Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer

The following is a summary of The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer from the Random House website.

How much do we owe the people we love? Is it a sign of strength or weakness to walk away from someone in need? These questions lie at the heart of Ann Packer’s intimate and emotionally thrilling new novel, which has won its author comparisons with Jane Hamilton and Sue Miller.

At the age of twenty-three Carrie Bell has spent her entire life in Wisconsin, with the same best friend and the same dependable, easygoing, high school sweetheart. Now to her dismay she has begun to find this life suffocating and is considering leaving it–and Mike–behind. But when Mike is paralyzed in a diving accident, leaving seems unforgivable and yet more necessary than ever. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier animates this dilemma–and Carrie’s startling response to it–with the narrative assurance, exacting realism, and moral complexity we expect from the very best fiction.

My Review:

I happened to pick this book up at a used book sale at a library a few years ago and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. I think I opened it up a couple of times only to close it again thinking that it was going to take too long to read. Boy was I wrong...I finished this one in about a week, which is great reading for me!

There is very significant subject matter in this novel and beautiful writing to go along with it. As I indicated, I purchased this book used and I noticed that someone had underlined a very thought-provoking passage that I want to share with you. The following passage is from page 282:

It seems to me that we learn each other in stages: facts first, meanings later, like explorers who stumble on to bodies of water without knowing at first whether they've encountered fog-shrouded rivers or vast ocieans. We press on until we know, but as we go something is lost: The new becomes old, and then taken for granted, and then forgotten.

The accident happens in the very beginning of the novel, without giving much of a prelude to the current status of Mike and Carrie's relationship. It is apparent that they are engaged at the time, but it becomes more obvious as the novel goes on that the relationship was hanging by a thread. Most family and friends seem to be unaware of the conflict between the couple, so when Carrie's devotion towards Mike is swayed, the people that she has counted on for support turn away from her.

When Carrie seems to have no-one left to share her most intimate feelings with, she flees the comfortable life that she has always known in search for something more. After she leaves her life behind, she is plagued with the guilt of leaving Mike, who needed her most at this time. One might think that this part of the novel didn't make any sense, that she was just wandering without any sense or purpose. I think it's important to remember at this point that this is a young gal that recently graduated from college with her whole life ahead of her. In an instant her whole future changed, so who is to say how one would react to that?

As Carrie deals with her emotions throughout the novel, she immerses herself into sewing projects. The significance of the two large projects that she has sewn for herself becomes apparent at the end of the novel. It really was interesting how Packer had these two items of clothing fit in to the story of Carrie's journey.

A part of this book that I really enjoyed was the respect that Carrie seemed to develop for her mother throughout the book. Carrie's father left when she was very young so it was just the mother/daughter duo her whole life. When Carrie met Mike she seemed to spend more time with his family, leaving her mom to fend for herself. I think that once Carrie realized how lonely of a life her mom has lived, she had a new respect for her.

I think that this was an honest story that showed what could realistically happen in a similar situation. I really enjoyed this book and although I read this on my own I think this would make a great book club discussion that would include topics of morals, friendships, and human nature.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Teaser Tuesday-Dec 30

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

I just finished The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer so I am taking my teaser from that one again:

She faced me with her mouth pressed into a thin line. "It's quite complicated. If you lose him for a second-"

pg 333

Winter Reading Challenge

This challenge caught my eye because I can start this one right away, rather than waiting until January 1st! I'm looking forward to adding a little bit of fun to the cold months that lie ahead!

The Winter Reading Challenge runs from December 21st, 2008 through March 20, 2009.

The rules are very flexible:

1) Choose any number of books you would like to read and post them on your blog.

2) They can be fiction and/or nonfiction including e-books and audiobooks.

3) They can overlap with other challenges.

Interested in joining this challenge? You can check out the details here.

Here is my list for the challenge:

1. The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer-- completed 12/30
2. The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates--audiobook completed 1/23
3. Peony in Love by Lisa See--completed 1/24
4. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne--Completed 2/10
5. This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury--Completed 2/18
6. Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas--Completed 2/28
7. The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman--Completed 1/11

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Salon

Well it seems that things will be getting back to normal after the busy Christmas season. I was very sad this morning as I stood in the shower thinking "Back to work tomorrow" sigh sigh.

Last week was very relaxing though and we did have a great Christmas. We stayed home for Christmas and it was nice. Not having to worry about being somewhere by a certain time, or waking up early to make yourself presentable. Looking good while relaxing at home is overrated! lol lol

We did have a busy weekend in my home though. I allowed my daughter to have a few of her friends over on Friday night and they stayed up late making gingerbread houses and playing the wii. Of course the noise levels did get a bit out of hand so sleep was off and on the whole evening. But they did have fun so I don't mind them hanging out at our home since I know that they are safe!

I must have felt like a glutton for punishment because then I allowed my son to have a few friends over last night to have one of their "lan" parties. Do you know what this is...it is crazy! There were 5 boys all together (and remember these are all college students now) that bring their entire computer systems to my home and network them so they are all linked together. Then they stay up all night long playing games together over their "network". Goodness, that can get crazy! My daughter calls it a geek party. lol lol

Well I think I am going to enjoy the rest of my final day off by going and putting my feet up and reading for awhile. Have a great week and happy reading!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well Merry Christmas to everyone! I took a picture of what I received from my book blogging Secret Santa. Thanks so much to Alyce for the wonderful gifts that are pictured above. I am so looking to lighting my scented candle while I kick back and read The Heretic's Daughter. I also received some pure Maple Syrup from Vermont (yummy) and some chocolates, which are always a good thing in my house! Thank you so much for these great gifts!

I also have an IPOD pictured above, but that wasn't from my Secret Santa. That was from my wonderful husband, but as you may recall I did ask for this in my letter to Santa. So I will probably be playing with that for the rest of the day.

And last but definitely not least, just a couple days after I posted my letter to Santa my sister was released from the hospital. So she is able to spend Christmas at home with her family today. Thank you all so much for your prayers and Amen!

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Teaser Tuesday-12/23

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading.

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser is from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer:

He was waiting, and I wiped the tears away with the sides of my forefingers, then dried my hands on my pants. I lowered my face but then stopped, unsure how to avoid the halo.
pg 65

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winner of This One is Mine

And the winner of This One is Mine by Maria Semple is

I will be emailing you shortly to get your address information so the publisher can send out your book. A special thanks to Miriam from Hachette for sponsoring this giveaway!

I enjoyed this book and I hope you do too!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Letter to Santa

Fizzy Thoughts had the great idea of writing a letter to Santa! I haven't done this in so long, but what have I got to lose? Nothing to lose because by writing my letter to Santa I am entered in a contest to win a book! Now how fun is that? She mentioned being chatty in the letter, which I definitely do not have a problem with, but I hope you don't find it too boring. I have decided to make this a realistic letter to Santa and talk about more than books.

Dear Santa,

First of all I would like to apologize for not keeping in touch over the years as I should have. I know that you are a busy guy and shouldn't be expected to keep track of everyone's wishes without them writing you to let you know what they want. Even though I may not have written you every year, my family has been faithful when it comes to leaving you a few snacks on Christmas Eve, which you always seemed to partake.

I don't have too long of a list this year, but the most important one would have to be in regards to my little sisters health. She has been very sick over the last year, in and out of the hospital and actually had to spend Christmas in the hospital last year. Shey was put back in the hospital last week so my main wish from you is that she would be able to spend Christmas home with her family.

One of the other things that I have been wanting for awhile is an IPOD. I was hoping to get one for my birthday, but since that didn't happen now I've been hoping I will get one for Christmas.

And last, but not least, there have been a couple books that have caught my interest this year. The first one would be The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, because this book is written about the area that I live in. I just love reading books that indicate places that you are familiar with. Another book that I would really enjoy is Tis the Season by Lorna Landvik. Lorna Landvik's novels have a special place in my heart since Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons inspired the start of my bookclub.

I think I can honestly say that I have been a pretty good girl this year. I even helped to run the Operation Christmas Child program at our church this year. You may want to also check their website to see if they may need some assistance delivering some of those shoe boxes to the less fortunate children out there. I'm sure your assistance would be greatly appreciated!

I wish you safe travel on Christmas Eve and don't forget to stop by my Christmas tree for a few snacks to keep you going throughout the evening! Merry Christmas to you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Current Book Giveaways!

Here are a few contests that you may want to enter:

Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'? is giving away a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This seems like such an interesting book that I am definitely going to sign up for this one!
This contest ends 12/29.

Diary of an Eccentric and Savvy Verse and Wit are both giving away a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Both of their contests end 12/21.

Check out Peeking Betwen the Pages to win a copy of Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek. This contest ends 12/23.

And last, but not least, there is my contest that ends TODAY, for This One is Mine by Maria Semple. I will be drawing for a winner tomorrow.

Good luck to everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans

The following is a summary of Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans from his website:

“There are stories, Christmas stories that are stored away like boxes of garlands and frosted glass ornaments, to be brought out and cherished each year. I’ve come to believe that my story is a Christmas story. For it has forever changed the way I see Christmas.” The Christmas season is supposed to be full of joy, but not for Mark Smart. Life had dealt him one body blow after another: he lost his scholarship and had to drop out of school; his beloved mother had died in a car crash; his girlfriend dumped him, and now, late on a snowy night in November, his car had broken down. Stumbling into a coffee house, he was looking for a phone to call a tow truck. What he found was a beautiful young woman with an unusual name who, through a simple act of kindness, changed his life forever. Macy Wood had little memory of her birth parents, and memories she’d rather forget of her adopted home. A Christmas ornament inscribed with the word “Noel” was the only clue to the little sister she only vaguely remembered, a clue that would send her, and Mark on a journey to reclaim her past, and her family. From the author of the beloved classic, The Christmas Box, comes another inspiring story of the power of love and the wonder of Christmas.

My Review:

I probably would not have read this book if it was not selected for one of our book club selections. I am very glad that my group chose this book as it was a touching and sweet story. This is the first book that I have read by Richard Paul Evans and I plan on reading more of his work in the future.

One of the major themes of this book is that people are put into others lives for a reason. Macy has lived a pretty rough life by growing up with a family that admitted they didn't really want her--they essentially adopted her because their 'ideal' adoption choice was no longer available. Macy remembers having a sister but all ties to her were severed once the adoption was finalized. As a young adult Macy begins her quest of finding the sister that she has yearned for most of her life.

Mark is a young man who doesn't really know what he is searching for. His heart seems to be hardened from his string of badluck and heartbreak. When Mark's car breaks down he happens to wander to a coffee shop where Macy is working to use a phone. They immediately form a special connection and start to help each other find what is missing and needed in their lives.

As I indicated earlier, this is a sweet Christmas story. During the busy holiday season this is an easy to read novel that really doesn't make you look to deep into the story for meaning. But I think with such a simple message that this story delivers, needing to look deeper is not necessary.

I must admit that at first I didn't think I would enjoy this book because it seemed to consist of mostly dialogue. At about the halfway point that did change, and you were able to see deeper into the heart of the characters. This was an emotional story for me so I did need to keep my tissue handy...so consider this your KLEENEX ALERT.

I did enjoy this story and I can't wait to discuss it with my book club. Richard Paul Evans has a great website that you can check out here. He shares information about all of his books and also has reading group discussion guides available.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Teaser Tuesday- Dec. 16

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading.TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

I just finished Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans so I am going take my teaser from this one:

I put the ring in my pocket. Then Stu brought out of his coat a larger packet, a brown paper lunch sack smudged with motor oil.
pg 254

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Salon

Winter has arrived in Northern Wisconsin! The weather outside is definitely frightful and events for the day are cancelled all over our little town. Today was actually the first time that someone phoned to inform us that church services will not be held this morning because of the weather!

One of my favorite parts of winter is being snowed in during a snow storm. I know it sounds crazy but I just think that there is something special about being stranded in your home with your loved ones. Especially when the tv goes out and you have to think of other activities to keep you busy.

As I was looking out the window at the birds scurrying about in the blowing snow, I noticed one red cardinal. I'm sure this is the same one that has been visiting my feeders for the last few days. Since we have moved into our home three years ago I have really enjoyed birdwatching, and I have been waiting to see a cardinal. Now he has arrived and he must like us because he keeps coming back. I just love watching those birds!

My son came home from college a couple of nights ago for his Christmas break and he will be staying for at least a month. It kind of saddens me to think that this could be his last vacation staying at home with us since he is graduating in the spring and preparing for law school. But that is what life is about...raise them up to do better in the world.

I have been a real slacker with my Christmas shopping this year, but thank goodness that we finally decorated our tree yesterday! That's one thing I can cross off my list for holiday projects!

Well I think that I am going to go and bake some cookies...another of my favorite snow day activities! Maybe after that I will try to get my Christmas novel finished. Happy Sunday everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Teaser Tuesday-Dec. 9

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading.
TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser is from Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans:

She had spent the day with her father, just the two of them, on an all-day daddy-daughter date. She had asked where her Sissy was, but her father said this was a special day for just them.

pg. 42

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review and Giveaway of This One is Mine by Maria Semple

The following is a summary of This One is Mine by Maria Semple from Hachette:

Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life--except that she's deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she's risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David's hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap. For all their recklessness, Violet and Sally will discover that David and Jeremy have a few surprises of their own. THIS ONE IS MINE is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more--and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.

My Review:

I was very excited to read the first novel produced by Maria Semple. Semple was actually a writer for a couple of television shows, including Mad About You and Arrested Development. When Mad About You aired on television I must admit that it was my favorite show and I looked forward to that dry, off the wall humor that it delivered every week. It really was fun having that type of humor in the pages of this book.

Considering that Maria Semple was immersed in that crazy LA lifestyle, I think she did a great job of portraying how a lifestyle can change you if you let it. If you just look at the covers of a few magazines while standing in the check-out line, you can get a sense of how quickly you can lose control of your life as you are striving to make it big, or even after becoming successful in the entertainment industry. I think that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton can attest to that!

In the beginning of this novel Violet realizes that she somehow has lost herself in the midst of her husbands successful career. She has everything that she could possibly want or need but there is still a deep void in her life. Through the mistakes that she makes in this book she somehow finds her way back and gets her life back on track.

I also enjoyed the storyline about Violet's sister-in-law Sally. Watching Sally's character change from a materialistic golddigger to a caring and giving individual was very inspiring. When Sally first moved to LA her goal was to marry a man that would eventually be very successful in the entertainment realm. Once she accomplished this goal she found out that things are not always as perfect as they appear. I enjoyed the development of Sally's relationship with Jeremy, once she was enlightened about his imperfections.

Some people may think that with Violet's picture perfect lifestyle that there is no way she would have been looking for love from Teddy Reyes, rather than with her perfect high-profile husband. But I had a close friend who I watched go through the same kind of situation. She also had everything that she needed or wanted but it still wasn't enough. I even remember sometimes I would be talking to her and all she could talk about was when 'he' was expected to call again. He was all she could think about. I guess that kind of 'need' really has a way of taking over your thoughts and producing new fears.

I enjoyed this book myself but if you consider yourself to be a more 'reserved' reader, this one may not be for you because of the sexual content. If you want a little something that shows the wild and crazy side of the high-profile LA lifestyle, then This One is For You!

Miriam from Hachette has graciously offered to give away one copy of This One is Mine by Maria Semple and some tattoos that Semple created--This you will understand once you read the book!

To enter this giveaway you must be 18 or older and live in the US or Canada.

For one entry leave me a comment below.

For an additional entry, link this contest to your blog.

Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you win.

You will have until December 17th to enter and I will draw for a winner on December 18th.

Giveaway Closed

Winner of Names My Sisters Call Me

And the winner of my very first book giveaway is......

Carrie K.

Congratulations Carrie! I am sure you will enjoy this book. My book club actually just met last week to discuss this one and it was unanimously enjoyed by everyone...and that doesn't happen often.

I will be sending you an email shortly to get your mailing address. I want to give a special Thank You to Miriam from Hachette for sponsoring this contest!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flirting With Forty Giveaways!

There are some great giveaways out there right now to win Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter. This seems like such a fun and flirty book that I definitely would love to win!

You can find a few of the contests at:

A Bookworm's World--Contest ends 12/18

At Home With Books--Contest ends 12/18

Book Critiques--Contest ends 12/12

My Friend Amy--Contest ends 12/15

Wendi's Book Corner--Contest ends 12/16

Thursday, December 4, 2008

War Through The Generations Challenge

Here is a challenge that Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit and Anna from Diary of an Eccentric are co-hosting for 2009. All you need to do is make a commitment to read at least five books that are themed around World War II between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009. I have always loved books from this genre so I don't think that will be a problem for me. I have a few on my shelves at home to start off with that will also work with a couple of other challenges that I am doing for next year.

I am going to sign up to read 5 World War II books and here are the titles that I am going to start with:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne--completed 2/10/2009
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas--completed 2/28/2009
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay--completed 5/17/2009
Guernica by Dave Boling--completed 11/25/2009
A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal--Completed 12/13/2009

If you are interested in signing up or to find out more information about this challenge click here.
I hope you join in!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Teaser Tuesday-Dec. 2

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading.

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

I am still reading This One is Mine by Maria Semple---I know....I am a slow reader!

There was the cell phone, the golf clubs, the 1980 Rickenbacker bass she'd had Geddy Lee sign and send her. The moment she'd purchase one of these lagniappes, hope and self-loathing would ricochet within, leaving her jumpy and demoralized.

pg 181