Seasonal Fare–The Winter Quartet by Elin Hilderbrand

This poignant series follows the Quinn family, owners of the Winter Street Inn on Nantucket. I have looked forward to each new installment of this series for the past four years. Hilderbrand’s books have wonderful descriptions and characters that make you feel as if you are celebrating the holidays on Winter Street in the company of this flawed and loving family. Enjoy!

Seasonal Fare–The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

christmastrain

A short and sweet holiday tale from acclaimed suspense novelist David Baldacci.

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington D.C. to L.A in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people’s essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.

Seasonal Fare–Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

skippingchristmas

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences – and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.

Seasonal Fare–The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

gift

This month’s theme is “seasonal fare.” Fun, sweet fiction that centers around the holidays. My first pick is The Gift by Cecelia Ahern. In this modern-day fable, workaholic executive Lou Steffen shows an uncharacteristic burst of generosity towards Gabe, a homeless man who always seems to be in two places at once. With Lou’s personal and professional fates at important crossroads and Christmas looming, Gabe resorts to some unorthodox methods to show his stubborn patron what truly matters and how precious the gift of time is. But can Gabe help Lou fix what’s broken before it’s too late?

Oh No! Not More Snow!

More snow? More snow means more time in the house with the family. Snow days are always fun and special. We love to stay snuggled up in our cozy houses, curled up on the couch with a good book or movie. You make special meals and spend hours in the kitchen conjuring up warm surprises for your delighted family. It is picture perfect: warm house, happy family and the dog lying by the fire…..

 

Winter is a perfect time for experiments in the kitchen. I have tried two new recipes during the most recent weekend snowstorms. I whipped up King Arthur Flour’s Crumb Coffee Cake (page 98)from The King Arthur Flour  Baker’s Companion. This coffee cake was most delicious and devoured up by everyone. I would say a definite win in my house. The next recipe was picked out by my daughter. I had brought home Rachel Ray’s Look + Cook and she had flagged the Chicken Ragu recipe  (page 28)as one that she would like to try. Off to the kitchen I went, excited with my new recipe in hand. I was so proud of my new concoction and it was delectable.

In my house, you can always find a head or two buried away between the pages of a novel. During these dark and cold evenings, we like to have a pile of books stashed on our kitchen table.  We are currently ensconced in the following OWL reads:

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The novel is about an uncompromising architect who refuses to change his designs, and when he discovers the plans for one of his buildings has been altered, he destroys the structure and tries to defend his actions.

Next in pile is the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This futuristic story delivers equal parts suspense, philosophy, adventure and romance. The games are harsh and cruel as each district in the state has to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death broadcasted on live television. The Hunger Games is heart wrenching as well as action packed.  The young adult  trilogy consists of Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

For my own reading, I welcomed two favorite authors. They never disappoint me. Curling up on the couch and reading these books were as comfortable as my old sweats and my Red Sox blanket.  I read Bad Blood by John Sandford, a Virgil Flowers novel. Flowers digs up the dirt on a cultist church, romances the town sheriff and has an old fashioned shoot’em up as he stops the villains. I then welcomed Deception by Jonathan Kellerman, another adventure with the mild mannered psychologist Alex Delaware and the nonconformist LA detective Milo Sturgis. This mystery is less about action and more brain power to solve the puzzle.

Movies are also a favorite past time during our winter evenings.  We enjoyed watching Winter’s Bone; a movie about a seventeen-year-old girl who sets out to find her father who put their house up for his bail bond and then disappeared. The father was arrested for cooking crack. If she fails to find him, she and her family will be homeless. Challenging her family’s code of silence and risking her life, she weeds her way through the lies and threats offered up by her relatives and begins to discover the truth. 

The movie marathon continues as we then watched The Town.  The film is about a longtime thief who tries to balance his romance with a bank manager who is connected to one of his earlier bank heists.The movie is set in Boston and having Fenway as part of the film won some points in my house.

While they were  watching  The Town, I had the pleasure of watching one of my favorite Doris Day movies, With Six You Get an Eggroll . She plays a widow with three sons who elopes with a widower with a daughter. Together, they must deal with the antics of their children.

I am very thankful that the eight day forecast does not have any snow in it! Maybe we can all thaw out a little.

This post is authored by Audra, who is ready for spring and yes, Spring Training.

Top Ten of 2010

Greetings my fellow readers!  I finally  finished up my 2010 reading journal and I am currently preparing my first entry for my 2011 journal. Throughout the year, I keep an ongoing list in a journal of all the books I have read. I have also been keeping track of other items I have taken home from the OWL.  I actually keep a tally of not only the books but also the  movies, magazines and music cds I have brought home. It is fun to look back and see all the great entries I have made. I thought I would share my top ten check outs of 2010 with you–(please feel free to share your top 10 in the comment box below. I look forward to reading them!)

 

1.Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons: The album is by far my favorite check out of 2010!  The band consists of four young men from West London. Their songs are an eclectic  mix between bluegrass, folk and old world charm. They really make you feel the words and their message. The website sums it up beautifully ” Feel the fire in your belly and the romance in your heart as you listen, let your voice break into rapture – and you too, sigh no more”. Check this album out and you won’t be disappointed!

2. Daughters of Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt: Based on the infamous 1612 Lancashire witch trials, Sharratt’s latest novel portrays the religious turmoil and hard life of 17th-century rural England.  What makes this story fabulous are two main characters: Bess Southerns and her feisty granddaughter Alizon Device. Bess is a healing woman, able to cure animals and people with herbal folk magic. She strives to do only good, but when she teaches her dear friend the witchcraft, she releases a curse of revenge and evil. Years later, Alizon comes into the power herself but denies it, and this leads to tragedy.  The story has you rooting for Bess and cringing at the treatment of the women and their families in the prisons. A great read but not for the faint-hearted! I loved this book.

3. Compromising Positions by Susan Isaacs: Long Island housewife, Judith Singer, is incredibly bored with her marriage and her life. So when her dentist is murdered and the suspect is her neighbor, Judith is only too happy to stick her nose into the investigation. Judith delves deeper into the murder and deeper into the throngs of  an affair she has with the lead police investigator. This book was recommended by a patron and I am glad he did. The read was pure entertainment and a very interesting look into the lives of the 70’s housewives! Did anyone stay faithful?

4. IT Crowd Season 4: In season four, the It Crowd try yet again to socialize with the people upstairs at Reynholm Industries, Jen tries to her talents as the new Entertainment Manager and later pretending that she can act as an Italian translator for Douglas; and Moss proves a whiz on the  Countdown TV game show. I have never laughed so hard watching a show–EVER. The show is hysterical!  (ps the OWL owns all four seasons)

5. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: “An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfying complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel”.  (From the Trade Paperback edition). I really enjoyed the mystery and thrill of this first book in Stieg’s trilogy, however I did not enjoy the 2nd book, Girl Who Played with Fire, as much. I am on the waiting list for last book, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest . I hear this is the best one yet. I look forward to reading it.

6. Minds Eye by Hakan Nesser: This is the  first novel in the Inspector Van Veeteren series. The series is set in Sweden. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is a grumpy investigator that has a rather unsettled personal life.  Van Veeteren is philosophical, with a dry wit that makes this an enjoyable read. In this mystery, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren knows that murder cases are never as clear as they appear: Janek Mitter woke one morning with a brutal hangover and discovered his wife of three months dead in the bathtub. Without a clear alibi, Mitter is found guilty of a drunken crime of passion and sentenced to a mental institution. But questions arise of his guilt when Mitter also becomes a murder victim. Now the chief inspector launches an  investigation into the two murders. But it may only be through a mysterious letter that Mitter wrote shortly before his death that will finally allow Van Veeteren to find the real killer. If you like a mystery and are a fan of the hunt- Nesser is for you.

7. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen: Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town. Two very different women, Julia and Emily, discover how to find their place in the world no matter how out of place they feel. They discover that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby; they’re a way of life. Allen weaves her fantasy elements into this story through magical wallpaper that changes to suit your mood or lights that skip across the yard at midnight and mystical cakes. Julia  bakes cakes to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but she also bakes  in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Can a cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s moonlight backyard?  Allen writes nice stories that are not too “sweet”. This book is great entertainment.

8. Ruby Blue by Roisin Murphy: Funky, jazzy and electric are words that I would use to describe this album. The songs are a mix of dance rhythms, organic drums and funky piano tunes. It has been described as having a “psychedelic quirky edge and is an entertaining, slightly bizarre solo debut. Lots of fun”(amazon). Good album to listen to while I do my yard and house work.

9.  Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson: In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. The Major leads a quiet life filled with the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for years: honor, duty, and a of course, a good cup of tea. The Major and a Pakistani shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali are drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses. They soon discover they have romantic feelings for each other. Can their relationship survive the differences of their culture and tradition? Major Pettigrew is a wonderful story. A great read for a cold winter’s night!

10. College Board Book of Majors : This is great resource for those hunting for colleges. The book offers information on over nine hundred college majors, including possible course studies, career paths, and guidance on which high school courses are recommended for the student to take prior to college. The Book of Majors helps narrow the path for the student and offers helpful insights for their future. It was a tremendous help in our house. I brought it home and left it on the kitchen table for perusal. The teenager took the bait 🙂

This post is written by Audra, who is jotting down her first entry of 2011: Florence + The Machine’s album, Lungs

Jack Is Back….

We all have our guilty pleasures with reading (or at least I admit that I do). Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is mine!  I have been saving Lee Child’s novel Gone Tomorrow for my summer reading and now I can add one more book to my list, his newest book 61 Hours!

“Reacher is a hard man. No job, no address, no baggage. Nothing at all, except hardheaded curiosity.” (excerpted from Nothing to Lose

I am unabashedly in love with Jack Reacher. This is by far one of the best recommended reads that I have received from my fellow patrons. Lee Child has a strong legion of fans– both men and women alike love the ex- military policeman drifting along the country saving strangers. These thrillers are not for the faint hearted; they are filled with action, violence and mystery. Buckle up for a thrill ride with Mr. Jack Reacher!

For those of you that are hard core fans, you must check out Lee Child’s website. ( Thanks to  www.leechild.com! I used some of the vast information on Reacher for this blog post.) If you ever have imagined what Jack Reacher would look like or wanted to know more about him, his bio is on the website 🙂

There are in total 14 Jack Reacher Books:

Killing Floor: This is your introduction into the world of Jack, the ex-military policeman passing through Margrave, Georgia.  He has been arrested for murder which we know couldn’t possibly be true. Jack must clear his name and find the real killers.

Die Trying:  Jack once again finds himself at the wrong place in the wrong time only this time he is wandering around Chicago. Reacher gets abducted in broad daylight along with a woman– together they must escape from a wilderness prison. If anyone can save them, Jack can!

Tripwire: Reacher’s lazy anonymity in Key West is shattered by a stranger who comes to town searching for him but ends up dead. Following the man’s trail back to New York, he finds an elderly couple still mourning a son lost in Vietnam, a woman Reacher can’t forget, and a most vicious opponent.

Running Blind: A clever killer is murdering women and there is one connection between all of them- Jack Reacher.

Echo Burning: We find Jack hitching rides across the hot state of Texas. The big man is having a hard time finding a ride. His luck changes when a beautiful woman picks him up in an air-conditioned caddy.  Of course, she is just another damsel in distress waiting for Reacher to save her. Can he save her from her monster husband and his family? What do you think?

Without Fail: The Secret Service is calling Reacher. Can he help them protect the Vice President? Only Jack has the head and the heart to corner the bad guys and bring them to justice.

Persuader: Unfinished business has found Jack and he is a man who must finish his business. Someone got away with murder ten years ago and now Jack has found him…. and he is ready to tie up some loose ends.

The Enemy: Renegade Jack has been ordered to “control the situation” at hand when a two-star general is murdered in a seedy motel in North Carolina.

One Shot:  In the book’s gripping opening, five people are killed when a shooter opens fire in a small unnamed Indiana city. When the sniper is apprehended, he refuses to talk, saying only, “Get Jack Reacher for me.” But Reacher’s already on his way. The sniper has done this before, and Jack has had enough.

The Hard Way:  Hot New York City is the setting for this thriller. Reacher is hired to hunt down a family that has been kidnapped.  On the trail of the vicious kidnapper, Jack discovers his employer has many dangerous secrets and he is in way too deep to get out.

Bad Luck and Trouble:  This novel leads us to the lights of Vegas and the evils of international terror. Jack unites with some of his old army unit buddies to investigate a brutal murder of man they all knew.

Nothing to Lose: Reacher ends up in the middle of a battle between two towns, aptly named Hope and Despair. One town wants his help and the other wants Reacher gone.

Gone Tomorrow:  A subway ride in the dead of night ought to be a safe trip when you are built like Jack Reacher, but not when there’s a bomber on board

61 Hours: It is winter in South Dakota. Blinding snow and an icy highway cause a bus crash. Good thing Jack is on the bus, because something nastier than the weather is on its way…..

Worth Dying For Due to come out September 30th 2010. Makes a nice “bookend” to my summer reading with Jack Reacher. Get your name on our reserve list now! 

This post was authored by Audra who is counting the days til school is over and summer begins!

They’re Magically Delicious–

 

In Magical Realism the writers interweave, in an ever-shifting pattern, a sharply etched realism in representing ordinary events and descriptive details together with fantastic and dreamlike elements, as well as with materials derived from myth and fairy tales.* The stories weave enchanting spellbinding plots that offer dramatic and romantic journeys for the readers. Whether the spell cast through food, music or just through plain old fashioned chants– the stories will leave you desiring more– the sinful indulgences and the bewitching ways of these mesmerizing women. The books all have a fun lyrical quality that makes the reading even more enjoyable.

 After some major “fisticuffs” in the back room of the OWL, I absconded with the fresh new copy of Sarah Addison Allen’s newest gem The Sugar Queen. Her first book, Garden Spells was a mystical delight filled with all the right elements for an entertaining read. In her stories Allen weaves romance, supernatural powers and transforms everyday life into magic.

For the most part Sarah Addison Allen’s books are filled with refreshing and enchanting characters with a mix of mystical love potions. Sugar Queen was a fabulous follow up from her debut novel and I look forward to her next novel in 2009. I really enjoyed the candy theme as well. Each chapter is titled after an old favorite! Lemon Drops, Sour Patch,Mellowcreme Pumpkins– ahh and off I go to the Litchfield Candy Company– Want my advice? Stock up before reading this book!

My suggestions for some good magical reading!—

The Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (FIC ESQ) A novel in monthly installments with recipes, romance and home remedies.

Law of Love by Laura Esquivel (FIC ESQ) A story of time travel and reincarnation accompanied with Puccini arias and Mexican danzones( cd included with book).

Chocolate by Joanne Harris (FIC HAR) A beautiful woman vexes the villagers with her confections.

Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman. (FIC HOF) ” Everyone in town is somehow touched by Nora, the women,who are at once jealous of her sensuousness and emboldened by her example.. the men, who discover a mixture of female power and passion beyond their previous experience…..”

Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint (FIC DEL) An artist has the power to craft images so real they come to life.

The Last Song of Dusk by Siddarth Dhanvant Shanghvi(FIC SHAA young woman has a gift for singing songs so alluring….

You may want to get on the request list for these–they are worth the wait!
As I am writing this entry– I have the Eagle’s song bewitching me!
 

“Witchy Woman

 

Raven hair and ruby lips
sparks fly from her finger tips
Echoed voices in the night
she’s a restless spirit on an endless flight
wooo hooo witchy woman, see how
high she flies
woo hoo witchy woman she got
the moon in her eye
She held me spellbound in the night…
* The Eages are on order so check our shelves soon!

 This post is brought to you by Audra– Enchantress of the OWL (ha)

*adaptation from M.H. Abrams’ A Glossary of Literary Terms, 6th ed. (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1993) as cited by Dr. Robert P. Fletcher of West Chester University.

*picture from Marvel Comics