Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Salon - 1-31-2010 - January in Review

 
Hello, Sunday Blogging Buddies, hope you had a great week!
It has been freezing here this week, we even had some snow squalls one day along with 45MPH winds causing scary white-out conditions for drivers (nearly 100 accidents in the area in a 8 hour period). Fortunately, we were both safe and warm at home...whew!  
I am so happy that I got all caught up on my January books read/reviews, so that I can officially close out the month. 
Here is what I read/reviewed in January:
  1. The Handmaid's Tale; Margaret Atwood - 4.5/5
  2. Gilded: How Newport Became America's Richest Resort; Davis - 4/5
  3. Remarkable Creatures; Tracy Chevalier - 4.5/5
  4. The Disappeared; M.R. Hall - 3/5
  5. One Amazing Thing; Chitra Divakaruni - 4/5
  6. South of Broad; Pat Conroy - 4.5/5 (audio)
  7. Blacklands; Belinda Bauer - 4/5
  8. The End of the Road; Sue Henry - 2/5
  9. The Red Door; Charles Todd - 3.5/5
  10. Secrets of Eden; Chris Bohjalian - 4/5
  11. Making Rounds With Oscar; David Dosa, M.D. - 5/5
  12. Shutter Island; Dennis LeHane - 4/5 (audio)
  13. Winter's Tail; Hatkoff - 4.5/5
  14. Noah's Compass; Anne Tyler - 5/5
  15. Not My Daughter; Delinsky - 4/5
  16. The Happiness Project; Gretchen Rubin - 3/5
  • January = (4) non fiction (2) audio) (12) fiction(12 review books)
  • Favorite Books of the Month: Making Rounds With Oscar and Noah's Compass

2010 Challenge Progress
  1. 2010 100+ Reading Challenge - 16/100
  2. 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project - 13/75
  3. 2010 ARC Reading Challenge - 12/38
  4. 2010 Pub Challenge - 6/10
  5. 2010 New Authors Challenge - 6/50
  6. 2010 Support Your Local Library - 4/50
  7. 2010 Audio Book Challenge - 2/20
  8. 2010 Thriller/Suspense Challenge - 2/12
  9. 2010 Chunkster Challenge - 1/6
  10. 2010 Booker Challenge - 0/6
  11. 2010 Books To Read Before I Die Challenge - 0/20
 
January Books Purchased = (4) 
Total Cost $16.95 includes taxes and/or s/h
February Goals
  1. Read (1) Books for Booker Challenge
  2. Read (2-3) Books for Books To Read Before I Die Challenge
Books in Progress
  1. American Rust; Meyer  (tour book)
  2. Sacred Hearts; Dunant (audio and review copies)
  3. Wish her Safe At Home; Benatar - (review copy)
Other Sunday Stuff

I wanted to take a minute to thank some bloggers for passing on some thoughtful awards to me this week: 

  
              (From Susan @ Suko's Notebook)


      
      (Peaceful Reader)                (SB @ Not To Serious I Hope)

Happy 101 - Asks That I Name (10) Things I am Happy For 
(here goes)
  1. Good Health
  2. A Peaceful Life That I Love
  3. Knowing I'm Loved
  4. Wonderful husband and children
  5. Caring family and friends
  6. (4) amazing feline family members
  7. Books, Book Stores
  8. Bloggers Everywhere
  9. Having enough
  10. Helping others
Have a great Sunday and a terrific week as well!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

16 - The Happiness Project; Gretchen Rubin

 


Gretchen Rubin's new book is part memoir and part self-help. It is based on the author's 365 day quest to find more happiness in her life. One day the author had an epiphany of sorts while riding on a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter."  Recognizing some of her own flaws:  quick to blame, craves praise, snores and is somewhat messy, she decided to spend a year making her life happier, hence, The Happiness Project. The project involved "scientific studies" and "wisdom of the ages" to see what works.

What is a Happiness Project?

As define by the author: "A Happiness Project is an approach for changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse.  Second is making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part keeping your resolutions."

 In this book, beginning with January, each month was dedicated to a new resolution.
  • January -  Boost Energy: Vitality
  • February - Remember Love
  • March - Aim Higher: Work
  • April - Lighten Up: Parenthood
  • May - Be Serious About Play (Leisure)
  • June - Make Time for Friends (Friendship)
  • July - Buy Some Happiness (Money)
  • August - Contemplate the Heavens (Eternity)
  • September - Pursue a Passion (Books)
  • October - Pay Attention (Mindfulness
  • November - Keep a Contented Heart (Attitude)
  • December - Boot Camp Perfect (Happiness)
(In addition, within each month's resolution there were points to focus on and examples.)

Take February -- Resolution = Remember Love (Focus on - quit nagging; don't expect praise; fight right; no dumping and give proofs of love)

At the very end of the book there are guidelines for starting your own personalized Happiness Project. The guidelines include questions for the reader to answer to help them formulate their own game plan.

MY THOUGHTS - I started out really loving this book, even though some of the January resolutions were nothing new: go to sleep earlier; exercise better; toss, restore, organize and tackle a nagging task.  Her personal resolutions would be pretty easy to apply to most anyone's life. I was even thinking of a few people I knew who might enjoy this book.  However, by the time I got about half way though I decided to nix that idea. A lot of what I was reading seemed rather self-indulgent.  There are also a lot of references and comments from her blog throughout this book, so I began to think perhaps I'll just recommend the blog instead to the people I had in mind. (Happiness Project Blog)

As I mentioned there were things I did enjoy a lot about the book. It was well written, insightful, and oftentimes humorous.  My problem really was that the author, in my opinion, is not what most might consider to be a typical, wife and mother with job who happens to be in a bit of a rut.  Far from it, the author has many advantages: for starters, she admits that she is married to the love of her life, has two wonderful daughters. In addition, her bio she states the following:

"I wrote a bestselling biography of Winston Churchill, "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill," and one of John Kennedy, "Forty Ways to Look at JFK." My first book, "Power Money Fame S..: A User's Guide," is social criticism in the guise of a user's manual. I've also written three dreadful novels that are safely locked away in a drawer.

Before turning to writing, I had a career in law. A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal."

  
While all this is certain admirable, most who are might consider reading this book are coming from a whole other place in life.  I would think that many might look to this book as a self-help guide. If that is the case and if, for example, the reader is unhappy and prone to depression, this book is unlikely to be the cure. In fact, it might make such a reader feel more overwhelmed by the thought of taking on such a huge project.  But, on the other hand  if your life is pretty good and you are just looking for a way to make things run more smoothly or to become more organized in life, then you might want to give The Happiness Project a try.  MY Recommendation  ? YOU DECIDE. (3/5 stars)

(Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me a review copy)

Friday, January 29, 2010

15 - Not My Daughter; Barbara Delinsky

Not My Daughter; Barbara Delinsky
First let me say that I always seem to enjoy a Barbara Delinsky book. Not just because she is a New England author, but because her stories most always about real life situations. This particular novel is about a subject that would make most mothers of teenage girls cringe: A Pregnancy Pact.

In a nutshell Lily, Mary Kate and Jess are three teenage girls, lifelong friends, who decide it would be a great idea to get pregnant at the same time, so that their babies too could be friends. The girls are smart and popular, and even the mothers of these girls (Susan, Kate and Sunny) are friends.  

Susan, the mother of Lily is the first to hear the pregnancy news. She thinks what her daughter has told her is a joke, but when she learns that she is serious, all the hopes and dreams that she had for the daughter she raised on her own, seem to be just that -- dreams.  Susan always taught her daughter to be independent, and that it was possible for a woman to raise a well-adjusted child on her own.

Susan speaks from experience, as she too was pregnant at seventeen. She decided to raise Lily on her own; her own parents basically sent her on her way, and were never involved in Lily's life. Lily's father Rick, a successful news reporter, is still somewhat involved in his daughter's life and truly cares about Susan. Meanwhile, Susan has done well on her own, and is now a high school principal, and yes, at Lily's school. She has much to risk professionally, when the news of this pact breaks.  Once it is out in the open, everyone seems quick to point the finger and place blame.

As I eagerly turned the pages of Not My Daughter, set in the small, close-knit (fictional) town of Zaganack, Maine it brought to mind a similar, true to life story I had heard about.  An real life pregnancy pact in another coastal town, this one in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In case you haven't heard about that one, here is the link to the June 18, 2008, Time magazine article.

MY THOUGHTS -  I enjoyed this book a lot. It was thought provoking, timely and emotionally gripping, but I was a bit disappointed by the ending -- to say more might spoil it for others who plan to read this book. Despite the ending, the book is an important story that is told and the book is RECOMMENDED - 4/5 stars

(Finished copy provided to me by Doubleday for review - many thanks)

14 - Noah's Compass; Anne Tyler

Noah's Compass; Anne Tyler
Call me a sucker for books about "sad-sacks" and the "under-dog", so imagine my delight when I read the first two paragraphs of Anne Tyler's new book: Noah's Compass.........

(Page 3...   In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job. It wasn't such a good job, anyhow. He'd been teaching fifth-grade in a second-rate private boy's school.  Fifth grade wasn't even what he'd been trained for. TEACHING wasn't what he'd been trained for. His degree was in philosophy. Oh, but don't ask. Things seemed to have taken a downward turn a long, long time ago, and perhaps it was just as well that he had seen the last of St. Dufrig's dusty, scuffed corridors and those interminable after-school meetings and the reams of niggling paperwork.

In fact, this might be a sign. It could be just the nudge he needed to push him on to the next stage --the final stage, the summing up stage. The stage where he sat in his rocking chair and reflected on what it all meant, in the end."

So when circumstances bring Liam to the final chapter of his life, " short, stocky and out of shape" Liam, decides to scale down his possessions and move to a smaller place on the outskirts of Baltimore. The night of the move Liam goes to bed exhausted, and when he wakes up the next day, he is in the hospital with a sore and bandaged head. Liam has no memory as to what happened to him the night before, he only recalls going to bed the night before.

Unable to deal with the fact that he can't recall the incident that landed him in the hospital,  he decides to see a Neurologist. While he is at the doctor's office he meets Eunice, a professional "rememberer", hired by a aged, wealthy man with Alzheimer's. Liam is so impressed, that he believes Eunice is the answer to helping him remember what happened to him. Eunice agrees to help Liam, but this story is not all doom and gloom, there is humor and comic relief to be had for the reader.It is, however, the head injury which occurs at the very beginning of this novel, that becomes somewhat of a catalyst for the story of Liam's life.

So the title Noah's Compass is significant; his "compass" being Liam's memories. Not just of how he got the head injury, but his memories of his life in general, which  has been somewhat of a self-imposed amnesia, that helped him block out failures and disappointments in his life.

MY THOUGHTS - I LOVED this novel. Liam is a humble, unassuming sad-sack that tugged on my heart-strings but also made me laugh. Humorous, yet poignant, Anne Tyler has written a winner. A story about a quiet man, in the final stage of his life, who is searching for the meaning in the life he has lived. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - 5/5 stars

(Thanks go to Doubleday for sending me a final copy of this book for review)

Friday Finds: (Bloodroot), (Information Officer), (Apparition and Late Fictions) and Settled in the Wild)

 
I have not participated in Friday Finds in 2010, but since I found a few really interesting looking books this week I thought it would be a perfect time to jump back in and mention my finds. 
  1. Bloodroot; Amy Greene - (amazon) - Bloodroot is that rare sort of family saga that feels intimate instead of epic. Set in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, it’s told largely in tandem voices that keep watchful eyes on Myra Lamb. She is a child of the mountain, tied to the land in ways that mystify and enchant those around her. There’s magic to Myra--perhaps because she has the remarkable blue eyes foretold by a nearly-forgotten family curse--but little fantasy to her life. Bloodroot is as much about the Lambs as it is about a place, one that becomes ever more vivid as generations form, break free, and knit back together. Its characters speak plainly but true, they are resilient and flawed and beautiful, and there's a near-instant empathy in reading their stories, which--even in their most visceral moments--are alluring and wonderful. 
  2. The Information Officer; Mark Mills -  Summer 1942: Malta, a small windswept island in the Mediterranean, has become the most bombed patch of earth on the planet, worse even than London during the Blitz. The Maltese, a fiercely independent people, withstand the relentless Axis air raids.

    Max Chadwick is the British officer charged with manipulating the news on Malta to bolster the population's fragile esprit de corps. This is all, besides a few broken-down fighter planes, that stands in the face of Nazi occupation and perhaps even victory—for Malta is the stepping-stone the Germans need between Europe and North Africa.
    When Max learns of the brutal murder of a young island woman—along with evidence that the crime was committed by a British officer—he knows that the Maltese loyalty to the war effort could be instantly shattered. As the clock ticks down toward all-out invasion, Max must investigate the murder—beyond the gaze of his superiors, friends, and even the woman he loves.

    Filled with remarkably poignant and atmospheric details of life under siege, and indelible characters who live and breathe, The Information Officer is a taut, transporting thriller—an enthralling novel told with exceptional skill and style. 
  3. Apparition and Late Fictions;  Thomas Lynch - Heart-rending stories of life and death: a debut fiction collection by the award-winning author of The Undertaking. A Methodist minister gone astray, a grieving trout bum gone fishing with his father’s remains, an artist overwhelmed by incarnate beauty—these are just a few of the iconic yet utterly unique characters in Thomas Lynch’s spirited collection. Set in Michigan’s north woods, in Ohio’s interior, on islands, in casinos, and in distant cities, these stories are linked by the gone and not forgotten: former spouses, dead parents, and missing children. In pursuit of love and its redemptions, these are pilgrims haunted by memory, dogged by desire, made radiant by romance and its denouements.

    With the elegant prose of Frederick Busch and the Irish sensibility of William Trevor, Lynch masterfully creates a world where mirage and apparition are commonplace, where people searching for connection and old comforts find them both near at hand and oddly out of reach.
  4. Settled in the Wild; Susan Shetterly - Starred Review. I live on land that has not surrendered the last of its wildness, Shetterly (The New Year's Owl: Encounters with Animals, People and the Land They Share) writes of her home in rural Maine. It keeps secrets, and those secrets prompt us to pay attention, to look for more. In her first essay collection in more than 20 years, she beautifully renders some of what she's learned in the decades since she and her then husband moved into an unfinished cabin—idealistic, dangerously unprepared, and, frankly, arrogant, she can see now. Most of these essays, however, focus on life after she's settled in, when she's learned to listen for the sounds of the coming spring through her open bedroom window or impulsively stands down a bobcat that's chased a baby rabbit into the middle of the road. Shetterly's eye for poetic detail is exquisite, especially in longer essays such as the story of how she nursed an injured raven back to health, after which it set up home on her roof and became best friends with her terrier. But she writes about her neighbors (even those she admits she never really knew) with equal grace and empathy. Let's hope it's not another quarter-century before her next collection arrives.
So hope I get to read/review some of these 2010 releases. Have you read any of them? If so what did you think?

13 - Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again; Hatkoff

 
A sucker for all of God's helpless creatures, when I heard about Winter's Tail, I decided to pick this book up from the library.  It was such a touching story. For those of you who have not heard about this amazingly resilient dolphin, here is what actually happened.  

On December 10, 2005 a baby dolphin, about 2-3 months old was spotted in Mosquito Lagoon, Florida with lobster trap ropes wrapped around it's tail and mouth. The fisherman who helped rescue the dolphin, later named "Winter" was Jim Savage. Realizing that the injuries to the creature were serious, he contacted fish and wildlife conservationists who responded and took the frightened, injured dolphin on a (3) hour journey to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to mend. Although,  the dolphin did lose her tail, she was left with a stump which was later fitted with a prosthetic sleeve and tail enabling her to swim again. The last report I read indicated that Winter (4) years later is still thriving in her closely monitored environment. If you are ever in the Clearwater, FL area, you can visit Winter at the Aquarium.

The authors of this wonderful inspirational and beautifully illustrated book are Craig Hatkoff  and his daughters Julianna and Isabella. (Ages 4 - 8) RECOMMENDED - 4.5/5 stars (Library Book)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Private Life


Waiting On” Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.  What book are you waiting for to be released?  Here's my pick:

(Pub Date: May 4, 2010)


(Amazon)
A riveting new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winner that traverses the intimate landscape of one woman’s life, from the 1880s to World War II.

Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven in post–Civil War Missouri when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He’s the most famous man their small town has ever produced: a naval officer and a brilliant astronomer—a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret’s mother calls the match “a piece of luck.”

Margaret is a good girl who has been raised to marry, yet Andrew confounds her expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in faraway California. Soon she comes to understand that his devotion to science leaves precious little room for anything, or anyone, else. When personal tragedies strike and when national crises envelop the country, Margaret stands by her husband. But as World War II approaches, Andrew’s obsessions take a different, darker turn, and Margaret is forced to reconsider the life she has so carefully constructed.

Private Life
is a beautiful evocation of a woman’s inner world: of the little girl within the hopeful bride, of the young woman filled with yearning, and of the faithful wife who comes to harbor a dangerous secret. But it is also a heartbreaking portrait of marriage and the mysteries that endure even in lives lived side by side; a wondrously evocative historical panorama; and, above all, a masterly, unforgettable novel from one of our finest storytellers.

Wordless Wednesday

Now Who Wouldn't Enjoy This?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

12 - Shutter Island; Dennis LeHane



In anticipation of the movie release in February 2010, I was anxious to read/listen to Shutter Island. I've read and enjoyed LeHane's earlier books: Mystic River and Prayers for Rain and have not been disappointed. The audio version is read by Tom Stechschulte who happens to be an amazing reader. He was able to effectively handle voice changes for multiple characters.

It's 1954 and Teddy Daniels is a U.S. marshal assigned to check out a reported escape of a Rachel Solando, a murderess, at Ashcliff Hospital, a federal asylum for the criminally insane. The facility is located on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. While aboard the ferry taking him to Shutter Island, Teddy meets another marshal, his new partner Chuck Aule.

Once they arrive at the hospital they begin  interviewing patients and staff. Although most of the people they talk to seem helpful, some seem to be hiding something. The medical director responsible for the missing woman's care seems very odd and suspicious, and at times even Teddy seems a bit messed up, from flashbacks of the war, and the loss of his wife in an apartment fire set by an arsonist.

The location and description of this asylum set on a remote island is enough to send chills up the reader's spine, but then a hurricane hits.  When the ferry services from the island are stopped , and no one can leave, things take a turn for the worst.

MY THOUGHTS - Do you like creepy psychological thriller --the sort of book with imagery that makes the reading experience all the more intense? Do you like a thriller with disturbing events and multiple twists are turns? Not every reader will be satisfied with the way that this book ends, but remember it's fiction. In my opinion, the plot and ending were written with movie options in mind back in 2003 when the book was first published. Can't wait to see the movie - RECOMMENDED - (rating - 4/5 stars).

(Library Audio Book)

11 - Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat; David Dosa M.D.














Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat; David Dosa M.D.

On July 27, 2007 Oscar the amazing cat who seemed to be able to predict the imminent death of patients at Steere House Nursing and Rehab Center in Providence, Rhode Island made the AP news . Oscar was a stray cat that began to wander the construction site of the current facility, and one day, shortly after the dedication ceremony, he decided to take a tour of the completed facility....."At first the staff tried to shoo the animal away, to no avail, each day the cat returned undaunted, through the lobby's sliding glass doors. His attitude was one of entitlement."  He was finally allowed to stay and named Oscar after the building's benefactor.

Oscar was not the only animal that resided at the nursing home. Steere House was unlike other nursing homes in the area. At Steere House, several cats, rabbits and birds resided there, and the residents seemed to enjoy having them there as well.  Oscar had not been a very sociable cat during his first year at the nursing and rehab center. He was not one to cuddle up to staff residents or family members. However, one day they found him laying on the bed, purring next to Mrs. Davis, a dementia patient. Dr.Dosa, who was not fond of cats, went to pet Oscar and he hit his hand with his paw refusing to budge from the bed. The doctor examined Mrs Davis, and then left the facility, and about one hour latter the nurse called Dr. Dosa to let him know that Mrs. Davis had passed away. The doctor could not believe what he was hearing; he just left his patent.

Mary, the charge nurse, told Dr. Dosa that this behavior and pattern of Oscars, was not new. In fact it had happened 5-6 times before. The patients were examined, no staff members sensed anything was wrong, and then Oscar would enter the room and sit vigil on the bed of the resident. After a few hours all of these patients peacefully passed away.  Suddenly doctors and staff took notice, as to who Oscar choose to visit, and it wasn't long before Oscar had created quite a stir. This ordinary cat instinctively seemed to know when the end of life was near.

MY THOUGHTS - I LOVED this book, and not just because I love cats -- it's full of beautiful quotes about cats, and the story just made me feel good all over. Dr. Dosa has written a book that compassionately addresses end of life issues. The stories he shares about residents and their families who must deal with such painful issues such as Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, and terminal illness, are tender and heartfelt. The book cites amazing examples of unexpected deaths, as well as miracles in other residents who had been expected to die. There is valuable information about hospice, and the book even touches on that expression "the sweet smell of death", and how perhaps Oscar, may have been able to smell elevated level of chemical compounds which are believed to be released as cells die off."  If you like to read tender stories about amazing animals, or need a touching, compassionate read about life, death and dying, this book will not disappoint you. Dewey the Small - Town Library Cat may have touched the world in 2008, but more over Dewey, Oscar is the cat everyone will be talking about in 2010. READ THIS BOOK it's AWESOME!  (5/5 stars)

(Thanks to Lauren at Hyperion for sending me a finished copy of the book)

10 - The Secrets of Eden; Chris Bohjalian




The title alone of Chris Bohjalian's latest book: The Secrets of Eden, drew me in, and never let go. Having read all of this author's books, I can say without a doubt that Bohjalian is one of those talented authors, who can expertly write about controversial subject matters and family issues while keeping the reader hanging on and anxiously turning the pages,

Secrets of Eden takes place in the small town of Haverhill, Vermont. The story is told through the perspectives of four central characters. From the very first pages the reader gets a feel of what is going on in the mind of Reverend Stephen Drew of the local Baptist Church......

(p.3) "On those sorts of Sundays, whenever someone would stand and ask for prayers for something relatively minor -- a promotion, traveling mercies, a broken leg that would surely mend --I would find myself thinking as I stood in the pulpit, 'Get a spine, you bloody ingrate! Buck Up! That lady behind you is about to lose her husband to pancreatic cancer, and you're whining about your difficult boss? Oh please! -- I never said that sort of thing aloud, but I think it is only because I'm from a particularly mild mannered suburb of New York City, and so my family has to be drunk, to be cutting. I did love my congregation, but I also knew that I had an inordinate number of whiners."

And, while all small towns have their secrets, no one including the Rev. Drew, was prepared for what would happen on the very day he baptized one of his own parishioners. On the very day that Alice Hayward came to be baptized in Brookner's pond, she along with her husband George would be found dead. The Haywards along with their teenage daughter Katie were prominent members of the community. At first their deaths were believed to be a murder-suicide, but when the State's attorney, Catherine Benincasa, begins to investigate she is not so sure. Slowly secrets are revealed, which help to unravel the mystery behind the deaths.

I don't want to reveal too much more about this story other than to say that there was one other prominent character in the story which I feel I need to mention. Heather Laurent is an author of spiritual books about angels. While Heather is in the area giving a talk at Bennington College, she hears about the murder-suicide and visits Rev. Drew to see if she can provide some spiritual assistance. Heather seems drawn to the Reverend, and becomes somewhat of a mentor to 15-year old Katie Hayward. Heather, like Katie, lost her parents to spousal abuse when she was about Katie's age.

MY THOUGHTS - In this riveting literary suspense novel, the author does a wonderful job with a difficult subject --spousal abuse, and its effects on a family and community. The author has created a vivid sense of place, a believable story, well drawn out characters and surprises along the way. Readers who enjoy compelling novels that touch on human emotions should not be disappointed with Secrets of Eden. RECOMMENDED (4/5 stars)


(Review copy provided by Shaye Areheart Books / Amazon Vine)

Happy Birthday, New England Bloggers!

Elizabeth, over at Thoughts From an Evil Overlord is the brain child of New England Bloggers. We are a group of bloggers from the six New England States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In one year, our membership has grown to over 120 members with active blogs. To celebrate our one year birthday, Elizabeth has encouraged us to do a  post that relates to our interesting region.

New England is the only place I have ever lived.  Most of my life was lived in Massachusetts (the western part of that state). Here is where my life began.......


(A lot has changed since the 1950's)

 
Most people think of the beautiful and historical Berkshires when you mention Western Massachusetts.  My favorite part of Western Massachusetts has always been the lovely and well known five college area.

Amherst, Massachusetts has been named the number (1) College town in North America. The Amherst area offers the prestigious Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts.

The other New England state that I call home is Rhode Island  (the smallest state in the US). It's funny when we were on vacation one time and we told the waitress we were from Rhode Island, she said, "what state is that in New York"? LOL

The entire population of the State of Rhode Island is just over (1) million people (2008 population was 1, 050,788). But, if you have never been to Rhode Island it has so much to offer, despite the high taxes, high unemployment and corruption that you may have read about at some time.

Appropriately coined the "Ocean State," Rhode Island has more than 400 miles of scenic coastline, featuring more than 100 public and private beaches. Their pristine beauty is one of the state's most appealing attributes.  And, don't forget to take a tour of the Newport Mansions (a fabulous place to visit). Home to Ivy League Brown University , or perhaps you'd like to send your child to a University with views of the ocean, like Roger Williams University or Salve Regina University , and I could not go without mentioning The University of Rhode Island (not on the ocean, but only about (5) miles away).

How about a few of the lovely Rhode Island Libraries.



(Not just one, but three great public libraries in a town of 28,000)




 

Many of you have asked about the photo in my blog's header. HERE is some info about it's history.

How about food favorites when visiting Rhode Island.  The personal favorite of friends and family is RI Clam Fritters (please don't ask about calories...if you plan to make and eat these; you just don't want to know.....trust me)! It's worth it though....LOL


Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can (6-1/2 ounces) minced clams
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • Oil for deep-fat frying
  • Tartar sauce and/or lemon wedges, optional

Directions

  • In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; set aside. Drain clams, reserving 2 tablespoons juice; set clams aside. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and reserved clam juice; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Add the clams and onion.
  • In an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 375°. Drop batter by tablespoonfuls into oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally. Drain on paper towels. Serve fritters with tartar sauce and/or lemon wedges if desired. Yield: 14-16 fritters.
And just for a little nostalgia........Here is a photo of the High School I graduated from.
Isn't it a lovely building?


(Built in 1921, it was a beauty, but then, all good things must come to an end, so in  2004 a brand new High School took it's place)



(With every modern convenience you can imagine, but I'll always like the old one better).

I can't choose whether I like Massachusetts or Rhode Island better as (we call them both home), but, don't believe just me, there is so much more to be experienced by living in or visiting New England.  For a virtual tour of more of what New England has to offer, check out this site.

Be sure to stop by Elizabeth's Blog during the week as well. She has posted a Mr. Linky so you will be able to tour New England all week by visiting the blogs of those New Englanders who are participating. Thanks to Elizabeth for coordinating this effort.

HAPPY VIRTUAL TRAVELS.

Tuesday Teasers


Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:
Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page.


Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! Feel free to Grab the logo and post your own Tuesday Teaser.


 Wish Her Safe at Home; Stephen Benatar


(p.78) ....."I recaptured how---when the realization had finally sunk in---I had cried on and off all through one rainy Sunday afternoon. Sylvia thought I was crazy."

(so far a very good historical novel)



Monday, January 25, 2010

I Love Animal Stories Like This

My friend Pam always sends the sweetest animal related stories my way (we are both big time animal lovers). This one was meant to be shared --just unbelievable. (Thanks Pam).
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The Jungle Book predators who have forged a lifelong friendship...

December 2009

They make an unlikely trio, but Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger have forged an unusually strong bond.

Considering that they would be mortal enemies if they ever were to meet in the wild, it is stunning to see their unique and genuine friendship in these intimate pictures.


Rescued eight years ago during a police drugs raid in Atlanta, Georgia, the three friends were only cubs at the time at barely two months old.  



They had been kept as status symbol pets by the drug barons.

Delivered to the Noah's Ark Animal Rescue Centre in Locust Grove, Georgia, the decision was made to keep the youngsters together, because of their budding rapport.


'We could have separated them, but since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together,' said Diane Smith, assistant director of Noah's Ark.  

'To our knowledge, this is the only place where you'll find this combination of animals together.'

Living with the zoo's founders for the past eight years, Shere Khan, Baloo and Leo have now moved to a purpose-built habitat where the US public can now witness first hand their touching relationships.

'We didn't have the money to move them at first,' said Diane.

'Now their habitat is sorted and they have been moved away from the children's zoo areas where the public couldn't really get a good look.


'It is possible to see Baloo, who is a 1000lb bear, Shere Khan, a 350lb tiger and Leo, who is also 350lbs, messing around like brothers.


'They are totally oblivious to the fact that in any other circumstance they would not be friends.'  


Handled by Charles and Jama Hedgecoth, the zoo's owners and founders, the three friendly giants appear to have have no comprehension of their animal differences.


'Baloo and Shere Khan are very close,' says Diane.


'That is because they rise early, and as Leo is a lion, he likes to spend most of the day sleeping.


'It is wonderful and magical to see a giant American Black Bear put his arm around a Bengal and then to see the tiger nuzzle up to the bear like a domestic cat.


'When Leo wakes up the three of them mess around for most of the day before they settle down to some food.' 


Surprisingly for three apex predators with the power to kill with a single bite or swipe of their paw, they are very relaxed around each other.

'They eat, sleep and play together,' said Jama.


'As they treat each other as siblings they will lie on top of each other for heat and simply for affection.


'At the moment they are getting used to their new habitat.


'Shere Khan is being quite reticent about the move, but Baloo, the bear, is very good at leading him on and making him feel comfortable and safe.'  


Explaining that the three 'brothers' have always seemed to share a unique bond, Charles said: 'Noah's Ark is their home and they could not possibly be separated from each other.


'You just have to remember who you're dealing with when you are with them, though.


'It's when you forget that these fellows are wild animals that you get yourself in trouble.'  

The trio's new habitat had to be constructed carefully, in order to accommodate its occupants.


Jama said: 'The clubhouse had to be very sturdy for the guys, because they all sleep in it together,'  


She added: 'We had to include a creek, because the tiger and the bear both like to be in water.' 





Mailbox Monday





Mailbox Monday is a fun meme where bloggers reveal the books that arrived at their house (by mail) over the past week. It is hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page. 










This past week was a fun week for me when the mail arrived.


My sincere thanks to the publishers who sent me this books to review.

(From Kaye at Pudgy Penguin Perusals and The Reading Glass Shopper) these awesome prescription reading sunglasses - LOVE THEM! Thanks so much!!!





Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Salon - January 24, 2010 and a Truth or Lie Winner!



Hello, Sunday Blogging Buddies, hope you had a great week!

I got a lot of reading done this week, but still have those time consuming reviews on my "to do" list. Does anyone have suggestions as to how to make this a less painful task --- like how to do a review in less than 30 minutes ?

This Week in Books (awaiting reviews)
  1. Secrets of Eden; Chris Bohjalian (release date 2/2/2010) - very good
  2. Making Rounds With Oscar; David Dosa M.D.  - LOVED IT!!
  3. Noah's Compass; Anne Tyler - (very sweet story)
  4. Shutter Island; Dennis LeHane (audio book) - good thriller - movie out in February
(If you tend to enjoy the same type of books as me, I don't think you'd be disappointed with any of these). Loved my reading this week.

Coming Week Bookish Plans:
  1. Wish Her Safe At Home; Stephen Benatar (current read - very good)
  2. Not My Daughter; Barbara Delinsky
  3. American Rust; Phillip Meyer
  4. The Happiness Project; Gretchen Rubin
  5. This is Where I Leave You; Jonathan Tropper (audio book)
Sunday Plans: 

(Not a thing planned; just the way I like my Sundays).  How about you?

Awards:


Thanks to Jessica @ Desperado Penguin for passing this blogging award on to me this week.

 

Thanks to Jenn @ The Introverted Reader for thinking of me with the Dragon Loyalty Award!

 

And  more thanks to Kay @ My Random Acts of Reading for the Bald Faced Liar whoops....Creative Writer Award.

(For those of you so kind to take the time to try and sort out my Bald Face Lies from the Truth---- here's the truth!):

1. My husband bought me a BMW for my 50th Birthday. (nope - lie - I wish)

2. I've been to Tahiti twice. (nope - Lie - Another I wish)

3. I've met Tony Soprano (James Gandolpini(nope - Lie)
    ( I did meet Uncle Junior, Dominic Cianese)

4. I don't know how to swim. (TRUTH - they tried to teach me when I was little but, I was afraid of the water and cried, my mom never made me go back to learn)

5. My hair is dyed blond. ( blond lie / dyed true)

6. My mother was 50 when I was born. (nope - lie, she was 36)


7. I participated in a New Year's Day Polar Bear swim in the ocean in 2000. (nope - lie, we watched the nuts who participated, but no way was I jumping into frigid New England waters on New Years Day)

(There were 18 entries since I posted this yesterday afternoon, and only (1) correct answer. Fizzy Thoughts A.K.A. Softdrink (I'll email you and let you choose a book from a list of several books that I have available for giveaways) CONGRATS and thanks to all who played along!


Have a Great Week Everyone!

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt Winners






Congratulations to the lucky Winners. This was a wonderful story. ENJOY!
I'll be sending you both an email requesting your mailing info.

Thanks to everyone who took time to enter!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Lie Because Kay Asked Me To!



Kay at My Random Acts of Reading blog has given me an award.  Many times bloggers are asked to share some little-known or not so little-known facts about yourself. I don't participate in many memes but this Bald Faced Liar...whoops...."Creative Writer" award sounds like harmless fun.

I like guessing games as much as the next person so here's what this is all about. 

1. Thank the person who gave this to you. ( Thanks Kay!)
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.
5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.
6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

The 7 items that I have listed below contain  (6) untruths and (1) absolutely true statement. I make no promises that the 6 don't include some part of truth. Guess which one is absolutely true. I'll share the answer tomorrow. Hope you enjoy and feel free to speculate as much as you like. Now to the tall tales or not....

1. My husband bought me a BMW for my 50th Birthday.

2. I've been to Tahiti twice.

3. I've met Tony Soprano (James Gandolpini)

4. I don't know how to swim.

5. My hair is dyed blond.

6. My mother was 50 when I was born.

7. I participated in a New Year's Day Polar Bear swim in the ocean in 2000.

WHEW.....Now I'm starting to believe these...LOL

I will nominate a few people who might enjoy playing. If this doesn't appeal to you, no worries. It's all in fun and I understand. (I'll post the true statement about me tomorrow).

Friday, January 22, 2010

9 - The Red Door; Charles Todd

The Red Door; Charles Todd
In fairness to the author (mother and son team of Carline and Charles Todd - writing as Charles Todd), this was my first book in this series - despite the fact that 11 previous mysteries have been released.

The mystery is set in early 1920. Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is called to investigate the disappearance of one Walter Teller. Walter was a missionary who disappeared from the Belvedere Clinic after suffering a mental breakdown which resulted from some war time trauma.  At around the same time that Walter returns home on his own after that disappearance, a woman named Florence Teller is found murdered in her home in Lancashire (the home with the "Red Door").  Florence had been waiting for her husband Peter to return from The Great War -- he never did.

To complicate things a bit, Walter Teller, has two brothers: Edwin and a brother named Peter Teller who is married to a different woman. Although it seems likely that the two Teller cases could be connected, the family denies any connection, and while there is more to this mystery, I do not want to give out too much info and risk spoiling the story for other readers.

MY THOUGHTS - The Red Door was a well written historical mystery. I do wish I has read at least a few of the earlier books from this series before diving into #12.  Had I done so I believe I would have had a better understanding of Inspection Rutledge and those he worked with in the past. Despite this, the novel had a interesting cast of characters/suspects, and plenty of twists and turns along the way to hold the reader's interest. The multiple story lines come together well  to make for a satisfying ending.  RATING - 3.5/5


NOTE:  Just a few months ago I read the first in a new Charles Todd series called,  A Duty to the Dead, featuring Bess Crawford. I really enjoyed that book (also a historical mystery).  This writing team is very talented, so my recommendation would be to either start at the beginning of this series, or try A Duty to the Dead first. If interested you can read my review HERE for the other book.

(Review copy was sent to me by Harper Collins - many thanks)