Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines

Imagine how many books I could read if I didn’t stop to write down quotes as I go along? Here I present the best lines I’ve read this week.

From Emma Donoghue, Frog Music

“This is what mothers do for their babies. They bite their tongues and let the world ride them into the ground.”


Not sure I want to think of myself as being ridden into the ground but Donogue gets down to business in this desperate moment of motherhood.


From Dave Eggers, What is the What

“I do not want to think of myself as important enough the God would choose me for extraordinary punishment, but then again, the circumference of calamity that surrounds me is impossible to ignore.”

I love the image of a “circumference of calamity.” He writes so incredibly well that, despite the devastation of his topic, I can’t wait to pick up the story again.


From Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home

“Because maybe I don’t want to leave the planet invisible. Maybe I need at least one person to remember something about me. ”

Although I’m not re-reading this favorite novel of mine this week, I was reminded of this quote by a new friend. Haven’t we all felt this way at one point, especially when we were teenagers.

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

My Favorite Books – 2012

I know. I know. Everyone and their brother has a “Best of” list at this time of year, but this tradition of mine predates blogging. This is just a more convenient way to share.

Readers should keep in mind that I don’t limit myself to books released in 2012. Although I try to keep up with what’s new and hot, I’m just as likely to pick up an unread classic or finally get around to reading something I’ve had on my list for months (or years). So you’ll find a mix of old and new.

And, I just couldn’t decide which book to cut from the list, so here you have my Top 11!

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeTell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is everything I love in a book – a thoughtful, socially awkward young narrator coming of age at a particularly dramatic historical moment. June Elbus is 14 years-old in 1986 when her beloved uncle dies of AIDS.  June is caught between childish games of imagination and the harsh realities of death, fear and discrimination. Struggling with the love-hate relationship between herself and her 16 year-old talented and popular sister, feeling orphaned by her busy-at-work parents and full of teenage self-loathing, she still comes across as tender and sympathetic. Read more…

Extremely LoudExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer

Brilliant. Devastating.  Can a book be described in two words? Probably not, but 2,000 will not be enough to convey the depth and intelligence of this masterpiece. Certainly, it’s a 9/11 book. The main storyline revolves around Oskar, a 9 year-old boy on a quest for closure after his father’s death on that horrible day. But the book is more than that. Read more…

book cover from Goodreads

book cover from Goodreads

A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash did not so much ease me into the disturbing world of his novel, as grip me by the throat and pull me along. Within the first few pages I knew to be very afraid of the charismatic, snake-handling, strong-arming Carson Chambliss. I knew someone had died. I knew children were involved. And I felt the heart-wrenching isolation of the people in this Appalachian community through the eyes of Adelaide, an elderly midwife. In fact, as the novel opens, Adelaide is about to step into Chambliss’ church and meet him face to face. Read more…

cover image from Goodreads

cover image from Goodreads

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I find it difficult to review this book without giving the whole thing away. Any spoilers would ruin this brilliantly crafted novel by literary “It Girl” Gillian Flynn. So let me say instead that Flynn has forced me to completely re-examine my belief that I’m not a fan of thrillers. What starts out as a straightforward premise – woman goes missing on her 5th wedding anniversary; husband is primary suspect – twists and turns in so many directions that I was left guessing, often. Read more…

The Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles

I cannot possibly write a review that reflects the intelligence and sophistication of this book. Integrating art, photography and literature into his portrait of 1938 New York, Amor Towles also tells a great story about the choices made by one young woman — Kate/Katey/Katherine Kontent, and her friends. Kate is smart, funny, unpredictable and determined, all qualities that make a fine heroine. But she’s also imperfect, which makes her infinitely more interesting. Read more…

sense of an endingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending is further proof that my favorite books are not those that are driven by plot, or even by character, but instead, are books whose language transports me. I don’t mean to imply that nothing happens or that I didn’t care about the characters, but they aren’t the critical elements in my 5 star rating for this book. What elevates Julian Barnes to 5 star status is the way he makes me think. Read more…

Cover image from Goodreads

Cover image from Goodreads

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

To love Girlchild as much as I did, you have to be willing to understand “raw.” Several times while I was reading this book, my husband looked at my face and asked me what was wrong. (I was alternating between tears brimming over and horror leaving my mouth agape.) Rory Dawn suffers neglect, mistreatment and abuse at the hands of those trusted to care for her. Growing up in a Nevada trailer park outside Reno, Rory clings to her tattered copy of the Girl Scouts Handbook as the only set of rules that use “honor” and “obey” as positive edicts. Read more…

This is Where I leave youThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud, but this one did. It also made me blush, got me a little choked up at times, and introduced me to another author whose work I will actively seek. Forced to take part in a traditional Jewish 7-day shiva for his father, Judd Foxman ping-pongs between his hilariously dysfunctional siblings, his larger than life newly widowed mother, and the agony of his failed marriage. Read more…

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins defies easy categorization. A little bit mystery, a little romance, a little historical fiction, even a little Hollywood. Jess Walters does a fantastic job of blending all these components into something smart, entertaining and lovely. What I really loved is the way Walters carried me away to another world, another time. He puts me squarely inside the minds of his characters so that I’m on the journey with them. The characters themselves are the beautiful ruins of this novel. Read more…

unlessUnless by Carol Shields

Although Carol Shields’ novel has a tragic background, it doesn’t focus on a traditional story. Instead, we meet Reta Winters, whose 19 year-old daughter has chosen to sit on a busy corner in Toronto wearing a sign that reads only, “Goodness.”  Reta does not take dramatic action to retrieve her daughter. She does not yell or pull her hair. Instead, she thinks and she writes. This kind of passive first-person storytelling will not work for all readers, but I loved Reta from page one. Read more…

anatomy of a disappearanceAnatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar

How does an author write about something/someone who no longer exists? In Matar’s case, with incredible beauty and delicacy. He words seem not so much written, as poured gently. Matar provides a touching story of a boy whose father disappears. We assume it’s a political kidnapping based on the few clues the author provides, but we don’t get all the answers — exactly Matar’s point. He wisely tells a story without depending on plot points. Read more…

Honorable Mentions: Sacre Bleu, Horoscopes for the Dead, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, The Fault in Our Stars, Zeitoun, Stone Arabia, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Astray, One Last Thing Before I Go

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Week 3 (and a half)

Since I took 5 days off from blogging (although not from Alena’s Life, thankfully), I missed my weekly recap last week. I did continue posting on Facebook throughout the weekend, so here’s where I’m at.

Day 16: Today I am thankful for sports. Yep, you read that right. I love watching sports (not competing unfortunately). From Rec league soccer to seats in a stadium and everything in between, I love being a sports fan. There’s a release in cheering on athletes that I just don’t find anywhere else. So thanks to all the athletes out there who entertain me.

Day 17: Today I am thankful for weekends. Just when I think I can’t “go” another day, the weekend arrives. I can slow my step, breathe deeply and recharge.

Day 18: Today I am thankful I got to spend the day with my mom. She is just the best and I miss seeing her every day. A few hours doesn’t make up for daily contact, but it sure was great.

Day 19: Today I am thankful for a particular book. TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME is not only a really good book; it’s the best novel I’ve read all year. This story carried me on its back in a deeply personal and revelatory way. I can’t say enough about how much I loved it, but I tried.

Day 20: Today I am thankful for good editors. During my years working for newspapers and writing for a great magazine, I was mentored, challenged, taught and encouraged by some of the best. I offer special thanks to Mary Haley, Susy Schultz, Cindy Richards and Tamara L. O’Shaughnessy for making me a better and more confident writer. In their honor I promise to write from my heart, use strong words and know when to stop.

Day 21: Today I am thankful for a 5-day weekend. After a couple of months of working evenings and weekends regularly, I am in serious need of several consecutive days of downtime. Best of all, I’ll share these days with my family, both immediate and extended. Let the relaxing begin.

Day 22: So thankful that this lovely lady is my niece. @ali_hawk1

Day 23: This evening I’m thankful for comfy pants, a fire, takeout and A Christmas Story on DVD.

Day 24: Today I’m thankful for 30-gallon Hefty Flex bags. In the past 24 hours I’ve filled 7 of them just from the toy room and basement. My sons are abundantly blessed but a deep purging is needed before Christmas hits.

Day 25: Tonight I’m thankful for Downton Abbey. Settling in for the PBS recap/preview, grateful that great television is still being made. Can’t wait for Season 3.

Only one more week of daily thank-giving. This has been a good month and a great exercise for me. What are you thankful for today?


It’s W…W…W…Wednesday. For me, it’s also the start of a 5-day weekend. Looking forward to tucking into some good books. What about you? To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading? Reading the final pages of Taft by Ann Patchett. Earlier this year I endeavored to read all of her books by December. This is the last novel on my list. In typical Patchett fashion, I’m caught up in the people and the place. Not her best piece of work, but a good read. Listening to Dennis Lehane‘s Live by Night. This is a follow-up (sort of) to his novel The Given Day in that some of the same characters show up. This story is more Boardwalk Empire than historical fiction, but I’m loving it nonetheless.

What did you recently finish reading? I absolutely fell in love with Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. (See my previous post for my rave review and then, please, read it yourself.) On the other hand, I had to give up on the audio version of All the Pretty Horses. Cormack McCarthy remains one of those great authors I’ve never read.

What do you think you’ll read next? Next up, one of my favorite authors. I just got Barbara Kingsolver‘s new novel, Flight Behavior. I also have a new short story collection by Alice Munro.

What are your W…W…W… titles?

The Best Book I’ve Read All Year – Tell the Wolves I’m Home

How can I explain the way this beautiful novel touched my heart? I was almost afraid to read it after hearing several friends and fellow-readers tell me I just “had to” read this because it’s “just my kind of book.” Well, they were all right.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is everything I love in a book – a thoughtful, socially awkward young narrator coming of age at a particularly dramatic historical moment. June Elbus is 14 years-old in 1986 when her beloved uncle dies of AIDS. Obsessed with medieval culture, June is caught between childish games of imagination and the harsh realities of death, fear and discrimination. Struggling with the love-hate relationship between herself and her 16 year-old talented and popular sister, feeling orphaned by her busy-at-work parents and full of teenage self-loathing, she still comes across as tender and sympathetic.

After her Uncle Finn’s death, June tries to make all of these pieces fit together. Left with only a portrait he painted, she cautiously accepts the friendship of Finn’s lover, Toby, a man her mother calls, “Murderer.” In Toby, June hopes to reconnect to Finn, to figure out what their relationship was and to understand the snatches of conversation and missing pieces of her family’s relationships.

What he’d said didn’t really make sense, but there was a tiny flicker of something I felt like I was almost catching. Just for a second it felt like I understood, and then it evaporated again.

That feeling of almost understanding permeates much of this novel, leaving me eager to always turn the next page. IN the way of a young girl, the chapters are short, breaking up June’s life from one moment to the next, but the sense of longing, the desire for everything to make sense, lies under the action, holding the book together tightly.

I knew the way lost hopes could be dangerous, how they could turn a person into someone they never thought they’d be.

All of these factors would easily have led to a 4-star book. What pushes this to 5-stars is the fact that I thought Carol Rifka Brunt might have been writing my life. I was the same age in 1986, and while my AIDS inflicted “uncles” weren’t related by blood, they were artists who showered me with love and acceptance that I didn’t find anywhere else. I remember vividly the agony of being caught between childhood and adult concerns and my desire for the “magic” explanation.

I could go on and on about the brilliant layers of guilt, fear and discovery to be found in this novel, but I’ll stop here and simply savor the feeling of never wanting it to end.


I’m back with a new W…W…W…Wednesday. Sorry that last Wednesday just got away from me. Just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading? Almost finished with The Perks of Being a Wallflower which I am loving. There’s something so comforting about YA, where all the emotions are broiling right there on the surface. It’s both easy and satisfying. My audio choice, on the other hand, is the dense and mysterious All the Pretty Horses. I’m not sure I’ll make it through 10 discs, but I feel a responsibility to read Cormac McCarthy.

What did you recently finish reading? Took me a while to finish Chris Cleave‘s Gold, but I really enjoyed it. Aso finished the audio version of Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen. She’s simply a terrific essayist.

What do you think you’ll read next? Next in hardcover, the completion of my Ann Patchett Project. I finally have a copy of Taft. But Tell the Wolves I’m Home is calling my name too.

What are your W…W…W… titles?