Monthly Archives: September 2013

books, books, and more books…

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I keep saying I will review the books I read one at a time, but my “big” plan has not come to fruition yet (some day). Anywho, here are the books I’ve read recently (in no particular order):

19thThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

This was an interesting book. The story goes back and forth from past (1800’s) to present, following two very different stories of polygamist families. In the past, I have enjoyed reading books about Polygamy, but in this book I found one story more intriguing than the other. I don’t tend to waste time on books I don’t enjoy, so I would definitely recommend this book, but it was not a favorite.

Goodreads describes the book:

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense. It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

aliceWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I enjoyed this book. I thought about it when I wasn’t reading it (love that) and I cheered for the relationship between the husband and wife. What would you do if you lost 10 years of your memory and did not recognize your own children? Good book.

Goodreads describes the book:

Remember the woman you used to be …

Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What’s more, she’s looking forward to the birth of the ‘Sultana’ – her first baby.

But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone’s telling her she’s misplaced the last ten years of her life.

In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she’s his worst enemy. What’s more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn’t speaking to her either. And who is this ‘Gina’ everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?

Alice isn’t sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn’t have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband forever?

balzacBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Sijie Dai

This book won awards and was made into a movie. I honestly don’t know how. I read the entire book, thought it was interesting, but there were no fabulous characters or amazing plot. The entire time I read it I could not fathom how it was made into a movie. I went to sleep one night while reading this book and could not (not joking) remember if I finished reading the book or not. That is how un-memorable the book was (to me). In fact, I had not finished the book that night and went on to finish it the next day and still felt nothing. Ho-hum book.

Goodreads describes the book:

In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for reeducation during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

bean The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

I loved the author’s book, The Poisonwood Bible, so I thought I would really enjoy this one. It was just okay. I thought it was interesting enough to keep reading, but I would not add it to my list of favorites.

Goodreads describes the book:

Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.

beautiful boyBeautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through his Son’s Addiction by David Sheff

This book was an interesting look at addiction from a Father’s point-of-view. There was a lot of “what not to do” I took away from this book. I am not sure if the things I took away would have helped “Nic” if they were done differently, but it definitely gave me something to think about. There have been other books written by both the father and son since this was written. I may look into those, as well.

Goodreads describes the book:

What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family?What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff ’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets.David Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs: the denial, the 3 A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? the police? the hospital?), the rehabs.His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself, and the obsessive worry and stress took a tremendous toll. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every avenue of treatment that might save his son and refused to give up on Nic. Beautiful Boy is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional rollercoaster of loving a child who seems beyond help.

dark placesDark Places by Gillian Flynn

This author is truly insane. I have no earthly idea where she comes up with her characters, their issues, the plot. She is an incredible writer. I am shocked and surprised over and over when I read her books. Loved it!

Goodreads describes the book:

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

roses2Once a Duchess by Elizabeth Boyle

I really, really loved this book. I read it in two days. It was based in the 1800’s. The way the book was written I totally identified with the Isabelle Lockwood and thought about her and her situation when I was not reading the book and well past finishing the book. I had a hard time starting a new book because I was still thinking about this one.

Goodreads describes the book:

Isabelle Lockwood was a duchess, until her husband of only a few months wrongfully divorced her for adultery. Since then she’s been a pariah, living in anonymous exile to escape the prying eyes and wagging tongues of the town. More than anything, Isabelle longs for a family of her own, and so has to marry again. But society is ruthlessly unforgiving. To clear her name, Isabelle must face down her past – and the man who broke her heart and ruined her completely.

Marshall Lockwood, Duke of Monthwaite, was blindsided by his young bride’s infidelity. After the divorce Marshall licked his wounds, throwing himself into his botanical studies to forget his disastrous marriage. Now his former wife is back in Town, as beautiful and enticing as he remembers. As the Season throws them together again, Marshall can’t shake the feeling that Isabelle might not be the adulteress he took her for.

flowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I really enjoyed this book. This would make a great book-club book (not all books are great for discussion). It was easy to identify with the main character and her circumstances. I rooted for her through all her good (and bad) decisions. How does a child raised in foster care learn to trust anyone? How does a child who never had a permanent home learn to provide one for her own family in the future? Great book.

Goodreads describes the book:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

grass

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

This was a very moving book. I was saddened by the events in this book and of the “times” in the South during that period. It was so interesting to follow along the main characters life and how she viewed everything from her young eyes.

Amazon describes the book:

In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation and what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood and for the woman who means the world to her.

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.

Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence.

Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us from child to adult, wounded to indomitable.

hornetThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson

I read the first two books of this series quite some time ago and never made it to the third, and final, book. Here I am! I loved it. Just like the first two, I could not put it down. The author really keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. I would recommend the entire series, as well (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire).

Amazon describes the book:

In the concluding volume of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition in a Swedish hospital, a bullet in her head.

But she’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she’ll need to identify those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she’ll seek revenge–against the man who tried to killer her and against the corrupt government institutions that nearly destroyed her life.

kitchenThe Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

This is my favorite book on this post. I loved this book! It is the most recent one that I’ve read and I have not been able to pick up another book since. I continue to think of the entire cast of characters. Well written, moving, amazing. This was a great read!!

Goodreads describes the book:

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

peachThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Allen Addison

I borrowed this book from the library and it was a good read! It kept my interest and the characters were interesting. I would recommend it.

Goodreads describes the book:

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.

pridePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I loved loved loved this book. I had already seen the movie (and loved that too), so I was in tears throughout the entire book because I knew what was about to come next. Not sad tears, just loving the book tears! After reading the book I bought the DVD and watched that again (and again) too. Great story!

Goodreads describes the book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”

redThe Unidentified Redhead by Alice Clayton

This book is like a humorous 50 Shades of Grey (without the S&M, just lost and lots of “vanilla”). It was a hoot! And, if all men could take bedroom directions from Jack Hamilton… the world would be a better place. I plan on reading the next two books in the series. Fun read!

Goodreads describes the book:

When Grace Sheridan returns to Los Angeles to become a working actress, it’s a second shot at a life-long dream. With some help from her best-friend agent, will that dream become a reality—or at thirty-three, has Grace missed her chance at the big time? And when an unexpected sizzling romance with Jack Hamilton, the entertainment industry’s newest “it” boy, threatens to shine an uncomfortable spotlight on her life, how will that affect her career…and his?

Funny, borderline neurotic Grace is perfect in her imperfections, and the sexual chemistry between her and charming yet blissfully unaware Jack is off the charts. With laugh-out-loud dialogue and a super-steamy romance that will get your heart racing, sneaking around in L.A. and dodging the paparazzi has never been so fun.

soldSold by Patricia McCormick

This was an amazing book. I was beyond shocked at what this young girl experienced. This book haunts me. It was a very quick read yet it was incredibly moving. Would highly recommend.

Goodreads describes the book:

Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt—then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words— Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision—will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?

Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.

tedThe Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy the Shocking Inside Story by Ann Rule

This book scared me. It was so easy for Ted Bundy to take all of those women and kill them. I had never read a book about him before and I was shocked over and over and over at the details of his crimes and him as a human being. I would recommend the book, but I actually had trouble sleeping. Watch out for men with casts seeking assistance! Call 911 if you see anything suspicious (better safe than sorry!).

Goodreads describes the book:

Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.

Please view “reading now” for current and past book postings.

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duct tape vs gerbils

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gerbil3Well, it happened again — a gerbil escape! We haven’t had one of these in a while.

My oldest daughter walked into her room and a gerbil was just sitting on her floor. Luckily, it walked right into her hands (she has two very friendly gerbils). Then, she calmly yelled downstairs “did someone let my gerbils out?” Ummm, no.

So I ran upstairs, looked in the cages and see that BOTH cages have a big gap in the same place where the gerbils chewed through their duct tape (note: the duct tape covers the holes that they previously chewed in their cages). I see that one gerbil never left, one gerbil was in my daughters hands and one gerbil was still missing!!

We could not find the third gerbil so we brought in reinforcements… the cat! She found the gerbil in 1 second (not joking) and the gerbil ran into my hands.

Done and done! Fastest gerbil recovery ever!!

I know I may have mentioned before that duct tape was not be the best solution to fix a gerbil cage. In the battle of duct tape vs gerbils… Gerbils always win!

Read more gerbil escapades:

(yet another) gerbil escape

the gerbil update…

(another) gerbil update…

(yet another) gerbil update…

(sad) gerbil update…

another gerbil escape…