Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Victoria Jones has been shunted around from foster home to foster home, so when she lands on Elizabeth's doorstep at age ten, she doesn't believe anything will be different here.

But between Elizabeth and Victoria, there is the beginning of a unique connection. And a special language, derived from their mutual love of flowers and Victoria's eagerness to learn how to communicate through them.

There is also the first glimmer of hope, because Elizabeth has stated the desire to adopt her after one year together. But as the court date approaches, Victoria's and Elizabeth's fears mount and inevitably sabotage what ultimately could have been home for the two of them.

What does Victoria do to sabotage her placement? And what will Elizabeth do to express her own fears and why? Will a tragic event sever their ties forever?

When we first meet Victoria, she is eighteen and about to be emancipated from the system. She will go to a transitional home and try to forge her own life, despite the flawed and damaged person she has become. Moving seamlessly between the present and the pivotal tenth year of her life, The Language of Flowers: A Novel shows us Victoria's journey forward, while still fighting the demons that force her to cling to the past.

This beautifully wrought and true-to-life story resonated with me as it echoed the stories I have been privy to in my social work career. What set this journey apart was the connection through flowers and the almost magical power of this unique tool for communication. As the flawed and broken souls heal, we see a glimmer of hope and renewal. I loved this story and did not want to put it down! Five stars.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


From the very first page of this funny, suspenseful, and colorful tale set in rural Florida, I felt connected to the character Emily Rhodes.

Expecting to enjoy her golden years with her long-time partner, her life is not at all turning out the way she planned. First of all, her partner Fred dies abruptly, and because they're not married, and because he apparently didn't write a new will, his ex-wife is suing her for the estate. The estate isn't much, but Emily is fond of her little winter home—the rest of the year, she lives in upstate New York—and now everything is up for grabs.

She has a new job as a bartender at the country club, but in her second week, as she is taking out the trash, she discovers a dead body in the dumpster. And then, before she can even say "hey," she is hauled off for questioning by an annoying detective who is obnoxious and chews tobacco.

Immersed as I was in this story, I also could enjoy the little tidbits along the way, like the descriptions of characters, and places, and the down-to-earth dialogue that made me feel as though I was right in the midst of the story. The characters felt like people I'd met or would like to meet—except for the tobacco-chewing cop. Luckily, there is a hunky cop, too, and a few other potential love interests. Of course, Emily has more important things to think about. But maybe after all this is over....

As Dumpster Dying: Golf in rural Florida is hazardous -- gators on the fairway and bodies in the trash gallops along, I also enjoyed the twists and turns and trying to figure things out. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the plot lines and quite stunned by others. In the end, I was very happy with how things turned out...but sorry to say good-bye to the characters. There were some unexpected delights, too, so this is a book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys humor, quirky and colorful characters, and suspense. Five stars.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


The buzz is contagious throughout the blogosphere.  It's Readathon weekend, and bloggers everywhere are participating.

Over at Book Journey, Sheila has a whole stack of books to read.  Others have demonstrated their commitment to reading by picking out stacks of books and even arranging their snacks.  The fewer interruptions the better!

So why am I still sitting over here, reading without commitment?  Am I afraid that I won't be able to read continuously, or am I just afraid of the commitment?

I certainly have a stack of books—next week's reading stack—and I even have one left over from this week that I need to read.

I have several books on my Old TBRs that I would like to read before the end of the year.  Mainly because of my vow to do that when I created my blog Curl up and Read two years ago today!

On that date, I had 166 books on those stacks.  Now I have 58 books.  Not a lot of progress for two years, you say?  Well, obviously I could have read them all, since my total books read last year was 143; and so far this year, I've read 141.

So how do I explain this?  Well, you see, there are my New TBRs!  The books I've received during the year, in the form of review books and books purchased.  

The only sane thing to do, of course, is keep old and new stacks separate.  Both on my blog and on my spreadsheets.

What are your stacks like right now?  And do you see the Readathon as an opportunity to make a dent?

Here's a picture of my Old TBRs, as of this month.

I probably won't make much of a dent in these this weekend, but I can work on it.  Hope you all have fun with whatever your goals are!

And remember:  My prescription for the blues is books, books, and more books!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Kate Brown, who lives in the London suburbs, is happily married and the mother of four children. But she has reached a point in her life when she feels extraneous. Invisible,even. As her husband gets ready to leave for a conference in the States, she ponders what her summer will be like. And then an opportunity presents itself that will allow Kate to spread her wings a bit and explore another world. As she leaves for the position as an interpreter, she has no idea what will be unleashed over the next few months.

As we follow Kate's journey, we experience with her the joys of freedom, along with the risks. Will a foray into a brief affair bring her what is missing in her life? Or will the opportunity to earn her own money give her something she wants? But unexpected events turn these experiences into something quite different, as we see Kate's journey turn dark, with strange and symbolic dreams.

Then her journey takes her to a flat and a young girl who is on the verge of her life, while Kate is at a different crossroads. They share experiences and thoughts, and when the journey ends and the dark unfolds into springy lightness, Kate is ready to finally go home and rejoin her family. But she has a different perspective and a new way to be.

The rich symbolism throughout The Summer Before the Dark (Vintage International) reminded me once again why Lessing is such a great writer. Kate's recurring dream of a seal she is struggling to rescue and carry to safety reminds us that her nurturing aspects have controlled her life. She now must move on to something different. As she thinks about going home, she realizes something significant, as described in this passage:

"The mood she was in when she walked in at her front door again would be irrelevant: now that was the point, it was the truth. We spend our lives assessing, balancing, weighing what we think, we's all nonsense. Long after an experience which has been experienced as this or that kind of thought, emotion, and judged at the time accordingly—well, it is seen quite differently. That's what was happening, you think; and what you thought or felt about it at the time seems laughable, jejune."

There were parts of the novel that seemed very heavy with introspection, and the feelings evoked sometimes weighed me down. But then I moved on to the richly textured parts during which Kate arrives at her realizations. Definitely recommended for anyone who loves following a woman's journey toward finding herself. Five stars.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


The landscape of childhood is a territory that often defines who we ultimately become. And the five childhood friends in The Most Dangerous Thing do end up defined by their childhood experiences, especially those surrounding a time they all spent exploring the woods beyond the boundaries of their suburban homes.

Gwen, Mickey, and the three Halloran brothers, Tim, Sean, and Gordon (Go Go), find themselves part of a group, often led by Mickey, who is something of a tomboy and very daring. She instigates things sometimes, too, but nobody wants to be a coward, and they often push the boundaries of behavior, too. So as the events unfold in that one summer in the late seventies, perhaps the inevitability of the secrets and the pact they all took could be laid at her hands. And the centerpiece of their acts form around a secret friendship with an old man they call Chicken George. Determined to keep their secrets after one fateful night during a hurricane, they slowly disband and lose touch with one another.

But years later, when they all come together at Go Go's funeral, the layers of secrets begin to unravel. And in the months that follow, the unexpected hidden core will be revealed.

More questions than answers meet them at that funeral, though: Did Go Go drive into that concrete wall on purpose? Were the secrets of their collective past too much for him to handle? Or was there more to the story than any of them knew?

Before we come to learn any of these secrets or the ultimate deceits that bound them all, we follow their lives, and the lives of their parents, as the narrative captures first one, then another, and weaves together a multilayered story of regrets, losses, hopes, and dreams unrealized. Against this backdrop, the keeping of secrets becomes another kind of inevitability that will inform all of their lives.

As always, I loved Lippman's storytelling, with the seductive pull toward the final reveal. She unfolded events for us one morsel at a time, and then stepped back to show us still another facet to the mystery. The characters felt like real people I've known, just as they always do. Then I was pleasantly surprised at the "cameo" appearance of Tess Monaghan from that series. In this book, she reprises her role as a private detective to help sort through the mysterious secrets Go Go held. Following these mysterious, secretive, and colorful characters kept me turning pages long into the night. Five stars.

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Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City NovelHanna's DaughtersMiss Hildreth Wore BrownElizabethSolomon's OakSolomon's Oak

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