Monday, December 19, 2011

From the Archives: I'm in love with a Christmas book...

...that I got for 5 dollars at a local dollar store

As a little girl, I loved Christmas anthology books. Nothing made me

happier on a December day than to snuggle up with a big, beautifully-illustrated book full of Christmas stories, songs and poems.

That's why I was so delighted to find this Christmas Treasury at a local dollar store for 5 dollars. I liked it so much, I bought three of for me to read to my grandsons, one for two of my little nieces, and one for two little friends of the family.

(Click on any photo to view larger)

Tom Newsom beautifully illustrates "The Night Before Christmas."

I love the fact that there are several songs in the book, complete with music.

The book includes several Victorian-style illustrations and poems as well.

Among the prettiest illustrations in the book are by an illustrator named Pat Thompson, about whom I was able to find frustratingly little online. Making it even more confusing is that there is also a children's illusrator named Pat Thomson...without the P. I'd love to know more about this artist.

Another lovely Pat Thompson illustration in the book's rendition of "The Nutcracker."

Another Pat Thompson illustration in "The Velveteen Rabbit."

Another by Pat Thompson

A Pat Thompson illustration in the Christmas Story

How about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas book? Let me know about it in my comments section!

UPDATE: I posted this a little over a year ago, and one person was able to give me a little more info about artist Pat Thompson. "Sparrow1" commented:

"Pat Thompson is an artist in Franklin , TN with Southgate Studios. I was trying to remember which book she illustrated to pass the info along to a friend when I came upon your blog. In years past I have taken pastel classes from her and consider her a both a very fine artist and a lovely friend."

Very cool!

UPDATE 2: You can order this book on Amazon! It's about 18 dollars, but this gorgeous book is well worth it. Here's the link.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I will never stop reading the printed word, but...I have a Kindle.

Yep, it happened. And I didn't even seek it out!

I'm sure you've seen the little button on my sidebar: "I pledge to read the printed word."

And I stick by that pledge. I will never stop reading real, physical books. I will always love them.

But yes, I have a Kindle.

My son gave me his a couple of weeks ago, saying he never used it. And yes, I deeply appreciate it and am glad to have it.

Justin had already loaded a ton of books on it, including many by Stephen King, John Grisham, Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy. My other son, Jonathan, loaded some P.D. James Adam Dalgleish mysteries on it as well.

I haven't yet put any books on it. I haven't even figured out how to do so! (Justin doesn't remember, so I'll have to ask Jonathan!)

The Kindle will be a blessing when I'm traveling, no doubt about it. Handy and need to worry about added weight in my suitcase or in my tote bag as I schlepp through O'Hare.


When I'm reading a book on the Kindle, I actually do miss holding a real book in my hands.

You see, I love the feel of books. The smell of books. Turning real paper pages. The entire experience of reading the printed word.

So yes, I have a Kindle, and I appreciate it immensely...but it will never stop me from reading, collecting and loving real books.

What about you? Is the Kindle, Nook or other such device now your reading venue of choice? Would you ever like to have such a device...and if you did, would you stop reading real books?

I'd love to know your opinions!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bookish Images Monday

I'd love for you to participate in Bookish Images Monday.

Remember, you do NOT have to post a ton of images--one will be fine if that's all you want to do! (I just tend to go a little crazy.)

They can just be interesting or pretty book covers if you want. Or just pictures of books, bookcases, libraries or bookstores. Or they can be humorous, or vintage, or related to movies based on books. They just need to be book-related in some way.

Feel free to grab this button:

Book Images Monday

If you participate, be sure to leave your link in the comments!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Review of Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, by Donald Spoto

Such was the staggering fame and notoriety of Marilyn Monroe, that even my Sunday School teacher mentioned her as a sort of cautionary tale the Sunday after she died.

I was only 5 and a half years old, but I clearly remember my teacher pointing out that riches and fame had not brought Marilyn Monroe happiness...that she had killed herself despite all that.

I must admit, I've been curious about this legendary sex symbol/icon for some time. I've only watched a couple of her movies, but if you grew up a latter-fringe baby boomer as I did, Marilyn Monroe--even dead--was just there.

Even now, there are myriads of blogs, many of them by young people, devoted to iconic images of the movie star.

As Elton John famously sang about her in "Candle in the Wind," her "candle burned out long before her legend ever did."

I picked up Donald Spoto's Marilyn Monroe: The Biography somewhat at random at my public library. Turns out, I probably picked the least sensationalized, earnestly-endeavoring-to-be-accurate Marilyn bio out there.

Spoto presents a detailed, factual account of Marilyn's life. Apparently, to gain sympathetic publicity, she exaggerated the poverty and pitifulness of her early life--but the truth is bad enough.

Norma Jeane Baker (her real name, as most people know), never knew who her father was--it could have been any number of her mother's boyfriends. That mother, Gladys, was an unreliable and infrequent visitor in Marilyn's childhood, showing up occasionally to whisk her away from her foster family and then disappear again.

As Spoto relates, her entire early life was characterized by being regularly abandoned by the people who mattered most to her and who she most wanted to please.

As a teen-aged Norma Jeane Baker, Marilyn married 21-year-old Jimmy Dougherty to escape the orphanage where she'd been living. The marriage was short-lived as she became popular as a model and hungered for stardom

Spoto seems to almost minimize two disturbing childhood incidents of sexual molestation--one by a trusted surrogate father, the other by a boy around her own age. But there's no doubt that the magnitude of these incidents can't be ignored when it comes to their lifelong impact on her.

There's a sadness in her eyes here

As far as conspiracy theories about her death--that the FBI killed her, the mob killed her, Kennedy cronies killed her to hush her up--Spoto convinced me that these were all pretty much rubbish.

Far from carrying on any liasons with the Kennedy brothers (Spoto does admit to at least one physical encounter between Marilyn and JFK; none with Bobby)--at the time of Marilyn's death, she was happily planning remarriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio--the one man in her life who really seemed to love her. (That despite the fact that during their marriage years earlier, his extreme jealousy and hair-trigger temper caused him to physically abuse her.)

Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio. He never talked about her after her death, but for 20 years afterward, he had flowers placed on her grave every week

Spoto also convinces me that Marilyn did NOT commit suicide...but that a lethal cocktail of accumulated drugs, administered by her controlling and unethical psychiatrist, actually did the deed unintentionally.

Despite my disapproval of Marilyn Monroe's lifestyle, choices, exhibitionism, whatever--this book left me with a profound sympathy for her. Here was a beautiful girl, actually smart and talented beyond what her dumb-blonde image often portrayed, who was completely unable to find joy in her short life.

Dying at 36, still in the prime of her beauty, she will remain forever young in the many iconic images of her that still circulate perpetually.

I don't think Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, but my Sunday School teacher was right about one thing.

Riches and fame didn't bring her happiness.

I'm participating in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

National Young Reader's Day: Some of My Favorite Childhood Books

Today is National Young Reader's Day--"... a special day to recognize the joys and benefits of reading."

I've been a voracious reader since I was able to string words together. Interestingly, I don't have much of a memory of the books that were read to me before I could read myself, but I vividly remember the books I loved as a child.

Here is a nod to some of them.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, is the first full-length book I remember reading. I was eight years old.

This is a picture of the actual version I read. It was an abridged version, but I loved the illustrations. In my mind, that is still what Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy look like.

My Aunt Jean (sadly no longer with us) had recommended it to me, saying "You'll cry your eyes out and back in again!"

This was just before my family went to Beirut, Lebanon as missionaries. We were in New York City for several days before our ship sailed, and my parents bought me beautiful hardbound copies of "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys." I was in heaven.

This book laid the foundation for my lifelong love of The Chronicles of Narnia. I saw British friends reading it at Manor House School in Beirut, and that sparked my interest.

Even as a child, I was able to see the spiritual parallels. Years later, I made sure my own children read them.

I received this book as a Christmas gift when I was a little girl, and it was a treasure trove for me! I also loved Blyton's "Mallory Towers" series.

Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

This was the first Noel Streatfield book I read, but I think I probably ended up reading all of them. They were all about children who were very talented, either as skaters, dancers or actors. I enjoyed them immensely.

I was delighted when the books were actually mentioned in the movie, "You've Got Mail."

Those are just a few. You can read here about my other favorites, Auntie Robbo and Red Knights from Hy Brasil...and here about what my love of a childhood book has to do with a murder in an English village!

Reading enriched my childhood and continues to do so today!

What were YOUR favorite books as a child?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Review of When Sparrows Fall, by Meg Moseley

When Sparrows Fall: A NovelWhen Sparrows Fall: A Novel by Meg Moseley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of those books that was almost impossible to put down. I read it in record time, even for me, because the subject matter was so engrossing.

When Sparrows Fall: A Novel is a vivid illustration of what happens when pastors and husbands/fathers cross the line from Biblical leadership to tyranny.

I've seen several instances of this in real life, and it never fails to sadden and sometimes anger me. As a Christian, I know that there is abundant life and freedom in Christ. It's frustrating to know that some people weigh the Christian life down with oppressive, burdensome man-made standards, many of which are never even mentioned in Scripture and have little to do with true holiness.

Either author Meg Moseley has firsthand experience of this, or she's done her homework well, because the depiction of Miranda Handford and her family rings true.

Miranda is a young widow with six children whose pastor suddenly decides he wants his entire congregation to re-locate with him to another city and state. No ifs, ands or buts.

Miranda, while largely submissive and compliant, does have a small rebellious streak, and it kicks in here. Her late husband (a man even more rigid and controlling than the pastor, if that's possible) had stressed that he didn't want her to give up their house and land, which had always been in the family.

Besides, she just doesn't want to leave her home, and doesn't understand why she should have to do so.

The pastor is insistent, though. He wants Miranda to join the rest of the congregation in selling their homes and uprooting--and it's obvious he has something to hang over her head as a threat.

Then a serious accident happens that brings Miranda's brother-in-law into the family's lives. Her husband had never wanted anything to do with him, but he's the one she turns to in this crisis.

I won't tell you any more, because I don't want to give too much away, but it keeps you turning the pages as the story unfolds and Miranda's family will never be the same.

Meg Moseley is respectful of people with strict convictions, and never belittles or negates true Christian faith.

But the men who allow egotism, arrogance, entitlement and sheer pride to turn them into despotic control freaks don't get a pass in this book.

And they shouldn't.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Beauty/Fashion Book That Was Ahead of Its Time

One of my favorite YouTube beauty gurus, Emily Eddington, asked the question on Facebook today: "What is your favorite beauty-related book?"

The book that immediately popped into my head is one I haven't read in many years. In fact, I was probably in my teens when I checked Pull Yourself Together: How to Look Marvelous on Next to Nothing out of my local library.

I was always going on self-improvement kicks, and I remember this book as being a very down-to-earth, reader-friendly, practical treatise on beauty and fashion that was way ahead of its time.

The book was written by Barbara Johns Waterston, who, interestingly enough, was married to actor Sam Waterston at the time.

This reader wrote on

"The paper back version of this book has been on my bookshelf since 1968 when I was a teenager. When I found the hard copy version I had to have it for my collection. The tips, advice and wisdom in this book never go out of style. If you have a copy of this book, keep it forever. If you don't have a copy, try and find one. It's a simple but great read and it is definetely (sp) a motivator."

Marlo Thomas as "That Girl" in the era of "Pull Yourself Together"

Unfortunately, if you try to buy a used copy of this book, it can run you over 100 dollars, and the cheapest soft-cover copy I found online was $64.00. It's apparently not in my local library system, either.

I did find a few tidbits about it online, though. Simon Doonan talked about it in a 2000 New York Observer article:

"In 1967, Ms. Waterston wrote the Mein Kampf of self-help books, Pull Yourself Together Or, How To Look Marvelous On Next To Nothing . This book is bursting with delightful bossiness, accusations and forthright solutions, and I strongly advise that you get yourself a second-hand copy..."

I even found a Facebook fan page for Waterston--titled, of course, "Pull Yourself Together"--where participants share how they got copies of the book, and quotes from the book.

Here are a few:

(from p. 47 of the book) "I have this friend Marra, who - in spite on her very fine figure, her warm personality, her zest for living, her taste in clothes, her quick wit and intelligence - had a repellent quality about her.
She never looked clean. In fact, she looked as though she smelled."
(from p. 108) "Beauty is beautiful, let's face it. Otherwise why have artists been wasting their time all these centuries? Beauty is uplifting. When I see a greasy-faced, greasy-haired girl walking down the street I feel squirmy. I imagine my scalp is itching. But if I see a freshly scrubbed young thing, all clean and neat, I feel uplifted, just as a smile is always more uplifting than a frown."

Another edition of the book

So, yeah. I remember loving that book as a young girl, and using its down-to-earth wisdom as a tool to help develop my personal style. Maybe someday I'll get to read it again!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are you in the "habit" of reading?

Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

I'm such a reading fanatic, it's hard for me to imagine having to take steps to develop a reading habit. But apparently, there are people out there who would like to get into the habit of reading, but just haven't made it a priority.

I came across this article, 14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit, that has some really good, practical suggestions.

And although I have no trouble finding a time to read--it's kind of like breathing to me--there are a couple of things on the list that I've only recently implemented.

A few of them are worth highlighting here:

--Make a list. Keep a list of all the great books you want to read. You can keep this in your journal, in a pocket notebook, on your personal home page, on your personal wiki, wherever. Be sure to add to it whenever you hear about a good book, online or in person. Keep a running list, and cross out the ones you read.

I never used to have an actual to-read list until I joined It's great--whenever I hear about or read about a book I want to read (this usually happens online, through blog hops another book bloggers' reviews), it goes directly on my to-read list. I've read some amazing books this way.

In fact, I would totally recommend belonging to a site like Goodreads or Shelfari, even if you don't have to prod yourself to read. For the first time in my life, I'm keeping track of the books I've read!

--Reduce television/Internet. If you really want to read more, try cutting back on TV or Internet consumption. This may be difficult for many people. Still, every minute you reduce of Internet/TV, you could use for reading. This could create hours of book reading time.

This is something that has happened quite naturally for me as a direct result of reading. It's more difficult for me to cut down on internet, because for me, the internet is just one great big reading experience! But I've limited my television viewing to a handful of shows that I really enjoy.

--Read to your kid. If you have children, you must, must read to them. Creating the reading habit in your kids is the best way to ensure they’ll be readers when they grow up … and it will help them to be successful in life as well. Find some great children’s books, and read to them. At the same time, you’re developing the reading habit in yourself … and spending some quality time with your child as well.

My children are grown now, but they would all tell you that I read to them extensively when they were growing up. All three of them are readers; two of them are as avid as I am about reading, and I believe it's helped them do well in college and in life.

Now, reading to my grandchildren whenever I get the chance (they live far away) is one of the great joys of my life.

So tell reading something that comes naturally for you, or is it a habit you've had to cultivate? I'd love to know!

Yep, that's me! :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Robin Oliveira's My Name is Mary Sutter

I had this book on my Goodreads to-read list for some time, after reading a glowing review by a fellow book-blogger.

I'm so glad I finally found it at my local library. Mary Sutter is a remarkable heroine, and her story was a fascinating read.

Mary is the latest in a long line of midwives. At a young age, she's made a name for herself as a deliverer of babies. But much as she loves bringing a new life into the world, she yearns for something more: she wants to be a surgeon.

In a world just on the brink of the American Civil War, women who want to be doctors are out of luck--there's even dispute over whether women should be nursing men! (Is that "proper"?)

But Mary is single-minded and determined in her resolve. When a budding romance is cut short, she doesn't stay around to nurse (no pun intended) her broken heart.

The Civil War has just begun, and nurses are needed. Rejected as "too young" by nursing crusader Dorothea Dix, Mary finds a place to serve where she can learn from an experienced surgeon at the same time.

Mary works at a Washington D.C. hospital with horrendous conditions, desperately wounded soldiers and appalling shortages of painkilling medicines and even basically essential supplies.

Her nursing even brings her to the battlefields, where she literally has to make life-or-death decisions. Mary faces it all with untiring equanimity and unflagging bravery.

Through it all, a love story is brewing that will come to fruition when the war is finally at an end.

If you've ever had the slightest interest in the Civil War, this novel is a must-read. Robin Oliveira has obviously researched her subject impeccably. We get to see Abraham Lincoln up close and personal, and this adds the ring of authenticity to Mary's story.

As I said earlier, Mary is a wonderfully admirable heroine, but coming to life through Oliveira's pen, she's real and vulnerable and deeply likable--you're rooting for her throughout the entire book for her to realize her dreams and find a worthy love.

I love how Mary is described as not being beautiful, but how the men in her life are immediately drawn to her personality and spirit. There's definitely something about Mary.

As with all good books that describe war, this one doesn't flinch. I'm once again struck with just how truly horrific was the Civil War.

And so many of the Civil War-era books I've read have been from the South's perspective--it was good to read one from the Northern point of view.

I give it five stars. A fascinating read about a remarkable woman in a turbulent time.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: What's the oddest book you've ever read?

I'm participating in Booking Through Thursday today, and the question is:

What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read? Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?

The book that immediately comes to mind is a self-published one that I read when I was working at a Christian radio station.

It was by a preacher who claimed he had died and gone to Heaven and then come back.

No, it wasn't the more recent ones--90 Minutes in Heaven, or Heaven Is For Real. I've read those too, and they have a ring of truth, whether or not you believe in near-death experiences.

This one--and I'm sorry I don't remember either the title or the author--was really outlandish to the point of laughable.

The author claimed that while in Heaven, an angel showed him a large room over which was a sign reading "Unclaimed Blessings," or something like that. In the room was shelf after shelf of body parts--legs, arms, hands, you name it--which were to be sent to people on earth who needed to be healed. Mmmm, yeah.

He also claimed all the flowers in Heaven have faces.

It's been years, so I don't remember much else about it. I just remember thinking this guy was crazy to think anyone would believe him. I remember just thinking it was absolutely ridiculous.

(And by the way, I do believe in Heaven, but I think it's so amazing and incredible that there aren't human words to describe it. And for me, the jury's out when it comes to near-death experiences--are they real or can they be scientifically explained? Not sure!)

So I can't say I "hated" it...I just pretty much scorned it.

Go here to participate in Booking Through Thursday!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty

She Walks in Beauty, by Siri Mitchell, had been on my to-read list for quite while, so I was delighted to find it at my local library.

Several other bloggers had enthusiastically recommended this book, and I can say it didn't disappoint at all.

The story

Clara Carter is the daughter of a wealthy physician, living on Fifth Avenue in New York City during the so-called "Gilded Age" of the late 1890's.

Although she mourns her beautiful mother, who died when she was a child, Clara is happy enough pursuing her studies with her governess and reading poetry.

In fact, she's bright and intelligent enough that her governess thinks she could get into Vassar, the college for women.

But academically-minded girls are not particularly wanted in society, and Clara had a different destiny.

She must marry. And she must marry the heir to the DeVries fortune, in particular. To that end, her studies are ended and replaced with different learning: things like which fork to use, how to communicate by using a fan, how to waltz, and most difficult of all, how to wear a corset 24/7 to whittle one's waist down from 22 inches to 18.

Clara is to be a debutante, thrust into a whirl of social obligations to which marriage is the only possible outcome.

There are complications. Her best friend, Lizzie, is her main challenger for the hand of Franklin DeVries. Added to that is the fact that Clara much prefers Franklin's younger brother--a kind, funny young man who also has a depth of spirituality that Clara hasn't seen since her mother died.

Then, Clara learns things about her father that cause her carefully-constructed world to crumble.

My Thoughts

I loved this book, and read it in a very short time because I had a very difficult time putting it down.

Siri Mitchell's writing is perfect for getting inside the mind of a young girl of that era. Her obvious in-depth research lends an effortless authenticity to the story.

Things like the corruption of New York City politics, the shameful poverty of immigrant tenement dwellers, as well as the often hypocritical and haughty world of the wealthy are among the themes that inform this truly absorbing story.

Clara's character is also faced with the question, "Does God really love me just as I am?" In a world where she has to change everything about herself, including her waist size, to please society, Clara surmises that God's unconditional love would be an extravagant gift indeed.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books--click the icon for more information!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Review of The Annotated Persuasion by Jane Austen with notes by David M. Shaphard

The Annotated PersuasionThe Annotated Persuasion by Jane Austen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not long before Borders closed in my town, I made a stop there, hoping to find a wealth of classic literature for a fraction of the price. As it turned out, there was very little left in the way of classic literature by the time I got there. However, there were pretty paperback versions of Jane Austen's "Persuasion" and "Mansfield Park," so I snapped them up.

Then I found the Annotated Persuasion at my local library. As a result, it's taken me twice as long to read the book, because I've been utterly fascinated by the comments and explanations on the opposite page of every page of Austen's writing.

I've read other books by Austen and enjoyed them immensely, but the annotated version of this book so enhanced my reading experience, opening up a window to an era so different from ours.

Yes, I'm just curious enough to like knowing the difference between a curricle, a barouche-landau and a chaise-and-four--and sometimes it sheds light on the meaning of what the characters are saying.

I've never quite understood the difference in addressing the wife of a baronet, the daughter of an earl, or the younger daughters of any of them! The annotations explain all that.

And without explanation, I think it's hard for us 21st-century readers to grasp just how rigid were the rules of society in the early 18-hundreds. Suppose, as a woman, you wanted to let your ex-boyfriend know that you still had feelings for him. You couldn't even write him a letter to let him know of your feelings!

The story

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, a sweet, lovely young woman who had, eight years ago, been "persuaded" to break up with the love of her life, Captain Wentworth.

Basically, Anne had listened to bad advice, and she lived to regret it. She never got over Captain Wentworth, but figured he was out of her life forever.

And then, through a change of circumstances, he shows up in her circle of acquaintance, and they are thrown together repeatedly.

Does the captain still have feelings for Anne? Did she break his heart too badly for him to try with her again?

It all plays out in inimitable Austen style, complete with snobbish and vain relatives, scheming social-climbers and dashing cads.

Taking to Bath

The main setting for the book is Bath, England, a place where Austen lived at one point and often visited, and her familiarity with the town is obvious throughout the book. Actual street names and place names are used, and the annotations clue the reader in on all of them.

The book whetted my curiosity about Bath, which boasted hot springs where people went to "take the waters." Apparently, Austen never really liked the town, but her name has been honored with a Jane Austen Centre and a city walk.

What did I think?

I enjoyed the story very much, and as always when reading Austen, I'm struck with her understanding of human nature--and with the fact that, despite changing mores and modern technology, human nature really hasn't changed at all.

Oh, and I dare you not to be moved by one of the most romantic love letters in fiction. Who wouldn't be moved if someone told you, "You pierce my soul"!

And I heartily recommend reading this annotated version, especially if you're a true Austen lover. It's almost like taking a mini-college course in the customs and culture of the era of which she writes.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Review of 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had heard of this little book so often, and it had been on my to-read list for so long, I finally sought it out at the library and read it in one sitting.

The book is a true story, written in "epistolary" other words, in the form of letters back and forth between a young Manhattan scriptwriter and a secondhand bookshop in London, starting in 1949 and spanning 20 years.

It's really amazing how much of Helene's personality comes through in her letter-writing. Her feistiness and irrepressible sense of humor dance through every letter she writes to Marks and Company. She can't resist teasing the somewhat restrained Frank Doel, who is the main corresponder from the bookstore.

As months and years pass, though, the relationship between Hanff and the bookstore staff grow into much more than a business relationship. Early on, when she realizes they're suffering from postwar food shortages, Hanff starts sending them much-appreciated care packages. Her warmth and generosity open up a world of friendship.

The book vividly illustrates how people on opposite sides of the world can reach out to each other and become real friends, despite the fact that they don't actually get to see each other. And how cool that it was happening even before the days of e-mail and instant messaging!

Given my love of bookstores and all things English, reading this little book was definitely worth the short time I spent reading and enjoying it.

Spoiler Alert: The story ends after the sudden death of Frank, who Helene never got to meet. It made me sad that Hanff didn't fulfill her long-time promise of visiting her friends in England until after her friend Frank had died. However, she later did make it across the pond to meet Frank's wife Nora and his daughters, with whom she had also become great friends.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Let me tell you about Bookfessions

I recently discovered a Tumblr blog that's obviously written by someone who is a kindred spirit to me, when it comes to all things books and reading.

It's Bookfessions...and it mainly consists of numbered thoughts and sayings about the author's love of books and reading.


Here are just a few Bookfessions. Head over to her blog (this link will take you to a full archive), and if you're like me, prepare to relate to and identify with almost everything!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mindy Starns Clark's Secrets of Harmony Grove

Secrets of Harmony GroveSecrets of Harmony Grove by Mindy Starns Clark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was delighted to find this book at the library, since I've loved other books by Mindy Starns Clark--particularly her Million Dollar Mysteries, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This is essentially a good book, but I have to say I struggled with it a bit--thus only giving it three stars.

This is one of those cases where I have to give part of the blame to my frame of mind, distractions, etc. The book is well-written and has an intriguing plot.

Still, I found it almost confusing at times...there was SO much going on.

Sienna is an up-and-coming Philadelphia advertising executive, on the cusp of spectacular success, when she comes into work one day to face a complete shocker.

Then a shady ex-boyfriend contacts her from the Lancaster B & B they earlier renovated together, in a phone call that's so bizarre, she heads out to the B & B, only to find a murder and two unconscious people.

Sienna and her boyfriend, Heath, stay at the B & B to try to help authorities figure out what's going on--and how it all ties into her late grandfather and his obsession with a grove memorializing his deceased wife. And especially, the priceless diamonds that may be buried in that grove.

I liked the heroine, Sienna--like other heroines of Clark's, she is feisty, intelligent, and knows how to protect herself. I also like the spirituality Clark doesn't try to hide in her books--Sienna's faith plays an important part in this book.

One of the few criticisms I have is that, in lengthy conversational narratives, the characters often sound like they're reading or writing rather than actually talking. That and the fact that there were so many layers to the story, it occasionally seemed like too much.

Overall, this was a good book, and I would actually recommend it to people who enjoy mysteries.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Secrets of Harmony Grove, by Mindy Starns Clark

I'm participating today in "Teaser Tuesday," hosted by Should Be Reading!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

-Grab your current read
-Open to a random page
-Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

She and I walked along in silence until I said, "I made a big mistake here, Liesl. I was busy with my job in Philadelphia and didn't pay attention to this place. I trusted Floyd--and Troy--and now I'm in a mess."
The book is a murder mystery called Secrets of Harmony Grove, by Mindy Starns Clark...and so far, I'm loving it...I'm turning pages like mad!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Diane Noble's The Betrayal: Brides of Gabriel Book Two

Having read and been very moved by the first book in this series (my review here), I was delighted to find The Betrayal: Brides of Gabriel Book Two, by Diane Noble, at my local library.

It's not a very big book, and I had it read in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This book is just as engrossing, just as compelling, as the first one.

The first book focused on Lady Mary Rose Ashley, who fell madly in love with Gabriel MacKay aboard an America-bound ship. They married and were converted to Mormonism.

How would you like it if you married someone, both of you deeply in love, planning to spend the rest of your lives together--and your husband decided to add another wife to the mix?

This is what happened to Mary Rose in Book One, and the pain and devastation were made worse by the fact that Wife Number 2 was her very best friend.

Bronwyn's viewpoint

Book 2 is mainly from the viewpoint of Wife Number 2, Bronwyn. At first, I didn't like this. But it's to Diane Noble's credit that I came around to understanding and even liking Bronwyn.

Now, there's a third wife in the mix--Enid, who was Gabriel's teen-aged sweetheart. Enid is determined to supplant both Mary Rose and Bronwyn in wifely status and in Gabriel's heart.

Along with the very real problems of three women married to one man, matters heat up to a dangerous degree for the Latter Day Saints.

Bronwyn and Mary Rose are appalled by the increasing practice of marrying off very young girls to very old men, as well as the Saints' new creed of "blood atonement"...literally killing people they consider apostates, or people opposed to Mormon doctrine.

It becomes clear that in order to save their combined family from danger--and because they are both now repudiating objectionable Mormon doctrines, thus targeting themselves as apostate--they have to make plans to flee.

Gabriel makes me mad

I've got to admit, I can't bring myself to like Gabriel very much.

Although he does it all in the name of his understanding of God's will, it's got to be a pretty cushy gig for a man to keep adding beautiful women to his harem.

These books further illustrate the fact that, although it may be cool for the man, women were simply not created to share a man. A woman needs to know that she alone is the focus of her husband's love and devotion. I cannot, under any conceivable circumstances, imagine sharing my husband with another woman!

Compelling read

Noble refrains from any blanket condemnation of the Latter Day Saints, but she doesn't stint on depicting the faults and excesses of some of the early Mormon hierarchy. That would probably be difficult for a modern-day Mormon to read.

But this book was compelling and absorbing from start to finish--one of the best I've read all year.

I haven't heard if there's going to be a Book 3, but I certainly so! I believe the stories of Gabriel and his wives still have a lot to be told.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!



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