunteering at school.

I did quite a bit of cooking; here is a sneak peek. This was one of my proudest moments as a home cook. I even told my husband to 'be more effusive'.

I went to the farmers' market. I never got to take photos some weeks but here is my most recent trip:

Isn't that kale pretty? Too bad it went to waste. I never did figure out what to do with it (that my family would eat).

I did a fair amount of reading.

Last week I met my new best friend.

Come here, lover.

I also spent some time thinking. Thinking about this space and what to do with it. Thinking about what has been bothering me about blogging and the like. Being put off by the popularity-contest aspect of it all. You know what I mean.

In addition, I am not a writer. I don't want to be a writer and writing is not why I'm here. I'm here because I love books. I came across a brilliant post last week at Kiss a Cloud. I identified with so much of what Claire wrote, especially this:

I would really rather spend more time with my children, read my books, read your thoughts on your books, than write.

Ahhhh. So true.

So what to do? I decided I wanted to come back to this space but I think it will be in a slightly different way. I think most books I read will get more of a 'blurb' and less of a review, and the really special books that stand out to me will perhaps get a highlight post. Or something like that. We'll see. Most of all, I know that if I'm going to do this it needs to be for me, a journal for ME. Not to please someone or to advertise for anyone. Not to generate traffic or more followers. Just for me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I feel quiet.

I'm not sure why. Perhaps the change of season is sending me within. Maybe the fact that I have a busy few weeks ahead and a trip coming up. Could it be that I am dreading a long and exhausting 6 months ahead at work due to flu season? I just know that right now the thought of putting something coherent in this space is stressing me out. And that is not what this space is for. So I am going to move back for a short time. I am going to warm the house by cooking. I am going to try to persuade The Girl to read more chapter books. I am going to visit my favorite blogs for relaxation. I am going to read good books and drink tea with honey. I am going to walk The Freedom Trail and eat heaps of fish. And then I will be back. See you then.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I had the good fortune to read two excellent books in the past week that grabbed me and didn't let go.

This first was Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave. The publisher's description is unusual; basically we can't tell you anything except that it's about two women and a terrible choice. That's it. I am such a sucker for things like that, but in this case I'd say it paid off. This is the story of two women. One is a teenage refugee from Nigeria who has been living in what is basically a jail for people trying to immigrate. The other is a typical British woman, working mother and wife. They first met two years ago under horrific and unbelievable circumstances and now they meet again in the present. This was an intense and serious read and I thought the author did an excellent job conveying the issues in Nigeria and the disturbing way people trying to flee their countries are treated. He also excelled at giving each woman a distinct and unique voice. I would certainly recommend this book.

The other book I finished in about a day was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Wow, what a ride! I think everyone knows what this is about, right? It's life in the future, and teenage contestants are forced to participate in a televised 'game show' in which everyone must die - except for one. Talk about compelling reading! And this despite the fact that I sort of assumed the ending from the beginning - this is the first of three in a series - after all. If you like some sci-fi with your reading along with great characterization read this! I now really want to get my hands on the follow up, Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games). I'll be waiting awhile; I'm number 24 on the library waiting list.

Have a great weekend! We are expecting freezing temperatures and flurries! Lucky us. I can never belive that I moved here.