Review & Giveaway: Under a Summer Sky


Under a Summer Sky
Under a Summer Sky
By Nan Rossiter
(Kensington Publishing Corporation, Paperback, 9780758283917, April 2014, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Faith, love and family in a gorgeous Cape Cod setting.

The Rest of It:

Laney Coleman and her minister husband Noah live in an old, beloved Cape Cod house with their five rambunctious boys. Their lives are full, but happy. With the two oldest boys heading out to college, this particular summer seems bittersweet. Her boys are growing up and when her youngest son is bullied, their lives take on a complexity that threatens to mar this perfect time. But as with most situations, faith and patience is what pulls Laney through and when she finds herself hosting her brother-in-law’s wedding, she decides to embrace the chaos.

If you haven’t read Rossiter’s books before, you are in for a real treat. This book can be read as a stand-alone novel but it builds on the characters introduced in her previous books. It’s really a culmination of all of her novels. It was nice to visit these characters again, given the heartache that some of them endured in the past.

This is one of those books that you reach for and then smile while reading. It’s a feel-good book. You know the type I am talking about. It contains characters that you care about, a gorgeous setting, food talk (think chowder and peach cobbler), and I can’t forget the furry, four-legged members of the family because Rossiter manages to work them into every book. But as pleasant as it is to read Rossiter’s books, I am always surprised as how she manages to weave in the heavier topics. Aging, health concerns, bullying and characters who question their faith are all included here and it’s what makes this family so real.

This is the perfect summer read because it offers up a lot more than just a sunny locale. It’s filled with feel-good moments but at the same time, really makes you think about the issues presented. Rossiter never fails to impress me. I don’t know how she does it! Her books are always a hit with me and I love how she writes about what she loves. She makes it all look so effortless. The inclusion of the some of the recipes featured is a big plus. I have already made the pasta sauce once and it’s about to be made again later this week.

I have suggested Rossiter’s books to more people than I can count so when she offered a copy for me to give away, well… I jumped at the opportunity. If you’d like a chance to win your own copy, check out the details below.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of Under a Summer Sky and is open to the US and Canada. One winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the author. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on June 6, 2014 (pacific). I will contact the winners for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! (now closed)

Source: Sent to me by the author.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty (Audio)


Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty
Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty
Read By Diane Keaton
(Random House Audio, Compact Disc, 9780804165853, April 2014)

The Short of It:

An observant, witty take on the meaning of beauty.

The Rest of It:

Diane Keaton is a wonderful storyteller. She can literally talk about anything and somehow make it fascinating. I enjoyed Then Again, some years back. That book focused on family and mainly, her relationship to her mother. I loved that book. She seemed so genuine and although she did hold a little back when it came to her many love affairs with some very recognizable names (Pacino, Beatty, Allen), I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

So, when her new book came out, I quickly snatched it up on audio, which is my preferred reading method for her books because they are read by her which makes them irresistible to me. Listening to it, I really got the feeling that she was sitting right next to me and we were having a little chat. Her conversational tone and her willingness to be vulnerable is what stands out to me. In Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, she focuses on beauty. Primarily, what beauty means to her. Given that she is one of the few actresses in Hollywood that hasn’t had anything done to her face, I have a lot of respect for her.

Sure, she’s a little neurotic and all over the place when she gives interviews but I love her personality. Her favorite feature? Her eyes, but not because of how they look, but because of what they see. This is a theme throughout the entire memoir. Through fashion and architecture, her love for all things beautiful shines through.

As a forty-something woman, I could certainly relate to a lot of what she shares. She doesn’t hold anything back as far as her insecurities about herself, but the book felt abbreviated to me. Maybe, a tad too short, especially for an audio book . It is just five hours long. I could have easily spent a few more hours with her.

Regardless of its length, I loved it for its message and listening to it was a nice way to spend a few hours. I REALLY wanted to see her in person. She had a few events close to me but I just couldn’t make them work.

Have you read her books? What’s your favorite Keaton movie? Everyone loves her more recent stuff but to date, my fave is still Manhattan Murder Mystery.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Emily Alone

Emily Alone

Emily Alone
By Stewart O’Nan
(Penguin (Non-Classics), Paperback, 9780143120490, December 2011, 272pp.)

The Short of It:

A wonderful, poignant follow-up to Wish You Were Here.

The Rest of It:

When I read Wish You Were Here back in March, I expected to love the writing because so many have gushed about O’Nan’s work, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with this family and that is exactly what I did. The surprise here is that they aren’t all that lovable! There is some dysfunction and of course drama with the oldest adult children, but they are painted with a firm brush and so real, I felt as if I could easily pass one of them on the street. Wish had them all sharing a cabin by the lake over summer vacation. Emily Alone is Emily Maxwell, back home, a few years older and well…alone.

This is by far the more challenging of the two to write. It had to be! With the lake as a backdrop in Wish, and all those kids keeping everyone busy, there was a lot to write about and it took time to know each of the characters. In this book, Emily is at home, doing what she does every day which includes talking to her dog Rufus, getting the mail, and reading her book. She frets about her car’s dead battery, going out in the rain and spends her day adding items to a list that continues to remind her that her days are numbered. Although in perfect health, she goes through the year thinking that is may be her last. As an elderly widow, it certainly could be.

Technically, Emily has the company of her sister-in-law Arlene to spend her days with, but Arlene’s health is beginning to show signs of failure and all of their friends are slowly dying off. What Emily lives for, is time with her family. Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays which become even more important to her as the years pass, and this particular year is no exception. She still remembers her husband fondly. His presence is still felt in the house, but Emily knows that soon, she will be with him whether she likes it or not.

As I was reading, I found myself thinking about my own mortality and what family means to me and how so often I go through the day not really feeling any particular way and how the days just run together. Not Emily. For her, as mundane as her day may sound, it all means something to her. Each day has importance and that’s an important reminder for anyone.

How is it that O’Nan can center an entire book around normal, day-to-day activities and still make it thought-provoking, poignant and interesting to read? Seriously, the man amazes me. This is absolutely a “quiet” sort of book. There are no huge plot points to shake things up but there is humor, genuine angst and a fondness for these characters that is surprising as much as it is welcoming.

Emily Alone was a real treat. I have Last Night at the Lobster from the library so I’m sure I will dive into that this weekend.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here
By Stewart O’Nan
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802139894, April 2003, 528pp.)

The Short of It:

A lovely, heartwarming story about love, loss and what it means to be a family. Easily, one of my favorite books ever.

The Rest of It:

I honestly don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about this one. I read it so long ago, and yet there was a little piece of me that just wanted to let my mind wander this way and that after finishing it. It’s THAT kind of book. The kind you curl up with and linger over. I really didn’t want it to end. Ever.

But… it did. I wanted to cry when it ended. Not because the story is particularly sad but because I knew I was going to miss these characters dearly. And I do miss them.

After the death of her husband Henry, Emily Maxwell gathers the family for one last hurrah at the family’s cottage on Lake Chautauqua. The cottage has been sold and the task at hand is to enjoy one more pristine summer, and to decide who get’s what as far as its contents.

Gathered together are Emily’s son and daughter. Both of whom have their own families and are dealing with personal issues of their own, her sister-in-law, who also misses Henry dearly and Emily’s aging dog, Rufus. With the adults and kids all trying to get along and a daughter-in-law who doesn’t always see things Emily’s way, the week drags out until it’s inevitable conclusion.

O’Nan’s writing is somewhat magical in this story. He has a knack for taking everyday tasks and making them seem glorious. As this family’s week plays out, I often felt as if I was right there with them, cooking burgers or tubing at the lake. Anyone who has ever taken a family vacation will attest to the accuracy of everything in this novel. The sights and smells (think musty cabin, cluttered garage, sulphurous water) and the overall boredom of the children as the adults get to dictate what they do on any given day.

But tucked within the folds, you’ll find sadness and it will tug at your heart. How do you say goodbye to a place that holds so many memories? Things that bothered you before, like ant infestations, are suddenly precious in the way that lost things are. It’s impossible to fathom and through it all, you have the continuous ebb and flow of everything else around you.

Although long, I adored this book for its realistic depiction of family and although all of the characters had their quirks, I loved them and wanted the best for them and could not stop thinking about them after closing its cover.

The good thing? Is that there is a sequel to this book. Emily Alone continues on with Emily, as she lives alone and goes through the day-to-day of being… well…Emily. I can’t wait to visit her again!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Awww..To Be Young Again

This is my daughter. All she cares about when she wakes up is what’s for breakfast, the weather (so she can decide on an outfit) and whether to wear her hair up, or down. These are the musings of a 4 year-old.

When I wake up, my musings are a bit different but probably not unlike yours (humor me). When I wake up, I immediately think about when I can go to bed again. Oh yeah, and there is all that other stuff in between like what’s for dinner, or what will the homework be today? Oh and of course I cannot forget the big question. What’s for lunch?

Where I work, lunch is time to socialize so we rarely eat in. The morning begins with a flurry of emails. Where will we go? Who is going? Who is driving? That sort of stuff. Today I am hitting the gym on my lunch break so I am not joining the lunch time festivities.

In addition to all this, I often think about my to-do list:

  1. Pay orthodontist
  2. Donate items to “last day of school” party
  3. Get gifts for the teachers (my daughter has 6 preschool teachers and my son has 3)
  4. Sign-up for swim lessons
  5. Plant tomatoes
  6. Finish reading Prodigal Summer
  7. Finish listening to Thunderstruck
  8. Pick-up prescriptions
  9. Make 11 STAR props for community theatre
  10. Laundry, laundry, more laundry

Of course..this is just a drop in the bucket. I can’t seem to remember any other items at the moment. I am going to try a knock a few of those off right now.

Weekend Plans: Carrie Here I Come!

Only a few more hours of work for me. Tonight, we have our last Cub pack meeting and then we are celebrating with Cold Stone ice cream. The kids ought to love that!

Saturday morning, I have a hair appt.. All I will say, is that as you get older, those little gray hairs that used to pop-up once in awhile.. all of a sudden start to take over your entire head. It’s not fun to admit that you are moving into the next phase of adulthood, but when your husband points out a bit of gray in your eyebrow..then you know it has begun. Men!

Saturday night, my girlfriends and I are celebrating a birthday so it’s dinner and Sex And The City! I cannot wait. I don’t get to see a first-run movie too often so it will be a real treat to actually sit in a theatre and enjoy a really good movie. No kids, no husband just me and my popcorn.

Sunday I am as free as a bird. No plans at all. I can sit in my jammies all day long if I want to and I just may do that. What have you got planned for the weekend?

Feeling It

I started off my morning with a brutal, and I mean BRUTAL circuit training class which involved kickboxing, step work and jumping rope. Now in case you all forgot.. I have Lupus and even though there are days when I don’t feel as if I can do much, I HAVE to. If I don’t use it, I will definitely lose it.. no lie. So I dragged my butt to class and did what I had to do to get through it.

For lunch, I met with some old co-workers and we talked of times past and we also talked about getting older and basically falling apart. This getting older.. it’s not always fun is it? They are a bit older than me, but I am already pretty much caught up with them as far as meds and health go. That depressed me! I feel that I am young at heart but that my body is not cooperating with me.

On my way back to the office, I was wallowing in my aches and pains. Woe is me and all that. I eat right, I exercise.. I try to get as much rest as possible and yet I am not the picture of health that I so wish to portray. I suppose if I were not doing the “right” things, I would be worse than I am now so there’s always that. Right?

Till tomorrow.

Ti

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