Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Snapshot 4/25


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

We had lovely spring weather at the start of the week - I even put the top down on the convertible for the first time this year! It turned really cold at the end of the week, but we still had a lot of sunshine and a brilliant blue sky to contrast with all the beautiful blooms in our neighborhood:

Wednesday was my first top-down day!

Our daffodils are all in bloom

Even bare branches look beautiful against a brilliant blue sky

A tree in bloom with its lace-like shadow twin

Love the weeping willows in bloom!

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Fiction Review: And the Mountains Echoed

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I was excited when one of my book groups chose And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I had loved both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and was glad for the extra motivation to finally read his third novel. It was worth the wait – just as poignant, engrossing, and heart-breaking as his first two books.

Many different characters’ lives are interwoven in And the Mountains Echoed, but a brother and sister stand at the heart of this novel. Ten-year old Abdullah adores his 3-year old sister, Pari, and the feeling is mutual. In fact, Abdullah is more of a parent to Pari than a brother, since their mother died in childbirth and their father was first wracked with grief and later remarried. Abdullah cares for his little sister and makes sure she is clean and fed and loved. They share a unique bond.

Abdullah is understandably devastated when he and his beloved sister are separated from each other. They each grow up in their own worlds, many miles away from each other. Pari is also upset by the separation, but being only three years old, she soon forgets her precious brother and grows up in her own world, though she always feels that something is missing.

Although Abdullah and Pari are at the center of this complex novel, many other characters share connections with them: the children’s father and stepmother, their step-brother, a much-loved uncle, Pari’s adoptive parents, and eventually even Abdullah and Pari’s own spouses and children. Other characters who touch their lives are also introduced and explored. As with Hosseini’s first two novels, the result is a complex web of human relationships and emotions.

And the Mountains Echoed is a far-reaching novel, both emotionally and geographically, spanning the world from a small rural town in Afghanistan to Kabul to Paris and San Francisco. It follows multiple generations and includes a wide variety of different relationships. As with his earlier novels, Hosseini’s writing is beautiful, evoking both the scenes described and the emotions felt by its characters. I marked many passages that I wanted to write in my Quote Journal, including:
“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”

And another favorite of mine:
“I have lived a long time…and one thing I have come to see is that one is well served by a degree of both humility and charity when judging the inner workings of another person’s heart.”

As you can see just from these brief passages, Hosseini’s writing is achingly beautiful and thought-provoking, filled with philosophical insights into life and love and human nature. This novel explores romantic love, unrequited love, friendship, love between a parent and child, and of course, sibling love within the framework of an intricate, unforgettable story. It is heart-breaking and poignant, but, as with his earlier novels, it does end with an element of hope for a brighter future.

402 pages, Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin Group)

For more about the author and his novels, visit Khaled Hosseini's website.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Teen/YA Review: Mosquitoland

There’s nothing I like better than a road trip…or, if I can’t head out of town at the moment, a good road trip novel. I don’t know if you would call the epic road trip at the heart of teen/YA novel Mosquitoland by David Arnold a good road trip, but it is certainly a good novel with a very likable narrator and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip as I listened on audio.


You know, right from the first page, that sixteen-year old Mim, short for Mary Iris Malone, has some serious problems. Her parents recently split up, her father remarried Kathy soon after, and the three of them moved from their home in Ohio all the way to Jackson, MS, which Mim has nicknamed Mosquitoland. With all this turmoil, it’s no wonder that Mim has been summoned to the principal’s office of her new school for a meeting with her dad and Kathy. Just outside the door, however, she overhears their conversation and learns that her mother is sick in Cleveland.

Sick? Her beloved mother? Mim is devastated, not only by the news but by the fact that they didn’t tell her. So, rather than enter the principal’s office for her meeting, she turns around and leaves the school grounds. She walks home, grabs a few essentials in a backpack, and heads to the Greyhound bus station, where she buys a ticket with Kathy’s secret cash stash and begins her journey northward.

The rest of the novel focuses on that journey, from Mississippi to Ohio, which if you’ve been on a US road trip yourself, you know is a long way, both geographically and otherwise. Along the way, she meets a lot of people – some kind, some strange, and some downright dangerous. These quirky characters populate the novel, alongside Mim’s sharp wit and honest observations, as she makes an important emotional journey, alongside her physical one.

What makes this novel so engaging is Mim’s unique voice. The entire book is written as a series of letters or journal entries, though it isn’t clear at first to whom she is writing. As she observes the people around her and tells the convoluted tale of her travels, she also fills in small details about herself and her history. In this way, Mim’s full story only gradually becomes clear. Besides sounding like a classic snarky teen at times, Mim is also heart-breakingly honest, as she tries to unravel the twisted pieces of her life that led her to the dreaded Mosquitoland.

One reviewer described Mim’s narration as “kaleidoscopic,” which I thought was a perfect description (which I’d thought of it myself!). Her letters are often a sort of stream of consciousness, and you often don’t completely understand what she’s talking about until later in the story. In this way, the book is sometimes a bit confusing, but in a way that makes you want to know more. Perhaps it would be less so when reading the printed book rather than listening to audio, though the audio production was very well done.

All in all, this is a compelling story of a journey made by a young girl to save her mother and better understand her own life. Both her mother’s and father’s histories affect her in ways she doesn’t understand at first but that become clear as she works out her thoughts and memories on paper. This is a unique, engaging story that kept me riveted until all the pieces fell into place, and both Mim and I finally understood.

Listening Library

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday 4/20! What Are You Reading?


The weather this weekend was gorgeous (finally!), but now it's a dark, gray, rainy Monday - makes me want to crawl back into bed with a good book!

I had a very busy week last week, with almost no time at all for writing, so I need to rectify that this week. We always make time for reading, though! Here's what we read last week:
  • I finished And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, a very powerful novel. It's about a brother and sister in Afghanistan who are separated as children, and it is just as good as his first two novels. It's a very compelling and well-written story. Unfortunately, I realized I had the dates wrong and won't be able to go to my book group's discussion of it next week.
  • Now I am reading Fram by Steve Himmer, a novel that is one of the selections for the Booktopia event I am attending next week in Vermont, hosted by my favorite podcast, Books on the Nightstand. My mother and I were wait-listed for months and just got into the event last week, so I am very excited! The book is unusual so far but intriguing, and I can't wait to meet the author next week!
  • I finished listening to Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a middle-grade audiobook about a girl named Ally who struggles because she doesn't fit in and is guarding a secret. It was excellent and a great way to bring attention to a serious and often-overlooked learning disability.
  • I haven't started it yet, but I will upload my next audio book to my iPod today: Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis. This is one of the authors who will be at Booktopia next week, so I am excited to listen to the book and discuss it with the author!
  • I also started a new graphic novel, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. It is interesting so far, with a unique drawing style.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which thrilled me to no end since it is one of my favorites! I think he stayed up late last night to finish it - I can't wait to talk to him about it!
  • Jamie, 20, started Mountain Man by Keith C. Blackmore, a book his dad lent him, to continue his Zombie obsession, now that he has finished what he needed to read of The Iliad for his World History class.
  • Craig, 17, is reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for his American Literature class, using my old copy from high school filled with my scribbled notes which he says is "just like the Half-Blood Prince!" He says it's pretty good so far, which is high praise from someone who claims not to like reading anymore.
Just one review last week, plus a couple of posts on the weekend - I need to catch up on reviews:
Review of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Saturday Snapshot - spring has finally arrived in Delaware!

Weekend Cooking - Cookbook Review of Everyday Paleo

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers
 


 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Weekend Cooking 4/19: Cookbook Review - Everyday Paleo

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

Last week, my husband and I took a spring break camping trip to the beach, two hours south of here. Unfortunately, it was in the low 40's and raining the whole time! The good news is that it was perfect weather for bookstore browsing (and visiting some of our favorite restaurants, too). We spent a pleasant (and warm and dry) couple of hours at our favorite bookstore.

I found a new cookbook while we were there, Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso. My older son and I switched to a Paleo diet about a year ago for medical reasons (we both have an immune disorder, and it is supposed to be good for reducing inflammation and immune problems). It's really not quite as strange as it may sound to the initiated - the focus is on fresh, whole foods, nothing processed, lots of veggies and fruit, no grains or dairy (we are intolerant to dairy anyway), and only natural sugars.

I tried 4 recipes from the new cookbook last week, and they were all very good! (Please excuse the pictures of pictures here - they are snapshots of the beautiful photos in the cookbook. I always forget to take photos after I cook something - I just want to eat!)

From Everyday Paleo - Pork Pot Roast
Sunday, with my college son, father-in-law, and my younger son's girlfriend all here for dinner, I made a nice big crockpot meal, Perfect Pork Pot Roast. My family loves pork roast and loves traditional pot roast, so this seemed like a good choice for a Sunday dinner. Here is a version of the recipe from the author's website (though a bit different than the one in the cookbook). I had my doubts about the recipe, just because I wouldn't normally include tomatoes with a pork roast, but it turned out delicious! I added a few more veggies (as usual!) - some turnips, extra carrots, and a few red potatoes (strict Paleo doesn't include potatoes but medically, we are allowed red-skinned potatoes once a week). Everyone loved it! In fact, I planned on it for two meals, and the crockpot was full to the very top, but I had to add extra veggies the next day for our left-over dinner. Even more amazing, just yesterday - almost a week later - my 17-year old son said, "You know that pork roast you made last weekend? That was really good. I especially liked the sauce." Wow, definitely a keeper! (the boy and the recipe).
From Everyday Paleo - Pecan-Crusted Chicken

During the week, I made Pecan-Crusted Chicken, the first dinner recipe in the cookbook and the first one that caught my eye at the bookstore. It was very simple, dipping chicken breasts in a brown mustard-honey mixture, then in crushed pecans, and baking them in the oven. I served it with two vegetables on the side. Everyone enjoyed it, including my son, and my husband said it was his favorite of the new recipes we tried this week.


From Everyday Paleo - Puerto Rican Beef
My favorite recipe of the week was Puerto Rican Beef, a flavorful mix of veggies and ground beef with a fabulous blend of spices served over mashed sweet potatoes. Again, here is a recipe from the author's website that is very close to what is in the cookbook. My son didn't really like this one, and my husband said he would prefer it with less kale (I used a whole bunch, as indicated in the recipe but would cut it back a bit next time) and without the sweet potatoes. As for me, I LOVED it! The mix of vibrant flavors was delicious, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Today, Sunday again with a crowd coming for dinner, I am making another crockpot meal, Mexican Slow Cooker Stew. As usual, I added some extra veggies - this recipe really didn't have any vegetables other than onion and diced chiles, so I also chopped a red bell pepper and some carrots and added them to the crockpot, too. I also used diced chipotle peppers in adobe sauce in place of the chipotle powder called for in the recipe. It's cooking now, so I'll let you know next week how it comes out, but it sure smells good! Chipotle is one of my favorite flavors, so what's not to like?

Bottom line is that we are enjoying this cookbook so far. Overall, the recipes are enticing and easy-to-follow. I am enjoying the new flavors and meals - often, with Paleo, we just eat some sort of meat or fish with two veggie sides, which my son says is boring! I think it is a nice companion to my other Paleo cookbook, Against All Grain, which we tend to use more for baked goods, goodies, and sides. Everyday Paleo has lots of great main dish recipes which is just what I was looking for. It also has sections in the front introducing the Paleo diet and in the back on meal planning and exercise. The layout is easy to use - I especially like the first page of every chapter that shows a small photo of each recipe, which makes it easy to find what you are looking for. My only complaint is the same one I have for almost every cookbook - why on earth are cookbooks not all spiral-bound so they will lay flat?? Trying to keep a cookbook open to the recipe you are making is nearly impossible. Are you listening publishers?

Overall, I am very happy with Everyday Paleo so far and think we will use it a lot - there are still plenty of recipes in it that I want to try!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Snapshot 4/18


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Spring has finally come to Delaware! Thank goodness. Everything began bursting into bloom this week:

My neighbor's flowers - I love blue flowers1

Finally, some green in the trees!

A neighbor's daffodils & flowering tree

My favorite - forsythia - love that bright pop of yellow!

Our forsythia with my neighbor's tree in the background

Crocuses
Hope you are enjoying this lovely weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fiction Review: The Shadow of the Wind


I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for the first time about 5 years ago for one of my book groups. I didn’t love it and was surprised by how much other group members enjoyed it. Since then, I have heard so many rave reviews and so many people who rate it as one of their favorite books that I decided to give it another try last month when my neighborhood book group chose it. I’m glad I gave it a second chance because I really enjoyed the very bookish, clever, story-within-a-story this time.

The novel begins in Barcelona in 1945 when 10-year old Daniel is taken by his father, a bookseller, to a mysterious place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He tells Daniel that the place is a secret and allows him to choose one book from among its thousands and thousands of shelves in twisting galleries. Daniel chooses a book at random that will end up changing his life dramatically. It’s a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by an obscure author named Julian Carax. That night, Daniel compulsively reads the compelling novel from beginning to end, with the rapture that any book-lover will recognize.

Daniel’s father has never heard of the book or author before, so he introduces Daniel to a fellow bookseller who is quite impressed by Daniel’s find. Daniel can tell that it’s a rare and valuable book and knows that he must protect it and keep it close. From there, the story slowly unfolds, adding new characters and new, unexpected aspects to the story. In Daniel’s words, as he is reading his own The Shadow of the Wind:

As it unfolded, the structure of the story began to remind me of one of those Russian dolls that contain innumerable ever-smaller dolls within. Step by step the narrative split into a thousand stories, as if it had entered a gallery of mirrors, its identity fragmented into endless reflections.

In the first of many parallels between the real novel I read and the fictional novel at the center of the story, its complex plot unfolds in much the same way.

Daniel’s story continues in the 1940’s, as he feels compelled to investigate the novel and its mysterious author, while it becomes clear that someone wants to destroy it. At the same time, the reader also begins to learn of Julian Carax’s (the author) own tragic life story years earlier, beginning when he was a child much like Daniel in Barcelona. History is woven in with the Spanish Civil War and the repercussions of that which continue to Daniel’s time.

It’s all a deliciously convoluted story within a story within a story, filled with mystery and suspense, romance, history, and drama. For mystery lovers, there is plenty here to sink your teeth into, as Daniel investigates what became of Julian Carax and his childhood friends and who wants to destroy the author’s works, with lots of red herrings along the way to keep things interesting. All of this is set against the backdrop of Barcelona, described with rich language in a way that makes you feel as if you are right there with Daniel, walking its twisty streets.

The Shadow of the Wind is one of those books where a lot of different threads all eventually come together, like a rich tapestry whose pattern you can’t discern while it’s being woven. I like clever books like that, and I came to care about Daniel and his friends. It’s a beautifully written, compelling story set in a place and time that the author brings fully to life on the page, a book that is perfect for book lovers.

486 pages, Penguin Books

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Monday 4/13! What Are You Reading?


Monday morning...and it finally feels like spring here!!  Ahhh... Last week was just miserable weather - low 40's and rainy - and we were camping! Spring finally arrived this weekend, thank goodness. Since my husband and I were on vacation last week, we got a lot of reading done:
  • I finished The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley, which is our All-County Reads book this spring. It is a compelling novel about a 91-year old man who recovers his memory and sharp thinking for a short time. Wow, what an emotionally powerful, thought-provoking novel. The characters and the story have really stuck with me. I can't wait to hear Mosley talk this week!
  • I am now reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, another powerful novel. It's about a brother and sister in Afghanistan who are separated as children, and it is just as good as his first two novels. It's a very compelling and well-written story.
  • I am still listening to Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a middle-grade audiobook about a girl named Ally who struggles because she doesn't fit in and is guarding a secret. It's been excellent so far...but what is wrong with all these teachers?
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which thrilled me to no end since it is one of my favorites! While we are reading at night, he keeps looking over at me and saying, "She died again." I think he's enjoying it.
  • Jamie, 20, had to set fun reading aside last week to finish reading The Iliad for his World History class.
  • Craig, 17, is reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for his American Literature class, using my old copy from high school filled with my scribbled notes which he says is "just like the Half-Blood Prince!" He says it's pretty good so far, which is high praise from someone who claims not to like reading anymore.
 I was offline most of last week but squeezed in a few blog posts when I got home:
Coming Soon: Favorite Books on the Big Screen, a reprint of my book column for Vital! magazine

Summary of Books Read in March

Saturday Snapshot, with photos of our cold visit to the beach!

Weekend Cooking, with our Ukrainian Easter dinner plus two simple dinner recipes

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers


NOTE For What Are You Reading Monday followers and fans: Sheila suffered from an unthinkable loss Easter weekend when her son was killed in a car accident. She posted a brief update on her blog at the above link. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this very challenging time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Cooking 4/12

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

Our meals this week featured a lot of Easter left-overs! I made or bought most of the dishes for a traditional Ukrainian Easter feast, including holubtsi (cabbage rolls), pierogies (both potato and sauerkraut), ham, Polish sausage, a beet and horseradish relish, dyed eggs, green beans (I added those to the traditional foods for a bit of veggies for the kids!), and Paska (traditional Ukrainian Easter bread, also known as babka in Poland). I was quite proud of myself for making the holubtsi on my own - you can see in the photo that it and the beet-horseradish relish are based on old family recipes that I have scribbled on scraps of paper! It was all delicious and just as good left-over.

We also went camping this weekend, just my husband and I, as our sons spent their spring breaks in North Captiva Island, FL, and the Bahamas (what's wrong with this picture? ha ha). It ended up rainy and very cold for much of our camping trip, so we ate some of our meals in town, in restaurants. We did have to get creative one night, when I had all the ingredients for our favorite camping meal - foil dinner - but it was raining too hard to have a campfire. So, I improvised and re-made the meal on the stovetop in our little pop-up camper (see very simple recipe below). It tasted just as good!

My husband and I returned home, and I had the challenge of creating a dinner out of what was in our fridge after 4 days away. I used an old magazine recipe for Wild Salmon with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Olives, and it was absolutely wonderful! It was quite simple, too. The recipe called for sauteing cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives in a skillet, then adding spinach to wilt. We didn't have cherry tomatoes, but I subbed the one fresh tomato we had plus a little canned, chopped tomatoes, and it turned out just fine. Then, I seared the salmon in a hot cast iron skillet and served it over the spinach, tomato, olive mixture.  I made steamed carrots and parsnips with a honey-butter glaze on the side.The meal was delicious, and we can't wait to try it again this summer with fresh cherry tomatoes from our CSA farm.

Finally, I used the last of the leftover ham last night in one of our family favorites, Hoppin' John. Even my son's picky eater friend enjoyed it!

It almost seemed silly to write down such a simple recipe, but here's our Stovetop version of our favorite campfire meal (to make it over a campfire or in a very hot oven, just wrap all the ingredients in heavy-duty foil (no pre-cooking necessary) and cook over hot coals or in the oven for about 40 minutes, flipping it once).



Foil Camping Dinner on the Stovetop
(Serves 4)
An indoor version of our favorite camping meal

4 small to medium red potatoes, chopped into 1-inch chunks (or enough for 4 people)
4 medium-sized carrots, sliced (or enough for 4 people)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef (grass-fed, organic if you are eating Paleo)
sea salt & pepper to taste

(NOTE: Our medical diet allows red potatoes once a week, but if you are eating strict Paleo, you can substitute turnips)

  1. Add potatoes and carrots to a saucepan with enough water to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until fork-tender.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté onion and bell pepper in olive oil until soft. Add ground beef to skillet and sauté until brown.
  3. When carrots and potatoes are cooked, drain them and add to the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

© Suzan L. Jackson 2015
(Do not reprint or publish without written permission from the author)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Snapshot 4/11


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Our sons spent their spring breaks on North Captiva Island and the Bahamas! Nice life if you can get it - ha ha. My husband and I drove two hours south and spent a few days camping at the beach - not nearly far enough south, apparently, as it was in the low 40's and raining most of the time! But we still had fun and managed to capture some of the beauty of the beach state park before the weather got TOO bad:

Cape Henlopen State Park shoreline, Delaware

Path to the beach

Cape Henlopen shoreline

Shells and water-worn rocks

Cape Henlopen lighthouse

Later in the week - we've never seen the ocean this rough!

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend! The sun is finally out here!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Books Read in March





March was unusual here in that it was more winter than spring. It was also an unusual reading month for me because I spent more than two weeks working on a book that I never finished! But I fit in lots of audio books and a few shorter books as well.


  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold, a teen/YA audiobook (MS)


That's seven books total - not bad for spending so much time on one book. I read just wo adult books, one graphic novel and one nonfiction. I listened to four audiobooks (!), three for teens/YA and one for middle-graders, and I read one middle-grade novel. Interestingly, my two favorite books last month were the middle-grade novels. Both were excellent, though I think that Finding the Worm was my favorite. Then again, Mosquitoland was really good, too!

I added five new states this month to my 2015 Where Are You Reading Challenge. I added just one book to my Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2015 - really need to read more off my shelves! I listened to four more audio books for my 2015 Audio Book Challenge, and added one more book to my 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge. No classics last month or anything new for the  Travel the World in Books Challenge.

What was your favorite book(s) read in March? 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Coming Soon: Favorite Books on the Big Screen


(This article is reprinted from my monthly book column in Vital! magazine)

Hollywood’s trend of making movies from books shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, there will be over 40 movies released in 2015 adapted from books! From classics to recent hits, novels to nonfiction, the movie theaters will be filled with bookish films all year. A few have already been released, like American Sniper and Still Alice, but there are plenty more to come – and you still have time to read the books before the movies come out!  Here are some of the highlights, listed by release date:

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks – Sparks fans will be excited to see this novel about two intertwined love stories set in North Carolina – April 10

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – This 2008 thriller about children being murdered in the Soviet Union is the first book in a trilogy – April 17

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – The classic tale of a woman juggling three suitors – May 1

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – A heart-breaking love story from the very popular 2012 novel about a young woman and the paralyzed man she cares for – August 21

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – Popular classic novel about a farm girl intent on escaping to a life in high society – TBA but aiming for summer

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (movie will be titled Everest)– Uber-popular 90’s nonfiction book about a harrowing Everest climb, with an all-star cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, and Josh Brolin – September 18

The Martian by Andy Weir – Last year’s Gravity meets McGyver sci fi hit about an astronaut left alone on Mars hits the big screen with Matt Damon in the lead role – November 25

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathanial Philbrick – Sure to be a hit with Ron Howard at the helm of this adaptation of the nonfiction book about the Essex whaleship – December 11

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Fans of the novel and movie Gone Girl will be excited to see another Flynn novel in the theaters, starring Charlize Theron – TBA

The Light BetweenOceans by M.L. Stedman – Popular 2012 novel about a childless couple living in a lighthouse and the baby they find – TBA

Room by Emma Donahue – Stunning 2010 novel about a mother and son being held captive in a small room – TBA

See you in the theaters!

(This article is reprinted from my monthly book column in Vital!, The magazine for Active Older Adults, available free in public places like libraries and drugstores in Delaware, North Carolina, and South Carolina.)

The last two are the movies I most want to see - and the only books on this list I've already read, though I do have The Martian, Dark Places, and In the Heart of the Sea waiting on my shelf. Which move adaptations are you excited to see this year?

Monday, April 06, 2015

It's Monday 4/6! What Are You Reading?


I'm actually writing this on Sunday night because my husband and I are going camping at the beach for a few days this week for a mini spring break. Our college son just returned from a week on North Captiva Island, Florida, today, and our 17-year old son flew to the Bahamas this morning with his girlfirend's family! Yup, they are both livin' the high life, while we drive 2 hours to the beach with our camper. What happened?

Anyway, we had a nice two-day Easter celebration (Saturday with one son and Sunday with the other) and are stuffed full of delicious Ukrainian food...though I was very nostalgic for the Easters of my childhood, with our whole extended family together for the traditional feast. Time moves on!

We all enjoyed some good books this past week:
  • I finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for my neighborhood book group (well, I finished it the next day but got past all the plot surprises!). This was my second time reading it, and I enjoyed it much more this time - it's a fun, twisty story within a story set in Barcelona and perfect for book lovers. Everyone in the group enjoyed it.
  • I also finished Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley, a graphic novel. It's a combination memoir and cookbook, all told with a wonderful sense of joie de vivre - right up my alley! I really enjoyed it.
  • Now, I am reading The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley, which is our All-County Reads book this spring. It is a compelling novel about a 91-year old man who recovers his memory and sharp thinking for a short time. It pulled me right in, and I can hardly stand to set it down. I can't wait to hear the author talk in two weeks!
  • I finished listening to Mosquitoland by David Arnold, a teen/YA novel about a quirky teen girl named Mim who takes an impulsive road trip from Mississippi to Ohio to visit her mom. It's a little confusing at times (one reviewer described Mim's narrative as kaleidoscopic!) but absolutely captivating and filled with interesting characters. I really enjoyed it.
  • Now, I am listening to Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a middle-grade audiobook about a girl named Ally who struggles because she doesn't fit in and is guarding a secret. It's been excellent so far.
  • My husband, Ken, finished First Wave by J. T. Sawyer, a post-apocalyptic novel, on his Kindle.
  • Now, Ken is reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which thrilled me to no end since it is one of my favorites! I hope he likes it as much as I did. While we are reading at night, he keeps looking over at me and saying, "She died again."
  • Jamie, 20, just finished Shadow of the Winter King by Erik Scott de Vie, Book 1 of World of Ruin series, a book that we gave him for Christmas. I asked him if he liked it, and he said he's already looked up the upcoming sequel!
  • Now, Jamie is starting Mountain Man by Keith C. Blackmore, a book his dad lent him, to continue his Zombie obsession! But first, he has to read The Iliad for his World History class.
  • Craig, 17, is reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for his American Literature class, using my old copy from high school filled with my scribbled notes which he says is "just like the Half-Blood Prince!" He says it's pretty good so far, which is high praise from someone who claims not to like reading anymore.

Blog posts last week:
Review of Personal History, an autobiography by Katharine Graham

My Essay Published on Mamalode - "While They Are Sleeping," about checking on my sons while they slept when they were younger.

Review of Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt, a middle-grade audiobook

Saturday Snapshot - still suffering seasonal confusion here, but I am ready for spring!

What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers


Happy Easter! We celebrated for two days!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Saturday Snapshot 4/4


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.


Happy Easter (almost). We are actually celebrating today because our college son is off in Florida for spring break and our high school son leaves tomorrow morning for the Bahamas with his girl friend's family! Lucky boys! So, we are having an early Easter dinner today and left-overs tomorrow.


Just a few pics from this week because it was super busy - we have still not seen much evidence of spring here!


Snowdrops are still the only sign of spring here!
Yes, more snow! Huge fluffy flakes last Saturday night.

I don't care what the weather is like - I am declaring it spring!

Some of our Ukrainian specialties - ready for Easter dinner!
 Enjoy the weekend and have a lovely Passover or Easter!