May 31, 2011

Review: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

I decided to pick up WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell from the library shortly after I had watched to Academy Awards earlier this year  My reason was that most times, for me, books are always better than the movies and since the movie was nominated I figured it was definitely worth checking out. That was in February. The waiting list for this book was so long that I didn't get my chance to read it until May! 

About the Book (Without giving anything away)

When you've grown up poor in the Ozark Mountains you learn to live by a certain code and that code is loyalty.   Ree Dolly knows how important those loyalties are and what can happen to you if you betray those loyalties. Eighteen year old Ree lives with her mentally unstable mother and her two young brothers along with her father, a known meth cooker, whom she hasn't seen in weeks and is beginning to think the worst. When a local bail bondsman informs her that if her father doesn't show up for a fast approaching court date, the family will be forced to give up their family home which goes back many generations. 

Its the dead of winter and Ree is quickly running out of supplies for her family but the most important thing on her mind is finding her father before they also lose their home. Ree sets out to get some answers and even though she's related to many of the families who call the mountains home, she is met with hard looks, threats and not many answers. But Ree does not give up even when her own physical safety is threatened. It is made perfectly clear to Ree that these people - family or not - don't like her snooping around or the attention it creates.  As the days go on, she fears the worst about her dad but now she has to prove to the courts that there is a reason he didn't show up for his trial. 

My Thoughts:

It took me several pages to get used to the vernacular used in this book. Once I got accustomed to it though, it went smoothly. The setting and conditions of the story were very accurately portrayed and right away I had a true sense of the atmosphere the author was setting up. 

The story itself is not a complicated one, its simply a teenage girl trying to locate her father against some very difficult circumstances. The supporting characters that Ree encounters while searching for Jessup play a big part in the story and is what leads Ree down the path of realization. The characters seem very realistic, though I couldn't  actually relate to any of them given their lifestyle. Woodrell paints a very grim, hard picture of what life is like living in those mountains and doing the illegal things these people do on a daily basis as a way of earning their money. There is a lot of drug use in the book and other illegal activities that instills in the reader the sense that the law really doesn't reach into the mountains to where these people live. 

Ree was a likable character and I couldn't help but admire her for her forcefulness in her attempts to locate Jessup. It was also clear that she didn't want to follow in the footsteps of her father and in fact, had a plan to improve her life by getting off of that mountain and hopefully join the military. That was her only hope of having a better life. 

There were some parts of the story that I skimmed over, namely when Ree was teaching her younger brothers to clean and prepare wild animals that they would kill as they were running out of food. I am sensitive to those things, so I skipped over those few parts. 

I actually did like the book but honestly, not as much as I had hoped. It left me feeling a bit anxious and I also made the decision not to watch the movie version on DVD. I did feel that the ending did bring a satisfying resolve to the story however. Would I recommend this book? I would caution anyone thinking of reading it that it is not for the faint at heart and let them decide for themselves. It's a dark story and if that doesn't bother you, then you probably wouldn't mind reading it. In my opinion, it is one of those books that is just not for everyone. I have not read any of Daniel Woodrell's other work. WINTER'S BONE  is his eighth book. 

Author: Daniel Woodrell
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Published: July 2007
Pages: 224
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Source: Marion County Public Library

May 28, 2011

What Does Memorial Day Mean To You? [TSS]

Hello and thank you for stopping by today. I hope everyone is enjoying the Memorial weekend but more importantly, I hope the true meaning of this holiday is not being overshadowed by picnics, boating trips or other outdoor activities that are generally associated with this particular holiday.

I think I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to getting caught up in the fun of a holiday such as this one and forgetting why the day is special in the first place. When I was younger I looked forward to the day off as much as anyone. But having a Marine as a father who served in the Korean War, a grandfather who served in World War I in the Army, not to mention uncles and cousins who served in the Navy, Coast Guard and the Marines, I was constantly reminded of their service to our country.

i suppose its true what 'they' say that as we age, we appreciate the things we took for granted when we were younger. Early this morning my best friend called me from Charleston, South Carolina, where she is on a Boy Scout trip with her ten-year-old son visiting the USS Yorktown. She sent me a picture from her cell phone of the ship with the flags flying and it was a beautiful sight. She called me as she was walking down the halls looking at the pictures of the veterans and she came across Lt. Cmdr. Butch O'Hare. She read his story to me: Turns out he was the first Naval Airman to receive the Medal of Honor for single handedly shooting down five Japanese fighter planes on February 20, 1942, who were headed straight for the USS Lexington in the South Pacific. He was killed in combat a year later in 1943. Chicago's O'Hare Airport is named after him. I never knew that story and as Brenda read to me other similar stories, our moods became somber. Brenda mentioned that an unexpected sadness had came over her while she was reading those stories. She also said that though her son was having a great time on the ship she doubted he truly grasped the sacrifices that were made by the men and women lining those walls. I'm so glad Gavin and his Boy Scout Troop made this trip to see the ship. Hopefully it will stay with him for a long time and as he grows older, he will also learn to appreciate what it all means.


I really didn't plan on making this post strictly about Memorial Day - I had intended to talk about what books I had received and which ones I was going to read next, but that will wait for another day. This is more important.

It's more important to acknowledge our service men and women. They don't do it because they have to - they do it because they want to and for that reason alone, they deserve our respect. So if you know a soldier, past or present, take a minute to thank them - I know they will appreciate it.

Happy Memorial Day!

May 26, 2011

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman - A TLC Book Tour

I am especially excited to be featuring Sarah Winman's book, WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT today. When I was first approached about reading this debut novel, right away, the title caught my attention. I thought Where in the world is this book going to take me? With a title like that, it's bound to raise some eyebrows, right? Once I reached that moment in the book where I understood the title, it made perfect sense. (I love those Aha! moments!)

On the TLC Website, it states that. . . 'This is a book about a brother and a sister. It’s a book about best friends, the secrets forged in childhood, and starting over; about triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it’s a book about love in all its forms.'

It is that and so much more. The story begins in 1968 in England where we meet Elly, her older brother, Joe and their doting parents. They are a loving family, but not without their issues. The bond that develops between the two siblings is the basis for this remarkable story. Early on, we learn of an event that happens and the result of that act becomes the cement that binds them together through loyalty and secrets. Elly has an equally special bond with her best friend, Jenny Penny, who is a fixture in her life, even though not always a physical presence. The secrets and promises that bind the two girls is another beautiful part of this story. It is truly a testament to lasting relationships and loyalties.

Over the years we follow this family through good times and bad, from England to America and we watch as their relationships develop. Its a great story about how life brings people together and the power of true friendship. In a word, this is a story of love.

My thoughts:

From the very first pages I knew that I had made the right decision to read this book and that I was in for a treat. It was written in two parts: Elly as a child and then as an adult in the second half. Part One had much more humor, which I liked right away. Much of it was dark, ironic humor but it really did work with the story and I enjoyed that aspect of it very much. There were moments when I'd laugh out loud and then think, Oh my gosh, I shouldn't be laughing at that! But I just couldn't help myself. The writing overall is what won me over. The lyrical phrasings that Sarah Winman used throughout the book were so beautiful I would re-read them and take the time to let them sink in. For me, that's the mark of a good writer and I appreciate that in her work. Part Two of the book was more serious than the first and we really got to know the characters as mature adults and saw how the family had developed and dealt with the many challenges along the way. It was moving and heartfelt and I loved it.

There are many wonderful characters and relationships that were so believably written, it made me wish I was a part of their group. They were so tight-knit and devoted to each other, even when miles and oceans separated them. Obviously, I loved the characters of Elly and Joe, but I also admired their Aunt Nancy for her unwavering loyalty and unconditional love. Another favorite character was Arthur, a 'true' older gentleman, who becomes a fixture after staying at the family's Bed & Breakfast. I especially loved his relationship with Elly and his free spirit that really shone when his old friend Ginger came to visit. The special bond between them was undeniable and it once again made me want to be included in their clan.

WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is the kind of book that leaves you with a warm feeling even though there is also a fair amount of tragedy and heartache. I really enjoyed the book and I will definitely be watching out for more from Ms. Sarah Winman. Not only will I not hesitate to pick up her next book, I highly recommend this one to anyone looking for a great story.

Thank you TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour and giving me the opportunity to read this special book. You can find more tour dates for WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT here. Please be sure to check them out.

Author: Sarah Winman
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Published: May 10, 2011
Pages: 304
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Source: TLC Book Tours

May 21, 2011

[TSS] Review: Cleaning Nabokov's House by Leslie Daniels

Barb Barrett, newly divorced and living in upstate New York, is trying to cope with the fact that she has lost custody of her two young children. She has no money, a ratty old car and a part-time job that barely pays anything. She's afraid of what her children are thinking - do they think she's abandoned them? Do they think she doesn't want them to live with her? When she made the decision to leave her controlling husband, she had no idea it would go this badly.

Barb finds a little house to rent that apparently has literary history: the great Vladimir Nabokov used to live there while writing Lolita, listed as number 4 on the Modern Library Top 100 books. While struggling to adjust to only having occasional visitation with her kids, Barb is desperate for her children and begins preparing the extra rooms for their visits. While cleaning the house, she discovers a bundle of index cards with notes written on them - possibly an unfinished manuscript belonging to Nabokov himself.

Barb begins going through the cards, putting the pieces together and realizes its a story about Babe Ruth. The only friend she has in this new town is her mailman's wife, Margie, who just happens to be an agent. Upon Margie's advice, Barb consults an attorney to figure out how to validate her claim that it is, in fact, a manuscript written by Vladimir Nabokov.

In the meantime, Barb realizes that she must get her life back if she plans on getting custody of her children. The first thing she must do is make some money. So she comes up with a plan - to open a whorehouse. That is as far my synopsis goes, because you must read the rest of the story yourself since any synopsis I would write just wouldn't do the story justice.

My thoughts:

If you have not read this book, I'm sure you're scratching your head wondering Why would a woman desperate to get custody of her children back open a cathouse?! That is just one example of the quirkiness of Leslie Daniels' debut novel. I could use so many adjectives to describe this book: odd; funny; sad, witty, dark. But one word stands out among all the others: Original.

From the beginning, I really didn't know if I even liked Barb Barrett. I certainly didn't understand her choices. I could not relate to her at all yet some of the things she did made me laugh out loud. After awhile, there was a sort of endearing quality about her.

I suppose this isn't the type of book that you can take too seriously, and maybe that's my issue. I'm more of a pragmatic person therefore I had trouble with the believability of it. That being said, the characters were very original - even the children had original, quirky personalities.

The part of the story involving Nabokov, however, left me wanting more of it. This is a difficult book for me to sum up due to my mixed feelings. Sometimes I think I really liked it and then others, I'm not really sure. I appreciate the humor and the uniqueness of the book, but I'm still left feeling like I wish I wouldn've liked it more. The only suggestion I have is to read it and judge for yourself.

I do believe that Leslie Daniels is an up-and-coming author to watch out for. She has a style that is interesting and I will be on the look out to see what she comes up with next. Have you read this book? If so, I'd love to know what you thought of it.

Date Published: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Pages: 336
Rating: 3 Stars
Source: Jessica Roth, Touchstone Books

The Saturday Skinny: WW Week 15 Almost There!

Hello and thank you for stopping by today to check my Weight Watchers progress! I'm happy to report that at my weigh-in this morning I lost 3.2 pounds this week bringing my total to 25.8 pounds lost in 15 weeks! I am so close to my ultimate goal and sometimes I can't believe I've done so well.

I was a little surprised by my 3.2 loss because I haven't been working out as diligently in the last few weeks, with everything going on with my Dad. We've had to call Hospice in to come to the house and help take care of him a few times a week. So needless to say, my mind hasn't really been on working out. I did walk three days this week but that is all.

I can't say enough about the Weight Watchers Online program and how it has taught me so much about nutrition and what to look for in the labels. I would certainly recommend WW Online to anyone looking to shed a few pounds. In my opinion, it is the smartest way to lose weight and learn how to keep it off. There is no special food or crazy shakes to replace meals. It is simply a new way of looking at food that you can incorporate into your daily life without completely disupting your life.

I'm hoping to reach my ultimate goal by the end of June and it will be the end of this Saturday series but I have truly enjoyed sharing my experiences with you. I can always count on my fabulous blogger buddies for positive comments and that is also a big part of my success, so Thank You so much!! I hope I have encouraged others to take the plunge and lose those few extra pounds. If I can do this, anyone can!!

May 9, 2011

[TSS] Bittersweet Mothers Day

Hello and thanks for stopping by today. I realize today is Monday and I'm posting my Sunday Salon post, but this is the first time I've had a chance to sit down at the computer and write in about 3 days. It was a very busy weekend here for me. Not only was it Mothers Day but it was also my sister's birthday. I thought I'd use this post to do an update of the many different things happening in my family right now.

My weekend started off with my friend, Brenda, bringing her teen aged daughter to spend part of the weekend at my house. I wish I could say it was because she loves spending time with me, however, my wi-fi won her heart over. They recently moved and didn't have internet for several days so she very sweetly asked if she could come and hang out at my house. It was nice having her here, even if her nose was stuck in her laptop most of the time.

So Saturday I got up early, walked my 2 miles and by 10:00 I was off to spend the day with my sister and her friend. My sister's birthday was Sunday, so we celebrated Saturday so it wouldn't get lost in the Mothers Day celebration. We started out at the mall where I got a sassy new haircut, then had lunch at a great Cajun seafood restaurant. We ended our day by going to a little pub near my house for some great music and drinks. We hadn't been out together in a long time and it was a lot of fun.

We went to church Sunday morning as a family with my parents at the request of my dad. We got some bad health news about him last week and he is not doing well, so we all spent the day together. The doctors found a new kind of liver cancer last week that is progressing very quickly, thereby giving him about 2-4 months to live. He is so weak and on some really strong pain meds which makes it hard for him to stay focused. We knew it would probably be the last time we all went to church together and so it was a bit of a somber day. He was very brave and did not show any of his pain to his many friends at church, but we could see how hard it was on him. His church family was amazing and you could feel the love coming from them. We tried to make it as uplifting as possible both for him and my mother but we couldn't fight all of the tears. It was a very emotional day and by the time I got home late that afternoon, I felt drained. All in all, we had a nice Mothers Day, but it was unlike any other.

I didn't have a chance to do my Saturday Skinny post with everything going on so I'll just do my update here. With all of the things happening with my dad, I didn't pay a lot of attention to my diet and I didn't work out at all. But I did manage to lose about a half a pound. My total weight loss is now 22.2 pounds in 14 weeks. I'm planning to get back on track this week with both my walking and eating properly and I'll have my regular update next Saturday.

As far as reading goes. I'm almost finished with 2 books, though I haven't read in several days now. I'll be finishing WINTERS BONE by Daniel Woodrell either today or tomorrow and WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT by Sarah Winman also. I'm still reading THE LITTLE STRANGER but had to put it aside to get the review books done. I plan to get back to it later this week. I know I haven't been posting many book reviews as of late, but my mind has mainly been filled with what my dad is going through and trying to be there for my mom.

Well, that is my wrap-up of what's been going on with me. I'm looking forward to the week ahead to get back into my normal routine. Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope all you mothers out there had a fabulous Mothers Day!

May 3, 2011

Teaser Tuesday 5.3.11

Today I'm excited to share my teasers from a gem of a debut novel called WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT by Sarah Winman. I'm currently reading this book for a TLC Book Tour later this month and with every chapter it is becoming more and more endearing to me.

WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is the coming-of-age story of Elly, a girl we first meet when she is a little girl of 5 or 6 in England, living with her loving parents and older brother, Joe, with whom she shares an incredible bond. It's also a story of friendship, loyalty and love. The teasers I've chosen to share with you today represent the lovely writing style of Sarah Winman that I am thoroughly enjoying.

My Teasers -

Arthur and Ginger were inseparable when they got together. They had first met years ago on the London scene when their faces were smooth and devoid of experience, and had ended up sharing many things, including a flat in Bayswater and a ballet dancer called Robin. Their banter was rich and comfortable, their teasing intimate and profound, their "I love you" without the use of those startling words. ~ page 137

Be sure to check out all the stops on the book tour from TLC Book Tours that begin on May 16th. Click here for a complete schedule. I'm not yet finished reading it but I'm a fan already. The tour stops at Books and Cooks on May 26th, so please stop back by for my full review then.

For more great teasers, visit Should Be Reading each and every Tuesday to get a peek at some really great books! Have a wonderful day!