Connie A Thompson

Review of Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day

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I love reading books that have inspired movies. Major discrepancies from print to film irritate me and I usually prefer to have some time lapse between the time I’ve read the book and seen the movie. The movie comes out January 31st so I obviously won’t have that option.

Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day is told through the viewpoint of thirteen-year-old Henry. His parents have divorced. His father has a new wife, new daughter, new step-son, new life. Each week Henry joins his father’s family for their traditional family dinner at Friendly’s. Henry’s mother rarely leaves the house. Their freezer is full of frozen dinners, their cupboards are full of cans of soup.

With school beginning, Henry and his mother go to a local store for back-to-school clothes and supplies. A man approaches Henry and asks for a ride. Henry’s mother agrees. The man’s planned destination is their home.
Frank is an escaped convict. He says he was wrongly convicted and asks the mother and son not to believe everything they will hear. The news reports are a sharp contrast to the kind man Henry sees living in his home.Henry also begins to see his mother in a new way. Is his mother falling in love with the convict?

I often found myself cringing as I read. This is a thirteen-year-old boy. Puberty. He is just beginning to experience the sexual desires that come with puberty. His mother although she has often shared too many personal details is experiencing a sexual awakening. Henry can hear everything through the thin wall separating his room from his mother’s.

The reader also feels as if a voyeur. Sometimes I found the lack of quotation marks infuriating. There are also several passages that I found to be beautiful and descriptive of the human element.

Henry on his mother preference and need to stay home:
It was like she was missing the outer layer of skin that allows people to get through the day without bleeding all the time. The world got to be too much for her.

As I read the last sentence of the novel, I could see why Hollywood would choose to make this into a movie. I plan to see the movie in the near future, and I’ll check back here and let you know what I thought about the screen adaptation. Joyce Maynard posted on her website that she loves the movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Which movies that have been adapted from novels have you loved? Which have you hated?

I loved Water for Elephants. With My Sister’s Keeper, I really liked most of the movie, but to totally change the ending? I was really disappointed with that.

What’s For Sunday Dinner? Back to the Basics

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

You can’t get any more basic than pinto beans. My mother had a pressure cooker she used to make pinto beans. It only took an hour or so, of course I’m calling on memory from childhood so I’m not even sure about the amount of time.

Beans were also a staple at my grandmother’s table. Green, lima, Northern, navy, and of course pinto beans.

I have found using my crockpot is the best way to make pinto beans. You need to sort the beans looking for any that are deformed, broken, and sometimes you’ll find small pebbles.

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1. Sort the beans

You must first start by soaking them overnight.

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2. Soak beans overnight

Once they’ve soaked over night, drain off all the water, rinse them, and refill with fresh. The water should cover the beans, and then add at least another two to three inches above them. For seasoning I add fatback, not much, just a little. I always remove it before serving. Cover the crockpot and turn it on high. They will be ready in a little over 4 hours.

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

Serve with cornbread. Some like chow-chow (I don’t). My brother loves to have an onion with his. I have a cousin who prefers ketchup. My mother liked to add tomato juice. This makes a great economical dinner.

In addition to pinto beans and cornbread, I also served roasted chicken, green beans, corn, macaroni and cheese, stewed potatoes, and corn.

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And of course there is nothing cuter than a little kid. My grandson couldn’t wait for everyone to get there and started without them. He’s making sure his grandad, who just arrived isn’t going to take his plate.

For dessert we had Daniel’s left-over birthday cake. This little sweetie turned 2 this past week, and Elmo is his current favorite. His mother is holding his arms tight because he kept trying to lick the icing.

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Review of Sarah Jio’s The Last Camellia

15848920The Last Camellia is the story of Flora and Addison, Americans living in England.

Flora’s story takes place in the 1940s and England has just joined the war. She works as a nanny for the four Livingston children at the manor. The children’s mother, Lady Anna recently passed. When she died she suspected that her husband might be involved in the disappearance of several local women. Was she another victim?

Addison’s story takes place in 2000. she harbors a secret that has followed her from New York, and now threatens her happy marriage. Will her husband be able to forgive the horrible secret of her past?

Another delightful mystery and romance fans of Sarah Jio are sure to love.

I gave this novel 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

My Favorite Scripture for 2014

photo-9Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Proverbs 4:25 (NIV)

I have a bad habit of looking behind me, allowing my past failures to overwhelm my present and my future. I am my own worst enemy. I would never talk to anyone the way I have talked to myself.

Every year it was the same old thing, make a resolution to lose the weight. I wanted instant results, and when I didn’t see them, I gave up.

Why put myself through it? This is the only area of my life where I can truly say I have not been able to succeed. I went back to college at 35. It took me 12 years to get my degree. I am now in the MFA program pursuing my Master’s.

I know what to do. I know about good nutrition. I know about exercise. And yet there are those moments when the sugary goodness or the salty crispness call out to me, and I succumb to temptation again. I tried that whole thing of not having it at the house, the call comes long distance from a nearby stores and restaurants too.

Rather than focus on a list of resolutions, I’ve chosen one word this year: FOCUS. The verse reminds me to keep looking ahead. If I slip a little, I need to forgive myself and get back on track rather than allowing frustration to overwhelm me and drown my sorrows in food.

I picked verse 25, and yet when I went back to the whole passage, there was the key. I changed the original my son to my name:

Connie, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. 

Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 

for they are life to those who find them
 and health to one’s whole body. 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 

Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4: 20-27 (NIV)

On Being A Grandma: Happy Birthday Daniel!

First Photo

First Photo

When I found out my daughter was expecting, a coworker told me I would experience a love like I had never felt before. I didn’t think much about it until a few months later when I got to see my grandson, Daniel for the first time.

There he was in a bassinet only minutes old. The nurse wanted to get him upstairs; his sugar was low. And no wonder since he was 9lbs. 4oz. and his mother had not had anything to eat for twenty-four hours. He was hungry.

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First photo with Grandma

In that second of looking into his eyes for the first time, I had a wave of emotion roll over me. I’d felt something similar after giving birth to my own son and daughter, and yet this was different. This would be the child I would look forward to having fun with.

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First Professional Portrait


Now I had fun with my kids, but this would be different. The responsibility of raising a child hangs over you. You’re sleep deprived. You’re scared. You don’t know what to do, and the hospital sends you home with this little one. There isn’t an instruction manual although there are many good books. Everyone has advice to give and it often conflicts with other advice you’ve been given.

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Daniel with his Mommy

Last night we met for dinner. His face lit up with a smile. He took my hand, and we walked into the restaurant. He ate his dinner and then provided the entertainment. He mimics anything you say, unless you try to get him to. He can pitch a fit. He will test you when you say don’t touch, he’ll look at you, grin, and then hold his fingers out.

Every doctor’s visit they say he’ll be tall, he’s in the top percentile for height, and he’s as tall as many three-year-olds. Can you believe anyone from my lineage can be tall? I’m not even 5 feet. Last week at daycare, they were ushering all the children back into the toddler room. It seems Daniel can now reach the doorknob, and he led the charge into the big kids room.

Daniel with Great Great Grandma

Daniel with Great Great Grandma

Each time I hold him in my arms, I wonder if my grandmothers felt this way. One has passed, and the other suffers with memory loss. I wish I could ask them.

 

Review of Jennie Shortridge’s Love Water Memory

love-water-memory-pb-225Imagine finding yourself knee-deep in the chilly water of the San Francisco Bay. You don’t know your name, where you’re from, or why you’re there. There are no visible signs of injury, no identification, only a strange small scar. You are taken to a hospital.

A handsome man appears to say he is your fiancé. He has come to take you home. The hospital staff believe him, and he takes you home.

You keep searching for clues. You know things about decorating, designs, multitudes of facts, and yet you can’t remember your name.

You eat candy; your fiancé tells you that you don’t like candy. There’s a piano. Do you play? He’s never heard you play.

Your fiancé seems kind, but is there something he is hiding, something he isn’t telling, something you can’t remember. Why did you run away? You left to try on wedding dresses, and you never came home.

Love Water Memory is told through three viewpoints: Lucie, Grady, and Helen. Lucie suffers from amnesia. The doctors aren’t sure why. They suspect an incident triggered it, but since Lucie can’t remember and Grady isn’t talking—nobody knows. Helen is Lucie’s estranged aunt and Grady tries to protect Lucie from her. The old Lucie wouldn’t talk about her childhood, her parents, or her aunt. Her parents are dead and Helen may be the only one who has the key to why Lucie has chosen to forget.

Will Lucie ever remember who she was? She’s not sure she wants to. The old Lucie doesn’t have any friends. All the old Lucie did was to work ferociously as a headhunter and run.

This new Lucie makes friends, she likes who she is, and yet her past haunts her. She knows she’ll never find peace or be able to marry Grady until she remembers. And when she does remember, will she still want to marry Grady?

Love Water Memory is an engaging story that explores identity and how much our past impacts our present. It is a wonderful diversion for a cold January day.

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge is the She Reads selection for January.

The Beginning of a Family Tradition

Mary "Naomi" Goudelock 1886 - 1958

Mary “Naomi” Goudelock
1886 – 1958

I never got to meet her. She passed before I was born and yet she has had such an impact on my life.

My first reaction when I first saw this picture was to wonder what my mother was doing dressed up in old timey era clothes. I really thought this was one of those pictures they take in places like Gatlinburg, TN. I was wrong. It is actually a picture of her maternal grandmother.

I’ve heard many stories about this woman. She lost her husband in an accident at Beaumont Mill. When management told her she would have to move to a smaller house, she bought one instead. She had to have room for her cow and chickens. Family legend says that management not only fired her but her sons that were working at the mill as well. She took in boarders to help with finances.

This is a story my grandmother, Laura Rodgers once told me.

Sometimes a man would walk up from the railroad to our back door looking for food. Mama always gave them something, and she would try to give them a good meal when she could. I asked Mama how come people always knew she would feed them. She said they had a way of marking houses that were friendly to folks. I searched looking for that mark and never did find it.

My grandmother said she started the Sunday dinner tradition because that was what her mother did. She liked having her children and grandchildren come for dinner. There was never enough room at the table and you’d find people eating their dinner anywhere they could find a spot. On warm sunny days the front porch was a favorite.

Today I will continue the family tradition. I’ll have the roast in the crockpot first thing in the morning. When I get back (we go to the early service) I’ll make the macaroni and cheese and finish everything else up. Since we didn’t get to celebrate a couple of weeks ago for my brother, Dennis’ birthday we’ll do that today. Banana pudding is his desert of choice.

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little about Mary “Naomi” Goudelock, the one my family should thank for first beginning this tradition.

Check back next Sunday. I’ll have another story and I promise to bring you the recipe of a family favorite.

The In-Between Hour

41AP5DiV37L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I was fortunate to win an ARC of this novel in a Facebook contest, and I am thrilled to report that it is every bit as engaging as Barbara Claypole White‘s first novel, The Unfinished Garden.

Hannah, William, Poppy, Jacob, and Galen are all imperfect people. Hannah has trouble setting boundaries. Hannah and Will both have secrets that need to be revealed. Poppy is a free spirit with the realities of the world closing in on her. Jacob mourns the loss of his beloved wife and doesn’t want his son, Will to put him in an old folks home. Will can’t understand his father’s grief. He only remembers his mother as unstable and embarrassing. Galen is a young man with a death wish and his own secrets.

The novel pays close attention to that in-between hour — the time as dusk approaches and the day wanes turning to night. This is often the time when the evening sky is colored in various arrays of blues, pinks, oranges, golds and even grays. And yes, sometimes a gray sky can be beautiful. Since reading the novel, I catch myself looking for this particular moment and I’m often amazed at just how the landscape changes for that short time.

White’s five characters come along side one another each with their own hurts, their own agendas, their own demons, and the only way to rescue one another is through the aid of others. Will doesn’t understand his father, but Hannah and Poppy do. Will struggles to come to terms with the grief of a lost son while his father has blissfully forgotten. Each evening Will must plot out his son’s new adventures in Europe for this is how Jacob accounts for the lack of his presence. Hannah doesn’t understand her son, Galen. To her, he is a wonderful and intelligent. She doesn’t understand the depression that comes over him, but Will does and he tries to show Galen the things he has to live for. He’s frustrated by a young man who wants to take his own life while his own son didn’t live past the age of five. And yet there is an understanding there. Will begins to realize that the best way to help himself is by helping others.

There are delightful scenes that will make you laugh, harrowing scenes that will make you flinch, and of course touching scenes that will bring tears to your eyes.

 

You Do Judge A Book By Its Cover

What makes a reader choose a book? A recommendation by a friend. New York Times Best Seller List. Favorite author. Blog post. Goodreads. Email. Price.

In 2011, there were almost 300,000 books published that year so how do you make your book stand out? A great cover helps.

thehelp Years ago I refused to initially buy The Help because I hated the cover. It just didn’t appeal to me. It was only after the novel received rave reviews and that it was offered as an e-book special that I finally succumbed and bought it. I’m so glad I did. It ranks as one of my top favorite reads, but it is one that I almost missed because of my aversion to the cover. I still don’t get what three birds have to do with the novel other than the story is really about three characters, two black and one white and how they relate to one another and the community where they live.

I love to peruse the aisles of the library and local bookstores. My local Indie bookstore, Hub City Bookshop has wonderful displays which encourage patrons to pick up the novels, read the covers, and even sit and read a bit before buying. While I love reading on my iPad, there is still something about holding a book with crisp, newly printed pages.

Here are the book covers that appealed to me the most this year.

Intriguing Book Covers of 2013

Intriguing Book Covers of 2013

Z by Therese Anne Fowler, In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve, Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, The Interestings by Meg Worlitzer, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The House Girl by Tara Conklin, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarity, and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.

Of course after making this list I realized these covers appeal to me as a woman and are part of the genres that I typically prefer to read from.

Merry Christmas Y’all Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

On Christmas Eve, we would return home after a night of celebrating with my Dad’s family. We were hurried to bed for Santa would soon be coming, and of course he would not stop if we were still awake.

After we slipped into pajamas, Mama would read The Night Before Christmas as we munched on cookies and drank milk. Afterwards we would all help (there were four of us) and put cookies out for Santa. Sometimes they were simple store-bought Oreos or chocolate chips, but there were times when Mama would spend the day baking with us and we’d leave him home-made cookies.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

Last week I got to meet with my book club for our December selection, The Christmas Train by David Baldacci and a cookie swap. I was surprised to find that everyone brought different cookies. I made Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies and they received rave reviews. If you’d like the recipe, click over to the link.  On Christmas Eve, I’ll be leaving Santa some of these hoping he’ll leave some wonderful goodies for my family.

Merry Christmas Y’all