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December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year, friends!

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December 28, 2011

The 19th Wife


The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Fiction
2008 Random House Audio
Readers: Arthur Morey, Daniel Passer, Kimberly Farr and Rebecca Lowman
Finished on 11/29/11
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)




Publisher's Blurb:

Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

This is one of those occasions in which I went into the reading of a book completely cold. I had no idea what the story was about; never even read the back cover. I had it on my shelf (I’m not even sure where or when I got it), but came upon the audio version (online) through my local library. I decided to give it a try and was spellbound; all four readers were superb and the story was captivating. Initially, I preferred the present-day narrative over that of Ann Eliza’s story, but as the novel progressed, I found myself looking forward to the shift back to her tale.

Now that I’ve enjoyed the audio version of the book, I’m looking forward to reading my printed copy sometime in the future. I learned a great deal about the Mormon Church and its history, but would like a chance to go back and read it, concentrating more on the historical details and less on the fictitious character, Jordan Scott, and the mystery of his father’s murder.

I’m also looking forward to reading the author’s earlier novel, Pasadena, which I’ve owned for close to a decade!

Go here to listen to David Ebershoff describe The 19th Wife.

Click here to visit the author’s website.

Final thoughts: A thought-provoking story that would make for a great book club selection.

Books to add to my TBR list:

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

The Mormon War: Zion and the Missouri Extermination Order of 1838 by Brandon G. Kinney

December 24, 2011

December 23, 2011

Reposting - Christmas Memories

Reposting from Christmas 2008...




Thanks to Cornflower, I just discovered the following from Sir Roy Strong's A Country Life: At Home in the English Countryside. As Karen states, this resonates with so many of us during this Christmas season.


“Christmas is Janus-faced. One side is joy, the other grief. It opens gates of memory firmly locked into a corner of the mind for the rest of the year. But when the festive season beckons those gates open and the past comes back to take us in its embrace. Christmas is always as much about those not there as about those present. The card no longer received because the sender is no more, the telephone which does not ring this year to remind us of a friendship around the globe, the person who is not at the table, the visit which is no longer made.

“But then the sadness fades, for that gate lets in not only tears of grief but those of joy, and thankfulness, too. Memory’s sacred role is to hold in the mind all those whom one has loved. At Christmas they come tumbling back in a season when recollection pulls strongly on the emotions. How often over these days leading into the New Year does the conversation harken back to times past, to people and events long since gone.....

“Always the twelve days of Christmas take on the character of a garland of friendship through time, for not only those of yesterday are recalled, but those of today rekindled. We are reminded of their centrality in any life. Age and bad times make them a bedrock, giving us strength to go forward into whatever the new year will bring.”

Thinking of those of you who have recently lost a loved one.

December 22, 2011

One Good Dog



One Good Dog by Susan Wilson
Fiction
2010 Macmillan Audio
Readers: Fred Berman & Rick Adamson
Finished on 11/10/11
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)




Publisher's Blurb:

One Good Dog is a wonderful novel: a moving, tender, and brilliantly crafted story about two fighters—one a man, one a dog— hoping to leave the fight behind, who ultimately find their salvation in each other. Susan Wilson’s clear and unflinching style is perfectly suited for her story that strips away the trappings and toys we all hide behind, and exposes our essential need to give and accept love in order to thrive.” — Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Adam March is a self-made “Master of the Universe.” He has it all: the beautiful wife, the high-powered job, the glittering circle of friends. But there is a price to be paid for all these trappings, and the pressure is mounting—until the day Adam makes a fatal mistake. His assistant leaves him a message with three words: your sister called. What no one knows is that Adam’s sister has been missing for decades. That she represents the excruciatingly painful past he has left behind. And that her absence has secretly tormented him all these years. When his assistant brushes off his request for an explanation in favor of her more pressing personal call, Adam loses it. And all hell breaks loose.

Adam is escorted from the building. He loses his job. He loses his wife. He loses the life he’s worked so hard to achieve. He doesn’t believe it is possible to sink any lower when he is assigned to work in a soup kitchen as a form of community service. But unbeknownst to Adam, this is where his life will intersect with Chance.

Chance is a mixed breed Pit Bull. He’s been born and raised to fight and seldom leaves the dirty basement where he is kept between fights. But Chance is not a victim or a monster. It is Chance’s unique spirit that helps him escape and puts him in the path of Adam.

What transpires is the story of one man, one dog, and how they save each other—in ways they never could have expected.

Ok. I agree. This sounds like a pretty tired, sappy story. But I’m a sucker for dog books and this one had been recommended to me by one of my customers. When I saw that it was available through my library, I figured it was time to finally give it a try. It’s a very quick and entertaining (read: light-weight and predictable) story, which I enjoyed listening to as I shelved books at work, drove around town and cleaned up the kitchen in the evenings. I’m not sorry I listened to it, but I doubt I would’ve stuck with the written edition. Narrated from both Adam and Chance’s points-of-view, it’s definitely not of the same caliber as The Art of Racing in the Rain (be sure to click on the link if you want to see Annie-Dog pictures!) or The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, the latter of which is one of the finest books I have ever read.

However, fans of Marley and Me (click on link to see our beloved Sidney) will enjoy having their heartstrings tugged once again.

December 20, 2011

Faith


Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Fiction
Audio 2011 Harper Collins
Reader: Therese Plummer
Finished on 11/3/11
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)





Publisher’s Blurb:

The critically acclaimed and bestselling author of The Condition returns with a powerful and affecting drama of faith, doubt, and redemption as one woman uncovers the truth about her family, her beliefs, and herself.

It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city’s archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.

Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother, Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Shelia’s younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila’s questions and refuses to defend himself.

As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family’s history of silence—and the resilience of its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman’s quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh’s most ambitious novel to date.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audio book and thought the reader did a great job. The story is suspenseful and reads like a mystery, keeping me guessing up to the final pages. The narrative is nonlinear, flowing back and forth in time, revealing the facts slowly and delicately. The characters are well-drawn and likeable; I cared about each and found myself thinking of them long after I finished the book. My only complaint centers around the transitions between chapters. Shelia tells the story in first person and her chapters alternate with those of her brothers, which are told in third person. The transitions between chapters work fine on the printed page, but they are abrupt and confusing in the audio format. This minor quibble wasn’t terribly annoying, especially since I had the hardcover to thumb through when I hit an odd transition.

I read Mrs. Kimble (Haigh’s debut), several years ago and enjoyed this novel much better. Now I’m anxious to try Baker Towers and The Condition to see how they compare.

Final thoughts: I was swept away by this thought-provoking novel and think it would make for a great book club discussion. As mentioned, I own the hardcover edition and plan to keep it for a future reread.

The paperback edition is due out on January 17th. I prefer this new cover over the hardcover edition, don’t you?

Reposting - Fruit Cake Weather

This is a super busy time of year for me and not only have I not had time to blog, I haven't had time to bake! Maybe I can get a batch of these yummy treats in the oven on Christmas Eve.

The following is an reposting of a post from December 2006.





Well, maybe not fruitcake weather. (Does anybody even eat fruitcake?) Every Christmas (for at least the past 20 years) I make a couple of batches of Shortbread cookies. The recipe is very easy and I can get anywhere between 12-13 dozen cookies from a single batch (ideal for those Christmas Cookie tins/plates I like to give to neighbors and friends).

I originally discovered these delicious little bit-size cookies in 1972. My mom had made several dozen for a holiday open house and my brother and I just happened to find them in the basement freezer. I'm not sure how many we ate on the sly, but they
are quite addictive, especially when chilled. Hmmm, I hope I did a good job hiding my stash this year!

December 18, 2011

Reposting - Stuart McLean

I haven't had much time this month to blog, so I thought I'd share an old post from December 2006.



Carl's G.I.F.T. Challenge Post #2







One of my dearest friends gave me a copy of Stuart McClean at the Vinyl Cafe - The Christmas Concert (cd) a few years ago. I love it for so many reasons.

1. It was a gift from a kindred spirit whom I've know for almost 10 years. We met in an on-line book forum, back in 1997, and have become the closest of pals, in spite of having never meet face-to-face.

2. The Christmas Concert (and all the Vinyl Cafe recordings) is a Canadian broadcast (and I'm half-Canadian).

3. The concert was recorded on my 35th birthday (December 13, 1996).

4. The stories make me laugh out loud, even though I've heard them several times now. Laughter is always a good thing, especially during the holidays when stress levels are high.

If you haven't had the opportunity to listen to a Vinyl Cafe broadcast, I strongly urge you to tune in for a show. Here's some listener information from their website:

Broadcast time:

Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. (10:30 NT) on CBC Radio Two
Sundays at 12:00 p.m. (12:30 NT) on CBC Radio One

United States Broadcast Information

The Vinyl Cafe is heard Saturday mornings on Radio Two and Sundays at brunch on Radio One. The show features music - both live and recorded - stories and the misadventures of Dave, the owner of the "Vinyl Cafe", the world's smallest record store, where the motto is "We may not be big, but we're small." The show also features Dave's wife, Morley, their two children, Sam and Stephanie and assorted friends and neighbours.


Or, if you can't tune in to CBC, head over to Amazon and buy a copy of the cd and start a new Christmas tradition. My favorite segments are:

Good King Wenceslas and Angels We Have Heard on High

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (performed with a mandolins, fiddle bass, guitar and banjo, of all things!)

Story: Dave on the Roof

Story: Dave Cooks a Turkey (this is quite long, but worth sitting and listening to, perhaps with a glass of wine or cocktail. It's hysterical!)

Silent Night

I love the music and Stuart is a joy to listen to. He's very entertaining and has a lovely sense of humor. There are several other Vinyl Cafe cds and books that I may just have to order. Thanks, Nan, for introducing me to this wonderful broadcast!

December 16, 2011

{this moment}


A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - Amanda Soule

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December 13, 2011

Half a Century!





I may be 50, but I still feel like a kid!

December 3, 2011

Take Your Child...

to a bookstore today!


From their website:

"Bookstores hold a place in the hearts and times of our community. They are places to discover an author, a story, a life. Nothing affords the conversation and interaction among books and book lovers that a bookstore does. In the future, whether you download your story or pluck a volume off a shelf, a bookstore will be able to accommodate. But in order for bookstores to flourish and thrive, we must expose future generations to the unique pleasures they offer. On December 3rd, 2011, take the child in your life to a bookstore. Watch his face light up as you give him free access, not just to a new book, but to tomorrow." —Jenny Milchman

Click here for more information.

December 1, 2011

Christmas Books & Music - Part I



A Christmas Promise
by Lark Carrier

I'm not sure how long we've had this little book in our Christmas collection, but it's really more my daughter's than mine. I think I bought it for her because we lived out in the country and because she and the main character share the same name. It's a sweet little book, illustrated with pretty water color drawings.




I wrote about this album two years ago. For those of you who missed it, here's that post once again:

Have I really been listening to this album for 20 years? My husband would say it's been at least an eternity. But then he doesn't really care much for George Winston. He says it sounds like someone's tuning a piano for hours on end. What does he know? ;) I think it's gorgeous, meditative music and it never fails to put me in the holiday spirit.

I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite track, but since my daughter was born in December (almost 26 years ago!), and I listened to Pachabel Canon in D major at the end of every "Mommy & Me" prenatal exercise class, I'd have to say Track # 9 is right up there. But then so is the beautiful Joy (known also as Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring), which my brother used to play on the piano when we were kids. And then, of course, there's The Holly and The Ivy. Simply lovely. Makes me wish I knew how to play the piano.

I notice the 20th Anniversary Edition has two extra tracks (A Christmas Song and Sleep Baby Mine). Hmmm, might be time to invest in an updated album. I'm sure my husband wouldn't mind. This one's getting a bit worn out.

My good friend Nan listens to this every year on the 1st of December. I wonder if she has the new edition? I also wonder if she was listening at the same time as I. I'll bet her husband doesn't roll his eyes when he walks in the room while it's playing. ;)