Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

ISBN:  978-0312278281
Pages:  227
Release Date:  May 4, 2001 (first published 1976)
Publisher:  Picador
Genre:  Literature
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Book Summary:  In The Easter Parade, first published in 1976, we meet sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes when they are still the children of divorced parents. We observe the sisters over four decades, watching them grow into two very different women. Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage. Emily is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. Richard Yates's classic novel is about how both women struggle to overcome their tarnished family's past, and how both finally reach for some semblance of renewal.

My Thoughts: Revolutionary Road is the only book by Richard Yates I've read until now. I thought it was such a captivating, well-written and thought-provoking book that I've always wanted to read more by Yates. I was fortunate to win two novels by Richard Yates in a giveaway at Bibliophile by the Sea, The Easter Parade and Disturbing the Peace! The Easter Parade is beautifully bleak and depressing as Yates, in his simple, bare-bones, honest prose style explores themes such as self-delusion, identity, regret, loss and loyalty.

Yates tells us on the first page, in the first line even, that neither Emily nor Sarah will have a happy life and suggests the problems may have begun with their parents' divorce in 1930 when the girls were still very young. Their parents never really explain the situation between them or the divorce to the girls. Sarah and Emily don't see their father very much and their mother is filled with plans for her independence that never come to fruition. She flits from one career to the next never finding something she enjoys or wants to do. She moves Sarah and Emily to a new home every few years and wants them to call her 'Pookie'. While the girls are still young, it becomes clear that the older Sarah is the very pretty, more social sister, while Emily is the smart one who is practical, insecure and also a worrier.

Sarah and Emily learn from living with Pookie and listening to her that she fantasizes about life and treats her fantasies as fact. They learn not to trust anything Pookie says. She's their mother, though, so they still want her approval. Sarah marries an attractive, charming man, Tony Wilson, approved of by both her parents, particularly Pookie. Pookie is quite taken with the entire Wilson family and fancies herself attached to Tony's married father. Tony turns out to be a blockhead and a drinker and Sarah finds herself stuck out on the North Shore of Long Island on an 8-acre estate in disrepair owned by Tony's family. It's not the glamorous life Sarah expected but she's learned from her mother to make her life sound better than it is. Disillusionment and despair become part of Sarah's life well before she's thirty. She deals with it by drinking like Tony and Pookie.

Emily, whose point of view the third person narrator focuses on, is a character many of us can identify with and recognize. She gets her college degree from Barnard, takes a job in an advertising firm in Manhattan and moves into an apartment in the city. Emily also begins dating. But she's unable to find a man or a job that truly makes her happy. She has a series of boyfriends and several different advertising jobs. Emily convinces herself she's happy for a while but always tires of the man she's dating after believing he's the one. She eventually feels the same despair for her work. She also tries writing an article several times about being a single woman in the city at that time but can't face the truth of the situation. She thinks she wants love, success, safety but she's never satisfied. Emily doesn't appear to know what she wants or who she is.

Yates characters in The Easter Parade are average people familiar to us. They don't know how to go out and make their lives what they want them to be. We hope Emily will learn from the example her family set for her with their sad, pathetic lives. Emily's insecure which we see when Emily learns in college that she's more intelligent than Sarah and it makes her feel as if she's betrayed her sister and in her general avoidance of Sarah. But Emily is also hopeful about what life has to offer. We root for her to create a life that will make her happy even when we know her hope is waning. The question is does Emily know what will make her happy?

This book, like Revolutionary Road, presents a bleak view of middle class life. Yates' narrative style doesn't include sentimentality or melodrama. He tells it like it is with no flowery or unnecessary language. I don't expect Pookie would care much for his style! It's elegant and simple in its sparseness and it sticks with you. Yates leaves us thinking about our own lives and if we have created something we can be proud of and enjoy. I highly recommend you read The Easter Parade and decide for yourself!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. In this meme, share the opening paragraph (or two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. This is a book I requested from TLC Book Tours to review for their January/February book tours after I read an excerpt of this book This book sounds sad and harrowing but very interesting with a compelling female character at the center of the story. I could not pass up this book!

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea to read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this terrific meme!

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

I still know your face. I see it clearly as it was at the very beginning, not how it was left after I had hurt you.

I did not see the brightness of new life in your eyes when you were born or cradle your warm fleshy body to my chest, and wish now that I had. I wish I had just looked… but I did not let myself because to me you were still-born. You were not a living person to me then, but an object of hatred, created merely to be beaten and scarred.

When I think back through the tiredness and hunger we have endured for years now, searching through the pages of my memory that still serve me faithfully, I know I saw your lovely face when I was a young girl. It was in 1932 while I was out walking with Grandfather in those public gardens adjacent to our house, now forgotten and laid waste like the rest of Shanghai. I am certain now that I have always known and loved your face, it was only terror and pain that held me back from you. But all that I suffered then seems nothing compared to the suffering now being inflicted across this country and I know that I should never have let anything stop me from loving you. I wish that all those years ago I’d had the courage just to look at you, to feel the need and unconditional love in your fragile little body.
What are your thoughts about these opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, December 19, 2011

~ Mailbox Monday ~

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books. I haven't participated in this meme the last few weeks so I've listed below most of the books I received for review or purchased, or otherwise obtained this month. Mailbox Monday is being hosted by the Let Them Read Books this week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

The Little Princes by Conor Grennan (for review from TLC Book Tours)
An astonishing testament to true courage, the transformative power of love, and the ability of one man to make a real difference.
In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan embarked on a yearlong journey around the globe, beginning with a three-month stint volunteering at an orphanage in civil war–torn Nepal. But a shocking truth would forever change his life: these rambunctious, resilient children were not orphans at all but had been taken from their families by child traffickers who falsely promised to keep them safe from war before abandoning them in the teeming chaos of Kathmandu. For Conor, what started as a footloose ramble became a dangerous, dedicated mission to unite youngsters he had grown to love with the parents they had been stolen from—a breathtaking adventure, as Conor risked everything in the treacherous Nepalese mountains to bring the children home.

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson (for review from TLC Book Tours)
For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires.
For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents. In the enclosed world of the Sang household—a place of public ceremony and private cruelty—fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir. For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires.
The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society—even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie (for review from BookBrowse)
New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie makes her mark with this absorbing, finely hued tale of suspense—a deeply atmospheric and twisting mystery full of deadly secrets, salacious lies, and unexpected betrayals involving the mysterious drowning of a Met detective—an accomplished rower—on the Thames.
When a K9 search-and-rescue team discovers a woman's body tangled up with debris in the river, Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid finds himself heading an investigation fraught with complications. The victim, Rebecca Meredith, was a talented but difficult woman with many admirers—and just as many enemies. An Olympic contender on the verge of a controversial comeback, she was also a high-ranking detective with the Met—a fact that raises a host of political and ethical issues in an already sensitive case.
To further complicate the situation, a separate investigation, led by Detective Inspector Gemma James, Kincaid's wife, soon reveals a disturbing—and possibly related—series of crimes, widening the field of suspects. But when someone tries to kill the search-and-rescue team member who found Rebecca's body, the case becomes even more complex and dangerous, involving powerful interests with tentacles that reach deep into the heart of the Met itself.
Surrounded by enemies with friendly faces, pressured to find answers quickly while protecting the Yard at all costs, his career and reputation on the line, Kincaid must race to catch the killer before more innocent lives are lost—including his own.

Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir by Donna M. Johnson (win from Melody at Melody and Words)
Donna Johnson was three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for Brother David Terrell, a hugely popular apocalyptic tent preacher during the 1960s and 70s. As a member of Brother Terrell's inner circle Donna had a front row seat for the miracles, exorcisms, KKK face-offs and betrayals of the flesh that were common under the tent. As the faithful followed their prophet to backwaters across the South to await the end time, Donna left the ministry for good at age seventeen.
Recounted with deadpan observation and surreal detail, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world where the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.

Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner (win from Vicki at I’d Rather Be at the Beach ~ Thank you!)
Alexander Popper can't stop remembering. Four years old when his father tossed him into Lake Michigan, he was told, Sink or swim, kid. In his mind, he's still bobbing in that frigid water. The rest of this novel's vivid cast of characters also struggle to remain afloat: Popper's mother, stymied by an unhappy marriage, seeks solace in the relentless energy of Chicago; his brother, Leo, shadow boss of the family, retreats into books; paternal grandparents, Seymour and Bernice, once high fliers, now mourn for long lost days; his father, a lawyer and would-be politician obsessed with his own success, fails to see that the family is falling apart; and his college girlfriend, the fiercely independent Kat, wrestles with impossible choices.
Covering four generations of the Popper family, Peter Orner illuminates the countless ways that love both makes us whole and completely unravels us. A comic and sorrowful tapestry of memory of connection and disconnection, Love and Shame and Love explores the universals with stunning originality and wisdom.

The Wapshot Chronicles by John Cheever (purchase)
When The Wapshot Chronicle was published in 1957, John Cheever was already recognized as a writer of superb short stories. But The Wapshot Chronicle, which won the 1958 National Book Award, established him as a major novelist.
Based in part on Cheever's adolescence in New England, the novel follows the destinies of the impecunious and wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolphs, a quintessential Massachusetts fishing village. Here are the stories of Captain Leander Wapshot, venerable sea dog and would-be suicide; of his licentious older son, Moses; and of Moses' adoring and errant younger brother, Coverly. Tragic and funny, ribald and splendidly picaresque, The Wapshot Chronicle is a family narrative in the tradition of Trollope, Dickens, and Henry James.

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (from a friend ~ thank you!)
Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women. But a dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, to become the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and to live the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. She remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty; Clothes make the woman; Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. In the end, it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that lead Mary to disaster.
Emma Donoghue's daring, sensually charged prose casts a new sheen on the squalor and glamour of eighteenth-century England. Accurate, masterfully written, and infused with themes that still bedevil us today, Slammerkin is historical fiction for all readers.

Friday, December 16, 2011

~ Persephone Secret Santa Gift ~

Today is the day we reveal the gift we received from our Persephone Secret Santa. I opened my gift this morning - it's been sitting on the shelf tormenting me!

Christy from the blog, A Good Stopping Point, sent me The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I'm thrilled! Thank you you Christy! I have wanted to read this book for a long time.

This is the picture on the front of the Classic Persephone, my copy is the beautiful Persephone dove-grey and from the website:
Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911) are enduring bestsellers, but this 1901 novel is many people's favourite: Nancy Mitford and Marghanita Laski loved it, and some US college courses teach it alongside Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

Part I, the original Marchioness, is in the Cinderella (and Miss Pettigrew) tradition, while Part II, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after' but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage. 'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose 'hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.'
My book is lined with this beautiful tulip print and came with a matching bookmark!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. Share the opening paragraph (or two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. I requested an ARC of this book from the publisher through Shelf Awareness after I read about the story and then an excerpt. This is a novel about several flawed characters and their dysfunctional relationships over a period of years. These kind of books always interest me and the opening paragraphs grabbed my attention.

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea to read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this fun meme!

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

So Carmen was married, just. She sat under a huge butter moon, on a windless night in the summer of 1983, at a table, in front of the remains of some chicken cordon bleu. She looked toward the improvised dance floor where her very new husband was doing the Mexican hat dance with several other large men, three of them his brothers, other Sloans. Matt was a plodding hat-dancer; his kicks threw the others off the beat. In spite of this lack of aptitude, he was waving her over, beckoning her to join in. She waved back as though she thought he was just saying hi. She was hoping to sit out this early phase of her marriage, the mortifying dances segment.
“Don’t be discouraged. Everything will get better from here.”
This was Jean Arbuthnot, who sat next to Carmen, tapping the ash of her cigarette onto her rice pilaf. Jean and Alice, Carmen’s sister, were among the artists who had taken over this old farm in the middle of Wisconsin. Jean played and recorded traditional folk music in a workshop on the edge of the property. Alice painted in a studio that occupied half the barn.
“Bad dancer doesn’t mean anything else, does it?” Carmen said. Matt was now doing a white-guy boogie to a bad cover of “Let’s Get Physical,” shooting his hands out in an incoherent semaphore. “Like being bad at parallel parking means you’re bad in bed?” She pushed back her chair. “I’ve got to pee. This is apparently a big part of being pregnant. I didn’t know that before.”

What are your thoughts about these 2 opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

~ Sunday Salon ~

Hello! Some of you may have noticed my blog has been very quiet the past week. Late last Sunday night (after watching the Jets win, yay!) I felt really tired suddenly and got a headache which is unusual for me, and a very sore throat. I figured it was the start of a cold. By Monday morning it was pretty obvious to me it was not just a cold. I woke up feeling kind of awful although I had a pretty cool raspy, sexy voice, apparently, due to a bit of laryngitis! lol A trip to my pulmonologist revealed pneumonia. ugh! And he wanted to put me in the hospital so the doctors could monitor my lungs etc. etc. double ugh! I talked him out of that by promising to stay in bed and only rest and if I felt worse, I would go to the hospital. It always amazes me how tired, like bone-weary, difficult-to- walk tired effect pneumonia has...on me sometimes anyway. A few times during the week when I thought I felt better, I checked my email and visited some blogs until realizing I couldn't hold my head up. I wish I had a laptop this week. {Others around here (who shall remain nameless) disagree and argued this was a reason why we shouldn't have a laptop because I wouldn't rest if I had one!} I’m feeling better, stronger but still tired and weak.
I have so much catching up to do with reading and reviews! I had a lot of trouble focusing while trying to read this week but I didn’t realize, at first, that it was actually the words on the page that were the problem. Thinking it was the kind of book or the story, I kept trying different books until I finally realized, after reading the first few chapters in six different books, that it was the size of the words on the page that were making my eyes cross and giving me a headache! So I read some of The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston but even that was difficult after a while. I wish I’d had some graphic novels. I listened to some of When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson a little bit, too! Now I have bits and pieces of all these different books swimming around in my head! I need to get book organized as soon as I feel up to it and finish up some of the lighter books and then focus on the others.

Today I am going to try to finish The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine which is good but I prefer Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I’m also just about finished Family Album by Penelope Lively - I started this a long time ago and put it aside for some review books I needed to read. I picked it up again this week having forgotten what a good book it is. Finally I’m enjoying Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, although some of it is a little slow. I’ll also be rooting for the Jets this afternoon just because it‘s fun!
I hope you all have a fun, relaxing Sunday ~ any good plans or good books to read today?

Happy Reading
Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~ The Art of Relaxing!

I've been sick all week with pneumonia so I've been taking it easy and sleeping as much as possible. I haven't achieved quite the level of relaxation of some of the cats,  but I'm working on it!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at her blog, At Home with Books. It's easy to participate, just post a photo taken by you, a friend or a family member and link to the Mister Linky at the bottom of Alyce's post.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

~ Sunday Salon : A Tropical December in the Northeast! ~

December 4th and it's almost 60 degrees outside! It's a little bit like Bizarre-o World! If not for the Christmas decorations popping up everywhere, I think I'd forget it was December! I'm not complaining, honest...I think this is awesome! My wheels don't move so well in snow and slush and being able to get out and go on my own is the best. At least once every winter after a storm, I've had to be rescued by passers-by when my wheels get sucked into a deeper-than-it-looks pile of snow and slush. lol It would be great if the days surrounding Christmas were a little more wintry but it's no big deal really.

This is the kitty-cats ideal weather. Some of them have energy to spare. Some, like Big Bob, still sleep the day away! Mr. Magoo spends the nights running outside to play and then back in, resting for 20 minutes and running back out again to play! Lola wakes up in the morning in play mode and seems to run everywhere, jumping up and twisting around every couple of feet! I was in the kitchen the other morning putting the cat's food out and I heard this weird scratching sound from the other room. Lola found an old cat toy underneath some piece of furniture or other and dragged it out to play with - it's a round plastic ring with a ball inside of it. The ball spins around the ring, while the cat to tries and get it by sticking their paw into the ring. What Lola doesn't realize is the ball will never come out of the ring! Lola's been playing with this toy all week. She gets so into trying to catch the ball and she's so focused on what she's doing, she ends up dragging the entire ring across the floor, it's very funny to watch!

Today is review day for me (I hope!) I'd like to draft several reviews and finish up a few that I left unfinished. It's getting to the point where I'm stressing too much about these reviews I haven't done and if I wait much longer, the reviews are going to become an unpleasant task I have to get done rather than something I enjoy doing. So I'm on a mission! The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern are two of the books on m review list! I'm hoping to finish The Lotus Reader by Tatjana Soli which I've been taking my time with and spend some time with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami!

Happy Reading!
I hope you have a great Sunday!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~ Some Rescue Cats!

These are some of the cats we've rescued and adopted in the last couple of years!

Gidget and Lola. We found these two outside in the freezing cold, dead of winter sleeping in a large ceramic flower pot on top of each other.

Finnegan. Finny is one of the happiest, easy-going cats I've ever known.

Elliot. He looks a lot like Mr. Magoo but isn't cross-eyed...he has a similar disposition, too.

Moses. He was a kitten and loved to play hard until he was exhausted...he used to just suddenly fall asleep while playing. The first time it happened I thought something was wrong, but nope, he simply exhausted himself!

Casey. He's a big, muscular tom cat who loved being petted!
Rascal (he looks a bit like a racoon!)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. It's easy to participate, just post an original photo, one taken by you, a friend or a family member and link to the Mister Linky at the bottom of Alyce's post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

~ ~ Wondrous Words Wednesday ~ ~

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun (please do!) Be sure to leave a link to your post over at Bermudaonion's Weblog.

The following words are from The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

" The public relations photographer did his job well, and so did the editors of the rotogravure section of The New York Times."

1. Rotogravure
: (Roto or Gravure for short) is a type of intaglio printing process; that is, it involves engraving the image onto an image carrier. In gravure printing, the image is engraved onto a cylinder because, like offset printing and flexography, it uses a rotary printing press (the images to be printed are curved around a cylinder). Once a staple of newspaper photo features, the rotogravure process is still used for commercial printing of magazines, postcards, and corrugated (cardboard) product packaging. (from Wikipedia).

"It's not just a bore," she said once of a tiresome eighteenth-century novel, "it's a pernicious bore."
2. Pernicious
: highly injurious or destructive, deadly;
: archaic, wicked
(**this is one of those words that refuses to stick in my head!)

" There were small carbuncular knobs on the back of his neck and out across his shoulders, but if she squinted very slightly she didn't see them."

3. Carbuncular
: a painful local purulent inflammation of the skin and deeper tissues with multiple openings for the discharge of pus and usually necrosis and sloughing of dead tissue.

" But the messy stack of manuscript was there waiting for her in the morning, after a fitful sleep; and she had to acknowledge, with an editor's gelid eye, that it didn't read well at all."

4. Gelid
: extremely cold; icy

These words are from Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock

" From high in his combine, Winslow eyed the dormant train, the engine far to the west, the coal cars deep into the eastern woods. "

1. Combine
: a harvesting machine for cutting and threshing grain in the field.

" From the corner of his eye, Winslow noticed a flash of white in the crop, then a crouching man sprang and dashed in front of the harrower. "

2. Harrower
: an agricultural implement with spike-like teeth or upright disks, drawn chiefly over plowed land to level it, break up clods, root up weeds, etc.

" Miriam heard something. A breaking in the swale. "

3. Swale
: a low place in a tract of land, usually moister and often having ranker vegetation than the adjacent higher land.
: a valleylike intersection of two slopes in a piece of land.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. Share the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. I received this book many months ago and it's been catching my eye at least once a day ever since. I wanted to read it when I received it and I want to read it even more now! The author is very well known and highly praised for her short stories. There have been many very positive reviews about this novel, too.  My BBAW interview blogger match, Gayle, Everyday I Write the Book, named it as one of her top five favorite books of 2011, too!

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea and read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this terrific meme who can be found in the comments!

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson

The bride and groom had two wedding receptions: the first was in the basement of the Lutheran church right after the ceremony, with punch and cake and coffee and pastel mints. This was for those of the bride's relatives who were stern about alcohol. The basement was low-ceilinged and smelled of metallic furnace heat. Old ladies wearing corsages sat on folding chairs, while other guests stood and managed their cake plates and plastic forks as best they could. The pastor smiled with professional benevolence. The bride and groom posed for pictures, buoyed by adrenaline and relief. There had been so much promised and prepared, and now everything had finally come to pass.

By five o'clock the last of the crowd had retrieved their winter coats and boots from the cloakroom and headed out. It was January, with two weeks of hard-packed snow underfoot and more on the way, and most of them had long drives from Grenada, over country roads to get back home. The second reception was just beginning at the American Legion hall, where there would be a buffet supper, a bar, and a dance band.

What are your thoughts about these 2 opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books. I've missed a couple of weeks of Mailbox Monday so, below are some of the titles I received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained. Mailbox Monday is being hosted by the Mailbox Monday Tour blog this week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back by Maria Sutton (for review from the author)

This extraordinary and unflinchingly honest memoir takes us on a riveting journey into the hearts and souls of three enigmatic people whose destinies are forever changed by the events of World War II. The secrets of misguided love and passions are revealed as the author journeys between the past and the present to solve the mystery of a handsome Polish officer with piercing blue eyes and sun-colored hair. Maria Sutton takes us to the dark green hills and valleys of the ancient Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, where the woody fragrance of birch trees and new-mown hay fills the fresh, crisp air after a heavy rain. Vicariously, we see a sunrise over Poland obscured by brightly colored swastikas on warplanes and then we will be taken into suffocating cattle cars, lice-infested stalags, and to the Dachau death camp. Further down a country road, the hearty laughter and beer steins clinking with each salute to the Fuhrer’s astonishing victories can be heard. As Maria takes us on this odyssey to solve a decades-long mystery, she learns the family secrets of untold heroism, quiet courage, and a mother’s love — and of tragedy, disillusionment, and heartbreak. At the end of her long journey, Maria uncovers a shattering and painful truth. But the secret, however heartbreaking, would also become the greatest gift she would receive.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (from the publisher)

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human. Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.” But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (from the publisher via Shelf Awareness)

This stunning, break-out achievement has already been hailed by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, for presenting “passion and addiction, guilt and damage, all the beautiful mess of family life. Carry the One will lift readers off their feet and bear them along on its eloquent tide.” Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen’s wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidently hits and kills a girl on a dark, country road. For the next twenty-five years, those involved, including Carmen and her brother and sister, connect and disconnect and reconnect with each other and their victim. As one character says, “When you add us up, you always have to carry the one. Through friendships and love affairs; marriage and divorce; parenthood, holidays, and the modest tragedies and joys of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we’d expect. Deceptively short and simple in its premise, this novel derives its power and appeal from the author’s beautifully precise use of language; her sympathy for her very recognizable, flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.

Love at First Bark by Julie Klam (from publisher, Penguin, for review)

The bestselling memoirist shows how saving a dog can sometimes help you save yourself. Julie Klam writes about dogs with a rollicking wit and a radiating warmth-as no other writer can. In her bestselling memoir You Had Me at Woof, she shared the secrets of happiness she learned as an occasionally frazzled but always devoted owner of Boston terriers. Now, with the same enchanting, pop culture-infused amalgam of humor and poignancy that reached the The New York Times and the Today show and won the hearts of readers across the country, she returns with more humorous insight into life with canine companions. Klam focuses here on dog rescue, and its healing power not only for the dogs who are cared for and able to find good homes, but also for the people who bond with these animals. Klam became involved with rescue after years as an owner of purebred dogs. She was looking for a way to help and participate in a community, but she never imagined just how much she would receive in return. The dogs she has rescued through the years have filled her life with laughter and contentment, sorrow and frustration, and they have made certain that she never has a dull moment. Along the way, she has collected stories from friends who have also found that guiding dogs to nurturing homes made their own lives richer. These experiences, which show us that even in our smallest gestures we can make a big difference, inspired Love at First Bark.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston (win from Kaye, Pudgy Penguin Perusals Thank you!)

Frankie’s dreams of becoming a writer, she must forgo a scholarship to a prestigious women’s college to help her widowed mother. But when a mysterious Captain James sweeps her off her feet, her mother finds a way to protect Frankie from the less-than-noble intentions of her unsuitable beau. Through a kaleidoscopic array of vintage postcards, letters, magazine ads, ticket stubs, catalogue pages, fabric swatches, candy wrappers, fashion spreads, menus and more, we meet and follow Frankie on her journey in search of success and love. Once at Vassar, Frankie crosses paths with intellectuals and writers, among them “Vincent,” (alumna Edna St. Vincent Millay), who encourages Frankie to move to Greenwich Village and pursue her writing. When heartbreak finds her in New York, she sets off for Paris aboard the S.S. Mauritania, where she keeps company with two exiled Russian princes and a “spinster adventuress.” In Paris, Frankie takes a garret apartment above Shakespeare & Company, the hub of expat life, only to have a certain ne’er-do-well captain from past reappear. But when a family crisis compels Frankie to return to her small New England hometown, she finds exactly what she had been looking for all along.

The Snow Whale by John Minichillo (win from Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit Thank you!)

When John Jacobs, a mild-mannered suburban office worker, takes a DNA test and discovers that he is part-Inuit, he so embraces his new identity that he declares it his Inupiat tribal right to set forth on a whale hunt. So begins this postmodern satire, a seriocomic, quirky adventure set in the oldest continuously settled town in North America, in the North Slope of Alaska, on the frozen Chukchi Sea, literally at the top of the world, where the inhabitants and their ancestors have depended on subsistence whaling for thousands of years. Minichillo cleverly dishes out a resounding twist on Melville’s classic that re-examines identity, race, and our connection to nature, all while poking fun at our contentment with heated socks in an era defined by global warming.

Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago (from a friend)

On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration—flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home—families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots. Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and were to fall in love?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Salon ~ Reading, Reading, Reading...and some other stuff....!

I meant to post my Sunday Salon much earlier today. And then the day just got away from me! We're having beautiful weather here, almost 70 degrees the last 2 days. I couldn't not take advantage of it especially knowing the weather will probably change to winter kind of weather one of these days! The cats are loving the warm weather and having a bounce in their step and want to play, always a lot of fun!

I didn't do much shopping this weekend. I hate shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving. I probably wouldn't have shopped at all but yesterday in NYC it was "Small Saturday" so we shopped some small stores in a few different areas of Brooklyn. Along with some gifts, I bought some delicious truffles at Jacques Torres, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and The Redbreast and Nemesis by Jo Nesbo!

Whenever possible this weekend I've been reading. On Friday afternoon, I was organizing some books. I picked up The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and decided to put it on my nightstand so I'd remember I had it and planning to read it as soon as I could. Like I often do, I flipped through the first few pages and then I read the first page, so aptly titled "Anticipation" and I was gone! I'm not quite finished but I'm hoping to finish The Night Circus tonight. I had no idea how really good this book is despite the positive reviews I read. I didn't think I would like it that much. It's fantastic. I feel badly that I ignored the books I was already reading, (lol) but, oh well, I'll get back to them.

This afternoon I've been watching the Jets playing the Buffalo Bills. It's a relief to see the Jets can still play some decent football. Of course, this is a nail-biter and they're taking it all the way to the end....

Have a wonderful Sunday!
Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giveaway: Happy Haul-idays from Chronicle Books!!

Chronicle Books is hosting their 2nd annual Happy Haul-idays event and this year they have added a great element that captures the meaning of the Holiday Season: not only will one lucky blogger and one commenter on the winning blogger's post win $500 worth of books from Chronicle, but the winning blogger will be able to choose a charity to win $500 worth of books from Chronicle!

Here's How to Enter:
1) Write a blog post with a list of Chronicle books valued at up to $500 that you’d like to haul in. Please post about which charity you’d choose and why.
2) Remind your readers that if you win, you get to choose one lucky commenter on your entry post to win the same haul of books.
3) Fill out the quick form on the Chronicle Books giveaway page.
4) Tweet about the giveaway, to increase your chances, using #happyhaulidays and get one extra entry per day.

My charity is the Brooke Jackman Foundation, a non-profit organization working to improve literacy among at-risk children in the New York area. This non-profit was set up by the family of Brooke Jackman after she died in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Brooke was only 23 when she died. She loved to read and was interested in helping children so her family started this foundation to honor her.

The books I'd love to win:
(To find out more about the book, click the title)
Don't forget to leave a comment if you want a chance to win my giveaway if I win!

The Commonsense Kitchen
500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life
By Tom Hudgens
6-7/8 x 9-1/2 in; 608 pp;
2-color illustrations
Published in July, 2010

Time for Dinner
Strategies, Inspiration, and Recipes for Every Night of the Week
By Pilar Guzmn,, Alanna Stang,,and Jenny Rosentrach
7-1/2 x 9 in; 272 pp;
250 color photographs
Published in July, 2010

Sunday Soup
A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes
By Betty Rosbottom,Photographs by Charles Schiller
8-3/4 x 8 in; 168 pp;
32 color photographs
Published in July, 2008

The Exquisite Book
100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game
By Julia Rothman,, Jenny Volvovski,,and Matt Lamothe,Foreword by Dave Eggers
7-1/2 x 9 in; 152 pp;
color images throughout, shrink-wrapped, accordion binding
Published in August, 2010

This Is NPR
By Cokie Roberts,, Susan Stamberg,, Noah Adams,, John Ydstie,, Renee Montagne,, Ari Shapiro,,and David Folkenflik
7-1/4 x 9-1/4 in; 256 pp;
100 color images & photographs, jacketed hardcover with audio CD
Published in October, 2010

More Things Like This
By the Editors of McSweeney,Introduction by Michael Kimmelman,Foreword by Dave Eggers
8-3/4 x 8 in; 224 pp;
289 full-color and b/w images throughout
Published in September, 2009

The Garden at Night
Private Views of Public Edens
Photographs by Linda Rutenberg,Essay by Christopher Dewdney
11 x 13 in; 176 pp;
160 color photographs
Published in September, 2007

The Watercolor Sketchbook Kit
Materials, Techniques, and Projects
Text and illustrations by Curtis Tappenden
7 x 7-1/4 x 1/2 in; 144 pp;
full-color illustrations throughout
Published in June, 2002

Learn to Meditate
A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment
By David Fontana, PhD
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 in; 160 pp;
130 color illustrations
Published in February, 1999

City Walks Architecture: New York
By Alissa Walker,Maps by John Spelman
4-1/8 x 6-3/4 x 1-1/4 in; box with lid, 25 2-panel cards, tri-fold intro card, 25 color maps, 25 color photos
Published in August, 2009

Why Did I Buy This Book?
Over 500 Puzzlers, Teasers, and Challenges to Boost Your Brainpower
By Lynn Brunelle
7 x 8 in; 376 pp;
one-color illustrations throughout
Published in March, 2009

The Art of Pixar
The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation
By Amid Amidi Foreword by John Lasseter
11 x 9 in; 320 pp;
Published in October, 2011

A Photographer's Memoir
By Tony Mendoza
8 x 6 in; 80 pp;
52 b/w images
Published in February, 2001

Cats Are Weird
And More Observations
By Jeffrey Brown
6-1/2 x 6-1/2 in; 108 pp;
color and b/w illustrations throughout, die-cut cover with stamping
Published in July, 2010

Drinking, Smoking and Screwing
Great Writers on Good Times
Edited by Sara Nickles,Introduction by Bob Shocochis
5-1/2 by 8-1/2 in; 224 pp;
Published in August, 1994

Writer's Workshop in a Book
The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction
Introduction by Richard Ford,Edited by Alan Cheuse,and Lisa Alvarez
5-1/2 x 8-1/2 in; 224 pp;
Published in May, 2007

This Is My Best
Great Writers Share Their Favorite Work
Edited by Kathy Kiernan,and Retha Powers
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 in; 448 pp;
Published in April, 2005

Any Bitter Thing
A Novel
By Monica Wood
5-1/2 x 8 in; 384 pp;
Published in May, 2005

Moleskine® 2012 Daily Planner Red Large Hard Cover
Published in April, 2011

Birch Forest Flexi Journal
By Lisa Congdon
5 x 7-1/2 in; 192 pp;
flexi-binding, color illustrations

Sunblooms Bound Journal
By Amy Butler
5 x 7-1/8 in; 224 pp;
color illustrations

Native Flowers Mini Journals
By Jill Bliss
4-1/8 x 5-3/4 x 1-1/2 in; four journals: paperback with flexi binding, 4 x 5-1/2, 96 pages each