our book club reads happy books!

“The Blessings”

Book Club was at my house this month. The book was “The Blessings” by Elise Juska.


I really enjoyed this book. As I noted at book club, it reinforced for me how much I love a depressing book! Although, I did not find this book as depressing as most other club members did. While the Blessings face many challenges in the course of the novel, doesn’t every family? And I found the way the family supported and accepted  each other inspiring. I found many of the relationships moving, particularly the one between the matriarch and the young widow, Lauren. I also loved the style in which it was written. Each chapter is told from a different family member’s point of view. Other book club members wanted the details that were missing from each person’s story, but I feel like all the snippets came together beautifully to tell the story of the whole family.

One thing we all agreed on: we loved that the setting was Philadelphia. Although all but one of us live in the ‘burbs, I still consider myself a Northeast Philly girl. The details of the story were very different, but this family felt very much like my own. And while I have never actually ate pink fluff, I know exactly what it is and have avoided it on many occasions. I actually considered that it would be the perfect refreshment for book club, but decided to have something that people would actually want to eat! I decided to go with some classic Philly food: pretzels, Federal donuts, and Goldenberg Peanut Chews. And a little fruit salad just because it’s good for you.


So we had a good book discussion and good food, but something else that caught my attention was Janet’s fun Birthday project. To celebrate a milestone birthday, she has set a goal to do 50 fun things this summer. It has been fun seeing what she has been up via her Facebook posts!

It got me thinking about having fun too! So even though I don’t have a specific goal in mind, here are some fun things I have been up to:

1. Booked a vacation to Jamaica! As we know, anticipation is half the fun.

2. Made plans with my friend Mary to attend Quilt Odyssey again this year! I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to hear about all Mary’s quilting accomplishments since I’ve seen her. I know she was as  inspired as I was last year and she got busy with her quilting too.

3. Went to see the movie “Jersey Boys”. What made it even more fun was my son asked me to go with him. It was nice to go with someone who wasn’t just going because he owes me for “Edge of Tomorrow” (and he still does!). It brought back nice memories of seeing the Broadway show together and we both really liked it way more than we thought we would. I must say I was never a Clint Eastwood fan and when I heard he was directing and producing it, I was nervous. But I’m happy to say I was wrong. He did a great job translating a fun show into a fun movie. Music, the mob, and merriment! What more could you want? Go see it!

3a. I saw the trailer for “Gone Girl” before “Jersey Boys”! I had seen it on the internet before, but seeing it on the big screen got me excited all over again! Creepy and amazing! I must admit, when I saw “opening October 3rd”, my immediate thought was, “I hope Trish holds off having the baby till after this date”.  She is the #1 person I want to see this movie with (even if she has to leave the theater 10x to go the bathroom!). She’s the one I know will enjoy seeing what kind of movie they make of the wonderful novel. And she will enjoy bashing it with me if they wreck it. (Hello, “Time Traveler’s Wife!) But I have high hopes for the movie. David Fincher who directed “The Social Network”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, and “House of Cards” is the director. Hopefully he will do his usual brilliant job. And while I initially had my doubts about Ben Affleck as Nick, the idea is growing on me. He has the right look, and the one-facial-expression-for-every-occasion acting style he displayed in “Argo” may work for portraying  a dazed man who is the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife.

Watch the trailer! And do fun things  this summer!



Happy 2014! Happy Reading!

Happy New Year Everyone!

It’s that time of year for new beginnings, resolutions, and… “best of 2013” book lists. I added my own list at the end of 2012. But I don’t think I’ll do that this year. Instead I’ll list a couple of authors that I read for the first time this year and really enjoyed.

1. Kate Atkinson. When I started hearing rave reviews for her new novel “Life after Life” I thought I should check her out. I started reading the books in her Jackson Brodie series. (I was under the mistaken impression that “Life After Life” was a part of this series). Atkinson is a great writer and her characters and stories keep you reading. I’ll be reading more by her this year and maybe checking out the BBC series that were adapted from these books if I can find it.

2. For a road trip to Shenandoah National Park I selected Philippa Gregory’s “The White Queen” on audio. I had been seeing a lot of advertisements for the Starz production  of this novel. I got hooked. The audio narrator was excellent and I went on to listen to the next 2 books in the series. It reminded me of a time in my life when I was crazy about historical fiction. I will be listening to more of these – she has lots!

3. Linwood Barclay. I’ve never considered myself a big reader of thrillers (I’m one of the handful of people on the planet that doesn’t read James Patterson), but when a co-worker recommended “Trust Your Eyes” I was happy to “trust my co-worker”. So glad I did! Great stories and characters that you really care about.

I’ll conclude with a book that I happened to read between 12/31/13 and 1/1/14. It turned out to be the perfect New Year’s read. It was “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey.  I admit my motivations for bringing it home were not the best. I had never heard of the book or the author but we got several copies delivered to the library and not enough room for them all on the shelves. The stark but beautiful cover intrigued me, so I brought it home.



This beautiful story of a childless couple, homesteading in the Alaska wilderness in an attempt to escape their grief is entrancing. It is inspired by a Russian folk tale by the same name. I am not a big fan of magic or fantasy in novels, but by the time these are introduced I was completely hooked by the story and couldn’t stop reading. (And is it really magic? You’re never quite sure.)

It turned out to be a perfect New Year’s read. Some inspiration I will take with me:

” We are allowed to do that , are we not , Mabel? To invent our own endings and choose joy over sorrow?”


“In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.”

This book casts a spell on you with its gorgeous writing, its beautiful setting, and its tale of the joys and sorrows that make us human. It is truly an amazing fairy tale for adults.

As a footnote, I will add that I was so smitten with this author’s name that I googled the pronunciation (its Ay-o-win) and found out this was the name of a character in “Lord of the Rings”. (I told you a don’t like fantasy –  I never read it or watched it!! Does this make me a failure as an English major??)Turns out Eowyn Ivey’s mother named her after this character (http://eowynivey.com/bio/) Did Eowyn  have any other choice but to grow up and write such a fantastical book?


The Sound of …WHAT??!!!

I try to keep this blog as positive and uncontentious as possible, but sometimes an issue arises that is so controversial that I feel I must speak out.

This news item was pointed out to me yesterday: On December 5th NBC will be airing :” The Sound of Music Live!” starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer. If you don’t believe me, here’s the link:


I ask you, is this really necessary? Can anything possibly be better than Julie Andrews  twirling in the Alps singing “the hills are alive…”? Or skipping through the streets of Salzburg singing “Doe,  a Deer”?

I have to say, I think Carrie Underwood is a very talented singer, but I feel no need for a replacement Maria (and yes, I know Mary Martin originated the role on Broadway, and many other talented people have portrayed Maria there.) The Sound of Music and Julie Andrews are an icon of my childhood – I wanted to BE Maria von Trapp.

Recently my husband saw an advertisement for the movie “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” and asked, “why did they have to make Lincoln a vampire hunter?” Good question, but i think the more important one is “why did they have to make Captain von Trapp a VAMPIRE?! I do realize that Stephen Moyer is an actor who portrays a vampire on “True Blood”, and it will not surprise me if I find out he is a decent singer (but to be honest, we don’t love Christopher Plummer as the Captain for his stupendous singing, do we?), but I know I will be watching him, waiting for the fangs to come out and bite Maria on the neck!

I also realize that I’m somewhat of a hypocrite. A movie I loved as a child (and still do!) was Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. But this is the one I watched and loved (many times!):

Following my theory of “Julie Andrew is the Musical Queen of the Universe” I should watch this one:

I have no defense except to say that perhaps if this version was available when I was younger, I would have watched it. (Note to parents with young children: The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews is readily available on DVD and frequently on plain old TV!)

Which do you prefer?:



I know how I feel, but I’ll probably have the DVR set!

So long, farewell… Good -byeeeee!


“Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

A couple of weeks ago I read “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston. The movie “127 Hours” is based  on this book, which is the true story of Aron Ralston’s experience of being trapped in the canyons of Utah and having to cut off his arm to free himself. Try to stay with me here!

I have yet to convince anyone to see the movie “127 Hours”. I tell them what it’s about and they immediately stop listening. So at least let me tell you this: it is one of the most life affirming movies I have ever seen. And the cinematography is gorgeous. At the very least, you come away with an understanding of why someone would want to go canyoneering in the Utah desert. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. I watched it because it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 2011.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it either, so I watched it on DVD while sewing. I admit, during the amputation scene I was sewing furiously and not looking at the TV, but the rest of the time I was riveted to the screen. Whenever I am flipping through the TV channels and it is on, it sucks me in once again. (I have yet to make it entirely through the amputation scene, though!)

I finally read Aron’s book because I wanted to see how accurate the movie was. The answer is “pretty darn”. This was one case when I was glad I had seen the movie first. It helped to picture his surroundings, how exactly he was trapped, and the mechanics he used to free himself.

Did I enjoy the book? It was pretty good – I liked the movie better. It does go into more detail about Aron’s climbing life.  Aron has an engineering degree and he get’s into a lot of technical detail about his climbs. Since I don’t see myself ever mountain climbing, I began to skim those sections.  However, I could relate to the book in a way I wouldn’t have been able to a few years ago. To tell the truth, I never really understood people’s desire to push themselves to the limit. I will never be an athletic person (My favorite sport is reading, and when I’m looking for something more strenuous, I sew). But when I started training for a half marathon a little over 3 years ago, I learned how gratifying it is to attain physical goals that you thought were beyond you. And one of the very first benefits I realized from running was how nice it is to be outdoors and appreciating nature. (The fact that I was diagnosed with skin cancer 3 years later? Purely coincidental I hope – I blame that on all my childhood sun poisoning!). And he voiced something that I had a hard time articulating when people have asked me in the past if I had fun at a race. “Fun isn’t always fun”.

And what about the amputation scene in the book? I actually found myself squinting my eyes at that part. It is hard to read with your eyes closed, though! I did manage to get through it (very quickly).

This story, when it happened, really captured the attention of the world. I think everyone asked themselves, “would I be able to do that?”. I guess the answer depends on the person, and hopefully we never have to find out.  But in our own lives, we are sometimes called on to do things that we think are  beyond our capabilities. Successfully accomplishing these tasks often brings the greatest reward. The key is to accept the challenge – and it wouldn’t hurt to let someone know where you are going, and bring a pocket knife!