Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: The Way Home

The Way Home is the latest crime drama from George Pelecanos. I always enjoy a good crime story, and this, my first novel by Mr. Pelecanos, did not disappoint. However, I need to say that it is not "just" a crime story. The characters have deep layers, are tough and yet vulnerable, loners who want to be part of something bigger, such as a family. There are themes of redemption, love, protection, and strength in family all throughout the book.
From the Publisher: Christopher Flynn is trying to get it right. After years of trouble and rebellion that enraged his father and nearly cost him his life, he has a steady job in his father's company, he's seriously dating a woman he respects, and, aside from the distrust that lingers in his father's eyes, his mistakes are firmly in the past.
One day on the job, Chris and his partner come across a temptation almost too big to resist. Chris does the right thing, but old habits and instincts rise to the surface, threatening this new-found stability with sudden treachery and violence. With his father and his most trusted friends, he takes one last chance to blast past the demons trying to pull him back.
What isn't stated in the summary is that this is just the second half ofThe Way Home. The beginning is about Chris's troubled teen years, stealing cars, beating up kids, and other supposedly petty crimes. As a person who has worked with adolescents for many years, his behaviors and reasoning, or lack thereof rang true to me. As Chris matures, and prove corrects the neurologist who spoke with his parents in his youth, readers learn a little about the workings of an adolescent mind. (Hint: it doesn't really work!) Chris learns to build strong friendships based on trust and positive actions when his only friend drops him rather than defending him. Chris struggles with habits he learned during his dark years, while trying to learn a trade and find a path for his life. As a reader I wanted Chris to do what was right and I was proud of the person who ultimately forced him to stay straight. It will be surprising to readers to find out who that is!
The Way Home is written in a spare, gritty manner, descriptions realistic and vivid without being flowery. The complexity of the characters doesn't just blur, but smears the line between the labels "good" and "bad".
One of the things that I really liked about the story was all of the information about life in the Washington, D.C. area. Descriptions of neighborhoods undergoing gentrification, others that have become dangerous slums, different suburbs in Virginia and Maryland, all gave a real layer of authenticity to the book. I even went and looked up the National Arboretum and Rock Creek Park online after reading about them! If you're ever in the Washington D.C. area you really should go check them out.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

One Year of Pinkness!

WOW! One year of Pink Saturdays! For me, this is my 33rd Pink Saturday in a row, but for many of you it's been a full year, and for Beverly even longer! I hope people have some really special pinks to share this week in honor of Pink Saturday's birthday. Beverly has all of the participants listed on her blog, How Sweet the Sound.
My pink item is something that I LOVE! I look forward every Spring to getting them out and I wear them until I can't take the cold any longer in the Autumn. They're my Birkenstocks! Now, I am not a crunchy, Birkenstock kind of person AT ALL. But as I've gotten older I've become more interested in comfort than in the latest trends. About 9 years ago I had back surgery twice in a two year period. The doctor kept urging me to try Birkenstocks or Dansko shoes, but I would have nothing to do with it. To me they were too pricey and I was nervous about the whole footbed molding to your foot business. What if they were super uncomfortable? You can't return shoes that have been wornThen one day I was watching my favorite channel, QVC, and they were selling Birkies! The price was slightly better than I had seen in stores, but 2 things grabbed me at once. First, I could wear them for 30 days and still return them if I wasn't happy. You can't do that with the ones you buy from the brick and mortar stores. Also, they had much cuter ones than the plain brown and tan suedes I always saw. So I got these adorable thongs with roses all over them, and I've never looked back! This is our 7th summer together.All of these other pictures are from QVC. I just searched Birkenstock and then chose the color pink and got 27 pairs of shoes! Since I bought my rose buds 7 years ago, I've gotten anotherpair in the same style with a denim colored and textured strap and I have a pair of black suede Mary-Jane style for winter.They have been so great for my back and I can wear them standing on those awful linoleum and cement floors, teaching all day.I can't say enough good things about them both for my back and for how they hold up. I know it's not too exciting, but to me these are a major pink plus in my life!

Friday, May 29, 2009

This Wicked World: a review

This Wicked Worldis the first novel from award-winning short story writer Richard Lange. For me, the story is about good intentions bringing about bad consequ4ences. Ex-Marine Jimmy Boone is trying to make a new life for himself, tending bar on Hollywood Boulevard. He's keeping his chin down and his nose clean, having only been out of prison for six months. A loner with no family, Jimmy is friendly with his co-worker Robo, and has recently met a new neighbor, Amy, but he has yet to reconnect with his former partner Carl, whose once successful busines and reputations have gone way down hill after the well-intentioned but hugely out of control incident that put Jimmy in jail.
Doing a favor for Robo, Jimmy goes to a meeting and drives his friend to find some answers about an undocumented immigrant who mysteriously died while riding a city bus. Oscar's story intrigues Boone, who soon begins investigating the cicumstances of his death, which draws him into the underworld of drug dealing, illegal immigration, and dog fights. Once again his good intentions could get him, and his friends, in a whole bunch of trouble.
I definitely enjoyed This Wicked World. The writing was spare, without big descriptions or many in-depth metaphors. It felt like that was the right style for a story about Jimmy Boone, who is living a bare-bones life.The story moves along well, and I felt a connection to Jimmy, who just wants to live his life, but gets caught up in a big mess which endangers all of his friends, Amy, Robo, and Carl. I like that the characters were good people who sometimes did bad or foolish things, and that ultimately, in the case of Robo and Carl, they were supporting and protecting their wives and children. This Wicked Worldisn't a mystery, it's a thriller, procedural story, without the police or private detectives. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it, and will be passing it along to my nephews, who I think will love it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hats with Pizazz!

Well, now that we've had all of our Memorial Day celebrations, Summer is officially here! Summer is a great time for trying new antique/junk shops when you are traveling, so I am hoping to see some great things in the upcoming months fro all of the VTT gals. If you have vintage items, you should join us on Thursdays to show off what you've found, inherited, or "appropriated"! Suzanne at Colorado Lady hosts the list of all the Vintage Thingies Thursday participants, just sign up with Mr. Linky and you're in!
As I've stated before, back in the day, before the glories of motherhood, my mom was one of the all-time stylin' young secretary. She was so good at her job that she was "allowed" to continue working even after she got married, AND in the early stages of her first pregnancy. Wasn't that generous of the company? Today I'm showing off some of her summery hats from the mid 1960s. They are all in amazing condition, stored in their individual hatboxes, but NOT in the basement. Nope, they are in the upstairs hall closet!I wore this hat in high school when I dressed as a bag lady for Halloween. I had it crooked on my head and my hair all ratted. At the time I thought it was kind of wacky, but now I really like it. With age came wisdom!
I am absolutely in love with this green polka-dot pillbox! Can you believe it's still white?Check out the gorgeous lining, too!The orange mums completely cover this straw hat, and there's a big orange bow. It's a little kooky, but the matching purse is quite sedate, so maybe in its time it wasn't kooky. I'd carry this purse if it wasn't so small.
I hope you enjoyed visiting my mom's closet once again. I think next week I may have some of her summer jewelry for you to admire!
So what do you think about hats? Do you wear them for special occaisions? I have lots of hats from when I was bald, but I don't wear them anymore because they mess up my hair!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blog Tour: Mating Rituals of the NA WASP

This is a re-post from mid-April. I really loved this book, and wanted to participate in the book tour today, through Book Blogs.
Many other bloggers are sharing their opinions and giving away copies of this fun book today. Check out the list of all the Mating Rituals of the North American WASP reviewers.

Something wasn't right, and she knew it before opening her eyes.

This is the first sentence from Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton, a delightful story about soul mates, following your heart and not your head, and the importance of communication.
Peggy and Luke, level-headed strangers, marry the night they meet in Las Vegas. This begins a year of intrigue for the two, as they attempt to keep their marriage on a platonic level, while having all around them believe in the whirlwind courtship. Luke, the last of the Sedgwicks, a revered family that can trace their heritage to the Pilgrims, and Peggy, daughter of free-spirited parents who travel the country in their RV, couldn't seem more different from the outside. Raised with a rigid code of etiquette and an insular circle of friends, schools, and careers, Luke, an aspiring poet manages what little is left of his family trust, working from the ballroom of his family's crumbling mansion. His is a fairly solitary life, living with his 90 year-old great aunt and seeing childhood friends for poker. Always wanting roots, Peggy has created her own family in New York, building a business with her friend Bex and living with Brock, her boyfriend of seven years. Peggy and Luke will both benefit by staying "married" for one year, which will allow Luke to sell the historic Sedgwick House. The money will help Peggy's business, and Luke will finally be able to travel and leave what he sees as the burdens of his family name.
To some, this may seem like a silly premise, very Harlequin Romance, if you will. Explained as a one-liner, it is, but Lauren Lipton fleshes out her characters, showing their strengths and areas in which they need to grow. (As a teacher, this is the phrase parents prefer. I can't say weaknesses.) Luke is so adorably vulnerable, at least to the reader if not those around him, overwhelmed with his own mediocrity in financial management, caring for his rapidly declining great-aunt Abigail, and doing all of the demanding upkeep on a house where pieces literally fall off daily, all while longing for a quiet, esoteric life of writing. Confused, self-reliant Peggy is at a cross road in her life, wanting to be married and to start a family, which Brock is reluctant to do. Being Luke's "wife" on weekends while Brock is away, and observing the marriage of her friend Bex, have her questioning what exactly she wants from life. With Luke's Yankee reserve holding him back from speaking his thoughts and feelings on any topic, Peggy also does not want to say what she feels, which of course leads to misunderstandings and arguments.
The story takes place in the fictional town of New Ninevah, CT in Litchfield County, although there really is a town named Ninevah. Litchfield County is one of the bastions of very old money, privileged families, unlike beautiful downtown East Granby, CT, where I grew up with the newer immigrant population, from the 1800s! I loved all of the funny and true New England and Connecticut things that Ms. Lipton used in this book. The fact that so many houses are white with black shutters, how do you give people directions to your house? Between March and May it is Mud Season. A town green is a great place for protesters to gather.
Mating Rituals of the North American WASP is available in paperback, making it a great one for summer travel and beach reading. I liked it so much I am going to get Lauren Lipton's first novel, It's About Your Husband, from my library. She also has a very funny blog to which I've linked, so check it out!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Never Forget

It's BLUE MONDAY, and it's also Memorial Day. I know many of the participants listed at Smiling Sal's blog will have some really thoughtful posts for Memorial Day. I didn't get my act together to do a thoughtful post, so I was going to show off a cool sun catcher I have, but then I realized I DID have something patriotic at least, if not Memorial Day-ish, to share. So the sun catcher post is all ready for next week, and my actual blue item is at the end of this post.
The purpose of this day off from work is to recognize the men and women who have lost their lives in the service of our country. I personally do not know anyone who has sacrificed themselves for our freedom, although many of my family members have been in different branches of the military both in peace and in conflict.For many families, it is also the weekend that they tend to the family graves. My father always took my sister and I to clean up around his parents' graves and plant geraniums each Memorial Day. We would go back around All Saint's Day, November 1, to clean it up again and make sure everything was ship shape for the winter. It was one of those father and daughters things that we did without our mom. When we stopped to buy the geraniums, we always got a couple for her to have in planters on the deck.The video below is about the Arlington Wreath Project. Each year Worcester Wreath Company in Maine donates 5000 wreaths to be placed on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery to honor our Veterans during the winter holidays.
I want to thank everyone who stopped by and checked out my new Etsy store, Little Somethings, last week. You got to see that I have more than just the blue jewelry I shared, there are a few vintage items as well as different kinds of note cards.It's not the same as the banner I shared Friday, it's even better, I think, and I was in madly love with the first one! A USA banner that is a fun summer decoration. I just listed it in the shop!
I hope everyone has had a great weekend, hopefully with family and friends, maybe a little gardening or swimming, or barbecueing! I of course, can't go anywhere or be with large groups of people, so I am having hotdogs and potato chips for my own little remembrance meal. What are you doing?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Literary Pigs

I was sitting aty my desk tryingto think of a post for Pink Saturday, when my collection of Disney Character pens caught my eye. There, surrounded by pink fluff, was a cute Piglet that lights up. A lightbulb when off in me, too, and I decided to write about some pink pigs!
We all know Wilbur, I hope. He's "Some PIg" as the folks at the state fair discover, thanks to his friend Charlotte the spider. Wilbur originally appeared in the book Charlotte's Web by e.B. White. Two movies, a cartoon version and a live action, have been made of the book.This is Babe: The Gallant Pig. You may not remember him. He made his film debut in 1995 and followed it up with Babe: Pig in the City. He hasn't been heard from since. However, before his short film career, Babe was a literary character in the book of the same name by Dick King-Smith.And finally, here's Piglet, Winnie the Pooh's timid little friend. He's been in more movies than Wilbur and Babe combined, but he also started out in the book The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.
A big thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting Pink Saturday each week. I hope you'll take some time and visit her and some other participants. There's over 160 this week!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Some New Projects

Last week I showed you my new crafting toys that I bought myself for my birthday. I've spent some time learning how to use my Silhouette Craft ROBO and I've done a couple of projects with it. I'm really enjoying it, now that I've figured out the litlle tricks and tips.For a while there I was wasting a lot of paper and card stock.Cutting small text was the hardest part. It took me a while to figure out that I had to change the width of the line being cut. I was practicing with different fonts and did my niece's name and initial.With the pieces that were usable I made some notecards for her. She write's thank-you notes for any gift she receives, so I know they'll get used.I also cut the scallops on some of the card, the flourishes, and the flowers and butterflies with the cutting machine. They make a great dimensional effect.I am in love with this banner! The flags are cut from blue card stock and the hearts and ovals from red bandana-print paper. Inside the ovals I put the letters, so it was one swipe through the machine to cut them. The heart design came with the star and stripes, so it was perfect for this project. Behind the bandana paper I put pearly metallic white card stock, so it shimmers a little.
To see what other people have finished this week, visit Three Under Two at Lit & Laundry, our hostess for Finished for Friday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vintage Tchotchkies

Happy Thursday, all! I hope you're all geared up for another day of vintage goodness with our hostess Suzanne at ColoradoLady! I look forward to visiting all of you and seeing what cool things you are sharing this week. Before I show you my vintage treasures, I need to announce the winner of the vintage style notecards from last week...Ta Da! picked #6, BJ from Sweet Nothings!
Last week I shared my awesome 2-tiered table, so this week I thought I'd tell you about what I display on it.First up is my pink Depression-era fish dish, filled will pink, orange, and blue marbles from the 1930s, that were once my dad's. The marbles were found a few years ago in an old can from Prince Albert tobacco! If you are a Pink Saturday participant, you've probably already seen my fish dish.This small sewing basket was my maternal grandmother's and she kept it on this table, too. There was never really anything in it.I keep these wood 3D puzzles from the 1970s in it. The puzzles were discovered guessed it, my dad's basement! They were probably something he got as a grab bag gift at work. They were still in their original plastic hang bag.On the top of the table I have a philodendron in this Chinese-style planter that was also my maternal grandmother's. She kept it in the kitchen. So, that's my vintage grouping for this week. I hope you liked it.
Do you have any family items that you use or display the way past owner's did?


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

This is my first time participating in Teaser Tuesdays with MizB at Should be Reading. I've been lurking around and getting teased into some wonderful reads, so I thought I'd put one out there, too! It's a simple meme:
  1. Grab the book you're currently reading
  2. Let the book fall open to a random page,
  3. Share two (2) "teaser sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12,
  4. Share the title and author of the book so that people who are intrigued and teased will be able to add to their already overflowing TBR lists!


Do NOT post anything that could spoil the plot of the book!!!

So here's my teaser from The Way Home by George Pelecanos. It's on page 18 of my ARC.

It came to Amanda, when she was trying to "understand" Tom, at moments of tension and conflict such as these, that it must be odd for her husband to have to act like an adult and deal with these adult problems in the house in which he grew up. Walking behind him up the stairs, she imagined hime as a little boy, taking the steps two at a time, going up to his room to play, or to wrestle with his big brother Sean, now a Boeing executive in Chicago with whom he now had little communication.
I hope this has whet your appetite for The Way Home by George Pelecanos! While you're here, don't forget about my giveaway for 6 Michael Connolly books, compliments of Hachette! Contest ends Friday.