Category: Book Reviews

Sweet T Book Reviews

Friday 5 – Cura Personalis, SPAM, Spool of Blue Thread, Angela’s Ashes, and Pulitzers

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Christmas Break and Cura Personalis

Happy New Year!  I feel so nice and refreshed! I had a nice long wonderful Christmas break from work and yes, from blogging, too. One of the great things about working for the Jesuits in higher education is they think balance is important, that it’s important to replenish your whole being, mind, body, and spirit.  It’s called cura personalis – care for the entire person – and it applies to caring for oneself and for others.

Henry and I both got a chance to read and relax!

henry

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Reading Goals and What I’ve Been Reading Lately

This wonderful time off allowed me to reach, and even go beyond my book challenge for the year.  The goal was 60 and I read 62.  According to Goodreads, that’s 20,902 pages!  For me, it’s more like 8 bajigilion hours of audiobooks as I drove back and forth to and from work and walking Henry and brushing my teeth (yes, I listen while I’m getting dressed in the morning.  Where do you listen?)

I finished A Blue Spool of Thread by Ann Tyler. I really liked it. It was like many of her books, more about character and family and all the moments that make up ordinary amazing lives. It’s set in Baltimore so I recognized the neighborhoods and the much-hated sculpture at Penn Station. What do you think of the male/female statue???  I couldn’t bring myself to give the book a rating. So I didn’t.

bcp-the-muchhated-malefemale-statue-at-penn-st-002Photo credit: Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts

Here’s my year in books.  My book club will laugh that Frankenstein was the least popular!  You can see all my books on Goodreads.

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Yoga at 6 a.m. and my upcoming super foods and yoga January Jumpstart

Since early December, I’ve been getting up earlier on Wednesdays and Fridays to practice asanas at 6 in the morning.  About a dozen other crazy yogis and Peat, one of the amazing instructors at Peace Yoga in Bel Air.  There is something especially nourishing about doing sun salutations as the sun is coming up.

This is my favorite picture of Peat from his profile at Peace Yoga!

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Peat is such a bright shining soul and he’s great at teaching the fine details of all the physical aspects of yoga. We spent a whole class focusing on the muscle contractions in our abdomen…abdomens???  (Uddiyana bandha)  It was like an internal organ massage.  But don’t let the long Sanskrit words fool you, he’s fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  It’s a wonderful mix when you’re trying challenging movement early in the morning!  And he’s always got a poem or an inspirational quote or a great song to share.

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And speaking of yoga and cleansing habits, I’m super excited to be doing a yoga and super food challenge starting next week with the beautiful and inspirational Flexible Warrior, Karen Dubs. She is a yoga and wellness coach who has worked with the Baltimore Ravens, the Maryland mens’ basketball team and many others.  She has personally overcome lymes, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmune diseases by clean eating and lifestyle.  I did a month-long yoga for runners workshop with her a few years ago at Charm City Run in Timonium.  She gave me massage balls for my feet, taught me legs up the wall and walked all over my back.  I was hooked!  You can learn more and join me at www.flexiblewarrior.com.

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SPAM

Well, I guess I should be flattered.  My blog has become popular enough that I’m receiving SPAM comments on blog posts.  They’re not advertising penis enlargement or asking to send money.  Here’s an example.

Grab my rss! Oh my!!  It might seem like someone who is not a native English speaker is asking to subscribe to my blog feed (which by the way, I’m working on.  My January goal is to create an email subscriber list and get it going) but it’s not. I received this comment from three different email addresses and they were all convoluted quasi business addresses like htmlfreepasswordaccess or some other oddity.  I’m learning the reason people do this is to create links to make their website more viable to search engines. That’s a huge oversimplification.  There are filtering programs and WordPress and Blogger have automatic filters but they continue to get through because spammers try to make it sound legitimate.  It’s a fascinating problem to have.

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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Fiction and Biographies

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

I also finished Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and I don’t get it.  Another book about the stereotypical poor and starving Irish children who suffered because their father was an alcoholic. Thank goodness it was an audiobook and was abridged.  I can’t imagine how much more of the same could fit into more pages and hours. Why didn’t I like it?  Was it because I couldn’t relate?  Ok, but I can certainly empathize and did.  Empathy and understanding are not the same as enjoyment.

Sometimes I feel like something is wrong with me.  I rarely like Pulitzer Prize Winners.  I don’t get it, I’m smart, I’m literary, I enjoy thinking and discussing books and literature.  Sure, I tend to enjoy lighter reads most of the time but I like to mix it up.  I often feel like Pulitzers are pretentious. The qualifications – “distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

Here are some thoughts on some I’ve read: I loved All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, Swamplandia was nominated but didn’t win. BLECH!!! I didn’t like The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx and hated A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.  On the other hand, The Color Purple is one of my favorite books, and so is To Kill A Mockingbird and John Adams, the biography by David McCullough is outstanding and fascinating (though I listened to all 30 hours and 1 minute on audio over a couple of month’s commute). OK, so maybe I haven’t read enough of them to say I don’t like them categorically. And listing them out like that, there are really only 3 winners and 1 nominee I don’t like versus 4 I do like, soooooo… maybe it’s that I tend to feel strongly one way or the other about the? I guess this means a new reading goal:  To read more Pulitzers.  Here’s the list.  Which ones have you read?

two_medals

Pulitzer Prizes in Fiction

2016: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
2015: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
2014: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
2013: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
2012: No award given
2011: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2010: Tinkers by Paul Harding
2009: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1991: Rabbit At Rest by John Updike
1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler  (She is the author of The Spool of Blue Thread)
1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (haven’t even seen the movie.  Both are now the book and movie are both high on my list)
1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1982: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
1980: The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
1977: No award given
1976: Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow
1975: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
1974: No award given
1973: The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
1972: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
1971: No award given
1970: The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford by Jean Stafford
1969: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
1968: The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
1967: The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
1966: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter
1965: The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
1964: No award given
1963: The Reivers by William Faulkner
1962: The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor
1961: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
1959: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
1958: A Death in the Family by James Agee
1957: No award given
1956: Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor
1955: A Fable by William Faulkner
1954: No award given
1953: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1952: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
1951: The Town by Conrad Richter
1950: The Way West by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
1949: Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
1948: Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener

From 1917-1948, the award was given as the Pulitzer Prizer for Novel (rather than for fiction). Here are the winners from that time period

1947: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
1946: No award given
1945: A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
1944: Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin
1943: Dragon’s Teeth by Upton Sinclair
1942: In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow
1941: No award given
1940: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
1939: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1938: The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand
1937: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
1936: Honey in the Horn by Harold L. Davis
1935: Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson
1934: Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller
1933: The Store by T. S. Stribling
1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
1931: Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
1930: Laughing Boy by Oliver Lafarge
1929: Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin
1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
1927: Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield
1926: Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
1925: So Big by Edna Ferber
1924: The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
1923: One of Ours by Willa Cather
1922: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
1921: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
1920: No award given
1919: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
1918: His Family by Ernest Poole

The books I’ve read are in bold.  Seems I found more that I read and liked.

2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

Who doesn’t love a little book challenge?  I have to admit I didn’t really choose my books this year based on this challenge but it’s cool to see how many of the books I read fit into the challenge categories.  I have a few more days left in the year to finish up those last few I missed.

Want to see how you fared in 2016?  Here’s the list

bookriot

Here are my results.

Read a Horror Book

frankenstein
Read a nonfiction book about science

talent-code
Read a middle grade novel

pie
Read a biography (not a memoir or autobiography)

cleo

Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie award

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Read a book over 500 pages long

eye-of-the-world

Read a book under 100 pages

good-dog-stay
Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender

church-of-marvels
Read a book that is set in the Middle East

the-black-widow
Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia

tidy-up
Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900

outland

Read the first book in a series by a person of color7099273
Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better
The book was better, DUH!!!  It was a good adaptation, it just left out a lot of things.

book-thiefbook_thief

Read a book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes

words

Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)

redtent
Read a book about politics in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)

the-black-widow
Read a food memoirchild

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete all the items on the list.  Here are the ones I didn’t get to.

Read a book out loud to someone else
Read a play
Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness
Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
Read a dystopian or post-apocolyptic novel
Read a book originally published in the decade you were born

Join me and hundreds of others in the 2017 challenge!

Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge

You can see all the books I read in 2016 on Goodreads.

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December Book Club: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

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Our December book club was wonderful!  The book was great!  We didn’t really do any recipes or menu based on the book this month but everyone brought cookies to share in addition to the deliciousness of minestrone soup, butternut squash with cranberries, artichoke dip, meat and cheese antipasti, cream cheese pinwheels, cheese and crackers and, wine, of course.

 

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and we had a Wilson’s Farm Market Fruits of the Forest Pie.  (Do you think we could get them to sponsor book club?  Maybe throw in a pie each month! Haha)

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Most of us finished the book or at least watched the movie though it was agreed that, “THE MOVIE DOES NOT COUNT!” The movie was good and it was a good representation, it just left out a whole whole lot.

Almost all of us gave it a big thumbs up.  There were two almost up and one sideways.  I still don’t quite understand why they didn’t like it.  Something about it starting slowly, dragging and lacking an actual story.  I’ll let them explain because…

I loved this book.  I listened to the audiobook and just loved Allan Corduner’s rich voice. I thought it was perfect for the sarcasm and dry humor, it reminded me of Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Severus Snape. I think I need to watch all the Harry Potter movies over Christmas break.  2017 may be the year I reread all the books.

I got lost in it. I loved the story and the characters and, oh, I loved the words, the beautiful lilting words, the richness of them, the imagery, the loudness of them and the quiet.

Unfortunately, one of the girls found the audiobook too much like the Frankenstein narrator and that ruined it for her! Dangit!  She watched the movie, though, and liked that.  Her other excuse is that she just finished reading The Help so no matter what she read afterward, it was bound to be a disappointment.  I call that #nextbookdepression.  I’m currently going through that a little myself.

We loved Hans Hubermann.  We adored him because he is the kindest papa. And in a different way, we loved Rosa Hubermann for her gusto and perseverance. We all know someone like Rosa. Someone who is gruff and curses and calls her loved ones terrible names. We really liked the character, Ilsa Herman, too.

Some didn’t like that death was personified.  I think it was a wonderful way to narrate this story and spread a bleak tone to the whole period of time. Death, whether a person or not, hung over the people of Europe during WWII.  It was a constant fear, making it the one who told the whole tale from the first death to the last wrapped it all in a darkness that allowed Liesel’s hope to shine through more brilliantly.

There are many stories that personify death.  Meet Joe Black, the movie with Brad Pitt that was based on an earlier movie, Death Takes a Holiday.

meetjoeblack deathtakesaholidayposter

I’ve read a few books with Death as a character.  A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore is a hilarious piece of satire.  Years ago, in college I read a whole series by Piers Anthony where Death, Time, Fate and Nature were characters.  The first was On a Pale Horse where the main character accidentally kills death and has to take over his job of measuring souls for good and evil and sending them to heaven or hell.  He rides a pale horse that can take on the forms of a car, plane or boat. I don’t remember much but I remember really enjoying it.

dirty-job  images

Here’s a list of other books on Goodreads with Death as a character

It is ironic and interesting that Death, exhausted and overworked, is “haunted” by humans.  That he can’t reconcile humanity’s capacity for evil with its capacity for good.

Marcus Zusak was born in Sydney, Australia to an Austrian father and a German mother, both of whom experienced World War II firsthand in their native countries. Zusak has said that The Book Thief was unlike anything he had written before and largely inspired by stories his parents told him as a child about wartime Munich and Vienna. He singled out two stories his mother told him, one of the bombing of Munich, and one of Jews being marched through his mother’s town on their way to the Dachau concentration camp.

His mother told of “Jewish people were being marched to Dachau, the concentration camp. At the back of the line, there was an old man, totally emaciated, who couldn’t keep up. When a teenage boy saw this, he ran inside and brought the man a piece of bread. The man fell to his knees and kissed the boy’s ankles and thanked him . . . Soon, a soldier noticed and walked over. He tore the bread from the man’s hands and whipped him for taking it. Then he chased the boy and whipped him for giving him the bread in the first place. In one moment, there was great kindness and great cruelty, and I saw it as the perfect story of how humans are.”

As Death said, “I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

Or

“So much good, so much evil. Just add water. “

I loved this book.

“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.”

My rating 5 out of 5 stars (and introducing the *new* *pink star* ratings!)

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Coming soon!  All about our annual Dirty Santa Book Exchange!

Review: The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stayed up to finish the last hundred suspenseful pages of this intense read last night! I love all 16 books in the Gabriel Allon series. I’ve been reading them since they first came out in 2000.

Gabriel and the team of Israeli spies face ISIS after a bombing in Paris. Gabriel recruits a female operative to infiltrate the terror organization. This was an exciting, though terrifying book because the events are based on the combustible, modern, real-world Middle East. This could really happen. In fact, it has.

The real attacks in Paris and Belgium had not happened when Silva was writing this book. They occurred during the publishing process. He wrote in the forward that he was incredibly sad that his predictions became reality.

These books are best-selling blockbuster spy novels. Sure, there’s a little bit of formula, readers expect that in a series, otherwise there would be a different book with different characters. I feel like Daniel Silva does a good job of keeping it fresh and following the evolution of the lives of the characters.

I love the characters, their passion, their brokenness, their relationships to each other. The action is gripping but they are the heart of these novels.

Silva’s stories always contain heart – and not just romantic relationships, but real relationships between people. Struggles between family. Struggles between what is best for one personally versus what is best for the people you care about. It gives insight into the struggles of Jews from the holocaust to present day, but also the struggles and motivations of the Palestinians, the Syrians, and the others who share the troubled terrain.

I always learn something both of history and of humanity when I read these books. They are thrilling but also heartfelt.

View all my reviews on Goodreadsgoodreadslong

Review: Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the first few chapters, I was a skeptic, as I usually am of books like this. I thought I had read something by Brene Brown years ago – around the same time Oprah was recommending books and world views by like authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Sarah Ban Breathnach. I soon realized I had not read her work. I am generally an extrovert and don’t have problems with vulnerability and sharing but this book spoke to me on so many levels.

Ours is a world filled with situations and messages that make us ashamed of our bodies, our imperfections and of not living up to the expectations of others and of ourselves. Quite simply this book helps give reasons to believe we are enough. IT’s a guide for overcoming fear and living whole-heartedly. It is based on a solid foundation of research by Brown because of her own personal struggles with shame and vulnerability.

At first, I argued that some shame is necessary to know we’re doing something that is at odds with our moral or ethical beliefs. She quickly defined that feeling as guilt, which can be good, and is different from shame.

I recommend this book to everyone. I think there is some nugget that will speak to every point of view. Her early research only involved women because she thought shame was more of a female issue, then she realized the differences between male and female shame. Women’s is multifaceted, shame over weight and appearance and not being a good mother. Men’s tends to come down to one thing – not being a p#ssy.

I thought about skipping the chapter on parenting because I have no children, then found myself weeping as I realized what a wonderful job my mother did – even in the things she did wrong. She had me at 17, how did she know how to do it all so right when she was so young? She gave so much love and support and allowed me room to fail and take risks and be creative. Things Brown says are key.

I will definitely reread this. For some friends and family members with shorter attention spans, I’m recommending they just listen to one of her Ted talks or read some of the shorter material on her web site: brenebrown.com.

I’m considering it as a book club selection. We’ve never read nonfiction, other than biographies, as a group. It can touch on deeply personal issues, something some will be uncomfortable with but as Brown says, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”

Do you think it would be a good book club book?

View all my reviews

Review: Counting by 7s

Review: Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
four-stars
Goodreads

 

This sweet book made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me laugh and cry at the same time (like I always do in Steel Magnolias). I’m not going to say too much because I think it will make a great book club book selection and there is a lot we can talk about.

In addition to laughing and crying it made me think… about grief, foster care, diversity, not fitting in and being strange and different, poverty, gardening, how families can be so different. Maybe this couldn’t happen in reality but what if it could? I had some real problems with the actions and details of school employees. In truth, it would not go down like that. I had some issues with the ending but I choose to suspend my disbelief and embrace these characters. And this book has some beautiful quotes!

View all my reviews on Goodreadsgoodreadslong

four-stars

Review: Church of Marvels

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
three-stars
Genres: Fiction
on May 5th 2015
Goodreads

 

What the …??? What a beautiful strange weird eerie dream with haunting twisted intertwined points of view. Turn-of-the-century scenes from a Coney Island freak show, New York opium dens, whorehouses, asylums, seedy dark places yet still hopeful hearts. What an interesting setting to ponder gender identity and belonging.

It started slowly and was a little confusing with four different character threads. Frankly, it was pretty dull early on. But it got such high ratings on Goodreads, I stuck with it and suddenly, about a third of the way in, it grabbed me. I wanted to know what happened. I think this may be one of those that rattles around in my head for a while revealing insights that weren’t obvious to me at first. An onion book.

View all my Goodreads reviews

 goodreadslong

three-stars

November Book Club: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Book club means laughing.  Celebrating two years of our very own book club multiplies laughing exponentially!  Especially when we vote on our favorite book selections from the year and add silliness like the #mannequinchallenge!  They’re lucky this fad will pass by December or I would video every month!!

Because our book, A Man Called Ove, is Swedish, I made a special trip to Ikea for Swedish meatballs. I thought they were pretty good, though they didn’t turn out like I thought they would. There was a LOT of sauce with a LOT of sour cream. That happens a lot when I cook, it’s just not quite what I had in my head. I think I’ve gotten past where I was a few years ago, though.  That was when every time I turned on the oven, I burned myself, burned the food and set off the smoke alarm.  It was telling when the friend who got there early to help me out, looked at the meatballs I had pulled out of the oven to cool and said, “you know they’re cold, right?”  Thank goodness for microwaves.

I love the IDEA of cooking, it’s the execution that gets me a little sweaty.  I mean… it gets me glisteny. Granmama says Southern ladies don’t sweat they glisten! (not sure if Southern ladies do hot yoga or run too much, but anyway.)  I so admire those who can cook a and I want to be one of those bloggers who makes these wonderful, beautiful, easy, cheap, delicious, fast meals for their whole family from vegetables I grew myself and locally raised animals.  But I’m not quite that girl (yet). So I try to make one little special something that’s not too hard for book club and invite my amazing gourmet chef friends who bring these delicious treats they’ve made from the abundance of healthy things they’ve grown in their back yards! Or purchased from the most amazing Farmer’s Market with the best pies! Or they go to the food paradise known as Weigman’s.  I’m intimidated by Weigman’s.  It makes me glisten.

3-3-ikea2(Did you know Ikea has an emoticon app with Swedish meatballs?  Amazing what you can learn when looking for a picture for your blog!)

So like our book, the Swedish meatballs were Swedish and they weren’t too bad. We also had Swedish cheese, and Swedish fish.  I’m also clever enough to have invited my Swedish friend and she made a real contribution with Jansson’s Frestelse (translated as Jansson’s temptation), a creamy potato and onion dish with a tiny hint of anchovies.  It was yummy! I’m not sure of her recipe but this recipe from cutie Anna at Door Sixteen (she designs book covers) is similar.

janssons-frestelse

There was also a wonderful salad, pumpkin dip, apple cranberry pie from Wilson’s Farm Market, a delicious apple, walnut feta salad, homemade pepper jelly with cream cheese, a tiny little chocolate cake…  We should have taken a “before” picture, all that was left was crumbs! I could go on and on about the food….

crumbs

So this month’s book was loved by most though there were a few who thought it was just ok.  Sure it’s a story that’s been told before.  A grumpy old man, depressed and feeling like his life has no meaning is rescued by a family of sorts. I loved the characters and their connections to each other. I enjoyed learning about Ove’s past as it unfolded in relation to present day events.  It emphasized that you never know what other people are going through or have been through.  A little kindness can be bigger than you know.

Ove likes good tools and well-built things.  Everything should have a purpose and be useful.  He has a hard time when he no longer knows his own purpose.  Sometimes as people age or lose someone close to them or something prevents us from doing something the way we used to – an accident or injury, the whole world is different. It’s frustrating to know one’s place in the world.  Things don’t make sense the way it used to.

Ove sees the world in black and white.  There are rules that should be followed.  He has daily rituals he dogmatically follows. I wondered if there was a touch of Asberger’s or obsessive compulsive disorder or if his behavior was a result of the hardship he faced growing up. I think it’s some of both. If we don’t have a congenital mental illness, we all have times in life where we deal with emotional disorder or mental fatigue.  We all have touches of neurosis.

We talked about fathers, and grandfathers and grumpy old men we knew. Both of my Grandaddys were quiet, sometimes ornery fellas with a special place in their hearts for a sweet oldest grandaughter. I also saw some of Ove in myself.  I’m mostly a rule-follower.  I mostly think there is a correct way things should be done.  I get really frustrated when people don’t do what they’re supposed to. I think most of us are loyol to our world view, whether it’s thinking the idiot in front of us should speed up and drive faster or that crazy lunatic should slow down in the neighborhood because someone could get hurt.

This book gave us other perspectives, too, through the supporting characters.  It didn’t seem anything in the world could upset the lanky one – Patrick. It’s good to have a few of those people in your life, though sometimes it’s frustrating when nothing rattles them! I loved how the whole group of neighbors were connected and worked together to help each other.

Parveneh seemed like such real person, she laughed, she got annoyed, she pushed Ove’s buttons, she was kind, she argued with her husband, she barged right into life whether there was a mailbox or a closed door in the way or not.

Someone talked about being annoyed with her at the beginning.  I wanted to talk more about that but the conversation went down another path and didn’t come back. I wish we had come back to that topic but I love the way book discussions jump from one topic to another. We’ll never cover everything because books are like life. The stories grab each of us by our own experiences and none of these are the same.  That’s why sharing it together makes it so much better.

I have some very dear friends who are like Parveneh; they are often loud and rude and demanding but they make you food without you asking and they love you with all their hearts and I love them back, fiercely.

There was a quote in the book I loved, “You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away.” I think this was referring to Ove’s wife Sonja. But I saw Parveneh as that ray of light.  Her whole family were sunbeams but she, as most mothers are, was the catalyst, the connector.  She opened the window to let the light in.  I now have this quote on my desk with my own addition – be that ray of light.

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It seems like I’ve read a lot of books about older people this year: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (also Scandanavian), The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, My Grandmother Wanted to Tell You She’s Sorry (also by Backman), At Home in Mitford, Etta and Otto and Russell and James,  Perhaps they’re not always grumpy but definitely have a sense of being out of touch in some aspects and so incredibly in tune in other ways. In fact, I didn’t write this blog post by HPB Blog but I could have: If You Liked A Man Called Ove, You Might Also Like… I’ve read 5 of the 11 and liked them all.

I adored the relationship Ove developed with the mangy cat, a kindred curmudgeonly spirit. Fredrick Backman had a fun sense of humor and the translator nailed it. Backman is a blogger and has said this novel grew out of a blog he wrote. The character was based partly on him, partly his father.  There is a movie with English subtitles currently playing in a few theaters around the country. It’s in Annapolis this weekend if you’re local!  You can buy it on Amazon.

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Happy Reading! Here’s me enjoying some chocolate cake and wine after everyone left…

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P.S. Don’t you just love the photos at the top!  They are from A Latte for Thought, a blog about “books, food, coffee, coffee,and coffee.” I love her review of Ove!

2014-15 Book Club Picks

Our First Year of Books

The Light Between Oceans by     The Jane Austen Book Club by     Me Before You (Me Before You, #1) by    The Kitchen House by

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by     Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by     The Paris Wife by     A Moveable Feast by

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1) by     Paper Towns by     The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by     Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by

Our first year of book club was so amazing!  There were winners and losers but mostly winners.  We had such a good time reading and discussing and eating and laughing.  There was a lot of laughing!  Have you read any of these?  What do you think?  Look for more detailed reviews of some of these in the future.

up September The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
What a great first book for our group.  It was emotionally wrenching and thought provoking.  We had great discussions.  Can’t wait to see the movie.

down October The Jane Austin Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
This was such a disappointment.  We think Jane Austin would be underwhelmed. 

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up November Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes
Another emotional sob-fest. Another movie we can’t wait to see.

up December The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Boyoboy we had emotional covered in our first few months.

up January The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
Fannie Flagg always makes me laugh. Fun and interesting characters – this is where we christened one of our own members Winged Victory.  We also learned about the WASPS, the gritty women aviators in WWII and the lives of women during the war.

up February Wild by Cheryl Strayed
While we had mixed feelings about Cheryl Strayed but our discussions about her life-changing trek on the Pacific Crest Trail were great.  This is a great selection for book clubs. The book was better than the move (duh).

down March The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
As a group many had a hard time stomaching Hadley Richardson Hemingways’s lack of standing up to Ernest. A few people appreciated her character for her time in history.  Some also felt like it was more of a timeline of her life than an emotionally deep narrative.

down April A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
We read this as a companion to The Paris Wife.  Our group really doesn’t have much of an appreciation for Hemingway’s bullish machismo.

up May The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
We loved this quirky autistic Sheldon Cooperish character and his adventures in finding love.

meh June Paper Towns by John Green
Let me introduce you to the meh thumb.  Yes, no we didn’t love it, didn’t hate it.  There are a lot better John Greens.  The movie was terrible.

up July The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
What a wonderful book. Yes, it was made for book clubs with all its references to great books but at its heart it is a heartwarming story of love and family.

up down meh August Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
There was love. There was hate.  There was confusion.  There was meh. Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess has a strong voice and a strange life.  It made sense for some of our ladies and not for others. Lots of taxidermy.

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