Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Movies - Leave It To The Locals!

Feature Presentation...

Many films require actors to speak in accents other than their own. Speech and dialect coaches are often hired to assist the actors, but alas! this doesn't always help even the most talented of actors! It can be difficult, even painful to listen to dialog delivered in awful accents by even the most handsome/prettiest of faces! New England accents, particularly Boston, are exceptionally difficult. Many recent movies are being filmed in the MA area, lured there by the promise of tax-breaks & other financial incentives Molly & Andy tell us. It
helps that interesting stories are coming out of New England these days. So several of this years Oscar-nominated movies were filmed in the Boston area. The Bumbles have provided several examples of films with bad MA accents. But poor accents aren't limited to MA. Share on your blog movies that feature regional accents so bad, they might as well have not bothered at all. 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!

Keanu Reeves in Dracula (1992)

Michelle Pfieffer in Married to the Mob (1988)

Anton Yelchin in Star Trek (2009)

Sean Connery in The Untouchables (1987)

Julia Roberts in Mary Reilly (1996)

Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Walter Matthau in I.Q. (1994)

Alec Baldwin in Outside Providence (1999)

Kevin Costner in
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Kevin Costner in JFK (1991)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Salon - Reading, Writing & Cats!

It's not snowing! That's practically a miracle here this month!

I was able to spend a little more time blogging & on the computer this week than I've been able to most of the month. Health problems, more pain than usual, extra meds etc. have kept me away much more than I hoped. It aggravated me since just about my only resolution was to tend to my blog (which needs a lot of work), write the many reviews awaiting me and visit all or, at least, many, of the blogs I like. I wasn't able to participate in Maw Books Blog recent Bloggiesta either which I was looking forward to. Fortunately, there'll be more! And, at least, I'm finally feeling better, more energetic and I've spiffed up my computer a bit - new memory and such. So I think we're both ready to go! (I certainly hope so!)

I've been spending some of my free time, when not sleeping or cat-napping - often happens after I read a few pages - writing. I enjoy it some days but it' cab be quite painstaking! I read and am rereading/savoring Roger Rosenblatt's
Unless it Moves the Human Heart (I'll review it soon) which enticed me back to writing. I've mostly been writing about issues surrounding growing up with a disability. I've never written about this and it's somewhat cathartic. I began writing about being disabled after I read a news report that the livery cabs (the cabs with which you book appointments) in NYC often charge higher rates (as much as $40 more!) for disabled wheelchairs users. I might post some of my writing on my blog eventually (courage!).

I've been reading more than usual, too, since I have more free time than usual. The only problem I find is that the additional meds make me tired after a few pages. But I only conk out for 20-30 minutes and then I'm set for a good while! The cats very much prefer when I read because they can sit all over me without being moved off my lap so I can use my lap desk to write. The other day I had 4 cats sleeping on me starting with Ophelia curled upon my feet, Sadie up on my lap and Lola and Mr. Magoo in between them on my legs. I felt very warm & loved! I've read Ravens by George Dawes Green, The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton and On Folly Beach by Karen White. I'm almost finished with House Arrest and The Widow's Story Now you see why I have several reviews to write! Since I'm feeling better, it'll be easy to type them up from all my notes! Why is it that I'm so much better at the reading than the review writing?!....but I love to talk to you all about the books I've read!

Enjoy your Sunday! Read Well!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown

Title: Cleo: The Cat Who Mended A Family
Author: Helen Brown
ISBN: 978-0806533032
Pages: 272
Release Date: September 2010
Publisher: Citadel Press
Genre: Memoir; Non-fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: “We’re just going to look.” Helen Brown had no intention of adopting a pet when she brought her sons, Sam and Rob, to visit a friend’s new kittens. But the runt of the litter was irresistible, with her over large ears and dainty chin. When Cleo was delivered three weeks later, Brown’s family had just been hit by a tragedy: the loss of her young son, Sam. Helen was sure she couldn’t keep Cleo at a time like this – until she saw something that she thought had vanished from the earth forever: her son Rob’s smile. The reckless, rambunctious kitten stayed.

My Thoughts: Cleo: The Cat Who Mended A Family is a smart, witty and poignant memoir about a family and the cat that taught them how to live again when all seemed lost. Helen Brown has written this book as a tribute to Cleo, the scraggily runt who came into her family's life at a very difficult time and helped them heal, simply by being herself. Cleo can be alternately heart-breaking and laugh-out-loud funny, but is always a wonderfully honest portrayal of a family, furry members included, who survived one of life's worst tragedies and learned how not just to cope, but celebrate life. Helen explains it so simply, "Love for a kitten was helping me embrace the world again."

Cleo, first and foremost, is very well written, combining wit (using a good deal of self-deprecating humor via anecdotes as well as other ways), intelligence, honesty and the brutal truth about the life of Helen Brown's family. Here are two good examples of the extremes and explicit honesty found here. First, Ms. Brown tells us about her fantasy where the woman responsible for her son, Sam's death, experiences punishment and pain. The second involves the time Cleo peed on the leg of Ms. Brown's first date after her divorce. Cleo's way of indicating her disapproval of the man!

There's quite a bit happening in this busy family, all told in a relatable, clear manner pulling the reader in from page one. Cleo, the kitten, is very small when she arrives at Ms. Brown's home and in need of TLC but already full of spunk and personality! Before reading several chapters about, among other things, Cleo ransacking her new home and then curling up to sleep on Helen, purring loudly, you will have fallen in love with Helen, her family and, of course, Cleo. If you love animals like I do, and maybe even if you think you don't (the author admits she herself was not a cat person) Cleo will charm and amuse you. You might just be in awe of Cleo's ability to respond This includes the time Cleo found Helen in the bathroom, crying, "She didn't seem to mind being a handkerchief. Purring, she nuzzled my neck and gazed at me with such affection I was taken aback."

Cleo quickly ingratiates herself in the family and becomes more than a full fledged member. She becomes the family center. Her playfulness and vivacity not only gets Helen's surviving son, Rob to finally smile but helps him find the courage to make friends. Cleo enhances the family's lives in a myriad of ways, showing them by her example how to embrace life and face it head on. The family grows closer and, although many days were still a struggle, things improve and life becomes more meaningful. As Helen writes, "The more we let ourselves love our young cat, the more readily we seemed able to open our hearts and forgive the unfamiliar people we'd become since the loss of Sam."

One reason this book succeeds and excels is because Ms. Brown avoids the trap of crossing over into sentimentality or cutesy-kitsch. As much as Helen loves Cleo, the kitten often drives her crazy with her wild, rambunctious behavior, so much so that Helen has to leave the house and get away for a bit. When she grows up to resemble her beautiful Abyssinian mother but with black fur, Cleo enjoys lying in front of the fire or in the sun unless she's greeting someone at the door, entertaining guests or hunting! Ms. Brown realistically portrays life with Cleo, much of which other pet owners, particularly those with cats, will recognize and find relatable. I should know - I see so much of myself and my fellow pet-owners in these pages.

There are at least two more aspects of the book that make it unique. First, every chapter is a reference to Cleo, like "Trust" and comes with a subheading, such as "A Cat is Always in the Right Place at Exactly the Right Time", lending to the book's humor, informing us about cat's and emphasizing the love the family feels for Cleo. The second is that the author includes interesting historical tidbits about cats throughout, illustrating the importance of cats in our society. I learned, for instance, the significance of cats in ancient Egypt and the power of a cat's purr.

Cleo is a handful as a kitten and grows up, living a very long and happy life, to have a very unique personality (even for a cat!) which I think all animal lovers will enjoy. Cleo not only touches the family but many other people who have the privilege to know her. The author's ability to convey this in a captivating narrative is no mean feat. Her career as a magazine writer and journalist comes across in her ability to tell the story in streamlined chapters, keeping the book well-paced, interesting and relatable.

There's only one small criticism, but I think it's worth mentioning. There aren't enough photos. In fact, there's only one, and that's on the cover. I thought pictures would go a long way to filling in some details and removing so much reliance on having to use mental imagery. That tiny oversight aside, if you're looking for a book to reinforce your belief in people, in the power of love, not just between people, but the unconditional love you can only get from an animal and the ability of an animal to help us heal, pick this book up.

Everyone believes their pet is the cutest, the most interesting, etc, but Ms. Brown is able to back up these claims with clear, concise, funny, touching and often times remarkable anecdotes. By telling the simple, sometimes difficult, truth, it's clear from the beginning of this book that Cleo was a very special cat. Not just because she was beautiful and adorable with a unique and captivating personality but because of her healing impact on the family just when they needed a miracle like Cleo the most.

If you think something might be missing from you or your family's life or you are going through a very difficult time, look to Cleo. You may find answers there. If you never "got" all the fuss about cats, look to Cleo. And, of course, if you ever have or currently are experiencing the wonderfully unique world of caring for a one-kitten wrecking crew, then you too can look to Cleo for someone to commiserate with!

One of my favorite passages in the book has to do with Cleo's "voice".

"But much as I loved the office the best part of the day was when I slid the key in the front door of the old cottage to see Cleo prancing down the hall to greet me with a welcome meow.
I'd started to notice Cleo was developing her language skills. Apart from the charming hello meow she gave whenever any of us arrived home, and the polite mew when someone picked her up, there was the assertive let me come in you heartless moron! wail when she was shut out. She had better manners than the four of us put together. Whenever anyone opened a door to let her in she always responded with a clipped and demure thank you as she sailed past.
Mealtimes, especially if they were delayed, reduced her to a stream of alley cat language. Standing in front of the fridge, she'd yowl, If you don't feed me right now I'm going to jump on your head and tattoo your eyeballs

I received a copy of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended A Family from Helen Brown (website and blog) and Citadel Press.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 1/28/11 - 1/31/11

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 Aliyah who blogs at
Des Absurdités:

"What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011? Why are you anticipating that book?"

I'm not sure what book I'm most looking forward to being published especially since I don't know all of the books that will be published in 2011. I like different books for different reasons and depending on my mood, prefer one genre over another at a particular time. But anyway....two books that will be published around March of 2011 that I am looking forward to are:

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson; and

Both authors are English and write literary mysteries but they are very different kinds of books in style and substance. They both write fantastic books. If you haven't read anything by them, I highly recommend their books!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Price of Life by Greg McCarthy

Title: The Price of Life
Author: Greg McCarthy
ISBN: 978-0982649442
Pages: 266
Release Date: September 2010
Publisher: Otherworld Publications
Genre: Legal Thriller
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Summary: Eight-year-old Jennifer Haller’s brain tumor is killing her. A timely CT scan would likely have saved her, and a new surgery offers hope for a cure, but Julie Haller is crushed when their insurance company refuses to pay for her daughter’s operation.

Shortly after Jennifer’s diagnosis, Marine Captain Ed Haller loses his leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq. He comes home to rehabilitate while Jennifer wages her own losing battle with cancer and its treatment. Jennifer’s death leads the family to Fort Worth lawyer Grant Mercer, whom they hire to sue Jennifer’s neurologist.

As Mercer works the case, Julie Haller learns the results of recent tort reform efforts, including a $250,000 limit in medical malpractice cases. She and her husband realize that a quarter-million dollar price tag on a beloved eight-year-old girl is simply inconceivable. They have no interest in the money, focusing instead on their responsibility to honor their daughter by seeking justice for her death.

The murders of a lobbyist in Austin, a state senator on a remote country road, and an insurance executive in New York seem unrelated until Jennifer’s doctor is kidnapped. Mercer makes the disturbing connection between the victims and his case, and discovers how far some people will go when the usual avenues of justice are too sharply curtailed.

My review: The Price of Life is a gripping and intense murder mystery that tugs at your heart-strings. A family has suffered an unspeakable tragedy and is hoping for justice. But the Texas legislature and a greedy insurance company stand in their way. As the story progresses you might wonder whose side you're on while you read late into the night unable to put down this thrilling mystery!

Greg McCarthy's debut novel is also an eye-opening look at the tort reform laws passed by the Texas State Legislature. For the most part, these laws have eliminated medical malpractice cases by capping the amount of non-economic damages a jury can award. Plaintiffs can no longer receive more than $250,000 in punitive damages no matter how egregious a doctor's behavior or how much the plaintiff has been emotionally, mentally or psychologically harmed by medical malpractice.

While reading a mystery, I enjoy trying to figure out who is doing the killing and following along with the detectives' investigation as they narrow down the suspect list, eventually apprehending the murderer. Here, McCarthy ingeniously and very subtly suggests a suspect. It seems so obvious that this character is guilty except for one reason. But if not him/her, then who? McCarthy does a wonderful job of keeping things well paced, making us turn the pages as we are immersed in entertaining and interesting dialogue, spoken by captivatingly well-defined and real, recognizable characters. The reader will identify with some for their warmth and inquisitiveness or maybe their suffering. And then there are those without which no murder mystery would be complete: the vile and putrid "bad guys." Even when the case seems wrapped up and the end is near, McCarthy surprises us with a bone-chilling twist that's you won't soon forget. It's the kind of ending that makes the book worth reading simply because you don't see it coming. Add it all up and the author has created a successful legal thriller that works on many levels from the suspenseful and gripping murder mystery to the political and social commentary not often found in the mystery genre, and several levels in between. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys an intelligent, thought-provoking and exciting legal thriller.

I received an ARC copy of The Price of Life from Kelley & Hall Book Publicity.

Teaser Tuesday - House Arrest

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:

" Fierce arguments raged on the pages of the editorial section in early November. The angry words made me feel prickly and I switched off the computer. None of this seemed remotely connected to the poised young woman I met that morning. "

from House Arrest by Ellen Meeropol (p.50)

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, January 24, 2011

Monday Movies - Sickly Sickos...

Feature Presentation...

Here in the Northeast, winter is in full-force. Not only is it quite cold outside, but it's that time of year when colds, viruses, the flu are prevalent. If you're not sick, you know someone who's sick. An unfortunate side-effect of the cold and germs being passed around is people have a tendency to be less neighborly and willing to stop and chat. Films display more sympathy for illness than we do and foster generosity and togetherness. Share on your blog movies that contain a form of illness as its theme or feature a character who is sick or diseased. 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!

Brian's Song (1971) This was a TV movie about the life of the Chicago Bears professional football player Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan) who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and his friendship with Gale Sayers (played by Billie Dee Williams), Chicago Bears running back and Pro Football Hall of Fame player who helped and supported Piccolo during his struggle with cancer. The TV movie was such a success that it was shown in theaters.

My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989) an Irish drama film about Christy Brown (portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis) an Irishman born with cerebral palsy who grows up in a poor, working class family to become a writer and artist despite only being able to control his left foot. Daniel Day Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor and Brenda Fricker won for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Bridget Brown.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007) directed by Julian Schnabel this movie is based on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, (portrayed by Mathieu Amalric) the editor of the French version of Elle magazine. Bauby suffered a massive stroke at the age of 42 and was left in a condition called locked-in syndrome meaning Bauby was completely paralyzed but still mentally alert and intact. Bauby is still able to blink his left eye and comes up with a system of communication by blinking his left eye proceeding to write his memoir!

Philadelphia (1993) Tom Hanks portrays attorney Andrew Beckett who sues the law firm he was employed by for unfair dismissal alleging they fired him because he had HIV/AIDS. The jury finds in Andrew Beckett's favor awarding him punitive damages of $4.5 million. Beckett dies shortly after the jury verdict. This was the first mainstream Hollywood film to acknowledge HIV/AIDS.

Lorenzo's Oil (1992) Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon portray parents Augusto and Michaela Odone whose young son Lorenzo has a very rare disease, Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) and for which they are desperately searching for a cure and a doctor willing and able to treat their son. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Susan Sarandon was nominated for a Best Actress Award.

One True Thing (1998) Ellen Gulden (Renee Zellwegger) is a writer for New York magazine whose father, George (William Hurt) is a college professor and former novelist whom she greatly admires. Ellen is unimpressed and critical of her mother, Kate, who was a stay- at-home mom and doesn't work. Kate has been diagnosed with cancer. George pressures Ellen to come home and care for her mother. Ellen does so reluctantly, worried that it will cause problems with her career and love life. Staying home with and helping her mother becomes a learning experience for Ellen and an opportunity to reassess long held beliefs and ideas. What she discovers surprises her.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interesting NPR & NY Times Book reviews & articles

I was reading some articles and reviews about books this morning and wanted to share a few of them especially for those of you who don't get the chance to read NPR's website or the New York Times Books section very often. I know I don't as much as I'd like!

A review of Colm Toibin's new story collection An Empty Family by Heller McAlpin and an Excerpt:
Elegy and Energy in Colm Toibin's 'Family' Stories by Heller McAlpin

From NPR's column You Must Read This:

Stacy Schiff reviews Nancy Mitford's Voltaire in Love
An Ardent, Intellectual Affair by Stacy Schiff

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr., reviewd by Mishna Wolff
Brooklyn Is A Character Too by Mishna Wolff

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown is getting rave reviews and has been chosen by Barnes & Noble for its
Discover Great New Writers Program beginning in February. Other authors chosen for this program in the past include Khaled Hosseini, Kathryn Stockett, Jhumpa Lahiri, Helen Simonson, David Sheff and many more. Congratulations to Eleanor! I confess I haven't read The Weird Sisters yet but I hope to very soon!

Janet Maslin reviewed The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown for The NY Times:
A Family Speaks in Someone Elses' Words, But at Least It Chooses the Best by Janet Maslin

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lonely by Emily White

Title: Lonely
Author: Emily White
Pages: 352
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Harper Publishing
ISBN: 978-0061765094
Genre: Memoir; Non-Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary: Despite having a demanding job, good friends, and a supportive family, Emily White spent many of her evenings and weekends alone at home, trying to understand why she felt so completely disconnected from everyone. In this insightful and soul-baring memoir, White recounts her struggle to comprehend and overcome her chronic loneliness, a debilitating condition that she contends deserves the same attention as depression and other mental difficulties. Interweaving her personal story with cutting-edge scientific research—as well as incredibly moving accounts offered by numerous lonely men and women—White provides a deep and thorough portrait of this increasingly common but too often ignored affliction.

My Thoughts: Emily White, in her memoir Lonely, sets out to explain and de-stigmatize the little understood but wide ranging condition of loneliness. As she puts it, "to give voice to an experience that mattered, one that affected people far and wide". Though I found this book eye opening, informative and very well written, it was, at times, too clinical. It was during those parts of the book that I found myself overwhelmed by research studies. It took the book out of the realm of "memoir". Too often, for the majority of lay people looking to learn about loneliness as a condition, Lonely reads more like a scientific thesis or text book study.

That's not to say there isn't a wealth of relatable and very human information the author provides about herself. It's when Ms. White is discussing her personal experiences that I found myself unable to put the book down. It left me wanting more. Her personal story is honest and raw. She admits to being nervous about leaving herself open and vulnerable in revealing her experience with loneliness, but she doesn't hold back which I found quite admirable. Ms. White was told by those closest to her that admitting to loneliness and writing about it is something to be embarrassed about, that it was trivial and "not real", making her candor all the more courageous. Reactions such as this also made Ms. White all the more determined to show the world that "there is nothing wrong with loneliness" and there's "no need for the shame and self-blame it creates".

Ms. White started a blog about loneliness with the desire to find other lonely people. She occasionally shares their experiences coping with loneliness throughout her memoir. But, as with her own story, Ms. White only provides tidbits of their stories here and there to illustrate the findings of the research studies. It's because Ms. White didn't share more about her story or the stories of these other people that I was disappointed. In her zeal to make loneliness understood, Ms. White gets carried away explaining it in clinical terms. This makes those parts of the book dry and somewhat sterile. Her writing is so good and her story so compelling, the book would have held up just fine with more personal anecdotes less clinical references.

I'm not saying it's not a good book. It is. It's just that, as a memoir, it might be mislabeled. When I am told a book is a memoir, I expect something akin to an autobiography. As I explained above, the book is (only) about 30% memoir, the rest being references to and citations from studies, scientific research, and accounts from other people. I would insist that anyone who wants to learn about loneliness as a real condition read this book. The author does achieve her goal of getting the reader to look at loneliness beyond the "mainstream" perception. Usually, someone sitting down to a TV dinner by themselves every night because they are socially inept. As if it's a choice. Like depression, it's a real problem. Unlike depression, there's no universal treatment or help for it, although that's coming, hopefully. Loneliness as a condition is unique and complex and shouldn't be trivialized. So read this book if you want to learn more than you ever imagined applied to loneliness, just be forewarned this is not some tell-all confessional but a smart and well researched book with a definite purpose. Ms. White is very good with research, but don't make the mistake that it's because of the loneliness. Loneliness and solitude are not the same, which she wisely makes us aware. However, it's unfortunate that too often Ms. White hides behind the fruits of the research, using it in an academic, impersonal manner when her own story is already quite captivating and inspiring.

Emily White has a corresponding blog at which she blogs about loneliness, her cats and other aspects of her life.

I won Lonely from Bookin' with Bingo and reviewed for TLC Book Tours.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Movies - Roles of Reverence...

Feature Presentation...

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. He was a very spiritual man and often took on the role like that of a preacher tending his congregation. As the Bumbles point out, this is probably why his speeches and talks were so moving. Spiritual leaders are portrayed in films on a regular basis. Those doing good works, others masquerading as good. Stereotypes, humorous twists and everyday roles. Priests, nuns, preachers, rabbis - you name it, Hollywood has cast it. Share on your blog movies that portray a religious character role. 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!

Spencer Tracy as Father Edward J. Flanagan in Boys Town (1938)

Charleton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956)

Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas Moore in A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Sam Waterston as Rabbi Ben in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty (2003)

George Burns as God in Oh God! (1977)

Max von Sydow as Father Merrin and Jason Miller as Father Karras in The Exorcist (1973)

Mark Ivanir as Mendel Goldin and Bern Cohen as Rebbe Horowitz in Holy Rollers (2010)

Dermot Kerrigan as Father Patrick in Waking Ned Devine (1998)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review - Inspiring Stories About Labrador Retrievers

Title: Lost Souls: Found! Inspiring Stories About Labrador Retrievers
Author: Kyla Duffy and Lowrey Mumford
ISBN: 978-0-9824895-4-3
Pages: 144
Release Date: November 30, 2009
Publisher: Happy Tails Books
Genre: Animals; Non-Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories about Labrador Retrievers is a heartwarming, thought-provoking compilation of over 50 true stories that addresses the cruelty of animal neglect and abuse and the joy rescued dogs bring to their new homes. This book is a must-read for Labrador lovers and people who are considering adopting dogs.

Happy Tails Books uses the written word to share the joy adopted pets bring to their new homes in an effort to raise awareness and funding for rescues and encourage adoption.

My Thoughts: The stories in this book are sad, heart-warming, funny and inspiring. Fortunately, they all end on a positive note: with a lost, homeless, unloved Labrador Retriever being adopted into a loving home. I confess it took me a long time to read all of the stories in this book because I don't handle bad things happening to animals very well, whether it's illness, abuse or neglect. But the Labrador Retrievers who are the focus of these stories, no matter how difficult or sad their lives were in the beginning, are eventually rescued and find their way, with the help of many caring and concerned people, to a new, loving home.

One of my favorite stories is "A Story of Circumstance". It's told by Rich Ayers, a man who had major brain surgery many years ago and endured a near-death experience. From it he developed an ability to feel great compassion for people and animals struggling with illness and other adverse circumstances. Rich and his wife decided to adopt a dog from a local rescue organization. There they met Sir George, an 18-month old blind Lab. Rich wondered about the challenges George must face not being able to see. Rich and his wife took George home, concerned that nobody else would adopt him. Soon George, after passing the necessary training, was visiting patients in hospitals, elementary schools and nursing homes. George connected with and inspired the disabled and ill with his happy attitude and his ability to adapt to the world despite not being able to see. George brings great joy to his family and to others and lives life with gusto!

Towards the book's end, a story entitled "Jail Dog", about a program in Madison County, Ohio called "Fresh Start", involving the correctional institute, really got to me. The local humane society pairs up dogs with qualifying inmates. They become cellmates for upwards of three months. The dog is trained by the inmate, preparing the dog for adoption. In this story, an inmate named Charles, trained Chase, a six month old Lab who came to him thirty pounds underweight with a B.B. lodged in his forehead. Charles hand fed the dog, three times a day for the first few weeks until Chase was strong enough to begin training. Soon he learned to sit, stay, come, off, up, kennel and more. But most important, the dog (and Charles), learned about love and trust. By the time Chase was ready for his new home, he was smart, confident, trusting and happy. And Charles gained self-respect. Chase is thriving in his new home and Charles continues to train dogs, receiving periodic progress updates from Chase and his family.

These are only two of the stories in this collection. Some are more heart wrenching than others, but the good news is all the dogs in the stories, no matter how awful things may have been for them at one time, end up in a much better place. They get the love and support all dogs deserve. Unfortunately, there are dogs out there in the world who aren't being loved and treated as they deserve. They need as much help as they can get. That's partly why Kyla Duffy and Lowrey Mumford began Happy Tails Books: to assist in the rescue of dogs living in adverse circumstances as well as to help find homes for dogs who have been rescued and are living in shelters and foster care.

Though this book is specifically about Labradors, the authors' goals are to support rescue for all dogs and cats. Additionally, the authors want to encourage people to adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescue organizations and to get involved. They've compiled books of stories about many different breeds to assist in this effort. Each book, depending on the breed, provides a list of appropriate rescue organizations and other things that can be done to help, such as spaying/neutering your pet. If you're looking to help animals and to obtain a sense of relief, satisfaction and the knowledge that you've done something good for animals, please, support the authors and the animals they aim to help. Visit the Happy Tails Books website to see the books available and other things being done to help rescue dogs and cats and find them homes.

I received a copy of this book from Happy Tails Books.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a terrific 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 three words are from Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski

He walked up the steps in the left-hand wall of the deep arch and there, in a little alcove of an office sat Madame, a bulbous hirsute old woman in the inevitable black dress, yellow-grey hair piled high on the top of her head, and surprisingly, very pale blue lascivious eyes popping too far from under their yellow wrinkled lids. (p.82)

1. Bulbous ~adj.
: fat, round, or bulging
: resembling a bulb especially in roundness or the gross enlargement of a part

2. Hirsute ~adj.
: hairy; shaggy
: covered with coarse, stiff hairs

It was not the gesture itself, not the simple act of generosity; rather it was the element of propitiation in it, the offering of all one held most dear in order to be allowed to retain happiness. (p.197)

3. Propitiation ~noun
: make peace with; atone for sin or wrongdoing
: the act of placating and overcoming distrust and animosity

The following words are from The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton:

"The transhumance has passed this way from time immemorial." (p.179)

4. Transhumance ~noun
:the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains.

A tone not to be gainsaid, thought Catherine, visited by the picture of Bryony, the senior partner in negotiations mode. (p. 170)

5. Gainsay ~verb (-said, -saying)
: to deny, dispute or contradict
: to speak or act against; oppose

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Ravens

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:

"You have to do it all, Romeo. I can't do any of it."
"You have to be merciless. I can't because we need them to love me. They have to love me or all this goes to shit. You understand?"

from Ravens by George Dawes Green (p. 234)

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, January 10, 2011

Monday Movies - If You Build It, They Will Come!

Feature Presentation...

The Bumbles have been thinking about building additions on homes and the satisfaction that comes with the end result. Sure the process can be stressful, long and expensive. But when your home or new room or other building or item is finished, pride in that thing you helped create is quite satisfying. Films often involve something new being built by the characters. Share on your blog movies that involve new things being built, 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!

The Money Pit (2006) A young couple (Tom Hanks and Shelley Long) struggles to repair an old, dilapidated house they bought from an old con-artist, believing they were buying a beautiful mansion at an amazing price.

Radio Flyer (1992) Two brothers (Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello), immersed in fantasies of flying as a way to escape a difficult family situation, attempt to build a working airplane by transforming their red wagon into a flying machine.

Evan Almighty (2007) Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) is contacted by God and instructed to build an Ark in preparation for the great flood.

October Sky (1999) The son (Jake Gyllenaal) of a coal miner (Chris Cooper), inspired by the launch of Sputnik 1, attempts to build his own rocket against his father's wishes, eventually becoming a NASA scientist. Based on a true story.

The World's Fastest Indian (2005) Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins), living in New Zealand, spends more than 20 years building and increasing the speed of his 1920 Indian Motorcycle with an eye towards with an eye towards racing in Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Salon My adorable Ophelia is actually an Otis!

Happy New Year!

I realize I'm a bit late wishing you all a Happy New Year but I've been a little slow to start 2011. I've been having some health problems (which drives me up the wall sometimes!) and I've also been distracted by some other things. I'm happy to be beginning a new year, and look forward to improving on 2010! The JETS survived their first playoff game just barely but it's winning that matters and win they did!

Before I forget for any longer, I haven't posted about the gifts I received from bloggers participating in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap and Book Lover Secret Santa. Jessi from The Elliott Review sent me The History of Love by Nicole Krauss and Alita from Alita Reads sent me A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. I'm absolutely thrilled with both books and cannot wait to read them. Thank you Jess and Alita for your generosity!

I also forgot to post the winner of my giveaway for The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. I sincerely apologize for this. Adam from Roof Beam Reader won the book and after a few emails I sent the book to him and heard that he received it yesterday. I haven't read it yet and, at this rate, Adam will finish the book before I even start it!

This morning I brought Ophelia to the vet to be spayed/neutered and discovered that she is a he! LOL. I thought whenever I looked at her/him that she/he looked like a male cat but I checked and was sure she/he was a girl. Maybe I need take a biology class?!! So I'm not sure what to call Ophelia now. Ophelia came about because she/he is beautiful and a little bit crazy. Now I'm looking for a name that signifies handsome and a bit of a nutter! If you have ideas for good cat names, please let me know!

I wasn't at all organized with my reading in 2010 and I hope and plan to be much better about that this year. I have several reviews to write, finish writing and post including Cleo by Helen Brown and
The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton. I'm still reading Lonely by Emily White and have just a few pages left in Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski, a Persephone Classic. I've also just started Unless it Moves the Human Heart by Roger Rosenblatt which I am savoring since it is all about writing. I haven't committed to any reading challenges yet although I'm going to do the Gilmore Girls Challenge hosted by Lisa at Lit and Life and possibly one or two others.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review: One Amazing Thing

Title: One Amazing Thing
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
ISBN: 978-1-4013-4099-5
Pages: 240
Release Date: February 2, 2010
Publisher: Voice Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Adult Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: Late afternoon in an Indian visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.

When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine wildly individual characters together, their focus first jolts to a collective struggle to survive. There’s little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, “one amazing thing” from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. As their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival—and about the reasons to survive.

My Thoughts: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has written a fascinating story about nine people thrown together during a frightening and traumatic situation in an India passport and visa office. In order to survive, they are forced to rely on and trust each other while waiting to be rescued. Overcoming their prejudices and judgments about each other is the greatest obstacle for many of the nine strangers. Although survival is the ultimate goal, the relationships they form and what they learn about each other and themselves makes this a captivating story, one you don't want to pass up.

Uma, a single girl, is a university student waiting for a passport to visit her parents in India. She describes the other people in the office waiting room with her, as well as the boss and the customer service representative. Uma judges the others, sometimes harshly, though she is often quick to correct her thoughts, aware that they are rude and unkind. Her insecurities and lack of confidence display how awkward and uncomfortable she feels around people she doesn't know or recognize. Her somewhat peevish humor seems to be partly a result of her reluctance to visit her parents, whose lifestyle she finds disagreeable.

Some of the other characters also provide opinions of their fellow captives, for better or worse. But the end result is we are provided a well-rounded initial picture of the nine strangers, as well as some insight into their personalities and character. These initial judgments are based on what the individuals see in front of them but, as often happens in life, many of the first impressions change as the strangers become familiar and begin to recognize each other as fellow human beings. As such, they come to rely on each other to get through this trauma.

Malathi, the customer service representative, for example, didn't want to give up her sari as a sling for Uma's arm because she thought Uma was a snobby, educated young woman who believed herself superior. She gives it to Uma and Uma, in turn, gives Malathi a sweatshirt to wear. And Mrs. Pritchett denied having any pain medication when asked in front of the group but later on she shared some of her Xanax with Uma to help with the pain of her injured arm.

Ms. Divakaruni employs a very creative vehicle for revealing the characters to us and each other when Uma stands up in front of the group and suggests they each tell a story about their lives " focus their minds on something compelling". "Everyone has a story," said Uma... "I don't believe anyone can go through life without encountering at least one amazing thing." It is an inspired way to occupy the group as they wait for help and to strengthen the fragile camaraderie that is slowly forming.

Each person's story is remarkable and captivating, garnering our sympathy as they become more than just a character in the story but someone we can relate to and recognize. What I found even more remarkable and enlightening is the way in which each story impacts the other eight people in the group. The stories reveal the reality of the person telling the story, their struggles, celebrations and the pain and joy they've endured in their lives. Each story strips away the person's outer self and displays their human side. The characters were no longer strangers to be distrusted but human beings with similar thoughts, feelings, ideas and experiences.

Ms. Divakaruni illustrates how erroneous and mis-guided first impressions can be. It's important for us to be willing to move beyond our initial judgments and give each person the opportunity to show us the human being inside as well as to be vulnerable to them. Chances are we'll discover that our initial impressions were misguided as happened to many of the nine strangers trapped in the India passport and visa office.

One Amazing Thing is a book I would recommend to everyone. The stories told within its pages will surprise, shock and delight you as well as encourage you to think about your own story. What is your story, your at least one amazing thing? Be sure to share it with others! This is the first book I have read by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni but it certainly won't be the last.

I received an ARC copy of One Amazing Thing from the publisher via the Shelfari Newsletter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Starring Bob!

Bob wanted to help me usher in the New Year so here he is relaxing, enjoying his favorite treat and taking a break while playing! Bob, or as our vet calls him, Big Sexy Bob, is the largest of the cats, the most shy and very sweet!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Lonely by Emily White

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:

" What I was going for was togetherness, a sort of bounded camaraderie which - much like the army - would see me dressing and behaving like everybody else. Although I could never have said so to Martin, who was socially gutsy, what I was looking for was a buffer, a shortcut into a life so intensely peopled that loneliness couldn't find me. "

from Lonely by Emily White (p. 21)

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, January 3, 2011

Monday Movies - Change Is In the Air!

Feature Presentation...

Happy 2011! The New Year is upon us and with that many of us will make resolutions we may or may not keep! When Resolutions stick the improvements are worth the effort. In films the stories very often involve a significant change of thought and ideal in a main character for better or worse. Share on your blog characters who changed dramatically during the course of the film. 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!

Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting (1997)

Edward Jessup in Altered States (1980)

Samuel Ramos in Man on Fire (2004)

Harvey Dent in Dark Knight (2008)

Ira in Suicide Kings (1997)