Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

ISBN:  978-0312278281
Pages:  227
Release Date:  May 4, 2001 (first published 1976)
Publisher:  Picador
Genre:  Literature
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Book Summary:  In The Easter Parade, first published in 1976, we meet sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes when they are still the children of divorced parents. We observe the sisters over four decades, watching them grow into two very different women. Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage. Emily is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. Richard Yates's classic novel is about how both women struggle to overcome their tarnished family's past, and how both finally reach for some semblance of renewal.

My Thoughts: Revolutionary Road is the only book by Richard Yates I've read until now. I thought it was such a captivating, well-written and thought-provoking book that I've always wanted to read more by Yates. I was fortunate to win two novels by Richard Yates in a giveaway at Bibliophile by the Sea, The Easter Parade and Disturbing the Peace! The Easter Parade is beautifully bleak and depressing as Yates, in his simple, bare-bones, honest prose style explores themes such as self-delusion, identity, regret, loss and loyalty.

Yates tells us on the first page, in the first line even, that neither Emily nor Sarah will have a happy life and suggests the problems may have begun with their parents' divorce in 1930 when the girls were still very young. Their parents never really explain the situation between them or the divorce to the girls. Sarah and Emily don't see their father very much and their mother is filled with plans for her independence that never come to fruition. She flits from one career to the next never finding something she enjoys or wants to do. She moves Sarah and Emily to a new home every few years and wants them to call her 'Pookie'. While the girls are still young, it becomes clear that the older Sarah is the very pretty, more social sister, while Emily is the smart one who is practical, insecure and also a worrier.

Sarah and Emily learn from living with Pookie and listening to her that she fantasizes about life and treats her fantasies as fact. They learn not to trust anything Pookie says. She's their mother, though, so they still want her approval. Sarah marries an attractive, charming man, Tony Wilson, approved of by both her parents, particularly Pookie. Pookie is quite taken with the entire Wilson family and fancies herself attached to Tony's married father. Tony turns out to be a blockhead and a drinker and Sarah finds herself stuck out on the North Shore of Long Island on an 8-acre estate in disrepair owned by Tony's family. It's not the glamorous life Sarah expected but she's learned from her mother to make her life sound better than it is. Disillusionment and despair become part of Sarah's life well before she's thirty. She deals with it by drinking like Tony and Pookie.

Emily, whose point of view the third person narrator focuses on, is a character many of us can identify with and recognize. She gets her college degree from Barnard, takes a job in an advertising firm in Manhattan and moves into an apartment in the city. Emily also begins dating. But she's unable to find a man or a job that truly makes her happy. She has a series of boyfriends and several different advertising jobs. Emily convinces herself she's happy for a while but always tires of the man she's dating after believing he's the one. She eventually feels the same despair for her work. She also tries writing an article several times about being a single woman in the city at that time but can't face the truth of the situation. She thinks she wants love, success, safety but she's never satisfied. Emily doesn't appear to know what she wants or who she is.

Yates characters in The Easter Parade are average people familiar to us. They don't know how to go out and make their lives what they want them to be. We hope Emily will learn from the example her family set for her with their sad, pathetic lives. Emily's insecure which we see when Emily learns in college that she's more intelligent than Sarah and it makes her feel as if she's betrayed her sister and in her general avoidance of Sarah. But Emily is also hopeful about what life has to offer. We root for her to create a life that will make her happy even when we know her hope is waning. The question is does Emily know what will make her happy?

This book, like Revolutionary Road, presents a bleak view of middle class life. Yates' narrative style doesn't include sentimentality or melodrama. He tells it like it is with no flowery or unnecessary language. I don't expect Pookie would care much for his style! It's elegant and simple in its sparseness and it sticks with you. Yates leaves us thinking about our own lives and if we have created something we can be proud of and enjoy. I highly recommend you read The Easter Parade and decide for yourself!

Tuesday, December 20, 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. In this meme, share the opening paragraph (or two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. This is a book I requested from TLC Book Tours to review for their January/February book tours after I read an excerpt of this book This book sounds sad and harrowing but very interesting with a compelling female character at the center of the story. I could not pass up 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!

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

I still know your face. I see it clearly as it was at the very beginning, not how it was left after I had hurt you.

I did not see the brightness of new life in your eyes when you were born or cradle your warm fleshy body to my chest, and wish now that I had. I wish I had just looked… but I did not let myself because to me you were still-born. You were not a living person to me then, but an object of hatred, created merely to be beaten and scarred.

When I think back through the tiredness and hunger we have endured for years now, searching through the pages of my memory that still serve me faithfully, I know I saw your lovely face when I was a young girl. It was in 1932 while I was out walking with Grandfather in those public gardens adjacent to our house, now forgotten and laid waste like the rest of Shanghai. I am certain now that I have always known and loved your face, it was only terror and pain that held me back from you. But all that I suffered then seems nothing compared to the suffering now being inflicted across this country and I know that I should never have let anything stop me from loving you. I wish that all those years ago I’d had the courage just to look at you, to feel the need and unconditional love in your fragile little body.
What are your thoughts about these opening paragraphs? Would you read this book based on these paragraphs?

Monday, December 19, 2011

~ Mailbox Monday ~

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books. I haven't participated in this meme the last few weeks so I've listed below most of the books I received for review or purchased, or otherwise obtained this month. Mailbox Monday is being hosted by the Let Them Read Books this week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

The Little Princes by Conor Grennan (for review from TLC Book Tours)
An astonishing testament to true courage, the transformative power of love, and the ability of one man to make a real difference.
In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan embarked on a yearlong journey around the globe, beginning with a three-month stint volunteering at an orphanage in civil war–torn Nepal. But a shocking truth would forever change his life: these rambunctious, resilient children were not orphans at all but had been taken from their families by child traffickers who falsely promised to keep them safe from war before abandoning them in the teeming chaos of Kathmandu. For Conor, what started as a footloose ramble became a dangerous, dedicated mission to unite youngsters he had grown to love with the parents they had been stolen from—a breathtaking adventure, as Conor risked everything in the treacherous Nepalese mountains to bring the children home.

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson (for review from TLC Book Tours)
For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires.
For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents. In the enclosed world of the Sang household—a place of public ceremony and private cruelty—fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir. For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires.
The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society—even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie (for review from BookBrowse)
New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie makes her mark with this absorbing, finely hued tale of suspense—a deeply atmospheric and twisting mystery full of deadly secrets, salacious lies, and unexpected betrayals involving the mysterious drowning of a Met detective—an accomplished rower—on the Thames.
When a K9 search-and-rescue team discovers a woman's body tangled up with debris in the river, Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid finds himself heading an investigation fraught with complications. The victim, Rebecca Meredith, was a talented but difficult woman with many admirers—and just as many enemies. An Olympic contender on the verge of a controversial comeback, she was also a high-ranking detective with the Met—a fact that raises a host of political and ethical issues in an already sensitive case.
To further complicate the situation, a separate investigation, led by Detective Inspector Gemma James, Kincaid's wife, soon reveals a disturbing—and possibly related—series of crimes, widening the field of suspects. But when someone tries to kill the search-and-rescue team member who found Rebecca's body, the case becomes even more complex and dangerous, involving powerful interests with tentacles that reach deep into the heart of the Met itself.
Surrounded by enemies with friendly faces, pressured to find answers quickly while protecting the Yard at all costs, his career and reputation on the line, Kincaid must race to catch the killer before more innocent lives are lost—including his own.

Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir by Donna M. Johnson (win from Melody at Melody and Words)
Donna Johnson was three years old when her mother signed on as the organist for Brother David Terrell, a hugely popular apocalyptic tent preacher during the 1960s and 70s. As a member of Brother Terrell's inner circle Donna had a front row seat for the miracles, exorcisms, KKK face-offs and betrayals of the flesh that were common under the tent. As the faithful followed their prophet to backwaters across the South to await the end time, Donna left the ministry for good at age seventeen.
Recounted with deadpan observation and surreal detail, Holy Ghost Girl bypasses easy judgment to articulate a rich world where the mystery of faith and human frailty share a surprising and humorous coexistence.

Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner (win from Vicki at I’d Rather Be at the Beach ~ Thank you!)
Alexander Popper can't stop remembering. Four years old when his father tossed him into Lake Michigan, he was told, Sink or swim, kid. In his mind, he's still bobbing in that frigid water. The rest of this novel's vivid cast of characters also struggle to remain afloat: Popper's mother, stymied by an unhappy marriage, seeks solace in the relentless energy of Chicago; his brother, Leo, shadow boss of the family, retreats into books; paternal grandparents, Seymour and Bernice, once high fliers, now mourn for long lost days; his father, a lawyer and would-be politician obsessed with his own success, fails to see that the family is falling apart; and his college girlfriend, the fiercely independent Kat, wrestles with impossible choices.
Covering four generations of the Popper family, Peter Orner illuminates the countless ways that love both makes us whole and completely unravels us. A comic and sorrowful tapestry of memory of connection and disconnection, Love and Shame and Love explores the universals with stunning originality and wisdom.

The Wapshot Chronicles by John Cheever (purchase)
When The Wapshot Chronicle was published in 1957, John Cheever was already recognized as a writer of superb short stories. But The Wapshot Chronicle, which won the 1958 National Book Award, established him as a major novelist.
Based in part on Cheever's adolescence in New England, the novel follows the destinies of the impecunious and wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolphs, a quintessential Massachusetts fishing village. Here are the stories of Captain Leander Wapshot, venerable sea dog and would-be suicide; of his licentious older son, Moses; and of Moses' adoring and errant younger brother, Coverly. Tragic and funny, ribald and splendidly picaresque, The Wapshot Chronicle is a family narrative in the tradition of Trollope, Dickens, and Henry James.

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (from a friend ~ thank you!)
Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women. But a dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, to become the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and to live the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. She remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty; Clothes make the woman; Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. In the end, it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that lead Mary to disaster.
Emma Donoghue's daring, sensually charged prose casts a new sheen on the squalor and glamour of eighteenth-century England. Accurate, masterfully written, and infused with themes that still bedevil us today, Slammerkin is historical fiction for all readers.

Friday, December 16, 2011

~ Persephone Secret Santa Gift ~

Today is the day we reveal the gift we received from our Persephone Secret Santa. I opened my gift this morning - it's been sitting on the shelf tormenting me!

Christy from the blog, A Good Stopping Point, sent me The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I'm thrilled! Thank you you Christy! I have wanted to read this book for a long time.

This is the picture on the front of the Classic Persephone, my copy is the beautiful Persephone dove-grey and from the website:
Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911) are enduring bestsellers, but this 1901 novel is many people's favourite: Nancy Mitford and Marghanita Laski loved it, and some US college courses teach it alongside Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

Part I, the original Marchioness, is in the Cinderella (and Miss Pettigrew) tradition, while Part II, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after' but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage. 'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose 'hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.'
My book is lined with this beautiful tulip print and came with a matching bookmark!

Tuesday, December 13, 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 (or two) of a book you've decided to read based on that paragraph. I requested an ARC of this book from the publisher through Shelf Awareness after I read about the story and then an excerpt. This is a novel about several flawed characters and their dysfunctional relationships over a period of years. These kind of books always interest me and the opening paragraphs grabbed my attention.

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 fun meme!

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

So Carmen was married, just. She sat under a huge butter moon, on a windless night in the summer of 1983, at a table, in front of the remains of some chicken cordon bleu. She looked toward the improvised dance floor where her very new husband was doing the Mexican hat dance with several other large men, three of them his brothers, other Sloans. Matt was a plodding hat-dancer; his kicks threw the others off the beat. In spite of this lack of aptitude, he was waving her over, beckoning her to join in. She waved back as though she thought he was just saying hi. She was hoping to sit out this early phase of her marriage, the mortifying dances segment.
“Don’t be discouraged. Everything will get better from here.”
This was Jean Arbuthnot, who sat next to Carmen, tapping the ash of her cigarette onto her rice pilaf. Jean and Alice, Carmen’s sister, were among the artists who had taken over this old farm in the middle of Wisconsin. Jean played and recorded traditional folk music in a workshop on the edge of the property. Alice painted in a studio that occupied half the barn.
“Bad dancer doesn’t mean anything else, does it?” Carmen said. Matt was now doing a white-guy boogie to a bad cover of “Let’s Get Physical,” shooting his hands out in an incoherent semaphore. “Like being bad at parallel parking means you’re bad in bed?” She pushed back her chair. “I’ve got to pee. This is apparently a big part of being pregnant. I didn’t know that before.”

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

~ Sunday Salon ~

Hello! Some of you may have noticed my blog has been very quiet the past week. Late last Sunday night (after watching the Jets win, yay!) I felt really tired suddenly and got a headache which is unusual for me, and a very sore throat. I figured it was the start of a cold. By Monday morning it was pretty obvious to me it was not just a cold. I woke up feeling kind of awful although I had a pretty cool raspy, sexy voice, apparently, due to a bit of laryngitis! lol A trip to my pulmonologist revealed pneumonia. ugh! And he wanted to put me in the hospital so the doctors could monitor my lungs etc. etc. double ugh! I talked him out of that by promising to stay in bed and only rest and if I felt worse, I would go to the hospital. It always amazes me how tired, like bone-weary, difficult-to- walk tired effect pneumonia has...on me sometimes anyway. A few times during the week when I thought I felt better, I checked my email and visited some blogs until realizing I couldn't hold my head up. I wish I had a laptop this week. {Others around here (who shall remain nameless) disagree and argued this was a reason why we shouldn't have a laptop because I wouldn't rest if I had one!} I’m feeling better, stronger but still tired and weak.
I have so much catching up to do with reading and reviews! I had a lot of trouble focusing while trying to read this week but I didn’t realize, at first, that it was actually the words on the page that were the problem. Thinking it was the kind of book or the story, I kept trying different books until I finally realized, after reading the first few chapters in six different books, that it was the size of the words on the page that were making my eyes cross and giving me a headache! So I read some of The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston but even that was difficult after a while. I wish I’d had some graphic novels. I listened to some of When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson a little bit, too! Now I have bits and pieces of all these different books swimming around in my head! I need to get book organized as soon as I feel up to it and finish up some of the lighter books and then focus on the others.

Today I am going to try to finish The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine which is good but I prefer Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I’m also just about finished Family Album by Penelope Lively - I started this a long time ago and put it aside for some review books I needed to read. I picked it up again this week having forgotten what a good book it is. Finally I’m enjoying Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, although some of it is a little slow. I’ll also be rooting for the Jets this afternoon just because it‘s fun!
I hope you all have a fun, relaxing Sunday ~ any good plans or good books to read today?

Happy Reading
Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~ The Art of Relaxing!

I've been sick all week with pneumonia so I've been taking it easy and sleeping as much as possible. I haven't achieved quite the level of relaxation of some of the cats,  but I'm working on it!

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, December 4, 2011

~ Sunday Salon : A Tropical December in the Northeast! ~

December 4th and it's almost 60 degrees outside! It's a little bit like Bizarre-o World! If not for the Christmas decorations popping up everywhere, I think I'd forget it was December! I'm not complaining, honest...I think this is awesome! My wheels don't move so well in snow and slush and being able to get out and go on my own is the best. At least once every winter after a storm, I've had to be rescued by passers-by when my wheels get sucked into a deeper-than-it-looks pile of snow and slush. lol It would be great if the days surrounding Christmas were a little more wintry but it's no big deal really.

This is the kitty-cats ideal weather. Some of them have energy to spare. Some, like Big Bob, still sleep the day away! Mr. Magoo spends the nights running outside to play and then back in, resting for 20 minutes and running back out again to play! Lola wakes up in the morning in play mode and seems to run everywhere, jumping up and twisting around every couple of feet! I was in the kitchen the other morning putting the cat's food out and I heard this weird scratching sound from the other room. Lola found an old cat toy underneath some piece of furniture or other and dragged it out to play with - it's a round plastic ring with a ball inside of it. The ball spins around the ring, while the cat to tries and get it by sticking their paw into the ring. What Lola doesn't realize is the ball will never come out of the ring! Lola's been playing with this toy all week. She gets so into trying to catch the ball and she's so focused on what she's doing, she ends up dragging the entire ring across the floor, it's very funny to watch!

Today is review day for me (I hope!) I'd like to draft several reviews and finish up a few that I left unfinished. It's getting to the point where I'm stressing too much about these reviews I haven't done and if I wait much longer, the reviews are going to become an unpleasant task I have to get done rather than something I enjoy doing. So I'm on a mission! The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern are two of the books on m review list! I'm hoping to finish The Lotus Reader by Tatjana Soli which I've been taking my time with and spend some time with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami!

Happy Reading!
I hope you have a great Sunday!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

~ Saturday Snapshot ~ Some Rescue Cats!

These are some of the cats we've rescued and adopted in the last couple of years!

Gidget and Lola. We found these two outside in the freezing cold, dead of winter sleeping in a large ceramic flower pot on top of each other.

Finnegan. Finny is one of the happiest, easy-going cats I've ever known.

Elliot. He looks a lot like Mr. Magoo but isn't cross-eyed...he has a similar disposition, too.

Moses. He was a kitten and loved to play hard until he was exhausted...he used to just suddenly fall asleep while playing. The first time it happened I thought something was wrong, but nope, he simply exhausted himself!

Casey. He's a big, muscular tom cat who loved being petted!
Rascal (he looks a bit like a racoon!)

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