Sunday, August 29, 2010

A sweet little review

I just finished The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. And I have no idea what I think of it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, I'll give a quick synopsis this time. (which I usually dont because I'm too anxious to get to my opinion - my 'take' on a book). So I'm going to 'borrow' the synopsis from the Flavia de Luce website - she's the protagonist of this story.

Great literary crime detectives aren’t always born; they’re sometimes discovered, blindfolded and tied up in a dark closet by their nasty older sisters. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce’s bitter home life and vicious sibling war inspires her solitary diversions and “strange talents” tinkering with the chemistry set in the laboratory of their inherited Victorian house, plotting sleuth-like vengeance on Ophelia (17) and Daphne (13), and delving into the forbidden past of her taciturn, widowed father, Colonel de Luce. It comes as no surprise, then, that the material for her next scientific investigation will be the mysterious corpse that she uncovers in the cucumber patch. Fearless and darkly imaginative, Flavia hurries to solve the murder and acquit her father of suspicion. Following the lead of its clever protagonist, Sweetness is entirely inventive, fast-paced, and quick-witted, with tongue-in-cheek humour that derides the macabre seriousness of subject.
Alan Bradley plants the story deep into the setting of 1950s England, with a portrait of an eccentric home life that is all too wickedly familiar. The story’s twists are supported by the time and place as well as the unusual interests of the characters which range from stamp-collecting to making poisons all of which are highly researched and ingeniously incorporated.

So I kind of do know what I think of it... at the moment. And my first impression is that this wasn't my favorite book, but then when I break it down it SHOULD be one of my favorites. This book had everything a good book, nay... a favorite book should have!

Let's start with the writing. Never once was I jolted out of my, for lack of a better phrase, visit to this story, by hack writing, weak sentences or trite descriptions! Characters were multi-faceted and rather unpredictable.

The setting was wonderful! England in the 50's. What a treat!

The plot was fun, flowed well, didn't veer into the totally unforeseen and tied up as a good mystery should almost to the point where I expected to hear "and I would have gotten away with to if it weren't for that meddling kid!"

But right now, there were annoyances... Flavia being my first and foremost. I really had a hard time buying this chick - little chick - she's 11. I have girls. I have precocious girls. I have intelligent precocious girls. If Flavia were American in a today's setting... she'd be a home schooled kid (no offense to home schooling parents) and by that I mean in the arrogant, socially awkward way some of them have... you know... commonly referred to as the 'home-schooled vibe'.

My other annoyance would be a spoiler so I will not include it specifically, only to say... I have said before I don't usually like "neat package" stories and this one was too much just that.

Still, I get the feeling the memory of this book will grow on me. I'll look back and remember this book and know that it was better than I gave it credit for. And I'll wonder what I was thinking that I didn't score it higher. And I may even come back and up it's rating.

In the meantime... I think I'll go make a Cheesecake to celebrate this book. It's the closest thing I have to a custard pie.


I had this book on my list for my summer reading challenge

A Southern Daydreamer Reads
Now I have a problem... the last book on my list isn't available at our local library. And I have so many books here to read that I can't choose!!! Cormick McCarthy - All the Pretty Horses, Angelas's Ashes, Memoirs of a Geisha, Wally Lamb, and about 20 others just here in the living room! Help! What to do?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Un-Guilty Pleasure - Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Last winter our local library posted their winter book club list. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the books on the list. I had seen ti around but hadn't really heard much about it, but the title sure did draw me in.

I had hoped to join in on this event but unfortunately the meeting nights coincided with a night I had a church board meeting so I wasn't able to.

I kept the book in mind however,

Then I began blogging regularly and found the literary blogs and this book kept popping up.

So there has been myriad of hype around about this book and I'm afraid I'm usually disappointed when they don't live up to their press....

But ohhhhh...I am so happy to report...not in this case....

It lived up to it. And then some.

I'm not much on synopsis in my reviews. I prefer to talk about what I liked..or didn't. So they are really more like opinions ;)

First of all. I loved the format. A veritable tribute to the dieing  art of letter writing. I also fell for each and every character. They were so adorable!! I loved the sense of community that was instant and only grew stronger through out the book. Don't we all seek that level of not only acceptance but .... ok... popularity???

Mary Ann Shaffer crafted this story so seamlessly!! She didn't shove details down your throat, she understood 'show don't tell' and the emotion was deeper and stronger for it!!

I love England and was happy to learn about Guernsey and of course now would love to go there!! The cottages, the mansion. The harbor and the channel.

The era was the reality of the book. And though this was a light-hearted FUN book, episodes of the Occupation of this utopia by the Germans were handled frankly. The underlying brutality WAS there, but without any gratuitous detail. And the effects were made plain and understandable and BECAME the true membership of the society. And I so very much appreciate that!!

My favorite aspect... of course... the books. And most of all the introduction to the world of reading to folks who may never have stopped to find out about the pleasures of good stories. It's like seeing someone try lobster for the first time.. The look on their face of unexpected joy! followed by unbelief that such a thing could exist without them having known about it!! The unfairness of the time wasted without it!! ;) Books are that way... THIS book was that way for me!!

Ok so it was a little bit neat... and I usually don't like "neat" stories... They tend to be a little Pollyanna to me when I've seen enough to know life isn't very often "neat'.

That little nitpik was the ONLY thing that wasn't perfect about this book.

I'm so happy I read this book. I'm so happy I got to loan it out right away so I will have someone to talk to about this book!!

 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was like a delicious gourmet desert. Only you will never regret reading it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yard Sale Jackpot!!

It's mornings like this that will make me yearn for summer all winter long. GREAT yard sales today and I had so much fun!!

First up a sale I've visited before. This lady and her girls are prolific readers and she has permanent bookcases in her garage..the best news is the selection DOES change so it's always fun to go!

Only 3 of these - oh well... pair and spare! Aren't they cute!
Then I turned around and saw this set $3.00 for the set. My mother has a service for 24 of Pfaltzgraff Heritage..but not these pieces!! Score! Christmas gifts!!

This little cutie was in the free box. I'll probably give it a new coat of cream spray paint, but it's really already in very nice shape.

Have been looking for shells to add to my summer table all August :) All started with the starfish candle. .50 for all three

But these were why I went... I meant it when I said this lady has books! I picked up the Nicholas Sparks for .50 even though it said a buck and A Thousand Acres... and she threw the Cat Who Talked To Ghosts in for free.

The other 2 books I got later...when I went BACK to the sale with my Mom. I had seen a book but passed it up, thinking... well I don't know what I was I went back for....

I paid the $4.00 but hey it's Julia!

While I was waiting for mom who was looking around I found this wonderful fork... It's Manor Plate Triple I.S. Rosedale from about 1933. I found some more on eBay so I have hopes of adding to it... sorry the photo is a bit blurry. Silly novice ;)

On to the next sale...
T-shirts 1 local team one... well... self-explanitory.. Rockin the Big 10!!  for .50cest each and like new

I also got this basket... as a project. I always need storage...out of sigt storage. Think I may paint it black. What do you thnk? There are 2 Christmas presents hiding in side but I can't show them here... prying eyes :)

And as I was checking out... I saw this little plant stand and had to have it... $2.00 worth of OH YEAH!

Consulted the paper and off to the next sale... turned out to be a lady that goes to my church. :)

Did anybody Rooster Party last week with Bella Vista? It was AMAZING!! Go here and you can still see all the awesomeness! Well I'm getting ready for NEXT year :) For .50

Pretty sure he's a reproduction, but at $1.00 I liked him :)

My favorite find at this sale... all this artificial fruit to use in displays or if I ever get a cloche for ...$3.00. I was happy!

Off to the next stop...only 1 thing

This beautiful set, round table topper, oblong dresser scarf, 2 hankie box doilies for a buck
And look at the work...hand-stiched with love and perfection. Good pieces with no stains!

Crochet edges and sooo many little french knots and all of them perfect :)

Then off to the local 2nd hand store...

Despite not having touched the projects from last years yard sales, I got this as a project too... I have specific plans :) It was originally 5.00 but a red x mean 1/2 price. It is a very sturdy tray!

Found this doily for fall, Valentines day and/or Christmas for a dollar.

I drink creamer in my coffee... no more ugly plastic bottle out :)

and 2 absolutely pristine plump pillows! Mine here are such junk and I never think of replacing them. These were $4.00 each.... the kitten we had...that's of the orphans we raised from a week old :)

I'd been eyeing this for a few weeks...see the red this for $1.50. Works in my bedroom nicely!

Then I remembered our wonderful little gift store would have some cute things and maybe on sale...

This guy wasn't on sale but he's so perfect for Aunt who collects bottles that I had to have SCORE another Christmas gift! :)

And then I found this...same story...can't tell ya because it's a gift too! So all in all I managed to get gifts for 5 people!! Wowee!

Oh and last night I got this...technically not at a yard sale...but close! I did buy it out of a driveway!!
This is for my daughters and the taxi service of Mom is out of service!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hope you had fun yard saleing with me!! It was such a memorable day!!

Linking to Today's Thrifty Treasures because I have as much fun looking at the great stuff you find as finding stuff myself!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle - Finally!

This is an update to my Summer reading challenge.
 I just finished The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

This book slowed down my list quite a bit. It was 607, small font, pages and a challenging read in itself. A book about Toru Okada;  a man who lost his way professionally, then domestically and personally and finally began loosing his reality. But on so many other levels it was about so much more. Without a doubt it was about more than I could glean from it!
One of the challenging aspects of this book was the Japanese culture itself. Without knowing about that, I wasn't sure how I was expected to react to some of the more surreal happenings or deviant actions. Or what I was to think of the string of increasingly bizarre characters as they entered the story. The atrocity of war I got. Dysfunctional families I know how to react to. But sitting in dried up wells, psychic healing, unexplainable events... left me a little confused.
The wind up bird was likened to a bird that turned the spring of the world and kept it running. So more than anything what I saw in this book was a perseverance. A continuing. A going on. Despite the weirdness and atrocity and dysfunction of this world.

I hope I"m close anyway.

I'm celebrating this book tomorrow with Asian Chicken salad - lettuce, tomatoes, onion, chow mien noodles, slivered almonds, mandarin oranges, topped with oil, soy and brown sugar dressing.

Next up, by popular vote

I've no doubt I'll get through this one faster, even if I do read nice and slow and savor it....because I"m told it's worth it! Wonder if I"ll have to make Potato Peel Pie to commemorate this one when I finish it. We'll see!

But I'll have to hustle to get through my challenge. Except I don't want to hurry through them because they all look GREAT!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Looking forward

Whenever I'm reading a book I ... shall we say... haven't fallen in love with... it seems all I can think of is what I GET to read next. Especially when It's such an appealing stack.

Only  part of my literal TBR pile. Except Bird by Bird, I didn't pay over $1.00 for any of them. And confession time - I bought Bird by Bird as a gift ....and because the guy working was cute and nice :)

What would you start with??