Saturday, October 31, 2009

Awesome Author Challenge 2010

The Awesome Author Challenge is being hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. "The idea behind this challenge is to read works by authors who have been recommended to you time and again, yet somehow you haven't managed to read any books by those authors. These are the authors that everyone else tells you are awesome, thus the "Awesome Author Challenge" title."

The challenge begins January 1, 2010 and ends December 31, 2010 so there's a lot of time to read your Awesome Authors!

The Rules for this challenge:

**Crossover from other challenges is allowed

**Choose the level at which you would like to participate, post about it and leave a link to your post in Mister Linky.

**Titles and authors do not have to be predetermined, and can change at any time.

**Books can come from any genre or reading level, the only requirement is that you have heard great things about the author, but haven't yet read any of their works

The Levels of the challenge:
*Easy: Choose three authors and read at least one title from each author
*Moderate: Choose six authors and read at least one title from each author
*Challenging: Choose ten authors and read at least one title from each author.
*Over-Achieving: Anything over ten authors

I have a long list of authors that have been recommended to me many times and I have yet to read so I am going to for the "Over-Achieving" Level and make a good dent in my list. Right now my list of authors:

Allegra Goodman
Nicola Upson
Armistead Maupin
Chang-Rae Lee
Sarah Dessen
Marilynne Robinson
JM Coetzee
Alice Munro
David Almond
Khaled Hosseini
Anita Brookner
A. Manette Mansay
Colm Tobin
Michelle Richmond

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review: Confections of a Closet Master Baker

Title: Confections of a Closet Master Baker
Author: Gesine Bullock-Prado
ISBN: 978-0-7679-3268-4
Pages: 223
Release Date: September 2009
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Publisher: As head of her celebrity sister’s production company, Gesine Bullock-Prado had a closet full of designer clothes and the ear of all the influential studio heads, but she was miserable. The only solace she found was in her secret hobby: baking. With every sugary, buttery confection to emerge from her oven, Gesine took one step away from her glittery, empty existence—and one step closer to her true destiny. Before long, she and her husband left the trappings of their Hollywood lifestyle behind, ending up in Vermont, where they started the gem known as Gesine Confectionary. And they never looked back. Confections of a Closet Master Baker follows Gesine's journey from sugar-obsessed child to miserable, awkward Hollywood insider to reluctant master baker. Chock-full of eccentric characters, beautifully detailed descriptions of her baking process, ceaselessly funny renditions of Hollywood nonsense, and recipes, the ingredients of her story will appeal to anyone who has ever considered leaving the life they know and completely starting over.

My review: "I saw the Devil at age three and he gave me chocolate. It changed my life forever." The opening sentences of Confections of a Closet Master Baker guarantee this book will be a humorous, delicious and interesting story of a woman and her love of pastry. Gesine Bullock-Prado relays her life story and her history with sweets from a young age up until she is the master baker of her own shop. Every chapter details a part of a day in her life and the significance of a special baked good. The author writes with humor and honesty, drawing readers in to her story and rewards them with the gift of a recipe at the end of each chapter. However, be warned: if you read this book while hungry, you may regret it. But you have the opportunity to try out your baking talents using the author's recipes, complete with details and extra instructions gleaned during the times she baked them.

The author adored sugar as a child. She was shy, awkward and quiet, not overly fond of people but extremely fond of sweets. If they were offered to her by a relative or caretaker, she would do almost anything they asked with little objection. Confections in the form of beautifully wrapped chocolates, gummi bears, marzipan and even store bought Oreos made her happy and for the first five years of her life, sugar was a regular part of her diet. But at the age of five, when Gesine moved to Arlington VA with her family, sweets were relegated to special occasion status as her now retired, professional opera singing mother put the family on a vegan diet. In the author's words: "whole-grain tofu-laced, sucrose-free hell". Complete hell for a sugar-loving child, except on holidays and birthdays when her mother, the master baker, created wonderful sweets from her cookbooks. Goodies better than anything the stores had to offer.

The sugar-obsessed little girl grew up and moved to be near her sister, the actress Sandra Bullock, in Los Angeles. (I was unaware of this relation when I started reading the book.) Gesine went to law school and upon graduation took a job heading her sister's film production company. She doesn't flaunt her famous family connection but couldn't avoid mentioning it because of their close relationship and importance in each other's lives.

Although Gesine met her husband at a production meeting, made very good money and traveled first class to beautiful places, over the years the grown up woman was reminded of the self-conscious and awkward little girl, the one who generally disliked bi-peds. And eventually she came to resent and dislike the vapid, materialistic, self-centered, arrogant and unkind people in Hollywood she came in contact with on a daily basis. She was floundering , wanting to be happy and to like and understand people. But how?

A painful tragedy signaled Gesine's life on the road to change, a change that came about slowly, beginning the day she pulled out her long-ago abandoned cookbooks with notes scribbled in the margins by her mother, perfecting the recipes. And Gesine began to bake because:

"Back then in Hollywood, I was resentful of healthy living and becoming so emotionally guarded that I didn't trust the sincerity of anyone's motives, so I baked in search of balance and hope. And when I baked, the gentle sweetness and soft sponge of a well-made sticky bun soothed my growing bitterness at God and humanity."

Gesine was a closet baker at first, refusing to share her cakes, cookies, muffins and pies with just anyone. Fear of the health-conscious sugar hating masses of Hollywood stopped her from bringing her creations to meetings and sets. But there was only so much her family and friends could eat, so eventually she needed an outlet for the accumulation. She also remembered what her mother, never far from her thoughts, always told her: to live loud and proud. Once she began to share, the requests came in for a particular pie or a kind of cookie that couldn't be found on the West Coast. Gesine discovered that pastry, cakes and pies could make people happy. She had a talent that found the small, happy child inside every person and brought it to the surface. It was her way of connecting with people.

Gesine was content to remain at her executive position, baking after hours at home. But even pastry can't rid people of arrogance born of insecurity and ego-driven nastiness. She and her husband, Ray, periodically escaped to the East Coast for a break from LA. On one such trip they discovered Vermont, which reminded Gesine of the German country-side she loved. And soon they had themselves a pretty country house with a big fireplace and three beautiful dogs. Not too long after moving, with some encouragement Gesine and her husband bought a small shop and Gesine's Confectionary was born.

Ever-mindful of her mother and hoping to one day be the master baker her mother was, Gesine chose for the store logo a large gold owl, a reminder of her mother who was nicknamed Eule, which is owl in German. Gesine becomes more than head baker in the shop when her concern for and love of her employees and regulars brings out her maternal side, an aspect of her personality she believed to be defunct. The author devotes several chapters to regaling us with stories of her employees and her regulars. Some of the passages are laugh-out-loud funny, a few bring a tear to your eye, but all of them are told with love and concern from a woman who doesn't seem awkward or insecure anymore.

Gesine has to wake very early, dresses in "baker's casual", no more expensive suits, fancy shoes and $2,000 bags and spends 10 hours a day baking, beginning with the early morning bake which she considers not so much a routine as a meditation and a chance to make things better than the day before. In fact, she does a great job of telling us what goes into the every day life of being a baker without once making it seem boring or tedious. She injects a lightness and humor that lets us see into what's motivating her and how she sees her life, then and now. Often times I found myself fantasizing about doing the same thing!

She takes this time to think of the people she loves and has loved for so long. Gesine has found her calling, she's doing what she's supposed to do. Some days it's aggravating, occasionally things break down, orders go missing, cakes fall apart but despite this, most days life is pretty near perfect.

Confections of a Closet Master Baker is a story about love and happiness and following your dream. It's a wonderful book about relationships and being able to rely on the people you love and their influence in your life. Gesine didn't always understand the lessons she learned from her mother as a child and young woman, but as she worked to open a business and create her confections her mother's words came back to her. The author shares the ups and downs of following her heart to find her calling and the hard work required in relying on her talent to bring happiness to others. Gesine took the chance to break out of the life she knew to try something different and exciting and, in doing so, she found her nirvana.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Giveaways! 10.29.09

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” ~ Groucho Marx

It's been some time since I posted giveaways going on in the book blog community so here's a good list! Enjoy & Good Luck to all of you!


A Sea of Books
It Happened One Night 11/13

Diary of an Eccentric
Cleopatra's Daughter 11/8

Popin's Lair
When You Were Away 11/3

Red Lady's Reading Room
Off the Bookshelf Giveaway 10/31

Girls Just Reading
Cleopatra's Daughter 11/6

A Book Blogger's Diary
9 Dragons 11/2
The Broken Tea Glass 11/9
And Many More!!

Lit & Life
Only Milo 11/6

Jo-Jo Loves to Read
1 -Year Blogoversary 11/7 Congratulations Jo-Jo!

Devourer of Books
Spine-Chilling 5-Book Giveaway 11/5

Luxury Reading
The Last Dickens 11/4
Change in Altitude 11/6

Review from Here
The Heretic's Daughter 10/31
What the Dog Saw & Other Adventures 11/14

Books and Needlepoint
The Heretic's Daughter 11/6

My Own Little Corner of the World
The Heretic's Daughter 11/7

The Neverending Shelf
Alice in Wonderland Giveaway 10/31
The Heretic's Daughter 11/13
Fallen 11/18

Booking Momma
Hummingbirds 11/2

Book Blab
Signed Copy of Outlander 11/12

Bellas Novella
Life After Genius 11/10

Starting Fresh
The Historian 10/31
What the Dog Saw & Other Adventures 11/2
And Many More!

Peeking Between the Pages
Knit Two and Knit the Season 10/31
The Last Will of Moira Leahy 11/12
When You Went Away 11/21
The Lovely Bones (Audio) 11/15
The Lost Song (Audio) 11/15
A Change in Altitude (Audio) 11/15
And Many More!

Bookin' with Bingo
The Lovely Bones 10/31
Spine-Chilling 5-Book Giveaway 11/1
Anne Frank 11/5
The Possibility of Everything 11/10
Life After Genius 11/11
And Many More!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A tribute to Daisy

These pictures are of my cat, Daisy. I am very sad to have to say that beautiful Daisy died tonight. She's had a cold for a few days and hasn't been eating much so we scheduled an appointment for her to go to the veterinarian on Thursday. But this evening Daisy took a sudden turn for the worse. We took Daisy to the Emergency Vet at 1:30 am and she died there this morning.

Daisy lived with my husband and I for about 4 years and was an older cat. One day, this beautiful, furry and friendly cat appeared in our driveway and never left! We discovered that she was a Norwegian Forest Cat, our first ever of that breed and a stunning one. Daisy was sweet, loving, relaxed and so easy-going. Daisy probably would have liked a home where she was the one and only Cat but she never gave the other cats a hard time. Somehow our other cats knew to be respectful of Daisy, that she was the feline matriarch. Not one of all our other cats harassed Daisy. They all knew she was special. Daisy loved to rotate her sleeping spot every week. We never knew when she'd change or where she'd end up but she always tried out different areas in our home to sleep. Sam and I could always count on Daisy to be with us wherever we were, whatever we were doing. She followed us outside and sat with us on the deck or while we "gardened". She loved to watch football or a good movie. But mealtimes, especially dinner, were her favorite!

Daisy loved my husband and followed him everywhere. When we first moved to our current address, Sam walked down the block and around the corner to the bus every morning. Daisy used to leave with Sam and walk him to the bus. She would wait for him to get on the bus, too!She was a wonderful cat and a joy to have in our home. We were blessed to have known Daisy and shared her life. She will be missed terribly.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Review: The Possibility of Everything

Title: The Possibility of Everything
Author: Hope Edelman
ISBN: 978-0-345-50650-4
Pages: 323
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: In the autumn of 2000, Hope Edelman was a woman adrift, questioning her marriage, her profession, and her place in the larger world. Feeling vulnerable and isolated, she was primed for change. Into her stagnant routine dropped Dodo, her three-year-old daughter Maya's curiously disruptive imaginary friend. Confused and worried about how to handle Dodo's apparent hold on their daughter, Edelman and her husband made the unlikely choice to take her to Maya healers in Belize, hoping that a shaman might help them banish Dodo—and, as they came to understand, all he represented—from their lives.

An account of how an otherwise mainstream mother and wife finds herself making an extremely unorthodox choice, The Possibility of Everything chronicles the magical week in Central America that transformed Edelman from a person whose past had led her to believe only in the visible and the "proven" to someone open to the idea of larger, unseen forces. This deeply affecting, beautifully written memoir of a family's emotional journey explores what Edelman and her husband went looking for in the jungle and what they ultimately discovered—as parents, as spouses, and as ordinary people—about the things that possess and destroy, or that can heal us all.

My thoughts: I've read Hope Edelman before. Her first book, Motherless Daughters (published in 1994) was a sad and moving book, but at the same time I found it inspiring and supportive. It gave me the strength and courage I needed to move forward with my life at a time when things were not so great. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to read her new memoir, The Possibility of Everything, I jumped at the chance. And I wasn't disappointed. The book is a brutally honest, captivating story of a mother and wife on a quest to rid her daughter, and by extension, her family, of a troubling imaginary friend (who also plays the role of foe) and discovers the love, the strength and the joy that binds her, her husband and her daughter together.

Hope is a woman who worries about everything, particularly anything related to her daughter, Maya, her husband Uzi, and her family. She also has intense control issues. Thus, when Hope has something concrete to worry about, she imagines the worst possible outcome in order to guard against it, despite the fact she thinks of this imagined outcome as a given. She lives in constant fear of anything and everything from rats to car-jackers, mean-spirited book-reviews to breast cancer. She doesn't think her husband cares about or is concerned enough about the family. He works late and Hope sees this as evidence that he is distant and a less than perfect parent. At times she seems sure they shouldn't be together. Although Hope says she's aware of the differences between mothers and fathers as parents she expects Uzi to be very similar to her. She wants him to remember every detail of Maya's life and when he doesn't she resents him and writes him off as a lesser parent. Despite these seemingly frustrating traits, she is a likeable character because she admits her faults and realizes the occasional absurdity that results from her thought processes. This in turn allows her to laugh at herself which lets us laugh along while perhaps seeing similar traits (if not always, certainly occasionally) in ourselves.

Hope, despite her name, so, one might say ironically, doesn't believe in faith or anything even remotely connected to spirituality. Something exists and is real only if she sees it. She is a strict disciple of Rational Positivist Thought. Even so, what she can't ignore is her three year-old daughter's new imaginary friend, Dodo. Maya's behavior and it seems, her personality, changes considerably and for the worse once Dodo appears. Hope is a very good mother and very in-tune to her daughter. The kind of mother whose concern and worry are evidence of her love for her daughter right now but could become a troubling obsession in ten years time. Perhaps sooner, perhaps later. Dodo doesn't seem to be a "normal" imaginary friend. Even Uzi is concerned and believes Dodo has a troubling hold on Maya because her behavior is suddenly and often aggressive and petulant.

Unlike Hope, Uzi believes in determinism, reincarnation and other concepts that Hope considers questionable (and that's a charitable description). Uzi thinks they should take Maya to a Shaman in Belize while they are there on vacation. Asking Hope to try and be open about it, she is both intrigued and repelled by the idea of a Shaman. It freaks her out that Uzi agrees with their housekeeper, a native of Nicaragua named Carmen, who believes Dodo is a spirit that must be chased from Maya's body. To Hope, there's a duality here - it's not "real" but, she also acknowledges that she likes the idea of Dodo as a spirit because if Dodo is a spirit he can be chased away. Part of Hope desperately wants to believe as she honestly admits to her readers:

"Here's the thing about me and Shamanism: no matter how hard I try, I can't make myself believe in it. As much as I like the concept of a mortal journeying into the spirit world for answers and bringing them back to this world for execution, embracing the idea as fact feels as if I am betraying a basic commitment to common sense. Yet, a small, insistent corner of my personality wants to believe, badly needs to believe, in the prospect of such magical phenomena, and I don't know how to reconcile this duality. How is it possible to simultaneously discredit an idea yet hold forth hope in its existence."

The answer to this question and many others will come by the end of the vacation. Hope has seen some cases of these "alternative" practices work before bringing Maya to a Shaman, but still, it isn't enough. Unconvinced, she wants to be able to see the mechanics of the spirituality at work. And she wants to be convinced before she commits to subjecting her daughter to this kind of extremely foreign method (according to Hope) of healing. Aware that this need and her disbelief may actually render her unable to witness something so profound as the work of a shaman, she realizes the alternative is to live with Dodo, which is something she really isn't ready to do.

Uzi is frustrated by Hope's ambivalence, particularly when there is evidence and proof that some spiritual acts work. Uzi is a very patient man, easy going, laid back and very
intelligent. He believes that at some point you have to let go of rational thought and just believe. Aware of how stressed out and worried his wife is and how different Maya has become, he believes getting away from home as a family will help them. Uzi tries to reassure Hope, asking her to be open to the possibilities of spirituality and shamans. But Hope's many biases towards the shamans, including their appearance and choice of clothing, prevents her from accepting them and the way they work.

As the days go by during their week in Belize, Hope comes to know the Tut Family at The Crystal Paradise Resort. With her family, they canoe down the Macal River at Cristo Rey, visit Tikal National Park, also called the Place of the Spirit Voices, and she enjoys her surroundings and the people she meets. Eventually, she lets down her defenses and the walls she's erected between herself and the rest of the world. It is then that Hope begins to question some of her beliefs and attitudes and, as she begins to let go of her need to control everything she realizes what's been driving some of her behaviors. As she learns about and begins to understand the beliefs of the Mayan people, she relaxes and lets go of many of her worries and fears and celebrates this time with her Uzi and Maya.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hope's memoir and the story of her families experiences in Belize. She is a fantastic researcher and did a great job at unearthing myriad details of Belize and the Mayan people and culture. But at times I found it to be too much information. I struggled with the extensive accounts of some of the places the family visited such as Tikal National Park. I found it difficult to follow after a while not having any pictures to aid in the description and not being there or having been there myself. Similarly, Hope provided extensive coverage of some of the cities and towns they stayed in and passed through, more than found in many travel books. If I ever travel to Belize, and I hope to, I will be sure to read some of the pages in this book beforehand.

The Possibility of Everything is well written, keeping you interested and sympathetic towards Hope and her family. It is often humorous and most of all, eye opening. Edelman does a great job of conveying her thoughts and dilemmas, her frustrations and prejudices, and let's you in as she allows the barriers to come down, so that you can celebrate her liberation from old ways. As a writer, Edelman conveys the human condition and all its frailties and its strengths, which often comes from the ability to change and grow, in a way that so many of us can identify with, which, in my opinion, is quite a feat since most of us have not gone through, specifically, what she has. Her ability to make it accessible is what makes her such an effective writer, and makes this book so universal.

Teaser Tuesday 10.27.09

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their
TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


"Devon takes in a shaky breath, wipes her damp forehead on her sleeve. The horrific picture in her mind is still there, that last glimpse."

p. 205 After by Amy Efaw


If you'd like to join in (please do!) don't forget to link your post to MizB's at Should Be Reading. If you don't have a blog, share your "teasers" in a comment.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Movie Monday! Trickeration!

Feature Presentation...

Today is Trickeration Day at the movies! The topic at The Bumbles Blog is Movies with Surprise Endings!
Molly and Andy listed some really great movies! If you want to play along, come up with a list of your own, write a post about your surprise ending movies and then link it to Molly & Andy's blog!

At first I thought I couldn't come up with any but then, little by little, one seeped into my memory, then part of another, which I must say, was a devil trying to remember,! but once I did, I remembered a few more!

Presumed Innocent (1990) Harrison Ford is a hot-shot attorney charged with the murder of his female colleague and mistress. Bonnie Bedelia plays Ford's wife and John Spencer, Raul Julia and Brian Dennehy are also in the movie. It is an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Scott Turow. The movie is great as is the book.

The Jagged Edge (1985) A wonderful murder mystery, quite scary at times with great twists and turns, Jeff Bridges is arrested for the vicious murder of his wife in their remote beach house. Glenn Close, Robert Loggia and Peter Coyote star in the courtroom drama with a 1940's feel. If you haven't seen this definitely rent, if you have see it again! lol It's that good!

Hot Fuzz (2007) A British action comedy about two police officers, one a sort of bumbling idiot, the other takes himself a little too seriously but is amazingly good at his job. Together they attempt to solve a series of mysterious and gruesome deaths in a quaint village. One of the officers is convinced they are murders, but it's possibly he's just bored and needs some excitement in the job! The movie stars Simon Pegg, also one of the writers, and Nick Frost, both worked together and starred in Shaun of the Dead, a fun, funny zombie movie.

Rebecca (1940) One of Alfred Hitchcock's wonderful psychological thrillers adapted from Dapne du Maurier's 1938 novel. The movie stars Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. It's wonderfully creepy and scary! It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won two including Best Picture.

The Sting (1973) This movie stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford (need I say more?!). They play two professional grifters (con men) who take on a mob boss. The plot is complicated and requires you to pay close attention but the movie is riveting and worth every minute of it's 2-hour length.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Salon, October 25th!

The Read-a-Thon ended at 8 a.m. this morning. I was asleep a couple of hours before that after taking a cat nap around midnight! This was my first readathon and it was great! I had a lot of fun participating and already know a few things I'll do differently come the next one. I didn't visit as many readers blogs as I wanted, not nearly. I think next time I'm going to take an hour every few hours to visit other blogs. It sounds a little ridiculous, but there doesn't seem to be enough time to do all of the things I wanted to and read a lot! LOL Reading, entering min-challenges, reading comments to my posts and visiting some blogs, the hours fly by!

I finished Still Life by Louise Penny, a wonderful book and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, simply amazing! I also finished Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado which I just loved and now I want to bake some of her recipes! I started reading This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (A win from A Novel Menagerie). I've laughed out loud several times already just 75 pages in. I also started reading After by Amy Efaw (a win from Amy of Addicted to Books)
I have several reviews to write this week including
The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman in addition to the finished books referenced above.

The Cats are wonderful! If you read any of my updates during the readathon, you know that the weather here was very rainy so all of the cats were inside. When they cannot go outside they sleep a lot but they also look to my husband and me for their entertainment and for attention as well as for food!. I was interrupted by Magoo, Betsy, Bob, Sadie, Jazzy and Huxley several times each yesterday! I love when they're all around though so, for the most part I didn't mind at all.

These are pictures of Bob. He doesn't come across quite as cute as he is in real life. In the pictures he looks a little grouchy but he really isn't. Occasionally he gets ticked if one of us scratches him behind his ears or too far down on his body. But he is generally quite happy. He has terrible allergies or some kind of respiratory problem and wheezes, grunts, sniffles and makes all kinds of loud sounds. I can hear him coming outside before I see him! And when he sleeps, curled up on his side looking just so adorable, he snores the loudest I have ever heard. As a bed companion it's been a bit of an adjustment having him here especially when he shows up at 4a.m and I wake to some snorting, sniffling, wheezing, grunting animal lumbering around on the bed! But I'm used to him now and I'd rather have him here than not!

Belle is still out and about because she ran from us when we tried to put her in the cat carrier the other day. But she came back a few hours later for food. I spoke to the vet and we decided to wait until Monday to give Belle a few days to relax and trust us again and also because the vet I've been corresponding with isn't working this weekend. Sam and I have a good game plan to get Belle in the cat carrier tomorrow so, fingers crossed it all works. Belle has been coming by for food 3 - 4 times a day for the last 3 days which is a little more than usual so I guess she likes and trusts us!

Have a great Sunday! I'm off to watch the JETS play the Raiders, Lisa of Lit and Life favorite team. Good luck to you!

Update Meme!

My mid-event survey is a bit late as this is hour 20 but here it is!!

1. I'm reading This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

2. I've read three different books and finished one.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Since I'm a little late with this update I'll chase say that I didn't plan what I was going to read when I chose the books that I felt like reading when I needed a break from whatever I was reading at the time!

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
I was fortunate in that I didn't have to make any special arrangements for any part of the read-a-thon.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I have had many cat interruptions today. The weather has been very rainy today so the cats cannot go out and play. They are inside and in need of entertainment and they make it mine and my husbands job to provide it! So I have had to take time out from reading periodically. But I all my cats so that's how it works!

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? The time management or managing how long to stay on-line at breaks, how long to take for the challenges etc. It all eats into my reading time. It's fun to visit other reader's blogs and participate in the challenges but I didn't realize how much time it takes away from reading!

7. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I think I might just visit other blogs on my breaks and not take time for challenges. I also have to find out how to pre-schedule posts, updates because I didn't update as much as I wanted to.

8. Are you getting tired yet? I'm definitely tired! I'm not sure how much longer I'll make it!

Good luck to all the Read-a-Thon readers! Have fun & Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Readathon Mini-challenge: Honoring Dewey

Eva, A Striped Armchair is sponsoring this challenge in honor of the person who started the read-a-thons held twice a year. Her name was Dewey and she used to have a blog, Hidden Side of a Leaf.

Dewey is no longer with us and, unfortunately I didn't have the honor of interacting with her. But I have read about her through other bloggers because she was well-known and liked by so many bloggers. I have also read quite a bit about her in relation to the read-a-thon.

My impressions are that Dewey was a welcoming person to everyone, she enjoyed interacting with other bloggers and had a kind word for everyone, she encouraged other readers to enjoy books she liked and was a fun-loving, enjoyable woman to interact with. I read some of the post from the read-a-thon challenge last April regarding Dewey and on in particular really touched me.

Heather from Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World posted this:

"We were asked to either share a memory of Dewey (if we knew Dewey, which I didn't), or to check out her website and share something that we found that touched us somehow. "I found a post regarding Steinbeck's East of Eden, and in it Dewey writes: I really like the chapter that begins with a discussion of what Steinbeck calls monsters. He says that just as some people are born with physical deformities, so some people might be born with deformities of character, so that they may be missing a conscience or empathy or some other quality most of us consider essential. My personal opinion does match his."

This confirms what I already thought about Dewey was a wonderful, sweet, kind woman with a good heart. I have a very noticeable physical disability but I have never considered myself very different from other people, I just look a little different. There are some people who have deformities of character and they are missing characteristics I consider essential. I share Dewey's opinion and Heather's as well!

Webcomics, Nymeth's Challenge!

Get Fuzzy is my favorite comic. I've been reading it for years and find it very entertaining!

It's about a guy named Rob, his dog, Satchel and his cat, Bucky.
Bucky thinks he is much smarter than everyone else (he's not!), he has a severew spelling problem, is obsessed with a local ferret, adores tuna, makes poor Satchel life pretty hellish because Satchel isn't very smart and is very sweet.

It's a very funny cartoon most days with Bucky making life a headache for Rob and not understanding why Rob gets upset with him.

In today's episode, Bucky got into trouble so Rob told him he had to stay in the closet. Satchel is guarding the closet to make sure Bucky doesn't get out. But Bucky gets hungry....

Check out Nymeth's blog, Things mean a lot for many other webcomics!

Reading Update!

This is update for hour 10 as I've had to take time to feed and play with cats!

I've been reading Still Life by Louise Penny and started reading This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Since my last update I have read 325 pages
I've been reading for a total of 10 hours
I finished Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado and have 20 pages left in Still Life by Louise Penny.
I have had 2.5 cups of coffee and a bowl of Raisin Bran, an apple with cheddar cheese and a tossed salad. And lots of water!

Good luck to all the Read-a-Thon readers! Have fun & Happy Reading!

Be back later!

Feed Me Challenge!

Nicole's Feed Me Challenge -

This is a passage from Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado (pg. 116 )

"Every summer since my mother died, the thought of smelling baking plums and watching the green-fleshed fruit start to bleed red into the buttery dough was depressing. We'd eaten zwetschgendatschi every summer we had together -- in Nurnberg, in our suburban house in Virginia, and at my aunt's home in Maryland. We bought it from local village bakeries in Bavaria or baked it ourselves".

Read-a-Thon Buddies!

These are my reading buddies:

Mr. Magoo, the tabby,

the very large Bob and

the baby, little Betsy!

Read-a-Thon Update!

This is more official than my earlier update!

I've been reading Still Life by Louise Penny
Since my last update I have read 35 pages
I've been reading for a total of 5 hours
I haven't finished a book yet but I have read 201 pages
I have had 2.5 cups of coffee and a bowl of Raisin Bran.

Good luck to all the Read-a-Thon readers! Have fun & Happy Reading!

Update: 4th Hour in my Read-a-Thon Reading!

I am entering the 4th hour of reading. I have been interrupted several times by hungry kitties and kitties who want to play. It's raining out today, has been all night. It's a great day for reading but some of the cats are already experiencing cabin fever. So while I am reading I have also been throwing soft cat balls around the room for them to chase and flashing the red laser light on the wall. Everybody and cat is happy! Yay!

I am on pg. 164 of Still Life: "Oh great," said Ruth, looking out of Peter and Clara's mudroom door. "The village people."

LOL This is a wonderful book!

Happy Reading to all Read-a-Thon participants!

~ A

Saturday Read-a-Thon!

I forgot to post and say hi! before I started reading this morning! My hour of the Read-a-Thon started at 8 a.m. I'm reading Still Life by Louise Penny! I'll be back here in about 3 hours to let you know how I'm doing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Read-a-Thon List

"Real luxury is time and opportunity to read for pleasure" ~ Jane Brody

Tomorrow is the "24-Hour Read-a-Thon" also called "Dewey's Read-a-Thon" in honor of, Dewey, the person who started it all. I didn't have the honor of knowing Dewey but from all that I've read, she was an amazing and wonderful person. Thank you to Hannah (WordLily), Nymeth (Things Mean A Lot), Trish (Hey Lady) and Eva (Striped Armchair) for continuing the fun that Dewey started! And thank you to everyone else who helped to plan the read-a-thon.

It's taken me a long time to decide what books I want to read during the read-a-thon. I have a pile now but I can't promise it won't change. I might feel like reading a book I didn't originally include in my stack. But I think these are some good choices for tomorrow! I won't get through all of these , not even close, ( lol ) but it's a good mix of books (I think, I hope!)

Still Life by Louise Penny
This is Where I Leave You By Jonathan Tropper
Idyll Banter by Chris Bohjalian (essays)
The Impostor's Daughter by Laurie Sandell (graphic novel)
Hungry Woman in Paris by Josefina Lopez
The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison (memoir)
Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich
A Worthy Legacy by Tomi Akinyanmi

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Thoughts!

"What greater gift than the love of a cat?"
Charles Dickens

"Of all domestic animals the cat is the most expressive. His face is capable of showing
a wide range of expressions. His tail is a mirror of his mind. His gracefulness is
surpassed only by his agility. And, along with all these, he has a sense of humor."
Walter Chandoha

These are two quotes about cats that I like very much!
I wanted to post my latest news about Belle. I found a veterinarian who will treat her anytime we can bring her to them. The vet is part of the Vinegar Hill Veterinarian Group in Downtown Brooklyn. This vet also contacted a foster group they work with often. The foster group is part of the Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition ( They contacted me and will take Belle from the vet and find her a nice home. It may be a foster home at first but the goal is a permanent home. The foster group will also test Belle for various cat diseases and take care of spaying/neutering her and other care she may need. I'm so relieved and excited about this. I think we will be bringing Belle in tomorrow. I will take some pictures of her first so I can post them once they're developed!
The pictures below are of elegant Daisy, our Norwegian Forest Cat and our cross-eyed tabby, the adorable Mr. Magoo!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still

Title: The Day the Falls Stood Still
Author: Cathy Marie Buchanan
ISBN: 978-1-4013-4097-1
Pages: 320
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Publisher: Voice/Hyperion.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an epic love story as rich, spellbinding and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating—and harboring a secret.

The night of her return Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him—against her family’s strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.

My thoughts: The Day the Falls Stood Still is a beautifully written, captivating story about the power of love, being true to yourself and the importance of relationships. Spirituality and nature are strong themes that run through the story. I read this book slowly and carefully because I was enjoying it so much. When I finished, I went back and read parts of it again. This book reaches out and draws you in. The story seems simple and straight-forward at first but as you read you will realize there is much more going on, all revolving around the character of Bess Heath, the main character and the narrator of the book.

It's taken me an embarrassingly long time to write this review. Having read many excellent reviews, I thought I would try to approach it from a different angle. Thinking about the characters, I kept coming back to Bess, easily my favorite. Feeling like I knew Bess and understood her, it is through her I wish to approach this. She is a strong and complex young woman, with a very practical side, not given to flights of fancy or fits of passion even though she believes in prayer and miracles. She endures two major life tragedies close together at the young age of seventeen. They seem to make her stronger and more focused, giving her a better understanding of herself and what she wants out of life. After learning that her father lost his job, Bess barely takes the time to consider the consequences before pitching in, symbolically at first, by helping her mother lug a trunk home on the trolley. The "real" pitching in comes later.

Bess' relationship with her mother is respectful but not all warm and cozy. They seem very similar in that they are both practical and unwilling to show emotion, keeping their feelings bottled up. They easily aggravate each other and though Bess is angry at her, she does as her mother asks as best she can, even when it pains her. There's a lot of responsibility on Bess's shoulders. She is expected to care for her older sister, Isabel, after she has taken to her bed following changes in social circumstance to her and her family. Isabel is the beautiful, popular sister, adored by the girls at school yet often full of self-doubt and confusion. Bess and Isabel are very close and it is hard for Bess to see her sister looking ill. Bess misses Isabel's fun-loving personality and the sound of her laughter. Bess also assists her mother with dressmaking, now the sole source of family income. Bess' life has changed dramatically in only a year, but aside from a few tears shed in private, she refuses to show any signs that she and her family are downcast.

The foremost male character in the story, Tom, is the major source of disagreement between Bess and her mother. Bess not caring that Tom is poor, considered "beneath them" (as Isabel says), while the family believes she can "do better" and wants her to help improve the family's situation. Bess is attracted to Tom from the moment she passes him on the road, describing his eyes as " the Niagara River: green, full of vigor, captivatingly so." The Niagara river is a source of strength for Bess, she gets her faith from the river and remembers well the stories her father told about the river when she was a young girl. The river sustains her and she feels that same strength and connection to Tom. In fact, it is in Tom that Bess sees the river. So Bess isn't surprised when she learns of Tom's ancestral connections and when he tells her that he understands the river. She considers it the same as the prayers she sees in the rising mist above the river. It's all the mystery and magic that is God for Bess.

However, a tragedy causes Bess to no longer believe in the magic, thinking of her father's words, that intuition can be explained. Tom tells her someday she'll know but she doesn't believe him. Still, being with him is the only thing that sustains her, and she doesn't care what other people think. Hard work doesn't scare her but being without the happiness he brings her does.

Life with Tom has its hardships so Bess needs to rely on her strength, practicality, creativity and intelligence. Their love for each other does not preclude them from having to make difficult choices at times but it will guide them. And they have the river. Whether to preserve it, leave it alone, or harness its power is an issue that they will struggle over. There will come a time when Bess will have to decide what's more important, her family's well-being or Tom's principles and she will always wonder if she made the right decision at the time.

The Day the Falls Stood Still is a love story in several different respects. It is filled with beautiful imagery, rich historical details and references to real events involving the Niagara River. Bess' inspiring and captivating story is connected to all of these things and illustrates how important it is to be true to yourself, to love your family and friends and to respect nature. Cathy Marie Buchanan has written a fantastic novel that should be read slowly, enjoyed completely and cherished for years to come.

To read some other reviews of The Day the Falls Stood Still, visit these fantastic blogs:
Book Chatter
Peeking Between the Pages
The Tome Traveller's Weblog
Booking Mama

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Paper Pusher!

I received a great email that I wanted to share with you all. It's from The Paper Concierge. The Paper Concierge is an on-line stationery and all sorts of related goodies and seom lovely unrelated ones too.

The website is informal, very personable and fun to look through.

Today there is a sale, the Tuesday Dash 5-hour Event from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Whitney English Personalized Note Sheet and Clipboard Set. Buy One and get another Half Off!

(Enter Coupon Code " CLIP " at Checkout!*Offer Valid 10/20/09 from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.* )

I hope you find something you like! It's hard not too. But I'm a paper-a-holic, I've got real problems. Ha! LOL


~ A

Teaser Tuesday 10.20.09

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

*Grab your current read. *Open to a random page. *Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. *BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!). *Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"So that was a setback. But I kept my mantra in mind: The brick walls are there for a reason. They're not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (p. 52)

If you'd like to join in (I hope you do!) don't forget to link your post to MizB's at Should Be Reading. If you don't have a blog, share your "teasers" in a comment.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Amy's Monday Musings!

Sunday came and went in the blink of an eye for me. I swear I'm still looking for where it went. If I don't get on-line and type up my Sunday Salon post first thing Sunday morning chances of it happening are very slim! But yesterday morning I decided to loll in bed with my coffee and the Sunday New York Times which I love while hubbie snoozed merrily beside me. And then I think 10 cats wanted attention or food or food and attention simultaneously. Chaos broke loose and infiltrated my home! It was sheer nuttiness for a good two hours. In some ways cats are like small children, they can be loud and demanding when they want something, they sulk when they don't get it right away but they can also be sweet, loving and adorable. I love it all!!

I think we have another new member. Did I tell you about Bob? Bob (we were calling him Boris but Bob just fits him so well) has been a neighborhood cat for a couple of years. He spends a lot of time with our cat loving neighbors. He started coming around our place a few months ago and sat outside the window hoping for some cat nip or cat food. About a week ago he hopped in the window like he'd always been here and shortly thereafter, found himself a cozy spot on the bed. The thing about Bob is that he's a gentle giant. He is the largest cat I have ever known. Not fat, just big. He's larger than Eddie, the Jack Russell Terrier on the defunct sitcom, Frasier. He looks, in coloring, like Morris the cat from the old cat food commercials but Bob's orange and white fur is a little longer. Bob has beautiful eves that sometimes look a pretty medium blue, sometimes a minty green. He loves to walk up to a person and knock his head into their legs. Our other cats knowe him from the neighborhood. Some of them dislike him for his sheer size it seems. But he seems to fit in well. He's come over every day for the last week for 3 - 15 hours depending on his mood, I guess! I'm still without a digital camera but I have pictures being developed as I write and will have them before the
week is out (I hope).

I spent two days in NYC this week for doctor appointments, did a little fun shopping and stopped in some bookstores of course. I mostly looked and got some titles and ideas for the future. I really wanted to purchase some books but I have so many in my pile still to be read. One B&N was having a buy one mystery, get the other at half-price"> I might have been able to walk away from that but then I saw Still Life by Louise Penny, the first in her Inspector Gamache, Three Pines Series. And since it was a sell I also purchased Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War. I'm excited to read this since he is supposed to be another literary crime writer.
I will be posting my review of
The Day the Falls Stood Still today or tomorrow. I wanted to do my review a little differently than usual since there were so many reviews of this book in the last couple of months. Hence, it seems to have taken me a very long time to write it. I will also be reviewing The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman this week.

Okay, that's all for now. The laundry calls! Have an enjoyable Monday please!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Finds

Share your Friday Finds at Should be Reading. Friday Finds are the great books you heard about, read about or discovered and added to your TBR list this past week?

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick
A novel of Vincent Van Gogh, Sheramy Bundrick’s Sunflowers is an arresting and beautiful tale of a young French prostitute’s passionate, doomed relationship with a troubled artist. Vividly evoking a bygone time and place, Bundrick brings her characters to breathtaking life as she seamlessly blends historical fact with riveting speculation. A story that will captivate readers of Susan Vreeland and Karen Essex, and admirers of Tracy Chevalier’s New York Times bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring, Sheramy Bundrick’s exceptional debut, Sunflowers, will linger long in the mind like a breathtaking landscape or an exquisite portrait done in oils.

"I'd heard about him but had never seen him, the foreigner with the funny name who wandered the countryside painting pictures."

From a talented new author comes a poignant and haunting novel of creation and desire, passion and madness, art and love.

A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles to discover she is being sketched by a red-haired man in a yellow straw hat. This is no ordinary artist but the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh—and their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable relationship. He arrives at their first assignation at No. 1, Rue du Bout d'Arles, with a bouquet of wildflowers and a request to paint her—and before long, a deep, intense attachment grows between Rachel and the gifted, tormented soul.
But the sanctuary Rachel seeks from her own troubled past cannot be found here, for demons war within Vincent's heart and mind. And one shocking act will expose the harsh, inescapable truth about the artist she has grown to love more than life.

I have always liked Vincent Van Gogh's art work very much. I read a wonderful review of this book in I'm very excited about this book and can't wait to read it!


Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin

Set in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina, Unfinished Desires is a complex and deeply affecting story of friendship, loyalty, redemption, and memory.
The ninth grade class of Mount St. Gabriels, an all girls Catholic School, is strong willed (some might say "notorious"). Leading the pack is the unforgettable Tildy Stratton, the undisputed queen bee of the class, who quickly befriends Chloe Starnes, a day student recently taken in by her uncle following her young mother's mysterious death. The passionate friendship fills a void for each girl, and the headstrong Tildy soon has Chloe and the whole class enacting her vision for a play based on the colorful founding story of the school.
What happens the night of the play will profoundly affect the course of many of the lives involved, including that of the girls' teacher, a young nun, as well as the school's matriarch, Mother Suzanne Ravenel. Fifty years later, she will still relive that night in 1951, trying to reconcile past and present, and reaching back even further to her own senior year at Mt. St. Gabriel's, where the roots of a tragedy are buried.

Gail Godwin is an author my mother used to read. She gave me my first book by this author to read, A Mother and Two Daughters. I really enjoyed this book and over the years I have read several other books By Gail Godwin so I was very happy to see that she had a new one this year.