Thursday, February 24, 2011

A sad day here ~ RIP Gus

I have some very sad news...beautiful, adorable Gustave (originally Ophelia) died yesterday. His passing, to a better and pain free place I'm sure, is shocking and devestating. He'll be remembered always for his vivacious, larger-than-lfe personality, for how sweet and loving he was and for his beauty, partially due to his Maine Coon ancestory. This is the very difficult part of rescuing cats off the street and giving them a warm, loving home. Thank you to everyone who wished Gus the best while he was ill. We'll miss you Gus.

Wednesday, February 23, 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 The Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates:

It's as if a scrim has descended over the world. On this scrim, the memory of Ray. (p.186)

1. Scrim ~noun.
:a cotton or linen fabric of open weave used for bunting, curtains, etc.
:an open-weave muslin or hessian fabric, used in upholstery, lining, building, and in the theatre to create the illusion of a solid wall or to suggest haziness, etc, according to the lighting.

Now that the volume of sympathy letters and cards has abated - and I have not had a “sympathy gift basket” from Harry & David for weeks - it seems that this other sort of mail, that might be called supplicatory, if not precatory, is increasing at an alarming rate. (p.320)

2. Supplicatory (supplicate) ~verb.
: to pray humbly; make humble and earnest entreaty or petition
: to seek or ask for by humble entreaty.
: to make a humble request to (someone); plead

3. Precatory ~adj.
: of, pertaining to, characterized by, or expressing entreaty or supplication
: of, involving, or expressing entreaty

The following words are from Villette by Charlotte Bronte:

On the contrary, he offered me up as an oblation, served me as a dripping roast, making me alight in the midst of a throng of watermen. (p.54)

4. Oblation ~noun
: the offering to god of the elements of bread and wine in the Eucharist
: the act of making an offering, especially to a deity
: any offering for religious or charitable uses

These sudden, dangerous natures - sensitive as they are called - offer many a curious spectacle to those whom a cooler temperament has secured from participation in their angular vagaries. (p.12)

5. Vagary ~noun.
: an unpredictable or erratic action, occurrence, course, or instance
: a whimsical, wild, or unusual idea, desire, or action.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro

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:

" As I lie on the floor, folded into child's pose, I try to stay with the physical sensation. It's hard, scary, completely out-of-control. Still, I try to let it come-- to welcome it, even. I know it has lessons to teach me."

from Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro (p.30)

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 often use a few more!)
*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 and 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, February 21, 2011

Villette by Charlotte Bronte Read-a-long: Week Two

This is Week Two of the Villette by Charlotte Bronte read-a-long hosted by Wallace at her blog, Unputdownables. I’m very behind in posting this summary with my thoughts for week two and apologize for that.

Last week we left Lucy Snowe in London having just arrived at a respectable inn. Lucy has no source of income since her employer, Ms. Marchmont has died but, fortunately, she has a week‘s wages in her pocket. She's come to London to “shake off” the place that hasn't brought her much joy for many years.

Lucy spends the day walking around London admiring the city, visiting various shops and St. Paul's. Feeling adventurous and daring, as well as having no home to call her own and nothing to lose, she decides she’ll sail to the port of Boue-Marine. Rather than wait until morning and, possibly miss the ship, she wants to board that evening. This isn‘t the safest course of action for a young woman alone, but, fortunately, Lucy gets on the boat safely.

The other passengers arrive the following morning and soon the boat sets sail. Lucy meets Miss Ginevra Fanshawe, a dramatic, entertaining, pretty young girl of 17 who attends school in Villette. When the boat arrives at Boue-Marine, Lucy goes right to a quiet inn for a good long sleep, exhausted, unnerved and seasick from the journey. In the morning, Lucy remembers Miss Fanshawe telling her that a Madame Beck needed an English governess for her children. Lucy doesn't know who Madame Beck is or where she lives but assumes Villette, which Miss Fanshawe mentioned, must be her residence. So Lucy decides to go there. Lucy’s aware she’s grasping at straws but with no other prospects, she continues to make things up as she goes along.

Lucy travels to Villette and, once there, with the help of an English gentleman, gets directions to a quiet inn. She becomes hopelessly lost on her way. Desperate for someplace to go, she stops at a large house with a light on outside. The brass plaque beside the door reads, "Pensionnat de Demoiselles" and beneath this "Madame Beck"!

Lucy meets Madame Beck and, after an interesting interview of sorts and some shrewd negotiating on Lucy‘s part, she secures, at least, a temporary governess job to begin immediately.

Lucy settles in quickly at Villette. There are several interesting pages about Lucy’s early days at Villette and her observations. Madame Beck turns out to be an interesting, somewhat eccentric character with three fascinating children, Desiree, Fifine and the baby, Georgette, Desiree being a bit of a spoiled brat.

Lucy is summoned by Madame Beck one day because she needs someone to teach an English class. She challenges Lucy, asking her "Will you go backward or forward?". From that day forward, Lucy is an English teacher

Ginevra Fanshawe visits Lucy frequently. She’s spoiled and manipulative, charming and entertaining. Lucy is very good at dealing with her. Lucy doesn’t like how Ginevra treats some of the young men who fancy her and tells her honestly what she thinks of Ginevra’s behavior. Of course Ginevra doesn‘t listen to Lucy.

Dr Pillule is Madame Beck's friend, family doctor and the school’s doctor. He isn’t unavailable one day when Fifine fell down some stairs. His colleague, young Dr. John came instead. Lucy recognizes Dr. John to be the gentleman who helped gave her directions to an inn the day she arrived in Villette, the directions that ended her at Madame Beck's door. He continued coming to Villette because Madame Beck seems interested in him!

My Thoughts:
These chapters give more insight into Lucy's character and show us that she is a strong, resilient and capable young woman. I very impressed with her attitude towards making something of her life, doing something productive although she's alone. In fact, she doesn't let that get down or unnerve her except when she's very tired and worn out. (or seasick!) I also think that sometimes she's very excited about seeing where life will take her. She's using the fact of not having a home base because all her family have died as an opportunity to explore the world a bit and live somewhere else. That shows she has courage and a bit of a taste for adventure.

Lucy is also quite good at negotiating when she wants to, such as with Madame Beck when she needs employment and wants it to start immediately so she does not have to go back outside into the night. But Lucy also knows when it's not worth it to negotiate which we see when the rower of her rowboat charges her too much.Rather than fight him on it and cause herself a lot of difficulty, she gives the rower his price. Lucy realizes it's not important enought to fight. Lucy is smart, shrewd and, as we also saw last week, very observant. She is more clever than I initially thought. The scene in which she has to teach an English class of young girls is a daunting experience. Lucy is certainly smart enough. We read how she teaches herself French. But gaining the respect of these young girls is a different matter. It’s quite fun reading about how Lucy manages the girls. Madame Beck has a new found admiration for Lucy as well.

I really enjoy Charlotte Bronte’s sense of humor and fun. I think she enjoyed writing the character of Madame Beck, who I imagine was a lot of fun to create. The same with the personalities of her children. Lucy's first day teaching the girls and gaining their respect also has some humor and fun in it.

The gothic theme continues in these chapters. When Lucy decides to board the ship it’s late at night when she arrives at the dock alone and it's very dark, too. She’s harassed by some of the watermen and also by the man who rows her to the boat she will sail on. It’s a harrowing few pages and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up a bit! When Lucy arrives in Villette it’s also dark. She tries to find the inn but, on her way, she becomes spooked by two men who come out from behind some pillars. They walk next to Lucy for a while, talking unpleasantly, causing her to become distracted and lose her way. When the men turn off, Lucy doesn’t know where she is. She walks down a flight of stairs into a dark, narrow street, no inn in sight. Again this is a little creepy! Fortunately, this street brings her to Madame Beck’s door.

Monday Movies ~ Should Be Continued!

Feature Presentation...

Sequels...a loaded term when it comes to movies. There are so many films with sequels that should never have been made, some with sequels that are better than the original but what about the sequels that we wish and hope for but haven't been made? This terrific topic was suggested by The Gal Herself. As Molly puts it so well - "Ahhhhh - the terrific world of WHAT IF?! ". What movies are missing sequels that you hope for and want to see? Share on your blog movies lacking that next installment that you'd be first in line to see. 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!

Starman (1984): I'm very surprised a sequel was never made of this movie. The end of this movie was begging for a sequel. The starman leaves his last silver sphere with Jenny telling her their baby (she's pregnant with his child) will know what to do with it before he gets on the mothership and disappears into the night. Jenny wanted to go with him but he told her she would die in his world. Does the starman return to earth and Jenny? WHat does his child look like when he's born? Is he a mix of human and alien or more one than the other? Does he know what to do with the silver sphere? What happens if he does?

The Usual Suspects (1995): What's Keyser Soze's next move? Now that Dave Kujan, Customs Officer and Jack Baer, FBI know who Soze is, he's going to chase him down. A intellectual type of man hunt. What a great battle of wits this would be!

Midnight Run (1988): Robert DeNiro (Jack) and Charles Grodin (The Duke) were too good together not to have a repeat performance. Besides, now that Jack has the money to open his restaurant, is he really ready to retire completely and forever from the chase of the bounty hunter? When Jimmy Serrano gets out of prison, which he will, he's a mob boss, he's going to want revenge. He'll be out for Jack and The Duke's blood!

Forrest Gump (1994) I expected a sequel would be made for a long time. Not only is Forrest still a relatively young man at the end of the film, but he has a young son to raise. It's the perfect vehicle for Forrest to experience more of life and try out new things as well as show his son all that life has to offer. And just as Forrest Gump is based on the book by
Winston Groom, there's the book follow-up, Gump and Co., a perfect basis for a movie sequel.

Animal House (1978): What a great sequel this could have been. Rather than tell us what happened to each character after they left college and went out into the world, why not make a movie about it? A 25th-year reunion. Or maybe they returned to their alma mater when their children were of college age and planning to attend the same school...there were so many possibilities for a great sequel.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: One of Those Weeks!

This week has been one of those weeks! You know, the kind of week that makes you grateful for the quiet weeks when you don't have much going on!

Gustave (aka Gus) is still sick. The vet discovered that he has a terrible tooth infection. She thinks he bit something and broke his tooth which then became infected. The awful think about cats is when they're in pain they don't let you know in some way. They just sort of absorb it into themselves and go about their usual day. They don't meow loudly or complain in any way. Gus slowed down his eating over several days and refused soft foods but continued to eat hard, crunchy cat food. And he started sleeping more and more. His way of trying to take care of himself was a sign to us that something was wrong. He's getting major doses of antibiotics now. The vet also took some blood from Gus. The results showed there may be something more than just a tooth infection. So when Gus is feeling better and the antibiotics have really kicked in, he's got to have a blood panel of his GI tract done. Poor guy! He's staying close by, sleeping on my bed or the computer keyboard mostly. I'm thrilled about this because, very often, cats go off on their own when they feel unwell & find a secluded spot to sleep. It's so hard to see my fur kids sick...terrible. I'm making sure to "mush him up" a lot!

On Friday I planned to see Black Swan while in Manhattan. It was playing close to the Humane Society at a large theater. I was very surprised when the ticket-taker told me the theater wasn't wheelchair accessible. There were 2 of stairs into the theater where the movie was playing but when we checked it out, it was only 6 wide steps all together. Awesome still a go! I really wanted to see this movie! Tickets in hand, we head inside, give in our tickets and start to maneuver the steps. 3 stairs behind me, 3 to go and suddenly one of the employees leans out from behind the concession stand and says, "You can't take the wheelchair into the theater, you have to leave it in the lobby"! Again surprised, I start to ask her a question when the manager comes over and says that he "can't allow me to take the chair into the theater because it's a fire hazard"! By this time, I'm sure there must be steam coming out of my head! Not only is there no ramp into the theater but apparently they haven't made any room in the rows of chairs for a wheelchair! But what really ticked me off was how discourteous the employees where, especially the manager. They didn't offer any assistance or suggestions, such as helping me into a theater chair and taking my wheelchair back out to the lobby & safely storing it for me. When I tried to say something about the chair, what I got was, "You were told the theater is not wheelchair accessible. There's nothing we can do about it." Ugh! I wanted to hit him! I felt as if they were determined to keep me out of the theater. It was bizarre & offensive but also humiliating to me! I told the manager he was discourteous and stupid. (I was angry!) He told me to have a wonderful day. I'm thinking about writing a letter to the head of that theater.

I haven't read much this week. And I still haven't posted my thoughts on Villette by Charlotte Bronte, week two for the read-a-long. I feel so discombobulated this week I started reading an ARC of Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult a few days ago and just started reading Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro
. I'm hoping to catch up on reading and reviews this week! .

Enjoy your Sunday! Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Born Under A Lucky Moon by Dana Precious

Born Under A Lucky Moon
Author: Dana Precious
ISBN: 978-0-06-182687-5
Pages: 432
Release Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Women's Fiction; Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Publisher summary: Born Under a Lucky Moon is the tale of two very important (but distant) years in the lives of Jeannie Thompson and her (embarrassing, crazy) colorful family members to whom "things" just seem to happen. From the Great Lakes of Michigan to Los Angeles and back again, it is a story of surprise marriages, a renegade granny, a sprinkler system cursed by the gods, and myriad other factors Jeannie blames for her full-tilt, out-of-control existence. But it's also about good surprises—like an unexpected proposal that might just open Jeannie's eyes to her real place among the people she loves most in the world . . . the same ones she ran far away from to begin with.

My Thoughts: Born Under A Lucky Moon is a heartwarming, smart and entertaining novel about Jeannie Thompson and her sweet, nutty, loving family. Jeannie has a booming career in Hollywood, owns her own home and is head-over-heels in love with Aidan. But countless concerns keep her awake late into the night and early morning. Her chief worry, next to her stressful job creating movie trailers, is protecting Aidan from her well-intentioned but crazy family members. She refuses to allow the two to cross paths. As a result, after dating Aidan for two years, Jeannie's four sisters, one brother and her mom and dad are beginning to wonder if he actually exists! Jeannie is close to the end of her rope trying to balance family demands on her time with her career and seeing Aidan. And then, suddenly, Aidan proposes!

Dana Precious displays a wonderful talent for creating realistic, enjoyable characters such as main character and narrator, Jeannie Thompson a lovable perfectionist, control-freak and worrier who many of us will instantly recognize from our own lives. Growing-up in the small town of Muskegon, Michigan, Jeannie was the sibling her mother could count on to help patch up any problem, run interference in any crisis, keep everyone’s secrets and offer a consoling shoulder to anyone needing a good cry. Jeannie, as the youngest member of the chaotic Thompson clan, did her best to remain under the drama radar and kept her problems quiet feeling that her mom and dad had more than enough to manage coping with the rest of her siblings. There was always a drama to deal with, a crisis to fix or a fire to put out with one of her sisters and their spouses. So when she moved to Los Angeles and started her career, Jeannie focused on her own life and saw less and less of her family, missing many family event and gatherings.

We begin to understand Jeannie's need to escape her family when, in an effort to make Aidan understand her reluctance to marry, she relates six months in the life of her family from June 1986 to the end of that year. Anything and everything that could happen in life happened to one or another of the Thompson clan, grandma and Buddy, the dog, included, during those months. Ms. Precious prevents the story from becoming bogged down under it own weight by keeping the pace brisk and peppering the story with light, amusing dialogue even during the serious scenes. As in real life, good and bad things happen to the Thompson family who, like most of us, cope with it all by supporting and loving each other and then moving on to the next adventure.

The premise of Born Under A Lucky Moon is a bit of a stretch but after reading several chapters we're able to understand and empathize with Jeannie's fear that Aidan might be scared away by her warm but over-whelming family: Elizabeth, Sammie, Lucy, Evan, their respective spouses and children, as well as her mom and dad. Fortunately, like Jeannie, who eventually realizes what is most important in life, we're reminded that, though they ask a lot of us sometimes, nobody loves us like our families. Ms. Precious' debut is a charming, thoughtful and enjoyable book that will encourage you to remember enjoyable and funny times with your own family while laughing at the antics and drama of the Thompson family and admiring the bond between Jeannie and her family. My hope is that we will see more of this lovable family in Ms. Precious' future books.

I received a copy of Born Under A Lucky Moon from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

House Arrest by Ellen Meeropol

House Arrest
Author: Ellen Meeropol
ISBN: 978-1-59709-499-3
Pages: 216
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: Home-care nurse Emily Klein can’t get out of her new assignment – weekly prenatal visits to Pippa Glenning, a young cult member under house arrest for the death of her daughter during a Solstice ceremony. But Emily takes her work seriously and plays by the rules. She is determined to take good care of her high-profile and unconventional patient.
With two other cult members in prison, Pippa Glenning struggles to keep the household intact. If she follows the rules of her house arrest, she may be allowed to keep her baby; but as the pregnant woman in the family it’s her duty to dance for Isis at the upcoming winter Solstice ceremony. To
escape the house arrest without being caught, Pippa needs Emily’s help.
Set in Springfield, Massachusetts and in Maine, and told from the alternating points of view of four characters, House Arrest questions the necessity of breaking rules to serve justice.

My Thoughts: Ellen Meeropol’s debut book, House Arrest, is a captivating and touching story of one woman’s struggle to make peace with her past: to forgive her parents for the hurt they caused as well as herself, for childish misunderstandings she believed were facts and has shaped her life around.

Emily Klein, the main character, has shaped her life and beliefs in response to the deep pain she experiences as a result of a family tragedy when she was a young child. Although unaware of what really happened and never happy, Emily buried the past and refused to look for answers to the questions that have troubled her for years. But when Pippa Glenning, her young patient who is pregnant and under house arrest, enters Emily’s life and asks for her help, Emily can no longer ignore her past. She needs to understand her parents’ behavior if she wants to figure out why she is considering violating everything she has believed for so long to help one young woman.

Ms. Meeropol’s story contains well-rounded and intriguing characters who seem familiar from our own lives. Particularly when we discover that, like all of us, they too have short-comings. Sam, for instance, is a great father to seven-year old Zoe, who has spina bifida. Yet Emily doesn’t completely trust him because he left her cousin, Anna, before Zoe was born because Sam couldn’t imagine life with a disabled child. But he came back, not to Anna, but to be there for his daughter. Ms. Meeropol’s characters engage in believable dialogue that also keeps the story moving at a consistent pace.

Pippa is the other character of focus. Her house arrest status is disturbing to Emily as it causes her to think about her childhood and parents too much. Emily narrates much of the story, although a few of the other characters, such as Pippa and Sam, get some chapters of their own. But the other characters’ chapters are voiced by an omniscient narrator. This technique renders the story Emily’s. At the same time it provides us the backgrounds of other characters and their experiences while serving to emphasize and highlight Emily’s. She is the one facing a dilemma but it takes her time to acknowledge that she’s held on to the past for too long and needs to stop living in fear of the truth. As the story progresses, the suspense builds. We wait with eager anticipation to see what Emily decides to do. But even when it seems she’s made her decision, her conviction wavers.

Emily’s job as a home-care nurse with its attendant issues is drawn from the author’s own experience and passion for nursing and medical ethics. Emily loves her job as a nurse and she’s good at it. Emily displays a lot of empathy for her patients, which is one reason I strongly identified with her. I’ve had a lot of experience with nurses and the good ones are to be treasured. Ironically, her interest in her patients and her loyalty to them is precisely why Emily considers taking action diametrically opposed to the ethics of her profession, which she takes very seriously. She realizes that some things may be more important than rules and laws.

Pippa is a very different character than Emily. We see the difference between Pippa and Emily’s lives before they intersect and what’s made them who they are now. She’s strong where Emily is unsure; secure in herself where Emily doubts and fears everything; content where Emily is restless. Pippa shows Emily the power of believing in something even when others treat you as if you are crazy. Pippa is a member of Family of Isis cult and isn’t phased by the negative opinion of many in the community. She loves the family aspect of the cult and the members loyalty and love for each other. But Pippa is savvy enough to know there are some problems within the family particularly with the leadership. Unlike Emily, who denies what upsets her and ignores difficult issues, Pippa searches for answers to her questions and confronts the cult members about the issues.

The only problem I had with House Arrest is that the Family of Isis specifically, and the issue of cults generally, fell by the wayside as Emily's story grew in intensity. I was hoping we might learn a little bit more about this cult (and others, in general) and how it had been treated by the community over the years. I expected that Emily and Pippa might have a more open conversation about their practices and beliefs, as well as what Pippa liked and didn’t like about it. Similarly, the tragedy that occurred within the cult ‘family’, which is significant to Pippa's story, is rarely mentioned, let alone discussed after the book’s halfway point. This was disappointing, considering that Emily and Pippa are very much aware of the terrible and painful results caused by bad decisions. Even those with the very best intentions.

Ellen Meeropol’s debut is a compelling and powerful story with universal themes about life and being human. House Arrest is about many things. First, growing-up: leaving the past behind and becoming an adult. It's about discovering, understanding and accepting that our parents are human. They have their own flaws, interests, beliefs and ideas. It’s about figuring out who we are, what we think and believe and acting on that. It's about acknowledging our fears, facing them and moving on. All in all, this book covers a broad spectrum of concepts and real life aspects we all deal with at one point or another: whether it’s love and loss, loyalty, or friendship and family. This is a poignant, smart and inspiring story that I recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written novel. I look forward to Ellen Meeropol's future books.

Be sure to look up Ellen Meeropol's website and blog.

I was fortunate to win an ARC copy of House Arrest from Rose City Reader.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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:

" Maybe you should stop running away. Like bailing out on the conversation at Laura's."
"I did it with Aunt Ruth too. She wanted to tell me something more about my Parents, and I wouldn't let her."

from House Arrest by Ellen Meeropol (p.138)

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.

*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, February 14, 2011

Monday Movies ~ Show Me The Money!

Feature Presentation...

So it's Valentine's Day. What better day to focus on movies in which money, in some way or other, is central to the plot. Nah, I don't get the connection either! Although there are some people who spend gobs of money on this Hallmark creation! Molly spent a good part of the weekend working on the Bumble's taxes, hence today's theme. Share on your blog movies that focus on making money, finding money, losing money, stealing money or spending money. Molly posted a list of great movie picks by Andy, be sure to check them out! 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!

The Sting (1973)

Charade (1963)

A Simple Plan (1998)

Owning Mahowny (2003)

Shallow Grave (1994)

Small Time Crooks (2000)

Wall Street (1987)

Other People's Money (1991)

Inside Man (2006)

Boiler Room (2000)

It Could Happen to You (1994)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski

Title: Little Boy Lost
Author: Marghanita Laski
ISBN: 978-1-906462-05-5
Pages: 240
Release Date: October 1, 2008
Publisher: Persephone Books
Genre: Classic Fiction; Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Hilary Wainwright, an English soldier, returns to a blasted and impoverished France during World War Two in order to trace a child lost five years before. But is this small, quiet boy in a grim orphanage really his son? And what if he is not? In this exquisitely crafted novel, we follow Hilary’s struggle to love in the midst of a devastating war.
Facing him was a thin little boy in a black sateen overall. Its sleeves were too short and from them dangled red swollen hands too big for the frail wrists. Hilary looked from these painful hands to the little boy’s long thin grubby legs, to the crude coarse socks falling over shabby black boots that were surely several sizes too large. It’s a foreign child, he thought numbly . . .

My thoughts: Little Boy Lost at first seems as if it's going to be a sweet, charming story. On one level, it is. But, ultimately, this book goes much deeper. I discovered a beautifully written and poignant story that becomes an inspiring tale of love, loss and the risking of one's own self-interest to honor another. Little Boy Lost is about an accomplished but lonely man who suddenly finds himself with the opportunity to completely change the life he believed was his destiny. But to do so he must take a risk that will make him vulnerable and exposed. We are privy to the struggle he experiences while trying to choose whether he prefers life as he is accustomed or, to open up to love and excitement.

Hilary Wainwright is in some ways the little boy lost in Marghanita Laski's novel. He is a complex, flawed main character. Though he is intelligent and well-mannered, he has also been damaged emotionally by a strained and difficult relationship with his mother. In fact, he still pines for her love and acceptance. This has made him insecure and defensive and quick to assume he's being criticized when anyone disagrees with him.

He was married to a woman he loved completely. Lisa was killed by the Gestapo before they could settle into an enjoyable life together, but she did have their son whom Hilary hasn't seen since his birth. Believing him dead, Hilary hasn't thought about him in years because the pain of both losses is too great to bear. He is afraid to let down his guard and be vulnerable for fear of being hurt again. Hilary is a very human, three-dimensional character who has experienced much pain and angst over the years. This leads us to have very complicated feelings towards Hilary. However, Ms. Laski makes it difficult for us to continue to sympathize with him once he finds the little boy, Jean, who may be his son. Our hearts melt especially when Jean proudly displays to Hilary the broken trinkets in his pocket he calls his toys. Our understanding of Hilary falters at his reluctance to rescue Jean from the orphanage. We understand his fear of being hurt but, at the same time, despise him for it. He considers that it's easier to be emotionless and alone. Through it all, we can't help but hope he makes the right choice.

The story is set in France, in an unnamed town 50 miles outside Paris which, like much of France, has been left bleak and grim by the war. Ms. Laski’s prose paints a vivid picture of the bleakness. Few buildings remain in tact. Many lay in ruin, while others are crumbling. An air of desolation permeates. Things look dismal. The atmosphere in France mirrors how Hilary feels though he hides it. Hilary has very fond memories of France, particularly Paris. Although he is well aware of the destruction wrought by the war, he is still shocked by the conditions he finds in France in general and Paris in particular. The rampant corruption that was so much a part of the war continues as Hilary discovers that a decent meal and a hotel room will cost dearly. People don't trust each other, particularly outsiders. Costs are high, food is scarce. All in all, Hilary feels unwelcome in his favorite place. This has an effect of hardening his heart, making him feel colder and less receptive to meeting the child Culture and civility don't seem to exist. Hilary, who is very well-mannered, feels superior to the people around him, generally but he discovers that there are some people who share his mindset. Still, the desolation Hilary feels around him influences his conscious causing him to wrestle over whether he really wants to find his son. It's as if as a means of protection, he is girding himself against finding that the little boy belongs to him. The story builds in emotional intensity at this point until it becomes almost too much for us to bear. Imagine how Hilary feels!

Little Boy Lost is difficult to read in one sitting because of the powerfully emotional intensity of the story. The prose is beautiful and simple unless description improves the story and then it is wonderfully vivid and picturesque. This story is a reminder of the intense destruction and devastation wrought by war on people and places as well as the lasting impact it has on the people involved. But it is also a story of the hope that exists in all of us for a better, more open and brighter future. Marghanita Laski has written a rich and evocative novel about the courage it takes to love completely and the peace that exists in knowing yourself completely and fully.

For other reviews see:
The Book Whisperer
Rebecca Reads
Novel Insights
My Porch

I read my personal copy of Little Boy Lost for this review.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Villette Read-a-long: Week One

This is Week One of the Villette Read-a-long hosted by Wallace at her blog, Unputdownables. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s thoughts!

Summary (Chapters 1- 5):
Villette opens with Lucy Snowe, narrator and main character, staying in the town of Bretton, at Bretton, the home of her godmother, Mrs. Bretton, the widow of Dr. Bretton and mother to sixteen-year old Graham. Lucy enjoys visiting at her godmother's home because it was quiet and peaceful without much excitement, which very much suits Lucy.

After Lucy had been at Bretton for a little while, the young daughter, Paulina Mary Home (aka Polly), of an acquaintance of the late Dr. Bretton, come to stay. Polly is extremely small, neat and dainty with a very passionate, dramatic temperament. She's very attached to her father, Mr. Home and distraught at being separated from him. At first, she is inconsolable. But soon she becomes enamored of Graham, who believing she will be a great source of amusement and entertainment, begins teasing her. Soon Polly is waiting on him hand and foot, only content when by his side. When Polly’s father sends for her she is distraught at leaving Graham although he isn't so upset.

Lucy returns home shortly after Polly's departure, having been at Bretton for six months. Eight years pass and Lucy finds herself alone and penniless, in need of employment. She is hired as a companion to Miss Marchmont, an elderly, wealthy and disabled woman in the neighborhood in need of a companion. Miss Marchmont and Lucy find they suit each other and Lucy cares for Miss Marchmont until the night she dies in her sleep.

Lucy is 23-years old. She decides to go to London and obtains the name of an inn to stay at from the woman, Mrs. Barrett, who used to be her nurse and was a servant to her family. She arrives in London exhausted after a 50 mile journey and somewhat anxious about life. But while lying in her bed at the inn, crying, she hears the bells of St. Paul’s and is comforted.

My Thoughts:
I am very happy to be reading this book. Villette is the only book by the Bronte sisters that I’ve never read. It wasn’t on any of the reading lists for my high school or college classes which I find odd. And, after school I, unfortunately, got away from reading many of the classics.

One of the first things I noticed was how well-written this book is, particularly in terms of Charlotte Bronte’s use of language. Although her writing is arguably wordy at times, her vocabulary is amazing and it’s apparent how well-educated and intelligent she was.

Ms. Bronte doesn’t describe Lucy Snowe for us in any great detail but leaves bits and pieces of information regarding Lucy’s character and appearance. We learn that, although Lucy has no money now, she was raised with money, her family had servants and, as a child, she had a nurse. (p.46 signet classics).

We learn that Lucy attended school when she encounters a woman who was her schoolfellow and was intelligent. (p.47 signet classics). Throughout the narrative Lucy provides us with observations and insight into the other characters as well as about life in general that indicate she is intelligent and clever.

What impresses me most about Lucy is her courage and industriousness both observed when she finds herself alone and broke, in need of employment in chapter 4 and then when her employer Miss Marchmont dies and Lucy has to figure out what to do and where to go. Instead of being depressed and anxious she considers that “I might still, in comparison with many people, be regarded as occupying an enviable position.” (p.46 signet classics).

I think it’s terrific that Ms. Bronte’s narrator and main character is a strong, capable woman and I’m looking forward to getting to know Lucy better.
There’s a very interesting passage early in Chapter 5. Lucy has just left Mrs. Barrett after visiting her for a few hours. It is twilight and she has to walk about two miles back to Miss Marchmont’s through fields. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her life now. While she’s walking she sees “that which shone in the north, a moving mystery--the aurora borealis.” (p.47 signet classics). Lucy feels it brings her power and energy because right then she thinks to leave and go to London.
I wonder if the aurora borealis appeared 50 or so miles outside of London and if Charlotte Bronte studied or read about it. I’m interested to see if this is part of a theme in the book!

Visit Unputdownables for Wallace’s thoughts on Week One of Villette and a list of Read-a-long participants blog to visit for their thoughts!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Big Giveaway at Blog!

Pam at is celebrating her Two-Year Blogging Anniversary with a Big Giveaway!

She's offering prizes from several major book publishers including The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon from Amy Einhorn culminating in a Grand Prize of a Nookcolor ( ) from Barnes & Noble!

Be sure to head on over
to and enter this awesome giveaway. It ends tomorrow 2/10/11 so don't delay!

Good Luck!

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.

All of today’s words are from The Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates

"If you have never been in a vehicle in which air bags have exploded you will have a difficult time imagining how violent, how forceful, how bellicose air bags are". (p.6)
**(I associated bellicose with loud, noisy so when I read this sentence I wanted to look it up & I'm glad I did!)

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

"Unaccustomed to not working - that is, to not teaching - I felt useless, idle; my only solace was my writing, into which I poured enormous concentration - re-creating, with an obsessiveness that swerved between elation and compulsion, the vividly haunting oneiric cityscape of Detroit, in the novel Do with Me What You Will." (p.12)

2. Oneiric ~adj.
: Of, relating to, or suggestive of dreams.
~ related to the medical term Oneirophrenia meaning A mental state that is characterized by hallucinations and other disturbances and is associated with prolonged deprivation of sleep, sensory isolation, or psychoactive drugs

"None of these is of the slightest significance to others and but fleetingly to us yet they constitute such a portion of our lives, it might be argued that our lives are a concatenation of minutiae interrupted at unpredictable times by significant events." (p.19)

3. Concatenation ~noun
: a series of interconnected events, concepts
: the act of linking together or the state of being joined. as in a chain

"For there is something ignoble, selfish in continuing to live as if nothing has been altered." (p.128)

4. Ignoble ~adj.
:of low character, aims; mean; base
:of low grade or quality; inferior

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - The History of Love

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:

" This time I didn't write about real things and I didn't write about imaginary things. I wrote about the only thing I knew. The pages piled up. Even after the only person whose opinion I cared about left on a boat for America, I continued to fill pages with her name. After she left, everything fell apart. No Jew was safe."

from The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (p.8)

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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday Salon - Cats, Books and the Green Bay Packers!

It's Super Bowl Sunday! I'll be rooting for the Green Bay Packers in a few hours! Of course, I wish I was going to be rooting for the Jets but they messed that up pretty bad (no I'm not slightly irritated! lol) But in all honesty, I really like Green Bay and have rooted a lot for them over the years, especially when I was younger. My dad grew up in Wisconsin so, although he rooted for NY teams when they were playing, the Packers were his team, yep he was a cheese-head! (Oh boy, do I love cheese!) I think the the Super Bowl is a lot of fun to watch, too.

NYC only had a few snow flurries this week, no real accumulations of snow. Finally! In the middle of the week we had a couple of days/nights of bad ice but compared to places like Chicago and Kansas, where friends of mine coped with some awful weather, ours was mild in comparison. What a winter, though! I haven't ventured out much at all since my wheelchair won't get too far in the snow and ice. But tomorrow I have a doctor appointment in Manhattan. I'm looking forward to going because I downloaded the first couple of discs of When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson and I'm really looking forward to listening too it. I hope I enjoy listening to books on tape because I have a few other audiobooks and it could be a fun, alternative way to read a book! It will also make it easier to cope with doctor appointments, tests and similar things that I cannot avoid.

The cats are well. Another cold passed from cat to cat for a while but seems to finally be gone. Gustav (aka Gus) (the cat who was mistakenly named Ophelia for a while until a vet's visit determined he is a boy not a girl!) was very sick with a cold for over a week. He stayed in the basement and stopped eating for a few days. I was about to take him to the vet when he popped upstairs and ate hungrily. What a relief!

I finished House Arrest a wonderful book by Ellen Meeropol and will review it soon. I started reading another book I'm reviewing for TLC Book Tours, Born Under A Lucky Moon by Dana Precious, it's her debut and I'm enjoying it. I've also just started The History of Love by Nicole Krauss which I've wanted to read for a long time and am very excited about. I'm almost finished with The Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates. I've been reading this book slowly, it's poignant, fascinating and even occasionally funny. I'm going to try to read at least one book for Lenore's Dystopian February at her blog, Presenting Lenore. I've been meaning to read Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell for a while, this seems as good a time as any! There are too many great books to read, yay!

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Facebook Giveaway! I Bet We Can Make These Books Bestsellers!

I Bet We Can Make These Books Bestsellers is a group on Facebook headed by Catherine McKenzie, author of Spin and the just released Arranged.

There's a giveaway going on now in which 35 Books will be given away, including:

Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparen, The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Thesrese Walsh and The Wilding by Benjamin Piercy.

Check out this Facebook page for I Bet We Can Make These Books Bestsellers and join the group. Then list the books which you'd like to win!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Title: The Tapestry of Love
Author: Rosy Thornton
ISBN: 978-0-7553-4557-1
Pages: 352
Release Date: October 14, 2010
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: A rural idyll: that's what Catherine Parkstone is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. Divorced and with her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just on holiday, and Catherine finds herself with unexpected battles to fight. French bureaucracy, the mountain weather, the reserve of her neighbours - and most unsettling of all, her own fascination with the intriguing Patrick Castagnol.

The Tapestry of Love is the story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a portrait of landscape, a community and a fragile way of life.

My thoughts: I found reading The Tapestry of Love similar to taking a long, leisurely walk on a beautiful day in a rural, mostly uninhabited area. The journey is calm and peaceful for the most part, although you're occasionally startled by strange sounds or unexpected movements and noises in the brush. But the experience is extremely enjoyable and relaxing, particularly when you come upon a beautiful lake to sit beside while eating your lunch and basking in the warm, serene sun as small birds twitter overhead. The Tapestry of Love is a peaceful story about a woman who leaves the life she knows to risk following her dream of living in the French countryside where she spent idyllic holidays as a child with her family.

Author Rosy Thornton's writing is thoughtful and draws us in, keeping the story flowing at a leisurely, steady pace. Then main character is the admirable and interesting Catherine, a middle-aged English woman, seven years divorced with her daughter, Lexie and her son, Tom, grown and out on their own. She is a strong, resourceful woman who transforms her life in a way many of us can admire, perhaps even envy. But along the way, Catherine realistically questions her decision to move to the French countryside alone and start a new business. She knows no one and her plan wasn't well-thought out and researched. She acted more on a whim.

Ms. Thornton doesn't allow the story to stagnate. She includes captivating, occasionally irritating, characters in Catherine's life, such as her bubbly, warm, daughter, Lexie, a journalist, who telephones frequently to complain about whichever bizarre magazine she is writing for at the moment. And her neighbor, Patrick Castagnol, the reserved Frenchman (or so Catherine believes) with a disconcerting habit of suddenly appearing at Catherine's front door but offering little about himself. From the first time they meet, we think there's an attraction between Catherine and Patrick but they are too quiet, reserved and well-mannered to act on their feelings so we cannot be sure...but we can hope and wait anxiously!

As in real life, the most beautiful, serene settings occasionally experience storm clouds gathering on the horizon, threatening to destroy the peace for a little while. The "storm clouds" in The Tapestry of Love are Catherine's younger sister, Bryony, a lawyer in London whom she loves but doesn't feel she really knows well. Bryony is busy, hard-working and quite confident. She dates a lot of different men and wants and expects to be noticed, to command the attention of men and women. Bryony is very intelligent, outspoken and opinionated. She has little of Catherine's thoughtfulness and I don't think she appreciates her older sister. Bryony is also used to getting what she wants like so many people we've all encountered in life. And like those people, Catherine probably shouldn't trust Bryony. By the time the story ends, Catherine will know her and some of her neighbors much better.

As the title suggests, Catherine is a tapestry needlewoman and her love of tapestry is an effective vehicle for seeing into her thoughts throughout the book and getting to know her well. This does not make for an action packed story. However, what this does is make the writing taut in order to keep things interesting, something the author does very well. Additionally, I learned about tapestries, the delicate and difficult work that goes into making them as well as the beautiful silk threads that bring them to life. I also learned about the needlework required to create soft furnishings such as cushions and curtains as well as about bee keeping, sheep migration and other surprising, interesting things. Ms. Thornton even includes some enjoyable levity in the phone calls between Catherine and Lexie in which her daughter regales her with humorous anecdotes about her experiences writing feature articles for magazines such as Air Cargo Monthly and Fondant Magazine!

This is probably not a book for readers who enjoy adventure, murder mysteries or the paranormal. Or men, in general. Not to pigeonhole this as a book just for women because it isn't, but the pace, style and it's "go where it may" wanderings, without any problem-solving focus, means it wouldn't appeal to most men. I believe this book would be most appreciated by women, who, like the main character, are looking for something different. A journey that's out of the way in a place that offers breath-taking vistas and new experiences, that are comforting and peaceful but allow for taking risks, gleaning knowledge you may not get anywhere else. If this description interests you then The Tapestry of Love is a book for you. It's a book I highly recommend.

I received a copy of The Tapestry of Love from Rosy Thornton.
Be sure to visit Rosy Thornton's website.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday Cats - Starring The Dopey!

I have severely neglected (on this blog not in real life!) one of my cats known as Dopey (mostly affectionately although he did get the name for a reason!) We rescued Dopey several years ago when he showed up in the driveway, thin, hungry & scraggly. He's filled out now (i.e. fattened-up!) and his fur is thick and shiny!

I realized that I haven't "introduced" Dopey here. I thought now would be a good time since Dopey was neutered on Sunday (poor guy!) and deserves some extra attention. Dopey's about 6-years old & doesn't generally like male cats but he loves the females! I'm hoping being "fixed" will result in a friendlier Dopey to all felines!
Dopey isn't very smart. He's pretty clueless about most things except for food - he loves to eat! and catnip! - he adores it & rolls around on the floor after imbibing! Dopey has a sweet side and it comes out when you least expect it. He also loves to chit-chat, mostly with my husband, and can be quite the conversationalist. We gave him a regular name when we adopted him but started calling him Dopey one day when he was acting particularly silly...and it stuck! The pictures portray the blank stare that got him dubbed The Dopey!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Teaser: The Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates

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:

" Ray's voice is low, matter-of-fact: "I guess I won't be seeing you for a while."
And then the dream ends-I'm awake-I'm stunned, and I'm awake-it's as if Ray had been in this room with me, a moment ago-and now... "

from The Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates (p.188)

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.