Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

I don’t know about you all but I am exhausted.  This new load of frozen from the sky has just about done me in.  Native Americans called tonight’s full moon The Full Hunger Moon.  Could it have been better named? I know I am not alone in being starved for some sun, the chance to show off a newly polished toe and a brisk stroll along a clean sidewalk.  The Traveling Companion who is home now assured me that the warmer climes would not have made me happy because, “it was a little humid.”  I was kindness personified and  let him live.  As if this week weren’t hard enough, we also have Valentine’s Day to deal with; a day fraught with ridiculous expectations, overpriced half dead plant material and bad restaurant meals.  Erin, Stephanie and I curate a collection all year long to counterbalance this.  It’s a little something we like to call 4-Ever Alone. This is a list of books and DVDs that we feel are full of cautionary material.  So please, enjoy and in the true spirit of the day do a kindness, give someone a hug, make a child happy and consume some worthy chocolate.  I am confident that Sweet Ann would totally endorse this message.  This week we have some romance, a major victory, tragedy, a cross roads, some serious sadness, a hijacking, and a brain tumor.   And we can’t forget The Playlist!

Let us begin!

Amanda has spent all winter prepping for our big romance novel push this month. Recently she read Eloise James’ Pleasure for Pleasure. “I was glad to read about a heroine, Josie, who was considered to be overweight within her own time. Thinking back on it, I can see James is taking a stab at our contemporary society which is too obsessed with unrealistic body types. I also enjoyed the topsy-turvy lives of the multiple characters interacting and swapping partners. However, while I enjoyed the rival's surprise twist, at the same time, I feel kind of ‘meh’ at the reveal which was used to explain the rival’s frigid attitude towards her fiancé. The other major romance in the background was far more interesting than that of Josie and her guy. Fortunately, about a third of the book was dedicated to that sizzling love affair. Overall, Pleasure for Pleasure is a quick read that provides a surprising commentary on modern society.”

Abby is reading Sycamore Row by John Grisham. “A while back I gave up on John Grisham. His books had become too formulaic to hold my attention. While there was still general excitement from people when he released a new book, I wasn’t reading him.  Then along came Sycamore Row. When the buzz started I became a little interested. This was followed by people I know loving the book. I am now about half-way through and cannot wait to have my lunch break so I can read more. Grisham revisits the characters from his earlier bestseller A Time to Kill. In Sycamore Row, we meet up again with Jake Brigance, the young lawyer with impressive courtroom skills who scored a major trial victory 3 years earlier. Jake enters new territory as he becomes involved in a complicated case of a hotly contested estate that comes with very high stakes. Issues of race, class, and jury strategy make for a book that’s hard to put down. “

Sweet Ann has just finished Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  “This is a kid’s book that was enjoyable, compelling and a fast read. Willow Chance is a genius and quite a character.   When she suffers a tragedy, she is surprised to discover that although she thought of herself as a loner, she was never truly alone.  This is a well written book that will draw you in quickly and bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.”

Pat T. has just finished Anna Quindlen's latest book Still Life with Bread Crumbs.  “This is about a woman in the crossroads of her life, juggling her elderly parents, adult son, a fading career as a respected photographer and financial insecurity. In an effort to economize, she rents out her New York City apartment and retreats to a rural dilapidated cabin in upstate New York. As she adapts to this simpler way of life, she finds love and resurgence in her career. This book was an enjoyable read, despite its predictable outcome.”

By now you all have met Virginia, The Tall Cool Texan. She is here this week to share a sadness that befell her recently.  I know you all join me in sending her some healing thoughts. This is her review of Jon Katz’s Going Home.  “The past couple of weeks have been traumatic for me to say the least.  I had to say goodbye to my beloved dog, Venus.  After two bouts of cancer and being 14 years old, her death was not unexpected, but I have to say, the depth of my grief has been surprising.  For some reason, it has really made me question faith, the animal-human hierarchy and death in general.  Being the book lover I am, I turned to the library to help give me answers and soothe my soul.  In the past week, I have been through four different books and each one has given me a better understanding of my grief and brought me different levels of comfort but so far, one has really stood out from the rest.  Jon Katz's Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die is about his own personal struggle in dealing with his grief after losing his beloved companion, Orson.  I think the reason the book resonated so much with me, was because of his honesty and matter-of-fact writing style.  There is one particular passage in the book that I have read and reread dozens of times.  It is a letter to you, the reader, as if written by your dog, and one passage always jumps out at me, ‘By now, you must know that there is always a goodbye hovering in the shadow of a dog.  We are never here for long or for long enough.  We were never meant to share all of your life, only to mark its passages. I hope, in your grief and loneliness, that you will consider how sad it would have been had we not had this time together, not had the chance to give each so much.‘ In fact, this letter brings me so much comfort, that I wrote it out and keep it in my bedside table so I can read it every night.  I don't think there is a higher compliment to pay an author than to say this book will stay with me and I will forever recommend it to anyone struggling with the death of a pet and looking for a little peace.”

Stephanie, while very lovely, is delusional. NOTHING could take one’s mind away from the weather. With the exception, perhaps, a plane ticket to someplace warm and lovely with a return date of sometime in late April.  Yeah.  That could work. “This week I took a chance on Baptism, by Max Kinnings. This is a new thriller from the UK the centers around a train being hijacked and held stationary in a tunnel under the heart of London. Hostage negotiator Ed Mallory is charged with finding out who's behind the terrorist attack and what they want. Time is scarce, because the hijacker has flooded the tunnel the train is stuck in and water is rising rapidly. As you can tell, it's a classic thriller set-up, and Kinnings executes it fairly well, with all the short chapters, point of view changes, and clinched language you'd expect. Is it the greatest book I read this year? Well, no, but it was a great page-turner, full of tension and twists, and it took my mind off the weather entirely.”

DJ Patty McC wants to make it perfectly clear to everyone that she is in no way responsible for the latest Snowmageddon.  Ok Patty, we hear you.  “Well now here we are buried once again under a heavy white blanket of snow.  I can share that I have not returned from a trip, so y’all can’t pin this storm on me.  I’ve been contemplating priorities as of late and so it will come as no surprise that I picked up The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons by David Menasche.  David is a high school English teacher who is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. One of his greatest joys in life was teaching, empowering and mentoring his students; helping them find their voice and connecting them with their passions. The disease took that from him but not before he and his students are able to share their stories and journey.  Get your tissue boxes handy.  May this Valentine’s Day help us gather some perspective, make our own priority lists and hold those we love ever closer AND don’t forget the chocolate or the music.  You’re going to need a soundtrack and a bigger shovel.

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