January 31, 2012

The Postmistress

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
2010 Amy Einhorn Books
Finished 1/20/12
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Those who carry the truth sometimes bear a terrible weight…

It is 1940. France has fallen. Bombs are dropping on London. And President Roosevelt is promising he won’t send our boys to fight in “foreign wars.”

But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London, wants nothing more than to bring the war home. Frankie’s radio dispatches crackle across the Atlantic Ocean, imploring listeners to pay attention—as the Nazis bomb London nightly, and Jewish refugees stream across Europe. Frankie is convinced that if she can just get the right story, it will wake Americans to action and they will join the fight.

Meanwhile, in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James hears Frankie’s broadcasts and knows that it is only a matter of time before the war arrives on Franklin’s shores. In charge of the town’s mail, Iris believes that her job is to deliver and keep people’s secrets, passing along the news that letters carry. And one secret she keeps are her feelings for Harry Vale, the town mechanic, who inspects the ocean daily, searching in vain for German U-boats he is certain will come. Two single people in midlife, Iris and Harry long ago gave up hope of ever being in love, yet they find themselves unexpectedly drawn toward each other.

Listening to Frankie as well are Will and Emma Fitch, the town’s doctor and his new wife, both trying to escape fragile childhoods and forge a brighter future. When Will follows Frankie’s siren call into the war, Emma’s worst fears are realized. Promising to return in six months, Will goes to London to offer his help, and the lives of the three women entwine.

Alternating between an America still cocooned in its inability to grasp the danger at hand and a Europe being torn apart by war, The Postmistress gives us two women who find themselves unable to deliver the news, and a third woman desperately waiting for news yet afraid to hear it.

Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress shows how we bear the fact that war goes on around us while ordinary lives continue. Filled with stunning parallels to today, it is a remarkable novel.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been so moved by a novel. I first heard about The Postmistress from a former coworker who said it was one of the best novels about World War II that she’d ever read. I love reading books set during that time period, so I tucked the title away in the back of my mind, knowing I’d get to it sooner or later. One afternoon at work, a customer whom I’ve come to know and who shares my taste in books, gave me her copy of The Postmistress, telling me how much she loved it and that she knew I would, too. I added it to my stacks, again, knowing I’d get to it sooner or later. Well, it turned out to be much later! The book is now available in paperback and I’ve only just read the hardcover. But it was well worth the wait!

“A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel that I’m telling everyone I know to read.” ~ Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help

I couldn’t agree more! I loved Blake’s novel, savoring each page, marking passage after passage. Early on, after establishing the relationship between all the characters, I was tempted to stop where I was reading and start all over from the very beginning. I had a feeling this was going to be a great book, one with which I would fall in love and be haunted by for years to come. I knew it was a rare book, much like The Book Thief, Atonement, and The Help. I could have read it much more quickly than two full weeks—it called to me during the day and I couldn’t wait to get home to return to the story—but I wanted to draw it out and make it last.

“Some novels we savor for their lapidary prose, others for their flesh-and-blood characters, and still others for a sweeping narrative arc that leaves us lightheaded and changed; Sarah Blake’s masterful The Postmistress serves us all this and more. Compassionate, insightful, and unsentimental, this masterful novel is told in a rare and highly successful omniscient voice, one that delves deeply into the seemingly random nature of love and war and story itself. This is a superb book!” ~ Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog

On wartime broadcasts:

“The story beneath the story,” Parkhurst agreed.

Frankie nodded. Bill Shirer wrote ten minutes of script for five minutes of airtime, and Murrow often finished every broadcast in a cold sweat, having orchestrated the news so that it went under the wire, his mind ahead of the censor’s bending and swaying to the imagined cut. Early on, she’d learned what she could say she saw—a full moon could be described as a bomber’s moon—and how to seed the story without telling the Germans, who were listening, what they heard. It was a dare—a dance up to the line. It was the performance of what is, what isn’t.


…We do not create mood, Murrow had lectured her when she’d first arrived, we tell what there is to tell. Our job is not to persuade. Just provide the honest news. One person to another. And when there isn’t any news, why, just say so. The news is not atmosphere (although there were shelves of disks at Broadcasting House that used to be used for just that—crickets and birdsongs, Big Ben sounding, and nearly sixty bands on one disk devoted to False Alarm: Cheerful Voices with Chink of Teacups). The war news now came live: the newsreaders’ voices, the microphone on the roof recording the progress of the bombs, and the conversation between broadcasters in the very moment of the Blitz. The world could listen to the war as though we were all pulled up to the fire.

On London’s Blitz:

By now, death had long since lost its power to shock. Everyone had a story: there were thousands piled up in London’s heart. But ever since the first of the year, Hitler had been playing with London’s nerves. There were three nights of bombing in January, then nothing for a week. Then again, and heavier. Then nothing. One day, then another in March, then nothing long enough for daffodils to appear and grass to start sprouting on the banks along the Thames. The city slid into April on a month of quiet. Then came the bombings of the Wednesday and the Saturday—bombs so bad, Ed Murrow joked, you wore your best clothes to bed in case your closet wasn’t standing in the morning. And since then, the memory of those nights had settled into everyone’s crouch, everyone’s quick steps, everyone’s fixed attention on the sky. Would they come again tonight? Or was it over? You didn’t know. You went to bed ready to run.


On May the tenth, one hundred bombs a minute rained down on London for five straight hours in what was the most devastating night of the Blitz. Fires exploded everywhere at once, and where there had been, even on the other nights, pockets of calm, dips of peace, that night the din in the skies could drive you mad. Hit were Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, and countless houses smashed to pieces.


I rarely ever make the time to reread a book, but this is one I want to return to. Rather than wait several years (which is my typical pattern for rereading), I am going to listen to the audio, as I just discovered that the reader is Orlagh Cassidy. She’s one of my favorite audio book readers! And it’s available for download from my library. Hurray!

Final Thoughts: Is it too early to declare my #1 read of 2012? Now to read Blake’s previous novel, Grange House!

Books added to my reading list:

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson

Murrow: his life and times by A.M. Sperber

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

A Stricken Field: A Novel by Martha Gellhorn

Click here to listen to Blake's excellent interview on NPR's All Things Considered.

January 30, 2012

Life Is Good

It's important to recognize and remember the good things in life, so I've decided to make a point of jotting down my weekly blessings.

So what made me smile this past week?

  • A positive health report from Depoe Bay, Oregon!
  • Fresh, inexpensive flowers from Trader Joe's.
  • Getting carded!
  • Catching up with my girl friends over dinner and drinks.
  • A perfectly ripe avocado.
  • An amazing steak. Thank you, Julia Child!
  • Record-breaking temp (69 degrees!) on January 30th.
  • Wearing shorts in January!

January 28, 2012

Top Reads of 2011

I've been keeping track of how many books I read each year since 1999. I don't know if those early records included the books I quit on or just the ones I finished, but this year's total is the lowest in recorded history! Take a look:

1999 42 books
2000 60 books
2001 63 books
2002 72 books
2003 88 books (includes books I quit on)
2004 82 books (doesn't include the books I quit on)
2005 57 books (quit on 12)
2006 73 books (quit on 17 more)
2007 58 books (quit on 9 more)
2008 46 books (quit on 6 more)
2009 45 books (quit on 7 more)
2010 52 books (quit on 3 more)

and this past year...

2011 35 books read (quit on 9 more)

I decided to do away with my usual (long!) list of stats, but wanted to include just a few:

25 female authors; 10 male authors

22 new authors

30 fiction; 5 nonfiction

21 borrowed; 14 from my stacks

13 audio books

And now for my Top Reads for 2011 (listed in the order read) ...

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (4.5/5)

Shoot to Thrill by P.J. Tracy (4.5/5)

Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister (4.5/5)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (4.5/5)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (4.5/5)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (4.5/5)

The Pioneer Woman: From High Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (4.5/5)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (4.5/5)

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (4.5/5)

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (4.75/5)

Beachcombing For A Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer (4.5/5)

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore (4.75/5)

Faith by Jennifer Haigh (4.5/5)

Honorable Mentions:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (4/5)

Think of A Number by John Verdon (4/5)

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (4/5)

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve (4/5)

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear (4/5)

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (4/5)

Good Night, iPad by Ann Droyd (4/5)

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (4/5)

Click on highlighted titles to read my review.

You can also find a list of reviews for all the books I read in 2011 here.

Books Read in 2011

You may click on highlighted titles to read a review:

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin (3.5/5)

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (4.5/5)

Shoot to Thrill by P.J. Tracy (4.5/5)

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (2.5/5)

Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister (4.5/5)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (4.5/5)

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (2.5/5)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (4.5/5)

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (2.5/5)

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (3.5/5)

Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg (2.5/5)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (4/5)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (4.5/5)

Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand (3.5/5)

The Pioneer Woman: From High Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (4.5/5)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (4.5/5)

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (2.5/5)

Think of A Number by John Verdon (4/5)

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (4.5/5)

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (4.75/5)

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (4/5)

Awakening by S.J. Bolton (3.5/5)

Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin (3/5)

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve (4/5)

Beachcombing For A Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer (4.5/5)

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear (4/5)

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore (4.75/5)

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (3.5/5)

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons (3/5)

Faith by Jennifer Haigh (4.5/5)

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson (3.5/5)

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (4/5)

Time and Again by Jack Finney (3.5/5)

Good Night, iPad by Ann Droyd (4/5)

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (4/5)

January 25, 2012

2012 Tournament of Books

I love lists. Currently, I have seven separate lists on my desk. They're all book-related and I keep hoping to make time to write some posts about each of them. But first things first. Andi blogged about The Morning News 2012 Tournament of Books (presented by Field Notes) and after quickly scanning the list of titles, I knew I'd have to add the widget and link to my sidebar. This isn't really a challenge, but I hope plan to read at least eight of the selected books. I already own three and am actively listening to one and have started another on my iPad (with plans to resume reading in another month or so).

Here's the list, followed by the information posted on The Morning News. I've highlighted the books I own (in red) and the books I plan to read (in green). Any comments or other recommendations? Are any better on audio than the printed format?

The 16 Books That Will Compete in Our Eighth Annual Battle Royale

  • Nathacha Appanah, The Last Brother
  • Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
  • Teju Cole, Open City
  • Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods
  • Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers
  • Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot
  • Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding
  • Alan Hollinghurst, Stranger’s Child
  • Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones
  • Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
  • Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife
  • Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table
  • Ann Patchett, State of Wonder
  • Donald Ray Pollock, Devil All the Time
  • Karen Russell, Swamplandia!
  • Kate Zambreno, Green Girl

Details for the tournament can be found here. The official tournament begins on March 7th.

January 23, 2012

Life Is Good

It's important to recognize and remember the good things in life, so I've decided to make a point of jotting down my weekly blessings.

So what made me smile last week?

  • Heated car seats!
  • Friendly customers.
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches & Campbell's Tomato Soup (Who says dinner has to be complicated?!)
  • Listening to my husband play his guitar (serenading our dog while she eats her breakfast) at 5:30 a.m.
  • Homemade turkey soup.
  • A full day of nothing but cooking, blog-hopping and reading. Pure bliss.
  • The scent of woodsmoke in the air.
  • Little girls giggling with their mama at the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
  • Leftover oatmeal pancakes (slightly chilled) with peanut butter.
  • A freshly groomed dog.

January 22, 2012

A Lesson in Secrets

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
Mystery (#8 in the Maisie Dobbs’ series)
2011 Harper Audio
Reader: Orlagh Cassidy
Finished 1/16/12
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

Publisher’s Blurb:

In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs’s career goes in an exciting new direction when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities “not in the interests of His Majesty’s Government.”

When the college’s controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote’s death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance.

To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain’s conduct during the war, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain.

A pivotal chapter in the life of Maisie Dobbs, A Lesson in Secrets marks the beginning of her intelligence work for the Crown. As the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon, Maisie will confront new challenges and new enemies—and will engage new readers and loyal fans of this bestselling mystery series.

As the final chapter of this most recent installment in the Maisie Dobbs’s series drew to a close, I found myself wondering why I’ve continued reading—or rather, listening to—these books. The actual mystery didn’t hold my interest nearly as well as others have in the past and I wanted to hear more about Maisie’s personal life and her relationships with some of the “regulars” in this series. Maybe I just like listening to Orlagh Cassidy read! But now as World War II draws closer, I’m hopeful that Winspear’s next book will appeal to me as her earlier works did. Fans of this series will be happy to learn that Winspear has a new book due out on March 27th.

Go here to learn more.

Until then, I plan to start in on Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series. I've read the first in the series (Still Life), but that was over five years ago. I'll give it a reread and then I'll have five six more to look forward to.

If you would like my ARC of A Lesson in Secrets, please leave me a comment along with your email address. I'll draw the winning name on January 31st.

January 18, 2012

2012 Audio Book Challenge

Last year I listened to 14 audio books! I think that's an all-time record for me, so this challenge is pretty much a gimme. Here are the details from Teresa's blog:

Weclcome to the Original Audio Book Challenge formerly hosted by Alaine at Queen of Happy Endings. This challenge is for Audio Book lovers as well as those who are brand new to them.

Once again, there are four levels to the challenge

Flirting-Listen to 6 Audio Books
Going Steady- Listen to 12 Audio Books
Lover- Listen to 25 Audio Books
Married-Listen to +++ Audio Books

There will be a monthly link up so that we can share what we’ve listened to and make suggestions to each other. Along with that monthly link up there will be a special monthly challenge so make sure you stop by each month!

Official Challenge dates: 1/1/2012-12/31/2012

I'm aiming for the 2nd level (Going Steady) and don't anticipate any trouble achieving that goal. Unlike other challenge, I won't make a list ahead of time since my audio selections are typically based on availability through my library.

Thanks for hosting the challenge, Teresa!

January 17, 2012

The Stranger You Seek

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams
2011 Bantam
Finished 1/4/12
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

She is the best fictional female P.I. since Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. And with its shocking triple-twist climax, this is the best private eye debut since Dennis Lehane's "A Drink Before the War." Grade: A ~ Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Publisher’s Blurb:

In the sweltering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer is pushing the city to its breaking point, preying on the unsuspecting, writing taunting letters to the media, promising more death. Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer before another victim meets a shattering end, A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind: ex-FBI profiler Keye Street.

Keye was a rising young star at the Bureau until addiction derailed her career and her life. Now sober and fighting to stay so, Keye picks up jobs where she can get them: catching adulterers, serving subpoenas, chasing down bailjumpers, and dodging the occasional bullet. With multiple victims, little to go on, and an entire police force looking for direction, the last thing Keye wants is to be pulled into the firestorm of Atlanta’s worst nightmare.

And then it suddenly becomes clear that the hunter has become the hunted – and the stranger she seeks is far closer than she ever dared imagine.

An electrifying thriller debut, The Stranger You Seek introduces a brash, flawed, and unforgettable heroine in a complex, twisting novel that takes readers deep into a sultry Southern summer, a city in the grips of chaos, and a harrowing cat-and-mouse game no reader will ever forget.

Any comparison to Dennis Lehane and I’m sold. But it was Joy’s review that piqued my interest:

Woo hoo! I found myself another series to follow! It's graphic (very Karin Slaughter-like) and on occasion, a bit shocking, and like Slaughter, held together with a solid plot. There were surprising twists and turns, some wit and some interesting characters and relationships, too. (Thoughts of Joy)

Go here to read her complete review.

Williams’ debut thriller kept me up reading very late for a couple of nights and while I recognized a red herring, I was never able to figure out the identity of the killer. Williams’ syntax is a bit off in the opening chapters, and there is one scene that seemed completely irrelevant to the plot, but I enjoyed the characters and loved the ending. I’m looking forward to the next in her line-up: Stranger In The Room (Fall 2012) and Don’t Talk To Strangers (Fall 2013). It’s nice to get in on a series from the beginning!

On the South:

I embraced the South as a child, loved it passionately and love it still. You learn to forgive it for its narrow mind and growing pains because it has a huge heart. You forgive the stifling summers because spring is lush and pastel sprinkled, because November is astonishing in flame and crimson and gold, because winter is merciful and brief, because corn bread and sweet tea and fried chicken are every bit as vital to a Sunday as getting dressed up for church, and because any southerner worth their salt says please and thank you. It’s soft air and summer vines, pine woods and fat homegrown tomatoes. It’s pulling the fruit right off a peach tree and letting the juice run down your chin. It’s a closeted and profound appreciation for our neighbors in Alabama who bear the brunt of the Bubba jokes. The South gets in your blood and nose and skin bone-deep. I am less a part of the South than it is a part of me. It’s a romantic notion, being overcome by geography. But we are all a little starry-eyed down here. We’re Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara and Rosa Parks all at once.

On life as a bounty hunter:

In the last couple of weeks I’d picked pieces of glass out of my neck and forearms with tweezers after being shot at by a bail jumper with a pump-action shotgun, been hit in the back of the head by a flying coffee cup, and shot at by an angry skinny woman over a crummy witness subpoena. I’d stumbled on a Wishbone murder scene, wrestled an accountant who sank his teeth into my shoulder, been hurled through the bullet-wounded windshield of my Impala, officially fired, hospitalized, released and handed over to the media, watched my ex-husband on TV dissecting our dysfunctional marriage, watched strangers on TV discussing my rehab and FBI records. And I was getting roses, white roses, from a violent serial offender. Oh joy.

While not for the faint of heart (I was reminded of the gritty nature of the P.J. Tracy, Cody McFadyen, and John Sandford’s series), fans of Janet Evanovich looking for some comic relief will not be disappointed.

Final thoughts: Unpredictable. Humorous. Intelligent. Think Clarice Starling with a hint of Sunny Randall and Stephanie Plum.

January 16, 2012

Life Is Good

It's important to recognize and remember the good things in life, so I've decided to make a point of jotting down my weekly blessings.

So what made me smile last week?

  • Another 3-day weekend.
  • Beautiful winter sunsets.
  • A peaceful morning walk with Annie-Dog. What a gorgeous sunrise this morning!
  • Organized closets and pantry. What a good feeling.
  • 4 large bags of clothing donated to the Goodwill.
  • Dining room wall & ceiling are finally repaired! Time to paint.
  • Up-to-date on book reviews and emails.
  • A delicious meal (flat-iron steak with shrimp risotto) and a relaxing evening with good friends.
  • An hour-long massage. Ahhhhhhhhh.
  • Books in the mail from three dear friends.
  • Sunshine.

January 14, 2012

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2011 Random House Audio (Unabridged Edition)
Reader: Jim Dale
Finished 1/4/12
Rating: 4/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher’s Blurb:

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves: Within these black-and-white striped tents lies an utterly unique experience, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, and stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination.

But when Celia and Marco innocently tumble headfirst into love, their masters intervene with dangerous consequences.

I wound up with the ARC of The Night Circus last summer, but of course, it was relegated to one of the many stacks in my office. After the novel’s release, I read a few glowing reviews and knew it was something I would eventually read. I’ve been enjoying audio books so much, and as it turned out, I found the audio in my library’s online database, so I promptly added my name to the queue. I figured I’d either get to the ARC or the audio version whenever the mood struck. I was very happy when the audio became available and I was able to start listening right after Thanksgiving. What an outstanding presentation of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel! Jim Dale (whom readers will recognize from the audio editions of the Harry Potter series) is superb! I was quickly drawn into Celia and Marco’s story, eager to get back to the book every morning, falling deeper and deeper under the spell of this remarkably imaginative tale. Morgenstern’s novel is rich with detail and filled with wonderful characters. I don’t know whose story I loved more—Celia & Marco’s or Poppet, Widget and Bailey’s.

My only complaint with the audio is that the chronology of the book is not linear, and thus I was often confused, unsure if my Nano had skipped a track. I found myself checking the ARC to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter. I’m pretty sure I didn’t, but I do plan to read the book (eventually), now that I’ve finished the audio. It’s very rare that I listen to a book either before or after reading the printed edition, but this was such an outstanding experience, I can’t wait to return to Morgenstern’s world. The Help turned out to be amazing in both formats and I enjoyed the movie just as much. I’m hoping The Night Circus turns out to be another novel that is just as enjoyable in all three mediums. Summit Entertainment (the production company behind the Twilight film franchise) has optioned the film rights and, although I was not impressed with the film version of Twilight, I am still excited about the possibility for a fabulously magical adventure.

SuziQ says:

This was a beautiful, exciting, sad, happy and altogether elegant story. The author created a world in which I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself. I intentionally waited to read it until I had time to read it in just a few sittings. I’m glad I did. This is the kind of book that wraps its setting around you as you read. The imagery is both delicate and strong and always beautiful even in the darker parts of the story. At its heart a love story, the book is about a competition between magicians that takes place within a mysterious circus that seems to appear and disappear and is only open at night. Its storylines weave in and around each other and forward and backward in time in a way that feels almost like a dance. There is a distinct elegance to the writing and the story that takes the reader on a wonderful journey. (Whimpulsive)

Go here to read her complete review.

Andi says:

Beyond the novel's structure, the detail in the writing is just stunning. I felt as if I was experiencing the look and feel of The Night Circus. I could imagine the tents, each of the acts, the bonfire that serves as the heart of the circus, the food on sale to the patrons, the way the various acts dressed and conducted themselves. Hardly ever do I read a novel that makes me feel so thoroughly immersed in the fictional world. (Estella's Revenge)

Go here to read her complete review.

Wendy says:

The Night Circus is a feast for the senses, conjuring up beautiful scenes and luscious scents. It twists and turns and leaves the reader wondering what is real and what is illusion? Morgenstern shifts the narrative back and forth in time, a technique which adds to the unsettled feel of the novel. I will admit that this time shifting felt confusing to me at first. But eventually, I stopped paying attention to the dates, and simply allowed the story to sweep me forward…and it was when I did this that the novel captured me. (Caribousmom)

Go here to read her complete review.

So have I (and my friends) convinced you? This is definitely a winner!

And did I mention the ever-so-wonderful Jim Dale? Here is a sample of him reading from The Night Circus. Close your eyes and listen.

Final thoughts: Enchanting. Magical. Unforgettable.

January 9, 2012

Life Is Good

Remember Mary-Chapin Carpenter's hit Passionate Kisses? I heard it on the radio the other day and it made me stop and think about some of the things that make me happy.

It's important to recognize and remember the good things in life, so I've decided to make a point of jotting down my weekly blessings. I was going to label this post "Passionate Kisses," but the potential for questionable Google search hits made me re-evaluate that choice.

So what made me smile last week?

  • A comfortable bed that won't hurt my back. We finally got a new mattress set. Our old bed was almost 14 years old. No more back aches!
  • Jeans that fit! I love my new jeans from Eddie Bauer. They're so soft and comfy; I splurged and bought a couple of pairs in each color (dark rinse, black, gray and regular denim blue).
  • 4-day weekend! Exactly what I needed after the stress of a very busy holiday season.
  • New work schedule that gives me a 3-day weekend every week!
  • Catching up on book reviews.
  • Listening to cds on my new Bose.
  • Starting the year off with 3 great books.
  • A 68-degree-day in January in Lincoln, Nebraska. Amazing.
  • Tickets booked to a tropical paradise.
  • And, yes. Passionate kisses.

Passionate Kisses

Is it too much to ask
I want a comfortable bed that won't hurt my back
Food to fill me up
And warm clothes and all that stuff
Shouldn't I have this
Shouldn't I have this
Shouldn't I have all of this, and

Passionate kisses
Passionate kisses, whoa oh oh
Passionate kisses from you

Is it too much to demand
I want a full house and a rock and roll band
Pens that won't run out of ink
And cool quiet and time to think
Shouldn't I have this
Shouldn't I have this
Shouldn't I have all of this, and

Passionate kisses
Passionate kisses, whoa oh oh
Passionate kisses from you

Do I want too much
Am I going overboard to want that touch
I shout it out to the night
"Give me what I deserve, 'cause it's my right"
Shouldn't I have this (shouldn't I)
Shouldn't I have this (shouldn't I)
Shouldn't I have all of this, and

Passionate kisses
Passionate kisses, whoa oh oh
Passionate kisses from you
Passionate kisses
Passionate kisses, whoa oh oh
Passionate kisses from you

Go here to listen to Passionate Kisses on YouTube.

January 6, 2012

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volume 1 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
2011 HarperCollins Publishers
Finished 12/28/11
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Overview (from Barnes & Noble):

From hitRECord, the immensely popular open collaborative production company, and its founder, Golden Globe-nominated actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, comes The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1.

The universe is not made of atoms; it's made of tiny stories.

To create The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, known within the hitRECord community as RegularJOE—directed thousands of collaborators to tell tiny stories through words and art. With the help of the entire creative collective, Gordon-Levitt culled, edited and curated over 8,500 contributions into this finely tuned collection of original art from 67 contributors. Reminiscent of the 6-Word Memoir series, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 brings together art and voices from around the world to unite and tell stories that defy size.

Thanks to Andi & Nancy, I discovered this fun, ironic little book. I picked it up at work and read it on one of my breaks. While it can be read in a store in less than 15 minutes, it's definitely one you'll want to own. I envision an adult storytime at my next dinner party.

Click on images to enlarge.

And, yes. You might have seen Gordon-Levitt here.

Final Thoughts: Christmas has come and gone, but Valentine's Day is just around the corner. This would make a great little gift.

Goodnight iPad

Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the Next Generation by Ann Droyd*
2011 Blue Rider Press
Finished 11/30/11
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good!)

Overview (from Barnes & Noble):

In a bright buzzing room, in the glow of the moon-and iPhones and Androids and Blackberries too-it is time to say goodnight...

Modern life is abuzz. There are huge LCD WiFi HD TVs and Facebook requests and thumbs tapping texts and new viral clips of cats doing flips. Wouldn't it be nice to say goodnight to all that? Like the rest of us who cannot resist just a few more scrolls and clicks, you may find yourself ready for bed while still clinging to your electronics long after dark. This book, which is made of paper, is a reminder for the child in all of us to power down at the end of the day. This hilarious parody not only pokes loving fun at the bygone quiet of the original classic, but also at our modern plugged-in lives. It will make you laugh, and it will also help you put yourself and your machines to sleep. Don't worry, though. Your gadgets will be waiting for you, fully charged, in the morning.

Goodnight Moon was one of my daughter's favorite books when she was a little girl. I gave her a copy of this parody for Christmas, as she is planning to eventually buy an iPad. She actually thought the book was a bit sad. I found her reaction rather ironic, as she has been known to watch tv while texting and surfing the web on her phone and MacBook, respectively.

Final Thoughts:
Time to unplug!

*Get it? ;)

Ann Droyd is the pseudonym for an IRA/CBC Children's Choice winner who has written and illustrated over twenty picture books for young readers. Droyd's work is known for its sense of narrative, humor, and visual playfulness. Ann Droyd, who studied graphic design at Parsons, lives in Massachusetts.