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!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Middle-Grade Review: Finding the Worm

Although I didn’t realize it when I started listening, Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt is apparently the sequel to his acclaimed middle-grade novel, Twerp. It didn’t really matter that this was a second book and I hadn’t read the first; it stood on its own just fine. Better than fine, in fact – I found it realistic, engaging, and moving.

Julian Twerski – and his group of neighborhood friends – is now twelve years old and in seventh grade in Brooklyn in 1970. The gang is still much the same but things around them are changing in unforeseen ways. The boys are all turning thirteen this year and having their bar mitzvahs. Beverly, who also lives on the block, keeps pestering Julian to race her, and he feels weird when he is around her. Julian is in trouble at school again – this time, for something he didn’t do. He’s been accused of vandalizing a painting in school, and even though he insists he didn’t do it, the principal wants him to write an essay on good citizenship. When Julian turns in a page of 200 “no”s instead, the battle is on.

All of that pales in comparison, though, to the friends’ biggest challenge – one of their own, Quentin, has cancer. Seeing their buddy lying helplessly in a hospital bed changes everything. As the school year progresses, Julian continues to turn in mocking essays, Beverly continues to insist on racing him, and the friends do their best to help Quentin however they can. All of this gives Julian a lot to think about, and besides talking to his rabbi during his bar mitzvah preparation meetings, he also turns again to his journal to try to figure things out.

I loved this very realistic audiobook about friendship and growing up. The setting in 1970 Brooklyn was perfect, with the ragtag group of friends – who originally came together just by virtue of living on the same block – reminding me of the original Sandlot movie (an old favorite at our house). The audio was well done, with a believable narrator who brought me back to those middle-school days, when small conflicts felt like major tragedies. However, with Quentin’s cancer at the heart of the novel, the story also has great emotional depth; it is incredibly moving and heartfelt, while also keeping a sense of humor. All around, this is an engrossing, warm novel with real-life emotion.

Listening Library

Listen to an audio sample at the below link:


New Essay on Mamalode Today!

My essay, While They Are Sleeping, is featured today on the home page of the Mamalode website (and will be available all month).

This is an older one that I wrote many years ago, back when our sons were just 6 and 3 years old, about checking on them while they slept each night before going to bed myself. It's something that I think any parent can relate to and makes me feel quite nostalgic, since my "boys" are now 20 and 17 and tower over me!

I hope you enjoy the essay - please share it with your friends!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Nonfiction Review: Personal History

One of my book groups recently chose Katharine Graham’s autobiography, Personal History. I don’t normally write a review of a book that I haven’t finished, but I spent almost three weeks reading through page 405 of this hefty tome, so I think I got a good perspective on both its positive characteristics and its flaws.

In case you aren’t familiar with her, Katharine Graham was the renowned owner of The Washington Post for many decades. Having inherited it from her father and her husband, Katharine took over the job of publisher of what became one of the nation’s top newspapers at a time when it was very rare for women to even be involved in business at all, let alone in such a powerful position. However, as an autobiography, Personal History covers her entire life, not just her time with The Washington Post.

In fact, the book begins well before her birth, with background and histories of both her mother’s and father’s sides of the family, going back many generations. Her father’s family was Jewish, with roots in France, while her mother’s family was Lutheran, originally from Germany. Their interfaith marriage was unusual for the time, but her parents were prosperous and popular public figures, first in New York state and later in Washington, DC, as her father became more involved with politics. Katharine had a privileged childhood, surrounded by wealth and opportunity, with her family splitting their time between multiple huge houses in the city and the country.

When Graham’s father first purchased The Washington Post, it was the smallest and least profitable of 5 major newspapers in the DC area, but he was determined to make it successful. Under first his leadership, then that of Katharine’s husband, Phil Graham, and finally, with Katharine herself at the helm, the family newspaper eventually became the top-notch, respected newspaper that it is today. Along the way, Katharine experienced a fair amount of tragedy in her life as well, including the death of her husband.

At 625 pages, Personal History is a very long book but also a very dense book, packed full of details, names, dates, and other minutiae. Despite its title, it is far more than just a personal history of Katharine’s life but also a chronicle of her family history, a detailed history of The Washington Post (and the family also owned Newsweek), and an intricate insider’s view of politics from the 1920’s through the 1980’s.

For my taste, there was just too much packed into one book. While I found much of it interesting, it was a very slow read, and I would have preferred more personal and less business. The best part of the book was when she wrote about her husband’s illness and eventual death because those sections were imbued with an emotion that was often lacking from the rest of the book. I’m not a fan of celebrity memoirs/autobiographies to begin with – I’d rather read about “regular” people – and the constant name-dropping in this book was tiresome to me. Finally, the book could have used a good editor to help cull and shorten it a bit to highlight the best of it. I had to wonder whether her editor was afraid to suggest too many changes to such a high-ranking, renowned journalist/publisher!

Not everyone agrees with me. For instance, the Pulitzer committee must have thought highly of Personal History because it won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography in 1998. Although I wasn’t able to attend our book group discussion, I heard that ratings on our 10-point scale ranged from 3 to 9.5! Most readers in our group agreed the writing wasn’t great but some felt the fascinating content outweighed that.

This book is fascinating, in many respects. Besides Katharine’s personal life story, you can see the entire history of modern politics in this book. The Grahams were very close to several U.S. Presidents, and that inside view is interesting – being in the hotel room when Jack Kennedy decided on his running mate at the Democratic National Convention, being whisked off to Lyndon Johnson’s Texas ranch for an impromptu weekend, etc. And, of course, The Washington Post was instrumental in breaking the news of Watergate. Katharine’s story also presents an interesting view of the changing role of women from the 1950’s to the present day.

All in all, I learned a lot reading (65% of) this book and found some of it very interesting; however, it was dense and overcrowded with details and not an easy read. I enjoyed it enough to spend a few weeks on it for my book group…but not enough to spend another couple of weeks finishing it! If you have a particular interest in U.S. politics, journalism, or the role of women in the workplace, then you will probably like this book more than if you are just looking for an interesting read.

625 pages, Alfred A. Knopf

Monday, March 30, 2015

It's Monday 3/30! What Are You Reading?

Ah, Monday morning - my quiet spot of sanity in the midst of chaos! Actually, last week was a good one - no extra illnesses, no last-minute trips, no emergencies for a change. I got a lot done, including a lot of blogging. This week will be less productive but still very busy. My mom is coming into town for a couple of days, and we are going to my neighborhood book group Wednesday night - yup, she travels for 3 hours to go to book group with me! Should be lots of fun. Then, of course, Friday is a holiday and the start of my son's spring break. So, don't expect to hear much from me this week!

Lots of great reading at our house last week:
  • I am still reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for my neighborhood book group. I read it about 5 years ago for another book group and didn't love it, but so many people who have similar book tastes to me have told me over the years that this is their favorite novel that I decided to give it another try. I am enjoying it much more than I did the first time.
  • I finished listening to Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt, a middle-grade audio book about a boy whose best friend has cancer. It's set in 1970, and I loved it - it is heart-breaking, yes, but also funny and spot-on in its portrayal of middle school kids and the era.
  • I am now 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 started a new graphic novel that I've heard great things about - Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. It's a combination memoir and cookbook, all told with a wonderful sense of joie de vivre. I am loving it so far.
  • My husband. Ken, finished Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand and says he is looking forward to our local racetrack opening for spring!
  • Ken is now reading First Wave by J. T. Sawyer, a post-apocalyptic novel, on his Kindle.
  • Jamie, 20, has been working his way through the 10 books of the Dead series by T.W. Brown, in between classes, parties, and his new (first-ever) job. I doubt he will read much this week because he is in Florida for spring break with 8 of his friends!
  • 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!"
Blog posts last week:
Top Ten Books from My Childhood/Teen Years I'd Like to Revisit, including some I loved sharing with my own sons

Review of The Law of Loving Others by Kate Axelrod, a teen/YA audio book

Review of Here by Richard McGuire, a unique and fascinating graphic novel

A Day in the Life, a fun event last week, with a summary of my day - and lots of pics!

2015 Audiobook Challenge First Quarter Update - I'm on my 8th audiobook of the year

Saturday Snapshot - winter? spring? The weather changes are making my head spin!

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

From my Day in the Life post (I'm not very good at selfies!)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday Snapshot 3/28

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Spring? Winter? Spring? Winter? The changing weather is making our heads spin here in Delaware! Here's a little taste of what we've seen in the past week...keeping in mind that it is back down in the low 30's today with snowflakes in the air again!

Heavy snowfall last Friday that postponed our trip!

Bird prints in the snow

Back home on Monday...and all that snow we got on Friday is gone!

Dozens and dozens of robins all over the neighborhood

Savoring a brief respite in the 60's Thursday, before it got cold again

Hope you are enjoying a lovely - and warm - weekend!

(If you would like to see more photos of my world, check out my Day in the Life post)

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Audiobook Challenge First Quarter Update

One of my reading challenges this year is the 2015 Audiobook Challenge hosted by The Book Nympho and Hot Listens
I signed up for Binge Listener level, 20-30 audiobooks.

So far, I have listened to and finished 7 audiobooks:
  1.  When Marnie Was Here by Joan G. Robinson
  2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 
  3. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
  4.  I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  5. The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
  6.  The Law of Loving Others by Kate Axelrod
  7. Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt
And I am currently listening to Mosquitoland by David Arnold. So, I am definitely on track to meet my goals this year!

A Day in the Life

Trish over at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting A Day in the Life Event today at her blog. I spent all day yesterday taking photos throughout my day, and now I will try to share them with you in a way that doesn't bore you to tears! I present...yesterday...

I started my day the way I always do, with a quick wash-up and then some gentle yoga stretches in front the the Today Show. I try to time it so that I catch the top stories summary, but it doesn't always work out that way. Then, I got dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast.
Ready for the day!

I love the total silence of the house on weekday mornings when I am home by myself. I made my usual breakfast - scrambled eggs with lots of veggies (onion and zucchini today, plus crumbled bacon) while singing along to the radio at the top of my lungs (another benefit of being in the house alone!). We switched to a Paleo diet (no dairy, sugar, or grains) about a year ago due to mine and my son's chronic immune disease. It has definitely helped us, and I actually enjoy it now.

After breakfast comes my favorite part of the morning: I settle into the sunny spot on the loveseat (though it's gloomy out today) with my laptop and a steaming mug of Tangerine-Orange Zinger tea next to me. We recently switched to family room furniture where every seat is a recliner, which works out great for us because keeping my feet elevated gives me more stamina. I take a quick peek at blog comments and Facebook, then close them both so that I can focus on writing. I finish an essay I started the day before for the website The Mid and submit it. Fingers crossed!

I reluctantly leave my favorite spot and my favorite job (writing) for more mundane tasks - today is errand day. I pull together a quick grocery list, fill out deposit slips, and make a list so I won't forget a stop. Finally, about 10 am - later than I'd hoped - I head out the door. First stop is Walgreen's to pick up prescriptions, then into town to the dry cleaners, through the bank's drive-through, and finally to the grocery store.

Normally, I would stop at the library while I'm in town, but it's closed on Thursdays - so sad! I can't pick up my holds today, but throughout my morning errands, my iPod keeps me company with my latest audio book, Mosquitoland by David Arnold, a quirky teen/YA novel about a girl making an impromptu bus road trip to visit her mom.

Yup, our local grocery store chain is called Acme...but, no, they don't carry rocket-powered roller skates or magnetic birdseed, alas. Grocery shopping has become much simpler and quicker since we switched to a Paleo diet - loads of fresh fruits and veggies, a few meats (organic or grass fed), eggs, coconut milk, and just a few items from the center aisles, like chicken broth and herbal tea. I do grab a few extras for my 17-year old son and his friends, like tortilla chips with salsa and queso sauce - he is decidedly NOT Paleo! Before long, I am finished.

Back at the car, I encounter the one thing I don't like about my beloved '92 VW Cabriolet: trying to stuff a whole cart of groceries into the tiny recessed trunk! It definitely makes grocery shopping a challenge. Somehow, I manage to squeeze it all in and pop my iPod back into the dock and listen to more of my book (I just upgraded from my old cassette stereo to a new one with an iPod dock last summer - I feel so modern!).

I arrive home as the rain starts to fall - doesn't that always happen on the day you go to the grocery store?? I carry in the stuff that needs to be refrigerated or frozen and leave all the rest for my son to bring in after school - there are benefits to having teen boys.

That was actually a LOT of activity for me to tackle in one day, so once I get the urgent grocery items put away, I collapse back into the recliner loveseat and try to get through my e-mails as quickly as I can. I also sneak another quick peak at Twitter, my blogs, and Facebook, though I generally try to leave social media for the end of the day - that one habit has given me a lot more productive time.

Lunch time! Another favorite time of day for me. I make my favorite Chocolate-Banana-Sunflower Butter Paleo smoothie. It tastes like a thick chocolate milk shake but is very good for me, and the whey powder in it helps my poor mitochondria create more energy. My older son and I love these smoothies and ate them every day while he was home during winter break. I have some veggie chips on the side for salty, crunchy goodness.

Best of all, I usually watch a TV show at lunchtime - something that my very male-centric family would never watch with me. Recent favorites are Parenthood, Glee (both of which just wrapped up for good - sniff, sniff), The Amazing Race (which we used to all watch together, but eveyone else got sick of it), and The Mysteries of Laura. I have also been making my way through season 1 of the Gilmore Girls, inspired by this awesome Rory reading list, and enjoying it very much. That's what I watch today.

After lunch, I am more than ready for my daily nap. People always tell me how lucky I am to "get" to nap every day, but it's not nearly as much fun when it's necessary - I feel like an over-grown toddler! Still, I do appreciate the required downtime in one way because it gives me a break in the middle of the day to read a little bit. I am currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for my neighborhood book group and enjoying it. I read for about 20 minutes and then fall asleep for an hour or so. During my nap, I vaguely hear my son come home from school, run up to his bedroom, and slam out the door again a few moments later.

After my nap is my designated blog time. I settle back into the recliner to write a review of the graphic novel Here by Richard McGuire, which was unique and absolutely fascinating. My favorite sunny spot is actually sunny now!

My husband comes home which signals that it's time to put away the laptop and make dinner. This is my lowest time of day, energy-wise, so he comes into the kitchen to help me. Since our younger son is taking his girlfriend out to dinner tonight for their 6-month anniversary (and our older son is at college), it is just the two of us, so we make something the kids would hate: Red Curry Shrimp and Asparagus over Coconut-Lime
Cauliflower "Rice" (basically grated cauliflower with some extra flavors added in that makes a pretty good rice substitute). We cook the meal and then sit down to eat at the kitchen table. It's delicious!

After dinner we clean up together, but then I feel all that standing catching up with me and head back to put my feet up again. It has miraculously turned into a nice day, with temperatures actually in the 60's! This is amazing, since we got a big snow storm last week and predicted temps in the 20's this weekend. So, I take my laptop and a reclining chair out onto our back deck to soak up that warm air while it lasts! This is the time of day when I finally forget about the to-do list and being productive and just play a little. I check Twitter and some blogs and catch up with my family and friends on Facebook.

OK, this is going to make us sound really old, 7:00, we watch Jeopardy! It's actually a new habit, since our sons are rarely around now in the evenings, and it's a lot of fun. We have the daily calendar of Jeopardy questions, too - yup, total geeks.

At 7:30, I put the laptop away - another new habit that has worked really well for me. I actually aim to put it away by 7 pm, but tonight I was running late from the busy day. The evening is family time, and I also feel better physically if I stop all computer work and lie down by 7 pm. I settle into my evening spot - lying down flat on the longer couch, with a cup of Raspberry Zinger (or sometimes Mint Medley) by my side and a square of dark chocolate - ahhhh! The reward after a long day. My husband and I choose our two TV shows for the night - this time, we catch up on episode of The Good Wife and Perception.

We head upstairs at 9:30 and get ready for bed, when our son again runs into the house, grabs some stuff from his bedroom, yells through the door that he's spending the night at a friend's house, and runs out again. I haven't actually laid eyes on him all day! Normally, he's home for dinner and the evening (no homework tonight since he has the day off tomorrow. We settle in to read in bed until about 10:30. We both love to read, so with this routine, we get some shared time with our favorite TV shows and also some reading time. We try to turn the lights out by 10:30 pm because he has to get up early for work, and I need a lot of extra rest. Tomorrow is another full day. Good-night!

So, that's it. A Day in the Life...albeit a rather busy one. I'm not always able to do so much in one day, but I've been feeling pretty good this week. I hope I didn't bore you!