Wednesday, November 27, 2013

~ ~ Reading Laziness and Turkey Day ~ ~

It's damp, cold and rainy here in the NYC area.  This kind of weather makes me feel lazy and slow to get things done, especially today. It probably has partly to do with the bronchitis infection I've had for a couple weeks that just refuses to go away.  But I think it mostly as to do with the fact that, although I have some things I need to do, I'm having difficulty putting down the book The Street Sweeper, that I'm reading (among others!).  It's just such a good book, so interesting.  And yesterday I started reading Labor Day, wow. I cannot believe it took me this long... I wish there were more hours in the day!

So, although I'm tired and lazy today, I'm not quite at the point my adorable little Fig is... 

I hope you all have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, whatever your plans may be!  Enjoy and eat lots of yummy food!  And Thank you for hanging in with me!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday.  Participants share the opening paragraph or two of a book they decided to read based on that paragraph. I have wanted to read my book for this week for a long time.  Like so many other books, it just got away from me.  Recently I reviewed the author’s most recent book, After Her, which was very good.  This prompted me to get a copy of this book before I forget about it once again.  Many of you may have already read this book.  If not and you’re interested, let me know!  
Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea to read Diane's selection this week and find out who else is participating in this fun meme! You'll probably get some good book titles, too!

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

It was just the two of us, my mother and me, after my father left. He said I should count the new baby he had with his new wife, Marjorie, as part of my family too, plus Richard, Marjorie's son, who was six months younger than me though he was good at all the sports I messed up in. But our family was my mother, Adele, and me, period. I would have counted the hamster, Joe, before including that baby, Chloe.
Saturday nights when my father picked me up to take us all out to dinner at Friendly's, he was always wanting me to sit next to her in the backseat. Then he'd pull a pack of baseball cards out of his pocket and lay them on the table in the booth, to split between Richard and me. I always gave mine to Richard. Why not? Baseball was a sore spot for me. When the phys ed teacher said, OK, Henry, you play with the blues, all the other guys on the blue team would groan.
For the most part, my mother never mentioned my father, or the woman he was married to now, or her son, or the baby, but once by mistake, when I left a picture out on the table that he'd given me, of the five of us-the year before, when I went with them to Disney-she had studied it for at least a minute. Stood there in the kitchen, holding the picture in her small, pale hand, her long graceful neck tilted a little to one side as if the image she was looking at contained some great and troubling mystery, though really it was just the five of us, scrunched together in the teacup ride.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

~ ~ Wondrous Words Wednesday ~ ~

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where participants share words they encountered in their reading.   Feel free to join in the fun!  Make sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog.
These words are from The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman 

But when asked what the chances were that the defense of a black man from the Bronx would be believed, when the two co-accused black men were pleading guilty to armed robbery, Numbers’ eyes seemed suddenly to brim with sentience. 

1. Sentience   {noun}
1. responsive to or conscious of sense impressions; able to feel, see, hear, smell, or taste
2. aware
3. finely sensitive in perception or feeling

His argument was a reminder that without concomitant changes in the law there would have been no grounds on which the local activists could base their fight.  

2. Concomitant   (adj.)
1. existing or occurring with something else, often in a lesser way; accompanying; concurrent
2.  a concomitant quality, circumstance, or thing; a phenomenon that naturally accompanies or follows something

The lighthouse of history might suggest flashing glimpses of the way ahead but it’s imprudent to count on history for a precise illuminated map replete with synclines and anticlines of the terrain ahead. 

3. Synclines  (noun) Geology
: A fold in rocks in which the rock layers dip inward from both sides toward the axis. 

4. Anticlines  (noun) Geology
: A fold with strata sloping downward on both sides from a common crest.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review ~ A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

Publisher:  Algonquin Paperbacks
Published:  November 9, 2010
ISBN:   978 - 1565129160
Pages:  320
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Book Summary:   Pete Dizinoff has spent his whole life working toward an adulthood that would be, by all measures, judged successful. And in nearly every way, he's accomplished just that: A skilled and intuitive internist with a loyal following of patients, he's built a thriving medical practice in Round Hill, New Jersey. He has a loving and devoted wife, a network of close friends, a comfortable suburban status, an impressive house, a good view from the porch. And most of all, he has a son, for whom he wants only the best. Pete and his wife, Elaine, have only one child, and Pete has pinned his hopes on Alec. They've afforded him every opportunity, bailed him out of close calls with the law, and, despite Alec's lack of interest, even managed to get him accepted by a good college.     

But Pete never counted on the wild card: Laura, his best friend's daughter. Ten years older than Alec, irresistibly beautiful, with a history so shocking that it's never spoken of, Laura sets her sights on Alec, who falls under her spell. And with that, Pete sees his dreams for his son not just unraveling but completely destroyed. With a belief that he has only the best intentions, he sets out to derail the romance. But he could not have foreseen how, in the process, he might shatter his whole life and devastate his family.  

A riveting story of suburban tragedy in the tradition of The Ice Storm, American Beauty, and Little Children, Lauren Grodstein charts a father's fall from grace as he struggles to save his family, his reputation, and himself.

My Thoughts:   This is a fantastic, thought-provoking book.  Family relationships and the complex job of parenting are the central issues.  Specifically, Lauren Grodstein is asking readers to think about whether or not parents can force their children to make certain choices that will impact their future.  And how much control can parents exert over the choices their children make? The answers to these questions aren’t easy and may depend on the specific situation.  In the case of Dr. Pete Dizinoff, his wife, Elaine and son, Alec, there are some vital facts that need to be known before answering these questions. 

Peter Dizinoff is the narrator of A Friend of the Family.  When the novel opens, he’s not living in the house with Elaine and Alec anymore, but in the studio over the garage where Alec used to live and paint (he’s a passionate artist).  We don’t find out until the end what Pete’s done to get himself expelled from his home.  An unreliable narrator, he doesn’t trust the readers and makes us wait until almost the end of the novel to find out both what he’s done and what the malpractice suit is all about.  Over the course of the novel, Pete tells us about himself, Elaine and Alec, their best friends, Joe and Iris and their daughter Laura, about his medical practice and living in Round Hill.  While narrating, Pete complains whines, judges, grandstands and brags.  Oh, he also makes it clear he’s got a thing for his best friend Joe’s wife, Iris! 

Still, Pete thinks he’s a nice guy.  I’m not so sure I agree.  He’s arrogant and believes he knows better than most people about what’s right.  He’s very judgmental but because he keeps his judgments to himself, he sees himself as a warm and generous guy.  He's not particularly good at helping out the people close to him when they're in a bad spot.  There was a time when  Joe needed Pete's support.  Pete wasn't comfortable with the situation so he ducked Joe and his phone calls for weeks.  Pete's  not good at listening to others, either.  He's in the midst of a malpractice law suit in which a young woman died.  Had Dr. Pete listened to her, paid her a bit more attention rather than being distracted by his own life, things may have turned out differently. 

Peter didn’t trust that young women.  In much the same way, he doesn’t fully trust Elaine or Alec because he believes he knows best. He and Elaine have let Alec do what he wants for a long time.  Alec, for instance, quit school to focus on his art.  His parents built a studio over the garage for him.  Now Pete’s demanding Alec go to college.  Alec doesn’t want to and Pete’s furious.  He refuses to have a real conversation with Alec, he simply yells at him and orders him around.  I think Pete’s position would be more understandable if he was worried about Alec’s future.  But Peter is worried about what neighbors, friends and colleagues will say about him if his son, Alec doesn’t become a big success.  Success and the opinion of people who know him, especially people who live in and around the Dizinoff's upper-middle class neighborhood, has become very important to Pete.  It’s difficult to be sure what’s more important to Pete: Alec or what people think of Pete. 

Grodstein’s writing style is compelling and engaging.  She had my attention from the first chapter and I became more absorbed as the novel progressed. I enjoyed the periodic and subtle foreshadowing of events She also makes some brilliant observations of life in the suburbs. She showed a great knack for bringing the upper middle class suburb of Round Hill to life and utterly relatable to anyone whose lived there.  With the manicured lawns, tended gardens and picket fences, with the impressive homes comes competition among the neighbors and parents.  Grodstein successfully develops Peter Dizinoff into a character many readers will recognize from their own lives, especially anyone who lived or lives in the suburbs. Readers may be close to someone like Pete or he may be an acquaintance but it’s not uncommon to know someone who worries, way too much, what friends and neighbors will think of him because of his family’s behavior.  Pete easily resembles men and women who live in upper middle-class suburbs and play the game of “keeping up with the Joneses”.   And the more successful Pete becomes the more closed-minded and judgmental he is of others, even his best friends. 

The one part of this book I had some problems with was the ending.  I didn’t think the behavior that gets Pete kicked out of his house would be judged as harshly against him as it is by Elaine, Alec and Pete’s best friends, Joe and Iris.  It’s possible, I suppose, that part of what they were upset with was Pete’s intrusiveness, his failure to stay out of Alec’s life.  Pete would have us believe he was acting in Alec’s best interests but it seems more he was acting in his own interests.  Maybe that’s what Pete’s family was condemning more than the alleged behavior.  And maybe it was time for Pete to be judged after doing so much of it himself.

I highly recommend this book.  It would make a great choice for a book club, too, as there’s plenty to discuss.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

~ ~ Wondrous Words Wednesday ~ ~

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun and be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

These words are from The Pumpkin Eater by Daphne Merkin 

She was nineteen at the time, a dark, gamine beauty who years later would be momentarily mistaken by a waiter for Audrey Hepburn. 

1. Gamine   {noun}
[gam-een, -in, ga-meen]
1. a neglected girl who is left to run about the streets.
2. a diminutive or very slender girl, especially one who is pert, impudent, or playfully mischievous.

Despite the discord at home, the family was featured as a gleaming image of fecundity on all fronts for numerous newspaper and magazine articles, with John becoming ever more renowned for his plays and prowess at the bar. 

2. Fecundity  -noun
1. extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.
2. the earliest stages or first traces of anything.
I must say that for a young man with his life in front of him to saddle himself with a brood of children and a wife as plain feckless as this daughter of mine seems to me lunacy.
3. Feckless  ~ adjective
1. ineffective; incompetent; futile: feckless attempts to repair the plumbing.
2. having no sense of responsibility; indifferent; lazy.
"It was a mere peccadillo," Jake said abruptly, as though about to recite.
"Peccadillo. Bagatelle."
4.Peccadillo ~ noun
1. a very minor or slight sin or offense; a trifling fault.
5.Bagatelle ~ noun
1. something of little value or importance; a trifle.
2. a game played on a board having holes at one end into which balls are to be struck with a cue.
3. a short and light musical composition, typically for the piano.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

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 or have already started reading, based on that paragraph. I've read several reviews and posts about this book and was intrigued by it.  When I saw it at a local second-hand book shop, I picked it up and started reading it and, the next thing I knew, I'd read 10 pages! 

Visit Bibliophile by the Sea for Diane's selection this week and for links to the other participants. You'll get some good book titles, too!

Susanna Daniel

On a Sunday morning in late July, at the end of my first-ever visit to Miami, I took a cab from my hotel to Snapper Creek marina to join a woman named Marse Heiger, whom I’d met the day before. When I stepped out of the cab, I saw Marse standing in the well of her little fishing boat, wearing denim knee shorts and a yellow sleeveless blouse, her stiff brown hair pinned under a bandanna. She waved and gestured for me to climb into the boat. She poured me a mug of coffee from an aluminum thermos and started the engine.

“Ready?” she said. We puttered out of the marina, under a bridge from which two black boys were fishing with what looked like homemade poles, down a winding canal flanked by mangroves. The knobby, twining roots rose from the water. I sat on a cushioned bench and Marse sat in a captain’s chair at the helm. She handed me a scarf and told me to tie back my hair, which I did. We passed an egret standing stock-still on a mangrove root, then emerged from the canal into the wide, open bay. The Miami shoreline stretched out in both directions. Marse picked up speed, and each time we came down on a wave, I gripped the corner of my bench.

What do you think?  Would you continue reading this book?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout 

Publisher:  Random House Trade Paperbacks
Published:  September 30, 2008
ISBN:  978-812971835
Pages:  304
Rating:   5 out of 5

Book Summary:   At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. 

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.


My Thoughts:  I read The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout not too long ago (review).  As soon as I finished it I wanted to read Olive Kitteridge, of which I’ve read a lot of great reviews.  Author, Elizabeth Strout, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Olive Kitteridge so I was very excited about reading it.  I’ve learned in the past it’s not a good idea to start reading a book when I have high expectations for it. I had them when I began reading Olive Kitteridge, I couldn’t help it.  But my expectations were more than met.  I thought this book was a wonderful. Elizabeth Strout’s writing is stunning, her characters are well-developed and real and themes such as forgiveness and acceptance connect the characters and help bring them to life.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Olive Kitteridge.  I don’t re-read many books but this is one I see myself returning to. 

Olive Kitteridge isn’t a very likable person, at first.  She’s irritable and cross, a curmudgeonly type, particularly towards her husband, Henry.  Olive is the character that links Strout’s 13 stories.  Although she isn’t the central figure in all of the stories, Olive is related to, friends with or an acquaintance of the characters in the stories.  Strout brilliantly reveals more of Olive in each story until it’s clear Olive is much more complex than she first appeared.  She’s deeply flawed and has many regrets.  She loves her son, Christopher, deeply, yet most of the time she whines to and nags him. Olive has a lot of empathy for people but she’s much better at expressing it to those she doesn’t know well rather than to Henry and Christopher, for instance.  She doesn’t always understand what’s happening in the lives of her friends, neighbors and family, just as she doesn’t always understand herself. Olive has a difficult time expressing  how she really feels, especially to those closest to her. She often blurts out the opposite of how she really feels in a fit of anger and frustration.  I was a fan of Olive halfway through the stories.  I loved how Strout showed Olive’s softer sides as well as her more prickly parts.  She made Olive very real and easy to feel sympathy for her. 

The stories in Olive Kitteridge are heart-wrenching, funny, surprising, and full of despair, joy and confusion. The people of Crosby, Maine are dealing with situations, often upsetting and unpleasant, that feel very real.  It’s easy for us to relate to the characters and their lives because their behavior is that of real human beings.  Strout displays a profound understanding of the human condition and of how messy and awkward life is, at times.  The small details in life that are so important, that make us who we are, enhance Strout’s characters making them difficult to forget because we recognize them and feel we know them. Strout’s writing is beautiful, compelling and sincere.  This is a book  I highly recommend to every reader.  You don’t want to miss it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

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 won this book last year and have been meaning to read it since. The author has also been on my list of author’s to read since her first book was published. The story in this book sounds fascinating. It’s termed a ‘literary mystery’, a type of book I usually enjoy. I’ve only just started reading this book but I’m already caught up in the story!

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile by the Sea to read Diane's selection this week and those of the other participants. You'll probably get some good book titles, too!
The Nobodies Album
Carolyn Parkhurst

There are some stories no one wants to hear. Some stories, once told, won’t let you go so easily. I’m not talking about the tedious, the pointless, the disgusting: the bugs in your bag of flour; your hour on the phone with the insurance people; the unexplained blood in your urine. I’m talking about narratives of tragedy and pathos so painful, so compelling, that they seem to catch inside you on a tiny hook you didn’t even know you’d hung. You wish for a way to pull the story back out; you grow resentful of the very breath that pushed those words into the air. Stories like this have become a specialty of mine.

It wasn’t always that way; I used to try to write the kind of story everyone wanted to hear, but I soon learned what a fool’s errand that was. I found out there are better ways to get you. “I wish I hadn’t read it,” a woman wrote to me after she finished my last novel. She sounded bewildered, and wistful for the time before she’d heard what I had to say. But isn’t that the point — to write something that will last after the book has been put back on the shelf? This is the way I like it. Read my story, walk through those woods, and when you get to the other side, you may not even realize that you’re carrying something out that you didn’t have when you went in. A little tick of an idea, clinging to your scalp, or hidden in a fold of skin. Somewhere out of sight. By the time you discover it, it’s already begun to prey on you; perhaps it’s merely gouged your flesh, or perhaps it’s already begun to nibble away at your central nervous system. It’s a small thing, whatever it is, and whether your life will be better for it or worse, I cannot say. But something’s different, something has changed.

And it’s all because of me.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?