Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I Am Not a Soccer Mom...and I Vote

I'm a Catholic wife and mother of 3, a homemaker and a Secular Franciscan.

All of those things come into play when I consider the upcoming elections.

I've got one week to choose the candidate I feel best represents my views on what's good for our nation and our world (because anyone who thinks that this election only affects this country is living in a dream world.)

I'm not a soccer mom. For one thing, I don't have the wardrobe for it. And none of my kids play soccer! So it's not about soccer moms and how they supposedly vote. If they vote pro-choice, I'm definitely not a soccer mom!

Maybe the Kitchen Madonna has it right in describing the new voting demographic as the Apron Mom. I've got the wardrobe for that. I own several aprons and wear them proudly. They are my uniform when I work around my home, doing laundry, cleaning up, cooking and baking for my family.

It's a good idea to link aprons to elections. Aprons are worn by people who serve others. We need to remember that our elected officials are to do just that--serve the people of our nation! And we have been given the responsibility of choosing the ones who will serve us.

I can never support a pro-abortion candidate. I would like to find a candidate who is not only prolife when it comes to abortion, but also carries this view across the board: anti-death penalty; anti-assisted suicide; anti-euthanasia, anti-embryonic stem cell research. I would like to find a candidate who knows what it means to serve, and that to do so can be both a blessing and a burden, and who is not afraid to seek divine guidance when making those important decisions.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Simply the Best

That's what we want for our families and for those we love.

And I think that was behind my post last week about my Secular Franciscan family and our slightly-past-Christmas Extraction of Saints.

At our Council meeting we decided not to dwell on "who prays for me" and we tried to gently steer the discussion off that topic when it veered there. And we knew it would, because it always does. And no matter what we said, it was going to happen, because that's where some of our members are. There was one member who spent the evening making a list of "who prays for whom" on the back of the prayer page.

We had to let that go.

It occurred to me this morning that this whole thing frustrates us because we want the best for our family--in this case our Franciscan family. We want our brothers and sisters to truly benefit from what is truly a spiritual event in our fraternal life.

And it's OK to do a little joking here and there, like we did when the virtue of Hospitality was chosen for our Minister and everyone told him that this meant his wife was off the hook for cleaning duty when they entertain. I think that was offset by the smiles or kind and heartfelt "thank yous" that were exchanged when announcements were made of who would benefit from special prayer by a certain member this coming year.

Our Fraternity can and will grow in love and virtue because we do have many wonderful members who truly care about each other, and we do have members who care about the ongoing formation of our members. When you love someone, you want the best for them.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Decaf is not going to cut it today

I'm tired. It's been a really nutty couple of days, and I think it has finally all caught up with me.

First, on Wednesday, Middle Sister was home with a slight fever. The contractor was busy installing my new back door, and I was keeping warm (since there was a big hole in the back of the house) by giving the bathroom (upstairs) a good scrubbing. Then the phone rang: the school nurse. "Please come right away and get Little Brother. He has head lice."

Immediately I was itching all over. All you have to do is mention bugs to me and I start to itch. I went tearing out of here and over to the school, where a nurse I had never seen before had an office full of kids and it was really crazy. She told me to sign him out, take him home, treat his head, check everyone else and keep him home until Monday.

When I got home, I called a friend; I was supposed to pick up her daughter after school and I was sure she didn't want to expose her child to lice. She asked if I had gotten anything to treat it with and told me to stay put because she had some stuff at home and would bring it right over.

The contractor had been a little surprised when I ran out of here and came home 20 minutes later with an apparently healthy child dressed in a school uniform, and he was a little grossed out too, when he asked what the matter was.

My friend brought over a natural lice remedy (not the toxic stuff that cannot be touched by human hands) and I used it on Little Brother's head. Then I used the little metal comb and checked him super carefully. Didn't find a thing.

I spent a good chunk of the rest of the day stripping beds, washing the afghans we keep on the couch, washing sheets and other bedding, washing Little Brother's coat and hat....and the phone rang again at 2:00. It was the regular school nurse, asking me if the substitute we'd seen in the morning had shown me what she found in Little Brother's head.

"No, and I treated his head and checked him, and I didn't find a thing."

She told me to bring him back in the morning and she would check him with me right there. Apparently there had been some false alarms....but the laundry was in progress and I had to finish what I started there. Plus I had to finish cleaning the bathroom since the tub had been sitting under a layer of cleaner and was threatening to disintegrate before my eyes if I didn't rinse it off.

Back to school we went yesterday, and the only thing the nurse found in Little Brother's hair was a "fuzzy" from his hat. So he was off to class and I went back home where I reassured the contractor (now working on the front door) that there were no bugs in my house or anyone's hair.

Just in time, too, because Big Brother had 5 friends over for a birthday party last night (they have no school today). Fortunately the rest of us managed to sleep over the sounds of 6 teenage boys playing video games and watching movies.

They've all gone home; the trash is out and the French toast has been eaten up.

I really need to mop the floors, but I think I need sleep more.

Either that, or some real coffee.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Marian Holy Card

Micki at Holy Cards for Your Inspiration has this beautiful card today:

The quote she has accompanying this card is not to be missed:
You never think of Mary without Mary thinking of God on your behalf.
Neither do you ever praise and honor God without Mary praising and honoring God in union with you.

--St. Louis Grignion de Montfort

Today, when I would guess that more Rosaries are being prayed in our country than any other day, many people are thinking of Mary. I add my prayers to those: O Virgin conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Pray for young women who feel trapped in unwanted pregnancies and who feel that abortion is their only way out. Pray for parents, husbands and boyfriends who pressure these women into killing their babies. Pray for abortion providers that they may have a change of heart. Pray for post-abortive women who grieve those little lives lost. Pray for our government that a reverence for life may permeate our country. And pray for all who work toward a culture of life.

Roe v. Wade: 35th Anniversary

This election year, the issue of abortion is once again in the limelight.

Pray hard for an end to abortion and a reverence for life from conception to natural death.

From Danielle Bean:
Pope John Paul II's Pro-Life Prayer
Oh Mary, we entrust to you the cause of life.
Look down upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born.
Grant all who believe in your Son to proclaim the Gospel of Life.
Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, to bear witness to it resolutely, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and Lover of Life.

Live video feed: March for Life 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Who Needs Toys When There's a Box Around?

My kids have always enjoyed seeing the possibilities in a huge cardboard box. They use the boxes for forts, castles, firehouses, hideouts, and submarines until the boxes no longer resemble rectangles.

We haven't had a box for a while, so Little Brother was happy when a 4-foot-high box came into the house last week. He immediately claimed it, and today Big Brother used his Brand-New Big Honking Camping Knife to cut peepholes, a window and a door into the box.

I asked Little Brother if he was going to decorate his new clubhouse. "No way," he told me. "If I do that, everyone will know it's me in there."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Coming Soon: "Watch Your Tone!"

Amazingly, it's not my kids to whom I'd like to address that statement. (Usually it is, but not this time.)

It's my Franciscan brothers and sisters in my Secular Franciscan Fraternity.

Next Friday we will begin our year together with our traditional Extraction of Saints. At the Extraction we receive not only the name of a saint (often a Franciscan saint, but not always) to study and even emulate during the year, but also a virtue which we should try to cultivate, a Franciscan quote to inspire us, and the name of another member of the Fraternity or a friar or Sister from our parish to keep in special prayer during the year.

Doesn't that sound nice? It really is nice. But there's something that's been going on in past years that frustrates me, and I'm stewing about how to head it off at the pass.

I really should be praying about it. And I will.

Here's the situation. Everyone winds up winking and nodding about the virtues that come up. Sometimes it's a compliment, like "You are already so patient, why would you need to work on that?" and sometimes it's more like "wink wink nudge nudge, God sure knew what He was doing when he picked that for you." And worse than that, it winds up being an evening of "what's in it for me" as people only want to know who is praying for them. Sure, it's nice that someone in the Fraternity is going to hold you and your intentions in special prayer this year. But what you really need to remember is that you are expected to the same for someone else! It has gotten to the point that someone in attendance is asked to keep a list of "who prays for whom."

Well, I don't want to do that. I don't think that's what we're there for, to be so busy worrying about "who prays for me." If we all work to foster a connection (through prayer and maybe even an occasional note, phone call or verbal wish of encouragement) with the person we are keeping in prayer this year, we won't need that list.

I find it hard to take a stand in my Fraternity because of my age....it's a "don't disagree with your elders" thing. I can write very diplomatically but don't put me in a room and ask me to correct the behavior of another adult, especially an older adult.

Tomorrow night I will be bringing this issue up at our Council meeting. Please pray that I will find the right way to approach this issue at Council and on Friday at our Extraction of Saints, so that it will be a prayerful and fruitful experience for our members and guests.

UPDATED: I really appreciate the comments I have gotten on this post and I have been thinking of how to handle all of this nicely. I did come up with one suggestion that I will make to Council tonight: put addresses and phone #s on the card with the names. We can announce before we begin that we have done this, so that it will be easier for us to contact our "prayer partner" to ask if they have prayer requests, or send an encouraging note.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Little Brother has been really into puzzles lately. He will do the same jigsaw puzzles over and over. Yesterday, my parents came to visit and Mom brought along a few puzzles that she had in her house. One of them was a foam-rubber puzzle of a helicopter, and had probably originally belonged to Big Brother.

He's put together that helicopter at least three times this morning, and just now when he put in the last piece, he stood the puzzle on one end and asked TheDad and me if one of us could hold it up.

"Just lean it on the leg of the coffee table," we told him, figuring that he wanted to display his work.

"No, that won't work! I need to use it for a hurdle," was his reply.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bears Have the Right Idea

It's winter. It's cold. The sky is gray and soon some freezing-cold stuff will fall out of it.
My nose is cold. One of my college roommates would say, "That means you're a healthy puppy."
Can I use all this as an excuse for my current mood? I'm just feeling a little down, a lot lazy, and kind of sleepy. And completely unmotivated.
I did exercise today, for half my usual time as I'm nursing a sore knee from all the bending and carrying and stair-climbing involved in helping move the school library from its temporary quarters to its newly renovated home.
I got a couple of errands done that meant I could complete some "easy to put off because they don't affect your ability to live in the house, but annoying if you don't fix them" home-improvement chores.
I mopped the floors (including the Mysterious Sticky Stuff in the kitchen).
I treated myself to lunch at Chick-Fil-A.
I contacted the Vietnam Veterans to schedule a pickup of clothes (mostly mine) that I've cleaned out of closets.
Usually all of those things give me a little lift. But not today.
I am pleased to report that Big Brother let me know he'll be home right after school today, so he can watch Little Brother here while I take Middle Sister to her physical therapy appointment. Amusing a 5-year-old in a waiting room for more than an hour can be torture for all concerned (including the receptionist!) So I will have a chance to sip my decaf coffee and read...hey, wait a minute...I'm reading a really good, but sad, book (The Kite Runner).
I think I just figured out the reason for my mood.
Maybe I'll bring along something funny, or a cookbook, or my current nonfiction read (It's So You: Fitting Fashion to Your Life by Mary Sheehan Warren.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Big Brother

Big Brother turned 16 today, which means I am halfway through with my first teenager. Today, Father H. told me that Big Brother is "an honorable young man," which is high praise. So please indulge me in a moment of Mommy-Bragging. Big Brother is 3 school days away from achieving straight A's for this quarter (that would be the first time ever that he's done so). He's a Life Scout, having been involved in Scouting since he was 6. And he's hanging in there with the track team, even though he had to run 7 miles in hard rain yesterday and 6 in snow flurries today. His friends at school are good kids, good students, and involved in lots of activities. Middle Sister wants to follow him onto the track team (with his encouragement). Little Brother wants to follow him everywhere.

Big Brother is a big fan of apple pie, especially homemade apple pie. So this morning I was busily peeling two kinds of apples and putting together his requested birthday dessert.

Happy birthday, Big Brother! I hope you enjoy your birthday pie.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

With Age Comes...Dinner

Earlier this evening, Little Brother was complaining that he never gets to pick what we have for dinner.

Naturally, I gave him the Standard Mean-Mommy Answer: "When you have a job and earn money to buy food, and you learn how to cook the food, then you get to pick what you eat."

He thought about that for a minute and cheerfully said, "That's what I'll do! Just as soon as I'm SIX!"

Useless Information About Me(me)

Found this one over at Ellen's and then discovered that Jean tagged me.

1. Do you wear a name tag at work? No. All my kids know my name by now.

2. What kind of car do you drive? Chevy Uplander

3. What do you order when you go to Taco Bell? I cannot believe how many people do not eat at Taco Hell! I have one within walking distance, which means that I can have my fill of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and Spicy Chicken Soft Tacos. YUM! Hmm, what's for lunch?

4. Have you ever had a garage sale? No

5. What color is your iPod? I have an mp3 player, not an iPod. It's white and has a cool blue glow when it's turned on.

6. What kind of dog do you have? None.

7. What's for dinner tonight? It will be just me and Little Brother. We're probably having hot dogs.

8. What is the last alcoholic beverage you had? That was probably my senior year in college. I don't drink alcohol.

9. Stupidest thing you ever did with your cell phone? Dialed someone without realizing it because the phone was not "locked" and something bumped it in my purse.

10. Last time you were sick? Fall 2007.

11. How long is your hair? About shoulder-length, but I did trim my bangs last week. I can't keep away from the scissors once the bangs get in my eyes.

12. Are you happy right now? For the most part....

13. What did you say last? "Hi, Adventure Boy! Come on in!"

14. Who came over last? Adventure Boy and Girl Next Door

15. Do you drink beer? No

16. Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted? I doubt it. They usually tell me that I am my mom's "clone" since we look, speak and think very much alike (but she got the curly hair).

17. What is your favorite key chain on your keys? The cool "boomerang" one that an Australian pen pal sent me.

18. What did you get for graduation? Which time?

19. Whats in your pocket? These pants don't have pockets, unfortunately.

20. Who introduced you to Dane Cook? Who?

21. Has someone ever made you a Build-A-Bear? No

22. What DVD is in your DVD player? Whatever's in there, it's not mine.

23. What's something fun you did today? Listened to my new Eagles album! Let's play it again! (The kids love it sooooo much!)

24. Who is/was the principal of your high school? Sister Pat

25. Has your house ever been TP'd? Not my house, but the big pine tree in front was, once. I still think my kids did it but they insist they're innocent.

26. What do you think of when you hear the word "meow"? Girls being catty.

27. What are you listening to right now? Little Brother and his friends playing the Wii.

28. Drinking? Coffee (decaf), of course!

29. What is your favorite aisle at Wal-Mart? Whatever's on sale.

30. When is your mom's birthday? July 2

31. When is your birthday? July 28

32. What's the area code for your cell phone? One of the NJ area codes

33. Where did you buy the shirt you're wearing now? Land's End

34. Is there anything hanging from your rear view mirror? No - too distracting for me

35. How many states in the US have you been to? 36

36. What kind of milk do you drink? Whole milk, white, icy cold.

37. What are you going to do after this? Probably more laundry, then work on taking down Christmas decorations.

38. Who was the last person you went shopping with? Middle Sister and Little Brother. We got some bargains at Old Navy!

39. What is your favorite fruit? Pineapple

40. What about your favorite dessert? Coffee ice cream

41. What is something you need to go shopping for? A new sofa

42. Do you have the same name as one of your relatives? Yes

43. What kind of car does one of your siblings drive? Ford Explorer

44. Do you like pickles? Yes, especially the sour, garlicky ones.

45. How about olives? Sure, but I don't like the pits.

46. What is your favorite kind of gum? Cinnamon

47. What is your favorite kind of juice? Ruby Red grapefruit juice

48. Do you have any tan lines? That would mean I'd have to have a TAN. I have burn lines....

49. What hospital were you born in? a North Jersey hospital

Now, are you ready for the quiz?

I Don't Get It

Yesterday Little Brother walked in the front door after school and put down his schoolbag and lunchbox--just inside the door, blocking the entrance. If it's a nice day, and fairly warm, we leave the main door open since there's a storm door.

Shortly afterward, TheDad came home from work with his briefcase and a couple of bags from the sporting-goods store. He stepped over the schoolbag and lunchbox, came in and started packing things for a weekend Boy Scout camping trip.

Big Brother and TheDad went in and out the door, stepping over the schoolbag and lunchbox, as they loaded up the car for camping.

Finally they were ready to go. They said goodbye to me, Middle Sister, and Little Brother, stepped over the schoolbag and lunchbox, and headed out the door.

That's when I realized that this had been going on all afternoon.

They had to see the things in the doorway, as they never tripped. But they never moved them.

If they hadn't directly been blocking the main door, which we have to close and lock at night or whenever we leave the house, how long would those things have sat there?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My New Favorite Song

The lyrics are strange, but the sound is fantastic! Enjoy! I'm driving the kids bananas, listening to it over and over and over and over and over....

How Long Lyrics

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Wrong Kind of Self-Help

Deliver me from "self-help" writers who haven't left the "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" mindset.

I have always had an interest in architecture, and a few years ago I read and enjoyed The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. We had recently moved from our very small "starter home" to this bigger house, and I was discovering that just because a home is bigger doesn't make it better. In our smaller house, every inch of space was designed for efficient use. Not so with this house, and that drives me crazy sometimes. Susanka's architecture book was full of interesting designs and ideas that made sense to me.

Anyway, I discovered that Susanka had written a new book, and I found it at the library.

I'm glad I didn't pay for it. I didn't get too far into it before I realized that it was NOT for me. First of all, it was a self-help book, not a book about architecture. In the introduction, I read that
It's possible to start living a Not So Big Life of full, rich, vivid moments where everything that happens to us is experienced fully, and where spirit and connection have room to thrive.

At that point it was very clear that I was reading a book written from an extremely narcissistic viewpoint. I felt like I was reading nonfiction written by Richard Bach, because Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah were both advocating the same school of thought.

Out of curiosity, I turned to the index and looked up "religion." Only one page was listed, and I flipped to that one to see the tiny mention that gave away Susanka's whole outlook: "to see that my inner experience was real and didn't require validation by a spiritual institution."

I don't need to go to a book to have my faith practices scorned. And I don't need or want "freedom" from religion. On the contrary, I am sure that if I really work at practicing what I believe, the simplicity I seek will follow.

Last night's Evening Prayer contained the following intercession:
Help those who do not know God but seek your presence in the shadows and projections of the human mind; make them new persons in the light of Christ.



We've had weird weather here the past few days: very warm, in the 60's, and now very windy.

I was helping Little Brother get a jacket out of the closet for school today. I told him that it's warm, but would be windy and maybe rainy later.

He turned around to TheDad and asked, "Dad, is the weatherman right or wrong today?"

"The weatherman is right," TheDad replied.

Little Brother put on his waterproof windbreaker without argument. Good thing, too, because he should just be getting off the school bus at school, and it's raining now.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Toward a Standard of Maternity Leave--for Students

I just read, over at "The World...IMHO" that many high schools do not have a policy in place that grants adequate maternity leave to pregnant students.

I've worked as a homebound tutor for over 13 years. In the school districts where I have worked, young moms were entitled to 6 weeks at home, with tutors. (Girls who underwent C-sections were given more recovery time). I had no idea that this was not the standard.

It's time to realize that high-school girls who are willing to carry a pregnancy to term deserve academic support and a good deal of guidance during the time following childbirth, right through their graduation. It's well worth the investment in the young moms and their children.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Roof Over My Head

I am sitting here at what is normally a very quiet time of day in the house. Any other Monday, you'd probably hear nothing but the washing machine and dryer running, and maybe the vacuum cleaner or some water running as I clean up the mess leftover from the weekend.

But today, they are removing the roof. The sound of thumps and scrapes and bumps and heavy boots walking overhead drowns out the buzz of the dryer's "I'm done" signal. I can hear a radio but I can't make out what's playing on it.

Having a roof done in January is iffy business, but when we started to see water damage on Middle Sister's ceiling, we knew we couldn't put it off any longer. Fortunately the weather today is gorgeous with temps climbing through the 50s, and tomorrow will be even better.

It was a shame that Little Brother had already headed off to school when the big truck with the built-in "claw lift thingamajig" pulled up and started offloading pallets of shingles right onto the roof. The rest of the kids in the neighborhood, who take a later bus, had some entertainment while they stood on the corner waiting for their ride.

It's noisy now, but it will be leakproof later. And then they'll replace my ugly front door, and the back door with the cracked windowpane, with pretty new doors and frosted-glass sidelights in the front. And I'll get to go to the Big Box Home Improvement Store and choose a paint color for the front door (and the shutters, which someone in the house who shall remain nameless did not even realize we have).

TheDad asked me this morning if I was excited about getting the new roof. Not really. It's the doors that I'm waiting for. That's something I look at and use every day. It'll be nice to look at something pretty for a change.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year's Meme

I found this one at Esther's.

My middle name is the same as my mom's first name. That's as close as I get.

Today at church when we sang "Drummer Boy." I never fail to cry when I sing that song. (Yes, I know, it's not appropriate to sing that one in church. I have no control over the choice of music.)

I could do better

Ham, sliced really thin (and served on seeded rye bread with good mustard)


I don't know

Way more than I should.


You couldn't pay me enough.

Honeycomb, though now I only like the generic kind because the brand-name kind has been "improved."




How tall they are


I don't know.

My family; they are over 2 hours away.

Khaki pants and my new awesome brown shoes

some amazing chocolate cake with fudge icing

the hum of my laptop "cooling tower"


baking bread

Middle Sister


Notre Dame football, or basketball

brown, with some gray creeping in


No! Never! I can't stand anything in my eyes.

My tastes are all over the map so this answer would change weekly!

Happy endings

In theatres? I have no idea.


I hate extremes of weather! Fall and spring are my favorites!


Coffee ice cream

I'm between books at the moment but I have a tall stack waiting for me

I don't use one

Absolutely nothing




nothing exceptional

closer to the North Pole than where I currently live!

TAG! Anyone who wants to play!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

In solidarity

Dan at Faithmouse has drawn a new proposal for a logo for the Beijing Olympics:

Beijing Logo

Religious expression such as the sale of Bibles, use of rosaries, and the consecrated religious life are banned in China under the current government. Secular Franciscans must meet secretly. In addition, their policy of limiting families to one child means that the atrocity of abortion continues in that country.

Sometimes it takes the thought of what Chinese Catholics and other Christians must go through to make you realize just how blessed we are. We can go to church at any time, carry a rosary or Bible in our pocket, and not worry about our government telling us we must not have more than one child.

Pray for those who must live in these conditions in China.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Tonight we sat down to our dinner of Beef Paysanne, noodles, and green beans.

Big Brother wanted to know, midway through the meal, if I had made this with the leftover Christmas roast beef. (I had immediately frozen what was left of that, because Big Brother cannot be trusted with leftover roast beef in the fridge.)

Middle Sister jumped in: "Mom, I read that recipe you were making, and it called for used meat."

I thought that sounded pretty disgusting. "This meat isn't used! It's leftover!"

Big Brother defended the idea of making dinner from leftovers: "Leftover is not the same as A.B.C.!"

(By the way, I highly recommend the Beef Paysanne, and it's even better if you add 2 cups of sliced mushrooms at the same time as the broth and the wine.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The gift cards I received for Christmas have yielded heavenly toastiness in the form of:

My New Shoes

These shoes are fabulous--I have never had such toasty toes in my life. And when my feet are cold, the rest of me is not too happy either. I had a pair of their Winter Mocs before, which were an awful lot like these, but without the fabulous faux shearling. I'd have bought another pair of plain old Winter Mocs if I had found them, but these are much better.

I also got My New Coat (note: that is not me modeling the coat!)

And just in time too, since tomorrow's high is forecast at a chilly 28* (yes, I am a winter wimp! I survived ONE northern Indiana winter and that was more than enough. Good thing I had plenty of Irish basketball to distract me from the cold).

And they were both on sale! Woohoo!

So, thanks for your warm & toasty Christmas gifts, Mom and Dad, and Mom and Pop!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Title, author, and rating! (new for 2008)

1. Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock. Reread. This book gets an A+. I've already given a few copies away as gifts. It's heartbreaking, disturbing--all the more because it could be real. You probably won't guess the ending before you get there. (01/03/2008)

2. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. This book gets a C+. Basically, it's chick lit. It was good entertainment, but I felt a little like I was watching a train wreck--you know something bad is going to happen, and you can't stop it, nor can you stop watching. But next time I need some brain candy, I'd read more by this author. (01/05/08)

3. P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern. I probably wouldn't have picked this up, but a book discussion group I've joined is reading this one. It turned out to be much better than I imagined. This book gets a B+. I was hooked by page 3, and a 30-minute "reading break" this afternoon turned into "the rest of the afternoon" so I could finish it. The ending wasn't the one I wanted, but it was still good. No, I won't see the movie, but I enjoyed the book and will recommend it. (01/09/08)

4. Bookends (biography of Simon & Garfunkel) by Pete Fornatale. I'd probably not recommend it even if you are a huge S&G fan (which I am). It was only about 120 pages long, no photos, and there wasn't a lot there. Considering that these singers are both still alive and there should be a wealth of resource information about them, I was disappointed. However, it was cool to listen to a S&G album while I read, and hear "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the same time as the book talked about their recording of that song. This book gets a C. (01/10/08)

5. The Sweet Potato Queens' 1st Big-Ass Novel by Jill Conner Browne. Rated R for language. I enjoy the "Sweet Potato Queens" books but I think the others were better. This book made me laugh out loud at some points, but I also found the plot to be fairly sad. This book gets a C. (01/13/08)

6. Princess in Pink by Meg Cabot. Not my first choice of a book; I was previewing something out of the "Princess Diaries" series so I could decide if Middle Sister is old enough for these. I think she can wait until 8th grade. I enjoyed the Princess Diaries movies with Middle Sister, and the book was pretty good. This book gets a B-. (01/15/08)

7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This was an excellent book but difficult to read because of the subject matter. The pain that the characters felt was absolutely palpable. The book gives an insight into life in war-torn countries, especially how it affects children. I was glad for an uplifting ending or this book would have been too heartbreaking. This book gets an A, and I look forward to reading others by this author. (01/19/08)

8. The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang. A very well-written story of a young wife and mother who discovers an old family diary that sheds light on 150-year-old family secrets as well as her suspicions about her own baby. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the constant shift between past and present. This was a Christian book but not as overly sweeet as many of them are. The characters' faith was part of the fabric of their lives--not something you see often in a book. This book gets a B+ and I'd happily recommend it to others. (01/23/08)

9. The Godmother by Carrie Adams. This book had a little more meat than the usual British chick-lit stuff (Sophie Kinsella comes to mind) and it was a good and satisfying story. For a while I thought it was going to turn out differently than it did, and I was disappointed in that--but there was a twist at the end that was very satisfying. I enjoyed the main character--always the godmother, never the mother. It was a good book, but not a "keeper" and it gets a B. (01/27/08)

10. Suburbanistas by Pamela Redmond Satran. It doesn't get more "chick lit" than this. What kept me going with this one is that it took place in northern New Jersey, my old stomping grounds, and I was looking for clues about what town was really the basis for "Homewood." This book gets a C+. (01/29/08)

11. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I like to read books that take place in areas I know. This book is set in the Trenton, NJ area. That's about the only thing it had going for it. I felt that the author was trying very hard to turn a clever phrase--and she's no Mickey Spillane. This book gets a D, and I don't give those out lightly! Normally if I dislike a book this much I won't even bother to finish it. (01/31/08)

12. The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty. This was an excellent book. What surprised me was that it was not about the teenage girl who caused a car accident with eternal consequences--it was really about her mother, and how this event affected their already rocky relationship. My only complaint--it ended too soon! I wanted more! This book gets an A. (02/06/08)

13. Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. This book is like "Little House" for grownups. Originally published in 1947, it was rediscovered in the 90's and reissued, along with a sequel which I actually found first but put aside until I could read this. If you think you're having a rough time of it, this book will give you perspective! The story (based on a true story) is set in the northwestern Canadian wilderness in the early part of the 20th century. But it's not just the adventures of a young family in extreme weather conditions, it's a love story as well. This book gets an A. (02/08/08)

14. there's a (slight) chance I might be going to hell by Laurie Notaro. If that part of the title doesn't grab you, how about the subtitle: "A novel of sewer pipes, pageant queens, and big trouble." This was a very, very funny book. A really strange story, with a few predictable twists, but the main character was great and Notaro is a truly funny writer. Here's one of my favorite paragraphs:
It was a known fact that Maye could not enter a bookstore without reaching the red alert danger level within a mere thirty minutes. Although she chastised Charlie for his boxes upon boxes of books while she was packing, Maye was every bit as guilty of the identical crime; she simply hid her addiction better and was far more talented at being sneaky. In Phoenix, she concealed her overflow books in closets and drawers, by double-parking them in bookcases and hiding them in filing cabinets. In Spaulding, however, it proved more tricky to secure good hiding places, particularly because Maye had to hide her addiction to the printed word by draping her books in camouflage, lest Charlie stumble upon the hidden booty, open them, and out Maye as the book whore she indeed was. As a result, there was an unusually high number of boxes labeled PERIOD SUPPLIES, MAKEUP, and MONISTAT-7, just to throw Charlie off the trail....

Priceless! This book gets a B+. (02/11/08)

15. My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young. Set in the Netherlands and Germany around 1941, this is the story of a young half-Jewish woman who is hiding her heritage and winds up in a shelter for pregnant teens, hoping to save the baby she has conceived with her Jewish boyfriend. This book was tragic and spellbinding. If you're a history buff, don't skip it. This book gets an A. (02/14/08)

16. Multiple Choice by Claire Cook. This is about a mom who returns to college just as her daughter begins college. They both wind up at the same place for internships--and her daughter does not yet know that her mom has returned to school. It was a quick read, pretty funny, and the mom-daughter thing really rang true. I give this one a B. (02/19/08)

17. My So-Called Love Life by Allie Pleiter. How this one wound up on my bookshelf is a mystery since I don't usually pick up books from the "romance" genre. It's a Christian romance, which in this case means more Christian and less romance and that was just fine with me. A pretty good read about a woman who voices an animated character, and her office romance. I give it a C+. (02/21/08)

18. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella. When you need some chick lit, look no further. This book was really fun. Yes, the ending was predictable, but Kinsella is SO funny. I really enjoy her books. This book gets a B. (02/24/08)

19. Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill. More chick lit. It's a pretty good story about a mom who really loves her children, doesn't buy into the whole "schedule the kids to death" thing, and can't keep up with her peers in terms of fashion or household management. The main character is real and likeable. This book gets a B-. (02/28/08)

20. Them by Nathan McCall. This was a very good book and a compelling story but I had trouble reading more than a little bit at one time. It might be due to the dialect used by the characters, but that doesn't usually stop me. The story concerns people who live in a historically black neighborhood in Atlanta, and what happens there when white "yuppies" start moving into the area. There's a lot of tension in the book, and it doesn't really resolve in the end. But then again, it wouldn't in real life either. This book gets a B. (03/08/08)

21. Dorothea Benton Frank, Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale. The irritating part about this book was the constant switch in time frame. Two stories were being told at once--nearly 40 years apart, but with many of the same characters. The story was fairly good and the characters were amusing. The author seems to have a bit of an axe to grind about the Catholic Church, and that gets old pretty quickly. This book gets a C. (03/16/08)

22. Kate Braestrup, Here If You Need Me. This is an autobiographical account of how a state trooper's widow becomes a law-enforcement chaplain. I was impressed by her strength, and enjoyed this story very much, even though it dealt with some hard realities (finding bodies of children or suicidal young adults, among other things). The book only encompasses a few years of the author's life, and wasn't so much told chronologically as in a series of vignettes. It's very good. This book gets a B+. (03/17/08)

23. The Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank. This book is worth the read just because of the characters. There are some really funny moments, and it's easy to like just above all the characters in this book (there are some you're not supposed to like, and it's easy to loathe them!) Enjoy it. I was really happy with the way it turned out. This book gets a B+. (03/18/08)

24. The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. What a wonderful book! The story of a young girl, from ages about 10 to 18, who has a single mom and a much younger, severely-handicapped brother. Beginning in the early 1980s, the book touches upon a lot of the pop-culture stuff I remember from growing up. In a way, this is a modern-day A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Enjoy it! This book gets an A. (03/20/08)

25. Every Secret Thing by Ann Tatlock. This book takes place in present-day Wilmington, Delaware, at a private boarding school. A teacher returns to her alma mater and confronts the ghosts of some painful episodes in her past. The characters in this book are wonderful, and although there was some sadness, the ending is really uplifting. This book gets an A. (03/21/08)

26. Isle of Palms by Dorothea Benton Frank. Set in lowcountry South Carolina, this book is like many others by the same author: wonderful characters, so-so plot. It's not her best, but it's a good "beach read" if you're looking for something along those lines. This book gets a C+. (03/25/08)

27. Return of the Stardust Cowgirl by Marsha Moyer. This is the latest installment in the Lucy Hatch series. It's a so-so story, as they all are, but it has some interesting characters. Constant shifts of narrator were annoying. This book gets a C+. (03/29/08)

28. The Staggerford Murders by Jon Hassler. Actually this book contains two novellas: The Staggerford Murders and The Life and Death of Nancy Clancy's Nephew. Hassler's books, though wonderful, can get depressing, and these are no exception, especially the second novella. I enjoyed seeing some characters from Hassler's other works that appeared in this book as well. This book gets a B. (03/31/08)

29. The Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser. I found this one by following a link on Amazon to "books recommended for me." It was pretty good, with some parts that were extremely funny. The book is nothing spectacular, but I did enjoy it. The plot deals with a married couple who buys an old, ruined monastery with the intent of converting it into an inn. Some of the best (and funniest) parts of the book come from the local newspaper, which is quoted throughout. This book gets a B, and I'll be reading others by this author. (04/02/08)

30. Stealing Lumby by Gail Fraser. This book gets a B. (04/04/08)

31. Lumby's Bounty by Gail Fraser. This book gets a B. (04/06/08)

32. The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. I was hooked on this story right from the beginning. Though the book was full of people dealing with loss and heartache, there was always the feeling of hope. This was a very enjoyable book, despite its sad theme. This book gets an A. (04/15/08)

33. Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. Yes, another knitting book--also about the relationships formed among a group of women who get together at a knitting shop. This was a lighter read, and things were knit together a little too neatly at the end. This book gets a B. (04/18/08)

34. I'll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock. If you want to read a wonderful book with interesting characters and a few "never-saw-it-coming" plot twists, this is your book. Hope and faith triumph over tragedy. The setting of this novel is during the polio outbreaks of the 1940s. This book gets an A. I couldn't put it down. (04/20/08)

35. Things We Once Held Dear by Ann Tatlock. An artist returns to his hometown and an old family homestead and has to deal with the "ghosts" of his past. A sweet story with some wonderful characters, especially "Uncle Bernie." This book gets a B+. (04/23/08)

36. For Pete's Sake by Linda Windsor. A "Christian romance" but better written than some others I've found, this is the story of a single woman who falls for an engaged man with a young son. Complicating matters is the little boy's Asperger's syndrome and the sabotage of the man's business by an insider. This book gets a B. (04/28/08)

37. A Room of My Own by Ann Tatlock. A wonderful story set in Depression-era Minnesota, this novel depicts a young girl, daughter of a doctor, who learns about workers' struggles, unions, hunger, and violence. Her strength can be seen when the violence touches her own family. This book gets an A. (05/06/08)

38. A Place Called Morning by Ann Tatlock. It is only by facing up to the losses and crises in her life, and allowing herself to forgive, that the main character is able to tie together some loose ends in her life. I thought this book was going to be depressing, because there is a good deal of loss and grief. But instead, it turned out to be very uplifting. Tatlock's writing is not sweet or sentimental. It is honest and straightforward. Her characters struggle with their faith as they endure the troubles life brings. I loved how this novel ended. This book gets an A. (05/12/08)

39. The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer. I picked this book up to see what all the buzz was about, since it has gotten a lot of press because of its "Mommy Wars" theme. Frankly, it was not all that great. It really didn't deal much with "Mommy Wars" but instead was pretty much of a downer, with all kinds of people dissatisfied with their situations and feeling jealous of others in different situations. Wolitzer can write a fabulous paragraph, but I didn't care for the plot line. This book gets a C. (05/20/08)

40. How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by (drat, I returned this to the library without writing down the name of the author). This was a pretty good story, definitely in the "chick lit/beach read" genre. A deep-in-debt recent college grad loses her peon job in publishing and is given a chance to pay off her college loans if she can help 2 spoiled teenagers get into the college of their rich grandmother's choice. WAY farfetched, but still enjoyable. This book gets a B. (05/25/08)

41. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. Not her best! I felt that she was reworking old themes (organ donation and sexual abuse of children) but with a new twist (death penalty). Even some old characters (Ian Fletcher from Keeping Faith) popped up. I'm no fan of the use of 4 or 5 different narrators, either. Because I've come to expect more of this author, this book gets a B-. (06/01/08)

42. Chasing Windmills by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Excellent, excellent, excellent! This book had 2 narrators, which was more manageable. It was a sweet story of a homeschooled young man who wants to escape his oppressive father and winds up meeting an abused young mom who rides the subway at night to escape her violent boyfriend. No, this book did not poke at homeschoolers--but you'll have to read it to find out why. This book gets an A+. (06/03/08)

43. Losing It by Valerie Bertinelli. Yes, I admit it, I gave in to the hype and read this quite cheesy autobiography/thinly-veiled Jenny Craig commercial. I'd rather have just read about her life rather than her eating life. It was not very well-written, and there is a big-time language alert. Also, I will admit confusing Valerie Bertinelli with Barbara Cooper, her character on One Day at a Time. So I was disappointed when she didn't react as I would think Barbara Cooper would. This book gets a C-. (06/05/08)

44. What Do You Do All Day? by Amy Scheibe. Yawn...yet another "Mommy Wars" book that ends with the proud-to-stay-home Mommy returning to work. There was just way too much agonized navel-gazing in there to suit me. I thought it would be a funny book, but it really wasn't. This book gets a C. (06/06/08)

45. Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema. This was an excellent, excellent page-turner written by a Canadian author who looks amazingly like my brother. It's the story of a preschool child who is hit by a car and in a coma, but mysteriously has the power to heal others. There's an element of the supernatural and a surprise ending that wasn't at all what I expected or even wanted, but which I will admit was the perfect ending for the story. I highly recommend this book! This book gets an A+. (06/07/08)

46. Susannah's Garden by Debbie Macomber. Her books are kind of sweet and kind of predictable, but she still does tell a good story that's quick and enjoyable to read. This was the story of a woman who returns to her childhood home after the death of her father, deals with her mother's advancing Alzheimer's disease, and finally puts to rest some mysterious events from her teen years. This book gets a B. (06/09/08)

47. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill. This book was recommended to me by my mom. It is the story of a former advertising executive who loses his high-paying job, and then his marriage ends due to his infidelity. He winds up sweeping floors, cleaning toilets and working the cash register at a Starbucks in New York City. Subtitled "A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else," this book shows how he learned to be more humble about his wants, needs, and attitude at work. It was a pretty good book, but I have to admit I didn't have a lot of sympathy for Gill. This book gets a B-. (06/13/08)

48. The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller. Language alert! Yikes! This book is full of R-rated language. The title is a bit misleading, since the main character is actually the neighbor of the Senator's wife. I liked the Senator's wife better than her neighbor, but not too many characters in this book were really likable. I've read others by this author which were much better. This book gets a C. (06/16/08)

49. Rattled by Debra Gallant. It takes place in the county where I live, and is a funny book about the "country people" vs. the "McMansion people" who move in to the area. The refrigerator case in the general store where they used to sell bait worms now contains sushi...but the real fun begins when a rattlesnake comes into someone's backyard. This was definitely an R-rated book, and not the best book in the world, but a fun summer read. This book gets a B-. (06/26/08)

50. The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. I was prepared not to like this book from a snide reference to homemakers on the first page--but it was amazing. The story of a single mother of a tween daughter who owns a knitting shop, of the women who work in the shop, and the women who frequent it--and how their lives all intertwine. A cover quote compares it to "Steel Magnolias" so I was prepared for a tragedy, but it wasn't the tragedy I would have expected. This was a fabulous book. This book gets an A.

51. Admissions by Nancy Lieberman. Yes, it's a takeoff on "The Nanny Diaries" or "The Devil Wears Prada"--there seems to be a real market for those books these days and I admit to being a little hooked on them. Could this book really be describing how things are in New York City when you want to put your children in private school? This is not a world I'd like to inhabit and certainly not one in which I would thrive. But the author makes it entertaining. This book gets a B.

52. Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. This is a tale told in a very disjointed way. However, it did draw me in. The story of a woman hired as a governess who winds up entangled in the family in ways no one bargained for, it has a lot of interesting twists and turns--not necessarily the ones I wanted, as the reader. The main character was a little irritating, as it seemed that she was just drifting along, letting things happen to her. Shreve writes beautifully and poetically, though. This book gets a B+.

53. The Lost Men by Brian Leung. This was a very sad book about a father and son who were torn apart after the death of the mother. It was a book full of secrets and of the pain of keeping them and not knowing them. This book gets a B.

54. The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Anne Brashares. I think this author did better with "teen" novels. This was an OK book. Rated R or maybe even NC-17 for the subject matter! It tells the story of two sisters and the boy next door, and a love relationship that has long been denied. It's a story with a tragedy that you wish hadn't happened. This book gets a B. (07/28/08)

55. Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon. Mysterious and suspenseful, this book is full of surprises. It's the story of a young woman who witnesses a kidnapping, and who tries to resolve the disappearance of her childhood friend while she works to help solve the kidnapping. Though the subject was sad, this was a fabulous book. This book gets an A. (07.30.08)

56. Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury. A child is given up for adoption but his father never knew he existed. Just out of prison for abusing the child's mother, the father learns about his young son and wants him back. The adoptive parents are prepared to go to just about any lengths to keep their child. This book gets a B.

57. Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde. This was a really fun British chick-lit book. The story centers on a young interior designer who renovates a house and discovers the difference between true love and "just a crush." A light, very enjoyable read. This book gets a B+. (08/03/08)

58. Singing with the Top Down by Debrah Williamson. A novel about two children whose parents are failing them, and how they cope after their parents are killed in a freak accident. This was a really touching book about how these children become part of a family for the first time in their lives. This book gets a B+. (08/09/08)

59. On Sparrow Hill by Maureen Lang. Sequel to The Oak Leaves which I read earlier this year. It continues the 2 story lines (separated by 150 years). A pretty good, Christian novel. This book gets a B. (08/12/08)

60. Welcome to the Motherhood: Grime and Punishment by Melissa Jarvis. The back of the book would have you believe that Jarvis is "the Erma Bombeck of South Jersey." It was funny, but I wasn't laughing out loud too often. But it was a good, light book about being a mom. This book gets a B. (08/14/08)

61. Second Draft of My Life by Sara Lewis. I found this book on a remainder table at a bookshop. Sometimes I find the best stuff there! This book is about an author in her early 40s who decides to begin a new career as a teacher and also reinvents other areas of her life. It was a really excellent story, with a clever framed tale and other interesting features. I highly recommend this book. This book gets an A. (08/20/2008)

62. Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf was suspenseful because in the beginning of the book you learn that a certain character has done a very bad thing, but it's not until 3/4 of the way through the book that you find out what it is. However, I was not compelled by the characters--I didn't even like them and found it hard to find sympathy for them. This book gets a C+. (08/22/08)

63. Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon. The feeling of the evil spoken of in this book was so powerful. The story was very well done, but the circumstances of the story were horrible. Kind of like a Lovely Bones type story. This book gets a B, but I will never reread it. (08/24/08)

64. House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes by Daniel McGinn. McGinn writes about people who are in a completely different economic class than I am, but it was fascinating reading. He discusses renovation fever, vacation homes, home size and the urge to purchase brand-new homes. This book touches on marketing, economics, psychology and other factors as McGinn discusses housing in America. This book gets a B. (08/29/08)

65. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. I like Keyes' books but this one had the feeling of "same old, same old" that, combined with the 4 separate narrators, left me cold. One of the narrators used a "journal" style which meant very few pronouns, linking verbs or articles. I found it tough to read after a while. I was engaged with the characters but this book was a chore to finish. This book gets a C. (09/06/08)

66. First, Do No Harm by Larry Karp. I'm not generally a mystery reader, but my mom read this book and told me I had to read it. She knows that I, like her, enjoy books that take place in locations familiar to me. This book is set in World-War-II-era "Hobart, NJ" which is actually a thinly-disguised Paterson, NJ. The author changed the names of all the towns, but not the river and not the streets. I could have followed a map to the locations mentioned in this book; in some cases, I wouldn't have needed a map! As to the story, it's a mystery that is solved by two generations, 60 years apart. I'll look for others by this author (this is his fourth novel). This book gets a B+; I couldn't put it down. (09/08/08)

67. Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin. This author always seems to write about death, death of a child, and fractured family relationships. (This is the fourth book of his that I have read). That said, he tells a really good story. This book took some time to get going, though; I came very close to putting it back in the library bag unfinished. But then it grabbed my attention. It's the story of a young journalist who, though an assignment to write about a young, visibly-abused foundling, comes to grips with the crises in his own childhood and family life. This book gets a B+. (09/11/08)

68. Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender. I read this on the recommendation of a friend who knew of my interest in the topic of the value of homemaking. While I enjoyed what Bender had to say about the Amish and the simplicity of their life, I think she missed a very important point. Their life is faith-based. There is a reason for their simplicity. Because Bender does not view her life with an eye to Christian faith (she variously refers to Zen, Greek gods and goddesses) she misses the point of the simplicity. It is born of the beliefs of the Amish people. She realizes at the end of the book that she cannot copy it--but never realizes why. This book gets a C+. (09/14/08)

69. A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin. This book was very, very good. I enjoy reading "recent historical" fiction; this book takes place in World-War-II era Chicago. It's the story of several women who do "Rosie the Riveter" work during the war, and how they are changed by the work they do and their friendship with each other. It was enjoyable to read and an uplifting story. This book gets an A. (09/20/08)

70. The Sound of Us by Sarah Willis. Fabulous story of a middle-aged single woman who winds up becoming a foster parent as a result of a middle-of-the-night wrong number. It's impossible to read this book without getting wrapped up in Alice's life as well as the lives of the little girl and her birth mother. I hated to put it down, and I hated to see it end. I want Sarah Willis to write a sequel so I will know what happens to Larissa, the little girl. This book gets an A+. (09/24/08)

71. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella. Yes, it's fluff, chick lit at its best. Sophie Kinsella tells a really good, funny story. In this novel, a young woman has a fall after a night out with friends, and wakes up in the hospital to discover that it's 3 years later, she's married to a man she doesn't even remember meeting, has a wonderful job and a completely different life. Great story! This book gets a B+. (09/26/08)

72. The Secret Between Us by Barbara Delinsky. This novel explores the question: Is it good to lie in order to protect your child from punishment? Even if your motives are good, the result may not be. An excellent novel. I'd also let my 12-year-old daughter read this. This book gets a B+. (09/28/08)

73. Daughter of the Loom by Tracie Peterson and Judith Miller. This is the first book in the "Bells of Lowell" series. It's historical fiction, but my preferred "time period" is the 20th century and this is early 19th. This book took me a long time to read--too long for a book of this size. I just don't think I was really compelled to stick with it. This book gets a C+. (10/08/08)

74. The Mercy Rule by Perri Klass. The plot line was all over the place! The story itself was interesting, but I thought there were too many loose ends, too many just disjointed episodes, not even in chronological order. All that was frustrating. I probably will not pick up others by this author. This book gets a C+. If it had been a longer book, I doubt I'd have stuck with it to the end. (10/10/08)

75. The Ragtime Kid by Larry Karp. A murder mystery with composer Scott Joplin as a central character, this was an interesting novel. An enjoyable read. This book gets a B. (10/15/08)

76. The Book of Mychal by Michael Daly. A biography written by a man with an axe to grind, this is the story of Father Mychal Judge, OFM, who was the FDNY chaplain and died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. Because I know some of the people and places mentioned in this book, I also know of some factual errors in the storytelling. This book gets a C+. (10/22/08)

77. Dakota Born by Debbie Macomber. Nothing heavy-duty here, and certainly predictable, but this novel was a pleasant read. It's the story of a young woman who returns to her grandparents' home town and falls in love. Of course, this is not without bumps along the way, but it was a pleasant story. It's part of a trilogy, so a few other plot lines were set up in this novel. I'll read the others, but I'm not expecting to be bowled over. This book gets a B. (10/25/08)

78. Roommates Wanted by Lisa Jewell. This novel had a cute premise: a man is given a house as an inheritance by his father, with the condition that he keep the one tenant who lives there. He winds up inviting some other "lost souls" to live there, and they settle in and never want to leave. Things get interesting when he falls for the girl across the street. It was a pleasant and interesting story. This book gets a B+. (11/02/08)

79. Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg. A mystery novel set in the publishing world, this is the story of an ambitious young literary agent's assistant and how she is spooked by an anonymously-submitted murder mystery that is sent in chapter by chapter and that weirdly parallels her own life. This book gets a C+. (11/06/08)

80. Dakota Home by Debbie Macomber.

81. Always Dakota by Debbie Macomber.

82. Against Medical Advice by James Patterson & Hal Friedman. Told from the point of view of a young man with Tourette's syndrome, this is a fascinating book about what Cory was able to accomplish while battling the side effects of many medications. It was an inspiring story but not particularly well-written; at one point when Cory's mother advocates for him at his high school, you learn about many, many impressive things he has managed to do that you have known nothing about up to that time. There were a few instances like this where the book had some holes in the plot. However, this true story was definitely worth the read. This book gets a B. (11/10/08)

83. Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan McCorkindale. I had a hard time feeling sorry for McCorkindale, who left a high-paying job and a high-priced home in a high-priced neighborhood and moved to northern Virginia where her biggest complaint is the lack of a nearby Starbucks. She tries hard to be funny, and sometimes succeeds, but mostly I just couldn't dredge up a lot of sympathy for her. This book gets a C. (11/13/08)

84. Towelhead by Alicia Erian. This was a really tragic story of a young girl caught in the middle of a bitter divorce. Neither of her parents is equipped to deal with a teen girl, especially on their own. The physical, emotional and sexual abuse that she goes through are appalling. Not a book for preteen eyes. This book gets a B. (11/19/08)

85. Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts. I enjoy books by this author but I have to wonder why abandonment in a Wal-Mart has to open more than one story! This was an interesting novel about siblings who wind up living on the streets of Las Vegas and the Good Samaritan who helps them find a new life. Not for preteen eyes. This book gets a B+. (11/20/08)

86. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. This novel made me cry. It was an excellent story of a lifelong friendship, but not a sappy story. It was a "warts and all" story, best "good cry" and "good smile" all in one book. Highly recommended! This book gets an A+, and some people in my family will be getting this for Christmas this year. (11/22/08)

87. .Fear and Yoga in New Jersey by Debra Galant. This book was just plain silly, but it took place in Essex County, NJ--so I could picture many of the places described in the book. The story was completely unbelievable though the characters were real. WAY too many F-bombs were dropped in this book. But it was OK as light reads go. This book gets a C+. (11/26/08)

88. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. WHY did my mother think I would enjoy a book about late-pregnancy loss? This book dealt with a heartbreaking topic. It's fabulously written and I will look for more by this author, but I don't think I'd recommend this memoir to anyone. This book gets an A for writing. Certainly the author can't help the depressing nature of the subject matter. (11/28/08)

89. Changing Habits by Debbie Macomber. Can you say "predictable?" Three women enter the convent during the 1950s/early 1960s and leave during the early 1970s. How about, just once, the story of one who stays and is happy? The author mentions in the foreword that she was "raised Catholic" which I take to mean that she is "no longer Catholic." Yes, I think that distinction makes a difference. This book was disappointing and gets a C. (12/02/2008)

90. Happy Family by Wendy Lee. This compelling novel told the story of a young illegal Chinese immigrant woman who is looking for a way to belong and find family here in the USA. Thinking she has found it with a Caucasian couple who has adopted a Chinese baby girl, she winds up on a roller-coaster ride when things don't turn out as she thinks they should. This book gets an A+. (12/07/08)

91. Freakonomics by Steven J. Levitt. (12/10/08)

92. Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan. (12/12/08)

93. Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco. (12/13/08)

94. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This is one of those "trendy" books that I had avoided just because it was trendy. But when friend after friend recommended it to me, I just had to read it. It was excellent! I'm definitely going to get my own copy of this book because I know I'll want to read it again. The characters were wonderful and the plot was not predictable--but not so farfetched you'd never believe it, either. This book gets an A+! (12/17/2008)

95. The Secret's in the Sauce by Linda E. Shepherd. Silly and mindless, light "Christian women's fiction." This book gets a C+. (12/20/2008)

96. The Other Side of Darkness by Melody Carlson. I couldn't put this book down. It's a disturbing novel about what can happen when someone with OCD gets sucked into a cultlike church. The characters are very, very real and the plot believable. This book gets an A+. (12/23/2008)

97. Here's the Story by Maureen McCormick. Subtitled "Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice," this book is a badly-written celebrity tell-all. Complete with typos and even spots where it looks like McCormick was changing someone's name to protect their identity, but didn't remember to change it EVERY time, this book was sloppily done and it shows. It's almost 300 pages long but less than 100 deal with the Brady years. It's good that McCormick was able to overcome her drug abuse and other issues, but it really didn't make for a great read. This book gets a C. (12/29/2008)