Thursday, July 10, 2014

Inheritance by Philip L. Levin

Inheritance by Philip L. Levin

I met Philip Levin at last year's Florida Writer Association conference in Orlando.  The conference was winding down and I was in the bookstore desperately looking for something written by the vast number of talented writers I'd met.  We struck up a conversation and I settled on his book, Inheritance.  It came highly recommended! And he signed it for me.  I can never pass up a good book let alone an autographed one.

Tricia Tracy writes the gossip column for the local small town newspaper.  Her boyfriend is Mel, the police detective, who is investigating a murder.  He talks too freely with Tricia and finds what he thought he said in confidence on the pages of Tracy's Tidbits. 

While Inheritance is an entertaining who done it, I found the character development lacking in some areas.  For example, why is Mel discussing his case with Tricia even if she is his girlfriend?  And Tricia thinks she is frigid when things don't go well with Mel in the bedroom.  She's only 24.  There were a few other things that the characters did that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, but they may not be important to you so I don't want to ruin a good book. 

I also found it quite annoying to find footnotes which translated Spanish phrases spoken by the main murder suspect.  Maybe because I live in Florida and didn't need the translation.  If the target audience lives in the Midwest, then maybe it was necessary.  Only the author knows.  The mystery is eventually solved and I was surprised by it.  That's a sign of a good thriller.  And I loved the transcripts of the police interviews.  So lots of things to like in Inheritance after all.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

I have to admit I knew nothing of this story and the love affair of Mamah Borthwick and the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Even though this is a novel, it is based in factual events of their lives together. 

Mamah and her husband, Ed Cheney commission Frank Lloyd Wright to build them a home in the suburbs of Chicago at the turn of the 20th century.  Their affair began almost immediately.  Mamah was an educated woman and had worked for a time as a librarian before her marriage.  For the time, she was very progressive. 

On one hand, her husband Ed, was intelligent, hard working, and took good care of Mamah and their children.  On the other hand, Mr. Wright was creative and highly self absorbed.  Mamah chose the bad boy and once she did nothing in her life would ever be the same.  She had found her soul mate in Frank.  Because of him however, whenever they were apart, Mamah spent her time trying to repair relationship with her children, her sister and many friends who had been left picking up the pieces for her when she suddenly walked out and left them for Frank.

I often felt Mamah should have given up Frank.  But then I had to remember the times she lived in were much different than today.  Women were not always free.  Ms. Horan  did a wonderful job of telling Mamah's story as conflicted as it was.  She also painted a very realistic picture of Frank Lloyd Wright and his talent.  I never like to give the ending away but since this novel is based on fact, the tragic ending is well documented.  We are all free to develop our own opinions but no matter what I think of Mamah and her choices, how this love story ends is devastating. 

Loving Frank is historical fiction at its best.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I've been told I've been pretty negative in several of my recent reviews.  The writing isn't any good, I've been repeating over and over.  I took some time to think over this feedback and I came to the conclusion that I've been wasting my time reading alot of books that weren't worth my time.  But that's about to change.

At first glance, you may think this novel is the story of Liesel, a young girl whose mother gives her up to a poor, foster family as Hilter's reign in Germany is on the rise.  On the trip to her new home, she watches her brother die and steals her first book.  She can not read but is fascinated by the words it contains.  Papa teaches her to understand the words while soothing her nightmares.  Mama vocalizes the words that teach her to face head on the hand life has dealt.

And you may think this is another story about the ravages of war and the Holocaust.  But it's not.  The Book Thief is the story of the power of words.  We learn how words are used to exert dominance and control and how words can express fear and grief.  But Liesel shows us how words can build friendships and fill empty hearts with love. 

The Book Thief is set during a dark period of world history.  It is beautifully poetic about how life was viewed through the eyes of an innocent child.  A story, like The Book Thief that can bring me to tears, is a story I want to savor in my mind and save on my bookshelf forever. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout

Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout

Dr. Cyrus Mills is a veterinarian pathologist who is used to a solitary career peering into a microscope.  When he inherits a failing veterinarian practice in a small town in Vermont, from his estranged father, he's forced to come out of his comfort zone. 

He immediately finds himself falling in love with an elusive woman, Amy while doing battle with a corporate veterinarian practice with very deep pockets, in the next town.  Cyrus appears to be losing on both fronts.  His investigative skills however, are winning back patients the corporate vets were unable to diagnose using their rigid and uncompromising methods.

Dog Gone, Back Soon is a charming, modern day All Creatures Great and Small.  Dr. Mills and James Herriot have been cut from the same mold.  The story includes many lovable characters on four legs and just as many captivating ones on two legs.  They all keep the story moving in a very enjoyable way.

Many thanks to Netgalley for my advance reading copy.  If you are a dog lover, Dog Gone, Back Soon is just right for you.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim

Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim

Madison Lee is fresh out of college and without a job.  Her best and only prospect is a call center job in Pocatello, Idaho.  She, along with her best friend, Karsynn, takes the leap into the working world.  Maddy catches on quickly to the inner workings of a call center, a world all its own, but even she is not smart enough to anticipate the wide variety of questions a customer may ask.

I have to admit I read this book only because I'm tossing about the idea of my own book based on my experience as a tax advisor.  I am lucky enough to work from home, but taking a customer service call is the same no matter where it's done.  Maddy had me in hysterics!  I, too, have had calls from people with names that use every letter of the alphabet and are unpronounceable.  Callers who are angry for no reason other than they like to be angry are a staple in this business.  And when someone gives an email address that has something to do with what they like to do in bed, the mute button is a good friend.  I've experience everything that happened to Maddy and it was just as funny for me the second time around as it was the first. 

Confessions of a Call Center Gal is not a great work of literary accomplishment.  But it's funny, light, and easy to read.  If you are considering a job taking inbound customer service calls, read this book first.  You will know exactly what to expect when you take the first call.  If you are looking for a beach read this summer, Confession of a Call Gal will fit the bill.  It's simply good, plain fun!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck

The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck

The name of this blog is The Story Behind The Story with good reason.  Behind every good book there is a story.  The Eternal Wonder is a lost manuscript of Pearl Buck that was found forty years after her death in a storage unit in Dallas, Texas.  How it got there, no one knows.  

Rann Colfax is a bright and gifted young man in search of the meaning of life.  His journey begins for the reader while he is still in the womb and we follow him into adulthood.  He goes to college at a young age but is still unsatisfied so Rann heads abroad hoping to fill the hole in his inquisitive mind. 

I found the story dry and lifeless for the most part.  It had bits of brilliance like when as a little boy Rann's curiosity about little girls, though totally innocent, banned him from the company of other children.  Being the bright child he was, Rann moved on from the incident without much concern.  The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn't help but think about Forest Gump.  He and Rann had so much in common.  Life fell into Rann's lap and everything he touched turned to gold.

I love Pearl Buck and The Good Earth is a favorite of mine.  The Eternal Wonder, however, lacked her touch.  I found the story of the lost manuscript far more interesting than Rann's search for the eternal wonder.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel is a wonderful collection of stories about Vietnam and its people.  Several years ago, I had an opportunity of a lifetime to see Vietnam with a group of Vietnamese friends who were going home to visit family.  I tagged along and today the fond memories of the trip have stayed with me. 

Reading stories of snakes, Vietnamese sandwiches and leaving shoes on the doorstep,  I felt right at home.  I laughed, I cried, I understood.  I am an American on the outside looking in to this complex culture, and  Ms. Kupersmith captured it exactly as I remember, right down to the deliciousness of a Vietnamese sandwich.  I drooled for the taste of its unrecognizable meat and strange seasoning on a soft, perfect roll.  I'm still thinking about it and wondering when I will ever taste something so delicious again. 

Don't think the stories are all about food.  They are about love and deceit during a time of war.  They are about refugees trying to adapt to a new country.  They are about preserving a past when it seems to be slipping away.

The author is talented and accomplished in bringing the tales of Vietnamese culture to life in a fresh and invigorating way.  Two thumbs up.  I loved it. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Alice awakens on the floor of the gym, while being attended to by paramedics.  She has no idea why she would belong to a gym let alone be there taking a step class.  The clothes she's wearing are unfamiliar.  In fact everything around her is strange.  The last ten years of Alice's life have disappeared from her memory, simply erased like a chalkboard. 

All Alice can remember is Nick, her husband, the love of her life.  He, however, has left her and their three children and the divorce has not been amicable.  Alice is frustrated that he hasn't rushed to her bedside.  But then again, everything is frustrating Alice right now.

In What Alice Forgot,  the reader sees the world through Alice's eyes and her struggle to find her life again.  I am a huge fan of Liane Moriarty and she's done an excellent job creating the character's point of view.  Every action Alice takes and every word she speaks is true to Alice's condition. 

What Alice Forgot also has a message about what is important in life.  With her memory erased, Alice got a chance to start over.  The little things brought a smile to her face when in the past they had annoyed her.  There are times when we'd all like a chance to start over.  Alice shows us that it's not easy but it's never too late. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Kate has been asleep for a year.  Not asleep like Rip Van Winkle, but she's detached herself from reality since the death of her husband.  Her mother-in-law, Cricket saw it as an opportunity to step in and take control of Kate, and her daughter, Devin and their lives. 

On the day Kate and Devin are scheduled to move into Cricket's home, she finds an old postcard from Lost Lake.  The memories of a summer spent there as a teenager come flooding back.  Aunt Eby and Uncle George own the resort in southern Georgia.  Cricket has carefully planned their move, but Kate disregards Cricket's instructions, packs Devin in the car and heads to Lost Lake. 

Aunt Eby welcomes them with open arms.  The once popular resort has few guests and is in a state of disrepair.  Eby drops the news that she has finally decided to sell and move on with her life.  Since Uncle George died, things haven't been the same.  A casual comment to have a farewell party for Lost Lake, sets the story in motion.

I have to say I am a huge fan of Sarah Addison Allen.  The Sugar Queen is on my list of all time most favorite books.  I love the magical fairy dust she sprinkles into every story.  Lost Lake unfortunately didn't get its fair share of enchantment.  Lost Lake had plenty of potential, with sweet Devin dressed in a tutu and fairy wings in search of the mysterious alligator, and Selma with her box of charms. None of the characters was able to weave enough fantasy to keep me engaged as a reader.  I'm still a fan of Ms. Allen, but not of Lost Lake.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I'd been eyeing this book at the bookstore for quite some time.  I love the title and the cover is green, my favorite color, so that's more than enough to draw me in.  When I saw this title on sale for my Kindle, I jumped at it.

What is not to adore about Flavia de Luce?  She is smart, witty, and inquisitive.  Flavia conducts chemistry experiments in a lab in the far reaches of her family's estate.  Mostly she is searching for ways to torment her sisters but when she's hot on the trail of a murder, her knowledge of science comes in handy.  So does her bicycle named Gladys.

When Flavia finds a dead man in the cucumber patch, and a rare stamp turns up missing, the adventure begins.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is fun and has all the components of a good mystery.  I grew up on Nancy Drew.  My friend, Georgia, had every single Nancy Drew mystery which she gladly shared with me.  Flavia de Luce has brought sleuthing into the 21st century.  I felt nostalgic and hip both at the same time.  And I loved every minute of it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

A social worker tells Lila, a young woman on the verge of aging out of foster care, that she needs to get her life in order.  She finds what she thinks is her ticket out, by signing an employment contract to work in a small town in Missouri.  What awaits her is something very different.

Usually I enjoy reading stories that use different characters perspectives.  But I have to say, in this case I struggled with it.  The page counter on my Kindle read 40% before I figured out that Lucy is Lila's daughter and that the story is not only written from different points of view but that these two main characters were living in different time periods. One thing I have learned is there are things that a writer doesn't reveal to the reader in order to keep them reading.  The setting however, is never one of those things. 

I am not one for reading many mysteries, but I love when a good one keeps me interested.   The Weight of Blood was far too predictable and the ending left me disappointed.  Too much weight for me.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Richard and I were walking around the mall the other day and he says, "I wish I were 16 again."

Me too.  I could sleep 'til noon, my bones wouldn't ache and I could eat as much ice cream as I wanted without any side effects. And I could hang out with cool kids like Prenna and Ethan.
These two teenagers stole my heart.  No wonder Prenna fell in love with Ethan even though the rules in her community forbade it.  He is just too darn cute.

Prenna and her mother are part of a group of time travelers who have escaped to the past to try to avert the disease and social unrest of the future.  They work hard to remain undetected.  When Prenna shows up in Ethan's class, he knows she's keeping a secret. 

I love to read a good YA novel every now and then.  The Here and Now is well crafted in blending the creation of the future with the reality of the present.  The story is fast moving, tension filled, and includes a touch of romance.  Falling in love for the first time is a feeling none of us will ever forget no matter how old.  Ann Brashares does a wonderful job of involving the reader into the life of teenager and fueling the fire with the supernatural. 

Even though I am not the target audience for this book, the pages kept turning.  The characters are adorable.  The setting is intriguing and believable.  And oh do I wish I was 16 again.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

City of the Sun by Juliana Maio

City of the Sun by Juliana Maio

World War II is raging throughout Europe, but for Detroit Free Press journalist, Mickey Connelly, the story is in Egypt.  Maya is a Jewish refugee who ends up in Cairo as a stop on the way to freedom for her and her family.  Their chance meeting sets this novel in motion.

Lately, I've been reading alot of historical novels.  I'm enthralled by stories of the World Wars. The setting in Africa is a fresh approach and it's a part of history I was not familiar with.  All good things. 

City of the Sun has the everything, romance, intrigue, murder all in an exotic setting.  The novel is well paced and I never became bored but some parts I enjoyed more than others.  The ending left me unsatisfied.  When I thought about why I felt this way, I realized the author never decided if this was to be a historical novel, a romance or a spy thriller.  Although the novel has merit, it never found its true focus.  As a reader I never found that warm and fuzzy feeling I long to have inside a good book.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Crossing The Moon by Paulette Alden

Crossing The Moon by Paulette Alden

Paulette's story was one I could relate to at many different points.  She was raised in the prim and proper south.  I was not, however the same moral values were drummed into my head beginning at a very young age.  When Paulette set off to a fellowship at Stanford, she drove across country not knowing anything of the rest of the world.  Her innocence and naivete may have been her greatest strength. I made a similar choice to move to a strange city where I knew no one after I graduated from college.  It was struggle, but today I am better off because of it.

I also admired Paulette's desire to be a writer.  I related completely to the struggle of time and distraction that is every writer's enemy.  And I felt her joy at receiving an acceptance letter from a publisher.  A writer's life is full of ups and downs and as a writer myself, I found comfort knowing I am not alone.

The bulk of this story is Paulette's path through infertility treatments.  In my thirties, I made a conscious decision not to have children.  No woman comes to that choice lightly and I remember that phase of my life well.  Paulette took a step further through years of fertility treatment but in the end came to the same resolution that children were not going to be a part of her life.  She found peace.  I completely understood her choice and her thought process.

Crossing The Moon is a lovely memoir of a woman's choices in life.  As women we have a habit of second guessing ourselves but we need to remember that each step we take is part of a journey called life. The voyage belongs to you and only you no matter where it might lead.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao a few years ago.  It had won the Pulitzer Prize after all and I loved its fresh, edgy voice.  I like to mix my reading list up so I felt it was time to read another Junot Diaz novel, spice things up a bit.

The first page of This is How You Lose Her sucked me right in.  Diaz's writing is fast, snappy, sexy and neurotic.  Yunior is a young, Dominican trying to find his way even though the whole world seems to be against him.  He constantly chases the girls searching for something lasting and is never able to find it.  He's a smart kid with a good brain but thinking with the wrong brain overrules everything else in his life. Circling in the background is his over protective mother and a dying brother. 

Yunior's fast and furious antics kept me on the edge of my seat. For awhile.  After the read 'o meter on my Kindle passed 50%, I prayed for Yunior to find a girl so the story could be over with.  Too much of the same thing over and over began to bore me.  The heart racing pace of the writing got to be too much for me to take.  I wanted a break.

At the end of the story, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yunior's tales had come to an end and I could move on to something more calming and relaxing.  Since I do most of my reading in bed, I also needed a good night's sleep.  Spicing things up is not always exciting as it may seem.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wake by Anna Hope

Wake by Anna Hope

Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep. 2) Ritual for the dead. 3) Consequence or aftermath.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I downloaded this title from Netgalley.  The cover drew me in by its simplicity and beauty.  Anyone who knows me, knows I'm drawn into the spell of a book by its cover more often than not. 

Set in London two years after the end of World War I in a few days leading up to Armistice Day and the burying of the unknown soldier.  The lives of three women, unknown to each other, are magically woven together.  All are searching for something, love, understanding, closure in the aftermath of war. 

Hettie is a dance instructor at the local dance hall.  Her mother controls her every move while allowing her shell shocked brother to wander aimlessly through life.  Evelyn lost her one true love in the war and now works in the war pensioner's office trying to block the hopeless stories she hears day after day from her thoughts.  Ada grieves for her son, so much so that she has pushed the love of her husband out of her life. 

Wake is poetic, emotional, heartfelt.  I adored it.  Honestly I thought I would be reading another tragic story of war, or another story of three people who meet due to one small event.  Wake was none of that.  Many parts of the story are tragic, however each woman's struggle is carefully and seamlessly woven into the others.  Wake is a gorgeous piece of historical fiction. Don't let Wake pass you by.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I am a huge fan of The Secret Life of Bees.  I didn't like The Mermaid Chair quite so much an I couldn't make it past the first chapter of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.  When I read about The Invention of Wings in O Magazine, I wanted to read it but I approached it with some trepidation.  Books recommended by Oprah can be great while others can be tedious and boring.  I wanted to love it and didn't want to be disappointed. 

Sarah Grimke is given Handful as her handmaiden on her eleventh birthday.  Handful has been given that slave name for a reason.  Rarely is she called by her given name, Hettie.  Sarah breaks every rule by teaching Handful how to read.  They form a bond as girls, women, friends, but the fact that Sarah is the master and Handful, the slave, sits heavy as an iron anvil between them. 

This story spans several decades until the women are well into their forties and find themselves on the brink of the Civil War.  They have both suffered in their lives. Sarah is bound by being a woman in an era when only men went to school and had careers and the opinions of women thought to be meaningless.  Handful, on the other hand is trapped solely by the color of her skin. 

The Invention of Wings took my breath away page after page.  I didn't realize until I'd finished the book that Sarah Grimke and her sister, Angelina were real women.  Although this is a fictional account, Kidd used their story as a basis for hers.  The imagery is spectacular, the writing, poetic.  Here's how I know The Invention of Wings is destined to be a classic. When I hit the page button on my Kindle and it said, "The End", I gasped.  I wanted more.  There had to be more.  Sarah and Handful had become my friends along the way and I didn't want to see them go.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Battle of the Thermostat

I know I'm a wimp.  My northern friends remind me of that on a regular basis these days.  I understand that here in Florida we don't have 10 feet of snow to shovel out of the driveway and it's not -50 below even without the windchill factored in, but we've had a miserable winter too.  I am desperate for the cool, sunshiney days with flowers blooming and birds singing. 

Get out your violin.

I have all tile floors in my house.  A good idea when it's 90 degrees outside in the summer.  But when the temperature dips to 30 degrees outside, the inside turns into a meat locker.  An air conditioner turned furnace is hardly up to the challenge.  The poor little heating element runs and runs and runs, while I have put on every sweater in my closet and every pair of socks in my drawer.  I can't get warm.

And then Mother Nature pulls another cruel trick.  The next day we are breaking all kinds of records when the temps climb to 85 degrees.  I've turned off the heat and turned on the air again.  I'm sweating buckets around here!  The piece of machinery we depend on for our year round comfort is just as confused as we are. It was just getting the hang of the heat when we asked for it to make us cool instead.

Today we are back down to 50 degrees outside.  My nose is running, my lips are chapped and my toes are turning blue.  Misery loves company and I want you to know, I'm pretty miserable too. The sky is grey and gloomy.  Even here in the Sunshine State.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Last summer I vacationed in Maine.  I'd never been to Maine because it's never on the way to anywhere else.  One look around and I fell in love with the place.  Maine is a treasure with sweeping ocean vistas from high atop the mountains.  Plus it has lobster and lots of it. 

On a local news show, I saw an interview with Christina Baker Kline.  I thought this book sounded interesting but I never saw it for sale while in Maine.  Recently Orphan Train showed up as an Amazon deal.  I remembered it from the summer and immediately bought it.

The story starts in 2011 with Molly who is a teenager in the Maine foster system who has been tossed around for as long as she can remember.  When caught stealing a book from the library, she appears to be headed to juvie.  Molly's given community service as punishment for her crime, but it's her last and final chance.  And she knows it.

Vivian is an wealthy, old widow with an attic full of memories, some good, some bad.  The attic needs cleaning out and Molly lands the job for her community service.  The treasures of the attic tell the story of Vivian's life after having been sent to Minnesota on an orphan train.  While looking through each box, Molly and Vivian learn just how much they have in common.

Ms. Kline has done vast research for this story.  The places and people come to life on the page.  I have to say I enjoyed reading this novel as much as I liked learning about this little known slice of American history.  Whether you like Maine or Minnesota, the Great Depression or World War II, or simply want to read a good piece of historical fiction, Orphan Train deserves a place on your book shelf.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

I fell in love with the title of this book.  The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles sounded fresh and intriguing.  The blurbs spoke of comedy and trickery.  Plus I'm always a sucker for a great cover. This foot the bill on all accounts.

Josephine and Iris are sisters.  Josephine is the frumpy one with an unemployed husband who rarely attempts to look for work.  Iris is a glamor girl, living a life of luxury with her wealthy and successful husband who is a lawyer.  Jo studies the medieval life in the twelfth century, while Iris becomes easily bored with her fast paced twenty first century social circuit.  When Iris lies to a well known publisher about a new book she's writing, she taps Jo to write her out of a jam. 

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is full of crazy characters and twisting sub plots.  For the first half of the book, the reader is kept engaged by this.  After that the story flattens out and nothing anyone says or does seems very believable.  I have to agree with several other reviews I've read, that alot was lost in translation.  Funny in French isn't necessarily funny in English.

If you're looking for something light and easy, this book will fill the bill.  But if you're looking for a book with depth and emotion, The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is definitely not it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pot Roast??

I come from a long line of non-cooks, of which I am also one.  My mother made non cooking famous with her pot roast.  My father loved it so she made it often because she didn't know how to cook anything else.  He liked alot of things like canned yellow wax beans, peas and lima beans all of which were cause to spend time alone at the dining room table staring at my plate long after everyone else had left. More than anything, he loved the pot roast.  He cleaned his plate while the rest of the family picked at it only enough to be excused from the table.

I don't remember much about the pot roast itself, only that my siblings and I dreaded pot roast night.  So when my own husband asked me to make pot roast for him, the uncook side of me had to turn into a cook.  That is not an easy task.  I thought about if for awhile and figured how hard could it be?  A slab of inexpensive meat, a few potatoes, an onion and maybe a couple carrots, throw it all together in a pot and... Voila! Dinner.

Over the years, Richard ate the pot roast without complaint so it couldn't have been that bad.  So the other day when he brought a bowl of something in from the freezer, he thought was pot roast, one look at it brought all those childhoods memories flooding back.

The bowl of whatever looked disgusting with little cold dabs of fat congealed on top.  Thawing it didn't do it any favors.  The meat had taken on an unrecognizable pallor.  A few remaining carrots had turned brown and lifeless.  I heated it up and dished it onto our plates.  I swirled the meat through the gravy with my fork.  Slowly I lifted a piece to my mouth and chewed it.  One swallow and I could eat no more.  I watched Richard clean his plate and then mine.

Growing up with four kids, we never had leftovers.  I know my mother never served any that had spent time in the freezer.  The freezer didn't do the pot roast any favors.  But maybe that's the beauty of pot roast.  It's meant to be over cooked with the meat, potatoes and vegetables all touching each other in a big soupy mess. A pot roast is comfort food and we shouldn't analyze it too much.  Or maybe it's a guy thing and I need to make myself something more girlie on pot roast night.  Like a Lean Cuisine.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

A stranger, Charlie Beale arrives in Brownsburg, Virginia in 1948.  Brownsburg is a small, tight knit place where outsiders are met with caution.  He arrives in town with a suitcase full of cash.  From where and why he has come remains a mystery throughout the story.  He buys a piece of land by the river where he finds peace sleeping under the stars.  He is skilled as a butcher and finds work in the small town shop run by Will.  Will's son, Sam becomes Charlie's constant companion.

The townspeople grow to like Charlie accepting his presence.  They like the the way he cuts their meat, how he teaches the children to play baseball, the comraderie he built with Sam.  He has found his wonderful. Wonderful however is what a person makes of it.  And Charlie makes one mistake. He becomes obsessed with Sylvan, the beautiful, young country wife of Boaty Glass, the richest and meanest man in town. 

The pair manage to keep their weekly trysts secret from the prying eyes of the townspeople, but not for long. Even Boaty turns a blind eye until his wife displays her true strength at a birthday party for Sam in front of all the townspeople.  Boaty begins to destroy all that is to Charlie,wonderful.  

Heading Out to Wonderful is a pleasure to read, well written, captivating. I warn you however, it's dark and most of all, sad.  It's a novel that sets a reader on that ride, that we all long for in a book.  The one that makes us laugh and cry, feel warm and fuzzy, or even a touch nauseous all while never ever being able to put the story down until the last word has been read.  Heading Out to Wonderful does all that and then some.  It's wonderful.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

I don't remember how I came to own this book.  I must have had a balance left on a gift card that I wanted to use up and be done with.  The Orchardist  has been sitting on my shelf for awhile.  I'm sad to say it sat there for much too long.

The first two pages of this novel describe Talmadge, an orchardist in the Pacific Northwest.  At first I thought I may not be able to stick with the story.  I'm often impatient. But I continued to read because something about the narrative slowly and carefully drew me into his simple life tending to his apples and apricots.  When two young, pregnant girls appear on his land, his kind soul offers them food. They take the food but keep their distance, afraid of something.  A missing piece in his own heart makes him long to understand what they are running from.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book uses the word hypnotic.  The storytelling in The Orchardist is spellbinding. Immersed in Talmadge's solitary and secluded life, I couldn't put the book down.  The author's style is beautiful, poetic and all embracing.  I lived in the orchard and embraced the hard work it required for Talmadge to keep it running.  I knew Della's pain and why she struggled to find her way.  And I rooted for sweet Angelene, the child who survived, who found love and serenity in the orchard against all odds.

The Orchardist is a sweeping historical novel set in the late 19th century spilling over in to the 20th.  The book is full of captivating characters who move through every facet of life, love, pain, struggle and comfort.  And I walked by their sides each and every step of the way.  Don't miss this one. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I like to take time at the start of each new year to reflect on the year past and look forward to the future.  Each year I make resolutions and I actually write them down and hang the list on the bulletin board next to my desk.  I refer to them often during the year.  It helps to keep me focused. 

In 2013, I had some hits and I had some misses.  I resolved not to buy a book.  So I answered surveys and earned points toward Amazon gift certificates.  I also got free books to read and review from NetGalley.  I went to the book store often to pick out what I wanted to nab for free elsewhere and believe it our not I was hugely successful.  I never paid for a book all year. 

On the other hand I resolved not to swear.  That didn't work out so well.

For 2014 I resolve to do the following:

1. Write and publish a book. Put my butt in the chair and just do it!

2.  Enter the Royal Palm Literary Award Contest sponsored by the Florida Writer's Association.

3.  Activate my Reiki every day. 

4.  Treat each day as a gift.

5. Count my blessings.  This will take me all year since my blessings are many and I'm certain many more new ones will be sent my way.

Whether you make resolutions or not, try to make the most out of this precious time we are given.  The single act that causes the most regret in our lives is the waste of time.  Once it's gone, we can never get it back.

Set a goal.  Focus.  Enjoy!  I wish you much happiness, good health and prosperity in the coming year.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

If my New Year's resolution was to only read good books this year, then I have started out right where I want to be.  This book is a winner!  If you are a reader, a writer or a dog lover, then A Dog's Purpose is the cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, the top dog.

From page one I fell head over heels in love with Toby, Fella, Bailey, Ellie and Buddy.  And if I wasn't already convinced that dogs are sent to us for a reason, after reading this book there is no question in my mind.  These animals are searching for their purpose in this world.  Through plenty of ups and downs, laughter and heartache they find it.  I was rooting for them the entire book. 

This review is a little short, because I'm not going to give away any of the story here.  It's best you discover it on your own.  I don't want to spoil it.  Books filled with emotions, good or bad, rank high on my list of good books.  I like to feel when I read.  And there is nothing like a good dog to show you the path to the meaning of love and satisfaction.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...