Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday 4/29! What Are You Reading?


We finally went camping this weekend! Woohoo! We hadn't had our pop-up camper out of the garage since last June, so we have all been dying to get out. My son's soccer game was cancelled for Saturday, so we went to one of our favorite local spots, Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. It was a relaxing weekend with perfect weather, and we enjoyed the beach, the warm sunshine and cool breeze, and a campfire at night. Too bad we had to come home and return to all of our obligations and must-dos!

We've had a good reading week, with plenty of book time this weekend:
  • I finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It is a very compelling story that is almost impossible to put down, but the two main characters are both pretty awful people. I'm glad I finally got to read it for myself after all the buzz last year.
  • I am now reading The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson, a middle-grade fantasy/mystery that is very good so far. Reminds me of a cross between Jumanji and the Hardy Boys!
  • I have been listening to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, a middle-grade audio book that has garnered many awards, including the Newberry Medal in 2012. It is excellent so far.
  • In spare moments, I have been reading two slim nonfiction books by Anna Quindlen. I finished A Short Guide to a Happy Life and am midway through Being Perfect. I have always enjoyed reading Quindlen's novels and essays and am enjoying her philosophical musings. I think that perhaps both books may have been based on commencement speeches she gave at her alma mater, Barnard.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, book 3 in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. At almost 1000 pages, this one will keep him busy for a while!
  • Our sons have been busy with school work, with no time for fun reading.
Not a lot of time for blogging last week, but I posted:

A review of Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird, which I loved.

A tribute to author E.L. Konigsburg, who died last week.

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 Teach Mentor Texts.)    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fiction Review: The Yokota Officer’s Club

My neighborhood book group’s April selection was The Yokota Officer’s Club by Sarah Bird. From the description of the plot that I’d read, I wasn’t sure I would like this novel about a military family, but Bird had me hooked from the very first pages, when I found myself laughing out loud as the six kids in the family decided to choose their own nicknames as they drove cross-country from one Air Force base to another. This is a warm, heartfelt novel filled with complex emotions and a great sense of humor.

The narrator of the story is Bernie (short for Bernadette), the 18-year old eldest daughter of the family, who is traveling from her freshman year of college in New Mexico to meet back up with her family in their latest location, Okinawa. The trip brings back memories of Bernie’s first voyage to Japan, when she was just six years old, and her family was moving to the Yokota Air Base. Throughout the novel, the action flips back and forth between the present and the past, as Bernie tries to navigate her family’s rocky present life and reflects on events that happened in Yokota that forever changed her family.

I loved the novel’s setting in the 60’s, with ample references to the fashions and pop culture of that time. Here, Bernie is wondering what her family will think when they see her after her year away:

“They’d said good-bye to a sister, a daughter who set her Breck-washed hair into a flip on pink foam rollers. Who wore Villager blouses with coordinated pleated kilts held closed with an oversized gold pin above the knee. Who had a pair of tortoiseshell cat’s-eye glasses correcting her vision, a white cotton circular-stitched brassiere shielding her breasts, Weejun loafers covering her clean feet, and Heaven Sent cologne perfuming her thoroughly deodorized and depilated self.

When I stepped off the plane, they would behold a vagrant in Levi’s with peace sign patches stitched to her ass and hems frayed to a dirty fringe from being trod upon by a pair of water-buffalo-hide sandals held on by one ring around the big toe. Who parted her straight hair in the middle and left it to hang lank as old drapes on either side of a groovy new pair of John Lennon wire rims. Who’d substituted patchouli oil for Wind Song perfume and had discarded deodorant, depilation, and undergarments altogether.”

Can’t you just picture the before and after shots of Bernie?? I used to sleep in those pink foam rollers (not very comfortably!), and I remember the buffalo-hide sandals with the leather toe ring and the smell of patchouli oil. The author brings this era alive on every page.

What most impressed me about this novel was Bird’s talent for weaving together both humor and sadness into one cohesive story. Bernie arrives in Okinawa to find her family is falling apart; bit by tiny bit, the reader comes to understand how things used to be and sees how things are now. Bernie was so young when things fell apart in Yokota that she really doesn’t understand what happened, so she is putting together the pieces of the puzzle alongside the reader. There is tragedy here, especially in the post-WWII passages, but also humor. I love novels like this that reflect real life – joys and sorrows, happiness and pain – because that’s how life, and families, really are. This was my first novel of Bird's, and I definitely want to read more.

367 pages, Alfred A. Knopf

 

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday 4/22! What Are You Reading?


Happy Earth Day! We are finally getting some spring weather with lots of flowers and trees in bloom, though it still feels more like March than April here in the mid-Atlantic!

I had a very hectic week last week, with my husband out of town for eight days, and lots of things going on here. Some of it was fun - like my mom visiting and coming to one of my book groups with me - but all of it together was very tiring! I was glad to have my husband back home this weekend and am happy to be alone in a quiet house this morning.

It was a great reading week:
  • I finished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom for one of my book groups. I loved this novel about family and race in the late 1700's, where a young orphaned Irish girl is brought up by a family of slaves. We had a lively and interesting discussion - lots to talk about!
  • I read Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix next, a teen/YA novel with a fascinating premise: a pair of scientists discover a way to reverse aging and give the drug to a group of elderly people in nursing homes. The catch? They don't know how to stop the "unaging" process. The narrative switches back and forth between the start of the project and 80 years later, when two of its participants are back to their teens and still getting younger. I enjoyed this so much that I lent it to my mom for her train ride home!
  • Now, I am - FINALLY - reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Am I the last person on earth to finally get to this wildly popular novel? It is excellent so far - gripping right from the first chapter and on my mind constantly!
  • My husband, Ken, read an e-book on his Kindle while he was traveling, a suspense novel by Robert Crais, one of his favorite authors. This was his first time borrowing an e-book from our local library.
  • Yesterday, Ken finished The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, as recommended by my son and I! He referred to it as Little House on the Prairie at Hogwarts, and he enjoyed it and liked the premise but said it didn't have quite enough action for his taste.
  • Ken just started A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, book 3 in his A Song of Ice and Fire series which our son loves, too.
  • Our sons were both busy with school work last week, with no extra time for reading.
With all the running around last week, I didn't have enough time to finish any reviews, but look for them this week! The only book blogging I managed after Monday was my Weekend Cooking post.

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 Teach Mentor Texts.)   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weekend Cooking 4/21


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!

Not a lot of imaginative cooking this week. My husband was out of town for 8 days, so I went with super-easy, quick, few-dishes-to-clean sort of meals. We had steaks and baked potatoes, spaghetti with meat sauce, chili-covered baked potatoes, and take-out Chinese when things really got busy!

With hubby back home this weekend, I have resumed cooking but still keeping it simple. Last night I made Chicken with Paprika and Potatoes for the three of us. It is a fairly easy, tasty meal, and good for weeknights. It was perfect last night because we had a very COLD Saturday here.

Tonight, I am going for a super-easy one: White Chili made in the crockpot. I use the ingredient list in the linked recipe, but I just throw everything in the crockpot (don't even cut up the chicken breasts), cook it on Low for about 6 hours, shred the chicken, and voila! Dinner is served. I'll make cornbread to go with it. Then, we'll have leftovers for tomorrow, too.

Hope you are enjoying your food and cooking this week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday 4/15! What Are You Reading?


Happy Tax Day to my U.S. readers! Yup, big excitement today.

We had another busy week here, and my streak of great books continues!
  • I finished The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird for my neighborhood book group and absolutely loved it! It's a novel about a military family and the secret event that tore their family apart years earlier. The author has a great sense of humor - I was laughing out loud from the very first pages! - but the novel is also warm, heartfelt, and sad. All the 60's pop culture references added an extra layer of fun.
  • At the same time, I started listening to an audio of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, the selection for my other book group that meets this week (yes, I waited until the last minute again!). My library had a long wait list, so I started with the audio that was immediately available at the library and then switched to the paper book when a friend lent me her extra copy. It is excellent so far (both on audio and on paper), about a 6-year old Irish girl who is traveling to the US with her parents and brother in the 1700's. Her parents die during the voyage, so she is indentured to the man who had paid for their passage. She grows up among the slaves on his plantation.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, a new book in the Dark Tower series (Ken says it is like book 3 1/2) and enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, based on recommendations from my son and I!
  • Jamie, 18, had a very busy week in college and no time for pleasure reading. I think he is ready for summer!
  • Craig, 15, finished reading When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka for his freshman lit class. It's about the Japanese internment, and he said it was very good (high praise from someone who doesn't like to read!). I'm next in line for this one!
 I wrote one review last week of:

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

I also wrote a Weekend Cooking post about a new slow cooker cookbook I recently bought - the recipes I have made so far have been great!

And a post about a great opportunity for teens who like to read and write.

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 Teach Mentor Texts.)  

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend Cooking 4/14

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!

We spent Easter weekend in Rehoboth Beach, a local beach town, and visited our favorite bookstore there. I bought a cookbook, which is very unusual for me. As much as I love to cook, I rarely buy (or use) cookbooks. I mostly use recipes from Cooking Light magazine or create my own. And maybe this doesn't count because I bought a Cooking Light cookbook! ha ha

I chose Cooking Light's Slow Cooker Tonight!: 140 delicious weeknight recipes that practically cook themselves. I have had a slow cooker aka crockpot for many years, but I only have a few recipes that I make in it. I have bought crockpot cookbooks before but found many of the recipes high in fat and low in flavor. I would love to use my slow cooker more because of the ease. Also, it works well with my chronic illness. I am usually at my best in the morning and at my worst in the late afternoon, so cooking in the morning and having a delicious dinner all ready to eat at dinnertime is perfect for me! Another plus is that many crockpot recipes make enough for two meals, so I only have to cook every other night.

Now, one of the reasons I don't buy cookbooks is that I've found that when I do buy one, I end up rarely using it! I was determined not to let that happen this time, so I sat down and went through it, flagging any recipes I wanted to try with a little Post-It note. I included my own snapshot of the book here, instead of a publisher's photo, because I wanted you to see how many Post-Its I put in! Not sure how much good that did, but it shows you how enticing the recipes are.

I have tried two of the recipes so far. One weeknight last week, I made Spicy Chicken Stew (sorry I couldn't find this one online). It was very easy - the sort of crockpot recipe where you just put all the ingredients in the pot and turn it on. It seemed like it might be a bit bland, so I added a diced chipotle pepper in adobe sauce (one of my favorite flavors), and that turned out well. I would just add more liquid next time and cook it a bit longer (the carrots and potatoes were almost but not quite soft). I would make it again, with those adjustments.

This week, I tried another recipe from the book that was a huge hit. Tiny French Beans with Smoked Sausage was also very easy and soooo delicious! It required just a few minutes of prep time - some chopping, browning the sausage, and sauteing the onions. I used navy beans and added a thinly sliced red bell pepper and a pound of chopped carrots (I often add extra veggies to recipes!). It turned out perfect - very tasty with a creamy consistency - a hit with the whole family. We ate it with some crusty whole grain bread for 2 dinners, plus I got a couple of lunches out of it, all for about 15 minutes of prep.

I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes in this book - so far, it is a keeper!




Saturday, April 13, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 4/13

At Home with Books hosts Saturday Snapshot.

Today's picture is book-related, so it's perfect for posting on my book blog!

On Thursday evening, two neighbors/friends and I went out to dinner (Spanish tapas - yum!) and then to hear Geraldine Brooks speak. Brooks is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read all of her novels - Year of Wonders, March, People of the Book, and Caleb's Crossing - and loved every one of them. She has an extraordinary talent for taking some intriguing historical fact and building an engrossing fictional story around it to fit the known facts. Most amazing of all, this author who is so adept at writing about American history is actually from Australia!

The talk was wonderful - she was very entertaining and has a great sense of humor. Here's a photo of her signing books afterward:



If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, I highly recommend it. And definitely read her novels, if you haven't already!

Hope you are enjoying the weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fiction Review: Flight Behavior

  I am a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver. Her novels, The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, and Pigs in Heaven, are all on my personal Top Ten list, so I was eager to read her latest fictional foray, Flight Behavior. I listened to the book on audio and, while it didn’t make my Top Ten, I enjoyed it very much.

Dellarobia, a young wife and mother in rural Tennessee, feels bored with her life and stuck by her circumstances. She is intelligent but missed her chance to go to college and escape her small town when she got pregnant in high school. She did the “right thing” and married her boyfriend, Cub Turnbow, and now they live on a small farm with two children, in the constant shadow of her in-laws. In an instant of bored frustration with her stilted life, Dellarobia decides to cheat on her husband with the young man in town who’s been flirting with her.

When Dellarobia climbs the mountain behind their farm for her illicit meeting, however, she is stopped in her tracks by an amazing sight: a valley that looks like it is on fire, every limb of every tree filled with bright orange butterflies. The stunning scene changes her mind – and her life – as she stumbles back home, unsure of what kind of miracle she has just witnessed. Word quickly spreads and tiny Featherton, TN – and Dellarobia, too –
become the center of international attention.

The monarch butterflies normally winter in Mexico, and even the experts are unsure what has brought them to this exact location, though they know that global warming is behind this unnatural behavior that may mean the demise of much of the monarch population. Ovid, a handsome and charismatic butterfly specialist, arrives from New Mexico to study the phenomenon, and Dellarobia becomes fascinated with both the science and the scientist.

It took me a little while to really get immersed in this book and its main character (perhaps in part because I was listening to the audio), but I ended up really caring for Dellarobia and wanting things to work out well for her. The title refers to both the study of the butterflies and Dellarobia’s own instinctive urges to get away, and the novel delves equally into both realms.

I have read that some reviewers feel that the book’s environmental message about the dire consequences of global warming is a bit heavy-handed, but I didn’t feel that way. In fact, I thought it was interesting that Kingsolver uses Dellarobia to tell another side of the story – the plight of poor, rural families who are barely making a living. There’s one startling scene in the novel when an environmental activist confronts Dellarobia with a list of things she can do to help the environment, and the actions are so far from the realm of her life that the activist is left speechless (actions like “Bring your own take-home containers to restaurants” – they haven’t eaten out in 2 years – or “Buy second-hand items instead of new” – they only buy second-hand and can’t afford anything new).

The story, though, is about much more than global environmental issues; it is about family and personal issues, too. As we read about Dellarobia’s heartbreaking past, her regrets, and her dreams, the global concerns are juxtaposed with a deeply-felt personal story. Kingsolver digs deep into Dellarobia’s soul, as she always does so well in her novels, and we come to know this character intimately – her thwarted dreams of doing something important with her life, her deep love for her children, and her ambivalence toward her husband.

The audio production was excellent, read by Kingsolver herself, who is originally from that region of the country. My only regret in listening instead of reading was that I couldn’t write down the many quotes I loved, where Kingsolver so perfectly described the experience of being a mother. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Dellarobia Turnbow and being immersed in the unfamiliar world of rural farming families, amidst the dual backdrops of natural beauty and a global crisis.

HarperAudio

Listen to an audio sample at this link.

Listen to Barbara Kingsolver describe Flight Behavior:


 

Monday, April 08, 2013

It's Monday 4/8! What Are You Reading?


Silence is golden!  Ahhh...the kids' two spring breaks are over, and I am once again alone in the quiet house. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed spending time with each of them (though greatly missed our usual spring break vacation when their breaks were the same week!), but it was tiring for me, and I am worn out. I am looking forward to focusing a bit on myself again and getting some work done, too. Of course, I just got a text from my son in college that he needs a hand-written note from me by 11 am today, so it looks like I am still on the clock! (and what kind of college professor requires a note from a parent when you miss class????)

Anyway, we all read plenty of books last week:
  • I worked on We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver for a few days and finally set it aside after about 100 pages or so. In part, this was because I have a book group this Wednesday and needed to start that book, but I will probably not go back to it. It is very rare for me to not finish a book. This one was depressing - which I expected since it is about a school shooting - but my big problem with it was that I didn't like the narrator and couldn't relate to her. The novel is written as a series of letters from the mom of the teen shooter to her ex-husband, looking back over their lives together and what went wrong with their son. But the mom came across as cold, selfish, and uncaring. I was just not enjoying it, and, as my husband reminded me, life is too short to read books you don't like!
  • The book I began for my neighborhood book group is much, much better: The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird. I am loving this novel so far! It's about a military family with 6 kids assigned to Okinawa in the 1960's. It's funny and heartfelt, and I am loving all the pop culture references of the time period!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, which I gave him for Easter last week. I was wrong in describing it before as a prequel to the Dark Tower series. Ken says it is more of an in-between book, somewhere around book 3 1/2.
  • Jamie, 18, finished A Dance with Dragons, book 5 in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. He said it was excellent and ended with a big cliff-hanger, so he can't wait for book #6 now!
  • Craig, 15, was on spring break last week which for him means a break from reading for school!
I wrote two reviews last week:

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (fabulous novel!),
Ruins by Orson Scott Card, a teen/YA sci fi novel.

I also posted:
My March Reading Summary, and
Weekend Cooking 4/7.

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 Teach Mentor Texts.) 
  

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Weekend Cooking 4/7

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!

We had a week of mostly easy meals with plenty of left-over nights. We were away last weekend but came home in time for a quickie Easter dinner before my oldest son headed back to college. It's a tradition in my extended family to have a big Easter dinner with all the traditional Ukrainian foods (my great-grandparents came to the US from the Ukraine in the early 1900's). With very little time for cooking last week, we did a mini version here: pierogies (good old Mrs. T's), ham, Polish sausage, hrraine (spelled phonetically! I think it may actually be khryn) - a relish made of beets and horseradish, and the hardboiled eggs the boys and I colored last week (plus some frozen veggies to offset all that protein!). I did miss the holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and prune rolls, but those both take a lot of time to make.

I also made Hoppin' John this week, using the left-over ham from Easter (the link is to my own recipe, posted on New Year's Eve last year). On Thursday, we traveled to Baltimore to meet an old high school friend of mine who was visiting. I hadn't seen her in 30 years, so we had fun catching up! My husband and son were good sports - I had bribed them to make the trip with Baltimore crabs for dinner!

And one night this week, I made my own quick version of Chicken Pot Pie (recipe below).

Hope you are enjoying food and cooking this week!
 
Quick & Easy Chicken Pot Pie

1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
3/4 bag of baby carrots (about 12 oz.), sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 1/2 cans chicken broth (about 3 cups)
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
Fresh ground pepper
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
2 packets chicken gravy mix (like McCormick’s)
1 refrigerated pie crust

1.     Saute onion, pepper, and carrot in oil in a large saucepan until onion is translucent. 
2.     Add garlic, broth, and seasonings, and bring to a boil.
3.     Add chicken, reduce heat, and simmer on medium until chicken is cooked and carrots are soft, about 15 minutes. Add frozen corn during the last few minutes.
4.     Sprinkle powdered gravy mix into saucepan, while whisking. Once it is incorporated, switch to a spoon and stir frequently over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened.
5.     Pour mixture into a round 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Spread pie crust over the top and fold edges under. Pinch around the edges of the pie crust and poke liberally with a fork to allow steam to escape.
6.     Bake at 425 degrees (or according to pie crust instructions) for 10-15 minutes, until crust is lightly browned.

Makes about 5-6 servings.

For 6 servings, each serving has about: 366 cal, 10.5 g fat (26% of calories from fat).

© 2013 Suzan L. Jackson

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saturday Snapshot 4/6

At Home with Books hosts Saturday Snapshot.


With our boys' spring breaks only overlapping for 3 days this year, we took a little mini vacation Easter weekend to Rehoboth Beach in southern Delaware last weekend. It was cold for the last week of March here, but we still enjoyed getting away (except for my youngest son who got a stomach virus (or maybe bad oysters?)) while we were there. I love being near the ocean, though:


Just being near the ocean makes me feel so calm and peaceful.

Sunset at the beach.

Some of the locals.


My husband and two sons on the beach - bit chilly out!!


Yes, I was there, too! Our favorite fish & chips place.
Hope you are having a great weekend!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Books Read in March





Spring has been slow to arrive here in Delaware this year, with our biggest (and only) snowfall of the year at the end of the month and a very cold Easter weekend. But no matter what the weather is outside, it's always a good time for reading! Here are the books I finished in March:

  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a fabulous, magical novel (Alaska)
  • Crispin -The Cross of Lead by Avi, middle-grade novel set in the Middle Ages (England)
  • Stolen by Lucy Christopher, teen/YA novel, about a kidnapped girl and her captive (Australia)


  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, another amazing novel (California)
  • Ruins by Orson Scott Card, a teen/YA sci fi novel (other worldly!)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, an audio book novel (Tennessee)

 It was an all-fiction month! Of the 6 novels I read, two were for grown-ups, two for teens/YA, and one for middle-graders. I enjoyed all of them - it was an excellent reading month! - but I think my favorite was The Age of Miracles. Or The Snow Child. Do I have to choose? I loved both.

2013 Reading Challenges: I added only 3 new states (Alaska, California, and Tennessee) to my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge. It's always interesting when you read sci fi, and it is not located on this world, let alone in this country. I read mostly new books this month and just one from my TBR shelf for a total of 7 so far for the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, but I think I should get extra credit for Crispin because it was on my shelf for so many years! I finally finished my second audio book for the 2013 Audio Book Challenge - I doubt I will make it to my goal of 12; I just don't have enough alone time for listening to audios.

What were your favorite books read in March?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Fiction Review: The Age of Miracles

I’d heard great things about The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and was intrigued by its unique premise, so I was thrilled when my husband gave it to me for Christmas. I finally found time to read it last month. I loved this novel, I loved the story, I loved the main character, and I never wanted it to end! It is an emotionally powerful story, on both a global and personal level.

Eleven-year old Julia lives a pretty normal life in a California suburb with her mom and dad. She goes to school, plays soccer, and has sleepovers with her best friend Hannah. Everything changes one Saturday morning when they wake to hear on TV that the earth’s rotation is slowing. That first morning, forever dividing life into before and after, the day is 56 minutes longer, and no one knows what to do. The slowing continues, with days and nights lengthening until they bear little resemblance to the time on the clock. The government – and much of the rest of the world – begins to live on clock time, sticking with their traditional 24-hour day, without regard to the sun’s unpredictable risings and settings. Some people, though, think it is healthier and more natural to adapt to the longer days and forget about the old 24-hour clock. Conflict increases between the real-timers and the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, for Julia, life continues in an unsettlingly normal way – her mom and dad go to work and she goes to school, sometimes in the dark and sometimes in the sunlight. As normal life worldwide continues to become more difficult, Julia’s personal life also seems to unravel. Her BFF is no longer there for her, rifts appear in her family, and everything seems turned upside down. Lonely and weighed down with secrets, Julia grows up during this strange time, enjoying a close relationship with her grandfather and pining after Seth, the cute boy at the bus stop, while all around her, the world changes in unthinkable and permanent ways.

The amazing thing about this book is how it juxtaposes the normal experience of growing up and being an adolescent against the unreal backdrop of this horrible global change. Though there is little action in the novel, there is ample suspense and tension. The story somehow manages to be both low-key and terrifying. I kept saying to my husband, “This is really scary,” though it is certainly not a typical thriller. Julia is a very likable and real narrator, struggling with completely normal adolescent crises, in the midst of a very abnormal environment. It is an engrossing, haunting story that stays with you long after you close its gorgeous cover.

Check out the Age of Miracles website. Though I don't usually like video previews of books, this one gave me chills and made me want to read the book again! 

269 pages, Random House

P.S.  Given the young age of the narrator, this novel is one of those cross-over books that will likely be enjoyed by teens as well as adults.

 

Monday, April 01, 2013

It's Monday 4/1! What Are You Reading?


Happy April Fool's Day! When my kids were little, I cooked a whole April Fool's dinner one year, thanks to ideas from FamilyFun magazine. We had "donuts" that were actually shaped ground turkey with white cheese "glaze" on top, "mashed potatoes and gravy" that was actually vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, and "French fries" that were really baked apples cut in the shape of fries. It worked really well - maybe a little too well! Jamie, who was about 5, caught on and got a kick out of it, but Craig, 2, was convinced by the foolery. He actually thought the turkey was real donuts and asked for a second one! His eyes really fooled his taste buds. Family legend now, of course.

Hope you all had a nice Easter weekend. We went on a little mini vacation to Rehoboth Beach, but it didn't work out quite as planned. Craig got sick Friday night (not sure if it was a virus or the raw oysters he had for dinner) and spent most of the weekend sleeping in the hotel room. We did manage a trip to our favorite bookstore in town.

Busy week last week, with my son home from college and my husband out of town, but we all enjoyed our books:
  • I finished Ruins by Orson Scott Card, sequel to Pathfinder. It was just as good as my son and husband said it was, and I can't wait for book 3! It's a complex time travel/sci fi plot and very thought-provoking.
  • Now I am reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver for my library's book discussion next week. It's a very somber topic, about a mother's perspective after her son goes on a shooting spree at his school, but is well-written and engaging so far. The trouble is, my neighborhood book group also meets next Wednesday, and I haven't started that one yet. Ruins took a bit longer than I expected.
  • I finished listening to my audio book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It took me a while to get into it, but I was disappointed when it ended! As is typical with Kingsolver novels, the characters felt like close friends by the end.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - this one is on my must-read list this year!
  • I gave Ken a gift from his Easter basket early since he finished his book on Saturday and had nothing to read! He started The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King, a sort-of prequel to the Dark Tower series, which he loves.
  • Jamie, 18, was home on spring break last week and thoroughly enjoyed having some reading time for a change. He's reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin, Book 5 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and loving it! He said he wants to re-read the first 4 books again - only about 4000 pages or so!
  • Craig, 15, surprised us all and bought a book at the bookstore we visited this weekend! Usually, he only reads when required to for school, but his interest was piqued by a nonfiction book about a shipwreck (he loves the ocean and sailing): In the Heart of the Sea: Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathanial Philbrick.
So busy last week that I had no time at all for blog posts or reviews.

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 Teach Mentor Texts.)