Email me at

Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading Resolutions 2013

"Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own." 
                                                                                                      ~ Mark Twain    

Making a list and checking it twice: Discovering the benefits of list making

     Many of us are list makers. We make lists for grocery shopping, home improvement, To Dos, etc. At work, I like to make a daily focus list.
     Book lover's make reading lists: Lists of books we have read, books we plan to read, books that sounded interesting, books that would make good gifts, and so on.
     Studies indicate that creating a list helps us to organize our thoughts and increase our productivity because the act of checking off a particular item encourages us to complete another task, and ultimately reach our goal. Research also suggests that writing out projects and responsibilities can help reduce stress. By compiling your duties or errands into a list, you are able to conceptualize all of the items you need to tackle and better determine which tasks need to be prioritized.
     This year, I decided to make a list of books that I want to complete in the year ahead. These are books that I have previously purchased, shelved, and never had or made the time to begin. Committing to certain titles was actually a bit overwhelming. There are so many wonderful books out there still waiting to be discovered.
     With new releases promoted weekly if not daily, the excitement of the latest "it" book can change up your entire reading schedule. Additional books will be thrown into my mix as my book club announces its selection each month and I read about books fellow readers have enjoyed. I also have several e-reader books ordered, including Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which I can't wait to read. For 2013, books I hope to get off the shelf include:
The Plague of Doves by Louise Endrich
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Sanctuary by William Faulkner

Two new books I received over the holiday which I am excited to read:
A Train in Winter by Caroine Moorehead
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (This is the new Oprah 2.0 selection)

In the new year, I don't want to set a goal of reading as many books as possible. Instead, I want to savor the ones I do read and spend more time digesting these stories.
What is on your 2013 reading list?

Here is to a new year filled with reading!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's Almost Here! Downton Abbey Season 3

Downton Abbey Season 3 is set to premiere in the U.S.
on Sunday, Jan. 6 on PBS.

Have you been following this wonderful television series? This British period-drama is part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology and has received critical acclaim as well as a large following.

"April 1912. The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear that it seems as if the way of life it represents will last for another thousand years. It won't."

For fans, The World of Downton Abbey, written by Jessica Fellowes with a foreward by the creator Julian Fellowes, is a beautiful, full-color book featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the show, interviews with the actors, and background information on life and society of the time.

The series begins in 1912, two years before the Great War, and depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and the servants employed on their country estate. There is no shortage of drama upstairs or downstairs. From murder and betrayal to romance and loss, viewers have several storylines to remain entertained. Season two ends at the beginning of 1920. During the eight year span of the first two seasons, the series highlights many of the technological advances of the time including electrical lights and the introduction of the telephone. Historical news items, such as the sinking of the Titanic, are also incorporated into the story to establish the time setting. Gorgeous interiors and costumes grace the scenes of the society set while the exploration into the duties of servants on a large estate creates a deep divide between the two classes.

In between episodes, curl up with The World of Downton Abbey to return to the days of Edwardian society and discover more about these wonderful actors and the characters they play.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays and Blessings for the New Year!

"Write it on your heart that every day
is the best day of the year."
                                                 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The book tree in the entrance of Empire Books & News
at Pullman Square, Huntington, W.Va.

This photo is linked up to Saturday Snapshot, a super fun meme hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Head on over and check out some great photos!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Wishes from Around the World

I posted my Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange message too early. When I arrived home yesterday, I had this lovely card and frame-worthy bookmark awaiting me in my mailbox from Australia. This was sent to me from Jeanie at the wonderful blog:
     One of the many benefits of blogging is the opportunity to communicate with others from many countries and to share the joy of reading worldwide. This terrific card exchange was hosted by Judith at and Courtney at A special thanks to them for all of the time they spent organizing it for fellow book bloggers!

Wishing everyone a happy holiday and peaceful new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From Sea to Shining Sea

Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange

     This year I participated in the Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange hosted by Judith at and Courtney at Opening the mailbox and finding a card filled with notations and recommendations about books has been so exciting. These fellow book bloggers have suggested many titles for me and I hope to add some of them to my 2013 reading list.
     These ladies have some terrific blogs and I hope you will check them out!

Share the joy of reading with your family and friends this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

"Life, Enza decided, is not about you get, but what is taken from you. It's in the things we lose that we discover what we most treasure." ~ Chapter 5

Book Description (from The fateful first meeting of Enza and Ciro takes place amid the haunting majesty of the Italian Alps at the turn of the last century. Still teenagers, they are separated when Ciro is banished from his village and sent to hide in New York's Little Italy, apprenticed to a shoemaker, leaving a bereft Enza behind. But when her own family faces disaster, she, too, is forced to emigrate to America. Though destiny will reunite the star-crossed lovers, it will, just as abruptly, separate them once again—sending Ciro off to serve in World War I, while Enza is drawn into the glamorous world of the opera . . . and into the life of the international singing sensation Enrico Caruso. Still, Enza and Ciro have been touched by fate—and, ultimately, the power of their love will change their lives forever. A riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny, inspired by the author's own family history, The Shoemaker's Wife is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write.

"I don't know what to say to make you believe me. I don't believe in God so much. And the Blessed Mother forgot all about me, just as my own mother did, but none of them could give me what one thought of you could do. But if you come away with me, I promise to love you all my life. That's all I have to offer you." ~ Ciro to Enza, Chapter 21

My Thoughts:
     The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani is a beautiful story of grand proportions. Following the lives of Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravenelli as they come of age in northern Italy and immigrate to America where their paths continue to cross until they accept that their journey is one.
     The novel begins as Ciro and his brother Eduardo are taken to live with the Sisters of San Nicola as their mother, Caterina, can no longer care for them following their father's death in a mining accident in America. The loss of a father and mother greatly effects the brothers in opposite forms. Ciro turns inward and longs for beautiful women and to find meaning for his life while Eduardo explores his faith, turning later to priesthood to find his peace. Ciro is lead to Enza after being hired to dig her sister's grave and meeting her at the funeral service. Enza's devotion to her family and desires for them to live a better life force she and her father to move to America to find work, always with the plan to return and build a home of their own. Ciro's fate also sends him to America after witnessing an act by the local priest. It is in a new land, that Ciro and Enza's paths cross again.
     More than a love story between two characters, this novel is a tribute to art and a celebration of a simple way of life. Trigiani's geographic descriptions quickly nestles the reader into the landscape, from the quaint Italian countryside to the bustling streets of Little Italy and Manhattan to the sprawling spaces of Minnesota. Along the way, the strength of the characters remains through their traditions; their crafts are elevated to an artform. We see Ciro create shoes with such skill that we can smell the leather. As Enza sews colorful fabrics into form, we envision the fashion.
     The passages in The Shoemaker's Wife are extremely detailed but not to a fault. The reader is easily entrapped in the setting which makes for an easy connection to the characters. It is clear that a lot of research went into creating this epic story and it left me feeling far more enriched after finishing it.
     I first discovered opera after reading Ann Patchett's Bel Canto and then later Ellen Cooney's Lambrusco. Enza's work in the costume department of the Metropolitan Opera House introduces us to the behind-the-scenes moments of famous opera singers of the time, including the beloved Enrico Caruso. Trigiani takes us on an elaborate tour of the world of art from music and fashion to cuisine and architecture, but religion and spirituality are also at the heart of this story.
     WARNING: You will need to have a box of tissues at hand for the last few chapters of this book. At first I thought I would have liked for the novel to have had a different ending, but this story was Ciro and Enza's story. And a beautiful one it was.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What I'm Reading- Dec. 10, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I am re-reading this classic for my book club's January meeting. Our members rotate selection each time so our reading material can vary greatly from month to month. Although I have read Wuthering Heights many years ago, I am always willing to re-read a classic.

I recently picked up these two books below. I'm not sure when I will read these but I found them at bargain price and couldn't resist adding them to my stacks.
Have any of you fellow readers read either of these? If so, what did you think?


Oprah announced the new selection for her Book Club 2.0 last week: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. This is the second selection for 2.0, following Cheryl Strayed's Wild. Has anyone been following along with her new online format? I haven't read Wild but Hattie sounds interesting. I'm interested to see if an online book club has as much appeal as a face-to-face meeting.
Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Puree

I came across Campbell's Butternut Squash soup at the grocery store and was excited to try it because I love butternut squash. I wanted to make it more hearty to serve as a meal so I tossed in some extra ingredients that took this soup from simple to gourmet with little effort.

Into the pot went the soup, a can on cannellini beans, some pre-cooked and shredded chicken, a little bit of chicken stock and some dried thyme. After heating in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, I removed the soup and stirred in some white cheddar cheese.

Finally, I topped it off with a roasted red pepper puree recipe that I found online. I used jarred roasted red peppers for ease. Just toss some peppers, a little olive oil, some minced garlic and some crushed red pepper flakes in to the food processor and blend. Then, just stir into your soup.
This soup turned out as one of my favorites. I was very pleased with how it all came together and definitely want to make it again. It was the perfect comfort dish to for a cold, winter day.

Happy Cooking!
This post is linked up to Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Novel Idea...or is it?

Have you ever read a book where the concept is so original or the storyline so  intense that you were in awe of the author's creativity? Would your opinion of the work change if you became aware that the ideas or characters were not solely of his or her creation?

An article in the November 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine, "Master of Fine Arts," delves into the concept and creation of "book incubators" defined as "a team of idea generators who invent premises, map out plots and characters, and then match the blueprints with undiscovered writers."

One such incubator, Paper Lantern Lit, has had significant success with this strategy, having sold every project it has pitched to publishers- now weighing in at 23 books since the organization launched in 2010, including the popular Venom series. A book concept is created followed by chapter outlines, and then writers are interviewed to develop the characters and fill in the blanks.

In many professions, "think tanks" are able to produce inventive ideas with each participant challenging the creativity of the others, creating a finished product that can have mass appeal but does this apply to the art world?

Billed as fiction, does a lack of authenticity decrease the value of the story or the reader's connection to it? What are your thoughts?

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Books, Books, and More Books Please

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Recently Finished: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
I recently finished Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and it is a must read. You can check out my review here:

Currently Reading: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
This is the first of Adriana Trigiani's books that I have read. I felt this was a little slow to begin but I'm nearing the half-point and completely engulfed in the story. I am reading this as an e-book but I love the cover art on this one.

Coming Up: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This will be a re-read for me, having previously read this many years ago in high school English. My book club selected this as the next book for discussion. We rotate reading selection among members which leads to a variety of genres and authors.
I also reserved these two e-books from my library when they become available:
I typically would not select to read a Nicholas Sparks book but after seeing the movie preview for this one, I thought I would give it a try. I know many of you readers have read and loved Gone Girl so I can't wait to get this one and dive in.

I look forward to discovering what you are reading this week!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Deep Dish Mexican Pizza

These short winter days do not cooperate for much weekday cooking so on the weekend, I like to experiment. I had an extra pie crust in the refrigerator and was inspired by one of my favorite dishes of a ham, tomato and cheese dinner pie, which led to the creation of a deep dish Mexican pizza. I pre-baked the crust first according to the box directions so that the it would crisp up on the bottom, covering the edges in aluminum foil so that they would not burn. After baking, I spread re-fried beans into the shell, topped with cooked ground turkey mixed with a can of green chilies and enchilada sauce. Then, I topped that layer with chopped tomatoes and jalapenos, followed by a top layer of Monterey Jack cheese. Back into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the cheese is all melted.

Then slice and enjoy with a nice margarita or your favorite beverage. The best part about this dish is that it can easily be customized. You could substitute black beans, rice, salsa, corn or other veggies for any of these ingredients.
Buen provecho!


This post is linked up to Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin