Showing posts with label richard llewellyn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label richard llewellyn. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2013!

It's that time of year, y'all!  All those Best Books lists are being released, and I am never one to be left out of the fun and games.  So without further ado...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2013!

As happened last year, I had an immensely difficult time compiling this list.  It took me ages to narrow it down to just 10 books that I've read in the last year.  But I managed, and here they are (in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews):

1. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
I went into this novel with hesitation, because I hadn't done a heavy classic in a while.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.  An amazing coming-of-age tale that is going to stick with me for a long, long time.

2. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
I am admittedly biased because I love food memoirs, and I love the Food Network this was a match made in heaven for me from the start.  Either way, it deserves a spot on this list, if only because Samuelsson's journey is so unique and inspiring.

3. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
As an avid Picoult fan, I had high expectations for this one, and was not disappointed in the least.  I've read a lot of Holocaust-based historical fiction...this is one of the better ones I can remember coming across.

4. White Dog Fell From The Sky by Eleanor Morse
Beautiful, picturesque, gorgeous, awesome-sauce writing is the #1 reason why this made it on the list.  The captivating story is a bonus.

5. Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
If there was a book that should be on everyone's list for great character development, this is it.  Beautiful prose, and makes me feel like one of my 2014 resolutions should be to read more of Daniel's stuff.

6. Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad
This book tugged at my mommy heartstrings.  HARD.

7. Cooked by Michael Pollan
I continue to be wow'ed by the depth of Pollan's food-based research, combined with his entertaining commentary along the way.  He makes me feel smarter...and hungrier.

8. We Are Water by Wally Lamb
Another epic family drama from Lamb.  He has yet to disappoint me.

9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The unsettling tone of this novel is still creeping me out.  The ending was awesome.  I am not quite as in awe of this one as I was of Gone Girl, but ohsoclose.

10. Expecting Better by Emily Oster
This book should be required reading for every pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant woman out there.  How I wish I had this to counterbalance all the crazy pregnancy books I read when I was knocked up with Small Fry!  At least Tater Tot is reaping the benefits now.

That's the list for this year, readers!  And now you've got 14 more days to buy them for your friends and family before Christmas.  You can thank me later.

What made YOUR best-read list for 2013?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April Showers Bring May Awesomes. (April 2013 in Review)

So April was a pretty awesome month.  Mostly because of the weather.  My pasty-pale self is now becoming pasty-pale with a scattering of freckles, which must mean the sun has arrived in Upstate New York.  If only all my freckles would meld together, I would be blessed with the most luscious tan.  Ah, the life of a ginger.

Also, my lil (not so lil anymore) brother got engaged this month!  I am wicked excited for him and his fiancee (who has received the Big Sister Seal of Approval).  Let the wedding plans begin!

As per usual in my monthly recaps, I will also grace you with a photo of Sir Small Fry.  He was very serious about his outdoor play time this month:
Obviously Mother has done something for which she should feel ashamed.
Now, enough about me, onward to the book-related goodness!  Apparently the warm weather led to less reading and more outdoor time, because my reading/posting pace was a little slower.

The April 2013 Fave/Least Fave choices were difficult, and honestly, my "least" fave shouldn't be read as being a "bad"'s just the one I gave the lowest rating to on Goodreads (a 3-star, by the way).

March 2013 Favorite:  How Green Was My Valley  by Richard Llewellyn
March 2013 Least Favorite:  The Sex Lives of Cannibals  by J Maarten Troost

In total, I read/reviewed 6 books:
How Green Was My Valley  by Richard Llewellyn
Found Objects  by Peter Gelfan
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
The World's Strongest Librarian  by Josh Hanagarne
Weelicious  by Catherine McCord
The Sex Lives of Cannibals  by J Maarten Troost

I also posted one new Small Fry Saturday Review of  Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury.

In other book talk, I was one of the first features on Book Bloggers International, we took a trip down my college-era memory lane, and I told you all the topics that, if melted together, would create my ultimate read.

May is going to be a busy month around here--we're getting a new roof put on today, and Small Fry is getting ear tubes inserted tomorrow, so already we're off with a bang.  But May is also my engagement anniversary (awww).  And, let's not forget that Mother's Day is coming up.  YOU'RE ON NOTICE, HUSBAND.  Fine jewels and massages as far as the eye can see!  (Or at least the ability to sleep past 6am.)

Have a great month!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (26)

Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from my recent reads.  
All definitions from

1. baize. "Then a match was struck, and I saw the caretaker, with the green baize of his apron torn down the middle..."  (from How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

1. a soft, usually green, woolen or cotton fabric resembling felt, used chiefly for the tops of billiard tables.
2. an article of this fabric or of a fabric resembling it.
3. to line or cover with baize.

Now all I can picture is a guy wearing the top of a pool table.

2. burnoose. "Then a burnoose my father used to wear that made him look like Rudolph Valentino."  (from Indiscretion by Charles Dubow)

1. a hooded mantle or cloak, as that worn by Arabs.
2. a similar garment worn by women at various periods in Europe and the United States.

The visual in my head would probably be clearer if I had any idea who Rudolph Valentino is/was...

3. roustabout. "Unlike most of them, he worked during the summer, one year as a roustabout on the Oklahoma oil fields, another on an Alaskan fishing boat."  (from Indiscretion by Charles Dubow)
1. a wharf laborer or deck hand, as on the Mississippi River.
2. an unskilled laborer who lives by odd jobs.
3. a circus laborer who helps in setting up and taking down the tents and in caring for the animals, equipment, and grounds.
4. any unskilled laborer working in an oil field.

Definition #4: ding ding ding.  This word also reminds me of John Locke in Lost (though I know the word I'm thinking of there is "walkabout"...haha).

What are your new words this week?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (25)

Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.  
The first and third definitions are from

1. besom. "'God damn,' Iestyn said, and went round our back as though witches were at him with besoms."  

a broom, especially one of brush or twigs.

Pretty straightforward!  I think this is an old-fashioned term though.

2. cribban. "But I thought they had stopped to use the cribban.  I had my knuckles hit bloody for talking Welsh in school, but no matter." 

No definition was listed for this word at, but I did find a site discussing Welsh language that said:
"Welsh was forbidden in schools in the early twentieth century. Anyone caught speaking Welsh had to wear a "Welsh Not", a piece of wood on a leather strap, known as a cribban, that would be passed on if someone else was heard speaking the language. At the end of the day, the child still wearing the cribban was beaten."

Good Lord.  The Brits knew how to punish back in the day, eh?

3. woad. "Welsh never was a language, but only a crude means of communication, between tribes of barbarians stinking of woad." 
1. a European plant, Isatis tinctoria, of the mustard family, formerly cultivated for a blue dye extracted from its leaves.
2. the dye extracted from this plant.

Apparently the dictionary forgot to mention that this plant stinks.

What are your new words this week?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Title: How Green Was My Valley
Author: Richard Llewellyn
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: 1939
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Huw Morgan, about to leave home forever, reminisces about the golden days of his youth, when South Wales still prospered and coal dust had not yet blackened the valley. Llewellyn's characters fight, love, laugh, and cry, creating an indelible portrait of a people.

My Review:

I picked up this book because I needed a novel set in Wales for last month's Around the World in 12 Books Challenge.  I was pretty excited to read about Wales, because my husband is 100% Welsh (or at least he thinks so...maybe some French Canadian in there?  But mostly Welsh).  And the only thing he has ever been able to tell me about the Welsh is that they are known for ditch digging.  I suspect that's about as accurate as saying my Irish ancestors are only known for being hungry for potatoes.  Ah, stereotypes!

When I finished this book, I turned to my husband and said, "You should read this.  It would make you feel proud to be Welsh."  Because seriously, what an epic, spirited portrayal of South Wales in the late 1800's.  This is easily one of the better classics that I've read in a LONG time.

Now, when I say this book would fill you with Welsh pride, I don't mean that everything in it is happy.  OH NO.  This book has tons of sads and feels.  The description above doesn't tell you much, but Huw is the youngest of six brothers, and he also has three sisters to boot.  The Morgans live in a valley of South Wales and work primarily as coal miners.  (Ditch digging, almost?)  The book begins with Huw as an adult, leaving his family home, but you don't find out why just yet.  Nope, because Huw then backtracks to when he was just a little boy (age six, I believe) and begins to tell us the story of his upbringing.

I love a well-done coming-of-age novel, and I daresay that Huw Morgan might be tied for my favorite coming-of-age character (alongside Francie Nolan of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn ).  Llewellyn did an absolutely terrific job illustrating how Huw grows physically and emotionally throughout his life.  When the story opens, he's just an innocent kid living in pretty prosperous times.  But as the novel progresses, he faces his fair share of hard knocks (as does his family), and he matures before your eyes.  Llewellyn does this in such a way that the progression is evenly-paced, but not painfully slow (as can happen with some epic stories).  I was never, ever bored while reading this novel, and I found myself rooting for Huw all along the way.

Huw was obviously my favorite character, but the others in the novel became near and dear to my heart as well.  Each of Huw's MANY siblings had a distinct personality and passion that came through loud and clear.  For example, his sister Angharad, who became one of the best female characters in the history of ever when she told off a male suitor with this line:

"I am Angharad Morgan," she said, and the river never ran colder.  "Go to hell."


And two of his friends (Dai Bando and Cyfartha) were probably my favorite side characters, because they were HILARIOUS.  (There are some really great one-liners in this book, which is not something I normally say about a classic.)  Honestly, the entire village of people around the Morgans was an amazing, cohesive unit that puts modern day neighborhood friendships to shame.  The comraderie and support among all of the characters was inspiring, and a big reason why I told my husband that this book would make him proud to be Welsh.

But one of the best characters of all?  WALES!  And you're thinking, wait, that's the setting.  EXACTLY.  Llewellyn basically turns this South Wales valley into a character all its own.  It's not just the descriptions of the picturesque mountains or the ever-changing winds, but the way that the setting plays a crucial role in many of the important events of the characters' lives.  This novel couldn't be set anywhere else and be able to tell the same story.

I haven't read a real epic classic in a while, mostly because Middlemarch scared me off a couple of years ago.  How Green Was My Valley was my first foray back into that territory, and I am not sorry. This is a truly fantastic book and it's going on my favorites shelf.  READ IT!

Other reviews of How Green Was My Valley:
Caribou's Mom
Impressions In Ink
Book Light Graveyard

Do you have a favorite classic?  And have you ever visited Wales?  Because now I want to go to there.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (24)

Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from my recent reads.  
All definitions from

1. mysophobia. "Besides, there is some mysophobia in society.  Nobody wants to talk about it."  (from  Evil Water by Inger Wolf)  

a dread of dirt or filth.

In this part of the book, the characters were discussing infanticide.  So I think they were referring to the fact that people, in general, do not like discussing unpleasant subjects.

2. importunate. "There was something unpleasantly arrogant about him, and he didn't find it hard to imagine that she had thought him importunate."  (from  Evil Water by Inger Wolf)

1. urgent or persistent in solicitation, sometimes annoyingly so.
2. pertinacious, as solicitations or demands.
3. troublesome; annoying: importunate demands from the children for attention.

I've heard this one before, but couldn't place the exact meaning.

3. crake. "He had a voice like a little crake with him, and so funny it sounded against the basso of my father that I was bound to push my fist in my mouth not to be rude."  (from How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn)
any of several short-billed rails, especially the corn crake.

And apparently a "rail" in this sense is a type of small grassland bird.  Did anyone else immediately think of the book Oryx and Crake when they read this word?

What are your new words this week?

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Monday, peeps!

So what are you reading?

This weekend was another busy one around these parts, as we did a day trip on Saturday to visit the in-laws, and then yesterday was full of errands...although I did get to use a little tax return money to start my summer vacation shopping.  YES!  T-minus 3 months until a fantastical week of beach time.  Must load up the Kindle too...

In other news, Small Fry has started to refer to our cars as the "beep-beeps".  WHICH IS SO ADORABLE.  Love that kid.  He does something new every day.

Anyway, what am I reading?

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?  (Goodreads link)

The newest Picoult release that I picked up at her kickoff event last month.  I AM HOOKED.  The story is complex and mysterious and dramatic and full of awesome.  I'll admit, when I saw she was tackling the Holocaust, I was a little skeptical...there are SO many fiction novels that take on that topic, I wasn't sure how she was going to approach it from an original angle.  But those concerns quickly went out the window.  I hope the ending gives a big pay-off to match the rest of the novel.  Review coming later this week!

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Huw Morgan, about to leave home forever, reminisces about the golden days of his youth, when South Wales still prospered and coal dust had not yet blackened the valley. Llewellyn's characters fight, love, laugh, and cry, creating an indelible portrait of a people.  (Goodreads link)

As I mentioned last week, I decided to use this as my book for Wales in the Around The World In 12 Books Challenge.   I just started it this weekend...not bad so far.  A slower pace than the Picoult book for sure, but I'm impressed with the breadth of characters and how quickly I'm coming to be attached to Huw.  This is a long one though, so we'll see how I fare!

Also, I'm still listening to the audiobook of The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht.  It continues to be fantastic.  Can't wait to review soon!

What's on tap next?
Probably At the Mercy of the Mountains by Peter Bronski (for this month's Keyword Challenge), and/or Evil Water by Inger Wolf--I have a review copy and it sounds pretty thrilling.  Have you read either of these two?  Any recommendations?

Have a great reading week!

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Monday, and here's what I'm reading...

Happy Monday, readers!  This weekend was a little nutty, as Small Fry was sick (Friday/Saturday), I had to work (Saturday), and the husband and I went to a wedding (Sunday).  I need a weekend from my weekend!

Because of all the crazy, I didn't get a ton of reading in...but here's what I'm reading now:

I'll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde

Nora and Annie have been best friends since kindergarten. Nora, a shy English teacher at a quaint New England boarding school, longs to have a baby. Annie, an outspoken stay-at-home mother of two, longs for one day of peace and quiet (not to mention more money and some free time). Despite their very different lives, nothing can come between them—until Cynthia Cypress arrives on campus.
Cynthia has it all: brains, beauty, impeccable style, and a gorgeous husband (who happens to be Nora’s ex). When Cynthia eagerly befriends Nora, Annie’s oldest friendship is tested. Now, each woman must wrestle the green-eyed demon of envy and, in the process, confront imperfect, mixed-up family histories they don’t want to repeat .  Amid the hilarious and harried straits of friendship, marriage, and parenthood, the women may discover that the greenest grass is right beneath their feet. (Goodreads link)

MOMMY FICTION!!  Oh mah gah, if there is a subgenre of women's fiction that I love most, it is certainly mommy fiction.  I'm about 2/3 done with this one, and it's both funny and poignant.  Can't wait to share my review with you later this week.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
(Did you know if you Google "tiger's wife" in images...this is not what comes up.)
In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.

But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel. (Goodreads link)

This is my current audiobook.  It came highly recommended, and so far I am most definitely intrigued. I still have 6.5 discs to go, but I am loving the writing style (lyrical and almost ethereal at times).  Having much better luck with this than the last few audios I've tried...

What's on tap next?
Probably either How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (for the Around The World In 12 Books Challenge--Wales!) or At the Mercy of the Mountains by Peter Bronski (for this month's Keyword Challenge).  Have you read either of these two?  Any recommendations?

Have a great reading week!
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