Monthly Archives: January 2009

A Collective Thank You…

I am simply overwhelmed by the wonderful emails, e-cards and comments…and am once again reminded of the caring and wonderful hearts found within this community of bloggers and book group readers. I would like to respond individually to each of you, but instead decided to post this collective thank you. Please know I am reading your loving words and it helps me with the pain of Caribou’s loss. Many of you expressed surprise at her passing because she appeared to be getting better…so I thought I would give a bit of an explanation.

Three weeks ago, Caribou fell ill – a visit to the vet provided no definitive diagnosis, but we were strongly suspicious of spleen cancer. Canine spleen cancer is horribly aggressive. There is no effective treatment to prolong the dog’s life and life expectancy is typically 18 to 28 days once diagnosed. Caribou survived 24 days.

A week ago Caribou had a frightening episode where she suddenly lost control of her hind quarters and fell down. She was weak and unsteady for two days and then seemed to rally and get better. In retrospect, this was the first real sign that her spleen had begun to hemorrhage and her collapse was due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.  But at the time, I was hopeful. Perhaps this is a good time to say that in the last 24 days Caribou mostly enjoyed her life. She was not in pain. She played with her toys and even chased a couple of squirrels. She woke up every morning with a smile and “can do” attitude with which she always faced the world. It was easy to pretend all was going to be okay.

On Monday, however, I began to feel uneasy. Something was not right with my girl and I was growing fearful that there might be something I had not done for her. I contacted a wonderful vet – Dr. Jen – who is a certified acupuncturist and who had helped Caribou years ago when she tore a muscle. Our appointment was yesterday. Caribou woke up seemingly okay, but as the day progressed, she seemed not like herself. By the time we got to Dr. Jen’s office, she was very lethargic. Dr. Jen gave her a thorough exam and I agreed to a 10 minute ultrasound of Caribou’s belly which confirmed our worst fears. There was a large tumor on the spleen and Caribou was actively bleeding into the capsule around the spleen. Unable to make a decision, and shocked at how quickly things were changing, Kip and I took Caribou home…hoping we would get a little more time with her. That was not to be.

Caribou’s condition worsened. We had been told that eventually the spleen would rupture and this would be catastrophic, traumatic and painful for Caribou. I knew I could never allow her to be frightened or in pain. So we called Dr. Jen who drove the 30 minutes to our home to help ease Caribou’s passing. She was in my arms, laying on her bed and with all her toys and possessions around her. At one point, she looked at me and I saw she was ready even though I never would be.

It is so hard to lose Caribou – she was so special in so many ways…from being my partner in Search and Rescue, to being the reason I got out of bed each day during a period of very deep depression, to introducing me to Kip. She was my unwavering friend, walking by my side each day and accepting me for who I am. And in the end, I am grateful that she was able to die the way she lived – with dignity and peace.

50 Must Read Novels

classiclit1 I have seen a few other bloggers creating their own Best Lists of books – and I decided I would do the same. The list below are books I have read which I think are MUST READS. Many of these have been reviewed on Caribousmom – you can find all books reviewed (alphabetically by author) here. I decided to pare the list down to 50 books of fiction (in no particular order). Have you read any of these? What would make your top 50 must read novels?

  1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  2. The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
  3. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  4. Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  6. The Stand, by Stephen King
  7. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving
  9. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
  10. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
  11. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
  12. The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
  13. Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
  14. The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
  15. The Country of Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett
  16. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  17. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
  18. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
  19. The Lone Pilgrim, by Laurie Colwin
  20. The Road Home, by Rose Tremain
  21. Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
  22. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
  23. The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
  24. The Secret River, by Kate Grenville
  25. Snowflower and The Secret Fan, by Lisa See
  26. So Big, by Edna Ferber
  27. The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub
  28. Talk Before Sleep, by Elizabeth Berg
  29. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
  30. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Housseini
  31. Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler
  32. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  33. The Colour, by Rose Tremain
  34. Crime and Punishment, by F.M. Doestevsky
  35. Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
  36. Guernica, by Dave Boling
  37. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  38. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
  39. The Outlander, by Gil Adamson
  40. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  41. The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx
  42. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
  43. Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky
  44. …And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Hooven Santmyer
  45. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  46. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
  47. How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn
  48. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  49. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  50. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Weekly Geeks: 2009-03

weeklygeeks In the third Weekly Geeks of 2009, it is all about the classics. Ali is defining classics as anything 100 years old or older – I’m going to be more liberal with the definition because I have some great classics to share with you which were written in the 1930s.

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don’t get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it!

When most people think of the classics, they think of Dickens or Austen or Tolstoy or Wharton. And while I have read from these classic authors, they can be a little intimidating (although War and Peace is still in my top 10 reads of all time, and Anna Karenina is a must read for readers who want a good taste of classic literature). I also think immediately of John Steinbeck when I think of classics. I’ve read several of his books, but my favorite is The Grapes of Wrath (read my review).

But what about the lesser known classics?

For readers new to this type of literature, I would recommend books by Edna Ferber who wrote in the 1920s. So Big, her novel about a gambler’s daughter, won her the Pulitzer Prize. I loved this novel which is set in the farm country outside of Chicago (read my review).

Another engaging author of classic literature is Pearl S. Buck. Written in 1931, The Good Earth is the first in a trilogy about a Chinese farmer. The book has been banned in China, but it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 (read my review).

Sarah Orne Jewett wrote in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Her work is almost poetic and she was skilled at creating character. The Country of Pointed Firs (written in 1896) is perhaps her best known work – and a story I simply loved (read my review). Set on the coast of Maine over the course of one summer, it is a delightful and easy read.

Lastly, Daphne du Maurier wrote classic gothic novels in the 1930s – and Rebecca is perhaps her most famous (read my review). Filled with suspense and quite atmospheric, it is one of the best in the genre.

Other books I can recommend for classic reading are:

  • How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn (written in 1939 and winner of the National Book Award) – read my review
  • Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak (translated from the Russian in 1958) – read my review
  • The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins (written in 1868) – a classic detective/mystery
  • Candide, by Voltaire (written in 1759) – read my review

3) Let’s say you’re vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don’t find her a book, she’ll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her?

There are plenty of good “new classics” out there. Here are a few I think cousin Myrtle might like:

4) As you explore the other Weekly Geeks posts: Did any inspire you to want to read a book you’ve never read before—or reread one to give it another chance? Tell us all about it, including a link to the post or posts that sparked your interest. If you end up reading the book, be sure to include a link to your post about it in a future Weekly Geeks post!

This was a fun week! I enjoyed reading through other bloggers’ posts. Some that stood out for me, and introduced me to some “new” books to read were:

Suey from It’s All About Books reminded me of some classic authors I should pick up one of these days (including John Galsworthy and George Eliot)

Marineko at Dreaming Out Loud who mentioned some classic childrens books which I want to read or re-read (such as The Wind in the Willows and The Railway Children)

Gavin at Page 247 introduced me to some brand new authors and books (including The House on the Borderlands by William Hope Hodgson, AND The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic)

Noteworthy News – January 28, 2009


January 28, 2009


You may remember from my last Noteworthy News that I talked about how foreign journalists risk their lives by simply doing their jobs. Well, apparently one of the most dangerous place to be a journalist these days is in Russia. On January 19th prominent attorney Stanislav Markelov, 34, who represented the Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta in various trials, and Anastasia Baburova, 25, who wrote about Russian fascists for the paper were murdered. Spiegel Online International recently reported:

With the exception of countries like Iraq where conditions approach those of a civil war at times, nowhere is the life of a journalist more dangerous than in Russia. And none of the country’s 14,000 newspapers has had more victims of violence than Novaya Gazeta.

The newspaper has exposed corruption and the notorious infiltration of government law enforcement organizations by criminal groups. Its reporters have denounced human rights violations in the Caucasus and growing xenophobia. The individuals who contracted last week’s double murder likely stem from the milieus of military or intelligence officials, right-wing extremists, Chechens or possibly government bureaucrats whose illicit sources of income are threatened by the newspaper’s investigative reporting.

The article goes on to say that the Novaya Gazeta wants to arm its journalists with pistols. Who would have thought writers would have to go to such extremes?

read_poster_15_19 It is no secret that our new President is a reader – but have you read this article about what books influenced him? The author of the article writes (in part):

[…] his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

bouheadshot20001 Do you see that gorgeous fur coat which Caribou sports? Her undercoat floats around my house and covers my carpets…so you can imagine my interest in this article about knitting sweaters from your pet’s fur. Does anyone know how to spin yarn? I don’t, but I’m willing to learn!

Have you found anything interesting in the news lately? If so, drop me a comment with a link!

Mailbox Monday – January 26, 2009

mailboxmonday Here is what arrived at my home this week:

ninelivesNine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans, by Dan Baum came through a Shelf Awareness offer from Spiegel & Grau. Dan Baum is a former staff writer for the New Yorker, and he uses his skills as a journalist to write this documentary of sorts about nine different people who lived in New Orleans over a forty year period bracketed by two hurricanes. I’ve read a little about how this book came to be…and it looks fascinating.

longfallThe Long Fall, by Walter Mosley also arrived through a Shelf Awareness offer, this time from Riverhead Books. This novel is a mystery and will be the first in a new series written by this renowned American author. I have yet to read a Mosley book, but have wanted to for a long time. Now I get the chance to read a first in a new series by him, and I’m excited!

galwaybayGalway Bay, by Mary Pat Kelly was sent to me by the wonderful Miriam Parker from Hachette Books. This chunky family saga follows a young family from Ireland as they immigrate to America during The Great Starvation. I accepted this book as part of a blog tour which launces March 19th. I am eager to read this one – it spoke to me the moment I hefted its weight in my hands.

So what did you find on your front steps or poking out from inside your mailbox this week? Visit Marcia at today’s Mailbox Monday to get links to other reader’s aquistions and to leave a link to YOUR post.

Themed Reading Challenge: Links for February/March Reviews


REMINDER: This challenge starts FEBRUARY 1st!

Need to sign up for the challenge? Visit THIS POST.

Please come back here to post your reviews of books read in February and March by using Mr. Linky. There will be a link in my sidebar to find this post again. A new Mr. Linky will post for April/May reviews on April 1st (and this Mr. Linky will close on April 7th).

**Links should link DIRECTLY to your posted review (not just to your home page of your blog). Reviews linked incorrectly will be deleted from Mr. Linky (I will first attempt to fix the link, but if I cannot find your review, I will not be able to correct any problems with the link). Thanks!

1. Confessions of a Shopoholic (Nely)
2. Ella Minnow Pea
3. Into a Paris Quartier (Cafeshree)
4. Driven (Christina)
5. Summer in Gascony (Cafeshree)
6. Tough Cookie
7. Sugar Daddy (Tiny Librarian)
8. Almost French (Cafeshree)
9. LizzySiddal (Summer in February)
10. claire (Laughable Loves)
11. claire (The History of Love)
12. Narrow Dog to Carcassone (Cafeshree)
13. Teddy (The Kingmaking)
14. Sari
15. He\’s Just Not That Into You (Nely)
16. Samantha (Her Royal Spyness)
17. Shelley Munro
18. Shelley Munro
19. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (Tiny Librarian)
20. The Writing Class
21. Laura (Retroredux)
22. Stardust (Nely)
23. The Inimitable Jeeves (Book Psmith)
24. Kindred Spirits (Lexie)
25. Lost in Shadow (Lexie)
26. Pretties (Amanda)
27. The Phantom of the Opera (Penny)
28. Veronica (Purple Hibiscus)
29. The Way He Lived (Maw Books)
30. The 13th Reality (Maw Books)
31. Dead Sexy (Kara)
32. Night\’s Touch
33. The Vampire Shrink (Kara)
34. J.G. (Hotchpot Cafe)
35. LizzySiddal (March Violets)
36. The City of Ember (Nely)
37. Back to School Murder (Yvonne)

Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.

Sunday Salon – January 25, 2009

Sunday Salon

January 25, 2009

9:30 AM

It is a cold day here in Northern California and the trees are laden with heavy snow and ice. I am looking forward to reading and relaxing.

Last week I spent several days doing absolutely nothing but recovering from a nasty flu. I was so sick, I did not even want to read. Had I not been ill, I would have finished my latest book – Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – midweek. Instead I read nonstop Friday and Saturday, knocking off nearly 400 pages in two days and finished the novel late yesterday. Wow. Have any of you read this Gothic tale? I loved it (read my review). Waters is so skilled at setting scene and atmosphere – and in Fingersmith her unnerving plot twists kept me on the edge of my seat.

Previous to Fingersmith, I finished reading After the Floods which is largely mystical realism. I am not a huge fan of that genre – but I give kudos to author Bruce Henricksen for his beautiful prose. This guy can write…and had I liked the genre better, I would have given the book a higher rating. Either way, it was worth the read and I am happy the author sent me his book (read my review).

I cracked open The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker last night. This is Baker’s debut novel and was released earlier this month through Hachette Book Group. This book is about an oversized woman living in a small town. I am only 45 pages into the book, so I don’t have a lot to say about plot…but I am loving the characters. Baker reminds me of a female John Irving in that her characters are quirky and the reader feels like they are people she knows. I think I am going to really like this book – stay tuned for a review by Wednesday.

Did any of you catch my guest post/book tour for Kirk Curnutt’s book Breathing Out the Ghost last Monday? If not, you can read the review here, and the book tour post here (which includes a meditation by the author about missing children).  Curnutt’s book has been getting universally good reviews. And if you are one of those cynical people who think it is only because the book is on tour, think again…this is a really well-written and gripping novel. Really.

I have decided to start a new feature on Caribousmom called Noteworthy News. I don’t know how frequently I’ll be posting these…but whenever I have enough links or newsworthy thoughts, you’ll see them.

Are there any books you are looking forward to reading before the month cycles to its close? Here is what is in my pile to pick from:

  • In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld
  • A Thousand Veils by D. J. Murphy
  • Chocolat by Joanne Harris
  • Digging to America by Anne Tyler
  • Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi by Nanci Kincaid
  • Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

Which would you pick if you could only choose two?

Whatever you are doing today, I hope it involves a good book. Have a wonderful week!

Fingersmith – Book Review

fingersmith We were all more or less thieves, at Lant Street. But we were that kind of thief that rather eased the dodgy deed along, than did it. – from Fingersmith, page 7 –

Sue Trinder has been raised among thieves – an orphan who has never met her mother. The woman who has cared for her is Mrs. Suksby who takes babies from their mothers for a fee. The house on Lant Street where they live teems with characters such as Dainty, a girl with her own questionable past and Mr. Ibbs who buys stolen goods. Then one dark, rainy night a man arrives with a proposition to make them all rich.

In the passage stood a man, dressed dark, wet through and dripping, and with a leather bag at his feet. The dim light showed his pale cheeks, his whiskers, but his eyes were quite hidden in the shadow of his hat. I should not have known him if he had not spoken. – from Fingersmith, page 19 –

The man – known as Gentleman – hatches a scheme to send Sue, disguised as a maid, to the home of Maud Lilly and befriend her. A large sum of money is at stake, and the plot to get it means tricking Maud into marrying Gentlemen and then confining her to a mental hospital. From this point forward, the novel moves steadily forward with unexpected twists and turns which kept me reading long into the night.

Sarah Waters has written a gothic novel filled with evil villains, betrayal, lies, love, debauchery and shocking revelations. Set first on the dirty backstreets of the London Borroughs, the novel then moves to the dark and eerie rooms of Briar – a dilapidated mansion where Maud is being raised by her cruel uncle. The writing is provocative and rich, creating the atmosphere of a period Gothic setting filled with suspense and things that creep in the night. The dialogue is pitch perfect, the characters convincingly wrought.  But it is the plot – unnerving and constantly shifting – which reels the reader into the story and keeps the pages turning.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which uncovers the sinister underbelly of the human soul. Gentleman is the perfect villain – handsome, mysterious and evil. Just when the reader thinks she knows where the story is taking her, there is a twist and it goes in another direction. No one is as they seem.

Waters has written a book rich in period details and lush with complex characters. Ingeniously plotted and sexually charged, this is a novel you do not want to miss.

Highly recommended.


Weekly Geeks: 2009-02

weeklygeeks I am late to this one – please forgive me, but I ended up sick with the flu this week and spent three days flat on my back. My husband said he knew I was really sick when I did not pick up a book for that entire time! Anyway, I’m back and just had to participate in this week’s event. Joanne of The Book Zombie had these questions:

For those who have been with the group, either from the start or joined within recent months, what does being a member mean to you? What do you enjoy about the group? What are some of your more memorable Weekly Geeks that we might could do again? What could be improved as we continue the legacy that Dewey gave us?

For those just joining us, why did you sign up for Weekly Geeks? What would you like to see here?

I joined Weekly Geeks the first week it started – mostly because by then I had discovered the joy of Dewey’s community efforts and wanted to meet other book bloggers in a fun and different way.  My participation was a bit spotty at times – sometimes life just got in the way. My favorite themes were Storytelling and Social Awareness … I loved the creativity these inspired and the posts were so much fun to read.

Dewey’s vision was a weekly event that united the community – and that was truly a brilliant vision. It worked. I came back again and again because I enjoyed the connections I was making with other bloggers … and I was learning more about them through these fun events. When Dewey passed away and it was decided to keep Weekly Geeks going, I knew I would want to be part of that sense of community.

I hope to see things stay fresh and original…I hope that we get lots and lots and lots of ideas emailed to us and that this event will continue to grow and evolve.