Wednesday, November 30, 2011

~ ~ Wondrous Words Wednesday ~ ~

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bermudaonion's Weblog where we share 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 following words are from The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

" The public relations photographer did his job well, and so did the editors of the rotogravure section of The New York Times."

1. Rotogravure
: (Roto or Gravure for short) is a type of intaglio printing process; that is, it involves engraving the image onto an image carrier. In gravure printing, the image is engraved onto a cylinder because, like offset printing and flexography, it uses a rotary printing press (the images to be printed are curved around a cylinder). Once a staple of newspaper photo features, the rotogravure process is still used for commercial printing of magazines, postcards, and corrugated (cardboard) product packaging. (from Wikipedia).

"It's not just a bore," she said once of a tiresome eighteenth-century novel, "it's a pernicious bore."
2. Pernicious
: highly injurious or destructive, deadly;
: archaic, wicked
(**this is one of those words that refuses to stick in my head!)

" There were small carbuncular knobs on the back of his neck and out across his shoulders, but if she squinted very slightly she didn't see them."

3. Carbuncular
: a painful local purulent inflammation of the skin and deeper tissues with multiple openings for the discharge of pus and usually necrosis and sloughing of dead tissue.

" But the messy stack of manuscript was there waiting for her in the morning, after a fitful sleep; and she had to acknowledge, with an editor's gelid eye, that it didn't read well at all."

4. Gelid
: extremely cold; icy

These words are from Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock

" From high in his combine, Winslow eyed the dormant train, the engine far to the west, the coal cars deep into the eastern woods. "

1. Combine
: a harvesting machine for cutting and threshing grain in the field.

" From the corner of his eye, Winslow noticed a flash of white in the crop, then a crouching man sprang and dashed in front of the harrower. "

2. Harrower
: an agricultural implement with spike-like teeth or upright disks, drawn chiefly over plowed land to level it, break up clods, root up weeds, etc.

" Miriam heard something. A breaking in the swale. "

3. Swale
: a low place in a tract of land, usually moister and often having ranker vegetation than the adjacent higher land.
: a valleylike intersection of two slopes in a piece of land.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday. Share the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. I received this book many months ago and it's been catching my eye at least once a day ever since. I wanted to read it when I received it and I want to read it even more now! The author is very well known and highly praised for her short stories. There have been many very positive reviews about this novel, too.  My BBAW interview blogger match, Gayle, Everyday I Write the Book, named it as one of her top five favorite books of 2011, too!

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea and read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this terrific meme who can be found in the comments!

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson

The bride and groom had two wedding receptions: the first was in the basement of the Lutheran church right after the ceremony, with punch and cake and coffee and pastel mints. This was for those of the bride's relatives who were stern about alcohol. The basement was low-ceilinged and smelled of metallic furnace heat. Old ladies wearing corsages sat on folding chairs, while other guests stood and managed their cake plates and plastic forks as best they could. The pastor smiled with professional benevolence. The bride and groom posed for pictures, buoyed by adrenaline and relief. There had been so much promised and prepared, and now everything had finally come to pass.

By five o'clock the last of the crowd had retrieved their winter coats and boots from the cloakroom and headed out. It was January, with two weeks of hard-packed snow underfoot and more on the way, and most of them had long drives from Grenada, over country roads to get back home. The second reception was just beginning at the American Legion hall, where there would be a buffet supper, a bar, and a dance band.

What are your thoughts about these 2 opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books. I've missed a couple of weeks of Mailbox Monday so, below are some of the titles I received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained. Mailbox Monday is being hosted by the Mailbox Monday Tour blog this week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back by Maria Sutton (for review from the author)

This extraordinary and unflinchingly honest memoir takes us on a riveting journey into the hearts and souls of three enigmatic people whose destinies are forever changed by the events of World War II. The secrets of misguided love and passions are revealed as the author journeys between the past and the present to solve the mystery of a handsome Polish officer with piercing blue eyes and sun-colored hair. Maria Sutton takes us to the dark green hills and valleys of the ancient Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, where the woody fragrance of birch trees and new-mown hay fills the fresh, crisp air after a heavy rain. Vicariously, we see a sunrise over Poland obscured by brightly colored swastikas on warplanes and then we will be taken into suffocating cattle cars, lice-infested stalags, and to the Dachau death camp. Further down a country road, the hearty laughter and beer steins clinking with each salute to the Fuhrer’s astonishing victories can be heard. As Maria takes us on this odyssey to solve a decades-long mystery, she learns the family secrets of untold heroism, quiet courage, and a mother’s love — and of tragedy, disillusionment, and heartbreak. At the end of her long journey, Maria uncovers a shattering and painful truth. But the secret, however heartbreaking, would also become the greatest gift she would receive.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (from the publisher)

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human. Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.” But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (from the publisher via Shelf Awareness)

This stunning, break-out achievement has already been hailed by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, for presenting “passion and addiction, guilt and damage, all the beautiful mess of family life. Carry the One will lift readers off their feet and bear them along on its eloquent tide.” Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen’s wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidently hits and kills a girl on a dark, country road. For the next twenty-five years, those involved, including Carmen and her brother and sister, connect and disconnect and reconnect with each other and their victim. As one character says, “When you add us up, you always have to carry the one. Through friendships and love affairs; marriage and divorce; parenthood, holidays, and the modest tragedies and joys of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we’d expect. Deceptively short and simple in its premise, this novel derives its power and appeal from the author’s beautifully precise use of language; her sympathy for her very recognizable, flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.

Love at First Bark by Julie Klam (from publisher, Penguin, for review)

The bestselling memoirist shows how saving a dog can sometimes help you save yourself. Julie Klam writes about dogs with a rollicking wit and a radiating warmth-as no other writer can. In her bestselling memoir You Had Me at Woof, she shared the secrets of happiness she learned as an occasionally frazzled but always devoted owner of Boston terriers. Now, with the same enchanting, pop culture-infused amalgam of humor and poignancy that reached the The New York Times and the Today show and won the hearts of readers across the country, she returns with more humorous insight into life with canine companions. Klam focuses here on dog rescue, and its healing power not only for the dogs who are cared for and able to find good homes, but also for the people who bond with these animals. Klam became involved with rescue after years as an owner of purebred dogs. She was looking for a way to help and participate in a community, but she never imagined just how much she would receive in return. The dogs she has rescued through the years have filled her life with laughter and contentment, sorrow and frustration, and they have made certain that she never has a dull moment. Along the way, she has collected stories from friends who have also found that guiding dogs to nurturing homes made their own lives richer. These experiences, which show us that even in our smallest gestures we can make a big difference, inspired Love at First Bark.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston (win from Kaye, Pudgy Penguin Perusals Thank you!)

Frankie’s dreams of becoming a writer, she must forgo a scholarship to a prestigious women’s college to help her widowed mother. But when a mysterious Captain James sweeps her off her feet, her mother finds a way to protect Frankie from the less-than-noble intentions of her unsuitable beau. Through a kaleidoscopic array of vintage postcards, letters, magazine ads, ticket stubs, catalogue pages, fabric swatches, candy wrappers, fashion spreads, menus and more, we meet and follow Frankie on her journey in search of success and love. Once at Vassar, Frankie crosses paths with intellectuals and writers, among them “Vincent,” (alumna Edna St. Vincent Millay), who encourages Frankie to move to Greenwich Village and pursue her writing. When heartbreak finds her in New York, she sets off for Paris aboard the S.S. Mauritania, where she keeps company with two exiled Russian princes and a “spinster adventuress.” In Paris, Frankie takes a garret apartment above Shakespeare & Company, the hub of expat life, only to have a certain ne’er-do-well captain from past reappear. But when a family crisis compels Frankie to return to her small New England hometown, she finds exactly what she had been looking for all along.

The Snow Whale by John Minichillo (win from Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit Thank you!)

When John Jacobs, a mild-mannered suburban office worker, takes a DNA test and discovers that he is part-Inuit, he so embraces his new identity that he declares it his Inupiat tribal right to set forth on a whale hunt. So begins this postmodern satire, a seriocomic, quirky adventure set in the oldest continuously settled town in North America, in the North Slope of Alaska, on the frozen Chukchi Sea, literally at the top of the world, where the inhabitants and their ancestors have depended on subsistence whaling for thousands of years. Minichillo cleverly dishes out a resounding twist on Melville’s classic that re-examines identity, race, and our connection to nature, all while poking fun at our contentment with heated socks in an era defined by global warming.

Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago (from a friend)

On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, on the other hand, there is initially celebration—flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home—families are left to care for the permanently dying, life-insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots. Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and were to fall in love?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Salon ~ Reading, Reading, Reading...and some other stuff....!

I meant to post my Sunday Salon much earlier today. And then the day just got away from me! We're having beautiful weather here, almost 70 degrees the last 2 days. I couldn't not take advantage of it especially knowing the weather will probably change to winter kind of weather one of these days! The cats are loving the warm weather and having a bounce in their step and want to play, always a lot of fun!

I didn't do much shopping this weekend. I hate shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving. I probably wouldn't have shopped at all but yesterday in NYC it was "Small Saturday" so we shopped some small stores in a few different areas of Brooklyn. Along with some gifts, I bought some delicious truffles at Jacques Torres, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and The Redbreast and Nemesis by Jo Nesbo!

Whenever possible this weekend I've been reading. On Friday afternoon, I was organizing some books. I picked up The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and decided to put it on my nightstand so I'd remember I had it and planning to read it as soon as I could. Like I often do, I flipped through the first few pages and then I read the first page, so aptly titled "Anticipation" and I was gone! I'm not quite finished but I'm hoping to finish The Night Circus tonight. I had no idea how really good this book is despite the positive reviews I read. I didn't think I would like it that much. It's fantastic. I feel badly that I ignored the books I was already reading, (lol) but, oh well, I'll get back to them.

This afternoon I've been watching the Jets playing the Buffalo Bills. It's a relief to see the Jets can still play some decent football. Of course, this is a nail-biter and they're taking it all the way to the end....

Have a wonderful Sunday!
Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giveaway: Happy Haul-idays from Chronicle Books!!

Chronicle Books is hosting their 2nd annual Happy Haul-idays event and this year they have added a great element that captures the meaning of the Holiday Season: not only will one lucky blogger and one commenter on the winning blogger's post win $500 worth of books from Chronicle, but the winning blogger will be able to choose a charity to win $500 worth of books from Chronicle!

Here's How to Enter:
1) Write a blog post with a list of Chronicle books valued at up to $500 that you’d like to haul in. Please post about which charity you’d choose and why.
2) Remind your readers that if you win, you get to choose one lucky commenter on your entry post to win the same haul of books.
3) Fill out the quick form on the Chronicle Books giveaway page.
4) Tweet about the giveaway, to increase your chances, using #happyhaulidays and get one extra entry per day.

My charity is the Brooke Jackman Foundation, a non-profit organization working to improve literacy among at-risk children in the New York area. This non-profit was set up by the family of Brooke Jackman after she died in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Brooke was only 23 when she died. She loved to read and was interested in helping children so her family started this foundation to honor her.

The books I'd love to win:
(To find out more about the book, click the title)
Don't forget to leave a comment if you want a chance to win my giveaway if I win!

The Commonsense Kitchen
500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life
By Tom Hudgens
6-7/8 x 9-1/2 in; 608 pp;
2-color illustrations
Published in July, 2010

Time for Dinner
Strategies, Inspiration, and Recipes for Every Night of the Week
By Pilar Guzmn,, Alanna Stang,,and Jenny Rosentrach
7-1/2 x 9 in; 272 pp;
250 color photographs
Published in July, 2010

Sunday Soup
A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes
By Betty Rosbottom,Photographs by Charles Schiller
8-3/4 x 8 in; 168 pp;
32 color photographs
Published in July, 2008

The Exquisite Book
100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game
By Julia Rothman,, Jenny Volvovski,,and Matt Lamothe,Foreword by Dave Eggers
7-1/2 x 9 in; 152 pp;
color images throughout, shrink-wrapped, accordion binding
Published in August, 2010

This Is NPR
By Cokie Roberts,, Susan Stamberg,, Noah Adams,, John Ydstie,, Renee Montagne,, Ari Shapiro,,and David Folkenflik
7-1/4 x 9-1/4 in; 256 pp;
100 color images & photographs, jacketed hardcover with audio CD
Published in October, 2010

More Things Like This
By the Editors of McSweeney,Introduction by Michael Kimmelman,Foreword by Dave Eggers
8-3/4 x 8 in; 224 pp;
289 full-color and b/w images throughout
Published in September, 2009

The Garden at Night
Private Views of Public Edens
Photographs by Linda Rutenberg,Essay by Christopher Dewdney
11 x 13 in; 176 pp;
160 color photographs
Published in September, 2007

The Watercolor Sketchbook Kit
Materials, Techniques, and Projects
Text and illustrations by Curtis Tappenden
7 x 7-1/4 x 1/2 in; 144 pp;
full-color illustrations throughout
Published in June, 2002

Learn to Meditate
A Practical Guide to Self-Discovery and Fulfillment
By David Fontana, PhD
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 in; 160 pp;
130 color illustrations
Published in February, 1999

City Walks Architecture: New York
By Alissa Walker,Maps by John Spelman
4-1/8 x 6-3/4 x 1-1/4 in; box with lid, 25 2-panel cards, tri-fold intro card, 25 color maps, 25 color photos
Published in August, 2009

Why Did I Buy This Book?
Over 500 Puzzlers, Teasers, and Challenges to Boost Your Brainpower
By Lynn Brunelle
7 x 8 in; 376 pp;
one-color illustrations throughout
Published in March, 2009

The Art of Pixar
The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation
By Amid Amidi Foreword by John Lasseter
11 x 9 in; 320 pp;
Published in October, 2011

A Photographer's Memoir
By Tony Mendoza
8 x 6 in; 80 pp;
52 b/w images
Published in February, 2001

Cats Are Weird
And More Observations
By Jeffrey Brown
6-1/2 x 6-1/2 in; 108 pp;
color and b/w illustrations throughout, die-cut cover with stamping
Published in July, 2010

Drinking, Smoking and Screwing
Great Writers on Good Times
Edited by Sara Nickles,Introduction by Bob Shocochis
5-1/2 by 8-1/2 in; 224 pp;
Published in August, 1994

Writer's Workshop in a Book
The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction
Introduction by Richard Ford,Edited by Alan Cheuse,and Lisa Alvarez
5-1/2 x 8-1/2 in; 224 pp;
Published in May, 2007

This Is My Best
Great Writers Share Their Favorite Work
Edited by Kathy Kiernan,and Retha Powers
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 in; 448 pp;
Published in April, 2005

Any Bitter Thing
A Novel
By Monica Wood
5-1/2 x 8 in; 384 pp;
Published in May, 2005

Moleskine® 2012 Daily Planner Red Large Hard Cover
Published in April, 2011

Birch Forest Flexi Journal
By Lisa Congdon
5 x 7-1/2 in; 192 pp;
flexi-binding, color illustrations

Sunblooms Bound Journal
By Amy Butler
5 x 7-1/8 in; 224 pp;
color illustrations

Native Flowers Mini Journals
By Jill Bliss
4-1/8 x 5-3/4 x 1-1/2 in; four journals: paperback with flexi binding, 4 x 5-1/2, 96 pages each

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review: Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees

Mozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publishing Date: November 1, 2011
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0062015860
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

Book Summary: The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl’s brother’s demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close . . . and that he knew he had been poisoned.

In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue—as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart’s Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother’s passing, Mozart’s black fate threatens to overtake her as well.

Transporting readers to the salons and concert halls of eighteenth-century Austria, Mozart’s Last Aria is a magnificent historical mystery that pulls back the curtain on a world of soaring music, burning passion, and powerful secrets.

My Thoughts: Classical music has been a part of my life since I was a child. My mother listened to Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart on a daily basis. I also share my birthday day with Mozart. I don't know a lot about the lives of these composers, although, or what kind of men they were. So, when I saw Mozart's Last Aria on TLC Book Tours list, I jumped at the chance to read this book. Unfortunately, this book isn't at all what I expected or hoped. Readers who loved Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, which I did not, will probably enjoy this book much more than I did.

Mozart's sister, Madame Maria Anna Berchtold von Sonnenburg aka 'Nannerl' travels to Vienna from her home in Salzburg upon receiving a letter from her sister-in-law, Constanze, informing her of her brother, Wolfgang Mozart's, death. Nannerl and Mozart have been estranged for at least three years which makes his death all the more painful for Nannerl. She was a talented piano player as a child but Mozart was a genius. When she arrives in Vienna, Nannerl, is asked to perform at a concert given in honor of Mozart. I enjoyed Matt Rees descriptions of Vienna and of Mozart's music as well as of the Mozart family history. As the story progresses, although, it becomes bogged down with melodrama and too many characters as Nannerl tries to ferret out the mystery of Mozart's death. And Nannerl herself becomes a tedious and annoying character.

The mystery of Mozart's death is linked to a secret Masonic society of which many of his friends and patrons may or may not have been members. As Nannerl meets the various characters in Mozart's life, such as the actor Karl Gieseke who seems suspicious of everyone and sleazy, the very smooth actor and singer Herr Schikaneder, patron Prince Lichnowsky and Mozart's fan and friend, Baron van Swieten, she tries to subtly determine what they knew of Mozart's life and death and the secret society. Beyond their names and a few minor details, none of these characters are developed in any major way. As a result, we can not relate to, understand or identify with any of them in any significant way making them and their importance in Mozart's life forgettable.

I found the pace of Mozart's Last Aria frequently schizophrenic. At times, such as when Nannerl is talking with her sister-in-law, thinking about her childhood with Mozart or an aspect of Vienna is described the story flows smoothly, moving at an enjoyable pace. At other times, though, when the secretive Masonic society is brought up or the brewing revolution, the story gets bogged down in confusing details that aren't explained well or sorted out. It almost feels like there are two different stories being told and forced together. Additionally, some scenes that should take barely a page go on for many pages because of crying, hand-wringing and other similar melodrama. But some questions and issues raised by Nannerl that I wanted to know more about, aren't explored in depth but are ignored, even, it seems, forgotten. The result is the mystery of Mozart's death feels contrived and manipulated to make an entertaining, highly dramatic, story.

There are many references to specific pieces of Mozart's music which was wonderful. Several times I listened to some of the named piece on You Tube. In some ways, this made the novel even less satisfactory for me because hearing Mozart's music made me wish for a less entertainment-oriented more solid novel about the life and death of Mozart. Readers who enjoy high drama, embellishment and stories manipulated for entertainment will probably enjoy this book more than I did. In the back of the book, Rees tells about the story behind Mozart's Last Aria and how he came up with this fictional tale. Rees researched quite a bit for this book and the historical details are true but the crime story is his own theory for the most part. I wish I'd known this before I began reading this book. But I now have a desire to know more about Mozart's life and hope to find the time to do some research of my own!

Matt Rees' website

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book and to Harper Perennial for a copy of the book.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

~ First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: A Visit from the Goon Squad ~

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros is a weekly meme hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea every Tuesday.  Share the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph.  I have wanted to read this book for far too long! It first came to my attention when I saw it displayed on a table in Barnes & Noble shortly after it was published.  When it came out in paperback this year a lot of book bloggers read it and are reading it. I've read many reviews raving about this unique, creative story that sounds different from almost any other book.  It has also won many awards for better or worse! I just know I'm really looking forward to reading this book!

Don't forget to drop by Bibliophile By the Sea to read Diane's selection this week and be sure to visit and read the contributions of other participants in this terrific meme!

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Found Objects

It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel. Sasha was adjusting her yellow eye shadow in the mirror when she noticed a bag on the floor beside the sink that must have belonged to the woman whose peeing she could faintly hear through the vaultlike door of a toilet stall. Inside the rim of the bag, barely visible, was a wallet made of pale green leather. It was easy for Sasha to recognize, looking back, that the peeing woman's blind trust had provoked her: We live in a city where people will steal the hair off your head if you give them half a chance, but you leave your stuff lying in plain sight and expect it to be waiting for you when you come back? It made her want to teach the woman a lesson. But this wish only camouflaged the deeper feeling Sasha always had: that at, tender wallet, offering itself to her hand-it seemed so dull, so life-as-usual to just leave it there rather than seize the moment, accept the challenge, take the leap, fly the coop, throw caution to the wind, live dangerously ("I get it," Coz, her therapist, said), and take the fucking thing.

"You mean steal it."

What are your thoughts about this opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

~ Sunday Salon ~ Thanksgiving, Cats, Blogging and Books!

In five days it's Thanksgiving! I think here in NYC we're going to copy Floridians and grill or barbecue our turkeys. It's over 60 degrees here today! (Never mind that it was in the 30s a few days ago!) This is shorts! I recall past Thanksgivings that were so cold I chose to watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV rather than stand outside and freeze! Of course, the weather has been so wacky and indecisive, we could have a blizzard come Thursday! lolol Whatever the weather is for turkey day is fine but for Christmas I like a little snow...just a little bit, it makes the days that much more festive!

Anybody who visited my blog this week noticed that I didn't post any new content. I joined Molly of The Bumbles Blog and a few other bloggers for the first Reclaim Your Reader week. Unfortunately the week didn't work out for me quite as I hoped. I spent most of the week with my doctors as they dissected the results of the procedure I had a few weeks ago, finally deciding what new meds I should take. My body seems to enjoy being a challenge, though, so, of course I had a reaction to the first medication! The 2nd medication is fine, so far so good! So, I may still be stressed about not having the time and energy to read all of the blogs I want to while also posting on my blog but hopefully I'll feel better and have more time to work on both issues! lol And I'll probably try another week of Reclaiming my Reader in a few months.

The cats are all doing well. Many of them are filling out with winter coming. They tend to eat more and sleep more as the winter months approach. Not only does their fur get thicker and even softer, but some of them get fatter! Hennessey is a white female with a few grey spots, a grey tail and ears. She's small and slim, at least in spring and summer.  Henney spends most of her time outside, she just loves wandering, but she always visits at least twice a day for some food!  A couple of years ago, Henney got very round and chubby during the winter (I thought she was pregnant even though she’d been fixed!!). We figured she was also eating somewhere else. But when summer came around she was small and slim again!  Ever since, her size and shape completely fluctuates with the changing seasons!  What’s really weird about it is it doesn’t look like a gradual change, it's more instantaneous!  Henney seems to go from slim to adorable, fluffy butterball almost over night! And she slims down again just as quickly! !

I didn’t do a lot of reading this week, either. Ugh! I was distracted and had difficulty focusing because of the medical stuff. I’m reading Mozart’s Last Aria by Matt Rees which is not what I expected. I’m reviewing it this week and then I will sit down and finish The Lotus Reader by Tatjana Soli and The Easter Parade by Richard Yates two great books. I’m also reading Volt  by Alan Heathcock,  a collection of short stories . This is his debut and the stories are fantastic. The author is available at Goodreads this entire month answering questions about the stories and anything related to writing and being an author. He’s very accessible and enthusiastic. I won Volt from a Goodreads giveaway hosted to highlight the author and his debut and I’m so happy to have won Volt.

Have a wonderful week!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~

I was looking through some old photos yesterday and came across these. They're from a few years ago - it actually took me a few minutes to place them - but I just love how fascinated this kitten (I think it's Frankie, hard to tell from the back!) is by what's on the TV!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at her blog, At Home with Books. It's easy to participate, just post a photo taken by you, a friend or a family member and link to the Mister Linky at the bottom of Alyce's post.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Salon - A week off...sort of!

Around this time of year, I tend to feel like I blinked and lost a month or something because it always surprises me when Thanksgiving is almost here and Christmas is less than two months away. It sneaks up on me! I realized how close Christmas is when I watched a segment on the Today Show recently, about the tree - where it came from and how it was found - that will soon be put up in Rockefeller Center and lit on November 30th.

Macy's is unveiling their Christmas windows this Thursday the 17th!  Personally, I think Macy's should wait another week. I hate when retailers rush the season. I prefer to make December all about Christmas rather than starting all kinds of Christmas-related things in November or earlier. Of course Macys is trying to encourage people to come to the store in hopes they'll go inside and shop after viewing the decorated windows. I stay as far from the stores as possible in the weeks before Christmas - on-line and mail order shopping works just fine for me! I don't mind going to some stores to walk around and browse but I prefer not to be shopping for anything, it adds pressure and stress and the lines are so long! My favorite time to see the holiday-themestore windows in NYC is late at night: 9 or 10 p.m., even later if they're still lit up.  It's not crowded and for some reason it's more exciting, almost magical!

I didn't get a lot of reading done this week. Everyday it seemed like little things kept coming up that had to be taken care of...little things that take a lot of I had to work on, too. So I'm still reading The Lotus Reader by Tajana Soli. I could have rushed through it just to finish it but I decided I didn't want to do that because it's too good a book. I was only able to read a little bit of it this past week. I'm hoping this week I'll get a chance to sit down and really put some time into it! I'm really enjoying The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. His writing is phenomenal. It's one of those books that feels a little weird to say I'm enjoying it because it's not a happy book but it's so very good. I'm also reading Volt by Alan Heathcock. This book is a collection of short stories involving themes such as civilization vs. wilderness, grief, tragedy, remorse, law and lawlessness, forgiveness, judgment and loyalty. Some of the stories are intense and very emotional. They're all intriging so far.

This week I'm participating in Reclaim You Reader, an idea Molly of The Bumbles Blog came up with. Molly came up with this idea due to her frustration with not having the time to both write posts on her blog and visit other blogs to read the posts of other bloggers. This week is, therefore, dedicated to visiting other blogs and commenting on posts! I'm looking forward to the chance to catch up on many of the blogs that I don't often have the opportunity to read as often as I'd like! For all of you who entered The Winters in Bloom giveaway, I will be announcing the winners on Saturday the 19th!

Tonight the Jets are playing the New England Patriots...again. I'm hoping for a different outcome this game!

I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday and have a great week!
Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~

Bob was feeling a little left out since he hasn't 'starred' on my blog for a long time so here's Bob doing two of the three things he excels at (playing, sleeping and eating!)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at her blog, At Home With Books. It's easy to participate, just post a photo taken by you, a friend or a family member and link to the Mister Linky at the bottom of Alyce's post.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book review: Chosen by Chandra Hoffman

Chosen by Chandra Hoffman

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Published Date:  November 8, 2011
ISBN: 978-0061974311
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Book Summary: Chosen features a young caseworker increasingly entangled in the lives of the adoptive and birth parents she represents, and who faces life-altering choices when an extortion attempt goes horribly wrong.

It all begins with a fantasy: the caseworker in her “signing paperwork” charcoal suit, paired with beaming parents cradling their adopted newborn, against a fluorescent-lit delivery room backdrop. It’s this blissful picture that keeps Chloe Pinter, director of The Chosen Child’s domestic adoption program, happy juggling the high demands of her boss and the incessant needs of parents on both sides.

But the job that offers Chloe refuge from her turbulent personal life and Portland’s winter rains soon becomes a battleground itself involving three very different couples: the Novas, college sweethearts who suffered fertility problems but are now expecting their own baby; the McAdoos, a wealthy husband and desperate wife for whom adoption is a last chance; and Jason and Penny, an impoverished couple who have nothing-except the baby everyone wants. When a child goes missing, dreams dissolve into nightmares, and everyone is forced to examine what they really want and where it all went wrong.

My Thoughts:  Chloe Pinter is a sweet, thoughtful woman who tries to find the good in everyone. She loves her job at the Chosen Child adoption agency where she represents both sets of parents in the adoption process. Chloe believes she's creating families, the part of her job she finds most rewarding.  A birth mother has to give up the baby in order for Chloe to create a family for another couple.  Chloe doesn't initially grasp how emotionally painful this can be for the birth parent(s)  despite the sadness, stress and anger often exhibited by the biological mother. Penny and Jason, a young couple pregnant with their first child, sign on with Chloe to create an adoption plan for their first baby. Jason and Penny are young, uneducated, unemployed and broke. Jason chooses Francie and John, an older, very wealthy couple to adopt their baby. Francie became close friends with Eva who, with her husband Paul, was trying to adopt a baby with Chloe's help when Eva became pregnant. During the months Chloe works with and is in contact with these couples, her life changes dramatically. Chloe learns some difficult, devastating  lessons and does some things that surprise even her as her life and the lives of these three couples are changed forever for better or worse.

Chosen is a compelling page-turner. Chandra Hoffman foreshadows the disturbing incident that happens to one family early on in the book. The tension builds as the story progresses, with periodic hints throughout the narrative, some subtle others more blatant, of this unsettling incident, until it feels like the book itself will crack in two.  When the climactic event finally occurs, it's not so shocking or disturbing for me as it was a relief because I'd been waiting for something big to happen for most of the novel. When I started reading Chosen, I knew a child would go missing since this is in the book summary. I didn't know which parent(s) or couple were involved or whose baby goes missing. This information is provided in the foreshadowing, along with other information, in too many of the chapters. By the time the child went missing, I felt as if I already knew too much of the story already.

Chosen is divided into chapters each dedicated to a specific character. The chapter headings include the name of the character thereby informing us whose story we'll primarily be reading in that chapter. Francie, one of the parents trying to adopt a child with Chosen Child's help, isn't one of the characters whose name heads a chapter.  Some of her story is told through emails she writes and many posts she writes on adoption message boards. Francie's posts and emails are tacked on at the end of chapters devoted to other characters which I found a little bit confusing and odd.  I thought this was an indication that Francie's not a very important secondary character, but the storyline doesn't support such a supposition.

Francie is an intriguing and irritating character who is desperate, insecure and troubled. She's wanted a child for a long time and she and John tried years of infertility treatments, finally deciding to try adoption. They signed up with Chosen Child and were finally chosen by Jason and Penny to be parents for their baby. Tact isn't one of Francie's strong traits.  She's also rather clueless about the impact her words, often carelessly spoken or written, can have.  Jason is an angry, volatile, greedy and abusive man. Penny is better, but not much.  I hoped to learn more about these characters, particularly their past and what may have occurred in their lives to make them difficult and unpleasant. Penny, for instance, was brutally raped at one point, but we aren't told much more about this traumatic incident.  Penny and Jason remain  until the end of the book, virtually impossible to like or feel sympathy for which made me feel baffled when Chloe does an extremely kind act for them towards the end of the novel.   I was able to feel some empathy for Francie in the second half of the book and understand her a bit more. I'd hoped after she discovers something that deeply impacts her life, Francie would open up and become a woman many readers could identify with and relate to but Francie remained a two-dimensional character  

I have similar but bigger issues with Chloe. I feel as if this fascinating character was introduced but we never got to know her all that well.  Ms. Hoffman provides hints about Chloe's past life, tantalizing us with tidbits, such as a once close relationship with her father or the twin step-sisters she doesn't want to live too far away from but these relationships are never developed and we never meet these family members. Chloe lives with her boyfriend, Dan, whom she loves but it's hard to understand why except that he's good-looking.  Dan's unemployed, frequently crabby and not very supportive of Chloe.  I'd hoped to learn more about the history of their relationship and therefore Chloe but we learn little more about them except that Dan is quite self-centered.  Chloe doesn't seem to see thisbut, since they're almost always arguing, she's often anxious about going home at the end of the day so why she stays with him is confusing. I hoped to learn more about Chloe and to be able to relate to her better as the book progressed.  Instead, despite being the main character in Chosen, I understood Chloe less by the end of the book than I did in the first half of Chosen.

Chandra Hoffman doesn't shy away from providing the wonders and pitfalls that accompany the process of adopting a child in this country with the assistance of a private agency. It's an intense, harrowing situation that can be a terrific experience or parents,  the costs involved and who gets paid and how much, rules and regulations of adopting domestically, which vary a bit from state to state, and also the intensity and emotional complexity of adopting a child. Ms. Hoffman weaves this information into the narrative effectively through Chloe's job and experience at Chosen Child and so well that it's an absorbing part of the storyline rather than a dry recitation of facts. Only when I finished Chosen did I realize how much I'd learned about the actuallyadoption process.

Chosen is a fast-paced, page-turning reading experience. On one level it's a fascinating, intense and emotional story. It was only when I finished the book and thought about it, that I realized I had many questions and few answers to my questions. I thought, hoped, I'd rushed through the book looking for the harrowing incident I knew was coming. I wanted it over with and resolved, hopefully in a good way. I went through Chosen, again, not explicitly reading it but reviewing and skimming what I'd read, thinking that in my enthusiasm to know the outcome of the story, I'd missed or forgotten detailed information about Chloe, Francie and other characters. Unfortunately, I didn't find answers to my questions.

Chandra Hoffman's debut novel is well-written and it's apparent she knows how the adoption process works and the emotional experience it can be for all involved. I think seven characters, almost all of whom are integral to the story, is awfully ambitious for a first-time novelist and may be partly why some fall short of the mark. I recommend Chosen for anyone who likes an informative, intense and engaging book that, once you start reading it, is difficult to put down.
Chandra Hoffman's website and blog

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Chosen and to Harper for a copy of the book.