Saturday, December 31, 2011

House of Sand and Fog book review

My rating = 3 stars

Hello again everyone. I am finally back from my Christmas hiatus, and I have some great things coming this next week, so stick around! This review completes December's challenge for Read Your Own Library. This month I chose House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. It has been on my shelf for several years, and I never wanted to get rid of it before reading it because the premise of the story always sounded so compelling.

House of Sand and Fog tells the tragic story of a woman who was wrongly evicted from her home, then fights with the new owner to reclaim the house. Kathy Nicolo-Lazaro is a recovering drug addict, whose husband recently walked out on her. One morning she wakes up to find the police on her doorstep, evicting her from her home by county order. The home is sold at auction the following day. An Iranian exile, Colonel Behrani, uses the last of his savings to buy the house, hoping to secure a better life for his family. As the Behrani family settles in, Kathy is befriended by Lester Burdon, the deputy who evicted her, and a fiery love affair begins between them. Lester is soon drawn in to Kathy's legal plight and they both take drastic measures to get Kathy's house back.

One short review I read said this book really tugs on your emotions and sympathies. And in some ways it did for me, but I only had sympathy for the Behrani family. I was a bit stunned to realize this as I read, because Kathy is the one who is homeless and fighting to get her house back. But the further I read, the more I could not relate to this woman and could not agree with the choices she, and in turn Lester, made. To make it cut and dry, Col. Behrani owned the home legally once the county sold it to him. He was fully protected by state law. Kathy's only legal recourse was to sue the county for the full value of the home and get her money back. But, of course, that's not how the story plays out.

Kathy is very, very, very bad at handling her emotions. She can only deal with them by using beer, drugs, or sex. Otherwise, she's explosively volatile. Hence, every decision she makes about how to deal with this problem is fueled by unstable emotion. At one point she tries to justify herself and say "I just watched all this happen. It's not my fault." She is so used to playing the victim all her life, that she is incapable of making one reasonable, responsible decision. I hate people like that!

Lester is also a vulnerable character. Once he and Kathy hook up, he suddenly decides to up and leave his wife and kids behind, and eventually, his sanity as well. They both act irrationally and irresponsibly throughout the book, and this bad mix ends up costing the Behranis pain and sadness, and ultimately their lives.

(Speaking of hooking up - I have to warn you that this book has a lot of sex. A lot. Kathy and Lester are either having sex, thinking about sex, or dreaming about sex. And some of it really made me want to gag. They also use a lot of f-bombs and other crude language.)

The second half of the book focuses a bit more on the ethics of the situation, and poses the question "What is truly, ethically, the right thing for Col. Behrani to do?" Legally, he is innocent of his actions to keep claim on the house, but ethically, should he give Kathy the house back? (This question is the basis behind a law in my own state that says if you buy a home from the county, city, etc., you do not own it free and clear for 6 months. This gives the previous owner time to pursue legal recourse, if in fact they have unlawfully been deprived of their home.) So I kept asking myself this question as I read, but I could not untangle my antipathy towards Kathy and Lester from the ethics of the problem, so I couldn't find a good answer.

Bottom line — this book is very thought provoking, and the writing style is superb. Thumbs up. The characters of Kathy and Lester are pathetic, unrelateable, and a bit offensive. BIG thumbs down.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Six Weeks to Yehidah Blog Tour Starts Today

The Six Weeks to Yehidah Blog Tour is starting today!

This blog tour is sponsored by Tourz De Codex

The tour will stop here at Finding Your Gibbee on January 6th. Please visit Tourz de Codex for more info about the tour and giveaways happening at all tour stops. I will be posting my review soon.

Six Weeks to Yehidah by Melissa Studdard

Move over, C.S. Lewis; Melissa Studdard is here! Annalise of the Verdant Hills is one of the most delightful protagonists to skip through the pages of literature since Dorothy landed in Oz. Join Annalise and her two walking, talking wondersheep as they travel to ever more outlandish places and meet outrageous and enlightening folk on their journey to discover interconnectedness in a seemingly disconnected world. Discover with them how just one person can be the start of the change we all strive for. A book for all ages, for all time: wonderful, wacky, and bursting with truth!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

WWW Wednesday

This meme is from Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III.

I recently finished reading Married to Murder by Jennifer Oberth. You can find my review here.

My TBR Immediately List has the following titles on it:
Six Weeks to Yehidah by Melissa Studdard - upcoming blog tour

Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo - book club's selection for next month

A More Perfect Heaven:How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel - I found this one at the library yesterday on the New Books shelf. I enjoyed read her book The Planets a year or two ago, so I definitely wanted to check this one out.

I hope to have all three of these finished in the next several weeks.

Christmas memories

I am furiously baking this week to get ready for Christmas dinners, cookie exchanges, and playdates this weekend. As I went through my cookie recipes, I found a beloved recipe from my grandmother. This recipe brings back memories of visiting my gramma's house when I was very little. She seemed to always have homemade cookies on hand for my sister and I to munch on, and there was a window seat in her living room which we would open up to find toys to play with. Her old little bungalow home had a screened-in porch, and we would sit out there playing board games and reading Little Golden Books that I swear she had gotten when my dad was a boy.

After making a batch of my gramma's cookies, I bite into one, close my eyes, and picture myself sitting at her dining room table. The cookie even tastes like her house. This special taste is something I want future generations to be familiar with and even love themselves, so I cherish this recipe. I don't know where she originally got it from, but I remember watching my gramma make these cookies for the first time. I was very skeptical that they would taste good. The reason? The recipe calls for sour cream. Sour cream? Really? Ugh! At least that was my first reaction. But they actually taste really good, and as I said, now I think they taste like gramma's house.

So, as a Christmas gift to all of you, I am sharing my gramma's special cookie recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Gramma Alice's Sour Cream Cookies

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup softened butter or shortening
1 egg
1 cup candied fruit slices, cut into small pieces
1 cup sour cream (do not use fat free, this will affect how the cookie sets)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
small bowl of sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut candies into small pieces and roll in sugar bowl. Cream together 2 cups of sugar and the butter. Add eggs and candies. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients and sour cream to candies mixture. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Do not brown.

Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza is having an enormous audiobook giveaway for Christmas. 12 winners will be chosen Christmas Eve! To enter, just click here

The following books are on the giveaway list:

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Room by Emma Donoghue

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Best Friends, Occasional Enemies by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich (Please note, this audiobook is abridged)
A Year and Six Seconds by Isabel Gillies
Saddled by Susan Richards
Imperfect Endings by Zoe Fitzgerald Carter
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Good luck to everyone who enters, and Happy Reading (or listening!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book giveaway from Growing Old With Grace

Pat at Growing Old With Grace has two book giveaways for you to enter. both books are by Stephanie M Sellers. Go visit this delightful and funny website today.

Black Purse 

Oginalii is Cherokee for My Friend Like Horse is to My Heart

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm the giveaway winner!

I am so happy to share the news that I won the giveaway for The Girls Own Book from March House Books Blog! I can't wait for it to arrive, and I'll post some pictures of it here.

Married to Murder Blog Tour

It's time? It's time? Did she just say it's time?

Hee,'s Sunday, so thanks to my kids, I've got VeggieTales on the brain.
But, yes, it is time for the Married to Murder Blog Tour here at Finding Your Gibbee!

When I was invited to be a part of this book tour, the description of this book sounded very thrilling. A woman three hours away from her wedding suddenly finds her fiance has been framed for murder, and must clear his name before she walks down the aisle. But when I started reading, I was taken completely by surprise. 

This short story is a comedy as much as a mystery. Jennifer Oberth mixes together so many different elements into the story that it ends up being delightfully absurd - a bride-to-be, who also happens to be some sort of undercover government agent in 1827, living in Maine. Her soon-to-be husband is also a government agent, and his father is a retired pirate (really, think Long John Silver here!) But best of all is Mrs. Crabtree, the town hairdresser who is doing all the women's hair for the wedding, described as the ringleader of town gossip, but who is also deaf as a post!

This story would be terrific as a stage play. The crazy cast of characters, the farcical events that occur, and the outrageous ways the characters react to them all make a memorable comical mystery. I look forward to reading Oberth's other stories.

You can find Married to Murder, and other stories by Jennifer Oberth at Smashwords.

Friday, December 9, 2011

2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge

I'm pretty shy about joining reading challenges. I mean, seriously, starting this blog this year has been a big enough challenge for me, so I don't want to get in over my head. I try to commit to reading books a few at a time. If my commitment list gets too long, I panic and end up backing out. That's kinda how I am with lots of to-do lists and projects — house cleaning projects, crafts to make, etc. Lists help keep my brain organized, but only 5 entries at a time, please.
Well, now that I've said all that....

The real purpose of this post is to introduce the 2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge, hosted by Book Journey. This is a very fun challenge that doesn't require you to read a certain number of books, or read a specific genre or by particular authors or anything. All it requires is that you map the books you do choose to read, so at the end of the year, you can see all the places your reading has taken you. Cool idea, huh?
Some people are committing to read a book from/about each of the 50 states. I just want to see where in the world I go next year. You have to set up a map under Google Maps to link all your books to. It's fairly simple to do - just go to, click on My Places, then click the red Create Map button. My map will be up shortly on my sidebar. You can find more info on this challenge here .

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My first award!

Jennifer from The Beauty of Eclecticism just sent me this award badge for completing my first Read Your Own Library challenge. How fun! Thanks Jennifer!

Book Review — Blessings

My rating = 4 stars

I am so happy I have successfully completed my first assignment for Read Your Own Library Challenge. Blessings ended up being a good book to start with. It was a fairly quick read, and it had a good variety of characters, almost all of whom I could empathize with.
Blessings tells the story of Lydia Blessings, an old woman who lives by herself in a large house with her namesake. She has a new gardener/handyman named Skip who lives in an apartment above the garage, and a cantankerous maid named Nadine. One night Skip finds a newborn baby in a box lying on his doorstep. At first he tries to hide her from everyone, but eventually everyone at Blessings knows about the baby. Soon they all begin to see their own lives transformed by the influence of this tiny, innocent creature. Lydia especially finds her own heart softening, reliving past memories of her own childhood, as well as her daughter's childhood.
The main message I found running through the book is no one is an island. We all must have interaction with other human beings in order to survive. Indeed, if we truly want to thrive, the only way to do this is to cultivate meaningful relationships with others. Faith, the baby left on Skip's doorstep, is the physical embodiment of this message. She literally won't survive unless Skip takes care of her. Lydia is the emotional embodiment of the message. She seems to be a recluse, hiding in her house, hardly daring to even go outside. And yet, she will peek through her windows with binoculars to watch what goes on outside. She needs social interaction, but denies herself of it. But as the story progresses, Lydia opens herself up bit by bit to her friends and family, and finds healing for her own heart.

December Read Your Own Library Challenge

I made it through November's challenge! Hooray! One more book on my bookshelf has been read. I am so proud of myself :)  
I finished reading Blessings by Anna Quindlen with just hours to spare before December started. It was very enjoyable, and I will be posting my book review later today.

This month my book club is taking a break for the holidays, so I will have a little more reading time to devote to this challenge. I decided to read The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. I am happy to say this book landed on my TBR list before Oprah chose it for her book club selection. But I didn't buy it until after she chose it. So my copy has her official stamp of approval. Unfortunately, that also means it's been sitting on my shelf, unread, for 12 years. 

I know, I know, I deserve a whap on the head. But, hey, isn't that what this monthly challenge is all about. To help us poor bibliophiles to stop beating ourselves up from the guilt of our addiction, and actually do something about it!

To my credit, I have started the book twice, but I really can't say why I didn't finish it. Anyway, this time I really promise to finish the book, and then it will hold a special place of honor on my bookshelf.

Book Review — The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My rating = 4 stars

This is a book I've been reading to my kids for the last several weeks. They were eager to start reading it after we rented the movie one night. They all liked the book very much, and even though it is different from the movie in many instances, they still found it very enjoyable in its own right.

This book continues the story of Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, who are staying with an aunt and uncle while the rest of their family takes a trip to America. Their cousin Eustace despises them and their stories of Narnia. One afternoon Eustace finds himself drawn with his cousins into a painting in Lucy's bedroom, and they are all whisked off to Narnia for an adventurous sea voyage.

I don't think I have ever met a more offensive and whining character than Eustace. I find it so funny that Lewis named the character Eustace, because Useless Eustace describes him perfectly at the beginning of the book. Happily, Eustace goes through some miraculous transformations, physically and socially, during the children's adventures, and ends up to be a very useful boy at the end.

Reepicheep, the courageous mouse, also makes this book quite memorable. He is always daring the crew of the Dawn Treader to keep sailing forward, and never seems to know the meaning of the words doubt and fear. Just like Lucy, I want to pick him up and just hug the stuffing out of him, but that would be quite disrespectful behavior towards such a gallant knight!