Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Snapshot ~ Little Rosie

Here she is, Rosie, the new kitten.

I gave her the name Rose for purposes of the visit to the veterinarian her second day here. It's remained her name because she responded to Rosie the evening after seeing the vet! I've never had a cat respond to a name so quickly. I called out 'Rosie' when she was across the room and she looked up and then started running in the direction of my voice. I guess she's a smart kitty as well as adorable (I'm a little biased, of course!)
Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce on At Home with Books. It's easy to participate, just post a photo taken by you, a friend or a family member and link to the Mister Linky at the bottom of Alyce's post

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

ISBN: 978-0062108166
Pages: 352
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Book Summary:  Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .

After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won’t let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy’s dysfunctional family, including Peggy’s wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .

A breathtaking whirlwind of mystery, transgression, and self-discovery, Bianca Zander’s The Girl Below is a haunting tale of secrets, human frailty, and dark memory that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new literary talent.

My Thoughts:  Suki Piper is almost 30-years old and has just arrived back in London, where she grew up, when we first meet the narrator of The Girl Below. She was living in New Zealand when she decides to return to her childhood home. But Suki‘s decision to come home is bereft of plans for her life in London. She fled to New Zealand in a similar fashion years ago following a traumatic event. Suki is lost, confused and floundering in life, unsure of who she is and unsure of what to do with herself.

In this riveting debut, we revisit Suki’s life with her as she discovers what has caused her to feel so lost and confused and what she can do about it. Bianca Zander successfully portrays Suki’s life from the age of six until her arrival in London in a series of fascinating, detailed flashbacks. The chapters on Suki’s early life are interspersed with chapters of Suki today providing a very detailed and informed picture of this flawed and unhappy woman. I was quickly absorbed into this captivating story as I discovered the difficulties Suki had faced in life that had so damaged her.

Suki, upon arriving in London, is drawn to the building where she lived with her parents as a child. She discovers that Peggy, who lived in an upstairs apartment with her children Pippa and Harold, teenagers when Suki was 6, is still living there. Peggy is quite elderly now and ill but as feisty and nutty as ever. As soon as she steps foot in Peggy’s apartment, Suki is thrown into the past and assailed by thoughts and memories she's tried to ignore for years. An atmosphere of suspense and mystery flows lightly through these early pages, teasing us. Peggy’s paranoid and Suki’s a little freaked out so we wonder if it’s just an old apartment building and Suki's memories from childhood or if there’s more to the mystery and suspense.

Suki shares two significant and over-lapping events from her childhood in the beginning of the book. One is something naughty she did, as a child, that she’s felt intensely guily about since and the other is the one big party her parents threw the summer Suki was 6 or 7. A frightening incident happened to Suki that night. There was an old air-raid shelter in the backyard garden shared by the residents of the building. Suki’s drunken parents and some of their guests decided to open the hatch and check out the shelter. The adults are having a laugh but Suki's a petrified child. Something happens to Suki in the air-raid shelter that night that stays with her.  Since then, Suki’s been plagued by disturbing thoughts and nightmares which intensify on her return to London.  Suki allows her fear and misery to impact everything that’s happened in her life and, as she gets older, to paralyze her moving forward in life.

Suki is fortunate in that there are some people she reconnects with in London who try to help her. These people acknowledge that life has been rough for Suki but, at some point, you have to shake it off and grow up. Peggy and, especially her daughter, Pippa, are two people who become important to Suki as she figures out her past. Through them Suki will confront the thoughts and nightmares that haunt her and, hopefully heal. In the midst of figuring herself out, Suki tries to unravel the mystery of the air raid shelter and what really happened that night in order to stop her nightmares and bring an end to her confusion and fear over the past. I'm not a big fan of fantasy and the supernatural but I found the passages about Suki's dreams and nightmares fascinating and beautifully written. Ms. Zander does an amazing job creating a vision of Suki's garden from childhood that I coud easily imagine and making it both dream-like but also creepy.

Pippa and Peggy need Suki's help almost as much as she needs theirs which helps Suki alleviate some of the awkwardness she feels living in Pippa's house. Suki has a lot of issues and is terrible at relating to people.  She's almost totally lacking in social graces. She tried my patience, often and was quite aggravating at times. She makes so many terrible decisions and relies on the wrong people to help her that I sometimes wondered if it was possible for her to heal   Fortunately, most of the time Suki comes to her senses before total disaster strikes.   Suki finally understands the necessity of sharing some of her thoughts and concerns with other people. Although I wasn't always impressed with the people she chose to open up to, simply opening up and talking helped Suki.

 Ms Zander writes in a compelling style with easy-to-read, often witty, dialogue and a mesmerizing storyline. There are several humorous moments in the story which help to cut some of the tension. The story is sad and despairing, intriguing and suspenseful as well as amusing and fun. Ms. Zander doesn’t allow the story to get bogged down in heavy, intense emotion but keeps the story flowing well from one page to the next.

My one complaint is I wanted some of the other characters to be more developed. Suki is a complex, three-dimensional character many readers will be able to identify with in part. I found myself completely captivated by her and rooting for her to figure things out. I wanted to know more about Pippa and Peggy and Harold. They’re only developed as much as necessary to suit Suki’s story. I was hoping to learn more about the eccentric Pippa who was once so easy-going and carefree and now, as a married woman and mother is intense and stressed-out. She seems to have little in common with her husband Harold who exists on the fringes of the story. Still, Ms. Zander has written and engaging debut novel with Suki, a main character and narrator I won’t soon forget! I recommed this book and look forward to Ms. Zander’s furture writngs.

See Bianca Zander’s Facebook page and Twitter

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review The Girl Below and to William Morrow for a copy of this book.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Final Day for The Literary Blog Hop Giveaway!!

TODAY is the LAST Day!
to enter

The Literary Blog Hop Giveaway!

The Literary Blog Hop Giveaway Is almost over. You have until midnighy tonight to enter to win one (1) of four (4) books by Wallace Stegner. (original post)

Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~ June 26th

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. To participate share the opening paragraph or two of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. I entered a contest hosted by to win this book after reading some enticing summaries and reviews.

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea and read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this terrific meme who can be found in the comments!
The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

Anna Davison Keller wanted to be the oldest person in the world. She felt she was due this distinction due to the particular care she’d taken with the vessel God had given her. In her morning prayers, she made a show, in case God himself was watching, of getting out of bed and onto her knees. She spoke to God in his language - asking for a length of days to be added to the one hundred and twelve she’d already lived and pleading for health in her navel and marrow in her bones. She didn’t say outright that God ought to strike dead that jo-fired man in China who was keeping her from the title, but after all these years, surely, God knew her heart.

In 2006, summer over-stayed its welcome - giving the entire Sacramento valley the look of wildflowers sat too long in a vase. Dawn was still an hour away and, although it was early November, the air that morning was warm and stale. Anna dressed in the dark, while her terrier, Bobo, nipped ay her heels - urging her to the door. Rising before the sun gave her privacy enough to be pleasant with her daughtewr and grand daughter, who shared the tidy house with Anna. People often mistook them for sisters. Rubbish, Anna always thought, but that was the young for you - to anyone under thirty everyone over sixty looked the same age.

What are your thoughts about these paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mailbox Monday ~ June 25th

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme originally created and hosted by Marcia of A girl and her books and hosted this month by Marie at Burton Book Review. Below are the titles I received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the course of the past week.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (from Book Browse for review)
 The debut of a stunning new voice in fiction-- a novel both heartbreaking and transcendent After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman's mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel's decision to keep this "gift from God." And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another's tragic loss.

Click: An Online Love Story by Lisa Becker (from the author for review)
Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles. The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical "B" celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates. Fraught with BCC's, FWD's and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will root for Renee to "click" with the right man

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Salon: Blame my lateness on Rosie!!

My very delayed Sunday Salon post! Oh boy has it been a busy least it feels that way! One little kitten demands a lot of time and attention. I’m still unsure what she’s going to be named. You've all had some great name ideas and I’m keeping all the names stored in a list of 'names for cats' I adore the name Gatsby but think it’s better for a male cat. I really like Scout. My only concern is we had a Scout until a few years ago so it may be too soon for another. Right now I’m calling the little one Rosie. My neighbor suggested Rose the first night I brought her home and I needed to call the kitten something for the veterinarian’s records I told them Rose. I’ll keep you updated on what she’s going to be named.

Rosie is adorable and loves to play. She seems to have endless amounts of energy and is always chasing a string or ball. Her favorite toys right now are the ones that have furry balls on the end of a long string! She’s on antibiotics for a respiratory tract infection and she has infections in both eyes. Her vet is pretty sure Rosie is going to lose one eye because it’s so riddled with infection it’s actually bulging. I’m just hoping and praying the other eye heals so she has at least one. I don’t know how well she can see if at all at the moment. She seems to see her toys when she’s playing in the middle of the bed or on the floor but when she’s exploring the rooms she runs into all the walls and doors, the large kitchen appliances and cabinets. Whether she can see or not doesn’t faze her. It’s pretty amazing to watch her.

The only real troubling issue is the other cats are very upset. They all actually left and went outside when they realized she was here, when they smelled her. This is the strongest reaction any of them have ever had to a new cats and I wonder if she smells especially different because of the infections and the medicine she’s taking. I want to keep her so I hope the other cats adjust soon. They’re are some signs a couple of them, Magoo and Lola, will be back to their old routines soon. But JoJo has refused to come inside since the kitten arrived.

I haven’t been able to get much reading done this week. I resceduled my review of The Girl Below by Bianca Zander, a really captivating read and I'm loving the Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter along with several other books.  I just haven't been aable to get much time for reading. Rosie likes my books, though....she likes to sit on them when I’m reading them, chew on them, wrinkle the pages...she’s not too good at the reading thing mostly because she’d have to sit still. I’m hoping this week will be more stable and I’ll be able to read and finish some of these great books.

I hope you’ve been having a great weekend!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Literary Blog Hop!!

Welcome to the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop will run from now through Wednesday, June 27th. This hop is hosted by Judith at her blog, Leeswammes, a terrific blog you want to be sure to visit if you haven‘t already.

You can hop to over 60 different book blogs, during the period of this hop. All participating blogs are offering one or more giveaways of books or bookish items. The books are literary fiction, contemporary fiction, non-fiction or poetry There’s no no romance, supernatural or urban fiction or YA.  **Follow the links at the bottom of this post to find the other participating blogs.

My Giveaway
As part of the blog hop I will be giving away One Winner’s choice of any of five books by Wallace Stegner. You can choose from:

Angle of Repose

Crossing to Safety

The Spectator Bird

A Shooting Star 

The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

These are all great books. In order to enter my giveaway, simply comment with which book you would like if you are the winner. You don’t have to be a follower of my blog, but I’d love it if you do follow... My Networked Blogs is new and lonely as I am the only member (hint, hint! It's way down on my sidebar!)

I will contact the winner by email the end of next week. The winner will have 3 days to respond with their address otherwise I will pick another name.

** I am so sorry but I have so far not been able to get the list of Literary Blog Hop participants to come post clearly here. Until I do, please visit Leeswammes blog to enter other giveaways in this awesome Hop!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Help Name My Kitten!!

Kitten Names!
Hi!  I need your help in choosing a name for our new kitten!  She was rescued last night after my neighbors passed by on the street and saw her sitting in a box not looking too good  She's been living outside for a few weeks and we're not sure exactly what she's been eating.

Her siblings were adopted by other people and, although this kitten's mom is around, she's not that interested in this little one. This kitten's eyes are infected and she has an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)and a mad case of the fleas.  She has a Vet appointment tomorrow  (Yay! ) For purposes of the vet appointment she's Angel but that's a temporary name. She's not eating much now and she's very small in size and age (2 months I guess?) But she has a feisty personality and loves to play with string and soft balls, chasing them. She fights when I clean her eyes and nose and when I make her drink water using a syringe.  
She's a fighter!
I have pictures of her on my phone but haven't figured out how to get them onto the computer. I will, (or will get some help) promise!  The photo below is a decent likeness but my kittwen is cuter!

I'm trying to come up with a good name that fits her. Any suggestions would be most appreciated!!

In the meantime, she's an adorable tabby and looks like this: Please let me know what you think would nbe a good name for her. I especially like literary and creative names best!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mailbox Monday ~ June 18

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme originally created and hosted by Marcia of A girl and her books and hosted this month by Marie at Burton Book Review. Below are the titles I received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the course of the past week.
The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo (win from Sneak Peak contest )
Meet the Keller family, five generations of firstborn women—a line of daughters unbroken—living together in the same house on a secluded olive grove in the Sacramento Valley of Northern California.

Anna, the family matriarch, is 112 and determined to become the oldest living woman in the world. An indomitable force, strong in mind and firm in body, she rules Hill House, the family home she shares with her daughter Bets, granddaughter Callie, great-granddaughter Deb, and great-great granddaughter Erin. Though they lead ordinary lives, there is an element of the extraordinary to these women: all are defying longevity norms. Their unusual lifespans have caught the attention of a geneticist who believes they hold the key to breakthroughs that will revolutionize the aging process for everyone.

But Anna is not interested in unlocking secrets the Keller blood holds. There are some truths that need to stay hidden, she believes, including certain knowledge about her origins that she has carried for more than a century. Like Anna, each of the Keller women conceals their truth self from the others. While they are bound by blood and the house they share, living together has not always been easy. And it is about to become more complicated now that Erin, the youngest, is back, alone and pregnant, after two years abroad with an opera company. Her return and the arrival of the geneticist who has come to study the Keller family ignites explosive emotions that these women have kept buried and uncover revelations that will shakes them all to their roots.

Told from varying viewpoints, Courtney Miller Santo’s compelling and evocative debut novel captures the joys and sorrows of family the love, secrets, disappointments, jealousies, and forgiveness that tie generations to one other.

Flight from Berlin by David John (for review from Harpers via TLC Book Tours)
A cynical English reporter and a beautiful, headstrong, American Olympic hopeful are caught in a lethal game of international espionage during the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Flight from Berlin, a riveting debut thriller from breakout novelist David John. Combining the suspense and atmosphere of Alan Furst’s spy novels with the exciting narrative drive of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon adventures, John delivers an unforgettable masterwork of thrilling suspense set against the backdrop of one of the most monumental summers in history—a contest of champions, including the remarkable Jessie Owen, that captivated the world as the specter of Nazi Germany continued its rise to threaten the globe

Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock (from
By turns poignant, disarming and bittersweet, Me & Emma is the unforgettable story of an endearingly precocious child and her determination to put the pieces of her fractured life back together.

In many ways, Carrie Parker is like any other eight-year-old—playing make-believe, dreading school, dreaming of faraway places. But even her imagination can't shut out the realities of her impoverished North Carolina home or help her protect her younger sister, Emma. As the big sister, Carrie is determined to do anything to keep Emma safe from a life of neglect and abuse at the hands of their drunken stepfather, Richard—abuse their momma can't seem to see, let alone stop. But after the sisters' plan to run away from home unravels, their world takes a shocking turn—and one shattering moment ultimately reveals a truth that leaves everyone reeling.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Sunday Salon ~ June 17, 2012

Hello! Happy Sunday!
I hope you’re having a good weekend! I think it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a Sunday Salon post. Life’s been quiet but busy here. I’ve been writing more and also doing a little cooking. I’m usually bake rather than cook but I haven’t baked since the holidays. I found this cool cookbook at a Salvation Army store, Backstage Pass: Catering to Music’s Biggest Stars by John D. Crisafulli, Sean Fisher and Teresa Villa. The authors are the owners of the Behind the Scenes Catering Company. I read the book cover to cover first. beginning with a great introduction. Every chapter or section is about a specific music group or musician and the caterers experience cooking for and serving them. Each section ends with some favorite recipes of the musicians. The authors also include interesting, funny, or eye-opening story about the musician(s) as well as their dressing room requirements! It’s a fascinating, fun book. I’m going to try some of the recipes. I plan to post about my cooking experiences and promise to include any interesting info about the musician(s) and their entertaining and eating habits.

I didn’t attend BEA this year. It kind of snuck up on me and I also had a few appointments that would have been difficult to reschedule. I admit, too, I’m a little shy and a bit of a chicken. I used to be so outgoing and gregarious growing up but in my ‘old age’ I’ve become self-conscious and a bit awkward meeting people in person. A good bit of that is my wheelchair and oxygen. Still, it’s a little bizarre and aggravates me. But, I’ll get over it! I’ve already left notes for myself about next year’s BEA so I remember not to schedule anything that week!

I have been better about writing reviews of the books I’ve read. (yay!) I haven’t posted many yet but will soon. I’m trying to draft enough reviews so I can always post one or two and not worry that I have no more reviews written and ready to be posted. I should have done this long ago but I’m sometimes a little slow to clue-in! I still have a lot of work to do on my blog, too. I’m also still working on SEO, what it is and how to use it. I’m almost finished except for one issue that I’m having some trouble over...but I’ll get it soon!

I’m reading several books right now, including a few lighter ones in tribute to summer, the sun’s warm rays and the beach. I'm enjoying all of them in different degreees (so far, anyway) I’m about halfway through Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo which is captivating and intense. I’m almost finished Goodbye For Now by Laurie Frankel, a fun and interesting book and I just started The Girl Below by Bianca Zander. I wanted to join in the readalong of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway hosted by Serena and Anna for War Through the Generations reading challenge. I’m behind already so when I was right next to B & N on Friday and stopped in to buy a copy...they were out! I was gobsmacked. (I just read this British slang term and it cracked me up!) But how annoying that B & N was out of this book! I am going to read it but I don’t think I’ll be participating in the read-a-long. I am going to join the casual read along of The City and the City by China Mieville. I’ve wanted to read something by this author for a long time and love being able to share the experience with a great group of bloggers including Care, Nymeth, Iris and Ti!

Are you Reading anything good today?
Enjoy your Sunday, I hope you’re having beautiful weather, too!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane

We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane

Date Published: June 12, 2011
ISBN: 978- 0062099471
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating:  3 out of 5

Book Summary: Jean Copeland, an emotionally withdrawn wife and mother of two, has taken a secret lover—only to lose him in a moment of tragedy that leaves her reeling. Her husband, Gordon, is oblivious, distracted by the fear that he’s losing his most prized asset: his memory. Daughter Priscilla (a pill since birth—don’t get us started) is talking about clothes, or TV, or whatever, and hatching a plan to extend her maddening reach to all of America. Nine-year-old Otis is torn between his two greatest loves: crossword puzzles and his new girlfriend.

At the back of the house, grandfather Theodore is in the early throes of Parkinson’s disease. (And he’s fine with it—as long as they continue to let him walk the damn dog alone.) And Vivian, the family’s ninety-eight-year-old matriarch, is a razor-sharp grande dame who suffers no fools…and still harbors secret dreams of her own.

With empathy, humor, and an unforgettable voice, Elizabeth Crane reveals what one family finds when everyone goes looking for meaning in all the wrong places.

My Thoughts:  Storylines about dysfunctional, flawed characters are some of my favorite kinds of books. Dysfunction alone doesn’t suffice to make a good book, of course.  The book has to be well-written, the characters need to be well-developed, interesting and relatable and there has to be a good story. I was really looking forward to this book because, as you can tell if you read the summary of the book, above, there are many extremely flawed characters in We Only Know So Much.  When I didn’t connect with any of the characters, I was very disappointed. I felt sympathy for a couple of them occasionally, laughed a few times and was completely fed up with Gordon but, sadly, something was missing for me. We Only Know So Much is narrated by an outsider, somebody who seems to know the family but isn’t one of them and proceeds to sit down and tell us about the Copelands. I felt as if I was reading a report or newspaper article and, although it was interesting, the story also felt distant and removed. The book lacked the strong emotional connection I look for in my reading.

The Copeland Family is intensely dysfunctional. The family, as a whole, has almost completely disintegrated. They function so poorly were complete strangers to observe the six individuals out in public at, for instance, an amusement park, the strangers most likely wouldn’t realize they not only know each they’re related. The Copelands have dinner together most nights. These family dinners would be laughable if they weren’t so sad. It’s not silent around the Copeland Family dinner table. On the contrary, very often several family members are talking about things such as, how their day went, a dream they had or they’re sharing a memory or plans for the future. The problem is almost nobody at the dinner table is listening to anyone else. They’re just talking to the air. Otis, the youngest member of the family and his 75-year old grandfather, Theodore, who is struggling with the onset of Alzheimer’s often try to follow show an interest in whatever the other family members are talking about. They’re frequently ignored or become confused thereby irritating Vivian or Priscilla or whomever was talking.

The dysfunction, it appears, begins with the oldest Copeland generation, Vivian, and flows down. Vivian, the 98-year old grandmother of Gordon, great grandmother to Priscilla and Otis is still keen, observant and very self-centered. If the subject being discussed is Vivian and her life she’s talkative and interested. Otherwise she’s totally bored and uninterested Vivian always wants to be in control and her control issues extend to her emotions. Since a very young age, she’s practiced keeping her emotions to herself. She believes any outward display of emotions is unseemly. Vivian’s standard response whether being told someone stubbed their toe or someone died, including her husband, is “I see”.

Gordon’s always been self-centered even when he and Jean first met. She even noticed it, but ignored her gut. They’ve married for more than 20 years but they haven’t been a team or partners for many years. They’re the responsible adults in the home who are supposed to oversee the household responsibilities including caring for Theodore and Vivian. Jean does the food shopping and prepares the meals but it’s unclear how many of the other responsibilities are met. It’s remarkable that the house hasn’t fallen down around them or Theodore hasn’t wandered off never to be found again. A caretaker was hired to keep an eye on Theodore but, more often than not, he’s on his own with the dog, Mott, his only companion. Gordon fears he’s losing his memory and has become obsessed with finding out the truth. It’s all he thinks about or focuses on recently. He’s so self-centered it doesn’t occur to him how upsetting and frightening the onset of Alzheimer’s may have been for Theodore.

Gordon and Jean are no longer in touch verbally, physically or emotionally. Jean doesn’t seem to love Gordon anymore and, although he still loves Jean, Gordon doesn’t show it. so. They’re story isn’t all that remarkable. Jean was newly graduated from college when she met Gordon. Gordon, a few years older, slightly arrogant and a know-it-all about many things, appeared worldly in the eyes of a small-town young woman. Gordon has a tendency to lecture on anything, from apples to zippers, that comes up in conversation. He also occasionally delivers thinly-veiled insults on things like Jean’s cooking, while ‘lecturing‘. Jean’s solution when she couldn’t tolerate Gordon’s lectures anymore, was to stop talking to him completely unless absolutely necessary. Gordon hasn’t seriously noticed yet that his wife hasn‘t really talked to him in years.

Gordon is so out of touch with Jean, he’s completely unaware she’s having an affair. A growing unhappiness over the years along with a feeling that she squandered her potential by marrying Gordon caused her to become depressed and self-centered. She joined a book club where she met an intelligent, caring man who made her very happy and showed an interest in her. I felt a lot of sympathy for Jean when her relationship ends in tragedy although my sympathy waned when her focus for the rest of the book is the tragedy and why it happened.

Jean and Gordon are the most flawed and dysfunctional in their role as parents. In some marriages, when one parent is going through a difficult time and has checked out for a bit, the other, recognizing that their partner needs some time, supports them by stepping up their efforts and responsibilities.  Of course, this doesn’t happen in Gordon and Jean’s marriage because, even in the early years, Gordon was too focused on himself to notice if something was bothering Jean. I also didn’t get the impression that Gordon was much of a ‘hands on’ parent, more like an observer. At 19, Priscilla doesn’t need a parent available to do things for her but Otis is only nine. He needs at least one parent to care for, advise and guide him. During We Only Know So Much, Gordon is almost completely absent from Otis’ life despite being physically present. Jean still performs mom duties such as picking Otis up at school and making sure he has plenty to eat. When Otis develops his first crush and tries to talk to his mom about it to sort out his confusion, ease his anxiety and get some advice, I was wishing Jean was as absent as Gordon. She totally drops the ball as a parent. I was completely shocked by the conversations (more like lectures!) she has with Otis when he asks her questions about his crush.

I hoped Otis would ask his older sister, Priscilla but she’s not very nice to him. In fact, Priscilla’s not too nice to anyone. On the very first page of We Only Know So Much we’re told clearly, in no uncertain words, “...Priscilla is a bitch. Or at least a brat. An extreme brat.” Apparently, she’s been like this since she was a little girl. It’s obvious as the novel progresses, Priscilla is unhappy, restless and confused. She has no real direction in life but seems to want one. An interview for a reality TV show initially upsets and concerns her but eventually provides her the direction she’s been looking for.  Priscilla was the surprise of this book for me. She matures and changes through the course of the book, in little ways at first, and then in much bigger, terrific, ways.

I didn’t feel a connection to Priscilla but if her story been a bigger part of the book and she was more open and personal I think I would have connected with her. The questions I had about Priscilla multiplied the closer I came to the end of this book.  I was curious about how she was raised, what her childhood was like and if she was encouraged to take an interest in any activities or hobbies. Otis shows the potential to be a math genius and he creates his own crossword puzzles, two things Gordon and Jean either don‘t know about him or show an interest in. Otis isn’t effected much by his parents ignoring him but another child, such as Priscilla, might become upset and angry being treated that way.  The more I thought about the book and Priscilla, the more I felt her unhappiness and bitchiness may very well have been a result of disenchantment with her parents, especially Gordon. Priscilla clearly has little respect for Gordon, something a child shouldn’t feel towards a parent at any time. Her relationship with Jean is better but there are also some issues there.

The narrator of We Only Know So Much provides a lot of information and background on the Copeland Family members but there’s even more left out. The narrator, instead, of delivering only the straight-forward facts of the story, free of any bias or opinion, inserts personal opinions, sometimes, about various Copeland family members or the situations they found themselves in, throughout the narrative. These occasional breaks from the strict reporting, sometimes funny, other times poignant, felt a little awkward to me at first, but once I knew these diversions would pop up occasionally, they proved to be a good tension breaker. The narrator also, skews the facts, at times, for or against members of the family, most harshly against Priscilla. The narrator’s voice, when writing about Priscilla, is often, more emphatic and acerbic with sharper edges as if to emphasize what feels like a bias against Priscilla. We Only Know So Much was an intriguing story at times but, unfortunately, didn’t totally work for me. I think there’s a lot of potential in this book and I liked Elizabeth Crane’s writing so I will be watching to see what she publishes next.

To find out more about Elizabeth Crane and We Only Know So Much visit her Website, Facebook and Twitter

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review We Only Know So Much and to Harper Perennial for a copy of this book.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mailbox Monday - June 11

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme originally created and hosted by Marcia of A girl and her books and hosted this month by Marie at Burton Book Review. Below are the titles I received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the course of the past week.

Bloodline by James Rollins (unsolicited from William Morrow Publishers)
Bloodline, a breathtaking Sigma Force thriller from the phenomenal James Rollins, is further proof that, when it comes to explosive adventure and nail-biting suspense, this New York Times bestselling author is one of the very best in the business! Bloodline is a lightning-paced, unputdownable international thriller chock-full of the trademark elements that have propelled Rollins to the top of virtually every national bestseller list: cutting-edge science ingeniously blending with history and nonstop action. A relentlessly exciting tale that races across the globe, Bloodline ensnares popular series hero Commander Gray Pierce in a deadly conspiracy involving Somali pirates, the kidnapped daughter of the U.S. Vice President, and a dark secret hiding in the human genetic code. This is mystery, suspense, surprise, and ingeniously inventive storytelling as only James Rollins can do it.
The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan (win from Chick Lit Central, Thank you Melissa!)
The Big Chill meets The Group in Deborah Copaken Kogan’s wry, lively, and irresistible new novel about a once-close circle of friends at their twentieth college reunion.

Immortality by Milan Kunderas (flea market purchase)
Milan Kundera's sixth novel springs from a casual gesture of a woman to her swimming instructor, a gesture that creates a character in the mind of a writer named Kundera. Like Flaubert's Emma or Tolstoy's Anna, Kundera's Agnes becomes an object of fascination, of indefinable longing. From that character springs a novel, a gesture of the imagination that both embodies and articulates Milan Kundera's supreme mastery of the novel and its purpose; to explore thoroughly the great, themes of existence.
Daisy Miller by Henry James (flea market purchase)
Travelling in Europe with her family, Daisy Miller, an exquistely beautiful young American woman, presents her fellow-countryman Winterbourne with a dilemma he cannot resolve. Is she deliberately flouting social conventions in the way she talks and acts, or is she simply ignorant of them? When she strikes up an intimate friendship with an urbane young Italian, her flat refusal to observe the codes of respectable behavior leaves her perilously exposed. In Daisy Miller James created his first great portrait of an enigmatic and independent American woman, a figure who would come to dominate his later masterpieces.
Washington Square by Henry James (flea market purchase)
Catherine Sloper lives in Washington Square with her widowed father, a wealthy physician. She is plain, shy, and lacks social graces and conversation. Dr. Sloper cannot conceal his disappointment that she has nothing of her dead mother's beauty and wit. So when the handsome but penniless Morris Townsend begins to court Catherine, Dr. Sloper suspects him of being a fortune-hunter. While Catherine's romantic hopes are encouraged and abetted by her aunt, Lavinia Penniman, her father threatens to disinherit her if she marries Morris. Ultimately, however, it is up to Catherine to find out Morris's true intentions.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Armchair BEA: Ask the Experts

Armchair BEA: Ask the Experts
The Final Day

Today is the last day of Armchair BEA 2012. I think it’s been a wonderful and extremely successful week. I had hoped to spend much more time online visiting the blogs of participating bloggers this week. I also wanted to attend a couple of the Twitter parties. But, as occasionally happens, my body/health had other ideas and kept me away from here a lot of the time. I’m planning and hoping to visit more bloggers and their blogs this weekend.

I want to thank the Armchair BEA Blog Team - Pam, Julie@My5Monkeys, The1stdaughter, Chrisbookarama, Emily, Tif Sweeney, Florinda Pendley Vasquez, Michelle Shannon and Amy@MyFriendAmy for the wonderful job they did planning and producing this terrific week.   THANK YOU!

And now, for the topic of the day: Ask the ExpertsYou, my visitors, are the experts and I’m asking you to please advise me on my blog and blogging. I feel and know I have a lot of work still to do on my blog and with my blogging (such as...posting before the end of the day!). I would really appreciate any comments, critiques, helpful hints and advice you have including anything you‘ve learned or were told that you have, so far, found helpful during your blogging time...Please!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Armchair BEA: Beyond Your Blog!

Beyond Your Blog!

I love the title for today...Beyond Your Blog makes me feel like I should be reporting from space! Lol
I know I'm late with my post and didn't make it here yesterday...the weather is beautiful here but it sets off my allergies and yesterday it was so bad it triggered the worst asthma attack I've had in a few years. ( blech! ) But I'm back! 

I haven’t had any opportunities, yet, to review or write for other publications outside of my own blog. The only special invitations I’ve received were for parties hosted by some book publishers to celebrate bloggers during BEA. I wasn’t able to attend and was very disappointed about it. I also wasn’t aware that these kinds of parties were given during BEA. Now that I know, I’m going to make sure my BEA week is free of doctor appointments, medical procedures and that kind of thing next year!

I would really like to write and review outside my blog in the future. I’m not quite ready to start putting myself out there, though. I want my health to be a little more stable because, right now, it interferes with my blogging some days. But it's one thing when it's my blog and a completely different issue when it's someone else's blog or publication. I’m hoping it will be soon now that I’ve started taking some good medication for the pulmonary hypertension. The other thing I've noticed is the older I get, the more I take my time deciding how I want to approach new ventures. I used to rush into things from new job opportunities to friendships and sometimes realized after a few months that it wasn’t working for me and I was unhappy.

I like to write and spend time every week writing although I'm not writing enough. I need to spend time writing every day. Part of the reason I started another blog was for the writing experience. I haven’t been very good about committing to that blog mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what I really want to do with it. And also because of one of the most fun aspects of my days:

My Furry Kids!




I have a few more cute cats roaming around but these four like to being in photos!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Armchair BEA: Best of 2012

My Best Books of 2012  (so far)

I've read many good books already this year. Two of them I only finished recently and haven't posted my reviews yet but they definitely deserve to be mentioned here.   I'm going to try to keep this list a decent length!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hello!! Armchair BEA: Introductions!

The bloggers hosting Armchair BEA 2012 are encouraging keeping things simple and visiting as many other blogs as possible this week. I love this idea. I tried to keep my answers short and simple...I’m a bit of a talker so if my answers to the intro questions are kind of long sorry ‘bout that. If it‘s any consolation, my comments to bloggers posts are chatty too!!
Thank you for visiting !!

 1) My name is Amy. You can also call me Aimala, Aimster or some version of both. I’ve been blogging since July 2009 but have taken a few breaks so I've probably been blogging closer to 2 years than 3.  A photo of me will almost always include a cat!
I got into blogging because I had to ‘retire’ on disability from a job I loved and I wasn’t finding reading as enjoyable or helpful as I once did. When I discovered book blogs and this community where I could discuss books with other readers, share my views on books and learn about genres and authors I wasn’t familiar with, I was thrilled!
I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mom loved to read and tried to turn my sister and I onto the wonder and glory of stuck with me, not with my sister. Reading quickly became my favorite thing to do because it took me away from ‘real life’. I had a good home life but I spent several months of every year from the age of 4 until 17, in the hospital and at home recovering from surgery. Books were a great way to get away from the boredom, pain, fear... My interest in reading anything and everything also helped me keep up with my classes, while at home recovering from surgery, in junior high and high school. I was fortunate to graduate with my class as a result.

2) My favorite book of 2012 is one I finished just last week, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s an amazing book. One of the books I’m reading now is A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. I was leafing through this book up on Saturday morning, planning to put it on my nightstand, and the next thing I knew, I’d read 50 pages. Today, I’m 50 pages from the end of this book. It’s fantastic. A blurb on the front of Wiley Cash’s debut says it will “knock your socks off...” and that is so true!

4) My favorite feature on my blog is the pictures of my cats that I post periodically, primarily as part of Saturday Snapshot a meme hosted by Alyce on her blog At Home With Books. I also have some wonderful photos of my fuzzie-wuzzies on my sidebar!

7) There’s a long list of authors I’d love to meet for dinner. Jonathan Tropper because his books are well-written, hilarious, intelligent and he seems to be a nice , slightly wacky person! I would love to have dinner with Vanessa Diffenbaugh because of her work with the foster care system and her belief that things have to change for the better for children in foster care. One other author I’d love to meet is Susan Gregg Gilmore because I adored The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, a book that made me laugh and cry!

9) My favorite part of the book blogging community is the other bloggers and the sense of community that exists.
There’s a very large number of book blogs and some, unfortunately, don’t understand or share this idea of community, of loving and supporting your fellow bloggers through whatever comes. That’s sad.
Fortunately, there’s a much greater number of book bloggers who understand what it is to be human and know that part of you isn’t left at the door when you create a book blog. The majority of book bloggers know that in sharing views and opinions on books, you’re also connecting with others and getting to know them as people. When I started blogging, I knew I would learn quite a bit about books and share my ideas/opinions with other bloggers. But I didn’t realize the extent of the friendships and connections I would make with bloggers who are real people with real lives. This sense of community is a glorious thing!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Date Published: May 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-0062116505
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Book Summary: With some apprehension, the Torrington family is about to celebrate the twentieth birthday of Emerald, the second of three children. Their housekeeper, Florence, plans an elaborate dinner for the family and a few close friends. Charlotte and her children—the romantically handsome and callow Clovis; nine-year old Imogen, known as Smudge, who plots a “Great Undertaking” for the evening; and Emerald herself—are disconsolate at the thought of losing Sterne, their beloved family home.

Originally purchased by Horace Torrington, Charlotte’s first husband and the children’s father, Sterne has become too expensive for the financially strapped family to maintain. Since Horace’s death and Charlotte’s remarriage to Edward Swift, the house remains an important link to the past, a symbol of the family’s position that is intertwined with their sense of identity.

As Edward sets off for Manchester in hopes of obtaining a loan, the rest of the family begins preparing for the dinner party. An evening unlike any other awaits them. Little can the Torringtons imagine, that more than just a few intimate friends are about to arrive at Sterne . . .

My Thoughts: The Uninvited Guests opens with almost all of the Torrington Family at breakfast the morning of 20-year old Emerald’s birthday. Missing is the youngest, Imogen (Smudge) who is often overlooked, especially by her mother. The extremely upsetting issue of whether there is any possibility of saving their family home, Sterne, is being discussed. The family’s finances have been depleted and they’re no longer able to pay for the house. Charlotte, who has enjoyed being a member of the upper class, with a lifestyle that accords with this ’dignified status’, finds it incomprehensible she may no longer be in this position. Sterne is the only home the children have known. It was purchased by their recently deceased father and Charlotte’s husband, Horace Torrington, for his family. Sterne holds many wonderful memories for the family and it’s very difficult for Charlotte and the children to believe they may actually have to leave Sterne.

Edward Swift, Charlotte’s new husband and, hence, step-father to the three children, is also at breakfast. Edward plans to spend the day doing whatever possible to save Sterne for the sake of Charlotte and the children. This, and Edward’s kind, genial disposition, doesn’t help to endear him to Emerald or, especially, Clovis. They don’t like Edward, feel he “doesn’t fit in’ and Clovis, especially, makes his feelings clear in his attitude and behavior towards Edward. In one funny scene, Clovis growls at Edward in response to an innocent question. Edward, in his good-natured way, pays no mind to Clovis, who, therefore comes off looking like a sullen, spoiled child, much younger than his nineteen years.

Emerald didn’t behave much better towards Edward at breakfast, rudely ignoring him. Expecting that she was similarly spoiled and immature like Clovis, I was prepared to dislike Emerald. Fortunately, I was mistaken. When Emerald scolds Clovis at the end of breakfast for complaining bitterly because Edward asked him to walk his horse, I saw that, although she may not be a big fan of Edward, Emerald appreciates that he’s trying to help with Sterne and is mature enough to keep her feelings to herself.  

I felt a lot of sympathy for Emerald because, on a day when she should be excited and happy, she’s distracted by troubling, sad thoughts of the father she loved and misses and of the very real possibility that the family will have to leave Sterne. This thought weighs heavily as Emerald recalls memories of the wonderful life she’s had with her family at Sterne and of the fact that they have no where to go if they must leave Sterne. Also on Emerald’s mind are the more immediate concerns of that evenings festivities. The house and food need to be prepared for her birthday dinner. Her friend Patience, with her mother, is arriving in the late afternoon and there’s much to do. In a brief, endearing scene that sheds much light on Emerald’s character and cemented her as my favorite, Emerald shakes off her melancholy thoughts, dismisses the dreams she once had for her future, scolds herself for talking to herself and sets about doing what needs to be done. The grown up Emerald is a practical, responsible young woman.

Sadie Jones’ wonderful writing embraced me from page one. She somehow manages to put a lot in each sentence without making them overly long or heavy. In fact, her writing is light and inviting with an undercurrent of amusement, flowing smoothly from one page to the next. I didn’t want to stop reading.

Ms. Jones also has the ability to create a real atmosphere through her use of words, descriptions and dialogue. As the story progressed and Emerald conferred with Florence, the housekeeper and cook about what needed to be done to prepare for the evening‘s festivities, assisted with the preparations and made time to take the horses out for a walk with Clovis, the atmosphere in the story lightened considerably from the melancholy mood of the morning. It happened so gradually that it only occurred to me as I laughed for the fourth or fifth time, over a funny incident or amusing comment, that what I first thought was going to be a rather somber story had become a comedic story of a dysfunctional English family. I also discovered Ms. Jones creative storytelling abilities were just beginning. There were many surprises and unexpected plot twists in the upcoming chapters of The Uninvited Guests.

The atmosphere of the story changes again shortly after Emerald’s guests arrive. The Torringtons and their guests aren’t able to sit down to the celebratory dinner,  a feast prepared thanks to Florence. Florence, an intriguing character with a life story that made me gasp out loud, had to use her ingenuity and creativity to devise dishes for the dinner since the the family’s finances are so limited. Suddenly it seems ‘uninvited guests’ arrive to stay at Stern for a little while due to a train accident. This interruption to the evening is met with grimaces and unhappy comments, particularly from Charlotte. One final ‘uninvited guest’ appears alone at the front door a little bit later. Clovis invites this beguiling individual inside.

This male guest, who can turn on considerable charms when he wants to, has questionable manners and, beneath his jokes and jocularity, a dark, sinister air. Clovis doesn't notice the strangers dark, almost rude nature but the others do and the looks they give each other are very telling.  Clovis, in fact, is quite taken with this stranger and, much to Emerald’s horror, which she hides with good British manners, invites him to dinner.  Charlotte, in particular, is shocked and dismayed by this stranger's presence in her home and reacts somewhet peculiarly upon seeing him.. Charlotte is unable to hide how she feels, but when she finally recovers, her good manners prevail.

The Torringtons and their guests have no inkling as to what their night will be like and are quite unprepared for it. I was too! There air is thick with tension and suspense. The individuals around the dinner table and those in the kitchen have no idea what the night will bring. And the couldn’t figure it out if they tried. By the end of the night, Charlotte, Emerald, Clovis, Florence and their guests will know themselves and each other better than they ever thought possible. They will also be shocked by the behavior of all of them. The surprises don’t end there, either. The following when Edward returns they all have some difficulty recounting their experiences. What they do remember may be the greatest surprise of all!

The youngest Torrington, 9-year old Smudge, is left alone most of the time. She is lonely but usually cheerful, spending her time with the many animals around Sterne. During the course of the book, Smudge interacts with her family and attends Emerald's birthday celebration. But she also has her own plans for adventure, what she calls the 'great undertaking', in the midst of the 'uninvited guests' event. Smudge attends Emerald’s birthday dinner but, while everyone is preoccupied with the celebration, Smudge slips away for her 'great undertaking', knowing she won’t be noticed or missed. While everybody was preparing for the celebration, Smudge undertook the first part of her plan and wants to finish it during the dinner. The “great undertaking” is one of the funniest parts of this book and Smudge is a fantastic character.

I loved this book. I have no doubt by the end of the year it will still be one of my favorite books of 2012. Ms. Jones is a storytelling star and a creative genius. Her writing is beautiful, her primary characters are well-developed, wonderfully flawed and very real and even her secondary characters aren’t easily forgotten and the last quarter of The Uninvited Guests has a magical, dream-like quality to it that made me wonder what really happened. I recommend this book to everyone. It’s so worth reading!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review The Uninvited Guests and to Harper Publishers for a copy of this book.