Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen

Every Last OneFinished audio 3-15-12, rating 3.75/5, fiction, pub. 2010

Unabridged audio 9 hours 30 minutes. Read by Hope Davis.

Mary Beth Latham has a nice family. She and her husband still share a romantic love life even with three teenagers in the house.  Their oldest daughter, 17 year old Ruby, and her long-time boyfriend Kiernan are breaking up, which is hard since he was like part of their family.  One of her 14 year old twins, Max, is having growing pains and might need to start seeing a therapist.  All pretty standard fare in a fiction novel.  Until…

Well, let’s just say, something happens.  Something that moves the story from a story about motherhood to one about family tragedy.  There is really no way to review this book without giving too much away, so I won’t give details, but I did mostly like it.  The shocking event wasn’t totally unforseen, but it threw the trajectory of the story off just enough to make the book seem like two separate books.  I had some issues with the story before and then after, but the book was ambitious.

I know I read reviews for this but because I waited a while to read it I didn’t remember them, which was a good thing.  If you like your fiction on the darker side I think this would appeal to you.

Have you read it?  Without giving too much away what did you think of the twist in the middle?  I give it a thumbs up just for shock value.

I thought the narration by Davis was excellent.

This was from my library.

 

A Place to Call Home, by Deborah Smith

A Place to Call HomeFinished 3-12-12, rating 4.5/5, southern fiction/romance, 414 pages, pub. 1997

Pampered Claire has been in love with Bad Boy Roan since she was five and he stood up for her against a bully.  The two were an unlikely pair, especially given their five year age difference.  Their friendship caused tongues to wag and Claire’s parents concern, but it remained and strengthened until Roan proved himself worthy and Claire’s family took him in. Five years later they would send him away not knowing what became of him.  It’s twenty years later and Claire is all grown up and has never forgotten Roan or quite forgiven her parents, but her life has gotten complicated and she must return home to her childhood home and to her family.

This is one of those wonderful stories about love, redemption, acceptance, secrets, and family.  It is a love story, but it is much more than that too.  Claire is from a huge family and I can relate, although I’m an only child I have 14 first cousins and a whole lotta seconds and thirds.  Claire couldn’t do anything in her small southern Georgia town without a relative knowing about it – she even had three lively grandmothers living in her house.  I loved the multigenerational feel of the book, the feeling of a deep connection to the land and the people.  It was warm and inviting.

As much as I enjoyed Claire and her family it was Roan’s story that broke your heart and made you want to keep reading.  Roan, who grew up poor, filthy, beaten, and judged because his father was the town embarrassment.  When Roan disappeared you just knew he would make something of himself, but how and why did he stay away?  The reason was one I didn’t quite see coming and it made this book more than a great romance with something extra, a great story.

I loved this one.  The characters were all well-developed, even the secondary ones. It was great comfort reading as I’ve come to expect from Deborah Smith.  I’ve read several other of her novels, but this is ny favorite.  One thing of note, Claire was a reporter but she didn’t know what had become of Roan those twenty years and I kept thinking, “Just Google him!” or “He’s gotta be on Facebook.”  Isn’t it funny how technology can intrude on a perfectly lovely story?

If you like romances like the old Lavyrle Spencer novels or great southern reading I highly recommend this one.

Thsi was from my personal library.

Scramble Me An Author Quiz

I like word games and this is one we haven’t tried.  I’ll give you an author and you make as many words as you can using the letters of her name.  No proper words, names or abbreviations.  Make as many words as you can of 4 or more letters – I’ll be awarding points on a curve with the person who submits the most getting 100.  Let’s start with an author who has only penned one novel, but really why risk messing with perfection by writing another?

You have until noon Saturday to submit your answers as a comment.  Comment will be hidden until I post the answers.  No Googling!

This round lasts til the end of March and the person with the most points will win a B&N gift card (total $ based on # of total participants, so please play) and a randomly selected participant will win a fun prize from me.

Have fun and Good Luck!

HARPER LEE

I spent about 5 minutes and came up with 27 words.  Why not give it a try?

Last week’s First & Last quiz here.  Leaderboard and rules here.

A day with Gage

There is no typical day in the life of Gage, but Tuesday was close enough to most days that Gage decided to give you the play-by-play, with lots and lots of photos (I apologize if it takes too long to load).

7:40 am “Mom, I’m ready to get up.”

7:50 am.  “Please get me some oatmeal, Mom.”

8:15 am. “Woo Hoo. Play time!” (Do you like the child-prooofed fireplace? Cardboard, duct tape and outdoor seat cushions. Fancy)

9:30 am “I love see my friends at My Gym.  (We try to come three mornings a week for the 45 minute class/free-for-all)

10:30 am  Quick stop at Walgreens while Mom gets cat food, juice and Diet Coke

11:30 am.  We voted (and one of us ran around the church).

11:45 More play time!

12:00 Lunch 🙂  (bread, soy cheese, ground turkey breast, grapes)

12:30-2:30 Nap time.  Yes, I still need to sleep in bed with mom or dad (and sometimes grandma) or else no nap for me!

2:55 pm. After a quick snack of bananas, strawberries, apple and Special K it’s more play time.  This time I’ll stop long enough to read.

4:10 Bob, our tax guy is here to see what the damage is going to be to daddy’s wallet.

5:00 Time to get mail.

5:10 Time to run around the kitchen while mom chases/prepares my dinner for later)

6:15 pm Daddy’s Home!!

7-8:30 pm Dinner out with my friend, E-Chee-ou and his parents. (Obviously, this is not how his friend’s name is spelled, but that’s how we say it.  I know it starts with a y)

8:45 pm I know I’m a big boy now but I still like being held while I have bottle before bed.

9:10 Sleep

Best & Worst of Juliette Binoche

The beautiful French actress Juliette Binoche turns 48 today.  How is it that these actresses stay looking so young?  I LOVED her in the movie Chocolat (2000).  I loved Vianne’s spirit, her shop with delicious looking chocolate and her good taste in men (Johnny Depp never looked sexier).  I thought she was luminous and magical.  I HATED everything about The English Patient (1996) so I can’t really blame her completely, but I made myself and Jason suffer through the movie and I celebrated when it was finished.  I’m obviously in the minority here since she did take home an Oscar for Supporting Actress.

So, I’d like to take a poll – What’s your favorite and/or least favorite Juliette Binoche film?  Complete list here.

FAVORITE

4 for Chocolat (Beth, Nise, Stephanie, Stacy)

(Yes, this idea probably came to me because of Alyce’s Best & Worst author series)

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids, by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern MotherhoodFinished 2-5-12, rating 4/5, parenting, 172 pages, pub. 2007

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids is the book that sparked my post about how hard mothering is.  I really enjoyed all of the wonderful and insightful comments on that post.  It’s probably one of my favorites and I have this book to thank for it.

These two moms wrote this book when they figured out that they couldn’t be the only mothers who felt less than positively about motherhood.  They interviewed over 100 moms trying to answer a few of these questions: what happened to the people we were before we became moms, why do we constantly feel that we’ve made the wrong choices, why do we feel guilty all the time, how come nobody talks about how hard motherhood truly is.  It’s really that last one that this book met head on and for the first time I felt like I wasn’t alone with some of my less than positive feelings.

This book never feels like a pity party, but it does focus on the difficulties of motherhood.  If you need a book on the joys of being a mother I might look somewhere else.  But really, who needs to read about the joys?  That’s the easy part, isn’t it? The smiles and laughs and talking and walking.  I was happy to read about the dark side without the book feeling dark or heavy at all.

It’s a quick read if you want it to be, but it took me 2 months to finish because I would pick it up and read a chapter or two and not come back until I needed another reality check.  Here’s what I learned – there are a whole lot of women feeling overwhelmed same as me.  The chapters address things like how expectations and reality often cause the most frustration, judging other moms harshly, making your relationship work, honoring yourself, and living in the moment.  The chapter on expectations spoke to me the most, but I got something out of each of the chapters.  I tend to expect too much from myself and this helped me step back and analyze my new role.

It was really the quotes by moms sprinkled liberally throughout the book that I appreciated most.  I was shocked by their honesty.

My husband’s expectations are higher for me after I decided to stay home.  I feel like he expects me to be happier.  I get to raise my kids, so I should be happy, right?  I can’t really complain, so I turn into a martyr.  I don’t even realize I’m doing it, but he does.  He says, “Get more help if you need it.”  But I know that if I did it would feel like I wasn’t doing my job.  (page 36)

There are times I wonder why I had kids at all.  I’m not sure why I’m doing it.  I worry that I don’t have time to help them grow in all the ways I’d like them to grow. (page 60)

I totally relate to the first and the second one only half speaks for me.  I know why I had Gage and I don’t ever question the decision, but I do worry about being the mom that he needs me so that he can be the best person he can be.

Anyway, I think this is perfect for any new mom.  I think it will make her feel less isolated during those first few years of motherhood.

This was from my own library.

The Art of Mending, by Elizabeth Berg

The Art of MendingFinished audio 2-24-12, rating 3.25/5, fiction, pub. 2004

Unabridged audio read by Joyce Bean.  6 hours.

Laura and her family of four make the annual trip back to her hometown in Minnesota and to the fair that draws her brother and sister too.  This year, Laura’s sister Caroline, asks that Laura and their brother Steve meet with her away from their parent’s home, and they do without enthusiasm since Caroline has always been full of drama.  What she tells them is shocking, she claims that she was mistreated by their mother all throughout her childhood.

I am an only child, so I like to live vicariously through novels about complicated sibling relationships and this one did not disappoint.  Laura and Caroline had never been close, but they were sisters and when Caroline’s confession coincides with a family tragedy Laura wasn’t all that receptive to Caroline.  For most of the book I found Laura too cool and dismissive of her sister to really like her, but as she worked to come to terms with this new vision of her mother I started to warm to her.

I love reading (or listening to) Elizabeth Berg novels, most of them are slice of life stories that are insightful and have the familiarity of talking to a friend.  This was a good story about how three kids living in a house can have such different feelings and memories about their childhood.  I liked it even if it fell a bit short of expectations for me. I think it could have delved a little deeper and adding a few more chapters wouldn’t have hurt.  It was still a solid story.

This audio was checked out of the library.

First & Last Quiz – guessing closed

I’ve had a lot of books make my way into my house in the past year and I chose 10 for this challenge.  See if you can match the first and last lines with these 10 books.  Give me the title and then the letters of the first and last lines.  4 points for correct first line, 4 points for correct last line and an extra 2 if you get both.  10 points each.

You have until noon Saturday to submit your answers as a comment.  Comment will be hidden until I post the answers.  No Googling!

This round lasts til the end of March and the person with the most points will win a B&N gift card (total $ based on # of total participants, so please play) and a randomly selected participant will win a fun prize from me.

Have fun and Good Luck!

A Discovery of Witches D. The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable. K. What we’ve always done, Joanna, Bridget replied. Remember the past-and await the future.

State of Wonder  C. The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope.  P. And Marina brought me back, and without a thought that anyone should see her, she told the driver to go on.

Girls in White Dresses   A. Isabella’s sister, Molly, was married with ten bridesmaids in matching tea-length, blue floral Laura Ashley dresses.  N. “You’re right. The worm turned.”

Adrenaline  H. Once my wife asked me: if you knew this was our final day together, what would you say to me?  R. “Ladies and gentlemen, I just acquired this bar.  The drinks are on the house.”

A Scattered Life  G. Skye’s earliest memory of Thomas was linked with smell of beer and the taste of blood.  T. “Why don’t you leave that, Mom, and go sit down? I’ll get to it later.”

Outside the Ordinary World  I. I’m pacing circles in the family therapist’s waiting room, trying to discern what my daughter is saying about me.  S. At the top of the hill, our house still blazes with the light of our argument, unexpectedly bright against the new storm rolling in from the west.

The Hypnotist  J. Time played tricks on him whenever he stood in front of the easel.  O. And then the gap was closed.

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead  B. The girl who would speak for the dead stood alone on the cobblestone drive after the rain.  L. I went back up the drive feeling like the only living thing for miles, and a very small living thing at that, while the groundhog slept in the earth somewhere nearby, dreaming his old collected dreams.

Neighborhood Watch F. Violence in the suburbs is not accompanied by the sounds we associate it with in cities.  Q. “Let’s go,” Leo says softly.  And we do.

On Folly Beach  E. Emmy awoke to the song of the wind in the bottle tree, to the black night and the winter chill, and knew Ben was gone from her the way the moon knows the ocean’s tide.  M. Then taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, she said good-bye to Ben for the last time.

Last week’s Animal Love Quiz here.  Leaderboard and rules here.

Sundays with Gage – Pets, the babies before the baby

Like most expectant moms I heard the warnings of having a cat during pregnancy and even the dangers after the baby was born (my mom shared a story of a cat who smothered a sleeping infant because of the milk on the mouth).  But Jason took over litter patrol during pregnancy (& thankfully kept it on his to do list) and I wasn’t too concerned about Scout or Max.  When we brought Gage home Max steered clear and really wanted nothing to do with him.  He couldn’t understand how that scrawny, needy thing could be more interesting than him.  Scout steered clear too, but mostly because that’s just her way.

When Gage started walking Max did not take kindly to the lurching, unpredictable baby.  Twice he bared his teeth and growled when Gage woke him by touching him near his face.  The first time it happened I cried for a while thinking we would have to find Max a new place to live.  Max is 8 and I was so sad that he couldn’t adjust to Gage.

We’ve been on hyper alert since and the two are never alone together.  I think Max is adjusting, it’s been months since those growls.  He does come up to Gage and gives him ear and head kisses (always properly washed off) and Gage sometimes feeds Max treats when he comes in from outside.  The jury is still out, but things have gotten better and Max has even started sleeping with us (the parents, not Gage) again, for a good while he shunned us.

Scout, who is now 13 1/2, lets Gage catch her occasionally and he loves her for it.

Here are a few pics of what Max has to deal with…

Lots of chasing,

And sharing of toys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when he can’t be nice anymore,

he escapes.

Scout’s approach is much calmer.  So, things are going better with the 4 legged kids and the newbie.  I am hoping someday Max and Gage will be buddies.

Oh, in answer to last week’s question, Gage’s next and only new word this week was Bowl.  Now that I’m looking at these photos maybe next week I should post Hair? with Gage.

February’s 5 Word Movie Reviews – Join in & win $ for charity

Every time you add 5 words of your own to one of my reviews then you donate $1 to charity.  What charity, you ask?  The charity is chosen by the person who has the most reviews once we reach 100. (Last charity herePLEASE leave a clear 5 word comment so I can give credit for it. 

You can add reviews to any of my past movie posts AND see who is in the contributing lead here.

The Descendants, 2011 (Cast-George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer)    Grade B++

Don’t See When Depressed. Worthwhile.

Emotionally draining.  Acting is superb. (Kathy)

Heartwrenching loss yet uplifting drama. (Stephanie)

Sad. George runs super silly. (Jenners)

 

Jane Eyre, 2011 (Cast-Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench)   Grade B

Maybe my favorite casting ever.

The most gothic, emotional rendition. (Heather)

Deliciously Gothic, beautiful and emotional. (Jenny)

 

Babies, 2010 (Cast- Ponijao, Baya, Mari, Hattie)  Grade B-

Fun look at first year.

Cute kiddos worldwide, highly recommended (Kay)

So sweet and so funny. (Margot)

A blast from the past…see what I said about The Road (2009) and add your review.