Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recent Reads...

Some recent books I have enjoyed...

 Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Intriguing novel about a woman who is reunited with her eighteen year old daughter that she gave up for adoption at birth, and the resulting complexities that ensue....heart-felt, complex, real, cannot put it down! (As an added bonus, part of the story is set in St. Louis, my hometown, making it even more interesting!)

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Intense themes, expertly written novel about Brown University students of the '80s...the characters and their complexities, relationships, intellectual/academic lives and challenges...VERY interesting, but a heavier read.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Historical fiction tale of Hemingway and his relationship with his first wife, Hadley Richardson....fascinating, romantic, makes-you-want-to-travel-back-to-1920's/1930's-Paris (think of the movie, Midnight in Paris) read!

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

Light-hearted, inspiring true story about 11 childhood friends who grow up in Ames, Iowa, together, and their enduring friendship despite changes in cities, interests, careers, life stages, and their stories of love, loss, marriage, family, death, challenges, memories shared, and joy.  I highly recommend to anyone who grew up with a great group of girl-friends, whether from elementary, high school, and/or college.  You will relate to the various characters and their stories, and appreciate the friendships you have shared in the past, and those that continue today.

Book Review: Emily Giffin's Where We Belong

I recently finished Emily Giffin's latest novel, Where We Belong,  and found it so intriguing, I could not put it down! I absolutely adore this author.  I have read all of her books, and I am a big fan. She is so creative, insightful, and articulate.  Furthermore, she has such a keen understanding of human nature and its psychology, emotions, and relationships.  Likewise, she often weaves a subtle thread of societal satire throughout her work, touching on relevant issues including marriage, parenthood, modern motherhood in terms of suburban stay-at-home versus urban career, consumerism, materialism, as well as socioeconomic and cultural divides.

Incidentally, I found this novel particularly interesting, as there are TONS of references for which I have personal connections.  For example, one of the main characters (Kirby) grows up in my hometown of St. Louis, on Eichelberger Street, where my grandparents/parents used to own a rental property.  It is clear Giffin did her thorough research for this novel.  Her culture descriptions of the St. Louis locations, neighborhoods, high schools, even ice cream shops (Ted Drews), and other references are very authentic!

Additionally, the other main character (Marian) grows up going to football games, and is destined to attend University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (my husband's alma mater, and therefore the destination for various fall football weekends of our own).  Coincidentally, my St. Louis high school field hockey team (Villa Duchesne) traveled to Chicago to play against New Trier High School, which happens to be the alma mater of main character Marian, and setting for a return visit in the novel.  Finally, when Marian and Kirby go to Lincoln Park to meet Conrad, his apartment is located on Armitage, the same street I lived on in Chicago after college....It was as if someone I grew up with could have written this novel! Naturally, it was fun to read with so many familiar references.

In terms of her story lines and plot material, they are always incredibly familiar, down to earth, and real.  When I read her novels, and imagine myself in the situations, scenarios, and relationships that she develops, her thought process mirrors exactly what I would be thinking!  Although her work has perhaps been included in the "chick lit" or young adult category, her perspective, writing, and insight are more brilliant and layered than the typically shallow, predictable, and cliched themes found in your average chick lit/beach-read.

Author Emily Giffin with her latest work, Where We Belong

Some critical praise of her novels:

Giffin's book is instantly relatable - few don't wonder how their lives would be different if they had turned left rather than right at life's big forks. Her writing is realistic and entertaining. There are unexpected plot twists and measured jabs at materialism and Southern societal norms...[and] Giffin's funny, honest voice lends credence to this modern riff on the old adage that the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence.
--The Charlotte Observer

Giffin's books...are funny, sensitive, and truthful depictions of female friendships and the complexities of marriage and motherhood.
--Atlanta Peach

Page-turning, heartbreakingly honest...Instead of falling back on easy chick-lit cliches, Giffin deftly depicts the hopeful hearts behind an unsympathetic situation.
--Entertainment Weekly

A thrill to read.
The Washington Post

Giffin punctures suburban trophy mothers and private school privilege, rising above the often-shallow chick fray with a gimlet-eyed skepticism for the traps modern women fall into.
--The Atlantan

Giffin's plotting and prose is so engaging that she quickly becomes a fun, friendly presence in your reading life.
--The Chicago Sun-Times

Giffin's books are fast-moving, emotionally absorbing stories about female friendships, marriage, and childbirth.
--Chicago Tribune

Giffin does a great job of character development and witty repartee.
--The Seattle Times

Smartly written. The dialogue is real...Emily Giffin knows what she's doing.
--The Winston-Salem Journal

Sprightly...dead-on dialogue, real-life complexity, and genuine warmth.
--Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Giffin displays her trademark ability to capture the complexities of human emotions while telling a rip-roaring tale.
--Washington Post

Giffin uses her great wit and gift of storytelling to weave a tale that's nuanced, empathetic and, at times, heartbreaking.
--Associated Press

Giffin's introspective and moving love story is an ode to those who take the road less traveled.
--The Atlantan

Offers multiple and complex perspectives on the crazy experience that is parenting.
--Daily Candy

Giffin's talent lies in making her characters believable and relatable, and readers will be enthralled by this layered, absorbing novel.

A modern-day Jane Austen.
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hilarious and thoughtfully written.
The Seattle Times

Sharply observed and beautifully etched.
The Newark Star-Ledger

Giffin is a dependably down-to-earth storyteller.
--The New York Times

One of the sharpest writers out there. Profound, humorous, and reveals layers of a woman’s deepest desires.
The Arizona Republic

Giffin skillfully explores the secret workings of a woman’s heart and the often painful consequences of one’s actions.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Giffin’s talent lies in taking relatable situations and injecting enough wit and suspense to make them feel fresh.

Smart, believable, and authentic …Captures friendships and love and their attendant complexities.
San Francisco Chronicle

Giffin’s writing is true, smart, and heartfelt.
Entertainment Weekly

Favorite TV Shows...

As the summer is winding down, sadly we must say our good-bye's to our flip flops, water skis, sand pails, and margaritas; BUT, at least we have our fall TV to look forward to, right? Sadly, our DVR fills up faster than we can possibly entertain.  Perhaps this year, we will have to narrow our picks to a more manageable list.

Yet, there seems to be a show for every occasion...the shows that my hubby and I like to watch together, the guilty-pleasure, or what I like to call, 'junk food for the brain' shows, the informative/educational shows, the intriguing/suspense shows, the feel-good family-dramas, the comedies, etc.

Below are some of our favorites:

The ones we watch together...

By far, my husband Bob's favorite fall TV....he ATTEMPTS to work our entire schedule around Michigan football 

Absolutely HILARIOUS comedy about the nuances of friendships and husband is a clone (personality) of main character, Jeff!

Comedy/drama about typical family idiosyncrasies, challenges, dramas, relationship issues, etc....usually makes us feel as though we have NO problems after watching this show!

Set in 1960's NYC, brilliant drama about the private and professional lives of characters in the mid-century advertising world
A&E crime thriller series set in Big Sky country...based on the Longmire mystery novels by Craig Johnson

Guilty-pleasure, "junk food for the brain" shows...

Given my love for all things related to interior design, I fell in love with this show, and I am anxiously awaiting the (presumed) next season!

Juicy suspense/drama about a girl who seeks to avenge her father's death, set in the Hamptons

Hilarious parody about Upper East Side Manhattan and the shenanigans of its beautiful, young inhabitants...if for no other reason, fun to watch for the fashion/decor!

Hysterical comedy about an extended family and all its relatable scenarios, dynamics, antics, and quirky characters

Informative, educational shows...

With the crazy morning routine of getting everyone ready and out the door, little snippets of NBC's The Today Show keeps me sane...

I used to watch The View religiously, but I simply no longer  have the time....But, if I can sneak a peak, I still enjoy watching these ladies (from all over the political spectrum) hash it out!

We enjoy watching essentially anything on the History channel...

We find this show both highly informative and hilarious, as it features various people attempting to consign, sell, or pawn their antique/vintage treasures...this charismatic family run business navigates through countless treasures as people wonder, is it real or fake? what is it worth? what is its history?

Absolutely love watching the adorable Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network and all of her delicious creations...she always has inventive, authentic recipes, and makes it look so easy!

Who doesn't love to watch Ina Garten's Barefood Contessa, also on Food Network?  You can pretend to join her for a trip to her local market, a cooking demo, and a charming lunch served in her beautiful East Hampton backyard!

Some shows that we used to watch but eliminated in the interest of time include Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Hot in Cleveland, Desperate Housewives, American Idol, The X Factor, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, Pregnant in Heels, Real Housewives...

Recent Kid Lit Favs...

Attached are some of our recent favorite children's books.  Some are old, some are new, but they are all tried and true (at least in our house)...As usual, we love the rhythmic story lines, adorable illustrations, and crazy-creative imaginations of these authors/illustrators...Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Favorites from OKL's "Emerging Artists"

Today I was admiring One King's Lane offerings of print-on-canvas of "emerging artists"....I really love these contemporary works for their bold colors, abstract designs, graphic, energetic quality...Although I must say, though I have a few framed prints, I much prefer original art for its (obvious) originality, authentic texture, and enduring quality.  I have discovered that if you exhibit enough discretion and patience, you can snag original artwork at reasonable prices via antique stores, auctions, estate sales, foreign countries (my fav!), and local markets and galleries.  Better yet, with enough time and effort, make your own!  Nevertheless, I love the selections below (preferably framed)...

Jennifer Latimer

Jennifer Moreman

Jennifer Moreman

Jennifer Moreman

Michelle Armas

Michelle Armas

Michelle Armas

Michelle Armas

Michelle Armas

Michelle Armas

Julian Rapp

Julian Rapp

Julian Rapp

Judith Gigliotti

Judith Gigliotti

Judith Gigliotti