Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dark Humor

'How to Talk to a Widower'
By Jonathan Tropper

Format: Paperback
Published: June, 2008; Bantam Discovery
Pages: 400

Synopsis: Doug Parker is a widower at age twenty-nice, and in his quiet town that makes him something of a minor celebrity - and the object of sympathy, curiosity, and in some cases, even unbridled desire. But Doug has more urgent things on his mind, such as his sixteen year old stepson, Russ, a once-sweet kid who now is getting into increasingly serious trouble on a daily basis. As Doug starts dipping his toes into the shark-infested waters of the second-time-around dating scene, it isn't long before his new life is spinning hopelessly out of control, cutting a harrowing and often hilarious swath of missteps and escalating chaos across a suburban landscape.

My Take: This is my first Jonathan Tropper book. It was recommend to me from a couple of sources. First, my friend Angie, an avid reader, loved this book and had chosen it for our book club (of which I am, of late, a delinquent member) and it got rave reviews. Second, I saw it on many lists around the Internet for being a popular book and I thought to myself that I should check it out. When I saw on the cover that Mr. Tropper was likened to Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors of all time, I knew that there was no going back. I was not disappointed.

'How to Talk to a Widower' is that difficult mix of extremely sad, yet heartbreakingly funny. If there wasn't the funny you almost wouldn't be able to keep reading. Doug, your main character, loses his wife of 3 years Hailey in a plane crash. She is older then him and has a son, Russ, from a previous marriage. The book opens a year after her death. Basically, everyone has given Doug a year to grieve and at this point they are ready for him to move on and you kind of want to agree with them. He starts to feel a little pathetic but that is also what makes this book so real because there is no expiration date on grief.

Doug is also a magazine article writer and has found fame writing about his grief. Fame he doesn't actually want because he'd rather have his wife back than be famous for writing about his grief.

His teenage stepson, Russ, was probably my favorite character in the book. He is struggling so much with the loss of his mother and being forced to live with the father he doesn't even like. Doug feels, now that Hailey is gone, he has no ownership over Russ and they have to somehow come to terms with their relationship and what it means to each other.

Doug's whole family is a hysterical cast of characters that helps to bring the much needed comedic relief. They love Doug and are there to help him try to rebuild his life.

What this book shows is that its ok to move on. That is doesn't hurt or dishonor the dead. It was a beautifully written book.

(I got this book from

Friday, January 29, 2010

Books Bought - I Usually Have So Much Self Control!

Books Bought is a meme hosted by Cindy's Love of Books. I've never had to participate in this before because I rarely, rarely buy books for myself. I swap books on paperbackswap and patiently wait until mine become available and that is enough. I get my book buying fill with the myriad of birthdays I buy for each month. Alas, I was in Borders this last weekend and they had some great books on their buy one, get one 50% off table that I've been 'wishing' for on PBS forever so I broke my rule and went for it! Oh well! At least they'll all count for my challenges this year. Ok here's what I got!

1. 'The Female Brain' By Louann Brizendine, M.D.

2. 'The Sugar Queen' by Sarah Addison Allen

3. 'The Botany of Desire' by Michael Pollan

4. 'My Life in France' By Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

So I shouldn't feel guilty for breaking my ban, right because this was a good deal I think! How about you? Bought some great books recently?

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Today's Booking Through Thursday is a question in two parts. It asks:

btt button

Jackie says, “I love books with complicated plots and unexpected endings. What is your favourite book with a fantastic twist at the end?”

So, today’s question is in two parts.

1. Do YOU like books with complicated plots and unexpected endings?

2. What book with a surprise ending is your favorite? Or your least favorite?

Ok well to answer your first question, yes. I love a book with a complicated plot and unexpected endings. I love it when a book keeps me guessing until the very end, when I get swept up in a book and don't know what's coming next.

Now the second part is the harder part to answer. What is my favorite book with a surprise ending? It might be 'Mrs. Kimble' by Jennifer Haigh or 'Notes on a Scandal' by Zoe Heller. Both of these books ended with me shocked. In case you haven't read them I won't say much more but the links will send you to Amazon where you can read a synopsis. They are great books both.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Caught In a Moment

'Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life No Matter What!'
By Martha Beck

Format: Hardback
Published: Mar., 2008; Rodale Books
Pages: 256

Synopsis: This book will make you laugh and change your life. Martha Beck combines practical exercises with hilarious and touching stories about her clients and friends who have steered their lives aright. This book will entertain you and give you the tools you need to become our own guide.

My Take: I'm going to backtrack for a moment and tell you how I even came to own this book. See, this is the first self-help book I've ever attempted to read, ever. I'm not the self-help book reading type. Don't get me wrong because I think there is nothing wrong with them. I read magazine article after magizine aritcle about how to fix your life and I think I can just handle it in small doses. I live in California so we are all about getting in touch with our softer side, I've gone to Eastern doctors for my migrines and we've sent our cat to get acupuncture (or catupuncture as we call it) so whatever works for you is all I'm saying but by reading this I discovered self-help books aren't really my thing. However, Martha Beck's articles in O, The Oprah Magazine every month? I eat those up! Weird, right?

So again, why do I own this book? Only because the O You! Oprah Convention came to San Francisco in 2008 and I just HAD to go and it was totally awesome and I got swept up in it all and they had a book store and where the sold all the books of the speakers at 20% off and I saw Martha Beck because I love her articles and I was all inspired and like, "yeah I do want to find my right life!" so I bought it but clearly a lot of time went by and I hadn't read the darn thing so since it was January I thought why not? Ok deep breaths.

So let's talk a little about the book. Beck advises for this book to work you have to really 'buckle down' and do the exercises and apply the book. So there are lots of exercises throughout for deep thinking that will help you process what it is you really want out of life. The premise being that if you can figure our what that it is, it is your 'North Star', your guiding principle, and then everything else will fall into line. You have to channel everything around you, dreams, coincidences, feelings, etc because these all mean something.

What helped is that Beck is funny and it helps you go ok I can get through this. What didn't is that this book does feel that there is a little too much of a 'magic' element for me. In fact, the paperback is called, 'Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny' so I guess I wasn't crazy in picking up on the magic element.

However, lots of people have testified that this book has helped change their life when they were down so please don't let me be snarky. It just didn't work, however I still love her work. Have you had a different experience with this book? Another self-help book you suggest I read?

(I purchased this book)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries is one of my favorite bloggers out there and when I discovered that she had blessed me with the One Lovely Blog Award you better believe I was thrilled! Her blog is heartwarming, touching, and full of great reading recommendations! So let me just say loud and clear - thank you!

I now have the honor of passing on this award to others in accordance with the following rules:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you enjoy. (Okay, so 15 can be a lot to come up with! Pass it on to as many bloggers as you can, up to 15. I'm passing it on to 3.) Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

And so, I pass this award on to these truly deserving blogs. I hope you will check each one of them out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday - Jan. 18 -23, 2010

It's Mailbox Monday time! Hosted by Marcia over at the Printed Page, Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

My main source of books each week is through but this week I got a very special treat in the mail! Author John Shors read my post on my top 5 favorite books of 2009 and was pleased to see that I had nominated his wonderful book 'Beneath a Marble Sky' no. 4 so he generously offered to send me his newest book, 'Dragon House'. I was so thrilled! How nice is he? Believe me I can not wait to read it! He also donates a portion a proceeds of the sale of this book to the charity Blue Dragon - so check it out!

1. 'Dragon House' by John Shors

Additionally I got:
2. 'Open House' by Jill Mansell

3. 'Love and Summer' by William Trevor

What did you get?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's For Dinner Tonight?

'Everyday Food: Great Food Fast'
By: Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Format: Paperback
Published: March, 2007; Clarkson Potter
Pages: 384

Synopsis: No matter how busy you are, at the end of the day you want fresh, flavorful meals that are easy to prepare. And you want lots of choices and variations—recipes that call for your favorite foods and take advantage of excellent (and readily available) ingredients. In the first book from the award-winning magazine Everyday Food, you’ll find all of that: 250 simple recipes for delicious meals that are quick enough to make any day of the week.

My Take: I try to go to my local Costco about once a month. When I do, it's always with the best of intentions. I am just going to stock up on food and ridiculous amounts of toilet paper so I don't have to go to my ghetto Safeway quite so often. Inevitebly, as I am sure it is with everyone, I come home with vast quantities of other things I didn't know I even needed until I walked through those loving warehouse doors, and so it was that I met this cookbook 'Everyday Food: Great Food Fast' but alas, this was not to be a purchase that I would regret!

'Great Food Fast' is a wonderful cookbook divided into seasons because you should be cooking with only fresh local ingredients, right? Well, I think since I just said I shop at Costco and Safeway I sold myself out, but whatever, let's move on. Each season based section is divided into Soups and Salads, Mains, Pastas, Sides, and Desserts. Every recipe is accompanied by a picture. I have stopped buying cookbooks that don't have this as a selling point. Dude, I need to see what my food is supposed to look like. What if you describe it as yummy but it looks like brown glop or maybe that is just because I made a mistake somewhere? How else would I know unless there was picture?

At any rate, I have tried dozens of these recipes at this point and they have been met by rave reviews by both me and my boyfriend. I made the homemade mac and cheese for a large dinner party and there was none leftover so you know that's a good sign! At the top of every photo it clearly states how long it takes to make them. How nice is that? Plus, all of these recipes are healthy so eat up!

(I purchased this book)

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Heck of a Family Tree

'Fault Lines'
By Nancy Huston

Format: Paperback
Published: Oct., 2008; Grove Press
Pages: 320

Synopsis: Winner of France's Prix Femina and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Huston's 12th novel captures four generations of a family and examines the decades-long fallout of a dark family secret. The novel proceeds in reverse chronological order from 2004 to 1944 and begins with six-year-old Sol, who is sheltered and coddled by his mother as he immerses himself in all the perversities the Internet can offer. After surgery to remove Sol's congenital birthmark turns out poorly, the extended family takes a trip to great-grandmother Erra's childhood home in Munich. A turbulent history underlies the visit, and after Sol witnesses a tussle between his great-grandmother and great-aunt, the novel skips backwards in time through the childhood of Sol's father, Randall; grandmother Sadie; and finally Erra.

My Take: I picked up this book in my quest to slowly make my way through all the books shortlisted for the Orange Prize and I am so glad I did. I haven't read any by Nancy Huston before and this book was unlike anything I had read previously.

The book's narrators are all 6-year-olds within the same family who go backwards in time telling us slowly about the history of their family. I enjoyed this method. It was unconventional and it made me work for the story.

Normally, I don't like stories told by small children. If they are over 12 it's fine, but younger then that and they tend to be annoying and we don't get the whole picture which is what happened with the first section of the book. Sol, our first narrator, is in the modern time. He is a whiny, spoiled child who thinks he is, literally, the next Jesus. His mom kind of thinks he is too. I thought if I was going to have to read much more about Sol's take on the world I would throw the book across the room. Luckily, he was only 1/4 of the book and the rest made up for it so beautifully that I ended up loving it!

You find out why Sol's father acts the way he does when it's his chapter as a child and then so on back through time until we reach the end of WWII and his family's time in Germany. For me, I kept thinking, wouldn't that explain so much about adults if we could really know what their childhood was like because so often those experiences truly do make them who they are as adults.

Also, can we talk for a moment about the cover? How hauntingly beautiful is that little girl? My guess is she is our last narrator, Erra, but I'll never really know.

(I got this book from

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Favorite Unknown

This week's Booking Through Thursday asks:

btt button

Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…

For me, it wasn't an author so much that came to mind at first, but a book: Catherine Ryan Hyde's 'Love in the Present Tense'. It was my favorite book by far of last year yet no matter the book store, little corner store or big chain, I've had to order it when I've wanted to buy it as a gift. Yet she's not unpopular because another of her books, 'Pay It Forward', was made into a movie, although I couldn't readily find that on the shelves either.

How about you? Which book or author do you want to shout from the rooftops because no one else is reading them?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sharks, Crocodiles, and Snakes, Oh My!

'In A Sunburned Country'
By Bill Bryson

Format: Paperback
Published: May, 2001; Broadway
Pages: 352

Synopsis: Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adore the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond the beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of a land with clean , safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.

My Take: Having read all of Bryson's previous books on travelling Europe and the majority of them on the States I was really looking forward to his book on Australia. The difference in my experience being that I have travelled extensively around Europe and the United States and have, sadly, yet to make it to Australia. All I have to go by is the piddly amount of Australian information I've learned in school (it was founded by prisoners!) and from the news and what my Australian friends have told me now. So I came at this book from a different perspective than I had to Bryson's previous books, being that I didn't have too many expectations already of my own, besides the Australians that I do are great and that someday I do really want to go there.

Bryson takes us all over the country of Australia, which we learn by reading this book, is no small feat. He goes into immense and fascinating detail on the founding of the country, far more detail than most of us would probably ever learn. He teaches us about each of the major cities and how they were founded and tells us about lots of random funny facts too. In Bryson's normal style he uses his wit to parley what might be droll facts into something much more interesting. I wish everyone's history teacher could be like this! Granted I know that, because Australia wasn't founded that long ago, you couldn't really do that with Europe, it would take volumes for him to wittily go through and summarize the history of that continent. However, most of us were taught the basics of the European history in school and not Australian history. What I found amusing was that up until the mid-1930s apparently so where the Australians - they weren't taught their own history but that of Britain! There is also a chapter on the history of the Aborigines and how they are the oldest society in the world and the grapples throughout the book on how no one really scientifically deals with this.

But don't let me lead you to believe this book is all just history. It is also about the people and how they make this country so wonderful. If I didn't want to visit this place before I sure as heck do now! It's my first Grade A book of 2010!

(I got this book at a garage sale where all proceeds went to charity)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday - Jan. 10 -16, 2010

It's Mailbox Monday time! Hosted by Marcia over at the Printed Page, Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

My main source of books each week is through so unless otherwise noted that's where these came from. Here's what came in last week!
1. 'How to Talk to a Widower' By Jonathan Tropper

2. 'The Distant Land of My Father' By Bo Caldwell

3. 'Thinking of You' By Jill Mansell

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Need A Drink

'Ultimate Bar Book: the Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails'
By Mittie Hellmich

Format: Hardback
Published: June, 2006; Chronicle
Pages: 476

Synopsis: Ultimate Bar Book is the first and only guide to classic and new drink recipes. Loaded with essential-to-know topics such as barware, tools, and mixing tips, this book has it all. As a mistress of mixology, the author has the classics down to a T -- the Martini, the Bloody Mary, plus the many variations (the Dirty Martini, the Virgin Mary). And then there are all the creative new elixirs the author brings to the table, like the Tasmanian Twister Cocktail or the Citron Sparkler. Illustrations show precisely what type of glass should be used for each drink. With dozens of recipes for garnishes, rims, infusions, and syrups; punches, gelatin shooters, hot drinks, and non-alcoholic beverages; and -- let's not forget -- an essential selection of hangover remedies, Ultimate Bar Book is nothing short of top-shelf.

My Take: A couple of years ago my boyfriend decided he was going to learn the art of the cocktail. Man, am I glad he did. It makes evenings and parties so much more fun! Decidedly more tasty then throwing some liquor in with a super sweet mix, real cocktails involve high quality liquor, fresh juices, and special ingredients for our ever growing cabinet and fridge. When he received this book as a gift from some friends he knew he had hit the jackpot.

'The Ultimate Bar Book' packs quite the punch. It is small in stature, yet holds every drink we can ever think to quiz it, both old and new. It explains the different types of glasses, barware, and ingredients every essential bar should have. Every drink we have made has been delicious and it's always fun to discover the new and fun drink and to try all of the old classics. San Francisco is one of those towns where cocktails are just as popular at restaurants as the main course but now that we have the knowledge of this bar book we sometimes find in other towns that when we order an old school drink we have to explain the drink to the barman, and well, that never turns out right! But if you are looking for a fun gift or to add to your repertoire you can't go wrong with this one.

Now I'll share my favorite drink far!

Pink Lemonade

1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz. triple sec
1 oz. cranberry juice
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
4-5 oz. chilled 7-Up
Lemon Wedge

Shake all liquid ingredients except the 7-Up vigorously with ice. Strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top with 7-Up and stir gently. Squeeze the lemon wedge over the drink and drop it in. Enjoy!

(This book was a gift)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flapper? Or Not a Flapper?

This week's Booking Through Thursday asks:

Suggested by Prairie Progressive:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

Um, yes, always! I get so frustrated when books don't have a synopsis on them and only talk about previous books, or the author, or have quotes about how much people loved the book. I read the 'flap' so I know whether or not I want to read the whole book. Granted, depending on if the flap goes from the front of the book to the back of the book, I'll probably get distracted by something else, I am scanning within it for key words/phrases that usually tip me off to whether a book is my style or not.

Now, if I have decided to buy that book, when I read it I will again read the flap, this time in it's entirety and I will usually read it again at some point during some phase of reading the book to see if I can glean any clues about what's about to happen in the next phase of the story because I then suddenly become someone who wants the flap to quickly reveal all of the book to me! However, I get over it and get back to reading the book. So ya, I'm a flapper!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New...

New Reading Pillow in Blue, Old in Brown (note size differentiation!)

I read in bed...a lot. Do you? Doesn't everyone? I know, I know, then you fall asleep. But that's why it's so comfortable. That's probably where I do the vast majority of my reading. So therefore I have a reading pillow. For years, like at least 5, I had this $12 cordoray 'boyfriend' pillow I bought at Target. It had a handle so you could move it from the bed to the floor or wherever. The handle promptly broke (you might be able to see it flopping up there if you look close) because the handle was tiny and the pillow was heavy. But that's okay, the pillow served it's purpose but I knew there must be something better out there. Then Nicole over at
Linus' Blanket blogged about a new reading pillow, the Reading Wedge Bed Pillow by Downlite. I thought, yes I think it's time for an upgrade. So when Grandma asked me what I wanted for Christmas I knew exactly what to say.

Now a word to the wise. In the photo on the website, it doesn't look too big, right? Well, when I got it, and I have a queen size bed, it takes up over half the pillow area of the bed! Ha! So it far outsizes the old reading pillow. Upgrade! It's so plush. Your head just sinks right in.

Now, I also ordered a cover for it because, much like you have pillow cases on your pillows so you can wash them, I am a grade A clean freak and I needed one instantly so I could have the ability to wash that. The Downlite website claimed to have pillowcases for their wedge, and they had all kinds of crazy colors and designs, but none of them were in stock or said when they would be (and believe me with this kind of triangular giant shaped pillow you couldn't just walk into any store and pick one up, or sew one) so a quick google search turned them up at the Company Store and I ordered one up and it fits perfectly.

Alas, I love it but I still can't figure out how to make the bed with it so it looks 'fancy', but, heck, I'm comfortable when I read!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...