Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fiction Review: In the Woods

After hearing many rave reviews of Tana French’s award-winning series that begins with In the Woods (for which she won an Edgar Award, plus several others), I bought it for my husband’s birthday last year. He loved it, so I bought him books 2 and 3 on subsequent holidays, and he kept telling me I just had to read them. Dangerous Reads Month gave me the perfect excuse to finally read In the Woods, and I was not disappointed! It is a top-notch mystery/suspense novel that is superbly written.
Even the premise of this novel is unique and compelling. Detective Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, are investigating the murder of a 12-year old girl in the woods behind a suburban neighborhood outside of Dublin. It’s a complicated and perplexing case, with no obvious suspects. To make matters worse, only Cassie knows Rob’s dark secret: that he grew up in that same neighborhood, played in the same woods when he was a child, and was the only remaining witness when his two best friends disappeared from those woods when they were twelve years old.
Rob thinks he can handle the stress of being involved in the case, but when they discover evidence that could possibly link the 20-year old murder with the present one, things get even more complicated. Rob has no memory of the day of his friends’ disappearance nor of any of the years leading up to it, but the parallels in these cases and the familiar setting begin to bring some long-lost memories to the forefront. Meanwhile, Rob and Cassie get more and more frustrated and exhausted as leads dry up, and the media and their boss pressure them to solve the case.
I used to read almost exclusively mysteries and thrillers but hardly ever read them anymore – no special reason except that there are so many great books out there! In the Woods reminded me why I used to enjoy mysteries so much – this unique story is filled with suspense and surprising twists and turns that I never saw coming. But this novel is also beautifully written, with prose that paints a picture and makes you feel like you are there. Here is the opening passage of the prologue:
“Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950’s. This is none of Ireland’s subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur’s palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue. This summer explodes on your tongue tasting of chewed blades of long grass, your own clean sweat, Marie biscuits with butter squirting through the holes and shaken bottles of red lemonade picnicked in tree houses. It tingles on your skin with BMX wind in your face, ladybug feet up your arm; it packs every breath full of mown grass and billowing wash lines; it chimes and fountains with birdcalls, bees, leaves and football-bounces and skipping-chants. One! Two! Three! This summer will never end. It starts every day with a shower of Mr. Whippy notes and your best friend’s knock at the door, finishes it with long slow twilight and mothers silhouetted in doorways calling you to come in, through the bats shrilling among the black lace trees. This is Every summer decked in all its best glory.”
See what I mean? I can smell, feel, and touch that childhood summer. French has a talent for using beautiful descriptive language, even in scenes where she is describing something frightening or gruesome. The effect is to make you feel as if you are there, right with Detective Ryan, investigating the murder and reliving a childhood that he’d entirely forgotten. It is a compelling story that grabs you and doesn’t let go. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!
429 pages, Penguin Books

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

You can purchase In the Woods from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or you can order In the Woods from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Monday 10/28! What Are You Reading?

Thank goodness it's Monday - I need to recover from my relaxing weekend. ha ha Seriously, we had a very good weekend. Too often, our weekends turn out to be just work around the house, but this time, my husband and I went out to dinner with our oldest friends Saturday night, and we drove to our favorite pumpkin farm on Sunday with both sons (and a friend) along - it was nice to have the whole family together (our oldest is in college).

So, a good weekend though exhausting for me! We enjoyed some good reading last week, too:
  • I finished Unwholly by Neal Schusterman, a teen/YA dystopian thriller and the sequel to his highly acclaimed Unwind, about a future world where wayward teens can be "unwound," with all of their body parts transplanted in other people so that they are officially still alive. Chilling and perfect for Dangerous Reads Month! I can't wait to read the final book in the trilogy, Unsouled, which will be released next week.
  • Now, I am reading one last book for Dangerous Reads Month, In the Woods by Tana French. I bought it (and later, the next two in the series) for my husband, and he's been telling me I have to read them. He was right - in some ways, it is a classic murder mystery, but with a twist and with excellent writing. Some passages read more like literary fiction than a typical mystery.
  • I am listening to Rotters by Daniel Kraus, a teen/YA novel on audio. The audio book won the Odyssey award a couple of years ago, and it is excellent so far. It's also a fit for Dangerous Reads Month since it is about grave robbing...though I was surprised to find out that it is also about bullying.
  • My husband, Ken, read Blood Red Road, a teen/YA post-apocalyptic novel that my son and I both liked. The main character narrates the book in an unusual slang-type style but, like me, he soon got used to the odd writing style and enjoyed the book. Book 2 in the Dustlands series, Rebel Heart, was just released this month, so all three of us are looking forward to reading it.
  • Last night, Ken started Ghost Man by Roger Dobbs, another gift from me. This is a thriller written by a first-time author, and I've heard it is excellent.
  • Jamie, 19, has been very busy at college with mid-terms, so he hasn't had much reading time. He said he is still working on Shadows Edge by Brent Weeks, book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy, and it is excellent so far. We bought him the first book for his birthday this summer, and he loves the series.
  • Craig, 15, is still reading Beowulf for Brit Lit class.
I posted two reviews (both good Dangerous Reads books, if you want to get into the Halloween spirit!) last week, plus some other fun posts:
Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, a supernatural coming-of-age tale by a master storyteller.

Review of In the After by Demitria Lunetta, a teen/YA post-apocalyptic and dystopian novel that I listened to on audio.

Weekend Cooking post, featuring some of the highlights of our last few weeks.

First peek at The Book Thief movie trailer - I can't wait!
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.)

And, remember, Book By Book is now on Facebook, so you can get updates and join in some fun bookish conversations there. 

Our family at our favorite pumpkin farm

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekend Cooking 10/27

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!

Wow, it's been over a month since I've written a Weekend Cooking post! I was sick for a few weeks, and weekends are also very busy with family stuff. So, this week, I'll just highlight a few of our better meals from the past few weeks. Weekdays have also been very busy, with soccer games and practices almost every night (games are almost always at 5 pm - right at dinnertime!). So we have been relying a lot on take-out, left-overs, frittatas, and other super-quick meals. On game days, when my son grabs a quick dinner at school (lots of pizza!), my husband and I sometimes eat at 4:30 pm! I just don't do well when I wait until after 7 pm to eat. So, anyway, here are some of our recent highlights:

We've had some nice late-season lettuce from our local farm CSA pick-up, so we've had a couple of dinner salads this past month (recipes mostly from Cooking Light, of course - my favorite!). When all three of us were home for dinner one night, I made Fried-Chicken Salad, something I was hoping would appeal to my son. He wasn't thrilled with it and said he preferred the Mexican salads we've had instead. Friday night, before a soccer game, I made use of some lovely beets from the CSA, and my husband and I had Winter Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus Reduction. I made it into a full meal by adding sliced steak and carmelized onions, and I subbed blue cheese for the goat cheese. Fabulous! It was a great combination of flavors. (I really need to remember to take photos - just imagine this salad with steak on top!).

We've gotten kohlrabi in our CSA pick-up the past three weeks. I had never even heard of this vegetable until last year's CSA, and I still have a limited repertoire of recipes for it. I chopped some of it up in vegetable soup. Another night, when I had kohlrabi, radishes, and bok choy on hand, I made Poached Chicken with Salsa Verde and Bok Choy, which uses all three. Actually, I didn't make either the chicken or the salsa in this recipe (I did try the whole thing together last year and it was good) - I just used the vegetable part of the recipe and made some simple pan-fried cod with lemon-white wine sauce to go with it. The cod was a big hit, and my husband and I enjoyed the vegetables (my son, not so much!).

One dish that was a hit with everyone - even my college-aged son who was visiting - was Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Thyme Sauce, accompanied by Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans (in the magazine, these two recipes were featured together as a single meal). It was simple and delicious!

I've also made two big pots of Sausage-Vegetable Soup - a stand-by when I'm not able to go to the grocery store! We always have several varieties of low-fat chicken sausage in the freezer, and we had all sorts of fresh veggies from the farm...but not much else! I just saute chopped onions, bell peppers, and celery, then add chicken broth, canned tomatoes, sausage, and whatever veggies are in the fridge. The best version of this recently included smoked sausage (not low-fat but I only needed a small amount for flavor) with turnips and spinach, among other things - we all loved it!

Hope you are enjoying cooking and good food this week!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 10/26

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

I was finally feeling better this week and able to get outside and walk a little! Not a lot of fall color here at the moment - I think we are kind of in between phases. The early yellows have already been blown off by wind and rain, and the later reds and oranges aren't here yet. But here are a few photos of this late-October season:

Our lovely covered bridge near the local nature center

A neighbor's yard covered with brightly colored fallen leaves

A bit of color in our neighborhood against some remaining green.
Hope you are enjoying the season and the weekend!

Fiction Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Although I listened to it back in September, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane has a spooky supernatural element that is just perfect for October and Dangerous Reads Month. What starts out as an engaging coming-of-age story turns into a supernatural tale of good and evil with nods to mythology and fairy tales.

The story begins innocently enough. The narrator, a grown man, has just delivered a eulogy at a funeral that stirs memories from his childhood. After the service, instead of going immediately to the family gathering afterward, he drives down his old street and past his childhood home. He ends up at a neighbor’s house, where he gradually remembers details of the year when he was seven and met these unusual neighbors.

When a disturbing event at his own house drove him down the street, the kind neighbors, The Hempstocks, took him in for the day: a grandmother, mother, and 11-year old girl. That day was the beginning of a series of mysterious and frightening events that he had entirely forgotten in the intervening years. As he sits on a bench near the Hempstock’s pond (which the girl called an ocean), the events of that year and his interactions with the Hempstocks gradually come back to him.

To say much more about the plot would give away too much, as Gaiman has lots of surprises hiding around shadowy corners. Suffice it to say that the events of that year were magical and frightening to the seven-year old boy, as the curtain between the real world and the supernatural world was pulled back enough for him to get a glimpse of some strange and scary things.

I really enjoyed this brief novel. To make it even better, the audio book is read by Gaiman himself, who is a very talented narrator (my family previously enjoyed listening to him read his kids’ story, Odd and the Frost Giants). The fast pace, twists and turns in the plot, and Gaiman’s amazing talent as a storyteller kept me listening – I finished this audio book in record time! This was the first adult novel of Gaiman’s that I’ve read, and I look forward to reading more.


If you want to listen to a sample of the audio, click on the amazon link below - there is a "Listen" button just below the photo of the cover.


Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Monday 10/21! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!

It is a happy Monday for me, as I am finally feeling better after being sick for over two weeks. I turned the corner last week just in time to go to my neighborhood book group's 125th book celebration! It was so good to be out among friends  - and talking about books, too! So, today feels like a fresh start, with a new week ahead and feeling like my old self again.

With all that time spent sick, I've had plenty of reading time:
  • I finished City of Women by David Gillham in time for my book group discussion/dinner. It's an emotionally powerful, raw story of women living in Berlin during World War II - ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, as the author says. I really enjoyed it, as did most of the others in my group.
  • I also finished my audio book, a teen/YA novel called In the After by Demitria Lunetta, part of my Dangerous Reads Month. It's a post-apocalyptic story about a teen girl and a toddler trying to survive an invasion of flesh-eating monsters, but the second half is also dystopian. I enjoyed the original story and the suspense.
  • I started another teen/YA dystopian novel for Dangerous Reads Month, Unwholly by Neal Schusterman. This is the sequel to Unwind, Schusterman's novel about a future world where abortion is illegal but parents can choose to "unwind" unruly teens between their 13th and 18th birthdays. All parts are used and implanted into other people, so the theory is that the child is still technically alive. Oh, yeah...super creepy stuff! The sequel is just as good as the first book - I can't wait to read book 3 which was just recently released.
  • I also started another teen/YA audio book, Rotters. Like Unwholly, this one has been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I was hoping my teen sons would agree to listen to it with me during our road trip this summer, but they say they are done with that (sniff, sniff). It won an Odyssey award for audio book excellence and is very good so far. It also fits in with Dangerous Reads Month, as the story includes grave-robbing (though I haven't gotten to that part yet).
  • My husband, Ken, just finished NOS4A2 by Joe Hill last night and said it was very good and very Stephen King-ish (Hill is King's son)...i.e. super creepy! I'm not sure what he's going to read next - like me, he has a big stack of books waiting to be read.
  • It's mid-term time in college, so Jamie, 19, hasn't had much time for reading, though he did start Shadows Edge by Brent Weeks, book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy.
  • And Craig, 15, is still reading Beowulf for British Lit class.
After I started to feel better at the end of the week, I finally managed a few blog posts and reviews - Woohoo!

BookPage's list of 13 Creepiest Books for October - if you want to get into the spirit of the season, this list is a great place to start!

Review of City of Women by David Gillham, historical fiction set in Berlin in 1943.

Review of A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer, a teen/YA post-apocalyptic audio book.

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.) 

And, remember, Book By Book is now on Facebook, so you can get updates and join in some fun bookish conversations there.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 10/19

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

I am finally coming out of a multi-week period of illness (exposure to my son's cold + bronchitis + a severe flare-up of my immune disorder) and trying to get caught up on blogging...and life! I spent over two weeks mostly horizontal on our couch, so it is nice to be upright again and back in the world. It was such a thrill to go to the library and the grocery store yesterday!

So, today's photos are a peek into how I spent my last two weeks. Being so sick for so long can really be a downer emotionally, so I tried to get out on our deck whenever the weather was nice enough - lying in my chair with a book and a blanket - good medicine!

Early fall colors and my comfy reading chair on the deck.

The view from my chair!

Don't forget that you can now find Book By Book on Facebook to stay up to date on reviews and posts and interact with other book lovers!

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fiction Review: City of Women

My neighborhood book group met last night to discuss our 125th book! I joined the group in 2007, so I haven’t been there since the beginning, but it is a great group of women, and we have read some outstanding books together. Last night, we discussed City of Women by David Gillham, a historical novel about ordinary people – especially women – in Berlin during World War II. The intricate, twisting plot gave us plenty of fodder for discussion.

Sigrid is a typical Berlin woman in 1943, married to a solder who is off at the front, fighting for the Fatherland. She works every day as a stenographer in the patent office, collects her ration cards, and goes home to the small apartment she now shares with her overbearing, critical mother-in-law. On the outside, she appears to have a decent life, but inside, Sigrid feels beaten down by the dull routine of it. She is isolated, has no real friends, and feels stuck in this rut. But she lives in a world where unthinkable atrocities happen every day in the streets, where the residents of her apartment building huddle together in the cellar each night to wait out bombing raids, and where her own neighbor (or family member) could end up selling her out to the Gestapo for some minor grievance. It is a world ruled by fear, and to survive, you must fit in, stay quiet, and not make waves.

Sigrid’s quiet, repetitive, safe life is pulled apart bit by bit. She follows an impulse and starts a passionate affair with a stranger. A neighbor she barely knows comes up to her in the cinema and begs for her help in evading the police. Slowly, gradually, Sigrid begins to open her eyes to the world around her. Once aware of the horrible things going on, she must decide whether to remain silently complicit in her country’s insanity or whether to get involved, put herself at risk, and do what she can to help.

The historical backdrop here is fascinating – peeking into the world of ordinary Berliners, trying to live ordinary lives in the face of extraordinary events. With so many men off at war, the focus here is on the women who are left behind and the roles they played, as mothers, wives, lovers, friends, and conspirators. Gillham delves into aspects of World War II you might never have thought of before, like what it was like to be homosexual when that could send you to a concentration camp or what happened to people who were only part Jewish, way back in their family trees, where their Jewishness just might be kept hidden.

This novel is fast-paced and suspenseful, full of twists and turns that you never see coming. Two words that came up during our book discussion last night were raw and tense. Gillham puts you right in the center of the action, which also results in a very thought-provoking story. As Sigrid must face issues of right and wrong over and over again and constantly consider whether to save herself or put herself in danger to help others, you can’t help but think, “What would I do?” and “Who would I trust?” It is a powerful and haunting story that will stick with you for a long time.

385 pages, Amy Einhorn Books


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

13 Creepy Books for October

October is Dangerous Reads month! If, like me, you enjoy reading some spooky, creepy books in October in preparation for Halloween, then check out this list from BookPage: 13 of the Year's Creepiest Books.

This is such an enticing list! I recently listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane on audio and agree it is a good choice for October, with its supernatural coming-of-age story by story master Neil Gaiman.

My husband is currently reading NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and says it is reminding him of Stephen King (Hill is King's son - looks like he's inherited Dad's creepiness).

Of the others on this list, I am eager to read The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes - I love time travel plots, and this one sounds great! I have also been hearing lots of good things about John Boyne's latest, This House is Haunted.

Which of these 13 creepy books do you want to read?

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Monday 10/14! What Are You Reading?

I was hoping for a fresh start on this Monday morning, but I still I am still in bad shape. I've been down and out for a couple of weeks now, and last week was the worst. I think I was exposed to a virus (probably the cold my son had a few weeks ago!) that triggered a severe flare-up of my immune disorder that has now developed into bronchitis. I was feeling a bit better yesterday after a few days on antibiotics, but I probably did too much and woke up today feeling totally wiped out again. So, I am resting (again) and trying to recover (still).

I was so bad last week that I couldn't manage a single review, but I did accomplish one thing: I started a Facebook page for Book By Book! Check it out, click "Like", and you'll get updates on new reviews and blog posts, the chance to interact with other book lovers, and plenty of reading fun! I have lots of ideas for fun, interactive features using this page.

The only good thing about being so sick is having an excuse to read a lot:
  • I finished my first book for Dangerous Reads Month, Unbroken by Paula Morris, a teen/YA ghost story set in New Orleans and sequel to Ruined. I enjoyed both books very much, and Unbroken set the perfect spooky mood for this month!
  • A kind neighbor went to the library for me so that I could begin our book group selection for this week, City of Women by David Gillham. I chose this one, and I am loving it so far! It's about women in Berlin during World War II, when most of the men were off fighting the war. Lots of twists and turns; I am totally engrossed in the characters and the story. My husband told me last night to stop talking to the book because the characters never listen to me!
  • I am listening to a teen/YA post-apocalyptic novel on audio, In the After by Demitria Lunetta. This is another engrossing story and another one for Dangerous Reads Month, with a teen girl trying to survive and take care of a toddler after human-eating aliens attack the earth.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, a gift from the kids and I for Father's Day. He says it is very Stephen King-like so far (Hill is King's son). I've heard this one is super creepy, so it is a perfect choice for Dangerous Reads Month!
  • Jamie, 19, was home from college yesterday for a few hours and said he'd finally had time to finish the book he was reading when he started school in August! He's been sick a bit lately, too, so he also had some reading/resting time this week. He finished Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling, book 1 of The Nightrunner series.
  • Now, Jamie is reading Shadows Edge by Brent Weeks, book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy that he started this summer while we were on vacation.
  • Craig, 15, is still reading Beowulf for his British Lit class.
Just two quick posts last week:

October is Dangerous Reads Month!

Book By Book Now on Facebook

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, October 13, 2013

Book By Book Now on Facebook!

Sorry for the lack of reviews and posts all week - I've been very sick, starting with a severe flare-up of my chronic illness and ending with bronchitis. I am still recovering, so no energy for a Weekend Cooking post today, but I wanted to let you know some exciting news.

My one and only accomplishment for the week was setting up Facebook pages for my blogs, so now you can visit Book By Book on Facebook! "Like" the page, and you will get updates on new posts and reviews, extra bookish fun, plus more ways to interact with other book lovers.

I generally reserve my Facebook "friends" for just family and close, personal friends, so I am excited to have this new way to interact with all my online reading buddies - check it out!

P.S. I am still trying to figure out how to add a Facebook button in the sidebar - that was too much for my muddled brain to handle last week - so that should be coming soon!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October is Dangerous Reads Month

Just like last year, Tanya Patrice over at Girlxoxo has inspired me to celebrate October with spooky, seasonal books. She has declared this October Dangerous Reads Month, and I am joining in on the fun here! Thanks - as always - for the inspiration, Tanya, and for the very cool image!

I've been trying to read lots of TBR books this year since my shelves are overflowing, so I searched through my many bookcases when I read about Dangerous Reads Month. I don't have a lot of classic horror novels waiting, but I've come up with several dangerous choices to squeeze in among my book group books this month:

  • Unbroken by Paula Morris - what better way to kick off a spooky month than with a teen/YA ghost story set in New Orleans? Loving it so far!
  • Unwholly by Neal Schusterman, the second book in his teen/YA dystopian trilogy about a society that can "unwind" a teen before they turn 18. This one's been waiting patiently on my shelf for a year now, and book #3 comes out next month.
  • A couple of Laura Lippman novels to choose from - I figured that a good murder mystery is plenty dangerous, and my husband has read a few of these that I haven't gotten to yet.
  • I am currently listening to In the After by Demitria Lunetta, a teen/YA post-apocalyptic novel about a teen girl and a toddler trying to survive in a world that's been taken over by human-eating aliens - ew!
  • And I encouraged my husband to join the fun - he's just started NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, a Father's Day gift that I gave him - I've heard it's super-creepy.
So, those are my plans. How about you? What will you read for this spooky, dangerous month?

If you need some ideas, check out my 2010 Top Ten lists of Books for Halloween for grown-ups and Top Ten Books for Halloween for kids and teens/YA.

Monday, October 07, 2013

It's Monday 10/7! What Are You Reading?

Whew - rough week last week. Another busy one and my chronic illness was flared up most of the week, so I had to rest a lot and cancel many of my plans. One of the things we had to cancel was a camping weekend we were all looking forward to. That was disappointing, but after 11 years of living with chronic illness, we are used to last-minute changes and going with the flow! I'm doing a little better today and am hoping for a better week...though the calendar is chock full again!

The one benefit of feeling poorly is plenty of quiet reading time! Here's what we read last week:
  • I finished The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the classic teen/YA coming-of-age novel. It was amazing! It was a great choice for Banned Books week - check out my review.
  • Next I went back to Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine and finished it finally! It's a slow read - literary fiction - but it was a good story, and I was glad I stuck with it. I'm sorry I missed the book group discussion, though - I've found that my enjoyment of more difficult books is really enhanced when I can discuss it with others.
  • Before my next book group read, I wanted to squeeze in a teen/YA novel. I have been reading Unbroken by Paula Morris, sequel to Ruined. It's a ghost story set in New Orleans, and a perfect way to kick off October!
  • I also started a new audio book last week and am already halfway through it - amazing progress for me! I am listening to In the After by Demitria Lunetta, a suspenseful post-apocalyptic teen/YA novel.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Time and Again by Jack Finney, a classic time travel novel that he and I both enjoyed. He noted that it was slower-paced than he expected, and I agree - it reads more like historical fiction than science fiction.
  • Now, he is reading a Father's Day gift I gave him: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. I'd heard that this supernatural thriller written by Stephen King's son was a good one, so I hope he enjoys it.
  • Craig, 15, is still reading Beowulf for Brit Lit, and Jamie, 19, is still too busy with college to have any free reading time!
 I posted two new reviews last week:

Review of Hope's Boy, a memoir by Andrew Bridge.

Review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, a teen/YA classic.

And a summary of Books Read in September.

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.) 

I spent a relaxing weekend reading on the deck!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 10/5

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Last weekend, I had a chance to go kayaking on a small local lake with my two closest friends (two of us were kayaking and the third was on a paddleboard). It was a gorgeous day, with a blue sky and the first signs of fall. Here are a few photos:

Perfect day on the water

Lots of green still, but a few glimpses of fall color

My friend's dog, Stella, loves paddle boarding!

A Great Blue Heron

Just the edges are tipped with red so far.

It was a beautiful day!
 Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Books Read in September

Wow, how can it be October already? September passed by in a blur of soccer games, school functions, and houseguests! I also enjoyed some really good books, though:
  • Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge, a memoir about foster care (California)
  • The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh, an historical novel (South Africa)
  • A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer, a teen/YA post-apocalyptic audiobook (Washington)

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, a novel, an audio book (England)
  • Hold Fast by Blue Balliet, a middle-grade novel (Illinois)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, a memoir (Arkansas)

Great variety: two memoirs, five novels, 2 audio books; four books for adults, two for teens/YA, and one for middle-grade readers. I read some really amazing books this month. The last three - Hold Fast, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower - were among the best books I've read all year so far! If I have to pick a single favorite, I guess it would be Maya Angelou's memoir.

Update on 2013 Reading Challenges:
I added three new locations for my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge: Arkansas, Washington, and South Africa. I read nothing off my TBR shelf - oops! No wonder my books are piling up faster than I can read them. I listened to two audio books for the 2013 Audio Book Challenge, bringing my total up to 10 for this year so far. And I added two books to Those Books I Should Have Read 2013 Reading Challenge.

What were your favorite books read in September?

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Memoir Review: Hope’s Boy

I love reading memoirs. I don’t know if it’s the first-person perspective or the knowledge that it is a true story (probably a bit of both), but I find memoirs captivating. I was happy to join in when my local library picked Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge for their recent discussion. At first glance, Hope’s Boy seems to be mainly a memoir about growing up in foster care, but at its heart, it’s a story about the unbreakable quality of love between a mother and her child, no matter what comes between them.

As the book opens, Andy, just five years old, is living in a tiny apartment in Chicago with his grandmother. There is a closeness between the two of them and, although they don’t have much money, they seem to have a nice life together. That life is shattered when Andy’s very young mother is released from prison and calls her mother to send Andy out to California to live with her.

Andy’s mother, Hope, is ill-equipped as a mother, but it is clear that she loves Andy dearly and wants to have him close to her. She is only in her early 20’s and is used to a wild life of partying with her friends, but she tries to take care of Andy. They live in a small apartment in North Hollywood, and Hope gets a job in a beauty salon. For a while, it looks like they may manage on their own, even without the absent-but-promised child support payments from her ex-husband.

Money gets even tighter, though, and Hope gets more and more desperate. A string of hardships and ordeals ensues which Andy remembers through the perceptions of his child’s mind. Eventually, a terrible violent crime triggers ever-worsening mental health issues in Hope, and at the age of seven – having spent only two years with her – Andy is taken away from his mother and begins his long stint “in the system.”

Andy experiences both horrifying institutional care (which closely resembles kiddie prison) and foster care. Unlike some foster children, he is fortunate enough not to be moved from one family to another, but he never forms a solid bond with his foster family, in part because he is still waiting for his mother to come back for him. No one ever explains to Andy what is happening or asks him a single question about other family members or what he wants.

Andy tells his story in an open and matter-of-fact way, sharing with the reader both the details of his lonely external life and the thoughts and perceptions that shaped his childhood. The amazing thing is that Andy grew up to graduate from Harvard Law School (no spoiler there – you know that from the back cover!) and to advocate for other children in the foster care system. The story of how he gets from abandoned child to Ivy League lawyer is fascinating, inspirational, and often, heart-breaking.

303 pages, Hyperion