Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

{read: Family drama} The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore

This is a warm, realistic story about what happens when three grown children and their families move back in with their parents for the summer. Each of the children has a crisis at hand, although they don't all share their true reasons for their extended visits immediately - or even tell their parents when they're leaving. Lillian has come with her two children (infant Philip and Olivia, who is three and five-eighths) after learning that her husband cheated on her while drunk at the office party. Stephen and Jane, who is pregnant, arrive for Stephen to have a weekend away from NYC where he works at home in their apartment. They get stuck there after Jane (a workaholic and the family's breadwinner) is confined to bed rest for the remaining 10 weeks of her pregnancy. And Rachel decamps to her parents' house after a miscarriage in the very early stages of pregnancy that has come after a bad breakup with her footloose and fancy-free boyfriend. How the children resolve their problems - and how their parents endure them while they do it - is enjoyable to watch. You root for them to succeed and find whatever happiness they can.

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore (Reagan Arthur Books, 2011)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

{read: Irish thriller} The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

One of my favorite authors is Tana French (In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place), an Irish writer who writes character-driven mystery/thrillers about different members of the Dublin Murder Squad. The Ghosts of Belfast is billed as one of the best new Irish novels, and I had high hopes. Although it was more plot-driven than French's books and didn't remind me of her writing at all, I really enjoyed this and had trouble putting it down. Although the first few chapters were a little bit choppy, the character development and plot ran smoothly after that even though I sometimes had trouble keeping track of the minor characters and the struggles between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Neville throws in a pinch of romantic interest but keeps it real and avoids the obligatory sex scene between the two love interests (Gerry and Marie).

Gerry Fegan, the main character, is a "hard man" - translation: IRA assassin - in Northern Ireland. He killed 12 people whose ghosts follow him around and won't give him any rest. The only way to make them go away is to kill the person (other than himself) responsible for their deaths. But as he embarks upon this path, he has to deal with the mysterious pull he feels toward Marie McKenna, whose family has ostractized her because she took an RUC officer as a lover. Along the way, his former comrades learn that he's the one responsible for the new spate of deaths. It all comes to a head at dogfighting ring out in the country, and Gerry has to figure out how to balance the wishes of the ghosts against the struggle to keep himself, Marie, and her young daughter alive. Neville has a sequel out, and I can't wait to read it.

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime, 2009)
My rating: 5 stars

Thursday, June 16, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Decisions

"Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, "Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?" — Kathryn Stockett (The Help)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

{read: bestseller} Room by Emma Donoghue

This story is told by Jack, a five-year-old boy who's spent his entire life in one room because his mother was kidnapped. Two years into her captivity, she gives birth to Jack, and when he's five years old, she figures out a way for them to escape. But the outside world, for Jack, is a scary place. While Room was a prison cell for his Ma, it was Jack's only home. Life on the outside turns out to be more difficult than Ma had imagined, and Jack sometimes wishes they could return to Room. He misses their daily routines and different objects from their home, all of which have names.

Jack is an interesting character: He knows big words and can do more math than you'd expect a five year old to be able to do, but his social skills are understandably stunted since he's only ever interacted with his Ma. I think that choosing him to tell the story gave it a unique twist. I also liked watching Jack's growth, especially when he stayed with his grandma. She seemed to push him toward "normal" behavior more than his mother did. Of course, Ma had her own issues to deal with as a young 20-something mother who’d spent so many years locked up. Although Jack sees her as his all-powerful mother, in reality she is a fragile young woman who did the best she could under difficult circumstances. Her fragility becomes most evident after the escape, when she has a difficult time dealing with all the stresses of life and takes some drastic action.

Just out in paperback, this is a great read with a unique narrator. My book club has chosen it as an upcoming selection, and I’m looking forward to our discussion.

Room by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown and Company, 2010)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, June 13, 2011

{kid craft} car paintings

This past weekend, my 17 month old and I had some painting fun. We covered his picnic table with paper. We gathered a large casserole dish, paints, and a couple of small toy cars. We squirted some blobs of washable finger paint into the casserole dish. Then I showed Aaron how to drive the toy cars through the paint and then onto the paper. The cars made neat tracks on the paper. He added to it with regular paint brushes, and then created some nice scratch marks with his bubble wands. I wish I had more pictures of the process, but with only two hands, it was all I could do to keep him from painting the entire deck. We both had a wonderful time. Here is his colorful car painting:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} How old are you?

"When you are five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties, you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties, something strange starts to happen. It is a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm--you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you are not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it."
— Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

{read: memoir? fiction?} Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman

This is written as fiction but it felt more like a memoir to me. After the tragic accidental death of his wife, Aura, Francisco Goldman writes this nonfiction novel about her life and their relationship. If you’re like me, the term “nonfiction novel” seems like a contradiction. Either it’s true (nonfiction) or not true (fiction). Perhaps I got too caught up with trying to label this book. I was struggling with trying to remember that it was fiction and trying to figure out HOW it was fiction -- what was true? what was made up? -- but then I just decided to go with the flow.

Overall, this book left me feeling depressed. Perhaps that shouldn't have been a surprise, given the subject matter, but I was hoping for more. I wanted to like Aura but came away with the impression that she was dominated by her mother and her mother’s ideas of how she should live and what she should be and do. Aura also came across as immature, but maybe it’s just because she was in her early 20s and she was still figuring out who she was. I wanted to like Francisco, but in some ways he also seemed immature, even though he was several years older than Aura.

If you have questions about this book, don’t miss the chance to see Francisco in person. Tour information is here, and he will be at Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, Wis., tomorrow (Wednesday, June 8).

Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman (Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2011)
My rating: 3 stars

Monday, June 6, 2011

{crafts} Rag/Ribbon Flip Flops

Over the weekend a friend had some really cute flip flops on at the beach. They were so creative, and so easy to make. I am totally turning a pair of my flip flops into these fun Rag/Ribbon Flip Flops. They would be perfect for a bride when she was ready to throw of the heals. They would also be fun for a little princess. This could even be a fun rainy day summer project home with the kids.

Here is the how to, according to Get Together Ideas:
Rag/Ribbon Flip Flops
Measure and cut fabric strips/ribbon 1/2" wide by 6 inches long. The length you need will be determined by how long you want the strips to be. Tie a fabric rag strip/ribbon around one of the flip-flop straps. Alternate the direction of the knot on each consecutive fabric rag strip/ribbon. Push the tied knots together and continue to cover the flip-flop--you can cover straps completely or only partially. Keep the knots positioned on top of the flip-flop straps and fluff.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Two kinds of people

"There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don't." — Ann Brashares