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: