September 2008

First, I wanted to let you all know that after your encouragement I decided to go to my public library book club and I still enjoyed the discussion. Not only that, but I also was given a copy of the book by one of the other members so I won’t have to check it out at the library again! Now hopefully I’ll really find the time to read it, especially considering how many people there actually really liked the book.

Now, onto our own book club discussion here. This month we read House & Home by Kathleen McCleary (check out my interview with her here) Personally, I really enjoyed this book. At first I was uncertain as to whether I’d like it because it sounded a little far-fetched to me. I also got the feeling I wasn’t going to like Ellen because, from the description, she seemed like an impetuous child – burning down her house because somebody else had bought it outright? Puh-lease! BUT I loved this book. I got through it quickly and what I found was that, despite the cover’s description, the book was about much more than Ellen and her house.

House & Home is about learning to distinguish between what makes a house and what makes a home. The two words conjure up very different meanings in my mind, and I was glad that Ellen was finally able to see that what made her house a happy place was not necessarily the things that filled it, but the people.

I thought the characters in this book were really well developed and I loved every one of them. Sam was one of my favorites, despite his flaws (probably because he reminds me so much of my own beau). Some of Ellen’s complaints about him really caught me off guard because I have had so many of those complaints myself.

I also found that I really connected with Ellen on a different level, in that she reminded me of my own mother in some of the passages. As a child I moved often, and I have to say I reacted much like her children. I threw huge tantrums every time we moved and would hold it against my parents for months afterward. Here is one passage that I highlighted in the text:

“And then Ellen simply refusted to move again. After years of putting off having children, and working endless hours to get her decorating business up and running in one town after another, she was done. She wanted to buy a house and paint the walls red, not some neutral rental color. She watned to get pregnant and have babies. She wanted to plant bulbs and know she’d be there in the spring to watch them bloom. She wanted to make friends and reminisce over shared memories that went back more than twelve months.”

I think this one passage so encapsulates that desire, after years of moving, to stay put, to have some roots. I know I’ve felt this way as recently as March when I moved back to Sacramento from Paris. I absolutely had every intention of settling down here, finally. And I still dream of owning my own house and knowing it will be a place I can always come back to.

This book was very relatable in many ways. It’s more than a story of a house – it’s the story of a family. I really want that to come across in my review because I feel that some people may avoid this book as I did at first, thinking it was too far-fetched.

For those of you who read the book, I have a couple of questions in the hopes to get a conversation started:

What did you think of the book?

Who was your favorite character in the book? Who did you relate to most and why?

Have you ever felt this way about a move or a house?

Were you surprised by all of the turns this book took?

If this book was made into a movie, who would be your choice to play Ellen? And who would play her hunky husband, Sam? (I stole this question from Displaced Beachbums, hope you don’t mind!)

Oh, and I almost forgot: We have a winner! I chose the winner of the House & Home giveaway using and it chose kamewh! Congratulations! Send your mailing address to bexadler (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll get it out to you right away!

For other reviews of this book visit:
A Lifetime of Books
It’s All About Books
Books on the Brain
Booking Mama


Sorry for the double post today. I’d meant to post this yesterday (it’s been on my calendar for months!), but I got caught up doing work instead. Who works on a Saturday, right? Apparently, me.

Anyway, I just wanted to send out a friendly little reminder that it’s banned books week this week, so stop by your local library and give those banned books a little love. And, if you need a list of banned or challenged books you can stop by the list I made for the challenge I’ll be hosting next year. Or, of course, you can stop by the American Library Association‘s site. I can’t take on much extra reading these days so for me, I think I’d like to re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The last time I cracked that book open was in 4th Grade!

I haven’t received many entries yet for the giveaway of the book House & Home by Kathleen McCleary. I thought this might be because it was at the end of the post so maybe some of you missed it. I also wanted to put a reminder up since tomorrow (Sept. 29) is the last day to enter, so if you’d a chance to win a free copy of this book, please go here and leave a comment. Thanks!

So, as you know, I’ve been attending my public library’s book club meetings over the past few months. I’ve really enjoyed the discussions and have been making the books for these meetings my top reading priority so I can participate. But this month I was a slacker. Not really a slacker so much as I couldn’t force myself to read the book, which is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Relin.

See, the thing is last year I read Leaving Microsoft to Save the World by John Wood. And, well, after looking at the cover of Three Cups of Tea I decided that the two books are pretty much the same book. And after that I read this review by Lisa over at Books on the Brain and I became even more convinced that I’d have to gouge my own eyes out to save myself the pain of reading this book. So I didn’t read it. I did check it out from the library in a mock attempt to get into the book. But it just sat on my nightstand until it was due back.

This really is getting to a point, and that point is this: Should I still go to the book club meeting even though I didn’t read the book? Or should I skip out on it?

I just signed up for the Sacramento Cowtown Half Marathon on Oct. 5. I’m super unprepared thanks to my injury, but I still wanted to go out for it, if for nothing more than to get my commemorative cowbell. I’m still going to try to be optimistic, but I have a feeling this halfer is going to look a lot like last years (aka me walking at least six miles of it).

I’ll let you all know how it goes. 🙂

Today I am happy to host an interview with Kathleen McCleary, author of House & Home, as part of her blog tour put together by TLC Book Tours.

Kathleen McCleary has worked for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, USA Weekend, Good Housekeeping, More, Health, Martha Stewart Living, and Ladies Home Journal. She was a columnist for several years for A 2004 job opportunity for her husband brought her reluctantly back to Virginia (which is a beautiful and friendly state that had nothing to do with her discontent other than the fact that it wasn’t Oregon). The move sparked the idea for a novel, and she spent almost three years writing House & Home, while also working as a freelance writer and as a barista at the local, independently owned coffee shop in her town.

House & Home is “the story of a woman who loves her house so much that she’ll do just about anything to keep it.” And it’s the book selected this month for our online book club, which will take place next week. I finished the book quite quickly and was surprised by how much I really enjoyed reading it. I hope some of you have already read the book. If not, perhaps this interview will peak your interest. Enjoy!

What was your inspiration for this book?

In 2004, I moved from Oregon to Virginia and had to sell the house we’d owned for 12 years. It was harder for me to give up the house than I could have imagined. I thought, “What if someone literally couldn’t give up a house?”

When you moved from Oregon to the East Coast did you face some of the same emotions as the main character, Ellen Flanagan?

Of course. Uprooting my kids from the only home they’d ever known was really, really hard. And I loved my house, in part because we had a close-knit neighborhood with many friends, and because so much of my kids’ childhoods were lived out in that house.

One of my favorite parts of this book was reading the children’s reactions to the move, especially Sara. When I was younger my family moved a lot and I have to admit I was a lot like Sara in that I fought tooth and nail to convince my parents not to move – every time. How did your children react to the big move when it happened?

My oldest, who was ten at the time, was completely opposed to the move, and of course her resistance was a knife in my heart. She even knocked down the “For Sale” sign on a couple of occasions! My youngest, who was seven then, was more accepting. I moved several times as a kid and just hated it, so the fact that I had to move my kids was very difficult. I think all kids hate to move. I got the idea for the little “I’ll be back notes” that Sara left around the house from taking a tour of the White House in D.C. The guide said that one of Eisenhower’s grandchildren had hidden little notes around the White House before his grandfather left office.

Why did you decide to set the book in Oregon, rather than your new hometown?

My heart—and my head—were still firmly entrenched in Oregon for quite a while after I moved. In many ways, the book is a love letter to Oregon. Writing it was also a way to help me process my feelings about the move.

In the book, Ellen says to Jordan Boyce, “This is the West Coast. You’re not supposed to ask what college someone went to here.” This is one of my favorite quotes in the book, not only because Ellen had the guts to say it, but also because it’s a difference I often notice when I meet East Coasters. Did you find it difficult to get used to this when you moved to the East Coast? What were some of the other differences you noticed between the East and West Coast?

I experienced real culture shock when I moved east, although I had lived in the East before and grew up in the Midwest. The pace on the East Coast is much quicker, for one thing. People drive faster, walk faster, even talk faster! I’m still not used to it. There’s also much more focus on what college you went to, or what college your kids want to get in to, even when they’re in middle school. People also always want to know what you DO and where you work. There’s a lot to love about the East, but I’ll always be an Oregonian and plan to return to Oregon full time one day.

Could you see any other way for Ellen to resolve her issues with her house and husband aside from the house burning down?

Sure. Ellen could have taken the time to really clarify her priorities before she rushed into selling the house and then regretting it. She might have decided she wanted to divorce Sam but also sell part of her business to keep the house. Or she might have decided she and Sam needed to reevaluate the way they worked together as parents and marriage partners, but still stayed together. I think Ellen, because she was so hyper-competent, really enabled Sam in some ways, contributed to his less responsible side. The fact that she finally had had enough did force Sam to mature. It also helped Ellen to let go.

How long was this book in your head before you put it down on paper?

It was a slow process that developed over several months. I finally wrote the first paragraph, then just let it simmer for a while. I kept thinking about it, so then I wrote a little more, and then it started to unfold.

Why the title House & Home? What’s the difference between a House and a Home?

I originally called the book simply “House.” My agent, Ann Rittenberg, came up with the title “House & Home,” which is perfect. A house, as Ellen comes to find out, really is just a house. It’s a vessel. A home is what’s inside the vessel—the lives that are lived there, the people who live them, how they care for one another.

What is your favorite part of your home and why?

It’s my living room and dining room, which open into each other. The rooms both have huge, multi-paned windows that let in sun all afternoon, and they’re where we spend the majority of our time together as a family—eating meals, doing homework, practicing guitar, folding laundry, reading, talking, entertaining friends. It all happens in those two rooms.

Do you have any other books in the works?

Yes! I’m currently hard at work on my second novel. It
s about a woman who gets so overwhelmed by what she perceives as the negative cultural influences affecting her school-age children that she decides to move them to a remote island off the coast of Washington state to live without shopping malls, cell phones, or traffic lights for a year. The novel follows Susannah Delaney’s quest to create a meaningful life for herself and her three children; her relationship with her husband, Matt, which has grown increasingly strained as they clash over how to best raise the kids; her confusion over a haunting love affair from her past; and finally the changes that take place during the family’s time on Sounder Island, which turns out not at all as Susannah expected.

P.S. I’m giving away my copy of House & Home since I’ve already finished it. If you’d like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment below telling me why you’d like to read this book. The winner will be chosen on Sept. 30, so please enter by midnight on Sept. 29!

P.P.S. If you don’t want to be entered in the giveaway, you can still leave a comment below 😉

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since my last post! Grad school has completely taken over all of my reading time. I’m reading super boring books about learning/teaching methods and how to write research papers. There are only two books that I’m actually somewhat enjoying. One is about linguistics and the other is about teaching grammar. The biggest problem with all of these books is that they’re so jargony. I don’t understand half the words in them and end up running to my dictionary every five seconds – and even then I don’t get it. This is why, today I invested in the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Now, instead of the generic definition of the words, I’ll get the English Language Professional’s definition. Hopefully it will help. Otherwise I’m going to spend this whole semester with my mind boggled.

A sampling of the stuff I’ll be looking up constantly this semester:

Subsumption theory, equilibration, syntax, allophone, phoneme, copular verb, interlanguage, metalanguage…the list goes on.

Also, I’m pretty sure these linguist types have made up many a-word, like systematicity. Really?

No wonder it’s so difficult to learn English. I’ve been speaking it my whole life and I feel like I’m in a foreign country now that I’m studying the language itself.

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