Thursday, December 6, 2012

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran

This is my second Caitlin Moran book, the first How to be A Woman was hilarious. I expected no less from Moranthology. She did not disappoint. Each chapter is funnier than the last. The way she looks at life, the stuff she has been through, the things she says...too much ! You can read this book in fits and starts, so easy to pick up and read a funny story.
She grew up poor and is not afraid to tell you some heart-breaking stories but you end up lol-ing. In one chapter, "I know what it's like to be poor-They took away the TV and we cried"'s that for a chapter name? Very funny...except she says one of the smartest things I have heard lately...She says that we are all the same, we all use sticks to get grubs out of logs:) But there is a difference between being rich and being poor:

  "When you are poor you feel heavy. Heavy like your limbs are filled with water. Perhaps it is rain water- there is a lot more rain in your life when you are poor.....But the heaviness is not really from the rain, of course. The heaviness comes from the sclerosis of being broke. Because when you are poor nothing ever changes....."

I am not going to quote further because you need to read the whole chapter. This girl is smart & funny...she wakes her husband up in the middle of the night to ask him, if she died tomorrow what would he miss about her most..and when he gives her a sleepy wrong answer, she asks him again..and again and again...  until she gets the right answer and he discovers that he had no idea himself what he would miss the most. Now, this is funny and so brutally honest.
So, please read Caitlin Moran's new book. It will entertain and enlighten you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die by Willie Nelson

I am not a huge country music fan. There are some songs that I like but I would not sit and listen to a whole CD of it. I became a fan of Willie Nelson's when I saw him in a movie called HoneySuckle Rose....I got a little crush on him. We have all heard On the Road Again, we have seen him making headlines with his IRS problems, his stance on pot, and efforts to save the American Farmer with Farm Aid. He became an "Outlaw" when he teamed up with Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. All of this and more is in his new book. 
The book is written just the way Willie talks. He will be telling a story about his childhood, then that sparks another memory and he will go off and talk about that and then in the end get back to the story about his childhood. He talks about growing up and working on cotton farms, making music, giving up drinking & drugs, his wives and children, and his country music friends (all legends in their own right). He is a big family man and all his kids work with him either in the band or in his business ventures. He now spends his time in Hawaii and Texas, playing concerts and still raising money for American farmers. There are many chapters in the book written by his kids and his current wife Annie, as well as lyrics to his many songs.
It is a very entertaining book and a good look into the crazy life of an American legend and  "outlaw".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Share the LOVE

Share the LOVE

This November/December Miracle Skin Transformer is promoting their brand new shade of Lip Rewind: LOVE. With every purchase of the limited edition shade LOVE, Miracle Skin Transformer will donate $5 to the Children’s Action Network in effort to find loving families for waiting foster children.

Transform.  Give.  Love.
Get a special discount code to save off your purchase of LOVE and give back to the children here:!/miracleskintransformer/app_14167664298

More About Children’s Action Network:
Children’s Action Network (CAN) uses the power of the entertainment community to increase awareness about children’s issues and to make them a top priority in everyday life.  CAN is currently dedicated to finding homes for the more than 107,000 children in the United States who are waiting for an adoptive family and improving outcomes for the more than 500,000 children in foster care.

Great Value from emerginC

Multi-Fruit Cleanser: Ripe for the Holiday Season

Hi there – just wanted to remind you that this emerginC promotion is still going on for the month of November!

emerginC multi-fruit cleanser is packed with vitamin C, natural fruit acids and maritime pine bark extract to help remove dead skin cells, cellular debris and makeup without over-drying the skin.

This gentle, yet effective soap-free cleanser is perfect for the transition from the cool weather of fall into the long, dry months of winter to keep skin hydrated and fresh.

$37 for two multi-fruit cleansers at
Valid: October through December 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Judging a Book by It's Lover by Lauren Leto

Yes, I have read another book about reading books, this one written by blogger Lauren Leto.When I read the tag line that it was a hilarious send up of world of book culture...why wouldn't I?
Just reading the introduction, I knew I had a winner. In second grade her teacher, Mr Booker, told her she was a good reader and that was all she needed, from then on her nose was always in a book. Leto goes on to tell us that her parents stormed in to the principal's office to complain about Mr Booker and his apparent  interest in their child's reading (her nose always being in a book, she would not go out to play & make any friends, etc) but that did not sway Leto from reading.
The book is full of fun ways that being an educated reader can hurt or help you in all kinds of situations...for instance one chapter is about the ten rules for book store hook ups. Another about being book snob.... you never mention that you are reading a frilly book of summer love! You want to fake like you read an important author? All kinds of helpful hints in this book.
So, yes this book is hilarious. It is also a who's who of important authors and magnificent books that we should be reading.  I whole-heartedly recommend this book :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Share Your Hope


Keranique hopes to change this: Keranique is partnering with the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) for Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October.
Keranique hopes to raise $10,000 for NBCF: For each Facebook fan who shares a message of HOPE, Keranique will donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.  Help us get 10,000 shares; help us raise $10,000!

We hope you will help: Share your message of HOPE on your wall.  Tell your friends and families $1=early detection plan.  Help us increase awareness of breast cancer and save lives through early detection!  

Starting Monday, October 1st, new and existing fans to the Keranique Facebook page will be encouraged to ‘Share’ a message of hope.!/Keranique

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

emerginC's Great Offer !

Spotless Skin You Can “C
Hi there – Hope you had a great weekend!

emerginC’s tried and true vitamin C serum and spot lightening gel have been proven to even skin tone, smooth texture, and fade dark spots with a high dosage of vitamin C. These products contain key vitamins and plant-based complexes to combat sun damage and reveal a spotless complexion.

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Offer valid:  Monday, September 17th through Monday, September 24th for $79

Review: City of Women by David R Gillham

Any book about Germany in WW2, you would expect to be dark and not especially easy to read. I did find this book dark and hard to read, but interesting enough not to put down. 
It is the story of Sigrid Schroder. She is married to a German soldier, who is off fighting in Russia. She is living with her mother-in-law while he is away. She is a working girl, works in a patent office. To pass the time, she goes to the local theatre where mostly propaganda movies are shown, but what else is there for entertainment and who can afford anything else in these times of war and rations? During one of her nights out at the movies, she meets a Jewish man, who she eventually falls in love with. She also meets a young woman, who she befriends and that young woman pulls her into the world of the underground, saving Jews from being sent to concentration camps. 
The story then becomes a tale of the courageous people who stood up against Hitler, who tried to save the lives of Jewish citizens. These were just everyday people, people who decided to open their eyes to what was happening. Even though at any moment, their neighbors could give them away and they would be going to the concentration camps themselves. 
This is a story of all the atrocities of war, as told by an average woman, an average woman full of courage. It is about friendships and love, too, during this horrific time in history. 
Hard to read but worth the read. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Chicken Soup 's Say Hello to a Better Body

Chicken Soup books are always inspirational. Read any one of the stories/chapters and you will learn something about yourself and others. This particular book is written by Dr. Suzanne Koven, a Harvard Medical faculty member and a Boston Globe columnist. So, not only do you read great stories from everyday people, but you get some important facts thrown in there by an experienced doctor. Say Hello to a Better Body is geared toward women over fifty, but any woman, young or old,  can pick up some good advice by reading along. 
What I liked about it, was that I can pick it up anytime for inspiring stories to get me through the rough days of dieting. Stories and facts about menopause, eating right, making small changes, and  negative thinking abound in this book. 
I recommend this book whole-heartedly. And as much as I love to pass books on to others, I will have to keep this one around a while for instant inspiration !

Review: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

I was intrigued by the title of this book and then the blurb that was written "What if we knew what tomorrow would bring. Would we fix it? Could we?" Don't we all wonder that? 

Author Ahern has written several books, among them PS I Love You, which was made into a movie. I have not read that one, or seen the movie but I had great expectations for Book of Tomorrow. 
The story centers around the life of Tamara Goodwin. Growing up in Ireland, daughter of wealthy parents, she was a typical spoiled rich kid. Bratty and privileged. Her fathers death and the financial ruin that follows, changes that world of privilege for this young woman. Her mother seems to have suffered a mental breakdown and they move in with her aunt & uncle , out in the country.Her uncle Arthur rarely speaks, her aunt Rosaleen is too busy cooking & cleaning to be of any console to Tamara. Her own mother barely comes out of her bedroom.
So, the girl has to keep herself busy and when she finds an old diary in a mobile library, locked with a padlock, another world opens up to her as she unlocks the book. 
A mysterious first entry in the diary leads to intrigue at the local castle, and mystery surrounding a neighbor. She begins to use the diary to sort out her family's past & future and begins to shape Tamara into a caring, less "superior" person. You begin to like her !
I have to say that I struggled reading this book. I put it down a few times, vowing to be done with it, and I rarely do that. Author Ahern has chosen to write this story as seen through the eyes of a teenager and I think I had trouble getting into the character. Also, at times the language was so "flowery" & wordy that I think I actually groaned at one point. Having said that, I think it may be a better read for a high school aged kid, someone who could sympathize with the main character and get some good out of the "coming of age" emergence of a kinder, gentler Tamara. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Keranique Hair Products

I have discovered a new brand of hair care products for thinning and fine hair. A company called Keranique has developed products that not only thicken fine hair, but some of the products actually promote re-growth of hair! I was lucky enough to sample the Volumizing Conditioner. Now, on my fine hair, most conditioners just make it greasy looking, make it lay limp and flat on my head. All those conditioners that promise volume actually end up doing the opposite, but if I didn't use conditioner my hair became dull and dry. A Catch -22. With Keranique's Volumizing Conditioner, I was able to put a little dab in my hair after shampooing and have instantly silky hair. And the shine after blow drying, brilliant! But what was most welcome, was the volume after the blow out. Finally, I have HAIR!
I also sampled another Keranique product called Follicle Boosting Serum. This weightless spray promotes healthy scalp and hair follicles. It gives the root of your hair the healthiest start, that is where it all begins, ladies.
I loved the feel of it on my scalp, I loved the volume after drying. From the roots.
Please go to to learn more about these and their other great hair products. You can order products direct from Keranique. They are also available on

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Joey Healy Eye Brow Collection

Eyebrows...I think you either have lovely full eyebrows, or you have what I have ..course & sparse. Well, they weren't always sparse, but always course. I never much paid attention to my brows, even when Brooke Shields came on the scene with those huge brows of hers! I never filled them in, hated the look of it. As I got older and had the time to read more fashion mags, I realized that eyebrows played a big roll when applying make-up. As I heard one make-up artist say "they frame the face".
I have posted before about my eyebrows and how I apply makeup to them. I use dark eye shadow and clear mascara and an angled brush.
I have "made do".
I received a sample of Joey Healy's Eye Brow Collection to review just a few days ago. Usually when I review a product , it takes longer than a few days to get results but I could have written this review after one application! I am using the Luxe Brow Powder in Tobacco and the Duo Brow Brush. They are like the one-two punch of a superhero. Wow ! Pow !
The powder is so rich and velvety and as soon as I applied it in feathery strokes with the Duo brush's stiff, slanted end, I HAD BROWS !!
Then I took the spiral brush end of the Duo and brushed through my brows and that did the trick to make my brows look natural. And last night after a long work day,  I was getting ready to take off all my make-up.. I took another look and there they were..still. Not faded, not gone on the outer tips..still giving my eyes that great frame..all day and into the night! So thrilled with this product.
I have not tried  Healy's Clear Set gel, but I will be ordering it. Because I do recommend a gel to keep the brows tamed and glossy.
No more "making do" for me !

***Please log on to for ordering information***

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: With My Body by Nikki Gemmell

I finished this book days ago, and I have been trying to figure out what I might write about it ever since.
I had not read this author before, I had no idea what to expect. I saw that she had written a few books, so she is an established author and I saw quite a few mentions of another novel Gemmell wrote called The Bride Stripped Bare, which looks quite good and one that I will have to find.
The first few chapters in the book, we find that the main character is a woman headed toward forty, has a husband and 3 boys. She grew up in Australia and now lives in London with her husband & family. She can't find time for herself, hates the school mom who brags about  her children, has no really close friends to talk honestly with. Sex with her husband is now a memory, he falls asleep on the couch most nights..nothing surprises me here. I had four kids myself and your kids are your life when you decide to have I wondered if this book was going to be anything that I would want to keep reading. The main character, who remains nameless ( the funny thing is, I didn't realize it until I started to write my review and couldn't recall it) keeps remembering in bits and pieces , a former lover. Ah ha !
Her mom dies when she is young and she is alone with her dad. They are close, but he is not a talker or anyone who shows her a lot of affection. She gleans from him what she can...he teaches her to change a tire, work with tools, fix things that get broken...a real tomboy. He finally remarries and the new wife wants to erase all memory of her mother from the house. She gets sent off to boarding school and becomes an exemplary student. She also gets involved with a young artist who ends up near raping her. Welcome to your first sexual experience.
On one summer school vacation, she was about seventeen, she is out riding her bike and comes upon on old , run down mansion.The gate is open and in she goes. She is looking through the windows and sees someone, a man working at a desk. She takes off but comes back the next day...and the next day...finally getting discovered. She & and the stranger, Tol, begin a kind of friendship..she strikes  a bargain with him. She will do some repairs to his house, if he will educate her. Teach her about the world, outside of the Australian bush. Tol is older than she is, although you never know how much. He is an author trying to write his second book. He is a loner and eccentric....and he is fascinated by her youth, her naivety and her boldness. She is fascinated by his knowledge of a world different from her own. She eventually asks him to teach her about sex, she didn't want her bad first experience to lead to more bad experiences, or no experiences at all.
Well, I can not even begin to tell you what happens that summer. The sex and the teaching of it, is like daydreaming some erotic fantasies. She falls in love with him, thinking constantly of him and being close to him. And then he goes away.....and she is left heartbroken and confused for years. Until she meets her husband and "settles" down. Eventually, she comes to terms with her old relationship with Tol, which helps her re-new the ailing  relationship with her husband.
I must mention here, that every woman I know is trying to get their hands on Fifty Shades. I read a sample few chapters, and the book was so poorly written that I knew I would never read it. I can now say that I had my cake & ate it too, with Gemmell's book. Well written, erotic, and recommended.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: When We Argued All Night by Alice Mattison

I love, love, love reading a book that keeps me wishing there were 1,000 chapters in it. Alice Mattison has written such a book. I have read  many books about female friendships, seems I always pick up a few for summer reading. But this book is very different, it about a seventy-five year friendship between two men.
And it is kind of an off/on again relationship. They argue about all of life's big questions and  even some of the minor ones, don't see each other for lengths of time, and when they finally bump into each other they just pick up where they left off.
Artie & Harold are children of Jewish immigrant parents. They live in NY and in their twenties are trying to carve out a place to live their lives. Harold is  thoughtful about things, Artie is kind of an obnoxious guy. They both get into teaching and are relatively happy. Then, Harold decides to join the Communist Party, more I think to impress  his friends than anything else. Artie argues constantly with him over his decision, all through the night at one point. As Harold starts to realize he has made the wrong choice, he leaves the party. McCarthyism takes over the US and Artie tells Harold that if he is called forward to testify, that he will turn Harold in, because he loves his teaching job and wants to keep it. Harold wishes Artie would lie, because Harold is no longer a "Red", but Artie insists he will save his own skin. Harold tells Artie that he will understand, hopes it doesn't come to that. But the time does come and Artie is called upon, ....before he goes he talks to a lawyer about his options. He pleads the fifth and loses his job. A jealous coworker of Artie's turns Harold in anyway. Harold loses his job, too.
And what happens to both these men in the insueing years is what the book is about. How they each handled this big change. Their attitudes and actions. They both married and had children. They both got other jobs. One was more successful than the other ( I am not giving this away) We get to meet their wives, lovers and children. How they maintained their friendship over 75 years, ups & downs, arguments and absences. I can tell you in the last couple of chapters, I can see the death of one of the two coming and I could feel the loss.
When I first started reading the book, I wasn't sure I could get used to the author's very casual style of writing. Sometimes it is conversation, sometimes it is a thought......But as you read along, and start to know your characters, it is very smooth and easy reading. Such a good book. I recommend you add this to your reading  list.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Great Summer Giveaway !!

Keranique’s The Hair You Deserve Summer Giveaway

Keranique just launched their Hair You Deserve giveaway. Simply “like” the Keranique Facebook page for a chance to win a 6-month supply of either the Fuller Looking Hair Kit or the Hair Re-Growth Kit. Refer a friend for three additional entries into the giveaway!

Specially targeted to a woman’s biochemistry, Keranique’s innovative and breakthrough product line is designed not only to treat female hair thinning and hair loss, but to prevent the root cause of issues associated with the aging of hair and build back its beautiful richness, texture and fullness. Each product in the Keranique line is enriched with a complex of keratin, amino acids and proteins to help strengthen and fortify thinning hair, along with vegetable-derived humectants that help to hydrate, nourish and stimulate micro-circulation around the hair follicles.

The winner will be announced in September.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

I may have mentioned that I love to read, always have at least one or two books going at any given time. So when the opportunity came up to read and review this book by an author who read a book a day for a whole year, I had to do it.
As I read the first few chapters, I am thinking..this lady is crazy. She has a husband and four kids, how will she find the extra time to read a book a day?
I had a husband and four kids and I was lucky to get to the bathroom when I needed to go, let alone time to read.
Sankovitch lost her sister, Anne Marie, to cancer, and was unable to get back into living. She was constantly running at full speed, all the while grief was dogging every step. Three years later she was still stuck in painful grief, unable to look back , unable to figure out how to move forward.
Her family was a reading family, their home full of books growing up. She & her sister, Anne Marie shared that love of books and Sankovitch came up with the idea that books could teach her to live again in a world that was now without her sister.
I will admit, I continued to think that this was crazy right up until the last couple of chapters. I have suffered grief and I admit, I had to turn to some books on grief to help me through. But, maybe two books that took me a couple of weeks to read. The book is filled with the author's memories of her sisters and also some tragic family history in both her immigrant parent's childhoods. It is a personal diary, as each book that she read either reminded her of a memory or gave her strength to go forward.
In the last chapter she mentions that her father was diagnosed with TB as a young man. He ended up in a sanatorium to recuperate for two years, two months and 2 days. It was a time spent recuperating from TB and the atrocities of war. Sankovitch says that her one year of reading a book a day,  was like taking a year's  recuperation in a sanatorium. A time out from her present life, so that she could look back and then move forward.
I still don't know how she managed to do it, but if it worked for her, then more power to her. Grief is such a personal thing, whatever gets you through it, is the right path. I can recommend this book to anyone who believes that good books and reading can change your life.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

I am sure you  have  "heard" me say  that I love British sitcoms, Masterpiece Theater, Downtown Abbey, all of it. Are You Being Served and As Time Goes By are two of my very fave TV shows on PBS. My decorating style is Shabby Chic, English Cottage...I could go on. So I was very excited to read Caitlin Moran's new book, How to Be a Woman.
Let me say right up front , it is not for the faint of heart! She is a gutsy British girl and  her language can be quite raw. There are several well written books out there for women who are over forty, over fifty, the old fifty is now the new thirty....but Moran's book is for all women, whatever age. She reminds us that we all need to be feminists, for our own survival. Does a  good job explaining what a feminist is and isn't, too.
Each chapter is filled with life as she has known it and it is quite funny and very direct. Starts off with a  chapter on what to call our vaginas. I was LOL-ing when I saw the term our family used for it right there on one of the pages ! Next what to call our breasts, other than BOOBS. "My Girls" was coined by Scarlett Johannson evidently, so we all can't use Scar's nickname for our own boobs. (I have always fancied the "ta-tas" term from the movie Top Gun) Let me also mention that these discussions are not short & obscure..they take up pages in this handbook ! From pubic hair & the 'Brazilian" to her own baby's  delivery, Moran keeps you thinking and laughing and maybe a bit flushed around the face. And speaking of faces, a discussion of Botox is in the mix, too.
So please get yourself a copy of Moran's How to Be a Woman. It's Brilliant !!

Monday, July 16, 2012

An American Family by Peter Lefcourt

I hadn't read any of author Lefcourt's other books but  I looked at some reviews and saw that they were mostly satires. This one was supposed to be a detour from that, so that was good enough for me. 
As I thumbed through the book, I noticed lots of small paragraphs and they were not conversation. I wondered how it would read. As I began, I noticed how easy these little snips of writing flowed right into the next. I really enjoyed Lefcourt's style. The characters were many, but easy to remember. 
The story is about five generations of the Perl family, Polish-Jewish immigrants. The story spans from the early sixties until 2001 and encompasses all the American history in-between. The patriarch, Nathan Perl has five children. Three from his first marriage to Ida and two from his second marriage to Lillian. The oldest is Jackie, a lawyer who has gotten himself mixed up with corrupt city officials & businessmen. Michael is an entrepreneur, stuck in a desk job because he is married w/children. Elaine, seems to be the most secure of all the children but as she gets older, even Elaine makes some changes. Stephen, the scholar, is a reluctant gay man in the time of AIDS and Bobbie the baby sister , is what you would call a hot mess who ends up a rich record producer ! There are several other characters who add to the craziness ( I mean this in a good way) of this family, Uncle Meyer and Yetta and various in-laws. I usually shy away from novels with so many characters, most authors cannot give you a real sense of dynamic when there are so many. But Lefcourt pulls it off in grand style. I don't want to give the plot away, but I will say that I shed a few tears at the end of the book, for all kinds of reasons. For the Perl family, because the author made them so real to me... for my own family, because the Perl's are every family.....just so many reasons. 
 I really enjoyed this book. I am so glad I read it, it also is worth re-reading at some point. Now, that says something about it, doesn't it ?
Note: The only thing I found kind of odd, was that the photo on the cover was taken from another novel, by Dan Fante, about his father. I assume IT IS John & Dan Fante. Kind of weird to grab a photo that was just on a novel not too long ago. Whoever is responsible should get whipped with a wet noodle, as we used to say!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Gotta love a woman who can write a fake orgasm scene like no other.
Nora Ephron has written some of our favorite lines in our favorite movies. I was saddened to hear of her passing last month, what a great talent. I own a copy of when Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, two all time faves. I have watched them so many times and then when I run into them while I am channel surfing, I still stop and watch them. I had never read one of her books, although when her latest came out I thought I should pick it up. I have seen interviews that she has done and I tell you, she is FUNNY.
So last week in a second hand store, I first stopped in the used book section. I love to scan all the shelves, hoping something will catch my eye. Well, sitting right on top of a pile of books that had been perused and then not put back on the shelf was a copy of Ephron's "I Feel Bad About My Neck...."
Of course, that is THE lament for women of a certain age, tee-hee. I picked it up and put it in my cart. I felt like it was put on that pile just for me to see. I read it in a couple of days. It was hilarious and sooo witty and intelligent. So many of her quirky issues are issues for all women. She touches on beauty regimens, raising kids, and then in the final chapters she touches on death and dying. At the  time she wrote the book (2006), she had just lost a close friend and was still grieving. I could feel her pain, but I could hear bit of laughter, too, as she recounted conversations with her friend about what to do when her "time" came. Only because I knew that Ephron's time was limited , did I see that her words were very poignant as she tells her readers how she would like to be remembered when her own time came.
Such a good book...required reading for every woman over fifty.
R.I.P. Nora Ephron.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

The pain that a human being can inflict on their fellow being is mind boggling. Can you imagine giving birth and then having that child sold to another person for a life of cruelty and hard work? I can't get my mind around that. Such is the story that author Leveen tells us. Mary Van Lew Bowser, born a slave to the rich Van Lew family of Richmond, was able to stay and work with her mother, Minerva, at the Van Lew mansion.  Her father, Lewis, was owned by another Richmond slave owner, so she saw him only on Sundays. She had more of a "family" life than most slaves. Bet Van Lew was the abolishionist daughter of the Van Lew family, and so bought the slaves from her mother and freed them. Which created a dilemma for the parents of Mary Van Lew. Freed slaves had to leave Virginia within one year of their freedom,they could never return. Bet Van Lew sent Mary to Philadelphia for an education, supplied her with living expenses and spending money. Her mother Minerva, stayed behind and kept secret her freedom so she could stay with her husband. 
When Mary learns that her mother has passed and that a war will break out between the north & south over slavery, she heads back to Richmond and life as a "slave". She has to keep her freedom secret. She ends up working in a mansion, the Southern White House,  for Jefferson Davis and his wife and she ends up working with her former owner, Bet Van Lew, as a spy for the Union Army. 
Leveen has created a rare look into the world of slavery, the Civil War and the toll it took on human life. Real people, in a true story of bravery. This book is well written, and well worth your time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: In One Person by John Irving

John Irving is one of my favorite authors. I think for the same reason I love indie films. There are great actors in indie films and they tackle the scripts that big movie houses won't. Not enough money in them. Irving writes like an indie film plays. Does that make any sense?
William Abbott, grew up with a single mom,  in a house surrounded by family members. Grandmother & Grandfather, Aunt , Cousin....he certainly wasn't a lonely child. But..he didn't know his father.
He attended the private boys school in town. Most of the story centers around the school and the town with it's many "indie" characters. Most of his family was involved in the town's drama productions. His mom was an off stage prompter, his aunt an actress and his grandad, well, he was an actor who consistently played  female roles.
This story is told by Billy Abbott, after all, it is his story to tell. He tells of his family's resistance to telling him about his father. He knew snippets, he remembers someone telling him a very funny story of a man reading Madame Bovary and something about sliding across toilets on a  rocking ship.
Eventually, his mom meets and marries his step-father who also happens to be a Shakespearean actor and so the town has a new drama teacher. Billy develops  a crush (one of many) on his stepfather and at the same time, a crush on the town's librarian. By the time he reaches high school, he is a "sexual suspect". ( If you have read Irving, then you recall him using this phrase in 'Garp') Billy is a bi-sexual male, at a time when the new mysterious illness we now know as AIDS becomes an epidemic.
As Owen Meany gave us Irving's thoughts on the Vietnam War, so is One Person his thoughts on the 80's & 90's AIDS crisis. This novel is full of  love, loss and secrets. It is an eye opening story, filled with unforgettable characters. Ten Thumbs Up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: The First Warm Evening of the Year by Jamie M. Saul

I hadn't read Saul's first book, Light of Day, but it did get good reviews. In this novel, there is a main character, Geoffrey Tremont, who was a child actor and now did voice overs. Lives in NYC, runs with a sophisticated crowd, has a girlfriend who he sees when he wants, comes and goes as he pleases. He receives a  letter from a lawyer, who tells him of the death of a childhood friend,Laura, who has asked that he be executor of her estate.
He takes a few days off, heads to Shady Grove, a little town in the country, and so the real story begins. He meets a friend of his old pal Laura, Marian is a widow. A widow not looking for a different life, happy with her greenhouse and nursery/landscape business, happy with her boyfriend, happy with her life. Or so we think. 
If you are thinking that this story is hokey or sounds contrived, it's exactly what I was thinking as I kept reading. I kept saying this is crazy, this would never happen this way. Life would never happen this way. I would put the book down, and then I would pick it up again and continue reading. It is one of those kind of books. It is a book that would be a good Nicholas Sparks movie. 
Having said all of that, I think I do recommend this book. It was an easy read and as long as you don't "read" too much into it, you will be glad you picked it up. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Jackie After O by Tina Cassidy

I, like everyone else on that fateful day, remember where I was when President Kennedy got shot. I was home sick from school, my mom had gone to tea next door with our neighbor Arlene. I was sitting there watching TV, when the news bulletin came on. I went running next door to tell my mom.  Camelot was no more.
I was very interested to see if this author could add anything new to what we already knew about Jackie O. As I understood the book to be about one year in the life, I was pretty confused when the first half of the book  was jumping back and forth. I could not figure out what year the author, Cassidy, was writing about. When she finally started telling us about Ari Onassis, I figured it out, 1975. The year Jackie took on the City of NY over the proposed demolition of Grand Central Station. The year Jackie became a book editor for Viking. The year Aristotle Onassis died, and left her a widow once again.
I am not sure that this book gave me a whole lot more insight then I already had by reading newspaper & magazine articles. There were plenty of news stories on TV, telling us all about the fight over Onassis' millions.
Unfortunately for Cassidy, Jackie O's life played out in the press. I kept reading, wanting to read something that was new and unpublished. I didn't get what I wanted. What I did get was a reminder of how Jackie could twist people around her finger, and got what she wanted. How powerful she was in that regard ! She did have some fine victories in the fight to save historical buildings. She had great success at Viking and then again at Double Day. She did finally come into her own. But I am sad to say, that the mystery that was Jackie Kennedy Onassis, went to the grave with her.
I recommend this book if you would like to refresh your memory about the sometimes glamorous, but mostly tragic life of Jackie O. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: Postcards by E. Annie Proulx

I happen to think Proulx is a great writer. Just read the short story, Brokeback Mountain and you will have to agree. Postcards, Proulx's first novel, is a very rambling story..much like it's main character, Loyal Blood.
This is the story about the Blood family and life on a farm in Vermont. Although, most of the story is played out far from Vermont, the reason for the story is buried quite close to the farm.
Loyal Blood had to run from the family and the farm, when he  killed his lover, a woman named Billy. Billy had asked Loyal over & over to leave Vermont and find a more exciting life elsewhere. He loved his farm and he was the glue that held the farm & the family together. He did not want a different life.
Once Billy was buried in a cave near his family's farm, he took off and never returned. Hmmm....
He travels all over the western part of the country, picking up odd jobs, working in the mines, working with an archeologist and trapping for fur. Along the way he finds a stash of postcards. One by one, he mails the cards home, never leaving a forwarding address. Never staying long enough in one place to let anybody know where he was. The mailing of postcards, by all sorts of people,  plays a big role in this book.
The rest of his family moves on with their lives. They lose the farm, the father, Mink, hangs himself in jail. The one armed brother, nicknamed Dub, moves to Florida and gets rich. The sister, Mernelle, marries a man that she meets through a want ad and lives a perfectly normal life. Until her mother, Jewell, dies in a weird car accident and her beloved husband leaves her a widow.
All the while, Loyal is moving from one town to another for years, sending these postcards back to the family as if nothing had changed on the farm. Oblivious to all that has happened.
Although this book gets a little slow at times, and sometimes I was waiting for the scene where Billy was killed and why (which never really came), I liked it. It was Proulx's first attempt at being a great writer.
She succeeded.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This Will Make You Smarter edited by John Brockman

Each year, the Edge Foundation poses a question to the world's scientists; people that lead the world in various fields. The answers get edited and then printed and bound as a book. A very interesting book I might add. When I first chose to read this book, I wondered if I would understand the question , let alone the answers. I think that scientists talk amongst themselves and are understood, but talking to a layman is another thing completely!

The questions for 2011 was: What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?  (So I understood this as a concept that would improve our powers of reasoning)

The thing I liked about this book was that you didn't have to jump in and read uninterrupted the many different answers. Each answer is given it's own chapter and title, each is a short essay. Some answers will be useful in your everyday life, some may be useful with something you are struggling with but all will provoke thought. Isn't that what a good book does?
I found some insight into fear/risk with two essays on uncertainty. Another essay , "Each of us is ordinary, yet one of a kind"  by Samuel Barondes is particularly interesting. By being ordinary, we find compassion for others. By being one a kind, we find creativity and pride. 
So, I can easily recommend this book, it will definitely make you smarter. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Between a Rock & a Hot Place by Tracey Jackson

....or ...Why Fifty is the New Fifty.  Oh, come on, not the new thirty? I am so guilty of saying this. I think I say it so often as to convince myself !! Tracey Jackson tells it like it is and I don't really want to hear it, but I am listening. She is right, though. No matter how great my hair, skin & makeup look for "someone my age", there is no way I could keep up with a thirty year old today. Some days I can't even get out of my own way ! 
Turning fifty was a life altering experience, as will be turning sixty. Forty didn't bother me in the least. I wasn't ready to change my life back when I was forty. I was just barely ready at fifty proper. Jackson tells us to get ready for the change, but not our mother or grandmother's "change" ! At fifty it is time to change the way we think , more than anything else. 
Jackson tells us about her experience with hormone replacement, do I or don't I? Eye lifts..what if I end up looking like a cat?  Most of it is hilarious , some of it is poignant but mostly it is honest. 
I whole-heartily recommend this book for woman who are approaching fifty and those of us that have gone beyond. It is time to enjoy life and to have a few laughs. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Voyagers of the Titanic by Richard Davenport-Hines

With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the people whose lives were forever changed by it. I began the book eager to get information and believe me that it what you  get. At times, too much information and a lot of skimming through some chapters. Describing the first class passengers actually got a bit boring, as they were essentially the same. Most of the men who traveled were interested in the speed of the ship; most of the women were interested in the monied guests and gossip aboard the ship. The second class passengers were more interesting, with most of them being fairly well off financially, just not willing to spend the extra for first class. From all accounts, whether you were first, second or third class, the accommodations aboard the Titanic were the best that any ship to date had to offer. The most interesting of all passengers were t hose traveling third class. From all over Europe they came to sail to America and better lives (or they had hoped). Most had family in America who had scrimped and saved to get the rest of the family over the Atlantic and into the land of hope. As the author starts describing the lives of the third class, he also begins to tell the reader that most of these people, did not make it. After I read a particularly sad story of a young girl, only five and  a survivor, that remembered being lowered into the lifeboat with her mother and younger sisters, while her father and two brothers stood bravely on deck saying their goodbyes..I had to close the book. I have not picked it up since. I did not even skip to the end to see how the book turned out, we all know how it turned out. I do recommend this book to anyone who wants to know who was aboard the ship and why. It was all very interesting and all very tragic.