I Read: Deep Down True by Juliette Fay

Deep Down True by Juliette FayIf you are looking for a funny, heart warming book with characters that are easy to relate to and a healthy mix of heavy and light subject material, I definitely recommend checking out Deep Down True by Juliette Fay.

At it’s root, this book is a fairly standard “chick lit” novel (though I cringe to say so as so many chick lit novels have given this genre a bad name), or rather the new breed of Mom Lit which is becoming so popular, luckily for me as it’s one of my preferred genres lately.

But I think you’ll find a little of everything in this story which is such a true to life representation of the hodge podge that is motherhood.

Here’s a quick description from GoodReads.com as I feel like they sum it up better than I can:

Newly divorced Dana Stellgarten has always been unfailingly nice- even to telemarketers-but now her temper is wearing thin. Money is tight, her kids are reeling from their dad’s departure, and her Goth teenage niece has just landed on her doorstep. As she enters the slipstream of post-divorce romance and is befriended by the town queen bee, Dana finds that the tension between being true to yourself and being liked doesn’t end in middle school… and that sometimes it takes a real friend to help you embrace adulthood in all its flawed complexity.

There were a several elements to this story that I can’t really relate to, but the characters are so well fleshed out and so realistic that I found I could relate to them anyway and really enjoyed getting to know Dana and her friends and family. I appreciated the fact that there was such a liberal mix of heavy and light subject material – not too dark, but not too sunny.

And I frequently found myself giggling or nodding in a knowing sort of agreement with little observations the main character makes throughout the book. The author does a terrific job of pulling you into the story and getting you to root for Dana – to groan when she makes silly mistakes, get upset when people are unfair and applaud with delight when things finally start to go her way again.

This was not a perfect book. Occasionally the descriptions were almost too detailed sometimes and pulled me out of the story to nit pick over word choice. But overall I think it was very well told and wonderfully written.

I Read: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island by L.M. MontgomeryLast week I finished reading Anne of Avonlea and was just about to start watching the corresponding film when Jean, a good bloggy friend of mine, warned me that the film combines books two and three. So even though I had just begun to read another book, I quickly set said book aside and returned to my Kindle and the world of Avonlea in Montgomery’s third Anne novel, Anne of the Island, which chronicles Anne’s formative years in college at Redmond in Kingsport.

I really do feel like this series gets better and better with each installment. I adored this book and how timelessly Montgomery describes the college experience, from those first nervous days in a new place, to gradually forming a new group of friends and way of life, the trials and tribulations and exciting times.

Then comes the experience of returning home after having been away. Sometimes it’s a welcome relief and other times, just strange as you realize the things which have changed and the things which haven’t and you gradually come to realize how you never really can go home again to that idealized version of the home in your mind at least. The whole thing was just perfect, the new characters wonderful (even when they were terrible).

This is also the book where That Love Story finally comes to a head. Declarations are made, love stories unfold and it’s not an easy road for Anne, that’s for sure. It’s not easy growing up and seeing friendships change for better or for worse and it takes Anne awhile to decide what she wants in life truly and what ideals of hers are really just old fancies with no foothold in reality when all is said and done.

So now I have finished the book, loved the book, swooned and sighed and even cried a bit with this book – and now I can watch the film (finally!) in peace with no fear of spoilers. I also feel as though Book Three manages to leave the story at a point of contentment. The story is not finished but the waters are calm and I feel like I can move onto the many other books on my shelves to be read without feeling impatient to rush back to Prince Edward Island. I know I will go on to finish the series, but there is no longer an urgent rush to do so, rather I can save them for a treat later on in between reads.

I read this book in part for my participation in Carrie @ Reading To Know’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge this month and coincidentally it also happens to be regarded as a classic work of literature making it count in my 2011 Classics Challenge as well.

I Read: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. MontgomeryI just spent a selfish bit of time sitting on the couch reading the last 5% of Anne of Avonlea on my kindle while my children made occasional sad faces and complained of boredom, but mostly entertained themselves with fun toys and sibling antics. I think you all understand and agree that those last few pages of a book are sometimes too much to resist, especially a book as good as this classic by L.M. Montgomery.

This book begins as “a tall, slim girl, “half-past sixteen,” with serious grey eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down on the broad red sandstone doorstep of a Prince Edward Island farmhouse one ripe afternoon in August, firmly  resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil.

Anyone not familiar with Anne Shirley might read that sentence and say, “so what?” perhaps mingled with thoughts like, “That sentence was awfully nicely written.” But any true Anne fan will immediately feel a little shiver of delight and anticipation and read little bits of detail in that first paragraph with a knowing air of understanding of all things Anne. At least I did.

I think we can all rest assured that I loved this second book in the well known series of Anne books by Montgomery which so perfectly portray the coming of age of any girl. But I think the books do far more than just relate to girls growing up. It tells a story of a town, it relates numerous love stories that will make you think of your own love story whether it has already happily happened or you are just anticipating what your own will be like someday. It touches on religion in way that is not over bearing or too preachy, but rather dreamy and speculative, which is probably my favorite way to think about religion.

A big theme in this book seems to be misconceptions or preconceptions, the idea that you might go into a life milestone or hobby or career with one idea of how things will be, but eventually discover something else altogether, and how often you find that new discovery to be even better than you could have imagined. Anne seems to learn this lesson a lot in several moments of her two years spent teaching at Avonlea and I felt reading the book that ultimately this would lead to her discovering her true feelings for Gilbert, although that might just be the hopeless romantic in me. If Anne of Green Gables, etc. are a love story, they are a very slow moving, prude and patient sort of story where you find yourself squealing with delight when one person puts their arm around another and nothing else happens at all, but you and he and she and anyone else privy to the moment all understand that it was everything.

So now I’ve finished the book and part of me wants to jump right into book three, Anne of the Island, but I have a few review books that I need to attend to first and depending on when I finish those, it may be time to read the next book for my bookclub and who knows what else will be calling to me, but I can assure you I’ll only have the willpower to wait so long, whether or not it manages to fall in line with my L.M. Montgomery reading challenge this month, I can’t say. I am planning to watch the miniseries adaptation of this book in the next week, so at least I’ll be able to linger in Avonlea a bit longer, even as I move onto other books.

What was your favorite of the Anne books?

I read this book for several reasons. The first being a new found adoration for all things Anne Shirley. The second being my participation in Carrie @ Reading To Know’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge this month and coincidentally it also happens to be regarded as a classic work of literature making it my first classic book read this year in my 2011 Classics Challenge.

I Read: The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy PickardThe Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard is a murder mystery novel set in the heart of a small town in the midwest. This is my book club’s first pick for the new year, which we’ll be discussing at the end of the month.

Book Description from GoodReads.com:

During a deadly blizzard in 1987, high school senior Rex Shellenberger and his older brother help their father search snow-covered pastures for newborn calves. What Rex finds instead is a breathtakingly beautiful young woman, completely naked and frozen to death, as if she just curled up and fallen asleep. The body is never identified and is eventually buried in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery. But even after 17 years, rumors still swirl around the girl and the mysterious events of that fateful night. How did she get there? Why did Mitch Newquist, the handsome son of the local judge, suddenly leave town — and Abby, the love of his life — never again to return? A growing number of people believe that visiting the unmarked grave will bring them miracles — but there are those in the small town who know there is nothing inspirational about the legend of the Virgin of Small Plains. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

This was a book with high points and low points for me. On the one hand, I thought that the mystery of this story was really well written. Pickard rotates the point of view of this book between all of the essential characters in the story so that you can slowly learn what each character knows about that night in 1987 and what they don’t know.

You gradually start to get an idea of what really happened that night and why, but you don’t know anything until the author wants you to and I frequently found myself saying, “Ohhhh I know who did it!” and then being proven wrong. I don’t think I really knew the truth until the minute the author wanted me to so I have to commend her for a job well done there.

On the other hand, I had a hard time with some of the awfully graphic detail in this book. I’m sure it’s not the most graphic book ever written but between the gruesome murder details, the in depth descriptions of teenage fantasies and the sex scenes. She leaves little to the imagination. This may appeal to some people but it’s not my cup of tea and I had a hard time getting through some chapters, occasionally enough to make me consider reading something else.

Luckily for my book club, the essential heart of this story was enough to keep me reading and I’m glad I did, because it was a really good story. I’d give this one 3 out of 5 stars, but I think a lot of people would give it at least an extra star – not everyone is as squeamish and anti-graphic love scenes as me, I’m sure. And to be honest, there weren’t that many of them, they were just awfully intense when they happened.

All in all, I’d say not a bad start to the new year and I’d recommend this book to most fans of a good mystery. What are you reading right now?

Picture Book Round Up: 3 New Books We're Loving

Looking for a new book to read with your kids? There are a million picture books out there and it can get a little overwhelming trying to find a good story with nice illustrations that doesn’t feel like torture trying to read out loud. We’ve gotten a few new awesome stories this Christmas and I thought I’d share them with you guys in case your bedtime routine is getting a bit stale (this is essentially cross posted from my review blog):

Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis: I first discovered this awesome book back in September while perusing a website you need to know about: wegivebooks.org. I’ve been smitten with this new line of picture books ever since and can’t seem to say enough good things about them. The illustrations in these books (by David Soman) are simply brilliant, the small details perfect – flip through it for a few seconds and you will know what I mean – this is the book I sometimes want to curl up and read by myself and always get excited when MM asks for it at night. I love the stories which are all about empowerment, imagination and kindness. This one will make you reminisce of your own childhood and laugh at the all too familiar antics of your own brood. I recommend any of the Ladybug Girl books and guarantee your family is going to love them.

Freddi the Dog by Lisa and Randy Herman Freddi the Dog by Lisa and Randy Herman, Illustrated by Bruce Hammond : This was one of the books I reviewed in our gift guide at the review blog, but I didn’t give a lot of details since it was a Christmas present for the kids. We’ve read it several times since Christmas morning and my four year old is pretty smitten with it. I especially love Bruce Hammond’s adorable illustrations of Freddi’s many, many antics. This story is terribly funny but also very sweet and I think any pet owner will find something to relate to in this book. What dog owner hasn’t experienced that moment of “You ate what?” My husband was especially fond of this one, having grown up with many dogs as a kid and he and my son love reading this one together.

MORE BEARS! by Kenn Nesbitt More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt and Troy Cummings (Illustrator): This book is so silly and well drawn and should be well appreciated by any writers or wanna be writers out there. This was another book from our recent gift guide and my kids and husband both got a kick out of this one, too. I love that this book sort of breaks that fourth wall and talks about the author as he writes the story and finds himself being coerced into adding MORE BEARS! at the demand of a hidden audience. For some reason reading this book makes me want to go out and write a million stories immediately, not a bad thing! I also think this is a great way to explain the concept of authors and how books get written to your kids and in general, it’s simply a hysterical story to boot. My son loves to yell out “More Bears!” along with the story – giving a similar sort of interactive experience as the infamous Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

What books have you and your kids been reading lately?

Taking the GOOD with the BAD

It’s been an interesting day – filled with good moments and bad, to the point where I’m not sure how to classify the day as a whole. I figured I’d write it all out and see which column (good or bad) has more in it?

Good: I got a copy of Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris in the mail today for review – if you’ve been following along, you may know that I rather obsessively have been wanting to read this. I’ll be finishing The Funny Thing Is… tonight (I hope) and then moving on to some new vampy goodness!

Bad: Seemingly seconds after getting my new book out of the package it arrived in, I got a call from Dan. His car broke down – something about a hole in the fluid thing. It won’t start. I had to pick him up at a gas station so he could continue on his way back to the office for the rest of the day.

Good: MM has been pretty well behaved today all things considered. His playroom is actually still clean for the most part – I’m thinking my toy purge was a very, very good thing.

Bad: Because of Dan’s car troubles, timing, etc. MM hasn’t napped. So far this hasn’t been troublesome but I’m wary of how he’ll fare tonight – that’s when the fallout from a lack of nap normally happens.

Good: Fresh raspberries have continued to make today’s meals better. They topped my oatmeal this morning and a few minutes ago I squished a couple into some peanut butter slathered graham crackers. The other day I made MM a peanut butter and raspberry sandwich (like instead of jelly) and he loved it. Yesterday I topped my french toast with them instead of putting on syrup – I think they were better than syrup! I’m convinced right now that raspberries make everything taste better and I have yet to be proved wrong. I’d love to make these raspberry cobblers soon, but I’m not sure the motivation will come.

Bad: Have I mentioned that Firefox for some reason decided it hated me and deleted all of my bookmarks, cookies, passwords and settings. Like they are all gone. Dan tried to console me by saying, “Hey this would be a great time to try Google Chrome!” except Google Chrome isn’t actually available for the Mac yet. I played with Opera for a bit but found it way too buggy in Google Reader to bother with. I’ve been trying out Camino for the last few hours and it’s… okay. It’s ugly to be honest and if it weren’t for today’s occurrences, I’d gladly go back to Firefox. Right now I’m just biding my time until Google makes a version of Chrome for the Mac or Dan digs up another browser for me to try…

Good: I got all the cloth diapers for Baby Blueberry washed, dried and “put away” – we are almost ready for newborn bums at chez momma!

Bad: The tote thingy I’m storing the diapers in really isn’t big enough – like they “fit” after a lot of coaxing but it’s not going to work very well long term – which will be a problem at some point since, if we like cloth diapering, we’ll want more diapers. This just means I’ll need to buy something – in addition to a trash bin to put the diaper pail liner in and a spray bottle to put some homemade diaper wipe solution in.

I think that about covers it. I could complain about my back some more and all the aches and pains of being 39 weeks pregnant. But, then again, I could also say how GREAT it is that this pregnancy is almost over, my grandmother is coming tomorrow (with a bit of work I should be able to get the car in time to drive to the airport to pick her up, hopefully without going completely crazy. A bicycle may be involved on Dan’s end) and a fun weekend in store, not counting the hopefully getting Dan’s car fixed. I really hope he can get it fixed (inexpensively) because I’d way rather save for a house than buy some cheap car (we totally can’t afford a non-cheap car) because his is declared dead. I vote for it not being dead and everything being fine, okay?