Tuesday, September 1, 2009

house & home book review & author interview

As an English major in college I was required to read quite a bit but since earning my degree, working, and raising a family I sheepishly admit that I hadn’t read much more than a magazine article in many, many years. The fact that I “don’t read” had even become a recurring joke with family and friends.

When I was approached by TLC Book Tours to review Kathleen McCleary’s novel House and Home, I had to think it over. Would and could I make the time to read a book? I accepted, and selected a blog post date to serve as my own much-needed deadline.

For the first time in my life I brought a book to the beach and read chapter one. “Look at me reading!” I said to my friend. Day two was chapter two. Day three was chapter three, four and then on and on and on! It happened: I got hooked and could not put the book down. That evening there were breaks for dinner, and baths and bedtime for the boys, but once all was quiet, I read House and Home until it was finished.

There were moments reading when I GASPed, when things felt so real, when I sobbed. There were many things about the novel to which I could relate: loving my family (and house) unconditionally; being in my forties; being one who plans; appreciating dear friends.

House and Home is the story of a woman named Ellen, whose recent decisions have lead her to a very conflicted state. In her best intentions to ground her family she watches as her world begins to come undone and struggles with how best to fix it. The novel becomes a real page-turner as almost every chapter trails off with a suspenseful cliffhanger. I found the conclusion to be extremely satisfying and am happy to report that I now read books again.

Kathleen McCleary has written for Martha Stewart Living, Ladies Home Journal and HGTV, and her love of d├ęcor is evidenced through her easy details of furnishings and people which drew me in like a descriptive magazine piece. As a host in this virtual book tour I had the opportunity to contact Kathleen for an interview. She was so wonderful, warm and responsive. Let’s imagine this is my little talk show for a moment. Here goes …

Kathleen McCleary

Elyse: In the book you describe pieces of furniture with such detail. What is your decorating style and do you share main character Ellen’s love of antiques?
Kathleen McCleary: I do share Ellen's love of antiques. I have a mix of new pieces and antiques in my home, and the furniture I describe in Ellen's house and in the shop are pieces I've seen and coveted in stores or actually own. The carpenter's chest in the shop that she discusses with Jeffrey is actually a piece I used to own that I found at a tiny antique store in Crown Point, N.Y. It was so big and heavy I finally sold it. My decorating style could best be described as "eclectic." For instance, the brass chandelier in my dining room is a little too formal for my taste, so I hung a piece of folk art from North Carolina on it. I have a magnificent piece of original art over the fireplace, a painting of the Columbia River Gorge, that we bought before we left Oregon, and I have a colorful collage my daughter made in second grade framed and hanging on a wall in the same room.

Elyse: As a mom of two, was it difficult for you to find the time to write?
Kathleen McCleary: Yes! My girls were 7 and 10 when I started the book. I tried to write as much as I could when they were at school, and late at night once they were in bed. My husband was very supportive, so he helped me out a lot.

Elyse: I am always interested in the names of characters. How did you name some of yours?
Kathleen McCleary: The great thing about writing fiction is you get to do all the things you didn't get to do in your real life. I always loved the name "Louisa" but my husband didn't like it for either one of our daughters, so I was able to give that name to the daughter in the book. My grandmother's name was Johanna and my best friend in fourth grade was Joanna so that became the best friend in the book. And Sam and Ellen are just solid, down-to-earth, real-people names. I had the most fun naming Jordan and her kids (Lily, Daisy, and Stamen). The names all seemed to fit!

Elyse: "House and Home" is such a perfect title for this book. When in the writing process did you come up with the title?
Kathleen McCleary: I called the book "House" the entire time I was working on it, and my agent, Ann Rittenberg, came up with the title, "House and Home." It is perfect. I have a great agent!

Elyse: Here at my blog cottage, we swoon over yellow Capes like the one in your book. How did you determine what Ellen’s beloved house would look like?
Kathleen McCleary: The house was modeled on the first house I ever bought, in Portland. That house was a 1938 Cape Cod with beautiful dentil moulding (over the front door, and as part of the mantel over the fireplace). But again, because it was fiction I was able to add all the things to the house in my book that I would have loved for my house in real life but never had quite enough time or money for—hardwood floors, dormer windows, and gorgeous paint colors in every room.

Elyse: How did you celebrate having your first novel published? Any treats?
Kathleen McCleary: I threw a big party for the many friends, family, and neighbors who were wonderful supports through out the writing process. My across-the-street neighbor graciously offered to host the party, which was perfect because she lives in a giant purple Victorian house that was built in the 1890s and has been lovingly restored—a perfect "House and Home" kind of house. As for personal treats, I finally bought the porch furniture I'd been eyeing at Crate and Barrel, and we've been enjoying it ever since.

For more information about House and Home and Kathleen, visit the following websites:
Kathleen McCleary
TLC Book Tours

Thanks so much! (This was very fun)



Anonymous said...

Great post, Elyse! I'm so glad House and Home was the book that brought you back to your love of reading. The interview is terrific! Kathy is so nice and I love your questions.

Thanks so much for all the time and effort that went into reading and reviewing this book! It is very much appreciated.

blushing rose said...

Wonderful interview & review, Elyse. Have to take a peek at this book for my winter reading.

Have a beautiful week. TTFN ~ Marydon

stefanie said...

love your interview, i know how hard it is to find time to read, good for you, taking time for yourself

aimee said...

wow! i have to read that book. i love to read and i am always looking for good books. love the interview. good job!

Ursula said...

You should have put that your "friend" loved the book too!!

Stacey said...

Thank you for your review. I have been anxiously awaiting to hear what you thought of the book. I will most certainly go seek it out and read it now. Thanks again!

Theresa said...

Sounds like a great book! You did a wonderful job with the interview. Have a blessed day!

Unknown said...

You would never know you had not been reading faithfully and doing interviews with authors for years! I enjoyed your post so much I'm going to read "House and Home" (as soon as I can fit it in) You may want to go read my post for today. To funny, our subjects were the same with a different take on reading. lol.

Carrie @ Cottage Cozy said...

Enjoyed the interview...thanks Elyse.

Stay Cozy, Carrie

Karen said...

What a wonderful pst! What fun! I love to read - but blogging has cut into my time! But every night, no matter what, I hve to read in bed just to unwind from the day. Even if it is just a chapter or so, it just has to happen. I love it.
Thanks for sharing! Karen

Lori said...

Elyse, what a fun post...your interview with Kathleen was well done...give yourself a pat on the back...i really loved reading her answers to your questions...and i am looking forward to my next trip to the library to see if i can find her book there...i LOVE books...magazines i am not that fond of...i like looking at the pictures...but i rarely read the articles...

Claudia said...

Elyse -

The interview was wonderful - I have a real interest in this book now and most certainly will put it on my list! I had heard of it - only vaguely- but thanks to you, I want to read it!

Rose Brier Studio said...

I'm so glad you read books again! Sometimes I think I read too many, but can one read too much? Probably not, says the woman who was trained as a librarian. This sounds like a great book and your interview is lovely. I definitely will check it out. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa said...

Oh Elyse! I will add this to my list. I am storeing up books for winter so I can read read read!! Sounds great and what an awesome interview! Well Done!
Hugs, Lisa

Pansy Cottage Girl said...

Elyse~ You did a fabulous job, I'm so proud of you! Now I have to read the book.

{oc cottage} said...

You are the meanest thing! I bought myself about 15 books for my b-day(I know...am I wild or what??!) that I haven't quite finished yet...and now I have another to I'll have add to the stack! I don't need such good book reviews to get me into book hoarding trouble...I can do that all by myself! (I still have about 30 in my Amazon cart!)I really should just start using books as my furniture!
Great job!!!! What fun!

m ^..^

Amy C said...

oh how fun, what a great post, they really should give you you own talk show.
(I don't read all that much either!)

trish said...

For someone who doesn't like to read, you certainly write very well! You asked some great questions in your interview, too!

Traci said...

Great post Elyse. I'am an avid reader so I will be sure to read that one. Great interview also! Traci

shabby*vintage*dreams said...

Great Post!! Great Interview!! have a FAB rest of the week!!

Stephenie said...

What a terrific interview.. I to loved the questions you asked her..
I gotta tell you, I loved you mini makeover on that shelf..It looks so pretty.. Hope all is well..

Sharon said...

I am so glad you reviewed the book for all of us, I like you, love antiques and to have found a book that also has a good story sounds wonderful. Good interview, now I will have to go out and find the book. Thanks for sharing.......Sharon K

Sky said...

okay, I read your post on House and Home while on break at work yesterday, then went to the Barnes and Noble site and read some of the first chapter. The first thing I did after work...picked up a copy. I could not put it down last night. I went home made dinner for my fam, bathed my kiddo's, tucked them in, kissed the hubs goodnight and jumped in bed and started to read. Story bliss that is what that book is! Thank you for the wonderful interview and review. :)

C. C. said...

Hi Elyse!

Good job on your book review! I hope you have had a nice summer! I just blogged about a project I just finished that you might like to see when you get a minute.

Take care!

C. C.

koralee said...

Love your post today...I will add this one to my reading list for sure! Now that Summer is over it is harder for me to read for the pure enjoyment of it...school reading keep me busy! Thanks!

Duchess of Tea said...

Darling, thank you, thank you and thank you for stopping by my cottage because now I know about yours!! How did I miss you gorgeous blog all this time. Your blog is my cup of tea!! I just joined your followers and I am going over my blog to post a link to your blog on mine. Then, later when I have more time so that I can truly enjoy your posts, I am returning to your lovely blog. And thank you for the sweet comment you left behind.

Love & Hugs
♥ Duchess ♥

Bargain Decorating with Laurie said...

Well, you certainly convinced me. I used to read all of the time too. It's been a long time since I have read. This sounds like a good book to get me back into reading. laurie

Kelee said...

Hi Elyse!

Very nice interview and review!


love, kelee

Unknown said...

Oh! I needed a good book to read. Thanks for the review!

I'll have to read it with some chocolate!

Twyla and Lindsey said...

I went through a time when I just couldn't read a book. Impossible for my brain to wade through. Now, I am reading again! I've read several and must put this one on my list of must reads. Thanks for this wonderful review! Have a nice weekend! Twyla


Hello, you have the most fabulously wonderful site here and I had to leave this comment for you ! Your posts are beautifully written, creative and original too, and you have interesting pictures.

It's all perfect !

Thank you for sharing your site and best wishes.... 'Happy September'....

Unknown said...

Oh Elyse, this is wonderful!! How fun to be a part of this :) I loved your interview!! Great questions. Thank you for the review, the book looks great!!
Love ya,

Rust: Vintage Inspired Design said...

I'm so glad you found my blog and came by for a visit. Thank you for leaving a comment!! I so love reading so will definitely try this book.

Duchess of Tea said...

Darling have yourself a fabulous weekend!!

Love & Hugs
Duchess ♥♥♥

Duchess of Tea said...

Darling it's so happens that I changed all the royal photos including Princess Margo's and at the last minute I changed my mind and posted the old phot. I am glad you like it.


KatCollects said...

You did a great job!!! You made me want to read the book now : ) I hope you are having a good weekend.

Unknown said...

Great interview!Have a sweet day! x

debi said...

Wonderful post, Elyse! You did a great job with the interview...very interesting. I'll have to get that book and try to read it. I love to read, but have also become a 'magazine reader'.

Kim-Fille de Fleur said...

Oh Elyse! I enjoyed that SO much. I am an avid reader and am so very happy that you have returned to this joyful passtime.
Thanks so much for the review and the interview. I am going to get this book right away and let you know what I think too. I hope you will be able to do this again and maybe there will be more reading because of it! YEA!

Bethany said...

Elyse, Great interview!!!!
How do you get yourself into these things?
You're so funny about the reading. I struggle too, shh, don't tell anyone at the Liberry!

Relyn Lawson said...

I've already requested this book from my library. Now I am chomping at the bit for it to arrive. Thanks for the recommendation.

cammy said...

I read this book a while back and really loved it. Also, enjoyed your review and interview with the author. She seems so sweet and down to earth.