Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin

From the author's website: Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel, a young attorney living and working in Manhattan. Rachel has always been the consummate good girl---until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiancee.

Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy she should run from. As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness. Something Borrowed is a phenomenal debut novel that will have you laughing, crying, and calling your best friend.

This is your basic "chick lit" a frothy tale. It certainly held my interest but it wasn't laugh out loud funny or bring you to tears sentimental - which if I'm reading this genre is what I want. I could never just whole heartedly root for the heroine because she was after all - taking her "best friend's" fiance right out from under her nose. Maybe it's because I'm an old married woman. Maybe it's because I'm Catholic. Who knows? I just couldn't get past that little detail in order to actually like the people I was supposed to like. I read on the author's website that Hillary Swank bought the movie rights for this one and the next in the series, Something Blue. I'll go see the movie when it comes out and see if it does more for me as a movie than it did as a book.

This book counts for two challenges...

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Click here to see my progress towards completing the challenge!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Power of Simple Prayer by Joyce Meyer

From the author's website: In her newest book, Joyce takes the mystery out of prayer and helps you to discover a whole new way of living.

“God intends for prayer to be an integral part of our everyday lives—the easiest thing we do each day.”
—Joyce Meyer

Begin unleashing the power of simple prayer in your life today, and open the door for God to work like never before

I jokingly told my girlfriend I was having my own private revival in my car as I drove. Joyce Meyer certainly is plain spoken and entertaining. She didn't read the book for this audio book, she just gave an introduction, but her daughter has the same Minnesota flavor voice so it was a good fit. Since I am a Catholic, Joyce and I aren't the best fit but I truly got a lot out of listening to her and I have always been open minded about respecting other people's point of view.

I'm with Joyce when it comes to prayer being an all day affair, and I would believe there is scripture to back that up saying "pray without ceasing". The difference between Joyce and I is that she probably knows the passage and could quote it exactly! I have just a vague recollection.

And we agree to consecrate ourselves each day to the Lord. She does it with terrific spontaneous prayer which she reports she often utters lying face down on the floor. I do it with a flying out of my brain prayer as I drive kids to school and myself to work. And also by getting the Latin- ad majorem Dei gloriam - written at the top of my papers each day. (Roughly translated - all for the glory of God). I hope that my work reflects a desire to do God's will. I often think that I need to incorporate more prayer into my work day. I should pray for every family that I visit in my home visiting and I should suggest a prayer at our staff meetings. We three are all Christian women and prayer would not be out of the question for just us. But I digress...

Joyce left me behind with her talk of speaking in tongues and the whole 'submit to your husbands' section went in one ear and out the other. But the book overall was lively, helpful, and worth a listen. Can I get an Amen? AMEN!

Almost forgot my button...
This is one of my books for the 2009 Audio book Challenge. 10/12 completed on that one - click on the button to see how it's going!

and this one too...
This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

and one more.....
This book is my "P" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We Thought You Would Be Prettier by Laurie Notaro

From the back cover: She thought she’d have more time. Laurie Notaro figured she had at least a few good years left. But no–it’s happened. She has officially lost her marbles. From the kid at the pet-food store checkout line whose coif is so bizarre it makes her seethe “I’m going to kick his hair’s ass!” to the hapless Sears customer-service rep on the receiving end of her Campaign of Terror, no one is safe from Laurie’s wrath. Her cranky side seems to have eaten the rest of her–inner-thigh Chub Rub and all. And the results are breathtaking.

Her riffs on e-mail spam (“With all of these irresistible offers served up to me on a plate, I WANT A PENIS NOW!!”), eBay (“There should be an eBay wading pool, where you can only bid on Precious Moments figurines and Avon products, that you have to make it through before jumping into the deep end”), and the perils of St. Patrick’s Day (“When I’m driving, the last thing I need is a herd of inebriates darting in and out of traffic like loaded chickens”) are the stuff of legend. And for Laurie, it’s all true.

This was a really fun book to read. Laurie has great growing up with a crazy family stories, some with a Catholic twist - gotta love that. She is so easy to relate to. When she goes shopping with the skinny friend and can't find a thing that fits her -ugh, that's me. When she hides the mountain of books she has purchased from her husband - me again! I like the essay format because it is easy to read; you can start and stop as you like. She has a blog now - Against My Better Judgement but for some reason I couldn't subscribe via Google Reader. (I've come across a few blogs like that - not sure why they don't work.) This was her fourth book and I think she has at least two more since this was published so I have lots more Laurie Notaro to look forward to!

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mother's Day Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books

One of the blogs I subscribe to on my Google Reader is 5 Minutes for Books. They are hosting a great series of giveaways for Mother's Day. The main giveaway post has links to each of the books that you can try for. They will have new giveaways every day from April 15 - 25 and open for new entries through April 30 so you still have time! The grand prize is a copy of every book - all 15 of them! Hence this post - it's one of the ways you can enter for such a great prize. Go, check it out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This work is Lewis' defense of Christianity. He strives to be non-denominational and simply to address the idea of Christianity. I have not yet read about CS Lewis as a person but I gather he was at one point an atheist and before this work converted to Christianity. His initial argument (probably really poorly paraphrased) is that each person has an ideal of behavior that they consider "good" and by which they judge themselves and others. Few, if any, are able to obtain this ideal behavior and yet we know of it. He thinks that in order for this ideal to exist, the understanding of something better had to come to us from something outside of ourselves (God!). He also defends the creation of the universe by God with the same kind of thought line - an architect could not create a house that he was a part of - he must be removed, a distinct separate piece in order to create. And so, God is separate from us in order to be able to create us and to form this ideal that we all intrinsically understand.

I like the section I read where CS Lewis asserts that we will be judged in the end not by how close we are to ideal but by how much progress we made with what we have been given. He acknowledges that some people are born bad tempered, impatient, sarcastic, (all those characteristics that I have and must constantly strive to overcome). So the person who started in the world with a naturally sweet disposition wouldn’t necessarily come out "ahead" of their foul mannered neighbor if the neighbor was actually working harder to overcome his temperament than the sweet one was working to use his temperament for good. So, all the goody-two-shoe's of the world take note, I may yet get to heaven and won't you be surprised to see me there!

He compares people again later in the book when he talks about how what we see as terrible sins - sins of a sexual nature - are not always the worst in God's eyes. Because our culture puts such an emphasis on sexuality these sins have taken on a heightened importance in our minds. But Lewis claims that for all we know, the prostitute may actually be closer to God than the church going man who puts his position or his wealth ahead of his love of the Lord. Lewis cites as an example people paying to see strip teases, looking at girlie pictures and reading or viewing pornography. Then he compares that to another natural drive, our drive to eat, and says we don't do this with food. we don't devote hours of time to it watching shows and reading about it. I immediately wondered if CS Lewis were alive today what would he think of the Food Network and the proliferation of magazines and cookbooks. I fantasize and almost drool as I pore over the recipes in my Southern Living magazine - is this my porn? And I love watching Unwrapped on the Food Channel - I am a sinner!

My practically perfect friend, Mary Poppins, recommended I read this and my mother is also a huge CS Lewis fan. The version I read was borrowed from my mother it was maybe the third edition and it was published in the early 1950's! Mary Poppins says she has read it again and again and I can see that. There is so much to take in that you just skim the surface with the first reading. He is such a persuasive writer with such easily understood examples hat I found myself just reading an nodding flowing like a river through the words. I know my experience would be different if I read the book as part of a discussion group and took the time to reflect and debate some of the points he makes.

Overall, excellent book, throughly enjoyed it and will definitely read it again.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

From the author's website: Bushnell’s most-recent novel, “One Fifth Avenue,” is a modern-day story of old and new money, the always combustible mix that Edith Wharton mastered in her novels about New York’s Gilded Age and that F. Scott Fitzgerald illuminated in his Jazz Age tales. Decades later, Bushnell’s New Yorkers suffer the same passions as those fictional Manhattanites from eras past: The thirst for power, for social prominence, and for marriages that are successful—at least to the public eye. “Here are bloggers and bullies, misfits and misanthropes, dear hearts and black hearts, dogfights and catty squalls spun into a darkly humorous chick-lit saga,” says Publisher’s Weekly.

Loved it! I went in fairly prejudiced to like it. Sex and the City is one of my all time favorite shows. I liked Lipstick Jungle and 4 Blondes but I wasn't enraptured with Trading Up so I had this little question about whether this was going to be a winner or a dud. It's a winner - a fun peek into New York high society, a teeny little mystery that all gets wrapped up neatly, affairs of the "elegant event" kind and affairs of the "trashy cheat on your spouse" kind. Two characters blog - although they differ from me in that other people actually read their blogs! which leads to a little bit of trouble. (For the record, that would be just one of the many ways those two characters differ from me!) I spent some time trying to decide why this novel where reality is suspended - million dollar homes, lavish lifestyles, cut-throat social climbing - was a great read right after I finished another unbelievable novel (Isle of Palms) and didn't like it. Maybe it's because Isle of Palms was set right here in my backyard so I was less able to suspend reality and enjoy it. But New York I have only visited, and it is such an exciting city so full of energy that really, you believe anything could happen there - even all this crazy stuff! I think it's time to go drink a Cosmopolitan.

This book is my "O" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Isle of Palms by Dorothea Benton Frank

From the dust jacket: Anna Lutz Abbot thinks she has her independence, and therefore her happiness, intact. She is a capable woman, a sensible woman, not someone given to risky living.

This all seems to be true enough until her lovely daughter returns from college for the summer a very different person, her wild and wonderful ex-husband arrives, and her flamboyant new best friend takes up with her daddy, turning a hot summer into a steaming one—only to be cranked up another ten degrees by Anna's own fling with Arthur, who is, heaven help us, a Yankee. All the action unfolds under the watchful eyes of Miss Mavis and Miss Angel, her next-door neighbors of a certain age, who have plenty to say about Anna's past, present, and future.

I love Lowcountry books - my home is beautiful and to read about it makes me happy. But the setting wasn't enough to make me like this book. After the Ya-Ya's and Steel Magnolias, all these other books that have come to print with eccentric Southern women just seemed forced and don't ring true. I am able to suspend reality and enjoy a good story (think Twilight!) but this was a bit much. One or two of these over the top characters may have been manageable but for almost every person to be odd was exhausting.

And I won't give away any details but the way she chose to wrap up a major story line within the span of a few pages with everyone living happily ever after was just wrong. It felt like she just ran out of steam to actually finish working out that part of the drama and just threw in the towel with an "Okay, so everything is alright now!".

I had three possible books to get my "I" finished for the A-Z Reading challenge - Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, and this one, Isle of Palms. I chose what I thought would be the light hearted easy book because I was ready for a fluffy read but even with those low expectations going in, this book was not satisfying.

This book is my "I" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I spent the night with another man...

It was David Sedaris! I had such a good time getting together with Tiffany for an evening with David Sedaris. I've read two of his books When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Me Talk Pretty One Day and loved them both. Tiffany is an equally ardent fan. Lucky Tiffany lives outside of Atlanta where things like this happen. Me, I live on the coast of South Carolina where nothing much happens unless you really like golf. I drove to Atlanta to meet Tiffany and the five hour trip was almost the perfect length to relisten to When You Are Engulfed in Flames - I got through 6 of the 8 CD's. I expected when we heard him read, that he would be reading essays from it since that is his most recent book. I was surprised and delighted to discover that he had entirely new material to share with us. The first essay had me a little worried - it was more political then anything of his that I have read and I thought, "Oh no, I didn't come to be lectured, I want to have fun!" But it quickly got better. I had another "uh-oh" moment later when he said, "Are there any Catholic girls here?". Tiffany and I looked at each other mouthing, "oh shit" and he did proceed with some irreverent material. It was the kind of joke that non-Catholics make and usually truly don't understand how offensive it is. We must not have been the only Catholics in the row as I heard a lady one seat over remark to her husband, "Oh yeah, he's going straight to hell for that one." As soon as she giggled, Tiffany was planning her trip to confession. Since confession for me is more of a semi-annual event, I let the little sins like this slide and just pony up to the big ones. Lusting after David Sedaris will make my list, giggling at an irreverent joke won't.

I still have two of his other books on my wish list - Holidays on Ice and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. My wish list takes forever to materialize since I have this frugal streak that wants to acquire all my books for a quarter at thrift sales. But considering that I just drove ten hours and spent close to a hundred dollars on a pair of tickets, maybe I should go check and see if there are used copies on Amazon that I could buy! In the meantime, I found this series of youtube videos from a commencement address he gave. I've only listened to part of the first two questions but it made me laugh enough to know I want to hear the rest. So I decided to post them here and then whenever I want a David fix, I can just click here instead of having to search youtube.

So with warnings about language and content and every other way he might offend, I present David Sedaris.....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund

From the web: Weaving together the lives of blacks and whites, racists and civil rights advocates, and the events of peaceful protest and violent repression, Sena Jeter Naslund creates a tapestry of American social transformation at once intimate and epic.

In Birmingham, Alabama, twenty-year-old Stella Silver, an idealistic white college student, is sent reeling off her measured path by events of 1963. Combining political activism with single parenting and night-school teaching, African American Christine Taylor discovers she must heal her own bruised heart to actualize meaningful social change. Inspired by the courage and commitment of the civil rights movement, the child Edmund Powers embodies hope for future change. In this novel of maturation and growth, Naslund makes vital the intersection of spiritual, political, and moral forces that have redefined America.

This was a difficult book for me to get into. I started it back in February and here it is April and I have just finished it. Naslund changes the narrators' viewpoint with each chapter - one chapter is told from the view of Stella, the idealistic young white girl, the next from the Klan member's wife, then the shy young black girl, and so on. The character that seemed to dominate the first half of the book was Stella the young idealistic white girl. When I went back and reread it at the end, I didn't get that same impression. Perhaps she just seemed more prominent to me at first because she is most like me and was thus easiest to understand.

The book really turned for me when Stella starts teaching at the night school and begins to forge some relationships with her black students and co-workers. That was when it really became interesting and I wanted to keep reading rather than set it aside so easily. I shed tears for the injustice and the violence - Naslund brought the time period to life. As much as Naslund did a good job of bringing the era to life, she also had some very strange passages that seemed so dreamlike they were almost hallucinogenic - those added nothing for me and just confused me. Overall the book was good but not a favorite. I enjoyed it enough that if her other book, the more well-known, "Ahab's Wife" dropped in my lap, I would give it a try.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time to stuff the bunny

Once again, cream cheese rules in our holiday meal. This time I needed eight bricks of cream cheese to get through the weekend. When you consider there are only seven of us eating, that means we will each have consumed more than an entire brick of cream cheese by Sunday at midnight. There must be something wrong with our family - some cream cheese satiation gene deletion. Here's what's on the menu....

Saturday afternoon we'll start off with our family's favorite appetizer.. shrimp dip (brick 1 and brick 2) and Ruffles potato chips (we are sooo classy!)sometimes instead of the Ruffles, we dip with pertzels, and one time at band camp...oh, never mind.

Saturday dinner is porterhouse steaks, salad with strawberries and walnuts, baked sweet potatoes (and some regular baking potatoes for my party poopers who can't stand FLAVOR), green beans with caramelized onions, garlic bread, and a blueberry "cheesecake" pie (brick 3 and brick 4) for dessert.

Sunday morning brunch is baked strawberry french toast (brick 5), eggs, grits, sausage, and OJ. And, of course, M&M's, Cadbury eggs, and Hershey's kisses. And if I get over to our local sweet shop, white chocolate covered popcorn and milk chocolate bunnies! I do love Easter!

Sunday dinner is leg of lamb (the hunk of lamb leg cost me $40 and I don't even have a recipe yet....this better be easy to cook!), blue cheese salads (brick 6), asparagus/snap pea salad, make ahead mashed potatoes (brick 7), tomato/okra pie, fruit pizza (brick 8), Granny's rolls, and an applesauce cake.

My MIL is bringing the rolls and the applesauce cake. You may think it sounds like she is getting off easy but she's not! Those are the two most labor intensive dishes on the menu. Particularly the applesauce cake, it's an old family recipe and it must have thirty different ingredients at a teaspoon each. It was obviously devised way before the advent of boxed mixes which is what I consider "home made".

If I get my act together, perhaps I'll post recipes. But for now, I am off to clean and start food prep.

Where's the Beef?

The beef is over at Home Ec 101. Heather and Ivy have a great series of posts with beef recipes. The pitas are my personal favorite. And... in addition to the beef, they have "moo"la (nice cow pun, huh?). They have a giveaway going on for some great beef cookbooks but also for a $100.00 American Express gift card.Click on over and say, "Show me the money!" And the beef too!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Silent Ocean Away by Deva Gantt

From the back cover: Charmaine Ryan knows only poverty and pain growing up. In the wake of a horrifying tragedy, she seeks a new life, and fate leads her into the private world of the wealthy Duvoisin clan. At first, it seems as if nothing terrible could touch this seemingly charmed family. But an ill wind blows through the halls and chambers of the Duvoisins' sprawling island retreat, carrying betrayal, deceit, and ominous peril.

Quickly, Charmaine is caught up in the secrets and mystique swirling around the enigmatic family. At the center are shipping tycoon Frederic Duvoisin and his youthful wife, Colette. And there is Paul Duvoisin, a dashing seducer and Frederic's bastard son, who stirs a dangerous fascination in the two women; the scheming Agatha Ward, who will not rest until she's taken Colette's place in Frederic's heart as well as in his bed; and exiled son, John, who reenters the family fold, stoking the turmoil as he unveils truths best kept hidden. Ultimately, Charmaine chooses to stand with Colette against formidable enemies, but has she made the right decision?

A sweeping, remarkable blend of adventure, romance, intrigue, and suspense, A Silent Ocean Away heralds the arrival of a glorious new voice on the historical fiction scene.

I liked the Charmaine character. Seeing the events unfold through her fresh, inexperienced eyes was fun. Because the story starts out with her terrible homelife, the authors have you rooting for Charmaine right from the start. I did enjoy how delicously bad Agatha was...whenever she appeared I knew there would be catty remarks. I was very suspicious of Agatha's brother, the doctor. I would have liked that possibility to be explored - the evil siblings plotting!

The book ending caught me completely by surprise because it happened so abruptly. I wasn't mentally prepared for it to end. Nothing seemed wrapped up; there were so many storylines unresolved. I know it's a trilogy but I expected more closure than what I got. When I think about other trilogies I have read, I feel like the individual books had more of a stand alone feel than this one did. This one felt incomplete. But with all that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I will plan to read the next two books because I want to know how everything gets sorted out.

This book was the April selection for the Facebook Historical Fiction bookclub.

This book happened to meet my needs for two challenges...

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Click here to see my progress towards completing the challenge!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The 60 Second Organizer

From the back cover: There is no better time than the present to get motivated and get organized. The Sixty Second Organizer is an easy-to-read, enjoyable, effective guide you can use to tame the paper tiger and beat the stress and chaos of disorganization. Here are 60 solid techniques - one for each minute of the hour - for getting and staying organized at home and at work.

Well, Jeff Davidson was honest about the easy-to-read part; the format sure did make for quick reading. Unfortunately, the tricks were nothing new. I don't think there was a single item of the 60 that made me stop and think, "Wow, that's a good idea." It was all the same stuff that is hashed over again and again in women's magazines. I guess I'm hoping for a miracle. If the miracle ain't coming, I'd at least like to be amused (think FlyLady!). Perhaps I should look around Amazon and see if I can find a cheap copy of Sink Reflections.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amethyst Dreams by Phyllis Whitney

From the dust jacket: For several years, time and circumstance have managed to separate Hallie Knight and her old friend Susan Trench, but when Susan disappears from her grandfather's seaside home on historic Topsail Island, it is Hallie whom Nicholas Trench calls for help.

Wealthy, ill, and irascible, he refuses to believe that his beloved granddaughter and the heir to his fortune has been lost to him. He is certain that if anyone can find Susan, it will be her closest friend, the woman who knows her better than anyone else.

When Hallie arrives from California, she finds the old man surrounded by an odd collection of friends and relatives, all of whom seem to know a little more than they're willing to tell about Susan Trench and her last days on Topsail. Underlying Hallie's anxiety about Susan, as well as her growing concern for Nicholas Trench, is the personal problem of her estrangement from a husband she loves. Threads intertwine and questions build to the pitch of what may be a fearful answer.

A taut, riveting tale of a woman's search for the whereabouts of a dear friend who has disappeared without a trace from her family home on the coast of North Carolina.

I've loved Phyllis Whitney since I was a school girl. This book is another good, compact, easy to read and enjoy mystery. As I read this I thought it felt vaguely familiar, as if I may have read it before. But that's not possible because it was published in 1997 and in 1992-1995 and again in 1999-2002 Ex-Marine and I lived in North Carolina right next to where this book is set, Topsail Beach. I enjoy reading books set in one of the many places I have lived in my travels with Ex-Marine so it would have stuck with me if I had read it. Probably after reading so many books by the same author - I'm just recognizing her style. Her style is comfortable. She spells it all out and lets the story unfold rather gently; there aren't many "edge of your seat" moments with Phyllis it's more of a nagging wariness that leads you through the book.

This book was the last one she wrote before her death last year at age 104. Wow, I'll do the math - this was published in 1997 so 2008 minus 1997 is 11 years meaning 103 minus 11... she was 92 years old when she wrote this. So all you bloggers out there who have ambitions of writing a novel (not me!), take heart, there is still plenty of time. There is an interesting Phyllis Whitney website here.

This book is my "A" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.