Tuesday, May 31, 2011

{read: literary thriller} The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

This historical mystery starts with the bombing of Wall Street in 1920, the first terrorist act committed on U.S soil. The mystery of who did it was never solved, although Rubenfeld offers a compelling solution in this novel. The backstory spans WWI and the plot is pretty wide-ranging, including Freud and his study of the psyche and war neuroses, Madame Curie and the discovery of and uses for radium, and the use of X-rays to improve medicine. The two protagonists, Dr. Stratham Younger and Detective Littlemore, in some ways reminded me of Clive Cussler's famous duo (Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino) since they manage to get out of some pretty sticky situations. The plot was fresh and kept me guessing as it went along, and Rubenfeld addressed many different plot angles in this wide-ranging novel.

The pace felt a little slow to me, especially at first, although it picked up as it went along. There were so many loose ends to address at the end that I had forgotten about all of them. I kept expecting it to be finished, only to turn the page and then remember that there was this piece, and that piece, and then that one. I think he touched on them all, but to be honest I wouldn't have remembered if he skipped a few of the more minor details.

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld (Penguin Group, 2010)
My rating: 3 stars

Monday, May 30, 2011

{crafts} pinwheels

You never get too old for pinwheels. They make easy center pieces for a festive outdoor party or can be a great addition to gardens. TipJunkie posted this fun tutorial for DIY pinwheels. Have a look, and add some festive flair to your Memorial Day! Enjoy

Minature Patriotic Pinwheels {Homemade Party Favors}

Thursday, May 26, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Lean on me

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true. -- Charles Dickens

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

{read: memoir} And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road

Margaret Roach, formerly the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, retires at about age 50 and moves from New York City to her weekend home in rural New York. Freed for the first time from the constraints of earning a paycheck and the strictures (and structure) of a workday life scheduled in 15-minute increments by her assistant--a life in which she was never hungry and in which she took the quickest showers possible because she couldn't even enjoy the luxury of a long, hot shower--she sets out to figure out who she is if she is no longer mroach@ marthastewart dot com.

This book has one of the most eloquent titles I've come across recently (tied with Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky). I think most of us can emphathize with the struggle to define yourself (and find the time to define yourself) as more than just your work and your relationships to other people - wife, mother, etc. Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do I become that person?

I enjoyed this story, but I confess it took me until the book's final third to be able to slow my own internal agitator down and relax into the rhythms of the story.

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach (Grand Central Publishing, 2011)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monday, May 23, 2011

{crafts} Craft Fail

A little humor for this Monday morning ... craft fails. You know we have all been there. The project goes terribly wrong, or the homemade gift is not presentable. Have a look at some craft fails!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Picture this

"An arrow of starlings fired from the windbreak’s thatch."
-- David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

{read: short stories} Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories by Aryn Kyle

I loved the first two stories and began to think that perhaps my idea of myself as someone who doesn't like short stories was wrong. The third story was okay, and then it went downhill from there except for the final paragraph of the final story (Boys and Girls Like You and Me). By this time I was reading impatiently, ready to be done with the book. And then, at the end of a story about loneliness and bad choices and sadness and women who let men control too much of their lives, a teenage Goth girl begs the woman in the apartment upstairs (a woman who is having an affair with a married man, who drinks too much, and who writes papers for a cheater website), to give her a ride to the regional music festival across town, where she is supposed to perform in front of a judge. The woman agrees and is surprised by how beautifully the girl plays the violin. And there was a passage of beauty and hope that I read, surprised, and then read again. The final paragraph was this (the woman talking to the teenager about when she played the violin):

And this, this is the part I want you to know: That moment lives in my head, a thing with breath and blood. A present tense. An always--that sudden blossoming of grace and beauty and competence, all of it so unexpected, all of it so undeserved, and the feeling or knowledge or faith that somehow, someday, everything was going to be all right. (p. 224-225)

For me, that made it worth finishing the book. I'd read another novel by Aryn Kyle, but not another book of short stories. I read this one because I loved her first novel, The God of Animals, which I would highly recommend.

Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories by Aryn Kyle (Scribner, 2010)
My rating: 2. 5 stars

Monday, May 16, 2011

{crafts} Craft Fair Search

Are you looking for a craft fair to explore. Fairsandfestivals.net is a great site that allows you to search for craft fairs in your area. You just put your zipcode into the search field and you will find local craft fairs and festivals. Spring is a great time of year for these events, especially when they are outdoors. You can also plan ahead and see what might be happening on your summer vacation. Enjoy, I hope you find a fun event to attend.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Who's in charge?

"We all know that it is women who make the decisions, but we have to let men think that the decisions are theirs. It is an act of kindness on the part of women."
— Alexander McCall Smith

{wordless wednesday} Hawk

Hawk from the White Clay Creek Fest

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

{read: fiction} So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

If you've been lucky enough to avoid chronic and/or serious illness or injury, this novel will be an eye-opener for you. Shriver tells the story of Glynis, whose diagnosis of mesothelioma and its subsequent treatment drains her husband's savings account - money Shep had been saving to escape to "The Afterlife," what he imagines to be an idyllic retreat in a country with a much lower cost of living. After many "research" trips, he's decided on Pemba, a Tanzanian island. But now, as Glynis's costly treatments drain his savings since many aren't covered by insurance, he watches his dream slide away. The novel also tells the story of Jackson Burdine and his family - notably, his wife, Carol, and daughter Flicka. Flicka has a rare, terminal illness, and the Burdines struggle under its financial and emotional costs.

The story is told by Shep and Jackson, and just as I was wishing for a chapter by Glynis or Carol (around page 200 or so), we do hear from Glynis. By this time, she's worn out from battling with cancer and side effects from the chemo, and maybe that's why we don't hear much from her own voice.

This is a story of the toll that caregiving exacts on a family, of the cost of healthcare, and of how much a life is worth when measured in dollars and cents. Near the end, Shep asks Glynis's oncologist how much extra time they've bought with the 15 months of treatments, which he estimates at about $2.1 million. "A good three months," the doctor estimates. "No," Shep says, "they were not good months."

This novel has its moments of humor to balance the serious content and a happy ending to reward those who stick it out. I found it almost compulsively readable and stayed up too late many nights, trying to get to the end.

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins, 2010)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, May 9, 2011

{food} yogurt popsicles

I have a picky eater at home; one that barely eats anything. When we have popsicles he is all over them, so I am looking for some creative ways to get some food in him. I will have to try these yogurt popsicles...yup, I have a toddler who won't touch yogurt, I thought all toddlers loved yogurt. These sound very refreshing:

"Healthy for them" yogurt popsicles


Yield: 8 popsicles

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 6 ounces cans preferred frozen juice concentrate (do not add water)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt


Prep Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 10 mins

  1. 1 Mix all the ingredients using a blender.
  2. 2 Pour into popsicle molds.
  3. 3 Freeze and enjoy!

Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/healthy-for-them-yogurt-popsicles-67664#ixzz1LrlOgGAD

Thursday, May 5, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Inspiration

"Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it." -- Madeleine L'Engle

Author event
Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book, March, and others, is touring for her newest book, Caleb's Crossing. It's the fictional story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. She will be at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. May 12. Tickets are $5 for this closed-store event, and ticket holders will get 20 percent of the book's price.

Other tour dates are here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

{read: mystery} Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane

This book, the second in Lehane's Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro series, has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Kenzie and Gennaro, private detectives in Boston, take a case in which a psychologist seems to be threatened by the Irish mafia and receives a picture of her son in the mail. But as the story develops and the gruesome deaths keep on coming, the evidence seems to point to a killer who's been in jail for 20 years. At the same time, Patrick is starting what might be a serious relationship with a surgical resident and Angie is struggling to put her 12-year marriage behind her.

Lehane's characters are troubled and flawed, yet realistic and funny. The prose is clean, the dialogue is crisp, and the pacing is perfect. I'm a huge fan of the Kenzie and Gennaro series. As one of my friends said, Kenzie and Gennaro are her favorite detective pair. I agree. The six books in this series, ending with the recently released Moonlight Mile, are time well spent.

Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane (HarperTorch, 1996)
My rating: 5 stars