Changes Happening

And so.. with the new year (and a bit of crash-learning) I finally made up my mind to move away from the confining safety of wordpress.com and get my own domain name.  Thanks to Geof, I’m all set up and running (although still a bit rough while I learn my way around!)

Update your bookmarks to http://thelostentwife.net!  Hope to see you there.


The Angel's Game The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are wanting a light-hearted romantic book, this is not the one for you. If you are wanting a mystery that skims the surface of it’s plot and characters, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a book to endear Barcelona to your heart and make you believe that it’s a city full of light and romance, then this is definitely not the story for you.

However, if you are wanting to be strung along, unable to escape the bait being laid out neatly and methodically in front of you, if you are wanting to feel goosebumps over and over again, if you enjoy reading a story that will have you glancing over your shoulder at every little noise… then this is the story for you.

This is the story of David Martin, a writer. In The Shadow of the Wind we are introduced to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Zafon brings back that magical place in this story while providing the back story of his first novel. If Shadow of the Wind is a book for readers then this is a book for writers. Throughout this story we are given clue after clue, answers provided at just the right moment – only to be snatched away as the story shifts to a new dimension completely undoing what we thought we knew. Over and over this continues until Zafon has you in the palm of his hand, begging to know how it will all end.

And the end is always satisfying. It’s only the 2nd of January and I already know this book will be one of my favorites read for 2010. And now, with renewed interest and with the knowledge provided to me by Zafon, I will approach The Shadow of the Wind again to immerse myself in the story I knew I would love after reading the opening paragraph.

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“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”
— Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind)

What book or books form your palace?  Mine was formed of a mix of the romance of Pemberly, a touch of the spooky mystery of Thornfield Manor, the placement of Green Gables and the magic of Rivendell.  It’s an odd mixture, but it works in my mind.  And the stories that created it for me are stories that I continue to return to over and over again.

Several of my .net friends, Kari, Geof and Brandi, do this and I’ve been wanting to start it for a while.  I was tempted to start in January and do it as a resolution, but I have a feeling December will be filled with quite a few good things – so there’s no harm in a little early resolution!

1. Made gingerbread cookies for the first time – and tasted them for the first time.  They were delicious.

2.  I got to babysit my neighbors young ones.  They are Cole and Grace’s age and are so much fun to watch!

3. Cole’s school got out early due to a gas leak, so I got to spend the day with my buddy.

4. Cole and I watched Labyrinth.  The first time for him, the 100th for me (or thereabouts!)

5.  My Huskers played the Texas Longhorns.  While we didn’t win, we sure put up a good fight! Love watching that Suh play.

6. Grace and I went shopping and bought her the cutest Christmas dresses ever!

7. I got to see The Pioneer Woman today!

8. I met a great gal at Barnes and Noble today and we exchanged contact info!  She has the same taste in books that I do. Should be fun.

9. I made Malboro Man’s favorite sandwich from my new cookbook.  It was delicious!

10. I was blessed yet again today and got to babysit some kiddos that I hadn’t sat for before!

11. Cole’s school had an HVAC issue, so, as a surprise, I got to pick the kiddo up at 11.  We had some good Aunt/Nephew time.

12. I got to spend some time with Gracie when I took her along to play with a friend during a sitting job!

13. Cole, Grace and I had hot cocoa and watched movies together.

14. I read a really good book today.

15. I met Neil Gaiman today.. and he signed my copy of The Graveyard Book.  This was awesome.

16. I got a nap today. It was amazing.

17. Grace’s Christmas program was today.  Not much else good happened – but lots of bad things did so I’ll just hang onto the memory of her program.

18. Cole’s Christmas program was today.  He looked adorable and did such a great job.  And I may have cried during Happy Birthday, Jesus.

19. Cole had a half day of school.  And then we all had a great nap.

20. I actually got a lot of laundry done..and put away today! This was a good thing!

21. Arrived in Illinois to spend Christmas with the family.

22. Saw Avatar with Mom, Alec, Candace, Ethan and Evan.  We all loved it.

23. Got to spend time with Meggan.  It’s always a good day when I spend it with Meggan.

24. Christmas Eve with the family… I went to bed wearing Rubber Ducky Footie PJ’s!

25. Christmas!

26. Took my mom and dad to see Avatar again.  Dad loved it as well!

27. Spend the entire day inside while it snowed outside.  Read a lot. Relaxed.

28. Spent the day relaxing again!  Got woken up early by my brother, but he made me laugh so it was okay.

29. Introduced my youngest brother, Evan, to The Princess Bride (20th Anniversary Edition).

30. Totally lucked out and replaced my five year old, broken glasses with a pair of glasses + lenses for a cheap $69!

31. End of the year 2009 – spent with just my parents watching Charlie Wilson’s War.  Goodbye 2009!

(Bolded challenge descriptions are those I’ve chosen for this year)

The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge

There are three levels of participation:

Emily: Read 5 books from at least two different categories.
Lorelai: Read 10 books from at least three different categories.
Rory: Read 20 books from at least four different categories.


The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

— Curious – Read 3 Historical Fiction novels.

— Fascinated – Read 6 Historical Fiction novels.

— Addicted – Read 12 Historical Fiction novels.

— Obsessed – Read 20 Historical Fiction novels.


The Young Adult Reading Challenge

–The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

–Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.

–Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.

–Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels.


Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

–The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

–Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

–Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

–Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books. (So not a problem)


Fantasy Reading Challenge

— Curious – Read 3 Fantasy Fiction novels.

— Fascinated – Read 6 Fantasy Fiction novels.

— Addicted – Read 12 Fantasy Fiction novels.

— Obsessed – Read 20 Fantasy Fiction novels.


And my own personal challenge involving  the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

1001 Books to Read Before You Die 2010 Challenge

40 Yr Challenge – 25 books read in 2010

20 Yr Challenge – 50 books read in 2010

10 Yr Challenge – 100 books read in 2010

5 Yr Challenge – 200 books read in 2010

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Several months ago I read Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars: A Novel (P.S.) and, while somewhat interesting, it wasn’t what I had expected and I felt disappointed once I had finished it. It wasn’t until now that I felt comfortable picking up another of her books and, overall, I’m glad I waited this long.

That’s not to say Bel Canto (P.S.) left me with the same feeling as Patron Saint did. This is a beautifully written book. There was no action and at times it felt as if the story hovered over a period of a day or so instead of the weeks that it covered, but I think that’s only because that’s how it would have felt to the people caught in the midst of it all.

The story covers that of a Japanese businessman, an American opera singer, a translator, teenage boys and girls caught up in a terrorist movement beyond anything they could have imagined and more. A beautiful story about humanity, love, grief and life. The flow is so constant that I had a difficult time putting the book down, even though I was dreading how I knew things would have to end. But despite the dread, the author manages to capture a bit of hope and I desperately clung to it.

When I finished the book I finally felt as if I could exhale and begin to live my own life again. Although I was reading this when I made my list of the favorite books of ’09 I think I might just have to make an exception and add one more to the list.

Best and Worst Books of 2009

The end of the year has come – and it’s time for me to list the best and worst books that I read in 2009.  I won’t be including the books I couldn’t finish because.. well.. then the post would be the Best Books I Read and the Worst Books I didn’t Read of 2009.

Obviously, I read a lot.  I’m blessed by having a life that provides the opportunity to do so.  Between sitting in carpool for long periods of time each day to reading to two beautiful children and having an incredible library system (and a Kindle!) it does make for a life well spent in reading.  And if you aren’t signed up on Goodreads.com I highly encourage you to go there and sign up – that place will inspire you to expand your horizons more so than anything I, or anyone else, could do.

So, on with the lists.

My Favorite Books from 2009: Fiction and Non-Fiction

1. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka – There wasn’t even a contest for this spot.  Out of all the 250 or so books I read this year, this book blows them all away.  The beautiful love story between the Polish “Pigeon” and Anielica during WWII, this book will take everything you thought you knew about love stories dash it to pieces.  Whimsical and charming, this is not a book you should miss.

2. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork – When I was reading this book I was constantly calling my father to read portions of it to him.  This book is about Marcelo, a boy who has an autism-like impairment.  He hears music inside his head… but not real music, just the feeling you get from listening to good music. The story deepens from there and I found myself in tears and soul-searching more than a few times.

3.The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett – This Non-Fiction book read exactly like a Fiction novel.  While I did not agree with John Gilkey’s methods in acquiring rare books, reading Bartlett’s descriptions of the workings of a book lover and why he went to the lengths that he did was fascinating… and I recognized myself in a few of the descriptions.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – One of many young adult novels I read this year, many of them good, many not-so-good, The Hunger Games stands out due to the intense story being told.  I don’t like to spoil this book at all, you simply have to read it.  Don’t expect Harry Potter, approach it with an open mind. (And get Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) too because it’s just as good).

5. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – I didn’t read this book as a teenager and I wish I would have.  Written 60ish years ago by the author of 101 Dalmations, this is the story of a 17 year old girl who lives in a crumbling castle with her destitute family.  This coming-of-age story is a must-read for every young woman.

6. The Child Thief: A Novel by Brom – I was enchanted and horrified by this book.  This is the darker story of Peter Pan.  The book is gorgeous and includes beautiful illustrations.  My tastes tend to run dark when it comes to fantasy and this book was no exception. It’s brutal and harsh, make no mistake about that.  In my opinion, Brom did an incredible job retelling the story in a way teens could understand and even learn from, today.

7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Another dark young adult story.  A sort of “Jungle Book” but involving a graveyard and ghosts instead.  Beautifully written and illustrated and you will get sucked in from the very first page.

8. Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger – I’ll probably take some flack for this one, but I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and was not at all disappointed by this second book of Niffeneggers.  The story of mirror twins and ghosts and secrets and answers, Niffenegger once again takes science fiction and makes it feel like it could happen to us without us even realizing it.

9. The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) by Jules Verne – I read three books by Verne this year and let me tell you, that’s no easy task.  That man was one of the wordiest, nerdiest authors ever lived I think.  There is so much information crammed into these books that at times it feels as if you are reading an encyclopedia.. only even more dull.  But despite that all, this final book of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea trilogy is worth it all.  I’ll tell you what my dad told me, “Read it, it’s mysterious“.

10. Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman – If you enjoy historical novels and haven’t read Sharon Kay Penman I highly recommend you do so.  This is the first book of a trilogy set in 13th century Wales and dealing with King Llewellyn and his wife, King John’s illegitimate daughter, Joanna.  I recommend this book every chance I get.

Books I was Disappointed with in 2009:

1. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – Never a good sign when you cannot clearly understand who the story is supposed to be about.

2. So Long at the Fair by Christina Swartz – Spun my head in circles and then the author just.. stopped writing.

3. A Mad Desire to Dance to Dance by Elie Wiesel – I feel horrible putting anything by Wiesel on here, but this book was the strangest one I read all year.  And it put me in a really bad mood.

4. The Twelve by William Gladstone – Do NOT even get me started on this book.  I’ll just say that by the end of the book I was convinced that the author considered him to be some kind of savior. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

5. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert – What could have been a great story was made.. disappointing by the pure selfishness exhibited by Gilbert in this book.

6. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – This book could have been so much more than it was – but instead the author chose to focus on shock elements and not the story he was capable of writing.

7. Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian – I enjoyed other Bohjalian books, but this one left a bad taste in my mouth.

8. A Trace of Smoke (Hannah Vogel) by Rebecca Cantrell – Again, another book that could have been so much more than it was.

9. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke – I feel bad putting this book on this list, because I really, really wanted to like it.  But I was more annoyed by it than anything else.  Hence, the disappointment.

10.  The Twilight Series (I’m not even going to link to them) – I didn’t read these books this year but everyone constantly asks me if I’ve read them and I am so tired of hearing them talk about it as if these books were some kind of incredible literature.  They are not! They are horrible! Please ask your librarian for something more interesting to read!