We’ve spent the day getting ready to paint my daughter’s bedroom. She already has a lifetime of keepsakes, most of which we packed away for her. She had a hard time parting with half-written stories and scraps of paper with a meaningful doodle on it, but when we stood in front of her bookcase, she was ruthless. The books she’s loved – The Little House on the Prairies series, Little Women, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, (which was my book and is definitely worse for the wear but I am thrilled that Mallory loves it as much as I did!), A Little Princess,  get pride of place, but many others were kicked to the curb without a second thought. How can she be my kid?

I am much more precious about my books and have always hated parting with them – even the books I’ve hated and wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I’ve gotten a little bit better in the past couple of years because I don’t have the luxury of limitless space. Oprah’s site recommends these tips for culling books from your shelves.  I guess she’s sort of applying the same rules we use to strip the dead wool from our wardrobes: if we haven’t worn/read it in the last season/year we should probably say bye-bye.

When I do relent and make some wiggle room for new books on my shelves (this is my already-read shelf) I generally remove:

books I hated and wouldn’t pass on

mysteries I would never read again (aka Harlen Coben but not Thomas H. Cook)

books I have made several attempts to read, but just couldn’t get through

Books on my tbr shelf will remain there (I’m nothing if not stubborn) until I have read them.

How about you –  do you keep all your books? If not, how do you decide what stays and what goes?

Along Comes A Stranger by Dorie McCullough Lawson

Okay – so another book that sounded so promising and ended up being mediocre. What’s up!?

Kate Colter has lived in small-town Wyoming for 15 years. Her husband, George, is a paleontologist; her daughter, Clara, is just seven and suffers from MCADD, a disease that requires her to eat regularly or else her body runs out of glucose and starts to shut down.

What we’re expected to believe – because the author tells us , is that Kate is somehow dissatisfied with her beautiful family and lovely life, that she’s  an East Coast girl at heart and has never really settled into life in the West. That’s why when she meets her mother-in-law’s new boyfriend, Tom Baxter, she’s immediately smitten. He’s from away and as far as Kate’s concerned, he’s exciting and intelligent and they have things to talk about.

About 50 pages in, Kate mentions her aunt Joanie. She’s clearly a plot device, so the author can tell us about Kate’s fascination with criminals.

I can’t say Joanie’s and my interest in the underworld arises from a concern for something greater, like justice, nor does it come from something emotional or psychological within either one of us, like a deep-seated fear of evil, for instance. No, Joanie and I just like to talk about all these crimes and criminals because they make for good, fast-moving stories.

So, life ticks on. George goes off on a dig and Kate is required to fill her days – which she does. Maybe this is the reason why she doesn’t notice, at first, the huge red flags that something is not 100% square with Mr. Baxter. Oh no! Then, even the tiniest things start alarm bells ringing until the novel’s wholly ridiculous conclusion.

Look, I’ve read dozens of these stories – you have, too – lots of them are terrific. This one is not. The characters, every last one of them, are one-dimensional and the  whole thing is contrived and lacks any sort of suspenseful momentum.