Friday, August 11, 2017

Gatlinburg, Just Another Day in Bearadise

Thursday at 3 am, I woke up to banging. At first, I thought the kids were playing pool, and though 3 am isn’t an appropriate time to play pool, I thought that maybe they couldn’t sleep.
My pool shark

Then, the sounds got louder and louder and followed by thuds, and I thought maybe one of the kids was sleepwalking and fell.

Then, there was a loud boom, and Calvin woke up. He said, “The raccoons are in the garbage.” We did have a raccoon in the garbage the night before.

As Calvin and I walked to the back door (the trash cans were on the second-floor deck), I said, “Sweetheart, that must be a family of raccoons to make that much noise.”

I switched on all the lights. The noises became very loud. I said, “Baby, be careful.”

Calvin unlocked the door and peeked out. “Uh, Connie, the trash can is gone.”

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. That was a massive rubbish can.”

Calvin: “See for yourself.”

So I did. The trash can lid and the slate rock that we put on top of the can to keep out the raccoons were nicely laid on the deck floor. And the trash can was gone.

Cal turned on a flashlight, and we peered over the edge of the railing. Down on the ground was a black bear feasting on our garbage. Cal and I debated the size of the bear. I leaned toward 250 lbs. Cal pointed out that the bear was more than two stories away from us and probably weighed closer to 400 lbs. (According to Wikipedia, black bears can weigh anywhere from 160 to 550 lbs.) Maybe Calvin was correct.

The deck with a similar trash can
and the tree the bear climbed.
This hulking animal had to have climbed a tree and then leapt onto the deck. Happily situated on the deck, he removed the slate rock and the trash can lid. When I turned on the lights, he tossed the trash can over the railing and climbed down to finish dinner.

I called the State of Tennessee Bear Sighting hotline. They took down all my information for the bear tracker/relocation specialist.
Clearly, not the bear that visited our deck,
but photos taken at 3 am don't turn
out well. 

 Apparently, my new friend will be moved to the Cohutta Wilderness, which is where the “naughty” bears are relocated. I'm hoping that the process is anonymous—the Cohutta Wilderness is only 60 miles from our home in Chattanooga, and I’d prefer it if my bear buddy didn’t renew our friendship.

N.B. We ended up seeing 9 different bears (including the cute one on the right) during our trip to Gatlinburg this year. Because of the wildfires in November 2016, there is significantly less food available this year and the bears are becoming bolder to get the necessary body fat to survive the winter. We spoke to a local woman who told us that bears are figuring out how to open doors—her brother found a bear inside his truck because it had opened the door. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Tea Planter's Wife Book Review

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dina Jefferies is a Rebecca meets Jane Eyre set in Ceylon in early twentieth century.

As a historical novel, Jefferies has done a wonderful job of recreating the Ceylon of the 1920s and ’30s vivid detail, both in terms of the lush physical setting and the cultural milieu. The author does so cleanly by integrating the details into the action and character development, so the reader isn’t tempted to skip paragraphs in order to “get back to the story.”

Another aspect that I appreciated was the raw and honest look at a loving marriage. While there are many secrets and lies in Gwen and Laurence’s marriage, they truly love each other. The readers sees that not only in the sacrifices the characters make, but also in the physical love they have for each other, which I found very refreshing. Often, it seems that the last “taboo” in novels is sexual delight between married people. That said, there are many frank instances of sex between the couple, but the scenes avoid eroticism.

The only difficulty I had with the novel was that the author occasionally lapsed into telling the reader things that could be gleaned from the text. Though that happened less often in the second half of the novel.

All in all, a very enjoyable book. I’d give it 4.5 stars. And I’ll definitely read other novels by this author.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Novel Editing

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This is what life looks like the day after you get an edit letter from your literary agent. But there's nothing that can't be conquered without tea, biscuits, highlighters, and lots of post-it flags.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Somebody's Baby Book Review

Somebody’s Baby by Lurlene McDaniel

Winning a reality TV singing contest changes the course of Sloane Gabriel’s life from her abused childhood to a music career complete with a manager, recording contract, and touring schedule. But it’s never easy to leave your past behind, especially when your new notoriety introduces you to a woman dying of cancer who claims to be your half-sister. Thus, begins Sloane’s journey not only into the sufferings of her past, but through them into a present where she finds forgiveness, peace, and the love she never had.

I enjoyed many aspects of this novel, but especially Sloane, who is an amazing character—a combination of strength and fragility. McDaniel nails the character’s complexity, treating her with compassion and respect, which is especially important with Sloane, a character in a previous McDaniel novel*, who made very difficult choices and now has to deal with the fallout. Over the course of the novel, the reader sees Sloane develop and grow, and you can’t help rooting for Sloane as her suffering and circumstances change her into a person who can love and care for others.

The plotting of the novel was excellent—there was never a section where I was bored or wanted to put the novel down. And all of the action propelled the novel and helped to develop the characters. The writing itself was very clean, the author never intrudes on the story—it’s always about Sloane and the people in her life.

In the end, I have to agree with the Bustle.com review, which says, “Sorry, John Green fans, but McDaniel’s been making us cry . . . for decades.” —Bustle.com

That says it all. Five star YA novel!

*If you haven’t read Losing Gabriel, no worries, this novel stands alone and the author makes sure you know everything you need to know—good thing, because I forgot a lot.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

White Clam Pizza

Lately, I've been writing and editing my new novel (which accounts for the very few blog posts I've written). In spite of the consuming busyness of writing, I got a nostalgic craving for white clam pizza (made with cheese, clams, garlic, oregano, olive oil, etc.). It's been 11 years...

Pepe's white clam pizza was one of the last meals my husband and I had before we moved from Connecticut. So I searched the web and found a recipe. It wasn't as good as Pepe's...but that might be because instead of using Parmesan, I grabbed the wrong cheese from the refrigerator (a Spanish cheese flavored with agave) by accident. But it was delicious anyway.

Click here if you'd like to give white clam pizza a try. YUM!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Review: Jane of Austin, Great Beach Read

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility set in Austin, Texas. And though this novel a romantic retelling and I don’t usually read romance, I’m a huge fan of Austen and couldn’t resist this book.

As a retelling, the book was fun. It updated the tropes and effortlessly set the novel in a modern world without any awkwardness or injury to the story and characters. I loved the inclusion of the tea shop as part of the setting. And as someone who also reviews cookbooks, I’m eager to make some of the recipes that the author has included in the novel—the cranberry-vanilla scones sound wonderful.

It’s important to note, that this novel is not a literary exploration of Austen’s novel, nor does it explore and expose social conventions in the way that Austen’s novels do. But this novel doesn’t set out to do those things. This book is a summer, beach-read version of Sense and Sensibility and on that level, it fulfills its expectations and is addictively readable.

Definitely four stars!

One more note, this novel is a “sweet romance,” i.e., no cursing, no sex, etc.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dark Matter book review

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Let me start off by saying that I read this novel in two days—it was that engrossing. And I’m not even a huge fan of sci-fi, unless it’s very well written, and this was.

Though I don’t buy the whole multiverse theory in reality, I did very much enjoy the creative possibilities of it in this novel. And it speaks to the author’s tremendous story-telling skills that I was able to set aside my skepticism and enter into the story.

Dark Matter is a wonderful blend of action, thriller, and love story. The pacing is spot on, the characters are nuanced, and the plot involved some twists I didn’t see coming. And in the end, the novel reminded me how thankful I am for my family and loved ones.

A five star read!

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.