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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox


O'Farrell, Maggie. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox. A very short and quick read about a woman who has been locked away in mental facility for over 60 years. There is a kind of "Rapunzel quality" to this story...although the wicked witch is a three-fold combination.

Iris Lockhart is notified that her great-aunt is about to be released from Cauldstone Hospital, but Iris is not aware that her grandmother even had a sister. She finally visits and meets Esme Lennox and finds her self unwillingly drawn in, curious about how Esme could have been so effectively erased from family history, and strangely connected to this woman who has spent the majority of life locked away.

Hard to put down, O'Farrell leads us through Esme's memories and her sister Kitty's Alzheimer-induced ramblings to reveal how Esme's incarceration came about. In addition, we ramble through Iris' rather confused life and private problems.

Engrossing.

Fiction. Mystery/ modern gothic?. 2006. 245 pages.

The Dream-Maker's Magic

Shinn, Sharon. The Dream-Maker's Magic. I didn't realize that this was the third in this YA trilogy until I started this review and noticed the blurb on the inside flap. No problem, though, the book can stand alone.

Unlike the previous works I've read by Shinn, this is a very quiet tale about the two young people whose friendship gives them the strength to survive and grow in a positive way in spite of their personal circumstances. It is a novel about the small miracles of friendship and kindness that can create the larger miracles that enable us to make the most of our lives.

Kellen's mother insists she is a boy and her obsessive behavior finally causes her husband to abandon them. He continues to send funds when he can, but he can't live with the strange obsession. While Kellen deals with the problem of her mother's behavior and her own strange position in society, she is befriended first by a teacher whose interference enables her to attend school where she meets Gryffin, a boy who must live with pain and twisted legs. The two children form a life-long friendship and provide support for each other through the trials they must endure. Kellen and Gryffin are fortunate to find each other and to find that there are other caring people who offer opportunities and sanctuary.

Although there are disturbed, selfish, and cruel people in this world, Kellen and Gryffin are fortunate to meet, befriend, and be befriended by a number of people whose kindness creates ripples around them.

There are also some magical characters: a Safe-Keeper, a Truth-Teller, and a Dream-Maker who provide their services, but the real magic is in each individual.

Fiction. YA. Fantasy. 2006. 261 pages.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

East

Pattou, Edith. East. Whereas Zel was a modern version of a fairy tale in fairy tale format, East is a combination of elements from fairy tales in a fantasy format. A charming story that incorporates aspects of Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun and West of the Moon, East is the story of Rose and the White Bear, magical enchantments, and a mythic journey.

The chapters are told from the viewpoint of the various characters, a technique that bothers some, but that I like because it gives insight into each character that would not otherwise be available. This book reads very quickly and would be more suitable for younger readers than Zel; while Zel's writing style is simpler, its content is more complex and more appropriate for a more mature audience.

East is emphasizes the importance of commitment, but not in a pedantic way, and the adventure is exciting. A lovely version of a fairy tale.

Fiction. YA. Fairy tale/fantasy. 2003. 494 pages.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mystic and Rider

Shinn, Sharon. Mystic and Rider. The first in the Twelve Houses series, this novel introduces characters that I look forward to seeing again and again. Gillengaria is troubled by unrest, and King Baryn dispatches a group of five individuals to find out more about the situation: Senneth, a powerful mystic, is the nominal head of the group; Kirra and Donnal are also mystics and shape-shifters; Tayse and Justin are King's Riders whose responsibility is for the safety of the mystics, but who are themselves very distrustful of all forms of magic and mystics. The book opens as Senneth recognizes a serving boy as a mystic and frees him. Cammon, a sensitive, joins this band of uneasy allies as they continue their journey into the southern regions where dissent is greatest.

Lots of adventures and interesting group dynamics as the group discovers that things are even worse than they feared. Mystics are being hunted and murdered and dissent is being fomented by members of one of the Twelve Houses and by the fanatical religious followers of the Pale Lady.

There is a hint of romance that slowly blooms, but for the most part, the adventure and increasing closeness of the team provide the focus of this novel. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Fiction. Fantasy. 2005. 440 pages.

Another review: A Chain of Letters

The Winner of...

a copy of Forgive Me is Megan! Please email me your snail mail address, and I will get it on the way to you on Monday.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fairy Tale Origins, Interpretations, and Links

Carl sent me a link to Terry Windling's wonderful essay on Rapunzel. Although a long-time fan of Endicott Redux and Windling's art and essays, I had not read the essay which gave a recounting of the tale's history and transformations, some psychological insights into the story, and an excellent list for further reading.

She gives a positive review of Zel: "It's a taut, beautifully written novel and highly recommended." Her description of Touk's House by Robin McKinley is intriguing, a re-worked version of the Rapunzel tale that definitely sounds worth a read.

Carl also included a link to some of Windling's other articles and if you are reading fairy tales as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge, you may find an essay on your character or tale.

Another of my favorite sites is SurLaLune fairytales. com. Where you can get tee shirts, book bags, etc. with images by the most famous illustrators of fairy tales. Check out the tote bags here. SurLaLune also gives annotated versions of many tales and also their history, modern interpretations, similar stories across cultures, etc.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More on Enchantment & Fairy Tales

Last year I posted a link to The Uses of Enchantment, but thought with this year's Once Upon a Time challenge, someone else might be interested in it.

Another posting
from last year was my review of Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales. This book of essays by such writers as Ursula Le Guin, Julia Alvarez, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Midori Snyder, and Terry Windling offer memories and discoveries involving the dramatic effect of fairy tales on the lives of these women writers. It was fascinating and informative.

And a link to a poem about Rapunzel by William Morris (1834-1896).

Re-tellings and Modern Versions of Fairy Tales

Ann and Booklogged have mentioned more versions of Rapunzel, and I thought this would make an interesting digressive path for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Some Rapunzel re-tellings or analogues:

The Tower Room - Adele Geras
Letters from Rapunzel - Sara Lewis Holmes
Golden - Cameron Dokey
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
Rapunzel's Revenge - Shannon Hale (due out in August)
Rapunzel's Revenge: More Fairy Tales for Feminists - Mairin Johnston, Joni Crone, Anne Killeen
"Rapunzel's Revenge" - Brendan DuBois (short story in Once Upon a Crime collection-modern re-tellings of fairy tales by different authors)
"Dame Nigran's Tower" Louise Hawes (in her collection Black Pearls: A Faeiry Strand, not yet released)
Sugar Cane: A Carribean Rapunzel - Patricia Storace and Raul Colon

It would be fun to examine re-tellings of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, etc.

I have a meeting to attend, so I'd better go ahead and get ready, but I also want to discuss nonfiction books about fairy tales, so maybe I'll have a chance later.

Click here if you are interested in this week's Give-Away.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Napoli, Donna Jo. Zel. This is a re-telling of the fairy tale Repunzel. Listed as a YA, when I started the novel, I initially feared disappointment as it seemed written for a much younger (maybe elementary school) audience rather than for young adults. Knowing that I could get through it in a few hours, I decided to stick with it. And I'm so glad I did.

The novel moved from language and content appropriate for a child, to something appropriate for a young adolescent, to something much more. Style and content went hand in hand, an interesting approach that worked well with smooth and gradual transitions.

Even more interesting, this rendition of Repunzel is dark in a modern context; elements that are sublinated in traditional fairy tales are brought to the fore in this little novel. The narrative moves from third person to first person and back again. Mother tells the story in her own words; Zel and Konrad's stories are in third person, and the chapters move back and forth.

While keeping essential elements from the traditional story, this version is much more personal than classic fairy tales and, in its frank examination of love, greed, budding sexuality, and obsession--much more direct.

The end result, I think, is not a young adult novel, but a close examination of the sometimes disturbing psychological aspects that inspired the original tale and that are part of the human experience. Zel is a modern transformation -- perhaps better suited to adults who are fascinated by the study of fairy tales and their psychological implications. Which doesn't mean that young people wouldn't enjoy it, only that despite the simple language, there are truly adult themes at work.

Excellent!

Fiction. YA. Fairy Tale. 1996. 227 pages.

Give-Away

This week's Give-Away is Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward. If you'd like this one, leave a comment on this post indicating so. That is, if you can...

For some reason, I'm unable to comment on some blogs today. Couldn't comment on Sam's, for example, but was able to comment on others. I can't even respond to Dark Orpheus' comment on the post on Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be -- on my own blog.

Christine Falls

Black, Benjamin. Christine Falls. While I liked this much better than The Sea, John Banville (writing under pseudonym of Benjamin Black) has produced another rather strange novel that appears to substantiate his generally misanthropic view of humanity.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950's, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive. Banville/Black is quite successful in giving the feel of the period and especially, a feel of the cultural difficulties of post-war Dublin. None of the characters are particularly likable, and women are treated in an almost stereotypically distasteful manner.

The plot (which moves slowly with lots of hints) involves lost or stolen children and orphanages that have a sinister purpose. Loss and grief seem to be a theme the author wants to develop, but because none of the characters have much of a moral or ethical depth, I found the themes of hypocrisy and betrayal to be the most believable.

We are introduced to another dysfunctional and gothically perverse family and a main character (named Quirke, in case you don't get the many quirks of fate) who barely seems to function. When he does function, we are led to believe that almost everything he does in pursuing the mystery is out of character for the man who has never looked deeply into relationships and who has spent the better part of his life drunk or sleep-walking through most situations...to the point that he appears to have "forgotten" an unforgettable occasion.

The first in a series to feature Quirke, the novel seems to fall loosely into the crime/suspense genre, but I'm not much interested in pursuing Quirke.

Fiction. Crime/suspense/mystery. 2006. 340 pages.

Monday Musings

Hope everyone had a lovely Easter! Mine was great (even if I ate too much). The weather had turned colder, but it was a lovely day with plenty of sunshine.

Today was busy, busy, but I did, finally, get all books and packages in the mail. Kimy should be getting the Barry Miles Peace: Fifty Years of Protest soon, and Raych, your copy of Immortal will take a little longer to get way up North, but it, too, is in the mail! Erin's package with a couple of books and stuff for the grandkids also made it out, after some minor difficulties finding a box, tape, waiting in the P.O. line. Everything in it may smell like coffee...which wouldn't be a bad thing.

Also stopped by the library on the way home and made a good haul; I was quite successful with the library for a change. Well, I guess I'm always successful to some degree (we do have a great library), but this time they had many of the books I wanted for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Finished Christine Falls this weekend, and today in just a few hours, knocked out the YA novel Zel by Shannon Hale so they will need to be reviewed. One will be a pleasure and the other a puzzle. A couple of books are still in progress; there are the new library books, and some excellent ARC's waiting.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be


Das, Lama Surya. Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation. While there isn't much really new here (after all, wisdom has a long tradition), I need to be frequently reminded. Whether approached as religion, philosophy, or ethical action, some truths just need to be reinforced.

The idea behind this book is transformation, and one of the most interesting transformations in this book is the transformation of an American-born Jewish boy greatly attached to his baseball mitt into a Lama and teacher of Buddhist principles.

In letting go of our attachments, Das notes that we are attached to more than things.

We are attached to "...our opinions and theories. We become attached to the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we think. We become inordinately attached to our status, accomplishments, and reputations--and what we think they say about us. We become attached to our biases, and habitual way of doing things. We become attached to religion and political preference; we even become attached to our fears and anxieties." And, "Often we cling to habits that aren't even comforting or satisfying simply because we are unable to let go or explore new ways to do things."

I loved this quote from T. S. Eliot: " For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."

It is important to do the best we can, but we have no control of the outcome and should not become attached to it. This coincides (for me) with much of existential thinking (whether religious as Dostoevsky's version or agnostic/atheistic as Camus' version) -- what is important is that we live with integrity and do our best.

My favorite section is the last section about mindfulness, a quality that I need to increase in my life, and Das gives a six week practice to increase our mindful awareness, sense of peace and serenity, and aliveness. I've been working on sound for nearly a week. So many background noises that we tune out...


Nonfiction. Philosophy/spiritual. 2003. 210 pages.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dance of Death


Preston, Douglas, and Lincoln Child. Dance of Death. Another rather silly and rather fun novel from this team. I enjoy them, and I'm almost ashamed to say so as they are so far-fetched. Yet, for some reason, Agent Aloyious Pendergast appeals to me, and I'm perfectly willing to "suspend disbelief" and happily indulge myself in all of the far-fetched circumstances in their novels.

Diogenes, Agent Pendergast's evil brother, has developed an elaborate plot to take revenge on Aloyious. The result of years of preparation, his plan includes killing the limited number of people that Agent Pendergast cares about. Folks, this is a dysfunctional family at its gothic zenith; fabulously wealthy, inordinately intelligent, entirely weird, and frequently criminally insane, the Pendergast family is unique.

Some familiar characters make re-appearances, and it takes their combined efforts to prevent Diogenes from succeeding. Although The Museum of Natural History is involved once again, it plays a lesser role in this novel.

I like 'em and can't really explain why.

Fiction. Mystery/thriller. 2005. 451 pages.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Book of Old Houses

Graves, Sarah. The Book of Old Houses. Another library book, but not a successful one. The 11th book in this series about Jacobia Tiptree, it is the first one that I've read.

An old book (evidence of the supernatural?), a murdered rare book expert, a friend looking for revenge, an old house in the midst of renovation...all sounds intriguing. However, a narrative unable to focus seems the result. An awful lot of time is devoted to the destruction and remodeling of an old bathroom and the amusing(?) results. Misdirection throughout, but a sense of logic and cohesion seems lacking, and motive seems questionable.


Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 294 pages.

Friday, March 21, 2008

And the winner is...

Raych! Send me your snail mail address, and I' ll try to get your copy of Immortal out on Monday!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Combined Challenge

Here are some of the books I hope to read for Carl's Once Upon a Time II Challenge. I've decided on Quest the First because it is the most flexible.

Quest the First

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time II criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.


I read the first in each of the following series last year for this challenge ( loved them both!) and look forward to reading the second in each series:

The Orphan's Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice - Catherynne Valente
Shadow Gate: Book Two of the Crossroads - Kate Elliott

Some others that I've jotted down recently when visiting other blogs in anticipation of this challenge. ~~I found another great challenge, Twisted Fairy Tales, over at Sqeaky Books (discovered by way of Connect the Plots). ~~Here are some great YA titles that will work for both challenges:

Zel - Donna Jo Napoli
A Curse Dark as Gold - Elizabeth C. Bunce
Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale
East - Edith Pattou
Ever - Gail Carson Levine

I have another list of possible titles somewhere, but can't locate it right now.

Have 3 more reviews to write and some new books have arrived from FSB (thanks to Anna) and from William Morrow/Harper Collins (thanks to Christine). More about the new books later; some of them look very good.

The Serpent's Tale


Franklin, Ariana. The Serpent's Tale. I loved the first book in this series, Mistress of the Art of Death, (which I reviewed in April of last year) loved the wit, the characters, loved the tension between Rowley and Adelia. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the second installation and was delighted to find it on the new books shelf at the library. I enjoyed this one, too, but founded it lacking in many of the aspects that gave so much pleasure in the first one.

When Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II, is found to have died from eating poisoned mushrooms, Adelia (the 12th century's version of a coroner) is "requested" by Henry to look into the matter and determine whether or not it was murder. Adelia, of course, has no choice in the matter and journeys to the nunnery of Godstow in bitter winter to investigate. Murder, it is, but who is the culprit? Rather obvious clues point to the King's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Tricky stuff, indeed.

There are some bizarre circumstances both in Rosamund's murder and in the murder of a young discovered as Adelia and her party arrive at Godstow.

Glytha and Mansur are there as support for Adelia and her baby, but Rowley, now a Bishop, has very little presence in the novel.

The wit and humor of the first novel are less apparent as well--perhaps as a result of the fact that Rowley is now a churchman and plays a smaller part.

Another aspect that bothered me was the presentation of Queen Eleanor, depicted as much sillier and less savvy than the powerful and politically astute woman history depicts. Eleanor may have been arrogant, stubborn, and willful, but she was independent, astute, influential, and powerful.

Her influence on history (she lived into her 80's), is well documented, especially during the reigns of sons Richard (the Lion Heart) and John (the villain in the Robin Hood tales and who, for me, will always have a little Alan Rickman flavor).

I enjoyed the novel, even it did not live up to my expectations, and hope for more.

Fiction. Mystery/historical. 2008. 371 pages.
It is that time again! Time for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge, my very favorite challenge of the year; the perfect way to welcome spring.

There are at least 8 books that I've been adding to my TBR list for this challenge. I will look for it later. Some of the books on my list are a result of authors I read for this one last year and that I want to re-visit, some are titles picked up from reading other blogs.

Have to get on the road, but when I get back, the list must be located, the version of the challenge decided upon, and a library visit scheduled.

One of the books is already in my stacks: Valente's In the Cities of Coin and Spice which I pre-ordered last year after reading The Orphan's Tale: In the Night Garden which I reviewed here. It took a great deal of will power to hold Coin and Spice for this challenge.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lights Out

I was out most of the morning and early afternoon. On the final leg of my various errands, I noticed the traffic lights were out and police were directing traffic. When I got out to Garden Court, all of the lights were out, but I was able to talk to the supervisor about a Geri chair for Laddie.

When I finally got home, I realized that electricity was out in my neighborhood, too, and the garage door wouldn't open. The lights didn't come back on until nearly 6:00. The overcast sky meant that from 2:30 when I got home until the electricity came back on it was pretty dark in the house, and outside the wind was strong enough to be scary. I read in the dining room for a while because the light was better there, then gave up and took a nap.

Here's the link to the Give-Away post, if you would like a copy of Immortal by Traci L. Slatton.
It wasn't a book that I particularly enjoyed, although it did have its moments, but most people have reviewed it positively.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Notorious

Martinez, Michele. Notorious. Another ARC from Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, this novel is the fourth in a series about Federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas. It began with a bang and ended with a whimper. Almost literally.

Vargas is standing on the steps of the federal court house steps in New York having a conversation with Lester Poe, the defense lawyer, who gives her some information that links his client, former drug dealer turned rap star to a known terrorist. As Poe leaves Melanie, the man she had noticed earlier walking a dog points his cell phone at Poe's car. Melanie tries to warn him, but it is too late.

The attorney appointed to replace Poe is a one dimensional bad guy, but there are plenty of other complications that Melanie must unravel as well. Somehow, the attempts to involve the reader personally-- missed with me. Much of the novel seemed too contrived and stilted.

Fiction. Mystery/legal thriller. 2008. 336 pages.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More on Pratchett and A.D.

The following link is via Dark Orpheus via Nymeth:

Terry Pratchett's speech at the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

Give-Away

I need to whittle down some of my stacks of books. If you are interested in a copy of Immortal by Traci L. Slatton -- leave a comment on this post. I'll draw a name on Friday and send the book to the winner.

I can't keep up with reviews. Still to be written are reviews on Notorious by Michele Martinez, The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin, Dance of Death by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Terry Pratchett

Here is something that many of you are already aware of but that is pretty important, I think. Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. As my family has been going through the grief attached to this disease (our father), I was surprised at how much it hurt a while back to discover that Pratchett had been diagnosed with AD. Here is a link to a website, Match It For Pratchett that may be of interest to some of you Pratchett fans out there. An excellent cause.


Trying again to get caught up on reviews. Have finished two and have two more to go. Also have several (not sure how many) books in progress.

I've received more ARCs from Anna, including The Stone Gods by Jeannette Winterson that I'm looking forward to reading...soon. Also from Anna of FSB, a lovely copy of Peace: 50 Years of Protest by Barry Miles, a lovely coffee table book with great photographs.I know just the person for the Peace book; as soon as I saw the cover, her name came to mind. I've been browsing through it, and will hopefully finish soon and get it in the mail to her.

As one of the frustrated individuals who cannot access AOL Mail, I'm wondering just what has happened. That's a big OOOPS for you AOL--after reading the message board, I do realize that I'm not the only one.

There will have to be another book give-away soon. I'm trying to make room for more books...

The Shadow of Saganami

Weber, David. The Shadow of Saganami. Oh, I get so caught up in these books. This is the beginning of a new series with a new set of characters that works in a parallel situation to the Honor Harrington novels. Honor appears briefly at the beginning of the novel when she addresses the latest class of graduates from Saganami Island, the training center for the Manticorean navy, but then the narrative moves to the HMS Hexapuma, a heavy cruiser bound for what appears to be a mundane and boring assignment in the Talbot System.

Of course, when they arrive, things are not at all boring as Captain Aivars Terekhov and his crew must confront pirates, genetic slavers, terrorism, political maneuvering, and smuggled weapons. The characters, as usual, are well-developed, both the good guys and the bad guys have depth and motivation. I enjoyed seeing the next generation getting their experience as their mission moves from the one assigned to another that is unauthorized, but necessary and extremely risky.

What can I say? I love Weber's books, and yes, they are long and wordy. While that is a negative for some, it is not for me because I don't want them to end.

Fiction. Science Fiction/Space Opera. 2004. 755 pages.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Devil's Bones

Bass, Jefferson. The Devil's Bones. Jefferson Bass is actually the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass (the forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm, the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility) and Jon Jefferson, a journalist and documentary filmmaker who has, among other things, written and produced two National Geographic documentaries about the Body Farm.

More about the Body Farm and its purpose here and here.

The plot line was not the most interesting aspect of this book by any means, and I don't know how it compares to the two previous novels by "Jefferson Bass." On the other hand, the book's information about the Body Farm and forensic science kept me fascinated--especially since I recognized one plot-line from the news a few years back. If you read the novel, you will probably recognize it as well because of its shock value.

For any CSI fans or those interested in forensic science, this novel will give further insight -- and most likely send you, like me, researching more information about the Body Farm. While the plot is weak, the scientific information is engrossing.

Here is the opening line from the novel, which I liked because it reminds me so much of our own Louisiana summer sunsets: "The last drop of daylight was fading from the western sky--a draining that seemed more a suffocation than a sunset, a final faint gasp as the day died of heatstroke."

This was an ARC from Harper Collins. Thanks, Christine!

Fiction. Mystery. 2008. 309 pages.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing

Woodruff, Lee, and Bob Woodruff. In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing. Lee Woodruff began keeping a journal after her husband's injury because she knew that the reporter in him would want the details and discovered that the journal was a way of healing for both of them. The journal turned into a "panoramic view of a marriage and a family, a crisis and a recovery."

Lee Woodruff was in Orlando, Florida enjoying Disney World with her four children when the call came to inform her that Bob had been injured in Iraq. Bob had only recently become Co-anchor for ABC News and was pleased that the job included travel and reporting as well as anchoring the news. He loved the exciting parts of a journalist's job and was embedded with the military when the IED that caused such terrible damage exploded.

Lee: "You can't know how you would behave in a crisis until it drops out of the sky and knocks you down like a bandit: stealing your future, robbing you of your dreams, and mocking anything that resembles certainty. Sudden tragic events and even slow-burning disasters teach us more about ourselves than most of us care to know."

The book, however, is much more than the account of Bob's injury and slow recovery; it is the story of a marriage and all of the difficulties that are involved in such a commitment. The book moves back in forth in time - from the time of Bob's injury, back through the couple's courtship, the fear and trauma in the present, and the events of the past that worked for and against their marriage. It also moves back and forth between two voices - from Lee to Bob, and back again.

I found the book all the more interesting and important because of the struggles, because of Lee's frequent resentment when faced with uprooting and moving her family time and again to accommodate Bob's rising career. I would have been less impressed with the Woodruff's journey if Lee had never felt the sense of abandonment that can creep in when things go wrong and your husband isn't around to help. And there were events before Bob's injury-- a miscarriage, a hysterectomy, a hearing-impaired child-- that required strength and resiliency.

That is what commitment is, I think: being able to deal with the anger, confusion, frustration, grief, and fear... and maintain the love at the same time.

I found this book interesting in several ways: the story of a marriage; the story of a young man who left his law career, first to teach in China and later to pursue a career in journalism; the story of a wife who supported his career moves, as difficult as they were; the story of family, immediate and extended; the story of friendships, particularly the friendship that developed between Bob and David Bloom and between Lee and Melanie Bloom; the story of a traumatic brain injury (Woodruff lost half of his skull, which was later replaced with an acrylic skull plate); the story of efforts to improve the situation for others with TBI - Traumatic Brain Injury.

For me, the book was moving without being maudlin, informative, and involving.

Some links to more information about the Woodruff's and the book are here, and here, and here.

Nonfiction. Memoir. 2008. 292 pages.

And the winners are...

Whew! When I got home from yoga last night, I went straight to work on the yoga bag, I started a couple of hours before class. Time flew and the drawing slipped my mind. This morning, the names were cut apart, folded up and put in two different piles. Then eyes closed, I drew two names: Jenny and iliana.

The Sonambulist goes to Jenny, and Nameless Night goes to iliana. I will need your snail mail addresses and will try to get the books out by Friday. Les, I'll get In An Instant out at the same time. That makes 3 books that will leave my book-cluttered house and find new readers!

My thanks to Christine Casccio at Harper Collins for review copies of The Sonambulist and Nameless Night and to Anna at FSB for In An Instant, which I will review later today so I can get in the mail (I've already reviewed the other two).

Strangely, although my husband has never complained about the over-flowing book shelves or the stacks of books on every available surface, when he got home last night, he had some plans for the new addition we've been discussing (we'll be adding a master bedroom/bath...at some point).
"And here, see, these two walls will be book shelves and cabinets! What do you think?"

Uh, I think that will be great! I also like that he says, "And we can also add shelving and cabinets in your sewing room while we're at it."

Sooo...right now, I love this man. We will see how I feel when, and if, this project ever gets started.

Right now, I'm looking forward to a visit this weekend from our daughter and grandchildren, Mila and Max. Which means, I have to get all the stuff off the bed in Erin's room. We will also be keeping baby Bryce on Saturday night, so there will be a full house this weekend. ~I have a 5 shelf bookcase in the foyer area that contains children's books and toys, but they will soon be all over the house again.~

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Oops, thought I'd already posted this--

I thought I'd posted this the other day, but found it still in draft form.

Sam over at BookChase posted about an interesting and disconcerting new possibility: ad placement in books. Check it out. His latest post is about fake memoirs and those who create lies out of whole cloth and then are published, becoming best-selling authors.

My reading so far this year:

January


Consequences - 258
Death of the Fat Man- 404
Interred With Their Bones- 416
Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire - 285
Hunting Fear - 338
Outlander - 627
An Absolute Gentleman -288
Dedication - 278
Forgive Me - 234
The Winter Rose - 707
total pages Jan. - 3835

February

Immortal - 513 pages
Raven Black -376
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents - 241
Standing Still - 262 pages
War of Honor - 861
Why Mermaids Sing - 342
Silent in the Grave - 552
The Sonambulist - 353
Nameless Night - 338
total pages Feb. -3838

total pages read: 7, 673

female authors: 13
male authors: 6

fiction: 19
nonfiction: 0

mystery/suspense: 9
crime: 1
gen. fiction: 3
historical fiction 2
romance 1
YA: 1
sci. fic.: 1
fantasy:
horror: 1

March will be my first nonfiction, and I have several in the works, but January and February are all escape fiction.

Sometimes a series of events or coincidences coalesce and become an example of synchronicity. Les was interested in the Lee & Bob Woodruff memoir, In An Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing (genuine, by the way - unlike the recent incident Sam posted about). I decided to go ahead and read it so I could send it on to her (Les, I need your address).

Although initially, I planned to just switch back and forth among the other books that I have going, it pulled me in, and I finished it last night. Yesterday, I received another book, one that I had ordered for specific reasons: Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation by Lama Surya Das. This one I ordered because of someone I know who is going through a period of serious change and because my brothers and I are slowly losing our father to Alzheimer's. I couldn't resist opening it and perusing a few pages, which turned into nearly 50 pages, before I could put it down.

There are several places already that I've added sticky notes because of how well the lines coincide with Lee Woodruff's account of her husband's traumatic injury and the effect it had on her family. I almost wonder if she read the book during her journey because the echoes are so strong. Letting Go is an excellent book for dealing with loss of all kinds and would have been an aid to Lee (just as I hope it will be for the person for whom I ordered it.)

I suppose in a way it is an inadvertent reading itinerary, closely connected to real life. I will send the Woodruff memoir to Les and pass on the Letting Go book to the person for whom I purchased it, order another book by Lama Surya Das, and see if I can locate the Woodruff documentary...

I will be drawing names tonight for the two books I'm giving away. If you are interested, go here and comment.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

More on Microtrends

I'm back to checking out Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes. If you like trivia, behavior patterns, and small , but growing trends in our society--this book will please you. I wrote a little about it in this post a while back, then set it aside for some fiction.

The 30-Winkers chapter discusses the trend toward sleep deprivation. Sleep Experts recommend between 7.5 - 8 hours sleep per night, yet the number of people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night has increased "from 12 percent of American adults in 1998 to 16 percent in 2005." Lack of sleep can have tragic results, causing more than 50,000 traffic accidents a year; the Exxon Valdez and the Staten Island Ferry crash were also a result of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

But lack of sleep can also mean less productivity, more domestic problems, and obesity.

Southpaws Unbound discusses the rise of left-handedness. Left-handedness is no longer discouraged as it was in the past, and children are no longer forced to switch with the same aggression. Other facts: "Lefties are disproportionately represented among twins"; lefties are 128 percent more likely to be born to Moms over 40; and lefties are often associated with innovation and self-expression. As a result, allowing lefties to be lefties may mean an increase in the number of people with these qualities,and with the rise of lefties, more products may be designed with the lefty in mind. I can't imagine the inconvenience of always having to overcome difficulties with products designed for right-handers.

Other chapters have dealt with the working retired, extreme commuters, Protestant Hispanics, Moderate Muslims, and the effects the growing numbers in these groups have and will have on society.

I'm about to begin the chapter on Old New Dads - men who are fathering children at older ages (Mick Jagger -55; Strom Thurmond and Rupert Murdoch - over 70!). It should prove interesting.

If you'd like to be included in the drawing for copies of The Sonambulist or Nameless Night, don't forget to comment on the previous post.

Addendum: Check out what Robin is doing here! What a fabulous collaboration she and her husband have worked out!