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“House and Home” by Kathleen McCleary

I’m thrilled to be included as a host for TLC’s Virtual Book Tour of House and Home.

Although I’m the last stop on the tour, I’m no less excited to post my review and I waited until a few days ago to pose my questions to the author, Kathleen McCleary. I wanted to ask unique questions which the other tour stops hadn’t asked. 

The opening paragraph of House and Home completely peaked my interest and I wanted to know so much more about this woman, Ellen, whose love for her house could be called nothing less than an obsession. As I read the novel, I came to understand Ellen’s love for her home and found myself rooting for her to save the house, and the family, she loved so much.

Being married to someone in the military, I would never allow myself to fall “in love” with a house. As much as we move, it would be emotional suicide. All the military families I know, myself included, are very adept at making whatever home we’re in, the home we love now. If our homes were men, we’d be serial monogamist or as the song goes “Love the One You’re With.”

It was interesting to read of Ellen’s passion for her home, and in a way, it helped me relate to some of my civilian friends who’ve moved in the the last couple years from homes or places they love so much. Since I always look at a move as a chance for a new adventure and an opportunity to meet new people, I didn’t completely understand why my friends were distraught about their moves.

I like everything about House and Home; not just the story and the characters, but the look and feel of the book, too. The cover is so inviting and it’s a small book you can easily carry with you. If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Listed below are my interview questions for Kathleen McCleary and her answers. Having read about her on the other tour stops and reading her answers below, I’m as impressed with her as much as I’m impressed with her book:

1) You’ve mentioned your move from Oregon was a motivating factor for you to write the book about the pain of leaving a beloved home. Besides writing a book and getting published, what is the best thing that’s happened to you since your move to Virginia?
It’s hard to top writing a book and getting it published, since that’s been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me. But other highlights, aside from the blessings of having a healthy family, plenty to eat, and a lovely home (can’t forget what’s really important), would include coaching daughter number two’s Odyssey of the MInd team (and making some terrific friends in the process); seeing daughter number one shine onstage in her play last spring; and finally, the book launch party I had in July, which showed me how many truly wonderful people have been part of my journey here in Virginia. I have been amazed at all the support I’ve gotten from my friends and the community.

2) Hindsight is 20-20, and so, would you say the move was a positive thing for you and your family or would it have been better to stay in Oregon?

Argh! Do I have to answer this? Much as I love our friends in Virginia, and the warm welcome we’ve received from the community, I believe Oregon was an easier place to raise kids, and a place that I (as a somewhat intense and high-strung creative type) found easier and less stressful to live. I would love to hear from readers who have moved about how it’s worked out for them. It’s been four years for me and I still feel sometimes like I’ll never get over it!

3) What’s on your nightstand waiting to be read?  
I’ve got a pile, but the three at the top right now are Brunonia Barry’s “The Lace Reader,” which I’m reading with my book group; “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset, which I’m reading for the second time (the first time was twenty-some years ago); and Julie Andrews‘ autobiography, “Home.” All three are terrific reads.
4) What was the last book you read that made you laugh out loud?
 James Thurber‘s “My Life and Hard Times.” The well-known chapter “The Night the Bed Fell” has to be one of the funniest stories ever written. Bill Bryson always makes me laugh out loud, too. 

5) If House and Home were made into a movie, who would be your choice to play Ellen? And who would play her hunky husband, Sam?

I love this question! We had a lot of fun with this at a book group meeting recently. I think Diane Lane would make a great Ellen, because she can walk that fine line between comedy (and the book definitely is meant to be humorous at points) and drama. Or maybe Julia Roberts, now that she’s in her forties. I’ve had a harder time with Sam—Johnny Depp, maybe? Antonio Banderas? And personally I’ve always had a thing for Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. If he could do that unkempt look again and wear brown contact lenses he’d be a very hunky Sam. I’d love to hear what readers think. 

If you’ve moved recently, read the book (help “cast the movie”) or have a different question for Kathleen, please leave a comment. She’s interested in what you have to say. Thanks! 

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Virtual Book Tour on Beachbums ~ Save the Date!

I was thrilled when Lisa, from TLC Book Tours, asked if I would host a day on the Virtual Book Tour of House and Home by Kathleen McCleary:

Being part of the tour requires I read the book, write a review and post it on 29 September. Since I get most of my book recommendations from book blogs, I love the concept of a virtual tour. The book tour will have stops on several other blogs throughout this month starting tomorrow, 3 September. Here are the links:

Wednesday, September 3rd: Hooked on Houses

Friday, September 5th: It’s All About Books

Monday, September 8th: The Literate Housewife

Wednesday, September 10th: Books and Cooks

Friday, September 12th: Breaking the Spine

Monday, September 15th: She Is Too Fond Of Books

Wednesday, September 17th: Caribou’s Mom

Thursday, September 18th:  Age 30 – A Year of Books

Monday, September 22nd: Booking Mama

Tuesday, September 23rd:  The Cottage Nest

Wednesday, September 24th: The Inside Cover

Friday, September 26th: In the Shadow of Mt. TBR

Monday, September 29th:  Displaced Beach Bums

I finished the book last night and, so I won’t be influenced by other reviews, I’ll write my review tonight (but won’t post it until 29 Sept). 

Interestingly, Books on the Brain has a Tuesday Teaser  which asks you to grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

My tease is House and Home by Kathleen McCleary because I’m hoping my friends (& family) will read it before my scheduled book stop and share how they feel about the book. I’d especially love to hear what my military spouse friends think about the book. As much as we move, we don’t get a chance to “attach” to a house but I’m sure we all have something or somewhere that makes us feel like we’re “home.”

Here’s my random page from House and Home:

Page 130: “Actually, he continued, looking out the passenger window, away from Ellen, “this whole push Jordan has made to move, and ‘move up,’ has been very difficult for me. It’s made me question a lot of things.

The author, Kathleen McCleary, will answer questions so if anyone reads the book this month and wants to submit a question for her, let me know.

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The Winner is…

…FG selected a name as the winner of “Barefoot”

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Barefoot and Other Summer Reading

So far this summer, I’ve read the following:

Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. It’s an interesting story of love and how, when you date (marry) someone, you get all those family & friends connections. In other words, baggage or some sort of complication comes with almost everyone. It’s an easy read with references to classic movies which has made me want to rent a few of the movies mentioned such as: The Philadelphia Story, Love Affair and Libeled Lady.

What I didn’t like about the book was the ending. Too neat, too convenient. Don’t get me wrong, I love a happy ending but, not at the expense of being realistic. Life is messy and to wrap it up in a neat little package complete with a bow is boring. I won’t give examples because that would be too much of a spoiler. I would recommend this because the story is a good one but, be forewarned, the ending is lukewarm.

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand: LOVED it!! 

This was one of the books I won from Books on the Brain and Hatchett Books. I read it while on vacation at the beach and, since the story took place “at the beach”, it was a good choice. The story takes place in Nantucket, which *surprise*, I’ve never been, too. The author did a fabulous job describing the island and I felt like I could get around Nantucket just from her wonderful descriptions. Nantucket is now on the list of places I’d like to visit while we’re living so close.  That’s the type of travel I like ~ no jet lag!

Back to the book ~ it got my attention from the first chapter. And why wouldn’t it ~ we’re introduced to the three main characters and their emotional issues all at once since they arrive on the island together. And we’re talking some big issues. I almost put the book down when I found out one of the women is battling cancer. It’s such a scary subject to me and having lived through my dad’s unsuccessful battle with cancer, I didn’t know if I wanted to even think about it while on vacation. But, I was too invested in the story line by then so I kept on reading. I could relate to all three women: I’ve seen aspects of them in my friends and in myself as well. Who doesn’t know someone desperately trying to get pregnant? Or who is ill? or who is in an unhappy marriage? It’s a very relatable story.

I’m not a “lay out and read at the beach” kind of gal. I’m either swimming, walking the beach, snorkeling, etc. But when Favorite Man and Favorite Girl were fast asleep, I’d be reading into the late night. I was able to finish the book before leaving the island.

One of the recurring things in the book was “finding sand in your shoes” and so, when I was packing to leave St. John, I was not too careful in getting the sand out of our things. It’s been nice to find a little sand in my shoes now that I’m back home. It brings back good memories.

The book was a gift from the blogosphere and, if it’s not too tacky, I’d like to pass it forward to someone else to enjoy.  I’m going to have a giveaway so leave a comment and I’ll put your name in the hat. Literally, I’ll take all the names, put them in a hat and let FG pull a winner. It’s in good shape, but be forewarned, it might have a little Caribbean sand in it.

The drawing will be on 21 August so please leave a comment before midnight on 20 August. Thanks!

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Summer Reads

Yippee!

I’m the winner of Books on the Brain and Hatchett Book Group book giveaway contest. I won A Summer Affair and Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand. How appropriate ~ they’re both BEACH books 😉

Thanks Lisa!

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In the past, I’ve not been a fan of Short Stories. The ones I’ve read have left me unsatisfied with their brevity and made me yearn for more character development. When I found out my friend, Sally, was the editor, as well as author of one of the stories, of Strong Currents ~ a collection of short stories by writers from Hawaii, I just had to read the book. Since it was a collection of different writers, I found some stories a lot more enjoyable than others.

My pleasant reading experience with Strong Currents led me to seek out another collection of short stories. While browsing through Borders, I found The Collected Stories by Amy Hempel. Admittedly shallow, I was first attracted to the book cover. It had a photo of the author and a gorgeous golden retriever. How could I resist? I read the back cover where one of the lines said “No reader of great writing should be without it.” Sounded like a challenge to me.  And because I’m too busy (lazy?) to take a photo of the book and upload it right now, click here for a view of the cover.

I’ve been carrying the book with me to numerous appointments these past couple of weeks and have really enjoyed the stories. It’s nice to finish a story or two in one sitting. Sometimes with novels, I have a bad tendency to skim when I get disinterested in the plot or can tell where the author is going but not with this book. Miss a sentence, miss a whole lot of the story. Every sentence is meticulously written without a stray word to be read. No skimming in this book, not that I’d want to since her topics are very interesting and so well written.

The collection of stories spans all her writings for the past 20 years. They are wonderfully told but that’s not to say the stories are happy ones. Mostly they are sad but always intriguing. The characters and animals (dogs) go through a lot of ordeals but they endure and survive. Sometimes.  I’m so enthralled with this book, I think I’ll keep it with me for awhile so I can re-read some of the stories when ever I have some free time.

Since I enjoyed the book so much, I researched the author who is as fascinating as her stories. Or perhaps she IS the stories. Turns out the dog on the cover was her dog and was a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever mix. What a beauty of a dog. As a dog lover, one of my favorite passages in her story entitled “The Dog of The Marriage” is when she talks about Goodman the guide-dog, who after a year away from her, still remembers her:

Then I got a letter from Alice’s husband, Paul. He said they had been weeding in the garden, Goodman off-duty and retrieving a tossed ball. When Goodman found himself in the tomato patch, Paul wrote, he picked something up in his mouth and began yipping with excitement, tossing the thing into the air and running in circles to retrieve it. Paul told me Goodman had found one of the sachets I had made to keep away the deer; it was a packet of cheesecloth stuffed with my hair.

That is how I like to be known.

Now I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to read next so I’ll head over to Books on the Brain to get some ideas.

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FG’s Book Club


It all started when FG read about “The Book Club Book” in the American Girl Magazine. My friend, Heidi, then sent FG a copy of the book for her birthday and now there is the “Six Chicks Book Club.” One member was missing due to her own “fever” that day:

I love FG’s group of friends ~ they are smart, confident, polite and friendly. I couldn’t have hand-picked a better group even if I could. I’ve been lucky all my life with having wonderful girlfriends and I pray for the same with FG. When other parents mention they’re glad they have a boy instead of a girl because girls are so difficult (I find that a bit rude), I just smile because I KNOW what joy FG brings to us and this book club she started reminds me of how proud I am of her and what she hopes to accomplish.  

I was a bit dubious about a Book Club of 10 year olds mostly because as much as I would enjoy joining a book club, I’ve never joined one out of fear of intimidation by the ever present English Lit major who seems to be in every group I’ve been asked to join 😉

FG’s book club members are great readers, attentive and really enjoyed their first selection which was  “Fever 1793″ by Laurie Halse Anderson:

I did read the book so I could help FG with some of the discussion questions but, not wanting to intrude, I stayed out of the way during their meeting. The book was interesting and, even though it was recommended for a higher grade level, the girls had no trouble comprehending the story line. Each girl wrote a letter to the author and I finally found her snail mail address on her website here. It turns out she has a website and a blog called Mad Woman in the Forest. I particularly enjoyed her blog and will be checking it often.  She lives less than 45 minutes from us so maybe one day FG and her book club will have a chance to meet her at one of the book signings or school visits in the area. Although according to her website she’s a little too busy for school visits and only speaks at conventions.

Next book on the list to read for the book club is: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi-writer. (Historical Adventure)

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Travel Reading Meme

Books on the Brain tagged me for a reading meme because she wanted book recommendations for an upcoming road-trip. Unfortunately, it’s been such a crazy week and this is my first chance to reply. She’s probably already completed the trip ~

I haven’t been reading a lot. Who knew we would move to the North Country and have a great social schedule. There’s always something going on and the people here like to get out to do things. Reminds me of Germany where the weather doesn’t hold anyone back ~ I’ll never forget the 80+ woman in Mantel (Bavaria) riding her bike, while the snow fell and all the while with a cigarette in her mouth. As I drove by her, I thought to myself, I’ll never complain about being out in the snow. If she can get out and ride a bike, I can get out in the snow as well!

Back to the meme:

(1) What book are you reading right now?  Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl  This book was reviewed on Books on the Brain and, even though the review was mixed, I decided to give it a try since I’m a “foodie”. It’s about a food critic who disguises herself when she goes to a restaurant so she won’t get better treatment. Having worked at resorts, I remember the travel writers and the all important quest to be a “FIVE” star. There was one travel writer from a well respected newspaper who not only told us she was coming to review the hotel but, her assistant called to let us know the writer was a big fan of the TV show Twin Peaks (yes, this was back in early 90’s). Seeing as I lived on the small island Lanai in Hawaii, worked 7 days a week, 18 hour-days for several months in order to open the resort and had very little time for TV, I was clueless about the show. I laugh just thinking about the conversation my boss and I had over the writer’s arrival. We couldn’t figure out why’d we would want to serve her cherry pie in Hawaii. There was something big about cherry pie in the plotline but seeing as we were in a TV vacuum and remember, this was before the internet, we had no idea what the fuss was all about.

Bottom line, we decided to do nothing out of the ordinary ~ she would experience the hotel just like every other guest. That resort “The Lodge at Koele” was a big hit, was rated #1 for years on the Conde Nast Travelers list and is now a “Four Seasons” resort.  Hey, maybe instead of reading a book about a reviewer, I should write a book about being on the other side of those reviews.  There are very few travel writers I would trust and prefer the everyday traveler reviews at sites such as Tripadvisor.

2) What was the last book you read on an airplane?  Years ago, when FG was still small enough to fall asleep in her own seat, I read John Adams by David McCullough.  I no longer read novels on planes because FG spreads herself across my seat/lap and I end up reading magazines because it’s too uncomfortable to concentrate. Back to the book, I highly recommend it. It is a fascinating story of John and Abigail Adams and I was in awe of both of their contributions to our country. Both of the Adams were so smart and selfless. Always thinking of the good of the country. It was also in the book that I found out both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on 4 July, 1826.  So ironic.

3) What was the last book you read on a road-trip? Can’t remember. I’m usually driving or reading newspapers/magazines.

4) Where is the most unusual place you found yourself reading? Palau ~ it was such an exotic locale.

5) What books would you take to keep you occupied on a 2 week vacation to the beach? I would take the following books for a two week vacation: The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms.

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Whatcha Reading? Meme

Books on the Brain tagged me for the following meme:

Whatcha Reading? I’d like to know 5 things:

1) Whatcha reading?

2) How much have you read so far?

3) What’s it about? (in a sentence or two)

4) What does the title refer to?

5) Would you recommend it?

I’m going to do two memes because I just finished reading a great book that I want to include, it is: 

1) The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

2) Just finished it.

3) It’s a clever and creative read about all things wonderful concerning people: friendship, trust, loyalty, bravery, heros, decency, honor and love of country.

4) In my opinion, one of the characters is a baseball player and Days of Summer makes me think of baseball and, since the story takes place during WWII, it’s the last days of an era. America and the world changed so much after the war as did the characters lives.

5) I would HIGHLY recommend the book. I originally heard about it from Life on the Run about a year ago and I’m glad I finally read it.

Now for the book I just started reading:

1) Strong Currents ~ An Anthology of Hawai’i Writers.  Edited by Sally Sorenson

2) I’m only on page 19.

3) A compilation of short stories by over a dozen Hawai’i writers. The editor is a personal friend. She’s always been a fabulous writer and, for years, her Christmas letter ranked at the very top of my favorites. Now, I not only get to enjoy her books but also her writings via her blog.

4) Strong Currents refers to the reader being swept away by the many short stories. I’m looking forward to reading about Hawaii while hibernating in the snowy Northern Country of New York.

5) I’ll let you know but so far, so good.

I tag Life on the Run, Jessmob, O Chronicles and Sally.  Anyone who wants to join in, please do. Leave a link to your blog or write the info in the comments. I love getting recommendations (or warnings) from friends and fellow book lovers.

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Reading Trouble Meme

Books on the Brain tagged me for the following meme:

1) Have you ever gotten into trouble for reading?

2) Has reading ever SAVED you from getting into trouble?

3) What was the first book you read that you KNEW you would get into trouble if caught reading it?

1) NEVER have I gotten into trouble for reading. My parents didn’t ban any books from our home. From as early as I could read, I was free to read whatever type of genre I wanted.   When I was about 12 or 13, I remember talking with my Uncle Jules about reading and books when he said “If a kid wants to read, I say give them what ever they will enjoy. If it’s a comic book or a cereal box, it’s better than not reading at all.”  Sage advice even after all these years.

2) Reading probably saved my sanity when I lived in the Grand Tetons during the winter months, I didn’t have cable, no home computer and not a whole lot of other people around. Think “The Shining” without crazy Jack.  Those books were invaluable. I could have done without reading horror novels like “Pet Sematary” but hey, I was reading whatever I could get my hands on. This was the age before I could order books on-line or get great recommendations from other bloggers. FG still has a hard time visualizing a world without the internet! 

3) No fears of getting in trouble ~ my parents weren’t the type to filter what I was reading. 

I tag anyone who wants to participate. If you don’t have your own blog, just leave your answers in the comments.

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