G is for Goodnight Tweetheart – Teresa Medeiros

I know virtually nothing about Twitter.

I mean, I know that Ashton Kutcher beat cnn.com to reach a million followers and Kenneth Cole found himself in a hot Twitter mess last week. I also know that Twitter is considered micro-blogging (and that’s the one thing that might make me sound like I know a lot more about this social media channel than I actually do). But, the reality is I need to know more about it. A lot more about it. Especially because I am super involved in social media at work; it’s just my focus has been more on Facebook. So, to ease my way into Twitterville, I took the recommendation of my book blogging buddy and dipped into the micro-blogging maelstrom that is Twitter with a delightful little rom-com, Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros.

Advertised as “A Love Story in 140 Characters or Less”, Goodnight Tweetheart centers around Abby Donovan, a novelist experiencing writer’s block after her debut effort tops the charts, earns Oprah’s adoration and almost earns a Pulitzer. Her publisher is getting antsy and in a last ditch effort to keep Abby’s exposure high and momentum going, her agent creates a Twitter account for the fledgling writer.

Within hours, Abby has a small following, including the interest of Mark Baynard, a witty, English Lit professor on sabbatical and traveling the world. Their exchanges are reminiscent of the rapid-fire, pop-culture infused witticisms of The Gilmore Girls, but more flirty since we aren’t talking a mother-daugther relationship here.

As Abby and Mark’s relationship develops, she becomes more smitten with this man who sends her pictures of his European escapades, has faith in her writing and who inspires her in a way that breaks the block that previously had her paralyzed. It would seem that all is peachy between the tweets, but quickly Abby learns that relationships created in an online world of direct messaging and imaginary dates can create a false reality. Abby is now forced to confront the truth about Mark and must decide if a relationship with Mark, online or otherwise, is such a good thing.

I really enjoyed the currency of Goodnight Tweetheart. Published just this year, the pop culture references are as good for the children of the 80s as they are the Gossip Girls set. Medeiros has created an engaging protagonist in Abby and I was left closing the book wanting a sequel. Goodnight Tweetheart rises above the vacuousness found in much of the chick-lit genre; it’s chick-lit for the thoroughly modern, culturally aware woman.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 240
Genre: Chick-lit

L is for Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

I have had this book for years. So many people wanted me to read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan that I found myself with two copies, one I purchased and one that was given to me. But with oodles and oodles of books lying around, it was one of many I needed to get to. Flash forward and back up to this past November, and LOVING FRANK was selected by my Book Club for our January read. And then I did something crazy (big surprise). I bought a version for my Kindle and gave away my two copies. It was on a lark I did this, and only after having read through the first few chapters. I was instantly smitten with Horan’s wordly–no, that’s not a typo for worldly–ways and confident the recipients would love it as much as I was. Having finished it just in time for tomorrow’s discussion, and to be on track for this year’s project, all I can say is… I am loving Frank. The book, rather, not so much the man.

Let me also say that prior to cracking this book open, I knew very little about Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW). Sure, in the peripheral pockets of knowledge I keep, I know he’s a major contributor to American architecture. He has two famous homes (probably more) Taliesen in Wisconsin and Taliesen West in Scottsdale (the latter I have actually visited). I also grew up in the southwest near a church inspired by his work full of clean lines, glass and nature. But his personal life, his drive and arrogance, his marriages and a rather scandalous affair in the early 1900s, I knew absolutely nothing about. My ignorance of FLW and his lover Mamah was absolute bliss when reading this captivating work of historical fiction.

In the early 1900s, Mamah (pron. May-muh) Borthwick Cheney was married and had just commissioned FLW to build a house in Oak Harbor. A masters-level educated woman who actively promoted women’s rights, Mamah was a leader and much ahead of her time. Her forward thinking ideas drew me to her and I liked her fire very much. Yet upon meeting Frank Lloyd Wright, her heart took over and the two of them found themselves quickly in a complicated, romantic entanglement; both FLW and Mamah were married to other people and both had children. They believed their shared love to be the truest relationship they had found and they would do anything to be together. Even if it meant Mamah leaving her very young children in the hands of her cuckolded husband and her sister to travel the world and follow Frank’s dreams. My love for Mamah was instantly lost; but I couldn’t stop reading. Horan’s blend of known facts and her own imagined dialogue between these two lovers was completely compelling.

There was a bit of detail overload at times on the architecture and landscape talk. But I had to know what would come of these two people and the families they left behind. I needed answers and outcomes, impacts and consequences. I could not understand a woman being able to abandon her children. As I turned the pages, I repeatedly wondered how could she do this (how any woman could ever do it)? Could she really be that selfish? Doesn’t she understand the gravity of her choices? How on earth would this turn out?

I won’t answer those questions for you; read it for yourself to find out.

Suffice it to say, if you know nothing or very little of the actual events, the story will take you in completely and when you least expect it, it will throw you. It will utterly throw you, jerking you up out of your comfortable reading posture forcing you to reread the pages you just read in utter disbelief. There are answers, there are outcomes–devastating ones, at that. And we are left with a fascinating account of what might have happened in the years that Frank and Mamah eschewed the world and everything in it for each other and, of course, Frank’s work.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Fiction

Week 47: Hug Time – Patrick McDonnell

It’s Thanksgiving week and there’s so much for which I am grateful, the least of which is extra time! But with extra time that actually means less time for reading and more time for equally important activities like connecting with family and friends, hitting the movie theater, sleeping in, playing games, and all things that a holiday weekend is meant to hold.

Thankfully, I had Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell on hand. This delightful little book was a great way to share relaxing moment with the kiddo and keep my reading on track for the project.

Hug Time centers on Jules, a cute kitty that wants to hug everyone. He makes a list, heads out the door and all over the world, to brighten the day of others with a simple hug. As you can imagine, his friends aren’t the only ones who benefit from such a sweet and simple act of generosity.

McDonnell has written and illustrated Hug Time as he has a number of other children’s books. This is my second McDonnell book and it’s a second winner. I plan on checking out more of his stories that focus on the simple yet most important things we can focus on. You should, too.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 44
Genre: Children’s

Week 46: Stitches: A Memoir – David Small

This week I am back to my favorite new genre, the Graphic Novel, discovered while undertaking this weekly reading challenge! No matter that it’s really the only new genre I have tried all year. It’s also no matter that it’s only the second time I have read from this genre. I mean who’s keeping score? Okay, I am. And at the end of the year I am going to have this wicked cool post full of stats and numbers (or as many stats and numbers that a Communications major can muster) and my fellow book nerds are going to love it and some will think it’s dumb and that’s okay, too.

So, not only being a new genre for me, it’s a new one for the old book club. It’s my turn to host in December and when you are the host, you hold the power to either mandate or offer up some selections from which the group can vote. I decided to shake things up and present three choices, all graphic memoirs. There were a some eager smiles, a few perplexing hmmmmms and even a couple of she-might-be-crazy-to-think-I am-reading-a-what?-an-adult-comic-book?-helllllls-no.

So after everyone softened their gazes and started reading the summaries, the majority settled on Stitches: A Memoir by David Small. While I am not one to gloat It should be noted that two book club members e-mailed me within the last couple of weeks to say they had never read a graphic novel and were pleasantly surprised with Stitches. Now that I have read this 2009 National Book Award winner, I can say that I was as well.

Stitches is the shocking look at a brief, yet life altering period, in David Small’s life. Born to a radiologist father and a homemaker mother, Small grew up in a household that communicated with bangs, slaps, claps and grunts. Communication was completely controlled by the parents (when they communicated at all) and the house was cold and quiet, devoid of any love and affection. When David was just six years old, he developed multiple sinus infections, which his father chose to monitor and evaluate with x-rays. This repeated exposure caused Small to develop throat cancer and required two serious operations on his throat. Complicating matters (more than your own father giving you cancer is complicating) was the fact that Small was never told why he needed surgery. It was only after the second procedure caused him to lose his voice–and what we can guess was years of guilt–that his father confessed.

As wordless as the Small household was, Stitches is almost as quiet. Relying on his tremendous illustrative talent, Small effectively takes the reader through this fear and anger-filled time in his life with compelling imagery and few words. While there are certainly enough issues with Small’s dad to write a book, his mother is a significant contributor to the family’s dysfunction. We learn little about Small’s brother and the story did leave me asking a few more questions than I would have hoped. Despite this, I absolutely loved the way Small uses his ability to draw to present his story. It’s the illustrating (and years with a caring counselor) that enables Small to actually find his voice.

I think it is awesome when someone can write a book or draw even a single picture. But if you can do both? At the same time? That’s ridiculous talent. Seriously. I now officially get why this is an emerging arena for creatives that have the ability to story tell in different ways. It’s no surprise after reading this to learn that Small is now an accomplished illustrator, having won awards for his work on children’s books. His talent is obvious. His story completely fascinating, ultimately redemptive and uniquely his own.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 336
Genre: Graphic Novel

Week 44: How to Be an American Housewife – Margaret Dilloway

This week’s pick comes courtesy of my book club, a group of dynamic women that have met for over six years and actually talk about the books we read. Oh sure we fit in the offshoots and the tangents where art imitates life, or catch up on work, lack of work, significant others, or a lack of others that are truly significant, and then we find our way back to the book, for better or worse. This month, it was for better, because not only was HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE by Margaret Dilloway a great read, but we also got to talk to the author during our monthly ritual of dining and dishing.

HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE shares the story of a mother and daughter, clashing the way mother’s and daughters can, but it also adds the element of a culture clash. Shoko, the mother, and the narrator of the first half of the book is a Japanese woman who marries an American serviceman to escape her war torn country. Leaving behind the mother and father who encouraged her and a brother from whom she is estranged, she sets up house in California and struggles to fit in with other servicemember wives. Her story begins in the present day, a time when Shoko’s health is failing her and she needs the help of her now-grown daughter Sue.

Sue, a first-generation Japanese-American and the focus of the book’s second half, is a single mother always in search of her mother’s approval while just going through the motions in a job and life that lacks both passion and direction. Struggling to connect with her mother, it’s this very personal request that brings the two closer and bridges years of disconnect between the two.

One of the strengths of Dilloway’s writing is the authentic feel she brings to the the dialogue between Shoko and Sue. As I reader I could experience the tension between Shoko and Sue, so common between mothers and daughters, and the moments of connection and happiness. The book’s authenticity is also driven by Dalloway’s own experiences with her Japanese mother and the dialect she brought to Shoko’s character.

My only struggle with the book was one characters rapid development, which seemed a bit too fast for all that was going on in the story. Certainly not a deal breaker, all of the other elements made for an enjoyable read, lively discussion and interesting perspectives from Dilloway herself during our book club conversation. Her favorite book is Little Women and she enjoys books the depict the realist struggles people experience, while keeping faith and hope alive despite the circumstances. I think the same can be said for HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE.

Dilloway generously makes herself available for book club discussions, just check out her blog to find out how.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction

Week 43: Lift – Kelly Corrigan

This week’s book came to me in padded envelope, a most unexpected gift from a friend I have recently reconnected with thanks to facebook. I had seen this book before and loved its cover and size (more than perfect for this project) but just couldn’t come around to plopping down the money for such a tiny hardcover or even $9.99 for a Kindle version, which wouldn’t leave me the gorgeous dust jacket. So I just did what I did with it what I do a lot of things. I forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise when this showed up from the very friend that I promised to send a book to and without me telling her what it was (just that I love-love-loved it) she ended up checking out that very same unmentioned book at the library. Wowzers, right? Or even a bit cooky? Perhaps there are NO coincidences, Oprah. And for those of you wondering what other book I was talking about, take a look over here.

So back to this lovely little book, LIFT by Kelly Corrigan. You can read it about as fast as you can watch an episode of Glee or Parenthood, but I promise LIFT will be so much better. And I love Glee and Parenthood. LIFT is a letter to Corrigan’s daughters, 6 and 8, an attempt to make sure her daughters understand how they came to be. This seems driven by the fact that Corrigan once heard “the average person barely knows ten stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory.”

What? That sounds crazy and totally right all at once.

It’s heartbreaking that I am going to remember more of my kiddo’s childhood than he will. How will he not remember lying in bed and playing Two Truths and One Lie? Or just today volunteering to be the lead vocal on Beatles’ Rock Band I Want to Hold Your Hand? Or cutting just about all of his hair off right before his fourth Christmas? Well the last one I do have a picture of; but she’s right. I don’t remember much of my own childhood unless I am flipping through a photo album, and then it’s as fuzzy as the insta-matic prints staring up at me through the cellophane sleeves.

The stories Corrigan shares are a bit of a hodgepodge, which I think they would have to be when you sit down and put pen to paper for something like this. This book really is wonderful and yet it leaves me wanting more. Corrigan’s writing style is conversational and in reading it I really felt like we were chatting on the phone or nestled into a really comfy couch. She’s introspective and funny and cool and just the bees knees. That’s why I wanted more. Reading LIFT, is like talking to the best of your friends.

I haven’t read Corrigan’s first effort, THE MIDDLE PLACE, which chronicles her and her father’s bouts with cancer. However, I can tell you that after reading LIFT, I want to pick it up.


Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 96
Genre: Non-fiction

Week 36: Hector and the Search for Happiness – Francois Lelord

I think this was the first near miss of a week in the project so far. Not bad, considering I am past the halfway mark. It should be smooth sailing from this point on, right? I should have this whole book-a-week thing down to a science! Not so, dear readers. Not so.

I started the week fully intending to read a certain book that, try as I might, I could not get into. After five days of scratching at the surface of this book, something had to be done. So last night at 5:30 p.m., I made an executive decision. I dumped the once-intended book and headed over to the local neighborhood bookstore to pick up a gift for a friend and hoped to find a workable replacement.

I established just two requirements: It needed to be slender in size and of a subject matter that was easily consumed in less than six hours (not counting sleep and some errands I had to run was all I had until the kiddo came home and I was back on full-time Mommy duty). I know, my options where whittled down between slim and none. Imagine my delight, however, when I came across the very thin spine of this lovely little number with the whimsical cover design and super cute title font. Shallow, I know. But, hey, what’s a girl on a mission (and a rapidly approaching deadline) to do?

Well, this girl read the back cover and snatched this little beauty right up! And she can tell you that judging this sweet little book by its cover worked out like a gem because not only did she finish HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS just in the nick of time, but she found it utterly charming! Okay, enough with the third person weirdness.

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS is French psychiatrist Francois Lelord’s child-like fable about a fictional psychiatrist Hector’s concern with the amount of unhappiness he sees in his patients. So concerned is Hector, that he sets out on a tour of China, Africa and the U.S. (which is never named and only described as “the country of More”) to try and understand what it is that makes people happy in hopes that he can better help his own patients. It is through conversations and experiences with his international friends–and strangers he meets along the way– that he is able to glean a handful of nuggets about happiness.

While written as a fable, HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS is not a children’s book. Hector encounters real issues faced by adults everywhere, himself included. I found the simplistic style endearing and it made the book work. At the end of the day, many of the things that make us happy aren’t earth-shattering discoveries. They are simple things like being with the ones we love. They are things that, when we allow ourselves to live in the moment, jump out and come into full color and clear focus.

And stay tuned for more Hector. I have just learned that this is the first of a series of Hector books that are soon coming to America!

Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 192

Week 35: Still Missing – Chevy Stevens

Want to get away? I mean really away? I mean so away that you won’t even know that the place you have been transported to could even exist? I am not talking about alternate universes or some sort of fantastical made up world. No, I am talking about a modern-day, hair-raising thriller that will have you flying through the chapters, while double checking your locks at the same time. I am talking about a great recommendation for your next book club meeting. I am talking about STILL MISSING by newcomer–and one to watch–Chevy Stevens.

STILL MISSING features Annie O’Sullivan, a 32 year old realtor closing up shop after an ill-attended open house when a pleasant looking prospect pops in for just a peek. Knowing that her boyfriend Luke is patiently waiting on her for dinner, Annie hesitates to spend any extra time on an unlikely buyer. But a warm smile and friendly demeanor causes her to take the few extra minutes for one last showing. It’s that split second decision that changes everything for Annie. In just a matter of minutes, she’s being directed at gunpoint into a van, drugged and taken to a remote cabin in the mountains where she will remain missing for a year.

So have I just given everything away? Hardly.

The book actually opens with Annie having returned from this harrowing ordeal and recounting all of the events in counseling sessions to a therapist. Details that include her new life under the controlling arm of “The Freak”, as Annie calls him, a crazy psychopath who dresses her, bathes her, rapes her, tells her when she can go to the bathroom and directs what and when she can eat.

So what’s left to tell? A lot, actually.

Stevens’ second story line–Annie’s life in the present, seeking therapy and working with the police to solve her mystery–is chock full twists and turns that had me guessing until the end. In fact, no one in my entire book club was able to figure it out. A great sign of a good thriller, go figure. Many of us said that STILL MISSING is so frighteningly real that we had to keep reminding ourselves that this was a work of fiction and not a story ripped from the headlines. Most of us couldn’t read it at night, but were quick to pick it right back up during daylight hours. More signs of a good thriller.

It isn’t often that I am so repulsed by the actions of a story’s villian, yet so compelled to keep reading. I think that was due in large part to Stevens’ ability to capture the anger, fear and vulnerabilities a person like Annie would undoubtedly experience after such an ordeal under her crazed captor. It was fascinating to see how it would all eventually unfold. My only complaint with the story was around the very predictable interaction Annie had with the lead investigator on her case. It was completely unnecessary and didn’t do anything to propel the story forward. With that said, STILL MISSING is a highly engrossing read and one that leaves you thankful it’s a complete and total fabrication.

Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 352

Week 27: Secrets of Eden – Chris Bohjalian

Just hours after Alice Hayward is baptized, she’s found strangled to death in her home. Sitting a few feet away from Alice’s body is her also-dead husband George, his brains blown out against the living room window in what appears to be a murder-suicide. And so starts SECRETS OF EDEN, a really hard-to-put-down and engaging page turner by Chris Bohjalian the author of MIDWIVES and THE DOUBLE BIND.

SECRETS OF EDEN wastes no time setting up the story and leaving the residents of small town Haverville, Vermont (and the reader) left to try and understand what would cause upstanding community business leader George Hayward to snap so violently and inflict such pain and devastation, all the while leaving behind a 15 year old daughter, Katie. Yet there were a few people who knew what happened behind the closed doors of the Hayward home and it’s Bohjalian who utilizes four of these individuals to tell the story of their tragic ending. First up is Reverend Stephen Drew, a trusted confidante, aware of the pain and strife Alice encountered. Second is Catherine Benincasa, Haverville’s resident attorney called in to investigate the deaths (and already aware of the restraining order Alice had requested just months before her passing). Spiritual self-help author du jour Heather Laurent, herself an orphan due to domestic violence, enters the fray with hopes of supporting Katie. And finally, thoroughly devastated Katie herself.

Employing this multi-narrative strategy to tell the story could have been a mess, but proves otherwise due to Bohjalian’s ability to believably create four wholly unique individuals with different and often conflicting points of view. As each narrator spoke in first person, it established an intimacy that had me feeling like I, too, was a fellow resident or friend listening in and maybe even participating in the gossip that comes with such a scandal. I was also able to see the blind spots and gaps in each of their perspectives, as an effective first-person narrative allows you to do, and slowly piece together what I thought happened between Alice and George.

Now, I won’t tell you if I was successful in determining the conclusion. I will tell you that SECRETS OF EDEN was a quick read, perfect for a lazy summer weekend when you want to shut off the TV and delve into a story rich with character development and full of intrigue.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction

Week 25: The Mighty Queens of Freeville – Amy Dickinson

There was not a singular moment that signaled to Amy Dickinson her marriage was over. Not her husband showing up to counseling with a suitcase having just returned from a European vacation with a girlfriend. Not when he told her he no longer loved her. Not when he said that they no longer had anything in common. And not when he reminded her that most of the men in the lives of her family had left, so it was probably something she expected. Nope. It wasn’t until the moving trucks were sitting outside of her door that she registered the finality of their dissolution and was forced to move forward in life as a single mother. THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE is Dickinson’s account of her survival, and ultimate triumph, with the help of the women who had raised her.

It was my own mother, a single mom herself, who recommended this book to me after hearing about it on NPR or the morning news circuit or some talk show. See, Dickinson is actually a pretty famous person. She’s the Amy of “Ask Amy” the advice columnist who replaced Ann Landers. She also appears frequently on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” and “All Things Considered”. And she didn’t start out that way. No, she started in Freeville, NY a small town of fewer than 1,000 people. She started surrounded by strong women who keep on when the keeping on is all you can do. And when Dickinson needed to keep on for her own sake and that of her two year old daughter, it’s where she returned. Repeatedly.


Despite the title, the other women play a more secondary role than I expected. The book focuses on singular moments in Dickinson’s emergence from divorce into self-sufficient, single-mother. Yes, there were a number of times that she returned to Freeville (she even bought a ramshackle house for a mere $56K to serve as a second home and safe landing spot when she needed the comfort and reassurances of home). But the book really focused on Dickinson and her daughter, Emily. That being said, I found the book thoroughly engaging, humorous, poignant and full of resonating moments.


THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE came to me at a perfect time. My own single-motherhood status becomes officially official any day now and with that comes a mixture of emotions. While my situation is very different from Dickinson’s, the loss of a marriage is significant, mourn-worthy and creates some of the most challenging moments going forward and out into the world with a new status. Dickinson’s writing style is familiar and comforting and is probably one of the reasons she’s a successful advice columnist. She’s comfortable in her own skin, thanks to the independence and self-sufficiency gained early on when her own father left the family high and dry. She’s bright and engaging and a bit of a self-proclaimed dork which endeared her to me further.


THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE certainly has a niche demographic of readers in divorced single mothers, but I actually think it’s a great book for all women struggling, needing support of others, connecting with their own resiliency and surviving because of and in spite of everything they have experienced.


And with gems like these, how could you not want to pick it up?:
[blockquote]On Her Mother (After Her Father Left)

She simply prevailed. Prevailing is underrated. People have the idea that unless they win, they lose. But sometimes surviving is enough. My mother knew this, and I learned it by watching her.

On Dating

The search for connection is the most basic and beautiful impulse I have. I try to enjoy my efforts–even when they are misguided, not reciprocated or doofus in the extreme.

On Advice to Her College-bound Daughter

I told her that the feelings she has when she is young will be the same feelings when she’s old, and that she should try not to be afraid of them. I wanted her to be bold in her choices but careful in her actions. I told her never to be mean to someone who loved her, because regret is the only true casualty of love.[/blockquote]

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 240

Genre: Memoir