Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review - The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward

Title: The Reindeer Keeper: Believe Again...
Author: Barbara Briggs Ward
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publishing Date: October 15, 2010
Pages: 182
ISBN: 978-1604944433
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book Summary: Abbey senses something special about the little man tending to the reindeer who, along with a century-old farmhouse, a barn full of animals, and fields abounding in woods and pasture, was a gift to Abbey from a stranger. Abbey and her husband, Steve, move in just before the holidays. They have been together since the '60s, eloping when Steve returned from Vietnam. Now with Abbey's cancer in remission, they're looking forward to their boys coming home for Christmas.

Turns out this Christmas proves to be more magical than anticipated as Abbey realizes an understanding never thought possible through the rekindling of a belief rooted in childhood. Of course it's who delivers this gift on Christmas Eve that gives Abbey and Steve the strength to face their greatest challenge.

My Thoughts: Do you remember when you were a child and believed in Santa Claus? How that made you feel? I remember how excited I felt as Christmas approached. I'd write a note to Santa along with and on Christmas Eve we'd leave cookies and milk for him, some carrots and celery for his reindeer! I'd go to bed feeling all tingly, filled with excitement, absolutely sure I couldn't sleep and convinced Santa would know I was awake when he arrived. I secretly hoped for a glimpse of Santa in his beautiful red suit but also felt a tiny bit afraid of seeing him, of being caught awake...and then it was morning and the stockings were stuffed and presents circled the tree. I remember those days leading up to Christmas even the air seemed different, more crisper filled with a bit of magic while all around me everything seemed special. My grandfather once told me I was feeling the wonder and awe of believing in Santa and the magic and beauty of Christmas...

Barbara Briggs Ward has succeeded in bringing these feelings back in her beautifully written, poignant book. The Reindeer Keeper isn't only a story about Christmas, although the chapters about Abbey and Steve celebrating Christmas with their family are heart-warming, cozy and filled with love. It's also a story about believing in the magic all year long, through the good and bad, the struggles and the celebrations, keeping close the people you love.

Abbey is a gentle, strong and kind woman who loves to laugh and enjoys life. She understands people and respects their boundaries, adores coffee and is a wonderful cook. Abbey is the kind of woman most of us would love to have as a friend. She appears to live a charmed life but, as with so many people, her life isn't quite what it appears. Her past is tinged with pain and suffering due to a family tragedy. Currently, Abbey is filled with remorse while she comes to terms with the truth of her past she's been blind to until now. She's also worried that her cancer, which has been in remission for many months, is back. Abbey's greatest fear is leaving her husband Steve and her grown sons, Eric and Sam who are just settling down to their adult lives. But Abbey has never completely lost the faith and belief she had as an innocent child and it will be her greatest strength in the weeks and months to come. Abbey learns that although we may not be able to control what happens to us and those we love in this life, we can control how we react and deal with it. And that makes all the difference.

Ms. Ward gas written a captivating and poignant story about coping with the chaotic mess of life and remembering what really matters. She reminds her readers to reach deep inside and find that little bit of belief left over from childhood and set it on fire. Imagine what our world would be like if even half of us still believed in the magic and wonder in life that so excited us as children! The Reindeer Keeper: Believe Again... is a wonderful book to read at Christmas but worth reading during any season at any time of the year. This story is one we can all benefit from and enjoy.

I received a copy of The Reindeer Keeper: Believe Again... from the author.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: The Reindeer Keeper

Teaser Tuesdays is an interesting and fun book-related meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Be prepared to add several new books to your TBR list! I do every week!

My Teaser:
"That simple statement almost changed Abbey's mind, but looking at the three smiling at her as if she was on the mend, reinforced her need to speak. So that is what she did. 'There are no words to say what I have to say.'."

from The Reindeer Keeper: Believe Again... by Barbara Briggs Ward (p.122)

Anyone can play along! If you'd like to participate, Just do the following:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. (I used 3 this week!)
*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!

*And, finally, don't forget to link your post to MizB's at Should Be Reading. If you don't have a blog, simply share your "teasers" in a comment.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Movies - Movie Marvels!

Feature Presentation...

Today is all about Comic Books and our favorite Superheroes and other characters! As Molly and Andy point out, Broadway is portraying Spiderman with music by Bono and The Edge but causing serious strife to some of the cast. Film has done a better job of portraying the comic books we are all familiar with and some that are less well-known! The topics of birth, death and even rebirth are a part of daily life and figure prominently in the movies. Share on your blog those comic book characters and collectors in film that you prefer linking them back to The Bumbles Blog. If you don't have a blog, list your choices in the comment section of The Bumbles Movie post!

Hellboy (2004) Based on Hellboy: Seed of Destruction from the Dark Horse Comics this movie stars Ron Perleman, John Hurt and Selma Blair and is directed by Guillermo del Toro. Hellboy is a huge demonic beast with a sarcastic & cynical sense of humor who works for The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) to keep the world safe from paranormal threats. He is very much in love with a BPRD employee, Liz Sherman who has volatile pyrokinetic abilities

V for Vendetta (2006) A dystopian thriller based on a comic book series of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Natalie Portman plays a young girl, Evey, who works for the state run British Television Network in London. She is almost raped by members of the secret police but a Guy Fawkes-masked vigilante, "V" rescues her and has her watch as he destroys Old Bailey. As Evey watches her hero's behavior become more volatile and dangerous she tries to determine if he has become the very threat she's fighting against.

Iron Man (2008) This American Superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics character, Iron Man, is directed by Jon Favreau and stars Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terence Howard and Jeff Bridges. Tony Stark (Downey) inherited a military contracting company from his dad when he died. Stark is a playboy and an inventive genius. He travels to Afghanistan to demonstrate his new weapon, a "Jericho" missile and, while there is taken hostage. To gain his freedom Stark must build a missile for the group that is holding him. But, being a master engineer, Stark builds a crude suit of armor which he uses to break out...this is only the beginning of the Iron Man...!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share new (to us) 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 first two words are from The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

"And what about the indigenous population? What are they like? Not too bellicose, I hope." (p.22)

1. Bellicose ~adj.
:inclined or eager to fight; aggressively hostile; belligerent; pugnacious.

The French didn't seem to know what a parsnip was, at least not anywhere round here, and the salsify she had roasted instead at Madame Peysasse's suggestion had not been the same thing at all. (p.134)

2. Salsify ~noun
: a purple-flowered, composite plant, whose root has an oyster-like flavor and is used as a culinary vegetable.

The words below are from Ravens by George Dawes Green:

"Maybe it just wanted us to have a propitious journey." (p.3)

3. Propitious ~ adj.
:presenting favorable conditions; favorable
:favorably inclined; disposed to bestow favors or forgive

"You were permitted to fold from prudence but never timorousness." (p.34)

4. Timorous ~ adj.
: full of fear; fearful
: subject to fear; timid
:characterized by or indicating fear

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Publishing Date: September 2010
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0316098335
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book Summary: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

My Thoughts: Emma Donoghue has written a riveting and unique book any interested reader should experience for themselves, especially prior to reading any reviews. Parts of Room will tug at your heart-strings, while others may horrify you, but if you feel like giving up, I urge you: take a break and return to the book again. It really is worth it.

Room is simple in that there are only two main characters, Ma and 5 year-old Jack. Room is told entirely from Jack's point of view, using his words. Every detail, thought, description, idea and conversation is relayed in Jack's voice. Room stands out from other books where a child is the narrator and/or main character, because, from page one, we are completely immersed in Jack's world.

In Jack, Ms. Donoghue has created a complex and captivating character. He's intelligent, observant, demanding, malleable, honest, and mature and immature at the same time. I found it fascinating to read Jack's description of life in Room (as Jack calls it) with Ma and their many activities. Jack informs us in the very beginning that he and Ma have "a thousand things to do" everyday, much of which Jack describes. As the story progresses, we experience Jack's mind working, see him come to realize that there may be more to real life than Room, Ma and himself.

Jack is constantly trying to understand what goes on in "Outer Space", Jack's term for the little bit he can see out of the small skylight, as well as make sense of things inside. Jack initially thinks everything outside Room and on television is fake. The only real things are Jack, Ma and the things in Room. Shortly after the book opens, Ma begins to “unlie” to Jack and tell him about the real world outside Room as well as other real boys and girls.

Halfway through Room there is a significant change in the setting, much to our relief. This shows the author's acute understanding of her readers, her creativity coming to the fore. She guarantees that the story avoids becoming monotonous or boring by freeing Jack and Ma from the physical Room. Rescuing them from the confines of that small space prevents what could have resulted in a frustrating read, testing our patience. Had Ms. Donoghue kept Jack and Ma in Room our empathy and concern for them might very well have eroded. Instead, our maternal feelings are heightened and their well-being is our paramount concern, making Room almost impossible to put down.

Sometimes, it took me a little while to understand Jack. Occasionally it's necessary to put ourselves in Jack's shoes to understand him. We have to be patient while trying to decipher what he's saying. Things aren't clear, for example, when he's trying to figure out where marks on Ma's neck came from, or when Jack counts the creaks of the bed at night while Old Nick is visiting Ma. Jack is, in fact, describing Ma being raped. But by telling the story from the point of view of a young child, our focus becomes Jack and his world. This makes the book interactive, requiring imagination and some work on our part. This manages to soften the immediate effects of Old Nick's actions, but once the reader interprets and reflects, it's unmistakable - what has happened to Jack and his mother is horrifying.

I hoped more and more as I read Room that Ms. Donoghue would provide us with at least a few pages giving us Ma’s point of view. This is a terrible ordeal for Jack, though he doesn’t know any better, but Ma’s there, looking out for him, caring for him, making sure he’s okay. But Ma has no one to do for her what she does for Jack. Kidnapped at 19! Raped daily! Physical and psychological trauma! How did she survive it? Giving Ma’s view could in itself be a whole other book!

This was a very different experience from other books where children are the main character or narrator. The story is simultaneously heartwarming, innocent and horrifying. Ms. Donoghue's effectiveness lies in making us understand , connect and sympathize with the characters, making Room a unique and wholly satisfying read.

I received a copy of Room for review through Crazy Book Tours.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I've been Holiday Tagged!?!

When do you usually know and feel that it's finally the holidays?
When my decorations are up and I have Christmas music playing in the background.

What do you want for Christmas this year?
Good, loving homes for all of the cats and dogs living in cages at shelters and Pet-Co.

Do you go all out with decorations?
I keep things simple but it's obviously Christmas since I don't have white lights and red velvet bows etc. up all year round! I love to visit the homes that go decoration crazy!

What are you doing Christmas Eve?
Relaxing, going to church, Christmas Eve is a nice quiet day for me.

What are you doing Christmas Day?
Eating, drinking, opening gifts - all that fun stuff

It's Christmas time. What are you reading?
This week I'm going to finish Cleo, The Tapestry of Love and read The Reindeer Keeper! I hoped to read several Christmas-themed books but my reading got a little off track because I was sick.

Favorite movie to watch during the holidays?
A Christmas Story is my very favorite Christmas movie! It's hilarious! Since I love the Katherine Hepburn/SpencerTracy movies I also enjoy 'Desk Set' this time of year.

Favorite Christmas song?
It's difficult to pick a very favorite, there are so many great ones... I love most of the music from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, especially The SugarPlum Fairies and What Child Is This? and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I've also always loved The Little Drummer Boy and Silver Bells!

Favorite holiday drink?
EggNog! Just a small cup or two, but if there's Rum included....!

How is your Christmas shopping going?
Great! I use the internet, there's more selection & it's hassle free!

If you could spend Christmas Day anywhere else, where would you spend it?
Ireland, I love it there!

Any holiday traditions?
Christmas cookie baking and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and the Rockefeller Center tree, visiting the stores with holiday-themed window displays.

Favorite thing about the Holidays.
Christmas carols, getting together with loved ones and the festive feeling in the air.

I would love to tag the following three bloggers.
Share with us your holiday fun pass it on to 3 more!

Esme at Chocolate and Croissants
Erin at Erin Reads
Stacy at Stacy's Books

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Salon: Merry Christmas Week!

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!

I haven't been blogging much at all the past couple of weeks. The asthma problems I was having were an indication of pneumonia. I went to the doctor when I started to feel worse and, after talking my doctor into letting me stay at home, filled some prescriptions for strong antibiotics and spent a lot of time in bed, sleeping. Not the way I like to spend December but I had some furry felines keeping me company and the antibiotics are doing their job so the worst is over now!
I didn't get that much reading done either which was disappointing, especially as I wanted to read! But the words and sentences ran together a lot, it was very confusing! I'd read a page, lose focus and have to go back to where I started and try again! Fortunately, I felt better the last day or two and read some of The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton.

I've always liked this time of year with the Christmas decorations everywhere and the Christmas carols and holiday music. Any shopping I have to do I've learned to do over the internet, it's hassle free and actually fun! (most of the time anyway!)

I have a few reviews that I am behind on and hope to post in the next couple of days. I'll also be announcing the winner of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, which should have been done on Tuesday. At least I have the book here so I can send it quickly. I will finish Cleo by Helen Brown today or tomorrow. It's a wonderful book! I'm looking forward to reviewing it! I hope to start Unless It Moves the Human Heart by Roger Rosenblatt this week and Joyce Carol Oates memoir, The Widow's Story, too. I'll see how it goes!

Enjoy your Christmas and Holiday week!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Ophelia

This is Ophelia, she's beautiful and knows it! She's very independent, likes to visit a lot of homes on our street, plays with and antagonizes any cats she finds and pretty much does what she wants! Sometimes she comes to get attention from me and oh boy, is she charming then! As you can see, she makes herself at home when she chooses to! lol
Ophelia has a gorgeous, big fluffy tail which is hard to see in these photos. I'll take some others pics that show her off much better!
{Please excuse the mess & clutter around her! I'm not the best at keeping things neat and when I'm sick like now, I'm terrible about picking up after myself!}

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review - I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Title: I'd Know You Anywhere
Author: Laura Lippman
ISBN: 978-0062024299
Pages: 384
Release Date: September 2010
Publisher: William Morrow Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Thriller
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Summary: Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquility is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.
In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.

Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And Eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable, cocooned life, will do anything to protect it—even if it means finally facing the events of that horrifying summer and the terrible truth she's kept buried inside.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed I'd Know You Anywhere and found it difficult to put down. It's a riveting psychological thriller that begins slowly, but the tension builds continuously as the novel progresses. Laura Lippman cleverly contrasts the quiet, safe and ordered days of Eliza's current life with the story of her kidnapping and the chaotic days she spent with Walter more than 20 years ago. She emphasizes how little control Eliza had over her life at that time and how scary it must have been, not knowing what was going to happen next. As the story of adolescent Eliza's kidnapping draws to a close and we know she'll be with her family soon (the story goes back and forth between past and present), Walter is putting more and more pressure on adult Eliza to communicate with him from behind the bars of his prison cell.

Ms. Lippman is very talented at creating complex and interesting characters. The main character, Eliza, is reserved and introspective. At first she seems very passive-aggressive and I was irritated by her behavior several times because I thought she was letting people take advantage of her. But as I got to know Eliza better, I realized she just doesn't permit most things to bother her. She tends to think things over before reacting to them and takes whatever time she needs to figure out how she feels. Eliza only gets upset and reacts strongly when she thinks her children or her family's security is threatened.

I liked seeing Eliza when she was fifteen. Although she suffers from some of the usual teenage angst: popularity, boys etc., she also seems confident and comfortable with herself. In Walter's custody she displays a remarkable ability to understand him and tell him what he wants to hear. Rather than acting scared and whimpering, Eliza is very matter-of-fact and quiet, observing her surroundings and listening carefully to Walter. She's able to respond to Walter in a way that keeps him calm and relaxed. Eliza displays the same intelligence and strength she relies on the first time she's with Walter to help her cope when he reappears in her life.

Walter is the other really interesting character. The author succeeds in making him both charming and repulsive. Walter's never had friends and has lived a lonely life garnering our sympathy for him. But since he's attractive and knows how to be kind and personable when he needs to be, he's able to attract people, especially young girls. Walter is also manipulative and becomes very angry when he doesn't get his way. As Walter's story progresses it becomes obvious that the very reasons we sympathize with Walter are his excuses for his behavior. Ms. Lippman has created a three-dimensional human monster in Walter.

Combining the two main characters, both fascinating and complex, with a gripping story (with some tangents to keep things moving), makes this book a successful endeavor by Ms. Lippman. To create a character like Walter is nothing short of the literary equivalent of keeping many plates spinning on poles at once. Evil incarnate one moment, worthy of feelings of sympathy the next. Eliza is no less a wonder but for different reasons, as the Ms. Lippman is able to maintain the characters integrity throughout the years. Like the book's title, because of the care and detail the author has invested in them, it seems we would know these characters anywhere.

Ti who blogs at Book Chatter lent me her ARC copy of I'd Know You Anywhere. Thank you Ti!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 12/3 - 12/6

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly Party for Book Bloggers hosted by Jennifer at her blog, Crazy-for-Books every Friday. The Hop is an opportunity for book bloggers to meet, connect, support each other and share their love of books and the written word. The Hop also offers a great opportunity for bloggers to discover other book blogs to read!

The Book Blog Hop lasts from Friday through Monday giving anyone who's interested plenty of time to join in! If you want to be a part of the fun, head on over to Crazy-for-Books, post your answer to the week's question on your blog and enter your blog on the Mr. Linky list. And then, start Hopping to other blogs. This week's question is from Marce who blogs at Tea Time With Marce:

"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

For me the book is One Day by David Nicholls. (my review) The author, an English man, used an interesting technique in writing the book. although one already used by others. He checked in with the two main characters, Dexter and Emma, on the same day every year for many years. Dexter and Emma met at a university graduation party and spend the night following day together. There's an attraction between them, more romance on her part, more friends on his part. And so we see what develops in their lives and between them for many years to come. Parts of the book were funny but for me Dexter became increasingly annoying and childish. I tired of the book by the middle and by the end didn't care for it at all!

I didn't like reviewing it because most of the bloggers and others who read One Day loved it. I think it's difficult to write and post negative reviews no matter what, but it's especially difficult when the book is generally a popular one. But I've been on the other end of that spectrum, too. It's just a reminder that we all have different opinions and different thoughts on the books we read based somewhat on our different life experiences. It's one of the things I love best about book discussions, discovering how the book worked or different work for those who read it and why!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review - The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Date Published: February 2010
Publisher: Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0399156199
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Book Summary: What would happen if a postmistress chose not to deliver the mail?
It is 1940. While the war is raging in Europe, President Roosevelt promises he won't send American boys over to fight.

Iris James is the postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts a small town at the end of Cape Cod. She firmly believes her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Faithfully she stamps and sends the letters between people such as the newlyweds Emma and Will Fitch, who has gone to London to help out during the Blitz. But one day she slips a letter into her pocket, and leaves it there.

Meanwhile, seemingly fearless radio gal, Frankie Bard is reporting the Blitz from London, her dispatches crinkling across the Atlantic, imploring listeners to pay attention. Then in the last desperate days of the summer of 1941, she rides the trains out of Germany, reporting on what is happening to the refugees there.

Alternating between an America on the eve of entering into World War II, still safe and snug in its inability to grasp the danger at hand, an a Europe being torn apart by war, the two stories collide in a letter, bringing the war finally home to Franklin.

My Thoughts: In The Postmistress, Sarah Blake admirably and accurately portrays the apathy, disinterest and misunderstandings of America about World War II in the early 1940s. The story begins in fictitious Franklin, MA on the edge of the Cape. Franklin serves as a microcosm of small-town America. For example, life revolves around the local post office. Mail delivery and the most up-to-date news, what's occurring in Europe and the rise of Hitler, draws the towns-people there. Already watered down, radio and news reports are frequently met with some combination of scorn, disbelief or misunderstanding. Even reports that provoke shock or fear are quickly forgotten or dismissed with a turn of the radio knob. Many believe that America won't join the war, let alone have it come to our shores. Those who profess a belief that we will fight are primarily young men who want to fight. They believe war is glamorous and fun and that there's a certain romance inherit in the danger.

Ms. Blake presents her story through three women and the people in their lives.
Each woman is very different but all three are completely fleshed-out and three-dimensional. They are complex, flawed, characters each with their own challenges that today's women can identify with. The author also imbues each woman with positive attributes which keeps the reader interested and rooting for each woman to have satisfactory resolutions to their conflicts.

Emma Fitch is the newlywed bride of Will Fitch, the town doctor. She is introspective, reserved and fragile because her parents died when she was little. Although sympathetic, feeling so alone in the world has made her defensive and selfish. Though understandable, sometimes these traits make her unpleasant. She's never felt like she belonged anywhere or with anyone until she met Will. In fact, everyday she is surprised Will married her

Life in Franklin contrasts substantially with the Blitz in London, where they experience nightly air raids and bombings. Will listens to reports of the war in Europe on the radio, which upset Emma. She's not sure she believes them so if Will isn't around she turns the radio off. After hearing a report about a little boy who lost his mother and home, Emma voiced her concern to Will and wished they could help. But it was just a thought, the comment made in passing. For Emma, life is Will and her new home. It's daily trips to the post office while she waits for Will to come home at the end of the day after treating the sick. But then Will shocks Emma when, following the death of one of his patients, he tells her he wants to go to London to help in the war effort.

Will Fitch is the one character in The Postmistress I didn't understand. He doesn't make sense a lot of the time. He's confused and searching for a way to prove himself despite his recent marriage to a woman he loves and his job as town doctor. What the author is trying to convey through his story is unclear to me. He's a character who lives "in the moment", so he's not in denial about the war. If anything, he's the antithesis of the "typical" American at the time, literally throwing himself into the heart of battle when much of the country wanted nothing to do with the war on any level.

Franklin's post office is manned by Postmistress, Iris James. Ms. James believes in order and prompt delivery of the mail. She keeps things neat and tidy, as it's her belief that "...if there was a place on earth God worked, it was the work room of any post office of the United States of America." She is always first to hear the most recent news and is privy to the secrets and happenings of everyone in Franklin. But she isn't a gossip and she isn't one given to fantasy or outlandish theories. She is practical, straightforward and extremely principled, sometimes to a fault. She finds the radio reports of the Blitz in London and other happenings in connection with the war melodramatic: too infused with emotion, too adjectival for a news report. She scoffs and though she turns the radio off in disgust, she can not bring her self to ignore what she hears.

Another townsperson, Harry Vale, has been 'courting' Ms. James for months most expect they will marry. As much as Ms. James tries to ignore the war, Harry is obsessed to the point of spending afternoons scanning the harbor for German U-boats. Harry is convinced the war is coming to America, possibly to Franklin's shores.

The radio reports from London are, more often than not, delivered by Frankie Baird, a spirited young woman who grew up in Greenwich Village, NY, and my favorite character. She is out-spoken, opinionated, beautiful, but not very lady-like. For me, she's the heart and soul of this book and I couldn't help but laugh and cry as I tagged along with her on her adventures.

Honing her reporting skills in NYC, she moved to London to be where the action is and assist in reporting on the war. It is not long after she arrives in London that she is one of few Americans aware of the grim reality of what's going on in Europe, but not of the atrocities Hitler is beginning to wage against the Jews. The policy of reporting she's been taught : 'Get in. Get the truth. Get out.', is something she's learned to do. But like many women, Frankie gets emotionally involved in her job. This makes things all the more difficult for her, on a personal level, when she often has no idea what happens to victims of the Blitz bombings she reports on.

These interviews and reports are a result of Frankie's abilities and desire to know the truth about what's happening to the Jews. This takes her into Germany, where she quickly learns the truth about a refugee train: "and though it was obscene, absurd of her at this point in time, having seen so much, she had harbored the impossible illusion that 'refugee train' meant people who were saved" but the reality was "until they got to the end they were simply on the run.". Her experiences are life-changing and frightening. As a result, Frankie returns to America a very different woman.

Sarah Blake introduces us to Frankie in the prologue. At a dinner party, years after the war, she asks the dinner guests what they think of a postmistress who chose not to deliver the mail. The dinner guests think it's terrible. A horror. It's the first time this idea is introduced and as a theme, Ms. Blake smartly echoes and expands on it by showing how Americans, circa 1940, receive news about the war, not to mention how the news itself is reported. The truth of what's happening in Europe is diminished and often incomplete, leaving Americans uninformed of what's really going on. Like the postmistress who believes the news in one particular letter will upset its recipient far too much at a time when it may prove harmful to her, the powers-that-be feel Americans will be upset more than necessary if they know the truth about the war. About the destruction and death the Blitz is causing. Ms. Blake also touches on how Hitler controls the news reports coming out of Europe, giving Frankie a chance to risk her job and her life trying to report the truth to Americans.

Ms. Blake has written a powerful story about an important period in the past of both America and Europe. She reminds us of the time before the United States got involved in WWII, when Americans didn't bother, or didn't want, to pay attention to the horrors of Nazi Germany. But not all Americans were apathetic. Some were willing to risk their lives to help those in danger and to inform America. Ms. Blake displays a remarkable talent for weaving a story through amazingly life-like characters who captivate us. Specifically, three women who's fates we find ourselves caring about because of Ms. Blake's deft skills as a story teller.

I received a copy of The Postmistress through Crazy Book Tours

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - A little 'Under the Weather'

I've been feeling a little under the weather with asthma and breathing problems so I'm following Sadie's example:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Movies - Ticket to Paradise

Feature Presentation...

One wonderful aspect of some movies is their ability to transport us to a different place, to show us the wonder and beauty of other parts of our country and the world. They offer us a diversion or an escape from real life. Every now and then they also inspire us to explore beyond the "world" we know and live everyday. Here are some movies that made us add a state, city or country to our list of places to which we want to travel. Share on your blog movies that made you want to get up and go. Link your post back to The Bumbles Blog. If you don't have a blog, list your choices in the comment section of The Bumbles Movie post!

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) starring Diane Lane and Sandra Oh. A recently divorced writer goes on vacation by herself (unexpectedly) and ends up buying a villa in Tuscany in Central Italy, refurbishing it and building a new and wonderful life for herself in a gorgeous setting.

Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) Directed by Pat O'Connor and starring Meryl Streep the movie, set in County Donegal, Ireland, is told from the viewpoint of a young boy growing up in a fatherless home with his mother and her 4 unmarried sisters in 1930's Ireland. This movie made me want to buy a cottage in a small Irish village!

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) Written and directed by John Sayles and based on the book The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry by Rosalie K. Fry. The story, based on Irish folklore, takes place on the west coast of Ireland in a small fishing village near the island of Roan Inish and in Donegal. In the movie a young girl, Fiona, is sent to live with her grandparents and cousin, Eamon. Her grandfather tells stories about her family when they fled the island of Roan Inish and about her younger brother lost at sea as an infant and raised by selkies, seals who can shed their skins to become human. Fiona doesn't know what to think and tries making sense of all that she hears from her grandfather and the people in the village.
There are beautiful beach scenes and views of other more wild, less inhabited areas of Ireland not seen as often as sweet villages and cities of Galway and Dublin.

North by Northwest (1959) a suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. A man is mistaken for someone else and is pursued across the USA by agents of a mysterious organization who believe he wants to thwart their plans to smuggle government secrets out of the country. Traveling from Long Island to Chicago to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore mostly by train, there's much to see of the beautiful USA in this great film.

Sabrina (1995) A remake of the 1954 film this movie shows off the beauty of Paris in vibrant color. Directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ornomd and Greg Kinnear, a young woman, Sabrina, the chauffeur's daughter, has a big crush on David, the playboy-son of her father's wealthy employers. Dad sends her off to Paris to find herself, grow up and, fingers-crossed, forget her crush. Sabrina returns (I would have stayed!) a beautiful, sophisticated woman...but does she still have a crush on David?

National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985) Directed by Amy Heckerling,this slap-stick comedy starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Dana Hill and Jason Lively is about a family who wins an all-expenses-paid European vacation on a TV game show. Although mishaps and misadventures ensue, there's no denying the amazing scenery and vistas on display. While laughing you'll be wishing you were there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Salon - Thanksgiving Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I hope you're all enjoying these days, relaxing, reading, watching football, eating, spending time with family and friends, shopping....God bless ya! I thought briefly of hitting Target on Friday and then wondered if I was nuts?! I've just been trying to take it easy this weekend.

I want to say Thank you to all of you who commented about Betsy's death. I really appreciate your kindness and best wishes. I keep forgetting that she's gone. I watch for Betsy to come in to eat or sit in her sleeping spot and Lola looks for her everywhere, that's probably the saddest. Ophelia, the new cat, has taken a sudden interest in Lola, following her around, sleeping by her and cleaning her. Lola doesn't appreciate all of it but even when she hisses a bit at Ophelia, it doesn't deter Ophelia, she keeps spending time with Lola as if she knows Lola needs a little extra attention right now! It's remarkable how cats...dogs, too...know when something sad has happened. They sense it. Ophelia is unlike any cat I've ever known in that she seems to like all of the cats here, even irascible Jazzy! Ophelia is trying to befriend all of them. A lot of the cats don't know what to make of her. She doesn't mind when they hiss at her or even hit her a bit...she thinks the other cats want to play when they do that and runs after them instead of away from them! It's very funny! And, as a result, Ophelia has been accepted by most of the other cats! She's still acting wary of the camera but I'll get some photos of her soon.

My reading has been a bit off this week since I've found it difficult to focus. But I have some reviews to post including Room by Emma Donoghue a little later in the week. I still need to think about that book a little bit! I'm trying to decide what to read next since I am almost finished with Cleo by Helen Brown. I am also reading The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton and finding it very interesting in parts.

Have a nice Sunday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Chronicle Books Happy Haul-idays Contest!

Chronicle Books is running a fantastic contest this holiday season called Happy Haul-idays.
Participating bloggers choose up to $500 worth of books and book-related items from the Chronicle Books website and post about them. Then, the blogger and one of the readers who comments on that blogger's Haul-idays post (that could be you!) have a chance to win the entire list! All you have to do to be entered is to leave a comment on this post or the post of other participating bloggers.

Chronicle Books has a lot of wonderful items to choose from! Here are the books and things I would choose if I won $500 worth of books and book-related items from Chronicle Books. If you'd like to win these items as well, just leave a comment! Good Luck to us!

Soup's On by Leslie Jonath & Frankie Frankeny (Paperback) $19.95

Time for Dinner by Pilar Guzmán, Alanna Stang, & Jenny Rosentrach (Hardcover) $24.95

The Commonsense Kitchen By Tom Hudgens (Hardcover) $35.00

Ernie by Tony Mendoza (Hardcover) $12.95

Curious Cats by Mitsuaki Iwago (Hardcover) $16.95

B is for Baseball (Hardcover) $15.99

Obsessed with Baseball by The Baseball Guys (Hardcover) $24.95

Six-String Heroes: Photographs of Great Guitarists by Neil Zlozower (Hardcover) $35.00

The Exquisite Book: 100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game by Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski, & Matt Lamothe Foreword by Dave Eggers (Hardcover) $29.95

Beaches by Gideon Bosker & Lena Lencek (Hardcover) $24.95

This is NPR by Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renee Montagne, Ari Shapiro, & David Folkenflik (Hardcover) $29.95

Great Authors: What Your Teachers Never Told You About Famous Novelists, Poets, and Playwrights Quirk Books by Robert Schnakenberg (Paperback) $16.95
Art of McSweeney's by the Editors of McSweeney (Hardcover) $45.00

The Gravedigger by Peter Grandbois (Paperback) $13.95

Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood (Hardcover) $23.95

The Punch by Noah Hawley (Hardcover) $23.95

Paper and Book-related Items
Paper & Craft: 25 Charming Gifts, Accents, and Accessories to Make from Paper
by Minhee and Truman Cho with Randi Brookman Harris (Paperback) $19.95

Reprodepot Notepad Set by Djerba Goldfinger $12.95

Sunblooms Bound Journal by Amy Butler $9.95

Garden Blossoms Notecard Book by Yana Beylinson $15.95

Animal Kisses Deluxe Notecards by Wolf Erlbruch $14.96

Large Ruled Moleskine
Red Notebook $17.95

Large Ruled Moleskine Volant Notebook/Pink (set of 2) $12.00

A Very Sad Day


It's been a very sad Thanksgiving weekend here. My beautiful cat, Betsy, mom to the adorable Lola, died on Wednesday morning. She was only 3 years old and wasn't sick. My neighbor found her in his yard and we have no idea what happened to her. I'm devestated. I keep trying to rally and manage to do some things but then I just crumple again. Lola seems to be doing okay with all the TLC being bestowed on her. But she looks for her mom and it's so sad to watch. Betsy had been encouraging Lola to be independent for quite some time as the momma cats do so, at least Lola was used to spending a lot of time without Betsy. The death of a pet is the hardest part of loving them. And I can still say that I am very happy that my husband rescued Betsy out of the tree she was in and couldn't get out of 2 years ago when she was a kitten. But I'll miss her terribly.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday Room by Emma Donoghue

Teaser Tuesdays is an interesting and fun book-related meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Be prepared to add several new books to your TBR list! I do every week!

My Teaser:

" Why he said something's wrong with me?"
Ma groans. "There's not a thing wrong with you, you're right all the way through." She kisses my nose.
"But why he said it?"
"He's just trying to drive me crazy."

from Room by Emma Donoghue (p.75 in ARC copy)

Anyone can play along! If you'd like to participate, Just do the following:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. (I used 3 this week!)
*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!

*And, finally, don't forget to link your post to MizB's at Should Be Reading. If you don't have a blog, simply share your "teasers" in a comment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giveaway: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

I have one paper back copy of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett for Giveaway. I won a giveaway for this book at Meg Waite Clayton's blog, 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started. I won 2 copies, 1 which I can share with you! I was hoping to be able to list the giveaway with my review of the book but I don't have the time to read it right now. The reviews for this book have been great, anyway, so I didn't want to make you wait for it, especially with the holidays coming!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World Literary Obsession By Allison Hoover Bartlett:

What would you do for the love of a good book? For John Charles Gilkey, the answer is: go to prison.
Unrepentant book thief Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for love—the love of books. Perhaps equally obsessive, though, is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed "bibliodick" driven to catch him. Sanders, a lifelong rare book collector and dealer turned amateur detective, will stop at nothing to catch the thief plaguing his trade.

In following both of these eccentric characters, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett plunged deep into a world of fanatical book lust, and ultimately found herself caught between the many people interested in finding Gilkey's stolen treasure and the man who wanted to keep it hidden: the thief himself. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, Bartlett has woven this cat-and-mouse chase into a narrative that not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his crimes and how Sanders eventually caught him, but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. All collectors have stories of what first made them fall in love, and Gilkey and Sanders are no different. Bartlett puts their stories into the larger context of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages.

Immersing the reader in a rich, wide world of literary obsession, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much exposes the profound role books play in all of our lives, the reverence in which these everyday objects are still held, and the craving that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the books they love.

To Win this Giveaway of 1 copy of this book, named an Indie Next selection, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and Library Journal's “Best Books of 2009” –

1. Leave me a comment with the name of your favorite or one of your favorite books of 2010
2. Be a follower of my blog whether by GFD, Google Reader, RSS Feed, whatever works for you!
3. You have to have an address that isn't a P.O. box somewhere I can send this book Domestic or International!

Giveaway Ends 6 p.m. December 13th

Monday Movies: What, Where, Uh ???

Feature Presentation...

Remembering those embarassing things you've done or said or those moments you wished the floor would open up and swallow you whole? Times we'd all love to completely forget! Forgetting is a common theme in film and can make for some very entertaining movies! Memory Loss, Hypnosis, Spells, Forgetfulness... Share on your blog unforgettable movies with characters who forgetLink your post back to The Bumbles Blog. If you don't have a blog, list your choices in the comment section of The Bumbles Movie post!

Memento (2001) Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss and Joe Pantoliano. A man's wife was raped and killed in their home and he was knocked out trying to help her. When he awakes, he has lost his memory and doesn't remember who broke into their home and killed his wife. But he is determined to find the killer. He starts investigating and, in order to remember what he finds out during the investigation, he takes pictures and he writes notes on his body

Mulholland Drive (2001) A psychological thriller written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring and Justin Therousx. A young woman, Betty, who hopes to be an actress, moves to Los Angeles to stay in her aunt's apartment. She discovers a young woman suffering from amnesia in the apartment. The story goes on from there, sometimes making sense and sometimes becoming quite surreal, almost making thew viewer feel as if they have a touch of amnesia!.

Regarding Henry (1991) Written by JJ Abrams and directed by Mike Nichols. Harrison Ford plays an ambitious, narcissistic, sometimes obnoxious and thoughtless attorney whose life centers around his work so much so that he has little time for his wife and young daughter. One night he runs out to the corner store for cigarettes and is shot twice during a robbery. He suffers brain damage, in addition to other severe injuries and, at first, cannot walk, talk or remember anything. His recovery his slow, painful and frustrating. Eventually he discovers that he wasn't a very good or nice person.

Paycheck (2003) An adaptation of a Sci-Fi short story by Philip K. Dick starring Bem Affleck, Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart. Ben Affleck plays Michael Jennings, a man who analyzes clients' competitor's products and creates new versions that are much better and well beyond anything imaginable. After each job, his memory is completely erased of that job to ensure he cannot be traced back to the reverse engineering effort thereby guaranteeing his client's intellectual property. But wiping clean memory technology is dangerous to the person's brain because it cooks your brain! Jenning takes a job with an old college roommate that will take 3 years because he thinks he will make a lot of money. All his other jobs have lasted no more than 2 months because the memory technology doesn't go that far into the past. They use a different method for memory erasing because a scanner would cook his brain and is too dangerous. They inject a chemical into Jennings instead but it's not 100% gauranteed. And Jennings discovers 3 years later when he "wakes up" that he's been scammed.

Men in Black (1997) A Sci-Fi action/comedy starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D'Onofrio and Linda Fiorentino. Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) is part of an organization, MIB, that regulates and monitors alien activity on earth. It's a secret organization that only its members know about. In fact, when an agent leaves the MIB his memory of the work he has done and his time there is completely erased and he receives a totally new identity. Will Smith (Agent J), a member of the NYPD, is recruited by Tommy Lee Jones' character to help him in finding and stopping "Bug" an alien who is threatening the existence of Earth. If he isn't stopped and killed, the Earth will be destroyed. During the course of their investigation, as they question people about what they have seen or heard, because no one can have knowledge of their existence, the two men have a handy little device, a "Neuralyzers" which they shine in people's faces completely erasing their memories of what they have seen and replacing them with more mundane explanations. Some days 'd love to have that device!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Salon 11.21.10

Thanksgiving Day on Thursday! It's hard to believe it's already here. At least the weather in NYC seems to have decided, finally, to cool down for good. Today it's bright and sunny but chilly out. A perfect day for football! (Go JETS!) I love Turkey Day! It's the beginning of the Holiday Season for me. I think I'm going to join the reading weekend that 3 glorious days to do not much but read. Sounds pretty great! I'm sure I'll watch a few movies, too. I'm in a movie mood lately! I saw Precious this week. I'm going to review it after I've had some time to think about it. It knocked me off my feet a bit it was so powerful.

A beautiful, long-haired tabby mix - dark brown with black markings, small ears, lots of fluffy fur around her face and a big fluffy, gorgeous tail - has moved into the basement (there's a little hole where cats can enter from outside). I'm not sure if she was abandoned, lost or ran away, but she doesn't look as if she's been outside for long and there aren't any signs about her around the neighborhood. I think the cat is a girl. I hope so because we're calling her Ophelia! She's very skittish and extremely playful as well as noisy! She meows and makes all sorts of high-pitched twittering sounds when she's excited. She's started coming upstairs more and more, a little bit for the better selection of food but mostly to find toys and other cats to play with. When she isn't afraid anymore and is more trusting, she'll have to go to the Vet. I hate doing that to them but she needs a check-up. I hope I can get a picture of her soon!

The National Book Award fiction winner was announced this week: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon. There's a good article/review about the book by Jane Smiley in The Washington Post. As for my reading etc., I finished The Postmistress by Sarah Blake and will be reviewing it this week I have a few other reviews from last week to post. I'm reading a terrific but also sad book about an adorable black kitten, Cleo by Helen Brown and will start Roomby Emma Donoghue in the next couple of days. I've also started purchasing, digging up and holiday-themed books to read in December beginning with The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward.

I'm going to watch the JETS now. I hope you have a great Sunday!