Monday, April 21, 2014

What's on Your Nightstand? April Edition

Wow! Some months are just overwhelmed with great books, and happily April has been one of those months!!


Kirkus Reviews are usually dead-right. This IS one of the best books of the year, without doubt! Everything about this marvelous coming-of-age story rings true. From the embarrassment over a geeky Dad and disappointed Mom, to the "not worthy" feelings toward the lovely girl in the new, fancy house--it's all there. All of it. And, I felt it all both ways--as the person coming of age in the same time period and as the parent who is the "geek."

I fell hopelessly in love with Jamie Ford's writing when my son and I listened to an audio of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet a few years ago. His new book, Songs of Willow Frost, has that same poignancy, that same "believe-ablity," This time, though, I was glad I listened alone. My children are adopted and this book gave me tremendous insight into the desperate place they are in--they love me and our family, but there is always that "what if...." Jamie Ford captures that "what if" so beautifully. He also makes sure the reader feels the innate sadness of an orphan's life without it being a maudlin or depressing story. My heart clinched so many places in this story; my tears came freely at other places. "You can't expect children to sew their own gaping wounds without leaving a terrible scar." (p 183). This one is going  head-to-head with Year of the Comet for best book this year (even though I believe it was released in 2013)--this year on MY blog!  The Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford.

 "'Do you have children?....Now imagine if, just to spite you, they do the exact opposite with their lives from what you hope they will.'" (p. 107). 

Usually a story told in  non-linear fashion gets annoying to me--not so this time. There IS a method to the madness and it is to tell a very griping story. This books was MESMERIZING. I had to ration it--it had that great a hold on me.   In the last part f#-! became his go-to word and it cheapened the book unnecessarily, even if it was meant to convey the changing times or the something else . That's a very minor detraction though, from what is truly a work of art. Nonetheless the author is a gifted storyteller. I hope to read many more books by him. The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene [NOTE: without spoilers I will say there is an event when taken out of context may upset some readers.] 

This book is being devoured by book clubs, so I knew I'd read it eventually. I was aprehensive though--a hospital in the most bungled natural disaster in American history? Wouldn't it be the ultimate in rubber-necking to read this? No. It was the ultimate in human experience--both the good and the bad kinds. I felt for most of the people in this book--most. I won't say which ones did not earn my sympathy. But it does make all those deadly dull emergency planning meetings I've attended over the years seem worthwhile. And those emergency posters SHOULD be posted. Read this book and you WILL volunteer for the Red Cross and go thru their training and answer the call. Ditto FEMA classes (Did you know you can earn college credit for those?). This book is why I generally prefer non-fiction--this is REAL. It happened. These are real people. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.

What do you call any book after those amazing reads? Really Good? Fun Read? Worthwhile? All make the author's efforts seem less than they deserve. Next up are two books, chosen coincidentally, about the start of war in France. The first in World War I, the second in World War II.

1914: A Novel  "[she] sees whose footsteps sound hollow on a stage too large for them." (p. 22)  Sadly, this is the only quote I recorded in my Commonplace book from this novella. It is haunting though in the way it shows the utter futility of that prolonged conflict.  1914: A Novel by Jean Echenoz

The first part of this "Suite" had me wishing for more--the exodus from Paris as the Germans approached, the resulting struggle to survive while stranded--it was gripping. The personalities emerged and took hold of me--I wanted to know how their stories came out. The rest of the book--not so much. While there were mentions of the first characters they were fleeting and meatless. I found the story of the occupying Germans far less engrossing. The author's personal story, deported and killed at Auschwitz, will stay with me far longer than most of this book. Still, it does add to the knowledge of the war in that the lives of the occupiers has seldom been told. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Sandra Smith). I listened to the audio version of this book.

Highly Recommended

What a sweet book! Still I was jarred by the necessity of informing us that the Ambassador's 'friends' [and the Ambassador was not a character in the story] were homosexuals. Why in the world did this merit a mention? The man had no part in the story save accepting a phone call. That was weird.

And, while only a librarian of my age or older (i.e. born in the JFK years or before) would find it just plain weird that the main character worried about the state of the library card catalog when she got home! Really? No one did anything physical to a card catalog except the librarian. And then only when there was an addition or deletion to/from the collections!! Weird!! So to was calling her work "librarying" ok.......................

The picky stuff: "shaking up," "red light--green light" before stoplights? Flashlights when most of the area had not yet had electricity? "toilet house?" MacArthur as a recognizable name before the Bonus Marchers were run out of town by Doug & Colonel Ike. And illegitimacy raised no eyebrows? Really?

As I librarian I got m a bit tired of "librarying"

Still, these are picky things-- I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book! And, I look forward to her next novel. A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith. I listened to the audio version of this book.


A book about birding with a character who played the bass clarinet got my attention instantly. A good review from NPR didn't hurt. Ultimately this book fell short. I've lived in the parts of Southern Indiana mentioned in this book and the Klan is still very much present. Transplants often find this strange. I do not think the Klan deserved the extreme attention it got in this story. Subtract that and you have a great book.I just don't think a hate group needs a chapter unless you are writing about the 1920's when it should be the focus on any history of the state of Indiana for that time period Snapper by Brian Kimberling. I listened to the audio version of this book.

I bought this super cheap for Kindle, and for the most part it's a good read. (Wish he'd quit calling flannel shirts "a flannel" it's that was annoying!). Overall I agree with the reviews--it IS like Garrison Keillor and Lake Woebegone "got real". I could have done without the trapping story, but that's just me. The story of the disabled girl--that shouldn't have been printed. Due to that story, I can't recommend this book. The author tells a great story, but that chapter showed a terrible lack of judgement. Farmer's Almanac: A Work of Fiction by Chris Fink


I threw these back. 

 I generally like Elizabeth Berg's books, but this one just didn't do it for me at all. While Jamie Ford's book told of the pain of orphaned children, I could not get past the whiney self-centered attitude of the birth mother wanting to reunite with her child. Please don't get me wrong! I cannot imagine the pain of giving up a child. I am not criticisng any real person. This is a work of fiction and this character just grated on my nerves. The whole set up of the book grated on my nerves. I tried and tried to listen to more of it--as I said, I usually LIKE Elizabeth Berg's writing since she writes about people I can accept as "real." Not this one.  Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg.

I wanted to like this one and even wanted to stay with it, but in the end I just couldn't. An entire discussion of what household objects, vegetables and fruits make the best masturbatory aides just doesn't deserve my attention long enough to finish what might otherwise have been an interesting story. Meyler CAN write and CAN tell a story. How unfortunate that she (or her editor) felt it necessary to delve THAT deeply into a character's personal life. Just no to this one. I listened to the audio version. The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler.

Need ideas on what to read next? See all the Nighstand posts for this month at 5 Minutes for Books.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

'Milla's Diary, week ending 16 April 2014

NOTE: This is affectionately written fiction. Any resemblance to royals, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This piece is copyright protected.

Need to catch up or know who is who? Check out the first installment of 'Milla's Diary.

10 April 2014

As we all knew he would, Baby quite stole the show at his first official outing on the Royal Round! And with those adorable jowly cheeks and chubby thighs how could he not? He's the picture of Dear One and the Boy at that age, but with Yummy's eyes, of course.  He's such a lamb!  Naturally the press must AGAIN decide the child has only one parent--Yummy. He is a darling though. Dear One over the moon with pride--naturally. And the Mother-in-law unusually chuffed as well. Well done little darling, well done!

11 April 2014

They tour seemed to be going so well for the Boy and Yummy (and dear Baby, of course!). Lovely play date with all three of them, then meeting young families in the forces--so appropriate. They KNOW the life of course. But the land line went off at an odd time and Dear One was called to the phone. It was the Boy, of course, in quite a state. COULD the idiotic press for once notice that his wife does more than simply wear clothes? Could they not SEE that other Mum's her age RE-WEAR clothing and the Earth doesn't tumble from its orbit? He DOES NOT want his wife harassed the way his Mummy was and he's not taking it sitting down. Good on him, I say! So fierce! So like Pip when the Brain Box is properly engaged. Dear One made soothing noises of the sort he's so good at--the usual litany of "I see's" and "yes.....yes..." and "if you think it wise" and the rest--all practiced for simply YEARS of duty in loco parentis to Randy and Edith, of course. Then I was called to the phone as Yummy needed a word.

Apparently the "night time goodies" worked a treat (as I KNEW they would). The Boy especially appreciated the "All Blacks" theme I advised for the one night. What a hoot! Of course the Boy was a soldier, and they do so like their nighttime fun! So many people fail to realize the importance of a really competent and caring mentor for young wives and Mummy's. I've often thought it should have it's own charitable concern. Like "Help the Aged" or the Samaritans. After all, she's just gotten to the altar, housebroken the puppy (so essential in the run-up to children--a couple who skips a puppy is simply asking for years of child therapy later on), has got the night time on a decent schedule and then, just as her life has a tinge of sanity, she must produce the heir. It's a problem all aristocratic young wives face. And for many there's the need of juggling a career, the revolving door of foreign au pairs, smuggling in illegal cleaners and all the rest that makes a life liveable. Mentoring is CRUCIAL or they could, for example, think they must actually cook the evening meal and not just nip into Sainsbury's for a ready-meal most nights. Same with the silly idea of changing hairstyles! Once you've got hair and makeup perfect while still sleeping, why change? It's this sort of ridiculous self-imposed stress that a good mentor can help with. So often today, young women are at odds with Mummy (that will, of course, change once Baby arrives) so a good mentor can help with all of these passages in life.

12 April 2014

Dear One's funk is lessening--thank heavens. It still appears from time-to-time. Life tonight. Edith phoned. Now, you'd think with the Boy on a major tour, Edith would have sense enough to keep the land line free for him. You'd think so, but you'd be wrong. Oh, quite wrong indeed. It seems his 14 minutes and 55 seconds of birthday fame weren't enough. He demands the last 5 seconds. Could Dear One have a WORD on his behalf. Now, mind you, it was Edith's so-called "film company" that stalked the Boy at University (and don't think Dear One will ever forget it!) but Dear One was forced to listen to all the injustices of dropping steadily further down the line to the throne. The press is shouting "Second Baby in the works" since Baby is so adorable, and Edith has managed to work out the math on that. He was #3 in line at birth and is already down to an alarming #8 and will only fall further as the boys have their own families. Poor Edith! You could just HEAR him flounce out as Dear One cut short the pity party with a well timed, "I'd so love to talk longer......"

13 April 2014

Well Dear One had to joke, He simply had to. That cross-dressing chappy got his gong the other day in a lovely skirt-suit and high heels, I might add. And Dear One simply had to have a giggle over it. He said there were clothes of Mummy's he was eager to try on! Yes, he did. Now, I of course, realized he meant the ERMINE, but the rest of the world (i.e. the tabloid press) took it to mean he had a valet for a reason...... What a hoot! We've giggled about it all day. He really roared out of his funk over that, I can tell you. I couldn't help myself. I sent the Filipino kitchen maid out for some raunchy knickers with a crown on them and gave them to him at bedtime. To my complete disgust, he would not--simply WOULD. NOT. model them! As if I'd photograph that with my iPhone! So, instead, I wore them myself. Lovely fabric--won't ride up I imagine. Always a good thing. All one needs is the press getting a shot of that being corrected!

14 April 2014

Wonders never cease, do they? The Mother-in-law apparently rang up the Boy on his mobile to tell him "Well Done" and the tour isn't even over! I could see him beam from here. He does so want to please Granny and Grandpa. Pip, too, I understand, had some praise, but got a bit distracted and asked the Boy if he'd gotten any intel on the feisty little blonde he was shaking hands with in the photo in one of the red top's this morning. Seemed quite a "goer" in Pip's parlance. The Boy was a bit puzzled, but Granny took the phone back and told him to take no mind of it. 

15 April 2014

What a week! Tonight it was Randy. Had Dear One considered the implications if Haza decided to marry at just the time Randy was pushing daughter # 1 toward the alter? It was "harsh" enough that his progeny were "all but excluded" (his phrase, not Dear One's) from the Royal Round, but to have Haza's engagement overshadow that of a "Princess of the Blood" (his phrase, again).... Dear One rolled his eyes heaven-ward, as I mixed him a very stiff  G & T. As Randy blathered on in his self-righteous way, Dear One started to eye my fags cigarettes longingly.  I lit two just in case, but his paranoia of cameras everywhere made him refuse it. I gestured to the nico patch and he giggled. Randy, of course, heard the giggle and took umbrage. You KNOW what came next! It took over an hour, but finally MUMMY rang to defend her darling. "Could [Dear One} PLEASE be mindful of Randy's sensitive nature? Could he TRY to be a bit more CARING toward Randy." Pass the sick bag..... Dear One was "on," as the young people say, for literally HOURS. I even offered some rather indelicate hanky-panky to calm him, but he just continued to rip on Randy, Mummy and parental favoritism. I must say, he is true to his word. He does NOT play favorites between his boys. Well, once Randy had been verbally drawn and quartered and before Dear One could depart for Windsor to do the deed for real, I got old Nanny Whosits out of bed (had to give her time to find her partial and her hearing aides, but she's always on duty for Dear One, poor old dear). As he talked I tucked the Proper Pooh blanket around him and settled in to FINALLY, finally, get a look at the 'Street for the first time in literally AEONS. Almost an entirely new cast its been so long! Well, Nanny worked her magic--probably read the bit about playing Pooh Sticks--that usually does it. I knocked back a whateveryoucallgreaterthanatriple G & T to soothe my own frayed nerves.

16 April 2014

Slipped over to play with the Grands this morning before hitting the Royal Round. They do so REVIVE one, I always find. Came home after a too-long-day in tight Spanx to find no tea, no scent of din-din, no drinkies. I knew it was too good to last. Apparently, according to the sign on the Green Baize door, the collective bargaining agreement for the staff expired at noon. Who knew? Not one, I can assure you. I rang up the solicitor's office across the way at the palace, but got the voice mail. I rang Pip--if he's firing on all cylinders, he's usually reliable for the scuttlebutt on staff. Thank heavens he was "himself." Sadly, he had a rather naughty film on full throttle in the background, so I knew the Mother-in-law hadn't come upstairs yet. Understandably, he begged to ring me back. Well, men NEED that from time-to-time, I always find. Young wives are so ridiculous about it all. Seriously, do they want to do only that? I didn't think so. It's more like a public services, those films. Again, it needs careful mentoring to become a sensible wife who can make the journey to death we do part and all that. Once the blood had trickled back to his  brain, Pip rang back to say that it was all true--no staff except "essentials." That means protection officers, the corgi's personal valet and the Mother-in-law's dresser since, strictly speaking, they are not covered by collective bargaining. So, they were having a curry from the take-away which an Equerry (also not covered by c.b.) was collecting for them.

Sadly, I soon found the note the Filipino kitchen maid left me. It wasn't personal, she assured me. And her car keys were in the old sanitary towel box in the visitor's loo if I needed them. I did. Someone had to feed Dear One, and I couldn't enter the kitchen, now could I? Pip has a vintage 1960s electric skillet and toaster stashed away for these times--he does a grand fry-up with them, let me tell you! But, we aren't so lucky here at the Mausoleum. So I rang the Chinese taek-away and got extra fortune cookies. So fun if you know the game. The one where you add "in bed" to the beginning or end of the fortune? It's a hoot and it quite perked Dear One up for a change too! Ended up having a lovely time playing "den of inequity" after dinner. Dear One slept like the dead after--he's so needed it, poor lamb, after the week he's had.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hopewell's "Cup" list!

We're all familiar wit the term Bucket List, right? Well, here is my "Cup" list--the smaller much or somewhat more attainable things I'd like to see, do, experience. They are not in any particular order.

Make my own sushi

Go to Finley Market and the Taft Museum

Hike at East Fork

Go to a Civil War re-enactment

Pet a tiger cub

Go to the Miami University Art Museum to see my Uncle's paintings

Take a drawing lesson

Plant sunflowers

Attend the Midwest Writer's Conference with my writing friends

Recover the couch and chair

Meet Linda for lunch some Saturday

Go to a scrapbooking event

See a movie I just want to see and not worry about the cost

Attend Books by the Banks

Buy the classical and jazz albums I love for my phone

Go out to eat more often with the JULIETS at Church and not worry about the cost

Take a photography lesson

Hike some part of the Appalachian Trail

Find a real writing mentor

Really have a garden and keep it nice

Go to that cute place with Susan after the convention

Find an autographed photo of Jeremy Irons in my mailbox

Have a home office and craft room

Play in a Scrabble tournament

Buy the Beatles music for my phone

Audit an Art History course

Find a walking buddy

Cook with Beth Anne

Take the Foreign Service exam again

Scrapbook my favorite quotes and verses and lyrics

Have a singing lesson

Try journaling to prompts

Return to studying German

Have a graphic done for 'Milla's Diary

Plant rose bushes around the fountain

Remember who I wanted to be and become her

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

'Milla's Diary, week ending 9 April 2014

NOTE: This is affectionately written fiction. Any resemblance to royals, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This piece is copyright protected.

Need to catch up or know who is who? Check out the first installment of 'Milla's Diary.

2 April 2014

Well Sod last week then--nothing written!  But with the Funk still in Full Force I lacked the energy to even TRY to make sense of the days. They passed by in a blissful gin-and-tonic-nico-patch-fag-smoke-cigarette-smoke-am-I-really-too-old-to-smoke-something-funny-haze. Dear One continued with his side-of-his-mouth-gangster-talking-pouting-spoiled-prince-rantings-gnashing-bad-tempered-self-pitying-FUNK and I do mean FUNK with a capital "F."

So, I ignored him. Slept alone. Watched the 'Street with the dogs and took nearly constant calls from Yummy on the eve of departure for the land of Vegemite. Baby apparently survived the long trial flight on their recent holiday, so he's ready for the off, but Yummy is finding out that being a wife AND Mummy is more like having twin infants than having a second adult. Boy is a bit like his Papa in the Funk department. Seems to be Channeling Great-Great Uncle David in his "The Things I do for Empire" days. Endless days of engagements all mapped out leave him feeling trapper (well, they do all of us, but just like adolescents and sex, he thinks he's the first to discover it. That too is natural). In a huff over all the photo ops, all the hand shaking, and all the rest. Not much time for a lager and footy on the telly I suppose. So, when Yummy asked for advice (and it was all sounding FRIGHTFULLY familiar, I must say) I told her what had worked for me. We developed a packing list that should see her thru the next few years of such little jaunts.

1. His replica football kit jersey. It's his proper Pooh blanket, if you will.
2. The Terminator dvd collection--make sure there are spares. Essential.
3. That Black Adder cd all three of the "boys" love. I've banned it. It's for viewing ONLY with the boys now.
4. His brand of beer.
5. A stash of his beloved curry flavored crisps and American bubble gum.
6.. His "snuggly" jimjams.
7. The farting whale, singing wildabeast cd that's gone missing from our collection somehow. (No comment).

That settled we MOVED on to her side of the list.
1. A daily supply of Red Bull.
2.  New fun lingerie for bedtime (after she drinks the Red Bull). Nothing soothes a man on a tour like a little hide-the-pickle! And, the Boy was a soldier...they do so love their nighttime fun.
3. Spanx. Amazingly she was horrified at this! Was she getting fat? Did her Mummy Tummy show that badly??? I reassured her that she was still as thin as the Spanish counterpart. It's for AFTER too many State Dinners. She understands that she must consume some of the food (well, quite a lot of it, actually) in order to not give offense.
4. A stash of Dear One's green pills. Lovely what they can do for one's outlook on tour. Dear One is speaking to the Boy about them. Fewer petulant looks in photo-ops.

3 April 2014

Continued with the bucking up of Yummy pre-tour. She's so worried that Baby will miss her and become attached to Nanny. I assured her this was a good thing. Her generation really exaggerates all this "bonding" nonsense, if you ask me (and I'm sure no one ever will!). After all, Mummy saw her parents approximately twice per year but still uttterly doted on them! So much more sensible really. A good Nanny ALWAYS keeps the parental portraits up-to-date so there aren't any embarassments like not recognizing them on School Sports Day. I told her it was her DUTY to focus on the BOY for the duration of the tour. Baby is a prop to get better approval ratings. There. I've said it. But it's true. He's so adorable that they WILL go stark raving bonkers over him. She WILL fret though--they all do, her generation. I made her promise to eat several ounces of good, natural cheese and have a serving of mashed potato each day before the tour to calm her nerves. She was hesitant. Along with all the Mummy-nonsense they buy into, this generation of women just do not understand the calming qualities of food--especially food washed down with a healthy triple gin and tonic. Does wonders for a wife and mother's nerves, I can tell you! Finally wheedled a promise out of her--in fact she called back that evening to say it all worked a treat. Ah, what One does for the Empire.........

4 April 2014

Dear One came calling just before bedtime to say "Good Night." He worries about these tours. He was sure he was shot at on one tour Down Under. Things like that tend to linger, I find. He loves the Boy so and couldn't bear anything like that happening. He also fears another substantial dip in his approval ratings which WILL happen after the youngsters are splashed all over the international press for the duration of the tour. I say, good on them! They're young and at least dear Yummy is highly photogenic! And Baby WILL delight--he's such a lamb. Right up there with my own Grands. There's the other side of this tour though that haunts him--the inevitible endless comparisons of Yummy to SWMNBN and the endless dredging up of their marriage. There will be days and days of it. Photographs scrutinizing poor Yummy's wardrobe for likenesses to her late Mother-in-law for example--those rankled EVERYONE, probably even SWMNBN herself if she were still with us. Now I ask you? Who WANTS to be compared to her MOTHER-IN-LAW?? Show of hands? I thought so.

So, funk or no funk, I did my wifely duty and invited him to wallow over my boobs for a while. Did him acres of good. Tried to suggest a review of the fleet in the bath, but he was too tired. He did at least decide to sleep with the dogs and me. So nice to have him there--warm and comforting. The best part of marriage, really. So familiar and cozy. He loves "cozy"--it reminds him of Nanny after all. And, contrary to the contemporary mummy's worry, that IS a good thing.

5 April 2014

Dear One nipped by to say "Godspeed" to the travelers and to cuddle Baby one last time before he goes. I so wanted to, but the last thing in the world any of us need is a leaked photo of One cuddling SWMNBN's grandchild. So Dear One gave him and extra cuddle for me and a few prezies for the long flight as well as a few similar gifts for the Boy and Yummy. He's so thoughtful like that! I sent Yummy a packet of cards--one to be opened each day to encourage her each morning. It takes fortitude, these tours. And with both "boys" along.....she'll need it!

Down to the country for the weekend. Dear One pottering in his garden while I took the dogs for a nice long ramble. Shame there was no rain--I find rain is so soothing on a walk. The garden revives Dear One so well. But he will worry until the Boy and family are safely on the ground again. Told me all the cute things again that baby did when he said good-bye. In the evening we watched one of those long Merchant-Ivory films that look pretty but bore one rigid within minutes. Dear One had a hanky handy of course. He feels things so, poor lamb. Had a lovely Steak and Kidney Pudding and chips in front of the telly in our pajamas. A lovely sherry trifle for afters. So soothing after a long week of the Royal Round and all the stress of getting the Boy and Yummy sorted and ready for the off.

6 April 2014

Dear One having one of Grandpapa's gnashes over the press hounding Haza and his girlfriend. They WILL decide who must marry whom! The poor girl must be ready to enter a witness protection program by now. Dear One LOATHED the way SWMNBN was treated by the press and the Boy and Haza SEETHE with anger at the hounding of their loved ones. You'd think the press who, after all, are STILL milking the cow that is their dead mother with daily stories STILL on her, would LEAVE the boys and their loved ones alone, but no! Hound the poor, dear little lamb till she's probably in therapy. It makes One's blood boil. Even the Mother-in-law is outraged that they cannot just leave them alone to decide if they have a future together or not.

Of course, as in all things, there are two parts to this story. The part that really IS a bur under Dear One's saddle is that one of Randy's girls introduced her to Haza. That means their Mum could have had a hand in. That means, if they marry, she could do the tour de force of the international chat shows and tell, with great tears, how she did it for him since her "bestest" friend (who disowned her by the way) aka SWMNBN wasn't there (sniff, sob, hanky to eyes) to guide these two soulmates to each other. Bollocks! If not for that, Dear One would not give much thought to who his son picks--he wants his sons to be happy.

7 April 2014

I was right! First day of the tour--there's the idiotic press Johnnies flogging a photo of Yummy in a coat so like one Boy's dear belated Mummy wore! Well it was red. And both women were young a slim when wearing them. And? Dear One grunted and shared the memory that the original coat chafed someone's neck and she regretted choosing it. But, he did say she looked quite lovely in it. It doesn't offend me when he says things like this. He's a very caring man. Of course he tells me when I look lovely in something and it DOES quite make my day.

With the young people off on their way, we got down to the business of the Royal Round. I have often sung the praises of the Spanx line of "body wear," but some days call for major structural support at my age. I hauled out Mummy's trusty 1953 all-in-one (with the original zip, I might add, and the rivet-like snaps in a certain place) and was in the process of stuffing myself into it when I heard a familiar and, I must say, irritating sound. Bubbles. The sound was of bubbles. Emanating from the toilet in the en suite loo. Well, it does that some times. I calmed myself and called for reinforcements to get me into the garment. The filipino kitchen maid is a whiz at this sort of thing (years of helping Granny, I'm told). Sadly, I've over-done the crisps, booze and curry chips lately. I called Dear One. He called his valet. Now, I know what you're thinking, but if I said simply that I am not the valet's cup of tea, I'm sure you'd understand why this wasn't a big deal.The men grabbed the upper bits of cloth and hoisted me off the ground--rather like getting Uncle Dickie into his ceremonial Life Guards riding britches. (That and POUNDS of talcum powder--Barbara Cartland always sent him this, from the Este Launder line, I believe). As they shook me down into the thing, the sweet little Filipino kitchen maid manned the zip and I was soon in my straightjacket and praying I didn't quickly need a pee. (Note to self--mail the voucher for free sample of those pee pads for old people.) As I sat down (in real pain, I might add) to put my face on the bubbles returned....with gusto. I sighed. It's always up to One, isn't it? I went down the list of available staff--no one. They all have "clauses" you see.

I decided to take matters into my own hand. I found my purse, pulled out the credit card in my brother's name and phoned that plumbing company--you know--the one promising no bum cracks? Fabulous people. Had someone dispatched to fix it before I'd found my stockings. Sadly, Dear One had returned. Now, he "came of age" shall we say, in the era of catalogs featuring garments much like I was just trussed up in. They arouse certain pleasant memories. And, if I may ask, why is it all men go gaga over that gap between stocking tops and...well...that private area? Their eyes glaze. They breathe funny. They never look anywhere else. He looked stoned. Truly. Stoned. Wanted to be a different kind of "cozy." Well, that couldn't happen--not in this garment and I certainly wasn't going thru the rigamarole to get out of it and then right back into it. Happily, by that time the plumbers were here. I was fully dressed, in case you worried. I left them have a selfie but declined to have it in front of the loo..... Gave me a "welcome" packet and a discount on their premier service contract, too. Why didn't  I think of this years ago...... The packet had a lovely t-shirt (the nice thick all cotton kind, not those cheap blends so many firms give these days) a voucher for a free pizza at the good place that delivers on time and other goodies. All that and I didn't have to touch a plumbing tool! I'll be putting in the paper work for a Royal Warrant you may be sure.

8 April 2014

Distress call from Yummy on tour. The Boy was not impressed with the first night's offerings. I told her not to worry, he'd agree soon. She thought she might have upset him by rushing immediately to see Baby (you think?). I suggested she LISTEN to the Boy first and let him vent about all the ridiculous things that occurred that day FIRST, then see Baby. Then a familiar statement--when it's HER turn to vent he switches on the telly and channel surfs till he finds sports. That's the time for Baby, I said. She sighed. I know that sigh. He's so like his father.....

Friday, March 28, 2014

Menu Plan Monday: Pinterest Receipe Review Edition

We have an 18th birthday party this week, so I'm only planning a couple of meals since the birthday girl will be going out with friends a few times this week and I'll just fix myself a salad on those nights.

 This week's Menus

Night One:
Chipolte-style chicken
Cilantro Lime Rice

Night Two:
Tuscon Chicken Skillet
Brown Rice
UPDATE: This was very good! I made it last night!

Night Three:
This Pasta (my version)
Garlic Bread
[Chicken or Fish if my daughter is home]

Meanwhile, I thought you all might enjoy hearing about the PINTEREST recipes I've tried!

Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken!! This was GREAT!! I did use skinless, boneless chicken breast so I added a little chicken buillon to add a bit more flavor like it would have with skin-on, bone-in chicken. Definitely a keeper!!

Parmesan Baked Pork Chops. My daughter usually tries to avoid pork chops, but these she's already asked me to make again. Super easy, little prep and little clean-up they are a great workday dinner!

Crusty Parmesan-Herb Zucchini Sticks I liked these so well I've had them twice already (my daughter wasn't home the first time). We had them with the pork chops--I used both zucchini and yellow squash. Great stuff, and I'm not overly-wild about zucchini.

Nigella Lawson's Naan Pizza I really, really loved this one!!! I live near Cincinnati so I can easily shop at the newer location of Jungle Jim's the city's famed Wal-Mart-sized international food store. The olive stuff is on their olive bar (It is also available on the olive bar at my local super-deluxe Kroger Marketplace) and they had a selection of fontina cheeses as well. Naan is becoming more common even here in the netherlands of Southern Ohio, but you could easily substitute pita bread.

Baked Fontina Cheese  Combinwe the same great cheese (and I used the same Naan bread--more bang for the buck) as the Naan pizza, the same herbs as the zucchini sticks and you love in a cast-iron skillet. So darned good I can't wait to make more!! Not quite a cheese fondue, not really hot cheese dip--more of a spread--but out-of-this-world with flavor. Not to be missed if you are a true cheese lover!

Spanish Spaghetti With Olives We are a family of olive lovers, so this sounded really good. It was!! I wouldn't bother buying Marinara sauce, I'd just do my own quick version next time, but this was a really great work night meal.

Mongolian Beef like P.F, Changs  I'm not a huge Chang's fan--my local place does better food for less money, but I tried this and I'm sold on it. Easy and good. Much better than eating over-priced luke-warm takeout after a stressful drive. (I never understand the thrill of eating out on weeknights after work. In the same time you could have a decent, cheap dinner.)

Balsamic Chicken Breasts My daughter's new favorite dinner--we've had it 3 times. Good stuff, don't knock Betty Crocker!

Balsamic Green Beans My daughter suggested this idea so I found a recipe. Just "meh" on this one (I didn't use the mushrooms). Verdict: Not enough flavor. We still like the idea, so I'll try again sometime with a different recipe. We like FULL flavor.

Dinner: A Love Story's Belgian Beef Stew  Another "meh." I expected to rave about it, but it just didn't do it for me and my daughter simply hated it. Oh well. Instead I HIGHLY recommend their lovely and simple Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Parmesan (scroll down to see recipe).  I've made this too many times already on nights I've been alone. It's GREAT!

Asian Turkey Meatballs With Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce   These were fine, dipping sauce was a bit blah for my taste, but not in any way "bad." If you like mild Asian flavor this is a good pick.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie  This was nice! I added a little more peanut butter though. I want to try it without the peanuts and using Nutella.

Need ideas for your Menu Plans? See I'm An Organizing Junkie for all  of this week's menus!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Milla's Diary, Week Ending 26 March 2014

NOTE: This is affectionately written fiction. Any resemblance to royals, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This piece is copyright protected.

Need to catch up or know who is who? Check out the first installment of 'Milla's Diary.

19 March 2014

Difficult day today on the Royal Round. No tampon vouchers--not that sort of 'difficult.' Flood victims. So difficult to say anything that doesn't sound Mitford-ish and patronizing. Dear One's eyes puddle up so quickly in those situations, but he mustn't have tears dripping down his face--Mummy and Papa and, worst of all, GRANNY would be so let down! He's frightfully good at this sort of occasion and it galls that the press can't give him the credit he's due for it all. Like the OTH he doesn't do "stunts" like cradling crying OAPs or homeless single Mummys, but he truly, truly FEELS their pain and it hurts him NOT to be able to do those things, but one simply can't. It isn't the Royal way. It isn't the true BRITISH way. That's for Oprah. He comforts by being stalwart, by being the Heir to the Throne in a proper double-breasted suit with a pocket square and bespoke shoes older than most of the people he's comforting. He comforts by being the SAME, just as Mummy does. People who have had their lives ripped apart need to see that somethings don't change. That's good. A stiff upper-lip has gotten a bad rap in the era of tell-all chat shows. A stiff-upper lip beat the Germans--twice, no matter what the Yanks say. A stiff upper lip is an expression of confidence and fortitude. But can the press Johnnies ever say that? Of course not. Oprah-style wobblies and waterfalls of tears sell. Stiff upper lips don't. Shame.

20 March 2014

Royal round again, then a nice long park in front of the Telly with Dear One. He's fascinated by 2 American shows about work:  the Dirties Jobs one and and that one about CEOs going undercover. He'd love to do the undercover one at the Palace, but it couldn't work--could it? He'd need someone in his place and that would spoil the fun. It made a lovely change from endless replays of the beloved Kumars or Monty Python! I didn't even mind skipping the 'Street! He decided to be wonderful and got out MY favorite soft blanket, mixed me an ample G & T and sent the dear little Filipino kitchen made out for Smokey Bacon flavored crisps! What a lamb! All for ONE! We had a fabulous cuddle while the dirty job bloke did something so nasty I won't write about it here (sick smell featured prominently, if you MUST know). For the second episode he'd arranged for one of those chocolate lava deserts! Such fun!! The third and final episode featured a very, very yummy whipped cream and booze thing that was beyond heaven. By this time I was having thoughts that he'd reconnected with the boys old minder. ONE of those treats, fine. TWO, any wife would start to wonder, but THREE? Seems he really was just angling for an encore of the special "fun" we had one night last week, but was too afraid to JUST ASK. What a hoot! Naturally I gave in! He's such a lamb, after all. (And he did rather snuffle a few tears after the flood visit yesterday. Best to buck him up promptly, I always say, or he tends to go down hill to morose rather rapidly and then it's WEEKS, literally WEEKS of jollying to get him back on terra firma.and we ARE nearing THAT. TIME. OF. THE. YEAR.)

21 March 2014

Rang Pip last night since Dear One was snoring in his chair in front of a mind-numbing spell-binding nature documentary he needed to watch for an upcoming charity "do." Pip and the Mother-in-law were both in rare form. Someone thru a spanner in their works and booked them for a visit with modern interpretative dance. So not their thing as we used to say in the 70s. The Mother-in-Law had racing replays on at HER volume, while Pip had some sort of thriller on at MAXIMUM volume so that trying to hear anything either said was pointless. At any rate their pizza came and we had to ring off. They're old school, of course, and even pizza in front of the telly means no phones. I ask you? Who rings off for a meal these days? Good to hear their usual loving exchanges though--so reassuring.

My sister rang with a lovely long dish on Pushy. She's apparently trying to encourage the marriage rumors for Haza in the hopes that he'll vacate his little bolt-hole and her boy can move home to the UK and take it over. That would position her grandchild neatly as a playmate for Baby. So not on, as people today would say, but then she does tend to reside on Fantasy Island. Dear One, when he awoke from  finished his school film nature documentary roared with laughter and left Haza a very spirited voicemail about it all. Minutes later the land line blared and Dear One about peed as he answered it. Haza, rather pleasantly boozey (soldiers have the most fun!) yelled "Not Bloody Likely" so loudly I could hear it across the room and then suggested that if the Boy and Yummy wanted 'lesser' children for their child to play with they'd encourage Posh and Becks to have a new one rather than invite the child of a B-list actress and a former wanna-be male model over for a play date. Dear One happily suggested we invite the PoshBecks for a weekend soon and give them the most romantic guest room. What a hoot!

22 March 2014

Dear One gnashing over Randy's Ex. She's flung herself back into the news with renewed tears over her fat years. Honestly, milk the cow till it's dead, I always say! And make sure you Praise the Mother-in-law and reassert your claims to Randy and heap the blame for all your life woes on poor Pip! You were fat because you ate too much. Catty, I know, but honestly! If you eat fish fingers with mayonaise and other rubbish you will get FAT. Move on.

Spent a lovely day with the Grands--we made an ungodly mess decorating cupcakes, but the Filipino kitchen maid cleaned it all up with a smile (and the promise of another round-trip airline ticket home to see her Mum). Such fun! Lovely pink sprinkles, lashings of sugary icing! Then we all had a lovely lie-down in front of a great painting and played a game where we closed our eyes and then had to say what we remembered of it--sure way to get them to nod off, let me tell you! Mummies my age were the pioneers in raising children with only the dreaded au pair for help--we learned fast!

Surprised Dear One with a full Downton Dinner and, since giving him the boy from the Palace Cafe's number, had Carson-worthy service from the Butler and nary a peep from his Union Rep. Lovely mutton, organic veggies, that really horrid tasting fabulous free-everything wine he loves and a perfectly scrummy desert of acai-berry  flax-millett crumble with almond/greek yogurt cream and breadfruit dumplings all drizzled with a fascinating rhubarb-starfruit juice reduction and chopped macadamia nuts (which I find always taste like soap, but the whateveritwasreduction solved that). Yummy!

 23 March 2014

The peace just couldn't hold, could it? Dear One cranky (his sinuses--always a bother this time of year) from the moment he woke for his pre-dawn pee all the way till bedtime Not a bit of fun in him today. Well, it took all the valet and I could do to jolly him into his suit and out the door. His fun new Play-Dough print pants, a fabulous pair of Great-Great-Grandpapa Edward VII's cuff links, that lovely museli he adores dripping in organic honey--nothing, NOTHING, worked. I promised all sorts of things I have no intention of doing at bedtime--not even THAT. The dreaded Spring Funk has arrived, full stop. This is an annual event and the Staff and I have annual planning meetings to cope with it. His valet activated the emergency plan just after doing up Dear One's flies (yes, the funk is THAT bad). I hauled Uncle Dickie's tv show out of its hiding storage place, the staff pulled out Granny's loose covers for the sitting room furniture (a more ugly chinz never was produced), the George II silver service was hauled out of the vault and polished and the Magic Roundabout sheets were ironed and put on the bed. (I located my Brian t-shirt for bedtime).

As the witching hour Dear One's return time loomed, the  kitchen staff piped herbed, organic goat's cheese onto rounds of freshly toasted garlic-rubbed artisan granary bread and poured the correct free range taste free free trade wine. The valet had the super soft Balmoral Tartan jimjams warm and toasty and a lovely Game Pie, mashed potatoes and a jug of gravy was ready for the off in front of Uncle Dickie on the telly. Dear One had other ideas. He came in and went straight up to his dressing room and locked the door. Finally rang for some porridge. Porridge? I ask you! So, he pouted or funked or whatever it is he does in there and the dogs and I had a jolly time catching up the 'Street with a huge bowl of mash and gravy and some hastily fried bangers with a boiled egg and toast soldiers for good measure! Best night I've had in ages.

24 March 2014

The funk continues, but I threw the plans out the window and decided to put my big girl knickers on and just IGNORE him. Borrowed the Filipino kitchen maid's little Fiat and ran Pip out to that new Indian buffet for the OAP special offer lunch deal. He chatted up the old gals and made them all quite jolly. They had a raucous sing-song of bawdy war time favorites! Gave the staff fits. Took selfies with the old Dears and didn't try to hide who he was. They all did their best wobbly curtseys and neck bows. Lots of time on Memory Lane. One old darling was sure she'd spent the night with him in '41 but he claimed he was visiting his mother at the time. Still, he told her not to lose hope! What a hoot! He ended by getting in good graces with the management by phoning the Steward's Office and having the bill promptly handled for the unfortunately mishap with the salad bar. A quick selfie with the manager and all was forgiven. Phones simply save the day, I often find. For my part it was sweet that only two of them asked me why I was so dreadful to my predecessor. I pretended they were senile and said to the first "Rose bushes? I'd never have thought of those for helping loamy soil." Shut that little party down PDQ and good riddance, too. The one truly senile Old Dear I simply guided to the air raid shelter, patting her hand and telling her it wasn't a Doodle Bug so she'd be fine. It was actually the clearner's closet, but she didn't seem to notice.

25 March 2014

Day three of the Funk. He's back talking. Sadly it's to a Cabinet Minister. My mobile went nuts and I had gold-corded flunkies wetting a nappy over it all day long. Talk to the hoof, chappie, I'm not listening. You've got the gold cord, you  sort him. I just feed him and sleep with him. Honestly! He WILL go on about injustice and decent housing and organic food and pants that bind and whatever-it-is-this-week. Do I look like the bloody head of state? Alright, I'll give you the hair color is similar, but honestly! A wife hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of shutting him up. There's been two of us and neither succeeded. So why ask? But it's always up to ONE, isn't it? Mopping up dog sick, looking at oozing rashes in the royal netherregions--its ONE who does these things. So I broached the subject over his sainted museli. Now, I was raised in the era of Finishing School and becoming the RIGHT sort of wife. I know that breakfast is when a man is to be ALONE, preferably behind a crisply ironed copy of the Times. Its when he thinks about important things like whether the coffee girl at the office would give him a tumble or if he needs a laxative. No wife worth her soon-to-be-expensively-redecorated-drawing-room would approach a man about something as big as whinging about a political issue in pubic at breakfast. But, there you have it--we're in Funk Time so it's breakfast of never. Duty was instilled in our generation from the moment of conception. (For many of us, our very conception was an act of duty on Mummy or Papa or both's part).

I used my Mummy-of-Special-Snowflake voice. I touched his hand gently and looked him in the eye with a kindly expression on my face. I had on soft, feminine colors (so it was a 1995 WI Pie Baking School t-shirt--it was soft green, best I could do and get my face on that early without a fag cigarette, but he'd have smelled it and the game would have been over before it started). I stated the case in short, simple sentences. He looked me dead-eye and said "Tell them to get stuffed," then picked up the LIBERAL paper and bit into some granary toast. Smoke that, Mr. Gold Cords. I went to the kitchen and begged a fry-up. Some days just scream bacon and baked beans.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What's on Your Nightstand? March 2014 edition

I did not finish this.

Like  The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, this book is told in a slightly odd, almost poetic, plural voice that generalizes everything. "Our Marcias got chicken pox..." (p. 14) "We were round-faced, boisterous, austere, thin-boned..." (p. 12). It does not read like a novel, but does tell the story in its way. Like reading a montage of photos. I  hope this isn't the new cool literary fad of the year. It's very difficult to follow the thread of the story--all the "we" and "us" get in the way. There is no one to focus on. A group is too much.

Minor historical errors of this magnitude: Soldiers in World War II weren't issued black glasses.
The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit.


I started to reject this out-of-hand: a woman impersonating a man to fight in the Civil War? Please! I'm so glad I didn't. While there is a rather odd little sub-story of (I am confused which!) of a Christian guy falling for the woman while presenting as a man (or did he see thru that?) or was he gay and attracted to her as a man? Very odd. Otherwise, this is an amazing story--the reviewers were right--the battle scenes are almost too vivid. This is a love story of the highest order as well as being as story of self-discovery (not discovery of sexual "identity"), of marriage, of coming-of-age, of so much more. This is not to be missed! I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe.

Having named the author's previous novel, Loving Frank, as one of  my favorite books of 2008, I was pretty sure I would love  her newest book--the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and wife Fanny Osbourne and I was right. Like Loving Frank, this story was enthralling! I found myself sitting in the parking lot at work or the driveway at home and listening to "just a little more" each time. Fanny, likely bi-polar, was a fierce protector of her husband [Robert] Louis Stevenson. Their shared quest to find a place to restore his health, their love, their passions for their work--all added up to a very fascinating story. No spoilers, but the end hand me in tears--it hit very close to home mirroring a scene in my own life. Nancy Horan has quickly become one of my favorite authors as well as a role model for me as a writing. Under the Wide, and Starry Sky  by Nancy Horan. Very Highly Recommended.

As a non-fiction account of the Civil War, this time from the Rebel side, to go with I Shall Be Near to You, I happily chose Mary Chestnut's Diary. I love reading diaries and collections of letters and this one NEVER disappointed. He sage comments on men, especially her husband, alone made it worth while. She has a wry humor, a broad appreciation of literature (and an annoying habit of using French phrases!) that made me not want to put this down. Her comments on slavery and government are arch and meaningful. In today's vernacular, "she gets it." Mary Chestnut's Dairy.


If you've read this blog before, you know I love non-fiction that reads like a good novel. Monuments Men is one such book. Here are "be still my heart me"--military men who love art and literature! This is the story of the race to save the cultural and artistic treasures of France, Belgium and Germany at the end of World War II. This is the book the new movie with George Clooney, Matt Damon and Hugh Bonneville is based on. Monuments Men by Robert W. Edsel

This was a light "listen"--a short audio book for my daily commute. I nearly threw it back--every cliche of a "sophisticated" (i.e. stuck up) Manhattanite trasported to the "sticks" and finding life without the corner deli to be unlivable. Happily, in disc two, it gets better and by the end I quite liked her! Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

 Received this in a giveaway.

A spoiled rich city girl meets a hardworking rancher and the attraction is immediate. A young teacher pines for the rake she's loved since childhood, but finally agrees to marry the good guy who has loved her since first grade. Along the way there is warm story of family, faith, and personal growth that is touching and very memorable. The author does a lovely job of creating the feel and sense of her characters' lives and I would like to hear the rest of their story.

Sadly, I did not realize when I signed up for the giveaway, that this was #4 in a series! That's where one problem came in--a problem any editor should have had corrected. Nothing in this book gave a date! The story started with a letter, yet it wass an undated letter. Also, unlike many series there was little to "orient" a new reader stumbling upon the book out-of-sequence. I pegged the story somewhere between 1880 and 1900.

I may have been given a pre-publication copy (I'm not sure) but the editor really let the author down. In addition to allowing her to overuse the odd term "voiced" for "said," the editor also allowed "comforted" for "said." Both sounded just plain odd. But it was the completely incorrect word usage that the editor allowed to stand that most dragged the book down. Examples:

"I think it would be best to prolong this conversation until later" (p. 201)
"my father is possible of anything" (p. 287)

Very early in the story "chauffeur" is used incorrectly to mean someone driving horses. This is an odd error to make in historical fiction, but it is not the worst. Worst was the food! I burst out laughing when I read that at a church gathering in late 19th Century or early 20th Century rural Oregon someone brought SPINACH DIP and another GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE!! Really?? Banana cream pie was a stretch, but bananas can be shipped very green so I gave that a pass. Another odd thing was someone just happening to "find" a book that shows how to make paper roses. Then there was the girl going all the way from Oregon to Boston for nursing school at a time when there were only, at best, a handful of such schools in the country. I let this pass because it was necessary to the story. Finally, there is mention of a grand house in Boston having a female gardener--it could happen, a pleasant eccentricity perhaps, but on the whole it's not very likely.

Overall, these are very picky things--the story stands on its on merits, its on charm and warmth. I would like to read any further books in this series to see how these characters' lives continue.

Freedom to Forgive by Rhonda Kulczyk


Obnoxious adult takes gap-year to get over indulged fear of everything. Hijacks my idol,  Eleanor Roosevelt, as a gimmick and uses her publishing connections to try to make back some of the money she spent. Unless you like listening to someone whine, or enjoy hearing of people breaking into hotel suites they are not registered in to have quickie sex, want to hear about other about-to-be-30-somethings still engaging in their college hook-up culture or like hearing men say they have crows feet on their balls now at the god-almighty-ancient-age-of-30 then skip this self-focused story of privileged escapism. The author squanders her post Yale-earned blogging savings to overcome her ridiculous fears based on one Eleanor Roosevelt quote about doing something scary every day. A more vapid, self-focused individual would be hard to find if you looked above age 16. Sadly the author is 29. She has a typical 20-something's complete ignorance of history even remarking she feels like a "1930s British colonialist..." A decade or so late for prime colonialism, even in East Africa. Also she finds it impossible to believe that the current politically correct world hasn't always existed. She was almost depressed to learn that Eleanor had once made anti-Semitic comments. Since they were 100% typical of the time, I can't really see the need for therapy over this. She does at least have enough sense to say Eleanor got over it. She's hooked up with so many guys she can't decide if her way-too-indulgent boyfriend is husband material--after all, she really isn't old enough to marry. Oh? Did I mention she's blithely addicted to prescription painkillers, doctor-shops and pharmacy shops like any other addict? Yeah. That's how mature this book is. Now, if the author would please get over herself. Glad I got this turkey on deep discount for my kindle. My Year With Elanor by Noelle Hancock.

Although sanitized to remove the name "Bill Gothard," this book is nothing but a parrotting of his teachings. The so-called "conversation" we get to have with the four eldest Duggar girls is no-where to be found--even in spirit. If the girls (note they are always "girls" because they are not married so can't be "women") are so well educated by Switched on Schoolhouse and the Wisdom Booklets, why do they need a ghostwriter? The "touching" antecdotes are so contrived in many cases as to be totally unbelievable. This book does do one positive thing: It makes me want to spring those girls loose from their mental prison and let them experience the true love and GRACE that God offers. Growing Up Duggar by the Ghostwriter.

Need more ideas on what to read next? See all of this month's great posts at 5 Minutes for Mom's "What's on Your Nightstand."