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Intrigued by the opening credits to the new HBO series Big Little Lies that I saw while waiting to watch another HBO show, I decided to look into Liane Moriarty’s novel which is the basis for the show.  Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern, how can this show not be amazing?  So I set out to read the book first.  It is a page turner with short chapters, many of which begin or end the police interrogation dialogue, as it is established a murder has occurred in Chapter One.  The female characters played by Hollywood’s finest all are mothers of kindergartners at Pirriwee Peninsula Public School, although HBO has moved the location from Sydney, Australia to LA.  The mothers are all “pretty people” and the competition among them is pretty fierce at times.  Woodley’s character, Jane, is a single mom who has moved to town with her son, Ziggy.  Their arrival and assimilation into the mother-crowd throws off the group dynamics.

I thought this would be fluff-chick, Stepford Wives type reading, but there are larger issues surrounding the “big, little lies” moneyed mothers tell to keep up the facade of perfection.  Past and present relationships are far from perfect, and Moriarty makes some pretty strong social statements throughout.

I can’t wait to watch the series.  I had Amazon send copies of the paperback to my daughter and daughter-in-law and I am hoping for some discussion to come from our little mother/daughter book club.  By the last quarter of the book, I was entirely sucked in and could not put it down.

I am a huge Olive Kitteridge fan, so I assumed I must be a huge Elizabeth Strout fan.  Unfortunately, My Name is Lucy Barton was a disappointment, mostly because of the fundamental questions it did not answer for me.  Lucy spends the whole first half of the novel in the hospital – but there is never the slightest hint what is wrong with her.  That bothered me enough to over shadow the charming parts of the book.  While she is in the hospital, her mother, from whom Lucy as been estranged for a long time, comes to visit.  She sits at the foot of her daughter’s bed, calls her by her childhood nickname, Wizzle, and the two recount old stories and reminisce about forgotten personalities from the old neighborhood.  Occasionally a doctor or nurse comes in to check on something ? ? and abruptly her mother announces she must leave.

Lucy has a husband and daughters, who play very minimal roles in the story.  And even Lucy herself never rises to the role of a fully fleshed character in my mind.  She goes to classes to learn to write from a legendary teacher, Sarah Payne, who teaches her that we each have one single story to tell.  But Lucy Barton’s story is told in fragments, always with some necessary portion hidden behind the mysterious hospital curtain.

Looking to stroll through New York City on New Year’s Eve with a fashionable and fearless old lady?  Lillian Boxfish is your gal and a you will enjoy every minute of your time with this character.  Told in chapters that alternate between the 1984 New Year’s Eve walk and Lillian’s successful career as an ad woman for R. H. Macy’s in the 1930s, the novel spans a lifetime of love and loss.  The character is indeed based on a real woman named Margaret Fishback who was herself the real highest paid female advertising copywriter in the world during the 1930s.

Shrugging off the warning from her adult son that New York isn’t safe for an older woman on her own, Lillian is undaunted by the task of walking across town to a New Year’s Eve party she hadn’t even intended to go to.  Decked in a forgotten fur coat from the back of her closet, she encounters a mixed bag of characters along her way.

One of the last lines of the book sum up retrospective view of life – “No one survives the future, of course.  Over the years, I have rushed it, run from it, tried to shunt myself from its track.  That these efforts did not succeed does not mean that I regret them”

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I was gifted this book for Christmas, but it was the paperback Target Club Pick edition with a cool looking trailer on the cover.  The best sentence in the whole book is the first one – “Every night, Frank played harmonica for the cats”.  Except Frank doesn’t make it past the first chapter!  The trailer park neighbor kid, Jake, is told he shouldn’t be seeing this, as they haul Frank’s body out, but Jake takes the harmonicas and keeps them under his bed.

What happens in the rest of the novel which is set in Quinn, Montana – population 956?    Rachel Flood,  the town home wrecker returns after a self-imposed leave to sober up.  She tries to make amends with her mother who runs the local bar, The Dirty Shame.  Rachel ends up paying her dues by being forced to tend bar AND play on her mother’s soft ball league.

Unfortunately, I found the book to be flat.  I kept waiting for a big thing to happen that would propel me through the rest of the book.  Bar night, followed by bar brawl, followed by too much drinking, followed by hungover softball game – repeat.

My favorite character was misunderstood and neglected Jake, who drew his understanding of life from Jackie Collins novels and Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He had a sewing machine that was his source of solace.  What happens with him at the end of the novel made me want the throw the book across the room.  I guess the dilapidated trailer on the cover should have been enough warning.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

January 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Lackey in My Creating Life - (0 Comments)

Even though we have basically sworn off getting books for each other, this book was a very welcome Christmas gift from David.   I have been a relatively big fan of Ian McEwan since I read Atonement back in 2004.  Nutshell borrows heavily from Hamlet,  a play I taught so many times I guarantee I caught all of the subtle nods.  As for the not-so-subtle stuff – the main character named not Gertrude but Trudy, and her lover, her husband’s brother Claude, not Claudius – it was pretty contrived.  But nothing was as contrived as the narrator, the unborn fetus who “sees” the whole drama unfold.  His mother is having an affair with his father’s brother and this fetus is able to describe every sexual encounter between the two like he is there – because he is.  He even describes it as he feels it from the womb.  Couldn’t teach this book – no siree!  Because Trudy and Claude want to be left alone, there is plotting, there is intrigue, there is murder (wouldn’t you guess).

It is a slim novel.  McEwan’s language is lovely.  But the only character who I even wanted to like wasn’t even born yet.   I read almost the whole book on New Year’s Day with a large glass of left over Champagne by the fire, so that part was delightful.  But the book isn’t one I will be passing to all my friends anytime soon.

The Girls by Emma Cline

August 27th, 2016 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

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I have been so negligent about writing book reviews lately but this one needs to be done immediately.  I finished reading Emma Cline’s The Girls today after being riveted by the novel for a few days.  I had read a NY Times review of the book earlier this summer, and patiently waited for the ebook to be available from the library.   I am not curiously drawn to anything having to do with cults or Charles Manson, but the early press about the manuscript leading to a bidding war among a dozen publishers and the seven figure, three book deal made me awfully interested.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the story is tightly focused on the girls – of course.  The central character, Evie, is fourteen in the summer of 1969.  Her divorced parents seem preoccupied, her best friend seems distant, her town seems disenchanted – she is ripe for the allure of Suzanne, an older girl she sees one day with a few other girls harvesting food from a dumpster.  When Suzanne eyes Evie with a lingering glance, Evie is struck.  What follows are multiple trips and extended stays at the Mansonesque commune where a haunting musician named Russell commands.  Of course there is plenty of sex and drugs and music, but the focus is on the relationship between Evie and Suzanne.  Of course there is a climactic event of violence and a lifetime of lingering guilt by association for Evie, who is an older adult in the opening chapter and subsequent sections.

Cline knows girls and can expose the fragility of innocence with beautifully crafted prose.  This is a book that people will be talking about and girls will be reading.


Historic downtown Bedford, Pennsylvania is full of unique shops, but Mary’s Quilt Shop is a sewist’s one-of-kind dream destination.  The shop is in this beautiful blue newly restored 1813 Federal style building.  I had read that their specialty is antique quilts and vintage reproduction fabric.  As I stepped inside, I was immediately greeted by a friendly employee and when I told her a bit about myself, she quickly took me to meet Mary Koval, the owner and renowned quilt expert. 

Mary was setting up in the back workroom for a group of ladies who were on their way, but she gladly spent some time explaining that she designs antique reproduction fabric that she uses to assemble quilt exhibits for museums and other venues all over the world. She is a lecturer on many quilt topics and is a leading source for many quilting publications. 

The walls of the shop display beautiful antique and reproduction quilts, the fabrics are smartly arranged and each corner of the store is filled with eye-catching displays.


While I was looking at fabric, David showed Mary a picture of the Lackey women working on Esther Jean Lackey’s mother’s unfinished quilt last Thanksgiving.  Mary commented that her upstairs quilters’ retreat quarters would be a perfect place for a ladies reunion quilting party.  It turns out the upstairs floors of the building have been beautifully remodeled into a common area, state of the art kitchen and bedrooms for 16.   With a huge sewing room down the hall, it makes for a perfect sewing getaway destination.  And with all the cute shops in town to explore, and the restaurants within walking distance, I am already hoping to plan an event with friends or family. 

Of course, I announced that I did I not need any fabric when I arrived, but I couldn’t resist a few cute antique patterns like these –

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All of my favorite things – smart characters, descriptions of exotic dishes, recipes, menus – come together in Kitchens of the Great Midwest.  Eva, the central character, is born in the first chapter and ages rapidly in subsequent chapters where she sometimes plays only a minor role.  Eva has a talent for food – knowing ingredients, putting together a meal, and even using food as a weapon.  I loved watching her grow into an enigmatic chef so popular people would pay thousands of dollars and endure years on a waiting list just to eat at one of her mysterious pop-up dinners.  The chapter titled “Bars” is all about those delicious 9 x 13 pan-baked creations and was the tastiest of the whole book for me.

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This slim little novel is so fast paced, I almost finished it in a day.  Told entirely in second person, Vida’s narrator has her laptop and identification stolen while checking in to a hotel in Morocco.  After some wrangling with the local police, she accepts another woman’s ID and thus begins a series of events, new names and personalities so entangled it will leave “you” wondering who “you” are.   I listened to an interview with Vendetta Vida, who is Dave Eggers’ wife, and she said the book was prompted by a similar experience that she had with a stolen laptop that contained an unfinished manuscript.  She also said second person narration was the only way she could tell this story.  I was hooked from the opening scene and laughed aloud at the last line.  Highly recommend!

The Little Paris Bookshop

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by Lackey in My Reading Life - (0 Comments)

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What a sweet little story, perfect for any bibliophile with an interest in romance.  Monsieur Perdu calls his floating bookstore barge a literary apothecary, and prides himself on his ability to match a book with a person’s current needs.  But his own soul is empty, and when he decides to leave his mooring and travel in search of some answers to old questions, the book takes off.  It is a charming novel, full of quirky characters and a few good book titles that might help with the longings of your own life.