Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Little Pink Houses

A few years ago, my daughter announced mere days before Christmas that Santa was bringing her a pink dollhouse. Santa, who thought she had everything checked off on her list, then made a mad dash to stores big and small to find one that was indeed pink and that could be purchased with what was left of the gift budget. Christmas morning arrived. The flicker of disappointment that it wasn't the dollhouse she had dreamed of in size or hue (only the roof was pink) lasted a moment, but soon the allure of playing with a new toy took over.

If I had only had read this book that year, Santa may have been a bit more sensible. The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney is set in the Depression. It's almost Christmas, but as Nella tells us, Santy Claus only shows up "once in a while" for her and her sisters. This year, though, she has her heart set on a store bought doll. When her dad surprises them with the Baby Betty doll, Nella convinces her sisters it should belong to her. As the day progresses, Nella realizes the doll is kind of boring when left with it on her own. 

Pinkney paints the family in vivid colors in contrast to the faded-newspaper walls of their home. Through deft sketches of posture and facial expressions, he also captures the conflicting emotions of elation, frustration, resignation, and contentment. Emotions that are as predictable on Christmas morning as the orange in one's stocking. And as palpable as Santa's sigh of relief.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"How I Came to Sparkle Again"

The title of this novel caught my eye. Maybe it's because I've felt less than "sparkly" lately. Usually when that happens I find a book set here.

It was a welcome change, then, to find Kayla McLaren's book. As in most novels of this kind, the characters are dealing with loss. But there is a comforting satisfaction in knowing that everyone will end up with a new resolve or a new love as they are running down the beach, or in this case, skiing down a mountain. 

Jill has just had a miscarriage and discovered her husband with another woman. She decides go back to Sparkle, Colorado, a place she called home when she was a teenager. There she finds her old friend Lisa, who is struggling to find love in the small town filled with ski bums and tourists. Living nearby is a young girl, Cassie, who is grieving for her mother.  

Jill finds temporary lodging with Lisa's neighbors and their dogs in a trailer home dubbed the Kennel. It is here the novel finds relief from all the heartache and inserts some touchingly comic moments. Jill also starts babysitting Cassie and helps her find ways to channel her grief.  As Lisa tries to mend her ways, she stops teasing and starts listening to her friend Tom.   

Though it may be predictable, sometimes hot chocolate by a warm fire, snow falling outside, is all you need. Even if it's only on the page.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"tiger princess on her invisible skates"

Have you ever wondered what your new love interest is thinking about? Ellen, the protagonist of Liane Moriarty's newest novel, skips all that barking like a dog nonsense and goes straight for the good stuff when she hypnotizes her new boyfriend. 

Ellen is a professional hypnotherapist living in Sydney. She has a fulfilling practice, lives in a beautiful glass-walled house on the beach, and has a new boyfriend.  All is going along swimmingly until she discovers Patrick is being stalked by his ex. Ellen is more intrigued than freaked when she soon figures out the ex, Saskia, has been masquerading as one of her clients. 

Saskia has been following Patrick and his son Jake for the past three years. She met him soon after his wife died and became a de facto mother for the young Jake. When Patrick breaks up with her she is devastated. And determined to get him back. 

Told alternately by Saskia and Ellen, the novel paints a sympathetic picture of both. We feel sorry for Saskia and cringe with Ellen as she turns up again and again to invade their privacy. 

Moriarty has filled her novel with a full cast of witty, memorable characters from Ellen's aloof mother to Saskia's coworker's wife Kate.  The plot will keep you turning pages, but Moriarty's clever turn of phrase (see post title) will keep you on the page. The Hypnotist's Love Story - it's not an exaggeration to say it was mesmerizing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I love this time of year and all the book lists it yields. Here are a few more that peaked my interest.

For the cook

For the fictitious

For the kid

For the history buff

For the mom

For the winner

For the stay-up-all-night-reader