"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vacation Reading Conversation Starter....

Image source:  Random House Facebook Page

What are you taking to read while on vacation?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"If You Love to Read" to the tune of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep". Love it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Author:  William Joyce
Published: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Pages: 56
Category: Children's ages 3-9
ISBN 9781442457027

Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
But every story has its upsets.
     Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.
     But the power of story will save the day.
     Stunningly brought to life by William Joyce, one of the preeminent creators in children’s literature,      The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a modern masterpiece, showing that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate—and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again.

I squealed with glee!  Yes, I did!  A co-worker showed me The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore today and I was thrilled to see this new release in children's books!  I saw the animated Acadamy Award winning feature a while ago and fell in love.  Needless to say, when I found this book upon which the animated featurette was based, I just had to have it.  I read it....devoured it in minutes, and then returned to the beginning to appreciate the artwork!  As you can see from the sample pages above and below, this book is a feast for the eyes.  The way William Joyce wrote it, in a tale with messages that reveal themselves with the maturity of the reader, intermingled with terrific illustrations done by Joe Blum, it is a treasure!  

Be sure to add this story book to your collection for your children, your grandchildren and yes, even for yourself.  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a book you will keep for years, appreciating it often, and perhaps, if you can bare to part with it, you will pass it down to your children /grandchildren too.

William Joyce is the author of:  George Shrinks (1985); the Rolie Polie Olie series; The Man in the Moon (2011); The Sandman, the Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie (2012).  If you think you recognize the titles George Shrinks and Rolie Polie Olie, you are right. These were also television shows created by William Joyce, based upon the books.  To read more about William Joyce and his work in various productions including Toy Story, read the Wikipedia article here.

Below is the 15 minute animated feature, based upon this children's book, that was awarded an Academy Award.

Remembering Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 - June 26, 2012)

photo credit: The Huffington Post
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” -- Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck (And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman)

Yesterday a talented woman left this life with a strong legacy.  An advocate for reading, as noted in the quote above, she herself was a journalist, actress, playwright, screenwriter, director and producer.  Nora Ephron was a multi-talented woman.

Daughter to two screenwriters, Henry and Phoebe Ephron, Nora is survived by her parents; three sisters: Hallie, Dahlia and Amy; her husband Nicholas Pileggi, two sons Jacob and Max.  She was previously married to Dan Greenburg and Carl Bernstein.  Nora died from pneumonia, a complication of leukaemia of which she was diagnosed in 2006.  She will always be remembered for her wit, charisma, and brilliance.

The following films were either written, produced or directed (or a combination thereof) by Nora Ephron:

(from Wikipedia)

I was surprised, though I shouldn't be, to note that some of my favourite "chick flicks" were written, produced and/or directed by Nora Ephron.  My favourites of these are:  Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and Julie & Julia.  If you haven't had the opportunity to see some of her films, you simply must.

Nora also wrote the following collections of essays:
  • Crazy Salad
  • Wallflower at the Orgy
  • (2010) I Remember Nothing: And other Reflections
  • (2006) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
  • (1975) The Boston Photographs
and she blogged for The Huffington Post.

I chose this quote to end this memorial because I appreciated the strength of it and I hope you will too:

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." -- from Wellesley commencement address, 1996

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hey Canada! by Vivien Bowers (book review)

Hey Canada!
Author: Vivien Bowers
Illustrations:  Milan Pavlovic
Publisher:  Tundra Books, a division of Random House
Pages:  72
Format:  Hardcover
Ages:  Children 7-10 years
Genre:  Children's books/non-fiction/history
ISBN 978-1-77049-255-4
Release date:  May 8, 2012
Source:  A copy was provided by the publisher.  This in no way influenced my opinion nor this review.

From GoodReads:

"Gran has decided that she is taking nine-year-old Alice and eight-year-old Cal on a road trip across Canada “before she’s old and creaky.” With a sparkling combination of poems, silly songs, tweets and blogs, the trio records the trip for readers everywhere to share. Starting in St. John’s Newfoundland, where they have a “find-it” list that includes a moose and an iceberg and going all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the gang in Hey Canada! offers a delightful way to learn about vast, varied, and surprising Canada. 

The book combines narrative, poems, photos, comics about historical events such as the battle at Fortress Louisburg, maps (including provincial flags, birds, and flowers), in a lively, easily accessible format. Not only great fun to read, this is a valuable resource for young Canadians and for visitors across the country."

My Review:  

Beginning in St. John's, Newfoundland, Gran and her two grandchildren, Cal and Alice, embark on a marvellous journey and adventure.  Their goal:  to travel across the country of Canada, Coast to Coast!  The trip is sure to be a fun time for Cal and Alice, you, the readers, and, yes of course, for Gran too!  

Site-seeing accompanied with facts about history and historical sites, even native wildlife, makes the country-wide trip fun and informative.   Hey Canada doesn't come across as a text book, rather like a travel-log filled with kid friendly adventure.

Filled with photography, graphic illustrations, "find it", and factoids, Hey Canada has a lot going on.  For example, here's a factoid Cal shared:  "Why is PEI sand red?  Because it's full of iron.  When iron gets wet and rusts, it turns orangey-red." (p. 17)

Children can play the "find it" game as they read along.  For example, for the province of Saskatchewan the items to find are:  wheat field, bison, grain elevator and RCMP.  Hey Canada is an interactive novelty that parents and children will enjoy spending hours reading together.  

I would highly recommend that each school library has a couple copies, that Hey Canada becomes part of the curriculum in elementary schools, and that parents adopt this book for use during family vacations too!  Hey Canada makes learning fun!

Meet the Author:
Vivien Bowers was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1951, the second of four children. She received a B.A. in English (honours) from the University of British Columbia followed by a teaching certificate, and was a grade 5 teacher for several years in Nelson, BC. Vivien has been a freelance writer for more than twenty-five years, writing elementary and secondary school materials, as well as non-fiction books and magazine articles for both adults and children. She has been invited to do presentations on her children's books in hundreds of schools and libraries across the country. Bowers has two sons, now grown up, and lives at the base of the mountains outside of Nelson, BC. She loves to escape into the wilderness to ski, hike or canoe.

Friday, June 22, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (review)

State of Wonder
Author:  Ann Patchett
Published: May 2012 (this edition)
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Pages: 384
Source:  I received a complimentary copy of State of Wonder from TLC book tours in exchange for an honest opinion, without prejudice.

"In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest’s jeweled canopy." (from TLC Book Tours)

My Review:

“Never be so focused on what you're looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.” 

State of Wonder is definitely one of the very best books I've read...ever!  When I first introduced this novel, I had barely begun the journey that I will not soon forget.  Here's what I said, "Now I know what all the fuss is about! This book is phenomenal! It had me wiping away the tears in the first chapter, sitting at the edge of my seat, feeling astounded by elements of the story, and mesmerized by the entirety of it all!" (GoodReads and My Bookshelf)

Now that I have completed reading State of Wonder, and contemplate this incredible work of fiction, I must share with you, each and every one of you, just how astounding this story really is.  The plot is based upon mysteries surrounding pharmaceutical research being conducted in high secrecy within the jungles of the Amazon.  When one of her co-workers is announced dead in the Amazon, and another, Dr. Annick Swenson, is considered "out of touch", Dr. Marina Singh is recruited to fly there to discover the details of the death and to determine the development stage of pharmaceutical research into a fertility drug.  It is this research that had taken Dr. Swenson to the jungle, that took Dr. Anders Eckman to his demise, and has now brought this trip of discovery to Dr. Marina Singh.

Imagine the locale.  Deep within the jungles where insects, tarantulas, boa constrictors and poisonous snakes are residents, amidst the indigenous tribes of cannibals and the Lakashi people (another indigenous tribe - not cannibals), that the research into a fertility drug is being conducted.  The women of the Lakashi tribe are still fertile and bearing children into their seventies, thus the research into developing a fertility drug that would allow the same for women worldwide.  Just think...pregnant at seventy....appealing, isn't it?  

As Marina encounters the ferocity of the environment, the wonder of the Lakashi people, the mystery of her co-worker's death; she must face her inner demons .... terrors that emerge in her dreams, memories long ago suppressed, now refuse to be forgotten.  In the jungles of the Amazon, Marina finds answers ... not only to the death of Dr. Eckman, but to the truth behind the fertility research, and to her own horrors. But all is not grim. The answers Marina reveals are only a portion of the revelations the Amazon has.  It is here that Marina discovers simple beauties, a kinship with people with whom she can barely communicate, and forgiveness for herself.  In the depths of darkness, amidst soaring trees, and chattering monkeys, an unmistakable peace awaits.  Just be careful that what you're looking for doesn't overshadow the thing you actually find.

State of Wonder is a well researched work of fiction by novelist Ann Patchett, author of bestsellers including Bel Canto and  Run, that could very well be a reality.  The protagonist, Marina Singh, leaps to life from within the pages, her environment a living breathing entity, the Amazon as beautiful as it is potentially deadly.  State of Wonder is a perfect example of how one's love of books, reading and knowledge can be personified in just one volume.  State of Wonder is a must read!

Ann Patchett is the author of six novels including:  Run (a New York TImes bestseller); The Patron Saint of Liars (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year); Taft (winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize); The Magician's Assistant; and Bel Canto (winner of The PEN/Faulkner Award, the BookSense Book of the Year, the Orange Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and State of Wonder.  Ms. Patchett has also written two pieces of nonfiction:  Truth & Beauty and What Now?  She has also authored many publications in magazines including Harper's Magazine, Gourmet, the Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, and for the papers:  the New York Times and the Washington Post.  She resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Movers, Dreamers, and Risk-Takers: Unlocking the Power of ADHD by Kevin Roberts (a review)

Movers Dreamers and Risk-takers Unlocking the Power of ADHD

Author:  Kevin Roberts
Published: June 2012
Publisher: Hazelden Publishing
Pages: 250
Genre: Health and Well-being
Source:  My thanks to TLC book tours for providing a complimentary copy of Movers Dreamers and Risk-takers to review on this blog.  This review is my honest opinion of the book, without prejudice.
(from TLD book tours) "The negative aspects of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are well known–impulsivity, difficulty paying attention, lacking follow through, procrastination, boredom, anxiety, etc.  But what many people don’t know is that when these same traits are put to good use, those with ADHD can live highly functional, successful, and exciting lives. When Kevin Roberts realized his potential, he decided to devote his life to helping children and adults with ADHD. Because he shares their condition, he knows that with proper support and coaching, they, like him, can turn their lives around.
In his new book MOVERS, DREAMERS, AND RISK-TAKERS: Unlocking the Power of ADHD (Hazelden Publishing; June 2012; $14.95/Original Trade Paperback; $11.95/E-book) Roberts passionately relates his experiences and those of others to explain what ADHD is; how it manifests in kids and adults; and how the advantages of ADHD can be used to better people’s lives.  Some of the ideas Roberts presents in MOVERS, DREAMERS, AND RISK-TAKERS are:
  • The educational system is ill-equipped to teach kids with ADHD.  The routines, repetition, and institutional discipline oppose the way an ADHDer is able to learn.
  • ADHDers are often highly creative, with high IQs, and possessing strong entrepreneurial spirits.  Kevin Roberts is a stand-up comic who has performed all over the country in addition to being a highly trained ADHD coach with a Masters in ADHD Studies.  Harnessing the positive qualities of ADHD can produce outstanding results.
  • Employ “The Opposite” method.  For example, when your ADHD child lies or even hides from you to avoid homework, avoid reacting with anger.  One of the characteristics of ADHDers is that they thrive on negativity.  They are hard-wired to be stimulated and even motivated by crisis.  Roberts maintains that they may even push buttons on purpose just to get the desired result they need.
  • ADHD is a hereditary disorder.  If a child has it, it is likely to be shared by one or both parents.
  • Humor is the key.  ADHDers respond well to play and humor.  Finding a way to handle schoolwork and procrastination with constructive games will increase the odds of getting it all done.
Filled with the latest research about ADHD (see the appendix called “The Mystery of the ADHD Brain”) and a “tool chest” of practical advice on how to break down some of the most frustrating road blocks facing ADHDers and their caregivers, MOVERS, DREAMERS, AND RISK-TAKERS is full of possibilities.  There is a panoply of negativity surrounding ADHD, and with his new book, Roberts makes a point of turning these perceptions around for good." 
My thoughts:

When I discovered this book through TLC Book Tours, I had to read it!  You see, I know a few people with ADHD.  I love them. But sometimes, I just don't understand them.  Movers, Dreamers, and Risk-takers: Unlocking the Power of ADHD has brought me some understanding and empathy.  I now better know why "Ed" can't sit still.  Why "Ed" is stimulated by risky things and has even "medicated" himself.  "Ed" has grown so much but still struggles with ADHD daily. "Ed" is a part of my life. 

Kevin Roberts' story is similar to "Ed's", aside from the self-medication.  In fact, the stories he shares of his family and growing up in his slightly dysfunctional family, help the reader to understand the dynamics of living with someone with ADHD and his/her family, and the stress it can put on relationships.  Kevin was fortunate.  His mother treated him as though he was "normal".  At school and everywhere else, he was labelled and told he was a problem, among other things.  It was at home that he felt free from judgment.  Though he realizes life at home was not normal, he now has an understanding and acceptance of the situation because he knows now that most, if not all, his   siblings also have ADHD.  Having lived with virtually every scenario possible, Kevin's experience has enabled him to be a better counsellor and teacher.

When Kevin began his career as a counsellor and coach for individuals with ADHD, he began to see himself in a new way.  He found methods of using ADHD to his benefit, and ways to minimize some of the drawbacks.  He teaches how to find the advantages of ADHD and how to use it to its best advantage.  Here's a rundown of the seven chapters of Movers, Dreamers and Risk-takers:


  1. Protrait of a Normal ADHD Family
  2. The World is Falling Apart
  3. Do the Opposite
  4. The Opposite in Action
  5. Humor, Class Clowns, and William Shakespeare
  6. The Tool Chest:  Success in School and Life
  7. Overcoming the Odds
Appendix:  The Mystery of the ADHD Brain
About the Author

I love that Kevin Roberts shows the pluses and doesn't dwell on the negatives.  Using humour and optimism, Mr. Roberts reveals a side of ADHD that people are often unaware of, especially those who live the life daily.  If only every child with signs of ADHD could have a counsellor like Mr. Roberts, I believe more children would be happier, understanding who they are and their value to society.  I wish "Ed" had had this.  Positive reinforcement makes so much difference!  Movers, Dreamers and Risk-takers is a must-read for every parent, caregiver, teacher and individual who knows someone, works with someone and/or cares for someone who struggles with ADHD.  It is powerful.  For all the knowledge it imparts, but even more for the power it gives to families and individuals to make ADHD a blessing rather than a curse; Movers, Dreamers, and Risk-takers is invaluable!!
To read more reviews on this blog tour, see TLC BOOK TOURS.
About Kevin Roberts
Kevin Roberts was born in Detroit, Michigan, attended 12 years of Catholic school, and graduated from the University of Michigan. He taught high school and middle school social studies and foreign languages for four years. For the last 13 years, he has been an ADHD Coach, helping ADHD individuals succeed in school and life. He conducts support groups for teens and adults who struggle with cyber addiction and is the author of Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap. Roberts is a nationally-recognized expert in cyber addictions and also lectures widely on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He speaks French, Spanish, and German in addition to some conversational capacity in Greek, Italian, Arabic, Quechua and Chinese.
Learn more about Kevin and his work on his website, Kevinjroberts.net.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

1000 Books Giveaway - an announcement from author Kevin McGill

An Announcement from author Kevin McGill

Take The Ride: 1000 signed copies of Kevin McGill’s Nikolas and Company will be given away on July 6th.
I explain more in the announcement video: (Also, you can watch my book go into space!) 

July 6th, Aero Studios will mail 1000 free, signed copies of my book, Nikolas and Company: The Merman and The Moon Forgotten to those who get their orders in first. You don’t have to pay for the book, or shipping and handling. All you have to do is be between the ages of 10 and 17 (If you know someone between 10 and 17, feel free to order for them), and live in the US (adults can also get a free digital copy)
                              CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY NOW

Oh, and you also have to LOVE crazy, fantasy adventures about a fourteen-year-old boy being chased by monsters aboard a shuttle launch, automaton legged mermen walking on land, and travelling down murky waterways deep underground…on the moon!  

- Take The Ride
Kevin McGill

Friday, June 15, 2012

Canadian Reading Challenge Opens July 1 - 31/12

Ramblings of a Daydreamer

Ramblings of a Daydreamer is hosting an all Canadian Reading Challenge.  To participate you must read three books that either take place in Canada or are written by a Canadian author.  See the site here for more information and to participate too! 

Let's celebrate Canada Day in style!!

June 16th is Save the Bookstore Day!!!

Tomorrow, June 16th is save the bookstore day!!!  I have selected the bookstore I will visit tomorrow.  Have you?  Here's a hint....it's my favourite second-hand bookstore!  There's a prize in it for the person who guesses it right.  (I haven't decided what yet, this was written on a whim, but rest assured you will like it!)  Check out my previous blog posts for hints, just type in second hand bookstore in the search field and voila!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (an introduction)

State of Wonder
Author:  Ann Patchett
Published: May 2012 (this edition)
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Pages: 384
Source:  I received a complimentary copy of State of Wonder from TLC book tours in exchange for an honest opinion, without prejudice.

"In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest’s jeweled canopy." (from TLC Book Tours)

My review is forthcoming, within a week.  For now I just have to say that from the moment I began reading State of Wonder, I was captured.  Ann Patchett writes in a smooth, flowing manner that, at the same time, has a sense of drama to it.  I have already had a moment of tears while reading State of Wonder, which is an indication that I will enjoy this book!  I love a book that evokes emotion from the reader, and Ann has already achieved that with me.  As I continue in this novel, I anxiously wonder what awaits in the Amazon.  I can't wait to find out!  Check back with me soon for the full review.
About the Author: Ann Patchett is the author of six novels: State of Wonder; the New York Times bestselling RunThe Patron Saint of Liars, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Taft, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize; The Magician’s Assistant; and Bel Canto, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize, the BookSense Book of the Year, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of two works of nonfiction: the New York Times bestselling Truth & Beauty and What now? Patchett has written for many publications, including the Atlantic MonthlyHarper’s MagazineGourmet, the New York TimesVogue, and the Washington Post. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Visit Ann at her website.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Picture This by Jacqueline Sheehan

Picture This
Author:  Jacqueline Sheehan
Published: May 2912
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 400
Genre: Adult fiction
ISBN 9780062008121
Source:  Thank you to TLC book tours for the complimentary copy of Picture This.  The opinions in this review are my own and were not influenced by receipt of this novel.

Jacqueline Sheehan made serious waves with her much beloved runaway bestseller, Lost and Found(“The best book I’ve read in a long time” —Susan Elizabeth Phillips). Now she treats readers to a sequel, Picture This—a story of rebirth and personal redemption that is as moving, funny, and heart-soaring as its predecessor. Whip-smart contemporary women’s fiction with heart and soul, in Picture This, Rocky Pelligrino is back on Peaks Island off the coast of Maine, along with Lloyd the dog, the beautiful black Labrador retriever who gave her a new “leash” on life. But this time a new wrinkle warps the fabric of her world when a young girl shows up on Rocky’s doorstep claiming to be the long-lost daughter of her late husband. (from the TLC site)

My Review:
A sequel to Lost and Found, Picture This continues the story of Rocky who finds a new home on Peaks Island following the sudden death of her husband.  A relationship with her archery instructor may not be the wisest answer to grief, nor the befriending of a young girl, Natalie, who calls Rocky up out of the blue, claiming to be the daughter of her deceased husband.  Foster care has not been kind to this young girl who presents herself as a victim but is she?  Cooper, the loveable black lab isn't comfortable with Natalie, nor is Rocky's neighbour but how can anyone show Rocky what she is not prepared to see?

Strong character development, with chapters devoted to individual characters interspersed throughout, allowing the advantage of further insight into each person and even Cooper.  I found Rocky to be a very likeable but somewhat overly trusting person.  I wanted to wake her up at times, and make her see the clues for what they were.  

Overall, Picture This was a good read, though somewhat dark and sad at times.  The story redeems itself in the end, leaving me glad to have had the experience of knowing Rocky and Cooper.  Jacqueline Sheehan writes marvellous characters, deep drama, all while telling a story of love, loss and hope for new beginnings.  If you are looking for something other than a light beach read, give Picture This a try.

Meet the author: 

Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a fiction writer and essayist. She is a New Englander
through and through, but spent twenty years living in the western states of Oregon, 
California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, freelance
 photography, newspaper writing, clerking in a health food store, and directing a
 traveling troupe of high school puppeteers. She is currently the fiction editor for 
Patchwork Journal, an online journal sponsored by Patchwork Farm, an 
internationally based writing center. Jacqueline teaches workshops on writing 
and the combination of yoga and writing. She lives in Massachusetts.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My New American Life by Francine Prose

My New American Life
Author:  Francine Prose
Published:  2012
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Genre:  general fiction
Pages:  336
Source:  Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial for the complimentary copy of My New American Life.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own, uninfluenced by receipt of a complimentary copy of this novel.

Lula, a twenty-six-year-old Albanian woman living surreptitiously in New York City on an expiring tourist visa, hopes to make a better life for herself in America. When she lands a job caring for a rebellious high schooler in wealthy, suburban New Jersey, it seems that the American dream may finally be within reach. But things take a sinister turn when Lula’s Albanian “brothers” show up in a black SUV to remind her that all Albanians are family—and that Lula’s family has a very serious favor to ask.
Set in the aftermath of 9/11, My New American Life offers a biting and darkly humorous portrait of an era when dreams and ideals began to give way to cynicism, fear, and still-resonating questions about what it means to be an American.
The premise of the story, that of a young Albanian woman working to make her way in a new world, is interesting fodder.  The reader becomes acquainted with customs, some of which carry forward in Lula's new home and influence Zeke to an extent, helping him become a more rounded individual under her tutelage.  The one thing which Lula struggles with throughout the novel is her penchant for the bad boy.  Such a man announces himself on her doorstep as one of three "brothers" to whom she may or may not be distantly related.  I could see right away that these men were trouble but just the thought of adventure combined with Lulu's attraction to one of the men, causes her to make some irrational decisions, including hiding a gun, which we find later was loaded, in her home, which is also the home of her employer, Mr. Stanley, and his son.

As the story develops, this character flaw of Lulu's, her leaning towards danger and the mysterious good looking man, takes her on a perilous journey of lies, deceit, and conspiracy.  As is so often the case, the reader foresees the peril, but Lulu doesn't.  She's just along for the adventure.

I hate giving bad reviews but My New American Life just didn't do it for me.  It was well-written and the premise of My New American Life had so much potential for a thrilling mysterious story, but I found it unfulfilling.  I really didn't like the main character.  I'm not sure Lulu learned from her lack of judgment and errors, but it is difficult to empathize with a protagonist who fantasizes about a shady character and makes irrational decisions based on these fantasies.  She's attractive and she knows it and seems to think all men she comes in contact with "want" her.  Lulu seems to have no moral compass nor real integrity as evidenced in her decisions and actions.  Her choices put herself and the family she works for in mortal danger, and it is hard to see past that.  Not my favourite this year.  Just ok.

Meet the author:

Francine Prose is the author of many bestselling books of fiction, including A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfictionNew York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. Her novel,Household Saints, was adapted for a movie by Nancy Savoca. Another novel, The Glorious Ones, has been adapted into a musical of the same name by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, which ran at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City in the Fall of 2007. Her latest novel, Goldengrove, was published in September 2008. She is the president of PEN American Center. She lives in New York City.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Remembering Ray Bradbury

August 22, 1920 to June 6, 2012, a long encompassing story began and ended in the passing of a masterful storyteller, Ray Bradbury.  He was 91.

In what may be his last written work, an autobiographical article appeared June 4, 2012 in the New Yorker.  Now, just days later, this article is not only a look back over his childhood influences but, eerily, a look forward to the end.  Did he, perhaps, have an insight of the end of his time here?  

"I memorized all of “John Carter” and “Tarzan,” and sat on my grandparents’ front lawn repeating the stories to anyone who would sit and listen. I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, “Take me home!” I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities."  (Read more here:   http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/06/04/120604fa_fact_bradbury#ixzz1xJ7GEY14.)

August 22, 1920 Ray Douglas Bradbury was born to parents Leonard Spalding and Marie Bradbury in Waukegan, Illinois. Ray Bradbury's prolific career includes the novels Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Martian Chronicles.  During his life he wrote novels, short stories and screenplays, including a seven year run of the Ray Bradbury Theatre.

                  The opening theme from Ray Bradbury Theatre

Lastly, I'd like to share some pearls of wisdom from this prolific author.  In this video Ray offers advice to those whose dream it may be to follow in his very footsteps, that of authordom.

Gone, but not forgotten.  His legacy lives on in his many works.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The Uninvited Guests
Author:  Sadie Jones
Published:  2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Pages:  262
ISBN 9780062116505
Source:  Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of The Uninvited Guests for review on this blog.  The opinions expressed here are my own and are not influenced by complimentary receipt of this book.

One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens of Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honour of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday.  But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savoury survivors to seek shelter at the ramshackle manor -- and the household is thrown into confusion and mischief.

The cook toils over mock turtle soup and a chocolate cake covered with green sugar roses, which the hungry band of visitors is not invited to taste.  But nothing, it seems, will go according to plan.  As the passengers wearily search for rest, the house undergoes a strange transformation.  One of their number (who is most definitely not a gentleman) makes it his business to join the birthday revels.

Evening turns to stormy night, and a most unpleasant parlour game threatens to blow respectability to smithereens: Smudge Torrington, the wayward youngest daughter of the house, decides that this is the perfect moment for her Great Undertaking.

The Uninvited Guests is the bewitching new novel from the critically acclaimed Sadie Jones.  The prizewinning author triumphs in this frightening yet delicious drama of dark surprises - where social codes are uprooted and desire daringly trumps propriety - and all is alight with Edwardian with and opulence.  (from the inside flap)

The Uninvited Guests charmed me from page one and those who love Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters will find a similarity here, however, with a more modern manner of writing.  The entire novel takes place in just a day and a night but so much happens within a short span of time.  The unexpected guests arrive as preparations for Emerald's party is underway and other guests are already in place.  Not to be bothered with this undesirable situation, the "guests" are locked away in the morning room and/or the study, out of sight, out of mind.  The "guests" themselves are dishevelled from their earlier encounter with disaster in a train derailment, and are uneasy, waiting for the train company to collect them.  Initially they are patient, but as time wears on, and the party is about to begin, their presence is made uncomfortably known to all.  To appease them, the birthday dinner is sent their way.  But another guest has made an appearance on their doorstep.  At once charming and debonair, his demeanour hides intentions that come out later in the evening, creating turmoil, hard feelings, and disaster as he reveals secrets long ago hidden.

From there true chaos ensues, a pony is allowed into the upstairs bedroom chambers by the youngest child, and all .... breaks loose. And the hilarity of the situation withdrew moments of mirth from myself.  This is but the beginning of a very long night of fun, intrigue and disaster.  

The Uninvited Guests is an entertaining bit of fiction with surprising unforeseen twists. In the end, though surprised and somewhat put back by some developments, I have to say The Uninvited Guests leaves me .... satisfied.  

A glimpse of what I enjoyed:

     "Emerald, ever loving, ever dutiful, went after her.  Clovis, also loving, less dutiful, finished his rabbit pie." (p. 35)

     (And after all the struggles of getting a pony up the stairs and past her mother's room...)
     "I had better find something for you to eat," she said to the pony. "I don't want you to get bored and draw attention, neighing." (p. 101)
     (really, after all the thudding of hooves on stairs, to which no one responded, Smudge was concerned the pony's neighing would draw attention?  I just had to laugh.)

     "In the border, Ernest and Emerald toiled together, clothes sticking to them, he breaking the compacted earth, she heaving it up.
     'This is madness!' she cried, blood pounding around her body, palms wet and slippery on the handle of the shovel, and hair blown into her face as she worked.
     And he, bringing the pick down, working its point into the solid so that she might take it up, glanced up at her and replied, 'Yes, it's marvellous.  Magnificent." (p.233)

Meet the author:  
Sadie Jones’s first novel, The Outcast, won the UK’s coveted Costa First Novel Award and was a finalist for the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles TimesBook Prize for First Fiction. She lives in London.


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