Book Review: Some Luck

March 5, 2015 Book Review, reviews 3

Book Review: Some LuckSome Luck
by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing
On Ocober 7th, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 395
Source: purchased
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For a couple of years while growing up we lived on my grandparents farm in Tennessee.  I learned early on what makes a successful farm: a ton of hard work, dedication and some luck!

Set in the Midwest town of Denby, Iowa, Walter Langdon marries the prettiest girl in town, Rosanna, and sets up home and farm just outside of town.  Soon the babies start coming; first Frank then Joe, Lillian, Henry and finally Claire.  Covering 1920 – 1953, each chapter represents one year and we get a brief peek inside the lives of the Langdon family.    Frank makes his own way, is headstrong and stubborn yet also brilliant.  Joe is considered the ‘whiner’ and yet his particular gift of stewing over an issue brings him and his family success; Lillian is the angel, naive and beautiful; Henry has no interest in farming and somehow escapes much of the farm life work ~ he reads, and reads and reads; Claire is her daddy’s heart – is it because Walter has the time later in life to focus on Claire or is it because Rosanna seemed to have a bit of postpartum blues or a combination?

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Some Luck ~ Is it a sweeping family saga or a book without a plot?  I think it is one of those that you either hate it or you need a few days to think it over and find that months after the fact you’re still pondering the Langdon family.  That’s where Jane Smiley has created a brilliant novel ~ it gradually gets under your skin and you find yourself thinking about the Langdon’s long after the book is closed.

Some Luck mirrors life ~ there’s a few big things that happen but mostly we get by in the everyday-ness of life.

Why I picked up Some Luck

I picked this one up because I’ve got Early Warning on my queue to review, and I wanted to start from the beginning in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family.

What I would have liked better

There are a LOT of characters by the end of Some Luck and though Smiley includes a family tree at the beginning, I found myself having to look back quite a bit.  Before I start Early Warning I am going to print out the family tree!  Not every chapter includes each of the children or their friends and then subsequent spouses.   Since I had to read this one over a couple of weeks rather than all in a couple of sittings, it took me longer to get reacquainted with who was who.

Please give me more

Henry!  It seemed to me that Frank ended up as the accidental protagonist, but it was Henry that I was drawn to.

Interesting to Note

The discussion questions in the back of the novel really got me thinking about how so much about each character and the time period is revealed through atypical means.  For example, Walter resists getting a tractor for the longest time (times were changing, farming was evolving) and Frank’s character flaws are shown through Joe’s behavior (Frank is not a very nice brother toward Joe).  If you read this one be sure to check out the discussion questions ~ reading through those alone will reveal the brilliance of this author.

If you like A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler or Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem then you may enjoy Some Luck.

What book have you read recently that kept you thinking about the characters long after the last page was over?



Share-fest on Birthdays, Dr. Seuss and Podcasts

March 2, 2015 Book Talk 7

Today you are you!

Sharing my birthday with an icon like Dr. Seuss inspires me, while his simple quotes, filled with such meaning, always brings a smile to my face.  Many of his quotes have become personal mantras to me, and I love that he appeared to have such an optimistic outlook on life.  Here’s a few tidbits that make up the me-er than me ;-

1.  My adult life has revolved around children:  my three babies that have filled my life with such purpose and meaning, the children I worked with for years through CASA and now my grandson who never fails to make me laugh.  Believe it or not, as a teenager and young adult I swore I would never have children.  Hah! Never say never.  God has a way of proving me wrong Every. Single. Time.

2.  Although I am the oldest of three, when my much-taller and much-more-athletic brothers and I get together, I have an innate need to try to out-do them ~ doesn’t matter if it’s splitting wood, driving the go-cart, or climbing a tree. We are such a competitive bunch but the laughs we share are priceless.

3.  I love to dance.  I keep waiting for So You Think You Can Dance to discover me but it just hasn’t happened yet….It might help if I had a bit of rhythm!

4.  Board games with family and friends are the best!  A game of Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble or cards can keep me occupied all afternoon!  that same competitive spirit runs through the entire family, didn’t skip generations, so there’s a fine line playing board games at family gatherings!

5.  I’m addicted to podcasts!   I have my regular bookish shows like Books on the Nightstand and Inside the New York Times Review, but you’ll also find me bingeing on You Must Remember This, (a fix for all things historical in the movie industry); Happier with Gretchen Rubin, (a brand new show featuring Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth); and The Chalene Show (for all kinds of motivation – fitness, personal, business).  Of course, who can forget the Serial podcast along with the Serial Serial and Criminal!  If you’re one of the last people on earth to listen to Serial you’re in for a treat!  If you have listened – what’s your take on Adnan?

Now it’s your turn~

  • Tell me something about YOU that I don’t know.
  • Are you a podcast-binger?
  • What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss-ism?


February in Review

March 1, 2015 Book Talk 4

Whew! February got away without me!  It has been a busy month of life though not enough of reading and definitely not so much of reviewing!

What I’ve Been Reading

For the Inspys I read

What I’ve Been Reviewing

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan {review}

I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last by Margaret DeArmand {review}

What I’ve Been Giving Away
  • Tara from Running ‘N’ Reading won a copy of The Unquiet Dead
  • Jeff won a copy of The Unquiet Dead
  • Sandra won a copy of The Half Brother
Of Particular Note

It’s time for applications for the Short List Judges of the Inspys.  If you have been a judge in the past or you’re interested in judging this year, please head on over to the Inspys site to sign up!

If you’ve been reading The Novel Life for any length of time you’ll know The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is my favorite novel.  A few of my blogger friends are hosting a read-along during the month of March.  I’ve signed up to talk all things Cemetery of Books, have you?

A new-to-me favorite book review and author blog.  Katherine’s taste in books are similar, her reviews are thorough, but what I really love is how she states what she didn’t enjoy about a book.  The only other blogger I’ve read who does it with as much kindness and grace is Juju from Tales of Whimsy.  It takes a special talent to write an objective review with such consideration to the author.

How was your February? Did you get much accomplished or were you like me and feel like you did a lot of running but not a lot of gaining?  

I leave you with more of my photography practice…and a favorite quote.  Enjoy!



The Half Brother Giveaway

February 20, 2015 Book Talk, Giveaway 3

the half brother

When Charlie Garrett arrives as a young teacher at the shabby-yet-genteel Abbott School, he finds a world steeped in privilege and tradition. Fresh out of college and barely older than the students he teaches, Charlie longs to leave his complicated southern childhood behind and find his place in the rarefied world of Abbottsford. Before long he is drawn to May Bankhead, the daughter of the legendary school chaplain, but when he discovers he cannot be with her, he forces himself to break her heart, and she leaves Abbott—he believes forever. He hunkers down in his house in the foothills of Massachusetts, thinking his sacrifice has contained the damage and controlled their fates.

Nearly a decade later, his peace is shattered when his golden-boy half brother, Nick, comes to Abbott to teach, and May returns as a teacher as well. Students and teachers alike are drawn by Nick’s magnetism, and even May falls under his spell. When Charlie pushes his brother and his first love together, with what he believes are the best of intentions, a love triangle ensues that is haunted by desire, regret, and a long-buried mystery.

With wisdom and emotional generosity, LeCraw takes us through a year that transforms both the teachers and students of Abbott forever. Page-turning, lyrical, and ambitious, The Half Brother is a powerful examination of family, loyalty, and love.

With many thanks to Doubleday Publishers, I have one copy of The Half Brother to giveaway. {U.S. mailing address only}  Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on February 26th.  Good luck!


Strengthen Your Relationship with Deb DeArmand’s I Choose You Today

February 18, 2015 Book Review, reviews 6

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions.

Strengthen Your Relationship with Deb DeArmand’s I Choose You TodayI Choose You Today
by Deb DeArmond
Published by Abingdon Press
On January 6th, 2015
Genre: Christian, Non-Fiction
Pages: 208
Source: complimentary review copy
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It may seem a bit strange to my regular readers that I am reviewing a book on marriage.  Having failed at too many relationships to count I actually kind of think perhaps I am best suited to discuss a book on marriage.  As I’m typing this I’m hearing the Priest in The Princess Bride just beginning his discussion of “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. . . . ”  A bit off topic but true, nonetheless ;-)

So friends, marriage is what brings us here today.  Are you in one? Want to be in one? Planning one? Thinking one day, someday in a far-away distant future you’d like to be in one?  Then this book is for you.

Thirty-one chapters. Each dedicated to how you can make a choice to love your spouse, fiancée or significant other. It’s not a book to read through all at once.  I have been reading a chapter every other day or so and applying the key concept for the following day ~ After going through the book once I now plan to take a chapter a week and apply the concepts ~ I’m excited to see the results!  A key takeaway from this book is that love is a choice, not an emotion. Choosing to respect, love, honor my sweetheart makes all the difference in the world. Below is a sampling of a few chapter headings.  

  • I Choose to Bless You
  • I Choose to be Adaptable
  • I Choose to Share Your Burdens
  • I Choose to Serve You
  • I Choose to Be Generous With You
  • I Choose to Pray For You
  • I Choose to Help You Achieve Your Dreams and Goals
  • I Choose to Comfort You
  • I Choose to Live in Peace With  You
  • I Choose to Prefer You

Each chapter ends with a quote, three questions and a short prayer, all geared to help the reader take the topic deeper.  While it is targeted to an already-married population, I can see this book being especially suited for small group discussions, premarital counseling and anyone contemplating marriage some day.

It does come from a Christian perspective that is spot-on in addressing the work it takes to make love last, to keep a happy, forever-kind-of marriage.  Deb DeArmond is conversational in her writing tone, and  she will definitely have you considering if you’re doing all that you can to make the relationship last.

You’re invited to participate in two marriage-strengthening challenges: one beginning February 1 and the other beginning in March. It’s not too late to join the February Challenge!  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to build your relationship with your spouse and enter to win some prizes along the way!

The Valentine’s Challenge: February 1 – 28

Tell your spouse “I Choose You” every day of the month. Sign up online at and receive a free downloadable February calendar to mark off the days of the challenge.

Deb will also be emailing participants 1–2 times throughout the month with giveaway opportunities and “keep going” encouragement.

The “I Choose You” Challenge: March 1 – December 31, 2015

Sign up online at to receive 10 weekly emails, each teaching one of the choices from Deb’s book along with practical applications. This challenge is broken up into three different sessions, covering all 31 choices from the book.

There will be giveaways and opportunities to win throughout the year. Participants can decide when to join—it’s not required to do all three sessions.

Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.