Friday, October 3, 2014

Goodnight Moon, Goodnight June

“What is childhood without stories? And how will children fall in love with stories without bookstores? You can't get that from a computer.” 

Fans of You've Got Mail can unite over this one.

Goodnight June is the story of a woman's journey to save her aunt's beloved bookstore against all odds.  June returns to her childhood city of Seattle after many years away to close the estate of her aunt. She returns to Bluebird Books, her aunt's bookstore with the green curtains reminiscent of Goodnight Moon. But does the connection to this classic book stop at the curtains? This is the story of our love of books and literature; the fictional account of how Goodnight Moon came to be. 

As she prepares to sell the property, June discovers letters of correspondence between her aunt and Margaret Wise Brown, beloved children's author. It is not accident that these letters are hidden with clues from book to book. They are meant to be seen by her. 

Margaret Wise Brown scribbled her stories on scraps of paper; the remnants of her dreams at night. It is not too far of a stretch to imagine this sacred friendship between June's aunt and Brown. Their comforting words of support to one another are the classic exchange of support and affection amongst life-long friends. Suddenly selling the bookstore and returning to a thankless job in New York City isn't such an easy decision after all. There are discoveries to be made.

The secrets of these friends come unraveled before June's eyes and lead her to a truth that she has knowingly avoided for many years. Could these letters be the key to saving the bookstore? Are there more mysteries hidden in the well-loved pages of books shelved throughout the store? 

                                           Will the sun set on Bluebird Books as well?

“We're each given one life, and it's our job to make it useful, beautiful, and fulfilling. There is no value in suffering through it, doing something we hate. There's no prize at the end for that kind of endurance. Just a spent life.” 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

"Stories are people. I'm a story, you're a story...your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we're lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we're less alone."

Our story ping-pongs between the 1960's Italian Coast and present day Hollywood. Young Pasquale Tursi has taken over The Adequate View Hotel when a mysterious American actress, on the verge of success, arrives. Over the course of three days, the paths of many lives will change, in the smallest ways for the immediate future, but with repercussions that will span over the course of a lifetime.

Nearly 50 years later, an eager producer will make a pitch, an aging Hollywood staple will restore his faith, and a hopeful Italian man will fulfill a life-long quest. Walter creates a beautiful, real story about the choices we make and how they shape our lives. But most importantly, he gives us hope that it is never too late to chase a dream.

"Again, Pasquale felt the separate pulls of his mind and body-and right then, he honestly didn't know which way it would go. Would he stay in the boat? Or would he run up the path to the hotel and take her in his arms? And what would she do if he did? There was nothing explicit between them, nothing more than that slightly open door. And yet...what could be more alluring?

In that moment, Pasquale Tursi finally wrenched in two. His life was two lives now: the life he would have and the life he would forever wonder about."

Made the journey from Arkansas, to NYC,
 to the NH seashore with me.

Even Oscar enjoyed it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Nobel Laureate

Five years ago I pulled a book off a shelf in the sitting room of a volunteer home in Costa Rica. Over the course of my two week stay, I read Love in the Time of Cholera.

His work is beautiful and tragic. It is heart-stopping in both depth and beauty.

Perhaps it was the Latin American environment I read it in and my nostalgic way of being, but this book struck me as unlike anything I had ever read before.

When I read last month that he had passed away, I felt the urge to revisit his stories. A pile of books later, I am starting on my mission...novels, short stories, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin. A Colombian man with a close friendship to Cuba's Fidel Castro, a Nobel Laureate, a writer with a combination of realism and imagination, I'm not sure how he doesn't make for an interesting read.

Love in the Time of Cholera tells the story of a lifetime between a man and his wife, beginning at the end and working its way back to the start. It is the story of a distinguished Doctor, still practicing in his 80's, and his companionship with a wife over the course of several decades; of trials and triumphs, opportunities and wrong turns....

“He recognized her despite the uproar, through his tears of unrepeatable sorrow at dying without her, and he looked at her for the last and final time with eyes more luminous, more grief-stricken, more grateful than she had ever seen them in half a century of a shared life, and he managed to say to her with his last breath: “Only God knows how much I loved you”

One Hundred Years of Solitude is the story of an isolated community with little contact to the outside world. It is a story that highlights the course of this community and its family's leadership throughout a century.

"Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction." 

His language is thick and rich. It is a poetic, beautiful prose that is becomes all-consuming endeavor to work your way through.

I would recommend his books to anyone with an interest in Latin American culture and any person who shares a deep love for language and for epic storytelling.

Check back as I make my way through this stories and life, in the memory of an incredible human being.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Beautiful Day? A Behind-the-Scenes Wedding Story Set on Nantucket. Need I say more?

Beautiful Day by Elin Hildebrand

Wedding season is almost upon us, and what better way to kick it off than with a good, old-fashioned wedding story about the....Maid of Honor, the Groom's mom, the best-friend Bridesmaid, the Bride's dad...and the dysfunction that a wedding party can hold!

This is not really a story about a wedding; it is story about life and love and the many milestones and bridges to cross along the way. All smushed into one fabulous-action packed wedding weekend.

What could possibly go wrong for a June wedding on Nantucket Island? 

This book will take you on a rollercoaster of the days leading up to the wedding. The love-sick couple,  Jenna and Stuart, the scorned and bitter Maid of Honor, the divorced and then reunited Groom's parents. It serves to ask and answer the question of what love means, what commitment means, and what $100,000 wedding might include...

And tying it all together is the notebook...a book filled with all of the suggestions for a wedding constructed by the bride's mother before she passed away years before.

I got a kick out of the Southern groom's family and the Northern bride's family. Margot, the maid of honor, will slowly become your favorite character, and you will find yourself rooting for her in the end. Stuart's mother will transform from an interference to a woman of strength and dignity.

Do I recommend this to my soon-to-be brides or will I be responsible for a tailspin into wedding anxiety? I debated this throughout much of the book, but have to conclude it's a "worth it" read. But if my bride friends and their mothers are skeptical...Hildebrand has many wonderful summer-reads, all set on Nantucket, to choose from.

My favorites are:

The Blue Bistro
Summer People (my first Hildebrand read)
The Beach Club

You can also download the short story The Surfing Lesson, which directly ties in with Beautiful Day, as an ebook introduction to her writing.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

 Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

"Lisette took a deep breath and stood up.

When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone.

Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again."

Lost Lake is a story of changing endings. It is the journey of  a misfit bunch of summer visitors finding life and happiness again.

Each character is in a different stage of grief: fresh and raw; teeming from within, resting quietly for years within a heart; and accepting the course of life, ready to move on.

After losing her beloved husband years ago, Eby is ready to sell and move on from 40 years of running a shabby-chic vacation retreat. But then her niece Kate arrives, fresh off her grief of losing a husband and letting a mother-in-law take over. Eby has always experienced family as an endless need: for time, for money, for taking and not giving back. Until there's Kate.

As word slowly spreads that Lost Lake will be selling, the other characters arrive.

Selma, hesitant to use her last charm to snag her eighth husband; Bullahdeen, elderly, fiesty, and ready to fight for Lost Lake. Bullahdeen overcame her own projected path years ago when given paper and pen. Quiet Jack, desperate to finally claim the mute Lisette as his own. And Wes, who has been hiding a dark secret since his childhood summer sent by Kate's side, followed by the fire that destroyed his family and took his brother's life.

They will all come together in hopes of showing Eby what Lost Lake means to them. But Uncle Lazo already has his verbal agreement and lawyer on hand, is it too late to change Eby's mind?

There is magic woven into this book, as in all of Allen's stories.

"I taught literature for nearly forty years. The books I read when I was twenty completely changed when I read them when I was sixty-. You know why? Because the endings changed. After you finish a book, the story still goes on in your mind. You can never change the beginning. But you can always change the end. That's what's happening here."

This is Allen's first novel back after battling a breast cancer diagnosis last year and the personal growth and experience shows in her pages. I have read all of her novels, and awaited this new arrival patiently. Lost Lake has the wisdom of the ages, something that can only be written by someone who has lived a lifetime and has overcome a battle of their own. Allen is magic, and not just in her words, she adds a mysticism to her stories that is believable and engrossing. I can't wait to see what she does next.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

"How did you get started?" I venture.

"I was one of his customers," she says..."I was paying for a book one day-I remember this so clearly-when Mr. Penumbra looked me in the eye and said...Rosemary, why do you love books so much?"

"And I said, "Well I don't know...So then I said, "Well, actually, I love books because books are my best friends.' Then he smiled-he has a wonderful smile-and he walked over and got on that ladder, and climbed higher than I'd ever seen him climb."

And with that, a journey through books will begin.

Clay Jannon has taken a job at a mysterious bookstore: one that stays open through all hours of the night, with strange, curious patrons on a secret mission through the over-stretching, tightly stacked shelves.

It doesn't take long before Clay realizes he has stumbled upon something secretive and incredible. Using his connections at google, he finds a way to uncover the pattern of the volumes borrowed from the bookstore. 

But in doing so, has he jeopardized the safety of this underground book ring, the ancient Unbroken Spine?

Then, suddenly, Penumbra has vanished from Seattle. 

This is an exciting, fun read full of mysterious happenings. Perfect for any book-lover.

Return To Blogging: Return to Tradd Street by Karen White

There is no better setting for a spooky ghost story than the rickety old floorboards of an old Charleston home. So stir up your sweet tea and get your rocking chair ready on the front porch: Return to Tradd Street delivers all that sweet, sticky Southern stuff.

This is the first book series I have read since the days of The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. I would suggest starting at the beginning with The House on Tradd Street. I reviewed the Tradd Street series by Karen White in my post A Year in Books.

Melanie Middleton, realtor extraordinaire, has been living in her historic Tradd Street home since inheriting it from a man she'd only met once. Melanie communicates with those beyond the grave and helps to bring them peace by solving their unfinished business. (think Ghost Whisperer here)

Melanie is awakened in the night by sounds of a crying baby, and it is not long until something jolting is unearthed from the foundation of the old home. Now Melanie is working against the clock to solve another mystery.

Between Melanie's scrambled love-life, unsettled ghosts, the beautiful Charleston setting, and handsome author Jack, this is a great story.

Disclaimer: You may find yourself booking a trip to Charleston in the near future. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Books, Lately: Call Me Zelda, Heading Out to Wonderful, and The Day the Crayons Quit

Call Me Zelda

by Erika Robuck

"Tender isn't selling enough. My best work yet-my soul splayed open for all to feast upon-and the readers simply do not care."

I nearly laughed aloud. His soul? I could not find any words to answer him.

He looked up at me and then stood as anger flashed over his face.

"I know what you're thinking," he said. "It's her soul-her soul that was used. But don't you see? her soul is my soul, and not because it belongs to me but because we share it."

This book explores the next stage of the Fitzgeralds life: after the wild Paris days, after the elaborate courting. You can feel the inspiration for his novels as you turn each page. The love between Zelda and Scott is twisted and confusing. They are devoted and despising in one fell swoop.

Call Me Zelda is not only the story of their later years, it is the story of a fictional nurse named Anna who falls under the Fitzgeralds spell. This is the real gem of the story. Anna has a life filled with loss. As she becomes intwined in the Fitzgeralds wild web, she finds it impossible to remove herself. But her work with Zelda and Zelda's need for her will ultimately open her up to life again. This is a tragedy and an uplifting story wrapped up in one. 

Heading Out To Wonderful

by Robert Goolrick

This is a dark story and "haunting" tale of love gone wrong. A young country girl marries a rich older man, but falls in love with the mysterious young butcher in town.

She parades around town in her ridiculous, handmade Hollywood frocks. She is almost a child-bride at the age of 19, and behaves impulsively and without fear of consequence.

But what will happen when the secret is out, as always is the case? And who will live to tell the tale?

And ending on a (much) happier note....

The Day the Crayons Quit

by Drew Daywalt

This might be the best book ever. It is hilarious. The crayons write accusatory letters to their young owner, begging him for more time of the page, to be the color of the sun, and not to peel back their cover so much! It is hysterical, and a great way to study persuasive writing in a primary classroom.

Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Act

by Jodi Picoult

"Does it really matter why I did it?

By now you've already formed our own impression. you believe that an act committed a lifetime ago defines a man, or you believe that a person's past has nothing to do with his future. You think I am either a hero, or a monster. Maybe knowing more about the circumstances will make you think differently about me, but it won't change what happened twenty-eight years ago."

Delia Hopkins' mother passed away when she was young. She and her father got in the car and drove across the country to New Hampshire. A little state and the perfect hiding place.

Twenty years later, there is a knock on the door and Delia's father is arrested on kidnapping charges. Delia is caught in the middle of her loving father and the law. But why did her father take her, and why does he show no remorse for his actions? Delia has had a good life. She's wondered and dreamed of her mother, but it hasn't stopped her from living a good life. 

The book follows Delia and her daughter, along with best friend Fitz, and lawyer boyfriend Eric, to New Mexico, where the trial will be held.

Picoult has a wonderful way of blurring the lines of right and wrong. Her story is told from multiple viewpoints, helping to keep your mind jumping as you struggle with whose side you are on. And just when you've chosen a side, she'll make you question your choice.

Plain Truth

"Suddenly, Lizzie felt profoundly sorry for her. Life never stopped for death; she should know that better than most...."I know this must be very difficult for you, but I'm going to have to ask you some questions about your baby.

Sarah Fisher raised her eyes to meet Lizzie's. "It's not my baby," she said. "I have no idea where it came from."

Detective Lizze stumbles upon the scene of an amish newborn left to die in a barn. The child doesn't belong to Mrs. Fisher, an amish wife, but in fact to her daughter Katie. Katie is in complete denial despite all the facts pointing to her. Lizzie will be left to unravel the twisted tale of secrets as an outsider in a secretive culture.

This is a unique look into an extremely interesting lifestyle. You will meet those sticking strictly to their religion; those who have have turned their backs on their families; and those tiptoeing a thin line in-between. And the main question will still remain: was this a stillborn or a murder? And what, exactly, are they all covering up?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow

"And she, like so many of the young, was looking for a shortcut, an edge over the competition, always in a hurry, not yet realizing there is no benefit in speeding up the journey, that the destination is not the point but merely part of the process. They also don't fully appreciate that their actions have repurcussions. That lives can be ruined. Of course, the young don't have a monopoly on selfishness. We want what we want. The bitter truth is that it rarely makes us happy once we get it."

In a Gatsby-esque narration, Walt will take you behind the curtain of a picture-perfect Hamptons family. This is not the overwhelming, self indulgent glamour that Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan drip of. This is the sweetness of home-cooked meals and uncorked bottles of wine finished after midnight beneath the hand-sewn blanket on the couch, bare feet tucked beneath in the cozy cottage by the shore. This is the story of letting in a stranger, under the guise of being kind and generous, only to be ripped to shreds by betrayal. It is a gripping, believable story which will leave you both angry and in agreement. This is it. The modern classic. This is real life.

Claire is a twenty-something New Yorker on a weekend trip with a new boyfriend. As she attends a dinner party, she meets author Harry and his beautiful wife Maddy.

Claire becomes a weekend fixture at the house and as the seasons change, it is another chance coincidence that will change all of their fates forever.

Excuse me, but Claire is a dope. There are two other characters in fiction that rival my distinct dislike: Amy from Gone Girl and Daisy from The Great Gatsby. Claire is a wreckless 20-something living carelessly and without consequence. She's a confused girl masked by beauty and outer confidence. Unfortunately, her charm becomes all encompassing. She is welcomed with open arms into a family so comfortable in their love.

This book tells the lesson of "be careful what you wish for" perfectly. Claire parallels Daisy in her carelessness, her utter selfishness.While Harry is no Gatsby, he shares the hopefulness and brightness of romance. But Walt is a narrator worthy of comparison to Nick Carraway, an introspective side-kick to the damage of it all. Walt watches from the eaves; tucked behind the curtain, observing. He is a reflective narrator, the outsider on the inside. But he is also yearning for something.

This is the book you yell at, you roll your eyes at, you call the characters idiots. And yet you don't put it down. Because you can't. Because this, this is the modern story of love and betrayal, of what it looks like at its core. It will break your heart. It will make you hope and pray for redemption. It will twist you and turn you until the very last page.

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio

"I think back to that night, and I write exactly what happened. How he made me laugh until my sides hurt. How we stayed out until two talking at a greasy spoon diner. How I came to realize that some of life's most beautiful things grow out of the darkest moments."

Morning Glory is the merging of two worlds...two stories...two lifetimes.

Ada moves from New York City to a Seattle houseboat two years after tragedy has shattered her life into tiny pieces which she is left to walk over every day. Searching for solace from the heartbreaking loss of her husband and daughter [Jio leaves us hanging for quite some time as to how they are no longer with her] Ada chooses to try the relocation cure.

As she arrives in Seattle, her houseboat has its own stories to tell, as do the neighboring floating homes and their inhabitants. When Ada finds the key to the coffee table trunk, inside she will discover pieces of a mystery she is destined to solve.

The houseboat's former inhabitant, Penny, disappeared many years ago. As to whether she left of her own free will, no neighbors are willing to talk. The rumors have been flying for years, of torrid love affairs and unkept promises. Of a elusive young man thought to have whisked Penny away, or a jealous husband driven to murder.

As Ada herself is trying to come out of her own darkness she will learn that beautiful new beginnings can come from the most heart-wrenching of times.

The stories are woven together as neatly as the morning glory twisting and curling through the aged dock homes.

Cracking the neighbors' resolve will take time and patience. And Ada, being a writer, is the perfect person for this job.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin's Big Words

Martin Luther King Jr., A Bundle of Books

These are a few of my favorite books about Martin Luther King Jr.Something else I often look for on books for multicultural learning is the Corretta Scott King Award. You can find a list of those books here.

Martin's Big Words

by Doreen Rappaport

 This book highlights the major quotes and pieces of Dr. King's speeches. The accompanying illustrations are striking. The pages are full of Dr. King's famous quotes, while the story follows along.

There is a youtube version of this book here.

I Have A Dream
by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This book is an illustrated version of Dr. King's most famous 
speech. The words stick with you as they are accompanied by gorgeous, color-filled illustrations.

This short clip is a great highlight of his speech.

My Brother Martin
by Christine King Faris

This is a great book for launching into point of view and voice of the speaker. Although the length and text were a bit advanced for first grade, they enjoyed it! It is told through the eyes of Dr. King's sister and involves many childhood stories.

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King
by Jean Marzollo

I found this to be my students' favorite book of the week. It was the easiest and most straightforward for them to understand. I also liked how it described Dr. King's background and the circumstances of the Civil Rights Movement.

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by David A. Adler

This book is a great set-up for a timeline of MLK's life. A great resource not only for learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., but many other famous leaders as well. There is a great online version here.

For older readers, I still LOVE picture books for older students. Below is a great free resource through an awesome website: 

There is a more advanced chapter book on the website We Give Books called Free At Last!

And finally, I cannot watch this clip without getting chills down my spine. He is so powerful. To understand his sacrifice to work to end injustice, and his selflessness for the cause, is the most important lesson for all of us.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bill Bryson and New Hampshire Nostalgia

I'm A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away
by Bill Bryson

This book is fantastic. With chapters such as The War on Drugs, Snoopers at Work, Your Tax form Explained, In Praise of Diners, and How to Rent a Car, you know you're going to have fun reading this. And the best part is, you can put it down and pick it up as you choose because each chapter is independent of the next. it is full of interesting facts.

If you're from New England, you've got an exceptionally good read ahead of you because Bill Bryson moved from England to New Hampshire. If there ever was a book built to boost New Englanders pride, this is it. Part of Bryson's intention is to point out the oddities and mysteries of New England and America in general.

 But I've got to be honest: it all makes perfect sense to me...

A Day at the Seaside:

"I've got an idea. Let's drive for three hours to the ocean, take off most of our clothes, and sit on the sand for the whole day."

"We'll get sand in our hair. We'll get sand in our shoes. We'll get sand in our sandwiches and then in our mouths. We'll get sunburned and windburned. When we get tired of sitting, we can have a dip in water so cold it actually hurts. At the end of the day, we'll set off at the same time as thirty-seven thousand other people and get in such a traffic jam that we won't get home till midnight"

And they're off Kennebunkport, Maine.

Having myself been to the English seaside, I can understand Bryson's hesitation for the beach:
New Englanders driving home from the beach on a typical summer weekend.
July in New Hampshire
On our way to the beach in England. Doesn't everyone travel this way? No?
Middle of July at the English Seaside. This is as far as we got. My arms are extremely tense due to the freezing of my toes.
Clearly, the English seaside and the New England seacoast are quite a different experience.

Fall in New England

And then there's fall. When I ventured home from Arkansas the last week of September 2013 for Fall Break, I met some Arkansans on my flight.

Arkansas to New Hampshire? I couldn't believe it. There are several routes from the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport to Manchester or Logan. You can fly through Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas.

Check a map, all of these are extremely counter productive to actually getting back to New England.

Then there's through Baltimore. This one makes sense. On a lucky September day, this was the route I managed to book. I thought I was literally the only one on that layover in Baltimore. But no, two dusted-gray heads popped up several rows in front of me. I was accompanied by an older couple who hailed from Arkansas. In true Southern fashion (I've given up trying to read during a flight to or from a southern state, your neighbor is always so friendly. I think it's making me a nicer person.) we began an in-depth discussion of where we were from, family, what we were doing...

And what were they doing? They were going Leaf Peeping.

 (If you don't know what leap peeping is, go read Eve Bunting's Peepers:)

Bryson says "For a few glorious days in October, New England  is unquestionably the loveliest place on earth". He goes on to teach us where those colors from, and why they are better than anywhere else in the country.
Rye, New Hampshire, courtesy of my mom
Rye, New Hampshire

But what on earth could Bryson have to say that would make me nostalgic for a winter in New England? Darn, he got me on this one too.

Fun in the Snow

"People  here actually get excited about winter. There is skiing and ice skating and sledding on the local golf course. One of our neighbors floods his backyard and turns it into a skating pond for the kids on our is all very cheery."
Standing in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith, New Hampshire with my mom. In the background is a pick up truck and an ice fishing shed...also in the middle of a lake.

I'm not a skier, but Bryson's got me. During my first two years teaching, the plow would pile the snow so high that children would slide down the "hill" during recess. The playground felt like an ice skating rink. These conditions in Arkansas cause a state shut-down for four days. or, until the temperature rises back above freezing to melt the icey streets. New Englanders find ways to make it through the winter and add a little joy in. And then it's March, that last blizzard're wondering if this will ever end. When can you see your toes in flip flops again? Something beautiful happens: spring arrives.

"Best of all, you know that winter is just one in an endless cycle of reliable, well-defined seasons. When the cold starts to get to you, there is the reassurance of knowing that a good, hot summer is just around the corner."

So hang tight my New England friends, and go get I'm a Stranger Here Myself, have a good laugh and put some logs in the woodstove. Are my parents the only ones still doing that?

If you'll excuse me I'm going to hop in the car and hit the dry cleaners drive through, the Bank drive-thru, swing through Starbucks, skip the liquor store drive thru, (did I forget to mention Bryson's chapter on Americans and their fascination with drive thru convenience?) and then head for a walk around the lake with the mild temps  in the 50-60's and sunny skies. I'll see y'all for summer vacation in June. (No, I'm not in college, I'm a teacher. I'm pretty sure I'll still be getting this question for the next ten years.)

This is only one of Bryson's many gems.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Where'd you go, Bernadette


"But he recognized me.

Manjula, I have no idea how. The only photograph of me floating around was one taken twenty years ago, right before the Huge Hideous Thing. I am beautiful, my face radiating with confidence, my smile bursting with the future of my choosing."

Where'd You Go Bernadette is a wild ride that will leave your head spinning and your fingers tired from putting together the puzzle pieces.

Bernadette is an artistic genius, creating eco-conscious housing creations before being green was cool.

Now, years later, she spends her time in the Airstream trailer in the backyard of the former Seattle reform school for wayward girls. Her husband, a TED-talking, Microsoft guru buries himself in his robotic projects.

Her thirteen year old daughter Bee is the only one still on Bernadette's side. And Bee has convinced her to take a family trip to Antarctica...

Bernadette employs her India-based assistant Manjula to assist her in the planning. But as the date of departure approaches Bernadette's world begins to unravel. Then Bernadette vanishes. Just like she did twenty years ago from LA.

There will be failed projects, unplanned pregnancies, spiritual awakenings, boat theft, Russian Mafia, FBI, psychologists, interventions, all intricately woven together through memos, letters, emails, and conversations collected by Bee.

Bee will be left to delicately piece together this humorous tale of a life gone awry.

But, will it lead Bee to her mother, or more importantly, does she want to be found?

This story is a perfect read for anyone suffering from winter wanderlust, or just looking for a wacky story to keep you on your toes.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Year in Books

My favorite new(ish) author:

Sarah Jio
I got a bit caught up in southern-based stories, and Jio brought me overseas to a mysterious beach bungalow on Bora Bora during World War II in The Bungalow. Then I went to solve a murder mystery at a London Manor in The Last Camellia. Next I was off to an island in Washington state sifting through a velvet diary to uncover secrets of the past in the Violets of March. And lastly, to Seattle where a modern-day reporter uncovers a long ago kidnapping, while identical Blackberry Winter storms, decades apart, help unravel a mystery. Her books are full of mysteries and secrets, links to the past, and incredible settings.

The book that stuck with me the most:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This book reaches deep into your soul and tests your morality. You are left wondering what is right and what is wrong, and where that line can be drawn. If ever a book has made me cry for its beauty and its sadness, this is it.
Genre I've been enjoying:

Historical Fiction, often with a mix or link to a current day story

Favorite "summer" book:

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
I love a good summer escape! Add in the retro vibes of a classic beach town in Rhode Island and I was sold. New England, beach, love, broken hearts and broken friendships, and a real hurricane. It's enough drama to last the whole summer through.

Favorite "fresh start" book:
On Folly Beach [Book]

On Folly Beach by Karen White
Emmy has lost her soldier husband  to the war in Iraq and is now a young war widow. She moves to quiet Folly Beach on the South Carolina shore.  Folly Beach is the perfect setting: its quiet beauty and mysterious pier are paired nicely with its quirky residents, most knowingly bottle-tree making Lulu. Here she takes over a book store and begins to find mysterious letters, sandwiched in the pages of classic stories, tucked away in the corner, and begins unraveling a mystery that spans decades. This story connects the heartbreak of war and loss with the sense of hope and renewal in the human spirit, and the drive of curiosity that will uncover unexpected events...

Frighteningly gripping book:
Gone Girl: A Novel [Book]

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I couldn't decide who I hated the most in this one. I couldn't decide who to blame. Or where on earth the last week of my life went once I picked it up. With every chapter the story twists and turns, testing your loyalty to its cast of damaged characters. I was enthralled and (somewhat) disgusted, but oh boy, I can't wait to see the movie.

Favorite Series:
Tradd Street
The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
Beautiful old houses, haunting historic Charleston setting....what could be better?
My Favorite Book for Children:

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems
This is not exactly new to me this year. It was given to me when I left my first teaching job to move across the U.S.A., from the country to the city...(sentimental much?)
Country Frog is waiting for his friend. City Dog comes along. "You'll do" he says. And for each season of the year, these unlikely friends will hop and run through the beautiful, heartfelt pages. Simple, poetic prose. They are the sweetest of friends.