Just a book reminder

Hello everyone!  Just wanted to remind you all that I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year and I’ve reviewed quite a few of the books that I have finished right here on the blog!  Just click the header up near the top of the page that says “Books 2016”.  I finished another one today, so I’ll post my latest review here as well as above just for the fun of it.  According to Goodreads, I’ve read 29 books so far this year!!  Woo-Hoo! I’m pretty happy about that, and needless to say, there’ll be more to come.  I have not reviewed every single book above on my Books 2016 tab, but a majority are on there.  I hope you’ll find one or two that may pique your interest 🙂

painted-house

September 9    A Painted House  by John Grisham            I went into “retro” mode with this book as I listened to it on audio cassette  over the period of a few weeks. I enjoyed it a lot and think it’s probably worth 4 stars – but I think I’d actually give it 4.5 stars, with the extra half-star simply for the awesome narrator in this audio book! I like John Grisham but have not read any of his work for a very long time. This one was published a long time ago (2001) and didn’t contain one word about lawyers – which may have been one reason why I was attracted to it. The story takes place in about 1952 in rural Arkansas, on a cotton farm. Life on a farm back then was pretty rough, and this novel does not sugarcoat it. I truly enjoyed listening to this book and the narrator did a fine, fine job depicting the southern accents, as well as different verbalization for each character. A lot happens in this rural community during the course of one cotton picking season… lots of things that little Luke (our 7 year old main character) hears and witnesses. It’s a good story, but I think I enjoyed it even more because it was an audio edition.

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New Year, New Focus

 NYE SeattleHappy New Year 2016!!!  Wait.  What? 2016????  How can that be?  Seems like it was not long ago that we were welcoming in the new century, awaiting the Y2K bug, and partying like it was 1999….   yet here we are, a full 16 years later…. and happy to still be here, I might add!

Some years I enjoy documenting my New Years resolutions and this year I’m going to do just that.  To keep myself on track, I intend on doing fairly regular updates on how well I’m succeeding.  So, lets get started.

Numero UNO on my list is:  Decluttering my home.  I have spoken about this in the past, and have been marginally successful.  Maybe I should change that to minimally successful.  In the past month or so, I’ve donated two large garbage bags of clothes and the entire back end of our SUV was full of other stuff that I no longer wanted or needed. I have completely cleared out my kitchen of items I don’t use, yet there is still TOO MUCH STUFF! But friends, that is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg!  I still have closets and drawers full of (many different sized) clothes that I need to part with.  Our 3rd bedroom – AKA “the Office” – is a disaster area. From top to bottom it’s full of crap I don’t need.  Just this past weekend we gave away a large piece – a 5 foot tall “kitty condo”, lovingly made by hubby for our cat Jinx – who no longer uses it.  It’s moved about 50 miles away to our son and future daughter-in-law’s place where they have two new rescue kittens who apparently are in love with it already! 🙂  Yay!   Personally, I have found that when I clear out stuff, it makes me feel good.  I haven’t read the huge best seller book (yet) that’s out there about the “magic of tidying up”, but yes, it’s on reserve at the library. Since it’s so popular, I’ve been waiting for it for some time, but that’s okay. I understand she (the author) says that if something doesn’t give you “joy”, then it should go.  What gives me joy is seeing my cupboards, cabinets, and drawers cleared out to the point of being able to see what I have and access what I have and use what I have!  I will do some before and after photos of my horrendously messy office.

Numero Dos is to Eat healthier foods.  It’s easy to say that, but I’ve actually made a plan.  First off, let me divulge that I suffer from diverticulitis.  I’ve found that for me, the best way to keep “it” at bay is to add pro-biotics into my diet.  Of course there are numerous ways to do this…. Some people take probiotic pills, and while that may work well for some, it doesn’t for me.  So I’m in the process of learning about lacto-fermentation and will be making my first fermented veggies (I’m starting with carrots) soon.  I’ve been drinking kefir for months, and am just now starting to culture my own kefir using milk kefir grains and water kefir grains.  Kefir and fermented veggies provide a myriad of helpful bacteria for our bodies, our immune system, and intestinal health. When you consider that one bottle of store-bought kefir is anywhere from $3-5,  I’ll save a lot of money by making my own.  I also eat Greek yogurt which also provides a few probiotics, but not nearly as many strains as the kefir or fermented veggies. I downloaded a very informative book for my Kindle for only $2.99 called Fermented VegetablesI’ll keep you posted on how my fermenting and culturing goes!  I got my kefir grains from Amazon.com, from a company called Cultures for Health.   Not only do I plan on eating probiotics, but I’m really going to try and focus on preparing our meals from whole foods, and sometimes even organic when it’s feasible (and not insanely expensive).  I guess my main goal here is to cut out extra chemicals and additives from our diet.  I will update on that quest, as well.

Numero Tres is to compute less and read more!  I find it so easy to spend an entire afternoon on the computer, and I have a feeling that I’m in pretty good company here.  Let’s face it, fooling around on the computer is probably not the best way for one to spend their free time. I truly DO love reading.  Last year I set a goal to read 25 books.  I thought that was a reasonable, attainable ambition.  I failed.  I read 22 books, (I think).  Okay, that’s not so bad, but I’m resetting the goal for 25 books again for 2016. By the way, I do NOT count books like the Fermented Vegetables book in this list of “read books”.  I’m thinking I might put a new tab on the top of the home page here where I have an easy spot to document my reading progress and yes, I’ll call it “Books 2016”.

I think the above are pretty good goals for the upcoming year.  Oh yes, there are others, but not everything is brought to life on the blog 😉      I’d love to hear what any of your goals, plans, hopes, and dreams are for 2016 – and Happiest of New Years to ALL!!!

Chestnut Street

chestnutst

I recently finished this book of short stories by my beloved Maeve Binchy.  Oh how I will miss her!! Our dear Ms Binchy left us back in July of 2012 and from what I gather, her husband came across a drawer full of stories, all about people who lived on the same street, Chestnut Street.  I believe this was still a work in progress when she passed, but since she is no longer here to complete the project, her husband published them “as is”.  While everyone in the book had ties to, or lived on Chestnut Street, the characters were VERY minimally interrelated.  It was more just a book of short stories, written in her absolutely delightful style.  I had no problem going from one chapter to the next… it was easy to immediately get caught up in whatever story was in front of me.  Some were good enough that she could have based whole books around them, in my humble opinion.  I was sad to see it end and sad to see my long running era of Maeve Binchy books come to a close.  When people ask me, “Do you ever re-read books?” I normally reply, “too many great books, not enough time”  — but in this case, I truly believe I’ll be re-visiting several of hers.

Winter of the World

winter of the world

It took me about a month and a week, but I’ve done it, I finished the 943 page behemoth seen above!  I got this book for Christmas 2012 and FINALLY got around to reading it.  Now I’m a bit sorry that I waited as long as I did to read it.  Why?  Because so many of the people/characters from his previous book, Fall of Giants appeared in this book as well.  If not the exact same characters, then the direct family members of the characters…. and I’d forgotten a lot of them.  Follett has a way of bringing it all back, reminding you ever so gently of who did what to whom.  Winter of the World  starts in 1936 and works and winds it’s way through the war years of 1939-1945, then finishes up in the late 1940’s.  I will admit that the first 250 pages or so were a struggle for me, but I KNEW it would be worth it to take the time to get reacquainted with the characters and families.  I was right, it was SO worth it.  If you’ve read my book reviews through the years, you’d know I am crazy for books set just before, during, and just after WWII.  It’s my favorite era, and the funny thing is that it’s been my favorite era now for years.  Since this book is quite detailed about armies and war plans and the like, you had better appreciate the WWII era, or at least be a history fan to completely enjoy this one.  Personally, I loved it.  Feel free to read my not quite as stellar review of the first book in the trilogy here. One of the complaints I had regarding the first book were the unlikely meetings of main characters.  While I expected that would happen again in Winter of the World, it didn’t.  In my opinion, all the chance encounters of the main characters were much more believable this time around. As mentioned in that review, the final book of the trilogy will be apparently about Vietnam and other events that happened towards the end of the century.  I’m still thinking I’ll skip that one, but I’m reserving the right to change my mind! My biggest beef about this novel is that it was heavy and bulky to tote around, and nearly impossible to read in bed (which I love to do).  It may be time to accept the inevitable, and just get books as big as this one loaded onto my easily maneuverable Kindle!

Be on the lookout for another review soon – I’m nearing the end of a Kindle book I can’t wait to tell you about!

Latest Book Reviews

This is just a brief note to say that I had a change of heart, and decided to review my books under the “Books 2012” tab at the top of the page.  I had planned to again place my reviews within the body of my blog, but with the upcoming arrival of our twins, I decided I would separate the personal stuff from the book stuff.  I have finally reviewed my first three books today. Just click on “Books 2012” to see what I’ve been reading.

Books and babies

Here we are, nearly done with 2011.  Amazing.  I could write a novel about this past year, but I’ll spare my readers the ramblings – and cut to the chase!  By now you all know that Son #2 and Dear DIL are expecting twins, through the miracle and generosity of embryo adoption. Here are the two most recent baby bump photos:

Yesterday we found out the gender of the babies.  I was overjoyed to learn that we are having……. ONE OF EACH!  A boy AND a girl!!  Awesome!  Brilliant!  Can you tell I’m ecstatic?  Shoot, I would have been happy with two girls or two boys… but there is just something particularly lovely about having one of each.  We are all smiles here, that’s for sure.  And grateful.  And thankful.

Now for my end of year book reviews.  They will be short, they will be sweet.  Maybe not so sweet.  Here are the three books I finished recently:

This was the fourth or possibly the fifth in the “Irish Country Doctor” series by Patrick Taylor.  I have thoroughly enjoyed EVERY SINGLE ONE of these books.  I have listened to EVERY SINGLE ONE on CD and absolutely adore the reader/narrator.  This volume actually got specific in describing a few medical situations and of course I ate that stuff up.  Non-medical people might not be as thrilled as I was to read all those details.  I splurged and pre-ordered this one from Amazon.com.  Sure hope that the author, Dr Patrick Taylor (who now lives in Canada) will be coming out with another one VERY soon!

The Winthrop Woman, by Anya Seton… my first book by this beloved historical author.  This novel was written in the mid 1950’s and is set in both England and the New England (American) Colonies in the early 1600’s.  I enjoyed it very much, although it took me nearly forever to finish it.  I don’t often read books of this era, so a lot of the events and circumstances were fairly new to me.  Ahhhh, another reason I DO love reading historical books — I learn so much from them!  Okay, I said I’d keep this section “short and sweet”, so let’s move on to my final novel of the year….

Say When, by Elizabeth Berg.  Oh good heavens…. when will I learn?  I have read at least 3 Berg novels this year and none impressed me.  I guess I keep remembering some of her previous books that really WERE excellent.  Well, this one wasn’t.  I still do not understand the fantastic ratings most of her books receive on Amazon.  Maybe the women who read them and truly love them are lacking a few brain cells?  Well this was another novel that really lacked substance.  I most certainly DO NOT recommend this one…. it’s all about a couple who have been married 12 years (or thereabouts) and have a 6 yr old daughter…. the wife falls out of love with hubby, falls IN love with her local auto mechanic (lame!) and essentially how they break up and then make up.  End of story.  Blah.

I do plan to try and do one more post this year…. one that will briefly address my plans/goals (I refuse to use the word “resolution”) for next year… as well as a brief report on how I did with last year’s “plans and goals”!

The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

In my last book review, I said something about being in a bit of a “reading rut” – albeit a GOOD rut.  Well, I’ve done it again, read (actually listened to) another book by Ms Chiaverini- the author of all the Elm Creek Quilt books.  This one was obviously set in Hawaii and since it was readily available at our local library, I gave it a try.  You know, part of the joy of this book was listening to the narrator/reader Christina Moore.  She is nothing short of excellent!  Another thing that made this book EXTRA enjoyable for me was that it was set in Maui.  She mentioned places like Lahaina, Kapalua, and even the Old Lahaina Luau!  Having been on that beautiful island of paradise just recently, I was instantly connected to this book.  It was all about one of the original Elm Creek Quilters who moved to Maui for 6 months to help a friend of hers start “Aloha Quilt Camp”.  The story wasn’t particularly riveting, but it was certainly enjoyable and made my hours behind the steering wheel of my car simply fly by!

On a similar note, I’ve now started reading two VERY LARGE books.  It may be a while until my next book review!  I’ve started “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett – a monster sized family saga book set in England, USA, and Europe prior to and during WWI.  This book grabbed me in the first 30 pages!  I understand it’s the first of a trilogy of novels that Follett has in mind.  The second big book is one I’m listening to, entitled “Sing You Home” by Jodi Picoult. The unabridged audio version has 14 CD’s and that will take me a while to finish.  This book has received mixed reviews and is chock full of plenty of controversial subjects, but it sounded interesting to me and I know that all of Ms Picoult’s audio books are ultra-professionally narrated.   So be looking for my humble opinion on those books in the future.