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November 23, 2011

Thankful for...

Update... 72 and sunny on Thanksgiving Day in Lincoln, Nebraska. Very thankful!!



  • texts, emails and phone calls from my daughter
  • a polite customer
  • heated seats
  • safe bike trails
  • red wine
  • voicemail from my granddaughter
  • dark chocolate
  • snail-mail from old friends
  • ripe avocados without bruises
  • my Annie-Dog
  • a dream job in a bookstore
  • new friendships
  • comfortable jeans
  • my siblings and their families
  • a box of books in the mail from my mom or a good friend
  • Keurig coffee!!
  • great neighbors
  • Shazam
  • a dedicated biking partner
  • Netflix
  • a dry basement
  • 4 wonderful, loving parents
  • American Express Blue Cash Back
  • old friends
  • memories...
  • back rubs
  • a good night's sleep
  • my blog-mates
  • the warmth of the sun
  • a day off
  • the opportunity to reconnect with childhood friends (thanks, FB)
  • laughter
  • my books
  • porches
  • music
  • the opportunity to travel to the coast and mountains
and, of course, for the love of my life--my best friend & husband, Rod.


Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours!

"Country Music: In Performance at the White House"



Click on images for larger view



From USA Today (11/22/11):

Cowboy hats and bolo ties mixed with the majestic chandeliers of the East Room for a toe-tapping series of performances by Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Darius Rucker, James Taylor, The Band Perry, Lauren Alaina and Micky.

"Tonight, we are turning the East Room into a bona fide country music hall," Obama said. Only days after wrapping up a nine-day trip through Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia, the president told guests that Johnny Cash "was really singing our song when he sang, 'I've been everywhere, man.'"

Obama said country music tied together many threads of the nation's immigrant heritage, from the Irish fiddle, the German dulcimer, the Italian mandolin, the Spanish guitar and the West African banjo. "At its most pure, that's what country music is all about — life in America. It's about storytelling — giving voice to the emotions of everyday life."

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a pink silk pantsuit, watched from the front row to a set list of country music past and present.

Bentley opened the concert by telling the audience that his thoughts were with members of the military and their families and then broke into a stirring rendition of "Home," his current hit.

Taylor, wearing a tan Stetson hat with his blue suit, sang his 1970s hit "Riding on the Railroads," and performed a version of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman." Krauss performed an acoustic version of "When You Say Nothing At All," her 1995 hit song. Lovett reprised his 1994 hit, "Funny How Time Slips Away."

Country star Willie Nelson's influence loomed large over the show. Kristofferson and Rucker performed "Pancho and Lefty," a 1983 hit by Nelson and Merle Haggard, while Alaina did a rendition of Elvis Presley's "You Were Always on My Mind," which Nelson turned into a Grammy winner, also in 1983.

Some of the most recognizable country standards were featured, with Alaina covering Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner's Daughter," and The Band Perry performing Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

Rucker, the former front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, got a shout-out from Obama — "Hootie's in the house," Obama told the audience — and later performed his contemporary hit, "I Got Nothin."

By the end of the night, the entire ensemble was on stage as Kristofferson led them in an uplifting version of "Me and Bobby McGee," the song Kristofferson co-wrote with Fred Foster and was later sung memorably by Janis Joplin.

Obama said the concert was a fitting tribute to the impact of country music on American life. Since first running for president, Obama said, "I've hopped on planes to big cities. I've ridden buses through small towns. And along the way, I've gained an appreciation for just how much country music means to so many Americans."

In 2009, Mrs. Obama created a White House music series that has celebrated jazz, country, classical, Motown and Latin music. She has also arranged salutes to Broadway, the music of the civil rights movement and Judith Jamison, an Alvin Ailey dancer and artistic director.

"Country Music: In Performance at the White House" will be broadcast Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on PBS stations and shown at a later date on the American Forces Network to military service personnel around the world.

November 20, 2011

I Quit...



No, not blogging! As noted in my previous post, I no longer hesitate to give up on a book if it fails to capture my attention. Lately, I’ve given up on several books, but rather than post a separate entry for each, I thought I’d lump them all together. I know there’s no reason to bother with the DNFs, but my memory isn’t what it used to be and I need all the help I can get to remember what I’ve read or attempted to read so I don’t accidentally buy a book I’ve already tried. Please tell me you all suffer from the same problem!

So, very briefly, here’s what failed to capture my interest:



The Little Friend
by Donna Tart


I read almost 100 pages, but after the first chapter it was quite a struggle. Strange novel!



I See You Everywhere
by Julia Glass (audio)


Listened to over 100 pages before finally calling it quits. I read and enjoyed Three Junes when it first came out, but haven’t read anything else by Glass. I haven’t given up on her yet.



Doc
by Mary Doria Russell

Listened to a chapter or two and gave up. The reader was putting me to sleep! My husband, stepdad and two good friends loved this book. I’ve enjoyed everything by Russell, so I’ll have to try the printed format.



Falling Together
by Marisa de los Santos

I gave up after about a hundred pages. I couldn’t get interested in Pen’s story and thought the writing was very disjointed and the plot lacking. This is so disappointing, especially since I loved Belong to Me and Love Walked In. This new novel almost feels like it was written by a different author. I’ve read several reviews on Amazon and have to agree with those who gave it only one or two stars.

Now to go read more of Jack Finney’s Time and Again, which has captured my interest!

November 17, 2011

Off Season



Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons
Fiction
2008 Grand Central Publishing
Finished 10/24/11
Rating: 3/5 (So-So)




Publisher’s Blurb:

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly—happily married, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does… in loss.

After Cam’s death, Lilly takes a solitary road trip to her and Cam’s favorite spot in Maine, the place where they fell in love, and where their ghosts still dance. There she looks hard to her past—to a first love that ended in tragedy, to meeting Cam, to a marriage filled with exuberance and safety—to try to make sense of her future. It is a journey that begins with tender memories and culminates in a revelation that will make Lilly reevaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.


You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run...


There was a time when I finished every book I started, no matter how dull or how poorly written. It felt wrong to not keep plugging away at a book that had come highly recommended or one I’d received as a gift or one by a favorite author that I’d been longing to read. Several of my favorite books have taken well over 50 pages to draw me in, so I always felt I should give each and every book I pick up a decent chance. As the years have passed, I’ve been less inclined to follow this principle and these days I have no trouble tossing aside a book that hasn’t grabbed my attention in the first 50 pages. Life is too short, blah, blah, blah.

So why do I hesitate to give up on an author who repeatedly fails to impress me? It’s one thing to continue to follow an author who runs hot and cold (Anita Shreve, for instance), but to keep reading one whose novels never live up to the one you first fell in love with? That’s just silly, don’t you think? I wrote the following over four years ago, after reading Up Island, also by Siddons:

It's been almost six years since I discovered Anne Rivers Siddons and her remarkable saga, Colony. I loved that book and felt as though I'd found another Rosamunde Pilcher in Siddons. I went on to read Islands and Sweetwater Creek, but neither impressed me nearly as much as Colony (Islands earned a 3/5 rating; Sweetwater a 2/5). The House Next Door was quite good, but more of a horror story than Siddons' typical works.

And now I've read Up Island. It wasn't a bad read, but it certainly wasn't another Colony. I enjoyed it for the most part (although toward the end, I found myself getting impatient, wanting to be finished and on to something else). Siddons is quite a descriptive writer, but I wouldn't go so far to say she's a lyrical author (Pat Conroy and Rosamunde Pilcher are two who do excel at painting a vivid picture in my mind's eye).

And now I’ve read another that fell short and left me wishing for more. As the closing chapters drew near, I found myself flipping back and forth, trying to sort out the details, which were muddled and vague. The ending was abrupt and completely unbelievable; I wish I had someone with whom I could to discuss the paranormal aspects (reminiscent of The House Next Door). And, looking back on the entire narrative, I realize that there were many unresolved plot lines and ridiculous scenes and dialogue.

It’s definitely time to call it quits on this author. I’m not reading as often as I’d like and there are far too many talented authors I’d rather read.

November 15, 2011

Movie News



I've only read the first two books in Suzanne Collins' trilogy and didn't care much for Catching Fire, but I loved The Hunger Games. I can't wait to see this film!

Read my review for The Hunger Games here.

November 11, 2011

Thank You



This is a bit long, but well worth listening to. Sending out a heartfelt thank you to all the veterans today.

Among the Mad


Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
Mystery (#6 in the Maisie Dobbs’ series)
2009 Macmillan Audio - Unabridged
Reader: Orlagh Cassidy
Finished 10/1/11
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)




Nominated for a Macavity Award for best historical mystery

Publisher’s Blurb:

Christmas Eve, 1931. On the way to see a client, Maisie Dobbs witnesses a man commit suicide on a busy London street. The following day, the Prime Minister's office receives a letter threatening a massive loss of life if certain demands are not met—and the writer mentions Maisie by name. Tapped by Scotland Yard's elite Special Branch to be a special adviser on the case, Maisie is soon involved in a race against time to find a man who proves he has the knowledge and will to inflict destruction on thousands of innocent people.

In Among the Mad, Jacqueline Winspear combines a heart-stopping story with a rich evocation of a fascinating period to create her most compelling and satisfying novel yet.

Among the Mad is another enjoyable installment in the Maisie Dobbs series. It’s not one of my favorites, nor is it one that I’ll remember too vividly, but I was entertained while listening.

Nan said:

Jacqueline Winspear has given us such a gift: an appealing, interesting, complex heroine, intriguing mysteries, and much information about society and life in this particular time period.

Go here to read her complete review.

Joy said:

I have enjoyed all of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, but this one is my favorite after the first one. There is a great deal of psychology involved, especially relating to the minds of WWI veterans. I found it sad, yet interesting and educational. It makes me wonder about our veterans of today. Are their needs being met?

Go here to read her complete review.

I have only one more book remaining of Winspear’s mysteries in my stacks. I hope she continues to write about Maisie and would love to see all of these books filmed. Wouldn’t they make a lovely BBC series?

November 9, 2011

Top Book Club Books in October




The following are the most popular book club books during October based on votes from readers and leaders of more than 32,000 book clubs registered at Bookmovement.com:


1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

2. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

4. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

6. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

7. The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

10. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay


Rising Stars:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides


These are all such wonderful books (although, I wasn't very impressed with Sarah's Key)! I've highlighted the ones I've read and hope to eventually read the other four.

Click on the titles to read my reviews.

November 7, 2011

NOOK News

Did you hear the news today? Barnes & Noble has dropped its prices on its e-readers. Not only that, but a new Nook Tablet is about to hit the shelves! Take a look:

Nook Color
$199

NOOK Simple Touch
$99!!!


NOOK Tablet
$249



Go here for more details and read ad-free!


Brought to you by your favorite Barnes & Noble bookseller. ;)

November 6, 2011

Twu Wuv








23 years ago I married my best friend. Thanks for all the love & laughter, Rod. I love you!



November 4, 2011

The Arrivals



The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore
Fiction
2011 Regan Arthur Books
Finished on 9/20/11
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)





From the author’s website:

It's early summer when Ginny and William's peaceful life in Burlington, Vermont, comes to an abrupt halt. First, their daughter Lillian arrives, two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood—only this time around, their children are facing adult problems. By summer's end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family. And the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a few years must know by now that one of my guilty pleasure is women’s (or domestic) fiction. I find it so satisfying to read a passage that validates my thoughts and feelings, whether it be about marriage, parenthood, or grief. Narrated from multiple points-of-view, Meg Mitchell Moore’s debut novel is a hit! It’s the kind of novel I can’t wait to return to at the end of the day, but hate to read too quickly, especially since there’s no backlist of titles on which to catch-up. My book was full of marked passages and on several occasion, I found myself nodding my head in agreement.

On empty nesting:

In the moment, you were often too tired to enjoy watching your children turn into people. It was such a busy time, so demanding. There was always somebody with a science project due the next day, always a lesson or a practice to get to, always a meal to cook or a stray mitten to find.

And then suddenly everyone had cleared out, flung themselves into the big world, two of them to New York City, Lillian to Massachusetts, calling, sure, e-mailing often, even visiting, but they were gone, truly gone, replaced by the silence—beautiful and blessed, of course, but still, sometimes, she had to admit, strange and unnatural.

On adult children:

“I’m going up to get my stuff,” said Lillian. She leaned down. William thought it was to kiss the baby but instead she kissed him, a cool, unexpected whisper on his cheek that was over so quickly he barely had time to register it. He didn’t acknowledge it—he looked steadily down at Philip’s unblinking gaze—but he felt his heart lift slightly. It was funny, the way your adult children could both delight and annoy you in the very same ways that they had when they had been actual children. He wouldn’t have predicted that particular truth of parenting, thirty years ago.

On family:

While they talked, Ginny looked out at the lake and let her thoughts float and settle, trying to put her finger on what it was she was feeling, where this sense of peace and fulfillment was coming from. And while she couldn’t articulate it exactly, she thought that probably the presence of all of the people in her house—all these different creatures, with their hungers and their desires and their moods and their love—was allowing her to feel necessary, to feel loved and embraced again, in a way that she hadn’t realized she’d stopped feeling. Hadn’t realized she’d been missing.

Now suddenly it didn’t matter much to her why Lillian and Philip and Olivia and Stephen and Jane and Rachel were there. It didn’t matter how long they were going to stay. It only mattered that they were there.

On adult daughters:

“Bye, sweetie,” Lillian said to Olivia, who had her thumb in her mouth and did not look away from the television screen. To Ginny she said, “He’ll sleep the whole time, I’m sure of it.” She leaned into Ginny and hugged her, and Ginny had to work at not holding onto her too long, because after all it was delicious to have her daughter, however briefly, in her grasp.

On motherhood:

“Why are you taking it so personally?”

She thought about that. Then she took a deep breath and touched her hair. She didn’t look directly at William when she answered, because she thought that if she did she might begin to cry.

“Because they’re my life’s work.”

He remained silent, watching her, listening.

“If they’re not happy—if they’re not capable of living on their own, and being happy—it means I’ve failed. I should take it personally.”

“Oh, Ginny.” He reached across the table and laid his hand on her cheek. She pressed it in closer.

“This is it,” she said. “I’m sixty-three years old. This is what I’ve done with my life. They’re my masterpiece, and they’re broken.”

Fans of Anna Quindlen, Marisa de los Santos, Lisa Genova, and Erica Bauermeister will not be disappointed with Moore’s perceptive and uplifting novel. I think it would make a marvelous book club read, especially one with multi-generational members.

Publishers Weekly says:

“Moore finds a crisp narrative in the morass of an overpacked household, and she keeps the proceedings moving with an assurance and outlook reminiscent of Laurie Colwin, evoking emotional universals with the simplest of observations, as in 'the peace you feel when you are awake in a house where children are sleeping.'”

Nan says:

There are so many joys in this book that I barely know where to begin. The story is such a real one for those of us with adult children.

and

There is no tragedy. There isn't a dysfunctional family. There are simply good, interesting characters who are all trying to find their ways at their own particular stages of life.

Marcia says:

Some scenes in this book tore at my heart; others made my heart sing. I've always said that you never know when the phone rings or the back door opens what your children will bring home to you. Ginny and William get the phone calls and open the back door, and how the Owen family deals with the summer of their discontent made for an excellent reading experience.

Kay says:

I truly enjoyed reading The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore, and I took my time with it. Perhaps it wouldn't have meant so much to me had I not been the mother of a grown child. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so poignant and funny and satisfying if I hadn't recently returned from a vacation spot that I had visited with my late parents, that last time alone with them, just Mom and Dad and me. The Arrivals was a very good read, perfect for me.


I related to so many aspects of this novel and I have a feeling my mom would, as well. I wonder what my (non-reading) daughter would think!

I borrowed this book, but I plan to buy a copy for my permanent collection. The cover art for the hardcover is so lovely, but I’ll probably wait for the paperback. Isn’t the Australian cover art lovely, too?



And, yes. This is just a tad bit reminiscent of The Weird Sisters, although I enjoyed Moore’s quite a bit more. I like quirky characters, but only in small doses.

It looks like Meg's second novel is due out on May 29, 2012. It's called So Far Away. Here's the cover:


I like it!

November 2, 2011

What Are You Listening To Wednesday


Bellezza has created a new meme. Here's what she has to say:

After the responses to my post on Norah Jones, and dear Les saying, "I love to see what you're listening to!" I thought I'd suggest What Are You Listening To Wednesday.

It doesn't have to be music. It could be conversations you overheard during coffee at Starbucks. It could be the children in your home (or classroom). It could be the things you're telling yourself with a small, still voice inside. It could be an audio book or a movie. Just tell us, what are you listening to?


I wrote about my love for Simon and Garfunkel here. Nan also wrote about them here. Did you know that Paul turned 70 on October 13 and Art will be 70 this Saturday? Amazing.




There are so many wonderful, memorable songs on this album. Click here to listen to some samples. My favorites? Loves Me Like a Rock, Kodachrome, and American Tune.

At $13.19, this is a steal for a double album, don't you think?

November 1, 2011

1Q84 Cover Art

We're supposed to get snow tomorrow. A part of me is dreading this change of seasons, but another part is hopeful that we get snowed in. I'd love to curl up with my current book. This is one I can't put down! Thankfully, I downloaded the chunkster to my iPad.