Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend Cooking...On The Road...

Ok, I admit it. This is a rather weak entry for weekend cooking. Mostly because I have not done any cooking since I returned from vacation Monday. It is taking me longer to clean all the accumulated stuff out of my car than the trip took.
So I will just share a wee food item....My emergency on-the-road lunch. Bumble Bee Tuna Salad. Comes in a little can, with a pack of crackers and a tiny spoon. Will last in the car forever..or at least a long time. Add a beverage...genuine Smoky Mountain bottle water and the best dessert out there...some Oreos...and you are all set.
Of course it helps if you are sitting on a mountain looking at a lovely view.

If you look carefully, you will also see it is a self portrait!

Hope someone out there is actually cooking something good!!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Review of "Still Midnight" [78]

Reagan Arthur Books, ISBN 978-0316015639
352 pages, March 22, 2010

Two small time criminals push their way into a modest suburban Glasgow house, demanding someone name Bob. But things go terribly wrong, one of the family ends up shot and the elderly immigrant father, owner of a small local grocery store, kidnapped and held for a 2 million pound ransom.

The police can not figure out what is going on. Did they break into the wrong house? Does this seeming modest family, as unlikely as it seems, have some sort of hidden fortune? Nothing about this crime seems to make sense, but sense they must make of it if there is any hope of getting the victim back safely.

From the start of this book, the characters, the good and the bad, are at the center of this story. We have Detective Inspector Alex Morrow, the case taken from her and given to her slightly dim colleague because he is part of the 'old boy's' network and she is not. She is a rather hard, angry woman, not much beloved by her colleagues. In fact, she is, at least at first, not terrible likable to the reader. She has a secret, being from the wrong side of the tracks with some family connections that might ruin her career if known. And yes, she is very angry, for a reason that we do not begin to understand until well into the story. This is a standalone book, not part of Mina's previous Garnethill series. But by the end, DI Morrow is a character that I would look forward to seeing in future installments of a new series by Mina.

But the author also takes us into the minds of other characters as well, including one of the bad guys, who turns out to be a bit more sympathetic that one might think and the victim, who has his own very troubled past to deal with. The issues of class and religion and race and family in present day Glasgow all come into play in a very interesting way. Yes, the issue of family and belonging are at the very heart of this book and I think raises it a step above just a common crime story. Yet also, the crime at the center of the story, that ties all these people together, turns out to be quite interesting and takes an unexpected turn or two. As with Mina's previous book, Still Midnight presents a very gritty, rather bleak view of the Scottish city, but one that is great for a crime novel.

Yes, as with her previous books, I had a slight issue with understanding some of the dialect and on occasion had to reread something someone had said. But that is a slight issue and the dialect adds greatly to the realistic feel of the book.
OK, maybe the ending was a bit too tidy, even a bit too odd. But if you are a fan of police procedurals, especially with some good characters and a great setting, this is one you will want to pick up. 

My thanks to my local library for lending me this one to read.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things I Learned On The Great Dollywood-Smoky Mountain-Blue Ridge Parkway-Natural Bridge-Monticello-Skyland Drive Trip

You may have noticed, I am back. Driving alone out in the (semi-)wilds gives you a lot of thinking time, so I thought I would share I few things that occurred to me.

  • There is no limit to the number of times you can say "Golly, THAT is pretty!" in a day.
  • There is no limit to the number of times your ears can pop, going up and down mountains, in a day.
  • Falling rocks on one side of road, sheer cliff on the other. Difficult choice.
  • I am still afraid of heights.
  • My car, my automatic transmission car, has gears you can select. Who knew? 1 to 6. I used them all.
  • NC Rt. 194, between Banner Elk and Valle Crucis, the last part down the mountain, is the scariest road I have EVER DRIVEN. Ever.
  • I love Cracker Barrel's collard greens.
  • I may not have the right personality to stay in B&Bs. 
  • Different people's opinion of what is a "moderate" hike may differ. 
  • When in the middle of nowhere, take every chance to use the restroom facilities when you happen upon them.
  • Sirius/XM satellite radio has a full time Bluegrass station.
  • Bluegrass is the only music you should be listening to on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you don't like bluegrass, go to Florida.
  • Satellite radio does not work at it's best on the side of really tall mountains and valleys. 
  • Always travel with snacks and water. A snack can make you feel better when you are lost.
  • I really need someone to help keep me from getting lost. Yes, even with a GPS.
  • Sometimes, your GPS will play games with you. Takes you for a little detour. Do not take the bait.
  • I love road trips!

Falling...Fallen...which is better??

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Mountains

Looking Glass Falls always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...The First Step in Dinner

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

a review of Heat Wave [77]

Heat Wave by Richard Castle
Hyperion, ISBN 978-1401310400
July 27, 2010, 224 pages

While the city is in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, a real estate millionaire takes a header off the balcony of his New York City apartment, making a very messy landing on the street side restaurant below. It is soon apparent to Detective Nikki Heat that he had help going over the side. In other words, it was murder! Then, when his significantly younger widow is attacked on the street and it also quickly becomes apparent that he was no longer quite the millionaire that he was once, the plot, as they say, thickens. Art theft, mobsters, another murder all lead to the discovery of a lot of secrets...deadly secrets.

Now if you are a fan of the TV show Castle, the 'author' of this book and the lead character in this book may sound familiar. The 'author's ' picture on the back cover will look very familiar. See, the fictional TV character, bestselling author Richard Castle, who on the show is teamed up with Detective Kate Beckett and using her as the model for the police Detective Heat in new series of books he is writing, is listed as the author of this book. The book is about a famous writer, Jameson Rook, who is teamed up with Heat in solving these crimes...which he is then going to write about. Confused? It is sort of like standing in front of a mirror, holding a mirror that reflects you holding the mirror, that reflects you holding a mirror...

Ok, the bad news is that the gimmick is a wee bit annoying.

The good news is that, with that issue aside, I think it is a pretty good, quite entertaining little book.

As to the little. At just about 200 pages, it is a quick read. Not that it is a bad thing, but it is really like a typical TV episode in book form. But then since I am a fan of the show and find the show quite well written, comparisons to the show are a compliment. The dialogue is fast and witty and often quite amusing. We get some insights into Detective Heat that fans of the show will  interesting. The mystery is not earth shattering but  good with some good twists and turns. And for fans of the show who would like to see Castle and Beckett 'get together'...well, it seems that it is Castle's dream too and come true in his writing. If he had actually written it of course, which, of course, he did not, because he is not real. Got that? Lol

If you are not a fan of the show...and you should be...since all the characters in the book are based on the ones in the show and will catch you up on some of their history, is will serve as a nice introduction. If you are a fan, I think you will totally enjoy this book.

My thanks to the local library for this one.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Musing Monday...Before I Hit the Highway...

As I mention at the end of this post, I am out of here in a minute, but first let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question from MizB Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks…

Do you prefer hardcovers, trade paperbacks (the bigger ones), or mass market paperbacks (the smaller ones)? Why?

Well, it depends. If it is a book that I might want to keep, put on the bookshelf, then I like a hardcover. Yes, they are heavy and too big to usually carry with you. But I like how they look and I like that they often will stay open when you put them on a table.

But quite honestly, for ease of reading, I have to go with a trade paperback. Much nicer to hold, much easier to slip in a bag to carry with you. But even if I am not sure it is true, they feel less sturdy and long lasting than a hardback. Of course that raises the question of why I am keeping them. You nay remember that I said recently that I am not a bib re-reader of why do I have hundreds and hundreds of them in my house?
That is a question for another day....

Mass market paperback I do not like at all. They are too thick, they do not stay open easily when you hold them and it always feel like a fight to hold them. And talk about fragile...I have had pages start to come out of mass market paperbacks. The price! When did that happen? The price of mass market editions used to be cheap but now they almost approach the price of hardbacks.

On another subject, I just want to mention that I am out of here for a week, starting in 5 minutes. I am heading down to Tennessee and North Carolina and Virginia to check out Dollywood and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I will have my wee net book and my internet capable phone, but I am not sure if I will have internet access in the mountains...or desire to post. :-)
So I might just disappear for a few days.....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sleepy Sammy Sunday


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Room Winner

I let Sammy stick his paw into the hat and pick a winner. Ok, actually, he was asleep, so I let make the pick and...

Posted by Picasa

Yes, Molly from my cozy book nook will have a package in her mailbox in the near future. Congrads!!

Weekend Cooking...Have I Got An App...And I Don't Mean Appetite.

A little while ago, I finally gave in and bought a 'smart' phone, a Droid Incredible. Yes, I understand that you can actually use it as a phone, but really it is all about the toys. The games, the internet, the Twitter...the APPS!

I need a compass and I certainly need a map of the stars and Mr. Bartender and several book readers..right?
Ok, maybe not all those things and a few dozen more. But I found one app that is really, really good and very useful, an app from Epicurious.
"25,000 delicious, professionally tested recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, renowned chefs and cookbooks. E-mail recipes to friends, save favorites, and create shopping lists."

First of all, it is free! 25,000 recipe!
You can do a search by course, cuisine, dietary consideration, season or ingredients. As you page through, you can see how it has been reviewed, with one to four forks, and read the reviews. Usually, there is a picture. If you like the recipe, you can save it to your favorites, generate a shopping list or e-mail it. And turn the phone on it's side and you can see the step by step instructions to use in your kitchen.
Lucky I put that screen protector on the phone.

I had some fresh ginger on hand, so I went in search of a ginger recipe..ginger and chicken. Here is the one I picked..I think it sound delicious, but I will admit that sadly, I have not made it get. But I have the shopping list, right here on my phone!

Chicken with Lemon and Spices

Serve with basmati or regular white rice.
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
Mix chicken, lemon juice and turmeric in medium bowl. Marinate 30 minutes.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and cumin seeds and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken with marinade; sauté until most of marinade evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices, chili powder, salt and paprika. Cover; simmer 7 minutes. Uncover; simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens, about 8 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Mix in sour cream. Season with salt and pepper.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, October 15, 2010

a review of "The Grove" [76]

The Grove by John Rector
Amazon Encore, ISBN 978-1935597131
November 2, 2010, 294 pages.

Dexter, wakes up in his bed one morning, fully dressed, to find his friend, the local sheriff, standing over him and any memory of what happened last night gone. The sheriff is there because Dexter's wife called to tell him how angry and out of control Dexter was the night before, one reason she had left to move in with her mom for the time being. The sheriff also tells him that his tractor is gone from it's usual parking place and appears to have been driven into one of the fields, and is now stuck in a ditch.

Dexter has no memory of that either. Maybe because he has stopped taking his medication, medication that he has been taking since his stint years ago in the mental institution, and has started heavily drinking instead. Not good decisions, but two of only many, many bad decisions Dexter makes in this book.

When he goes out into the field to try and move the tractor, he catches a glimpse of something in the grove of trees that borders his farm. Thinking it is trash from the kids that sometimes hang out there at night, he is shocked to find a body, the dead body, of a young high school girl. At first, he starts to call the police, but then he knows that he will be their first suspect. And in fact, he is not at all sure that he did not kill her, since he can't remember the previous night.

So...he decides to investigate what happened himself. Not really smart.
But don't worry. He will not have to do it himself.
The bad new is that his companion is the dead girl herself, increasing horrible visions of the dead girl, urging him on to more ever more irrational and horrible things.
Dexter suffers from some unnamed metal disorder, which sounds a lot like schizophrenia, and is not helped by the fact that he has stopped taking the medication that have kept the voices at bay for years, or by the fact that he is drinking continually for most of the book. A very bad combination.
He is a man spiraling out of control. As we find out, something terrible has happen in Dexter's life in the previous year that has set off this decline and now his wife has left him and he is losing his tentative grasp on reality.Could he have killed someone in a drunken, mentally impaired blackout?
Well, he has before…

To have any sympathy for the narrator, you have to accept that there is, to him, some sort of logic in his endless series of bad, drunken, mad decisions. And I am not sure why, but I did. Maybe the concern of his friend, the sheriff and his wife is enough to convince us that he was once a different man and could be again. I did indeed find something likable and sympathetic about him. Yes, he is doing some very irrational things, all seeming just making the situation worse. But the reader still has some hope that maybe it will all work out, although it seems increasing unlikely. This book is a quick read and one that I found a real page turner. It is well written in a very direct style that suits the slightly bizarre story perfectly. Dark and creepy and disturbing and, luckily, short enough to be read in one long, scary sitting...all the the cold wee hours of the night.

My thanks to Amazon Vine for a copy of this book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Salt and Pepper!

Since we missed Sammy Sunday, Bandit agreed to share Bandit Thursday and allow his dear buddy Sammy to share his picture today.
Really. I asked him last night. He was good with it, I swear!

What is with this white dog? Now he is tied to me!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Sunset at Madaket Beach

The crowd gathers...

Three generations always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

a review of "A Very Private Grave" [75]

A Very Private Grave by Donna Fletcher Crow
Monarch Books, ISBN 978-1854249685
August 1, 2010, 384 pages

Felicity Howard is an American student, studying for the Anglican priesthood at an English seminary. She feels a bit like a fish out of water, but her one touchstone is her friendship with the elderly Father Dominic,who as the book opens, is just returning from a pilgrimage following the path of seventh century Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. But before the evening is over, Fr.Dominic is beaten to death and Felicity finds her history teacher, Fr.Antony, standing over the body with blood on his hands.
When Antony becomes the number one suspect of the police, the abbot spirits Antony and Felicity away, to retrace Fr. Dominic's last weeks and try to discover why someone would want him death. But it is not long before it seems that someone may want Felicity and Antony dead as well...

We will keep this one brief.
I wanted to like this book and I thought, reading what it was about, that I would. Medieval England, early Christian saints, a nice cozy mystery...all right up my alley.
But sadly, it did not turn out that way. Why?
Well, I am all for history used as a background, but honestly there was way, way too much of it and it was not really that interesting. Tell us what we need to know to understand the mystery..and cut the rest. Sometimes, less is more. It got to the point that when Antony started one of his little speeches, my eyes glazed over.

Second, the basic premise of the book, that the abbot would send these two off, with his approval, to investigate the murder, just pushed the limits of what my mind found believable. They have no experience at all, they set off with just the clothes on their back, one of them may well be the murderer, which would put the other in a dangerous situation, the abbot may be breaking the law...really?

But the biggest problem is our heroine Felicity. Try as I might, I found her quite unlikable. I started to hope someone would kill her. She is flip and often nasty and her dismissive attitude toward the religious beliefs she is supposedly dedicating her life too, is annoying. Explain to me again why she is becoming a priest, because I could not figure it out. If you can't identify to some degree with the hero/heroine and actually don't find them very likable...well, that is a problem.

One I would have to recommend you pass up.

My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers for a copy of this book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Musing Monday..Thank You, Thank You!

Ok, a bit late, but I was working so let's check out this week's Musing Monday question from from MizB at Should Be Reading...

"First of all… Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers! :D
This week’s musing is in honor of the holiday
In regards to books, reading, the publishing industry, etc… What are you most grateful for? Why? Have you ever done anything to tangibly show your appreciation?"

Well, I am sure others have said it, but most of all I am thankful for having been given the gift of the love of reading. Was it inherited, did I get it from the example of my mother, from the teachers at school? I am not sure...but what a great thing it is, to be able to read and to get so, so much enjoyment from it.

I am thankful for the great library system I had access to when I was a kid in Newark, NJ. Newark was lacking in many things, but it still had a good library system and my local branch was a place I spent many a happy hour and the source of many a great book.

I am thankful, so very thankful, for all the talented authors who have poured themselves into their books, the thousands of books of every style and subject matter that I have been lucky enough to read since I was a wee Caite. For the much smaller amount of time I have wasted on the work of the not so talented, I am not quite as thankful. But I still appreciate their effort.

I am least on most days...that I started blogging and happened upon all the great blogs I have found since then, full of interesting people from all over the world. Every day, they share their love of books and have introduced me to so many great books through their wonderful reviews. Sadly...or happily..many of those recommended books are still waiting for their turn in my Towering To Be Read Pile. A Giant Bank of Books...

How do I show my appreciation? Well, I still like to support my local library. It is a wonderful resource and if we don't use it, it will disappear. I show it buying books- in brick and mortar stores and online stores and used book stores and any sort of place that sells books. And I try, in my very, very small way, through my blog, to be part of a book loving community. It is the chance to pass on, from time to time, the excitement of finding a real wonderful book, one of the greatest things you can share and something I really enjoy.

Musashi Read-a-long: Part 2- Water

Musashi- An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era
by Eiji Yoshikawa

In Book 2: Water, our hero, after his life changing experience during his three years of imprisonment, has set out to improve his skills as a swordman and, of course, it will not be without conflicts. If you wander into these various schools and challenge them, often ending up killing some of their best and brightest, you may make some enemies and this is the situation Musashi finds himself in.

As an aside, the lack of any sort of concern about the many very bloody, violent killings in this chapter is interesting. I think I have mentioned before that many in Japan, to this day, see this book, these stories, as some sort of common national story, as speaking to their identity as a people. So I really wonder how they see the very casual attitude toward deadly violence that is certain an integral part of this section.

But on a lighter note, I am happy to say that this chapter saw the reappearance of several of my favorite characters, including Otsu, still nursing her unrequited love for Musashi. Or is it really unrequited? Perhaps not... There is also a brief reappearance of his friend Matahachi, he who ran off with the older woman in book 1, and Matahachi's mother, who blames Musashi for her son's disappearance. The introduction of a new source of some humor, the boy Jotaro, who has become Musashi's student and sort of son figure, was good, but best of all is the return, at the very end of this second book, of my favorite monk,Takuan.

I must be honest and say that I did not like section as much as I liked the first, mostly for a reason that I feared when I started the book. There are a LOT of new characters and I must admit I had a bit of a problem keeping them all straight. I finally decided that it might not be necessary to keep them all straight but rather just go with the flow so long as I get the overall story and just focus on the central reoccurring characters....pretty much all of the ones I mention in the last paragraph. I think a lot of these others will end up dead, with their heads smashed or stabbed through with a sword, so not to worry about remembering them all.

And once again, I loved how this section ended, with the wise young monk Takuan warning Otsu where the pursuit of her love for Musashi may lead her. I must find out how this turns out, so I soldier on to the next ...Book 3...Fire!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Lima Beans!

I like lima beans. In fact, I like them a great deal. Fresh, frozen, dried..alone, in succotash, soup, baked. Yes, I like lima beans!
So when I heard that West Cape May, where you may remember that I visited the Tuesday evening Farmer's Market at a couple of months back, was having their Annual Lima Bean Festival, well I just had to check that out!

To quote the county web site...
"It started as a way of celebrating the local lima bean harvest in West Cape May. Limas are are no longer the big bumper crop they used to be in the area, but the lima bean refuses to die."
There were lima bean tee shirts, and lima bean hats. There was lima bean chile and lime bean salsa for the shrimp tacos. There was lima bean pie...which I did not try...and lima bean soup, which I did.
There was a fellow, who looked a lot like Santa, singing lima bean songs and a womn selling lima bean earings and necklaces that she made from fused glass.
It was a Lima Bean Extravaganza!!

Now my mother was fond of the lima bean as well and one of my favorite recipes that she used to make was Baked Lima Beans. It is like the more traditional baked beans, made with smaller navy beans or such, but made with dried lima beans. As usual, I never actually got her recipe, and she never wrote it down. She just remembered it. But I assisted her many times, making a huge recipe of them for the annual picnic we had at the tavern we owned and I think I had a pretty good idea of what went in them. So, I looked and looked and found a recipe for  Southern Baked Beans, in The Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, that I used as a basis and made a few additions to it.

                            Mom's Baked Beans

                            2 pound dried lima beans
                            1/2 lb. salt pork, diced
                            1/2 lb. bacon, diced
        1 large onion, diced
        4 cloves garlic, minced
        1 tsp. salt
        1 tsp. pepper
        1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
        1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
        1/2 cup BBQ sauce
        1&1/2 cup ketchup
        1 Tbs. dry mustard
        1 Tbs. soy sauce
        1/2 cup molasses
        2 tsps. Worcestershire

Soak beans overnight. Drain and replace with fresh water. Bring to boil, reduce and simmer 20 minutes.
Drain, reserving several cups of soaking water in case beans are dry.
In a large, heavy dutch oven, saute salt pork and bacon, then add onion and garlic and brown.
Add all remaining ingredients and 1-2 cups of retained bean liquid.
Bake at 300-325 degrees for three hours 2 covered and last 1 uncovered. check every hour and if it appears too dry, add a bit more of the bean cooking liquid.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Giveaway of "Room"

It is time for one of those rare happenings here at the "A Lovely Shore Breeze"...a Giveaway!
Yes, one lucky individual will have the chance to win my very gently read copy of Room by Emma Donoghue.

The contest will run one week, through Friday 10/15/10. At midnight, the contest will close and Saturday morning I will pick, with the always helpful, a winner and announce it. And then, in just a short period of time, a delightful package will arrive in the mail for you to enjoy.

To enter, just leave a comment here.
If you are a follower, mention that in the same comment, telling how you follow and get another chance to win.
Be sure to leave an e-mail so that I can notify you!

Good Luck!

a review of "Room" [74]

Room: A Novel  by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 978-0316098335
September 13, 2010, 336 pages

"Lunch is bean salad, my second worst favorite. After nap we do Scream every day but not Saturdays or Sundays. We clear our throats and climb up on Table to be nearer Skylight, holding hands not to fall. We say "On your mark, get set, go," then we open wide our teeth and shout holler howl yowl shriek screech scream the loudest possible. Today I'm the most loudest ever because my lungs are stretching from being five.
Then we shush with fingers on lips. I asked Ma once what we're listening for and she said just in case, you never know."
Jack's entire world is Room and the things contained in Room. Bed and Table and Television and Rug and, most of all, Ma, his mother. As the book opens, it is Jack's fifth birthday, every day of which has been spent in Room. For him, it is a wonderful place, made up of very complete, structured days that fill all his needs. They brush their teeth, they bath in Tub, they wash their clothes, they eat, they play, they exercise, they watch TV...but not too much because it rots your brain...they read and re-read the few books they have. And then, when night comes, Jack crawls into Wardrobe to sleep, in case Old Nick comes in the night. Because mention of Old Nick is the thing that makes Ma sad...and scared.

Up to this point Room has been Jack's entire reality and in many ways it has been a very complete, contented reality, filled with structure and normality and most of all love. But of course we know...and Ma knows...that this is not the the totality of reality and that at some point she will have to reveal this to the boy, a revelation that will have profound consequences for the lives of everyone involved. At some point, things will reach a tipping point. We read between the lines and soon become aware of the horrible situation, the horrible events of the past that have brought us to this point but when that is contrasted with the very everyday, non-emotional, very pragmatic voice of our narrator, young Jack, what pull and push sets up the tension of the book from the first pages.

I do not want to tell you too much about the plot because figuring out what is going on is part of the enjoyment and interest of this book. It is not always clear. Sometimes you have to read carefully to be sure of what Jack is talking about because his view is so limited, so focused. I will say this; as we do start to figure it out, our feeling of dread will increase and even in the second part of the book, where the story takes a radical change, our dis-ease will not go away but just change focus, with some cause.

But this is not a scary book, or a negative book. It is actually a very positive book, because Jack is a delightful narrator and Ma, his main subject, is a fascinating character. She is someone in a terrible situation who has made the very best of it and her best is quite good. Writing the story all from Jack's point of view is what define this book. Imagine if your entire view of realty was a 11x11 foot room and one other human being. It is very hard, but something that Ms. Donoghue, with maybe just a few lapses, manages to do. Those few lapses, when Jack's voice seems to lose it's way, is one slight problem I had with the book. Jack is a very intelligent boy. Mostly. He is direct, pragmatic, as the author says her own real son, who she used as a model for Jack, is. Is she able to fully succeed at maintaining that voice? Perhaps...perhaps times he seems very intelligent, at times too naive. Also, the first part of the book is maybe a bit too repetitious, the second part, perhaps not as unique as the first. But really, how could it be? Speaking of staying true to character, Ma herself does something well into the book which again seem so totally unlike something that she would do, especially at that point...well, I will leave that to you to see what you think of it.

But even with these few issues, I think Room is very interesting, very unique book that I would certainly recommend. It is funny and touching and sad and a hopeful story about the remarkable strength of love. It is a story about one little boy, but as Donoghue said in an interview, it is also a bigger story about "the hero, confined in a small world, trying to break out...a journey from one world to another." I have read a few of the author's books before and it is certainly unlike anything she has written before. In fact, it is really unlike anything I have read before written by anyone. I think you will see why it has been shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

My thanks to Little, Brown and Company for an ARC of this book.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bandit ... on Family Game Night

"It's hard to play Monopoly when you don't have thumbs!!"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Nantucket's Lighthouses


Brant Point


Great Point always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.