Midnight in Lonesome Hollow is an entry in the American Girl Mystery series which features Margaret Mildred Kittredge who goes by Kit. Kit is visitingMidnight in Lonesome Hollow is an entry in the American Girl Mystery series which features Margaret Mildred Kittredge who goes by Kit. Kit is visiting her Aunt Millie in the Appalachian area of Kentucky during the Great Depression (1934). She is interested in the folkways of the Appalachian inhabitants she meets and has been keeping a scrapbook of phrases, home remedies, traditions, and other interesting and unfamiliar tidbits. When a college professor comes to stay and study the basket-weaving traditions, Kit is fascinated. And when Professor Lucy Vanderpool is shown Kit's scrapbook, she is impressed and asks Kit if she'd like to take the place of her student assistant who is sick with influenza and couldn't make the trip. The budding young journalist is thrilled at the chance to do some real research and the two set out to interview local basket-weavers.
But somebody is not thrilled with the "outsiders" who have invaded their Hollow. After one successful interview, most of the basket-weavers refuse to meet with the professor and while they are talking with one of the few who agree to meet with them someone wrecks Professor Vanderpool's photo plates and ruins the pictures she planned to use in her book. Who would be mean enough to damage the equipment? Kit has her suspicions and isn't afraid to go out into the Hollow at night to find out if she's right.
As one might expect with a middle-grade mystery, this one isn't too complicated and there is very little violence (except to inanimate objects). There is a very real problem that drives the culprit to damage equipment and disrupt the research and it gives Kit a chance to learn a few lessons about the best way to help people. The focus of the book is really on the Appalachian people and the area during depression. Readers learn a great deal about folk traditions and also about the hardships brought about by depression and pull-out of several coal mining companies which severely affected so many families. It didn't just mean a loss of jobs, but it also shut down many schools (which were sponsored by the mining companies), limiting the educational opportunities for many children. The book also highlights the way so many outsiders insulted the Appalachian people by considering their folk traditions backward or "quaint." A very nice historical novel for young people.
This was most definitely not my kind of book. The premise sounded very exciting when I was offered the review copy, but I could not get into the authoThis was most definitely not my kind of book. The premise sounded very exciting when I was offered the review copy, but I could not get into the author's style of story-telling. The shifting point-of-view--from first person for Serena to an odd not-quite first person for her husband (he talks about himself in the third person quite a bit) to a weird omniscient point of view for other characters--just did not work for me. There is also a great deal of present tense going on and I'm not a big fan of that either. For me--this is a story that took place in the past, I'd prefer that the story-telling reflect that throughout the book. I realize these are personal preferences--which is why I am offering no formal review.
I tried skimming so I could have a real sense of the story and characters, but that didn't help me either. So--no real review and no star count.
This is a book I received free from Jocelyn Kelley of Kelley& Hall book publicity for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review. I wish that I could give it my usual thorough examination....more
The Angel Doll by by Jerry Bledsoe is a Christmas story set in the early 1950s in Thomasville, North Carolina. Sandy Black is a four year old girl whoThe Angel Doll by by Jerry Bledsoe is a Christmas story set in the early 1950s in Thomasville, North Carolina. Sandy Black is a four year old girl who is the victim of poverty in the small, furniture-manufacturing town...and a victim of the polio epidemic. She loves her older brother, Whitey, and all things angelic--especially a book called The Littlest Angel. Then, right before Christmas, she makes it known that she wants an angel doll for her present. Whitey and his best friend--both ten years old--set out on a mission to get Sandy her doll. The only problem? There are no angel dolls to be had in Thomasville. The boys find the perfect doll and ask the mother of one of their friends if she can help transform an ordinary doll into an angel for Sandy. Through their quest the boys learn the value of friendship and the power of love.
This is a moving story that not only tells of the love and sacrifices of two boys during one Christmas, but also shows how the events that year affected them and changed how they would live their lives. While the book is tinged with sadness, it is still a very touching and heartfelt Christmas story.
My first review for the Christmas Spirit Challenge is going to be a mini-review for a mini book. Michelle, our lovely hostess, sent me Paul Auster's AMy first review for the Christmas Spirit Challenge is going to be a mini-review for a mini book. Michelle, our lovely hostess, sent me Paul Auster's Auggie Wren's Christmas Story as part of my prize package for a previous year's challenge. It is a slim volume with a lovely Christmas fable--without Santa or reindeer or snowmen or Christmas trees. The most holiday-type thing in the story is a very unconventional Christmas dinner. How can this be?
It is a tale about a writer who has been asked by The New York Times to write a Christmas story to be featured on Christmas morning. But he doesn't want to write one of those mushy, gushy, sentimental stories that serve as "wishfulfillment dreams, fairy tales for adults." He wants an unsentimental Christmas story even though he knows it is "a contradiction in terms, an impossibility, an out-and-out conundrum. One might as just as well try to imagine a racehorse without legs, or a sparrow without wings." So, the next time he ventures into his favorite cigar store, he tells his friend Auggie Wren his troubles. Auggie tells him that if he'll buy him lunch, he'll tell him the best Christmas story ever. The best because it's absolutely true.
This is Auggie's story about a shoplifter, a lost wallet, a blind grandmother, and that unconventional Christmas dinner that I mentioned above. It is a fable that encourages us to question whether a lie can ever serve as the truth and who is the giver and who is the taker. Auggie learns a little something about himself and what Christmas might really mean. ★★★★ for a surprisingly lovely unconventional Christmas story.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900) is an American children's classic. I could just stop right there. Those who have never read the novThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900) is an American children's classic. I could just stop right there. Those who have never read the novel are familiar with the basics of the story thanks to the 1939 MGM technicolor musical comedy-drama extravaganza. For years (before VHS, DVD, and other forms of media made it available any time), the film was a fall TV standard that children grew up watching every year. I'm sure that most people are unable to think of the story without conjuring up Judy Garland and the song "Over the Rainbow. For this reason, I'm not going to recap the basic story line. I'm just going to write about my perceptions of the book.
Of course, as is usual when film makers turn a beloved book into a visual piece, there are many differences between the written work and the filmed version. Not the least of these is the fact that in the novel, Dorothy's experiences in Oz are real. She really does travel from her home in Kansas to that magical land by means of the cyclone. The film turns this journey into nothing more than dream--a dream brought about by her injury during the cyclone. Apparently, fantasy films had not been doing well at the box office in the 1930s and the studio felt that the adventures would be better received if it was made clear to the audience that these things Were Just Pretend.
A great many of Dorothy's adventures are also cut from the film version. There are fewer obstacles to overcome--no great gorge to leap over, no rushing river to cross. There is no land of Dainty China figures, no Hammerheads, no giant spider creature for the Lion to defeat. The flying monkeys are not controlled by a magic crown and Dorothy never needs them to aid her in reaching Glinda the Good Witch. Glinda simply watches over Dorothy and her friends--appearing when she is most needed.
The book is very much a quest story and re-emphasizes this with every challenge the group meets. It also makes much of the value of friendship and cooperation. Dorothy never would have made it home to Kansas if she hadn't found and become friends with the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion because there were certain challenges that could only be overcome with the talents of a particular character. In turn, none of these would have gained their heart, brains, and courage without Dorothy and their adventures together. The film does have these elements, but the condensed version onscreen loses some of the effect of the novel.
The book is a wonderful fantasy adventure for children and adults alike. I am very glad that I have finally read the classic behind the film that I loved as a child. ★★★★ and a half.
This is most likely Isaac Asimov's best story. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said [when he read his oThis is most likely Isaac Asimov's best story. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said [when he read his own stories: HERE) that "it is just about my favorite story of all the stories I have written."
It is certainly a superb story on the nature of entropy and the ultimate question: Can entropy be reversed? The twist which provides the answer comes in the final lines of the story and is stunning. There is little more that I can say without completely giving the story away. If you like Asimov, if you like good science fiction, if you like a blazing good story...just read it. Or, as I did, listen to it. I listened to Isaac Asimov read it. But my preferred version is the reading by Leonard Nimoy (HERE)....more
Grammy Lamby & the Secret Handshake by Kate and M. Sarah Klise is a delightful children's book about the relationship between grandparent and granGrammy Lamby & the Secret Handshake by Kate and M. Sarah Klise is a delightful children's book about the relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Instead of a more expected, traditional view--where "grands" are natural allies and friends, the book gives us Larry Lamb, a boy who seems to meet his grandmother later in life and who is embarrassed and confused by this loud, exuberant person who wears loud hats, sings much louder than anyone else in church, and wants him to do the secret "I love you" handshake when all he wants is for her to go away.
But Larry soon learns that Grammy's spirited personality can be a great thing when storms hit and his family and his community need help. As he helps Grammy to help others, he finds out what a special person she is and what it can mean to have a secret handshake meant just for you. A really sweet book with a great story told in simple language and beautiful illustrations.
She alone had been blind to his merit. Why? Because he loved her and she did not love him.
The Painted Veil (1925) by W. Somerset Maugham follows KittyShe alone had been blind to his merit. Why? Because he loved her and she did not love him.
The Painted Veil (1925) by W. Somerset Maugham follows Kitty Garstin, a pretty but self-absorbed and superficial young woman from her debutante days through her marriage. Her mother was bitterly disappointed in her own marriage to a Liverpool solicitor who she thought would go far and help her in her social-climbing ambitions. He didn't. So, Mrs. Garstin pins all her hopes on her daughters--particularly Kitty. Kitty is much prettier and socially adept than her sister and Mrs. Garstin fully expects her to make a brilliant match (i.e. wealth or title--or both). But Kitty fritters away her seasons and turns down what proposals she gets until, at 25, she is fast losing her chance for any marriage let alone a "brilliant match."
With her mother pressuring her, she finally agrees to marry the shy Walter Fane. Walter is a bacteriologist who's home on leave from Hong Kong and due to return there in a few months. Kitty doesn't love him, but he is a man who obviously adores and there is promise of a vibrant colony social life in Hong Kong. But life in Hong Kong isn't nearly as pleasant as anticipated and Kitty finds herself bored and stuck in a marriage with a man she doesn't understand. That's when she meets Charles Townsend and is swept off her feet into an affair with the married Assistant Colonial Secretary. Walter discovers her infidelity and offers to divorce her if Charles will also divorce his wife and marry her right away. Otherwise, Kitty will have to accompany him to a remote rural area where he will be fighting the cholera epidemic. Kitty mistakenly thinks that her lover will leave his dowdy wife and they can run away together. She's devastated to find that Charles values his position more than her. So she winds up making a trip with Walter that changes her...and her life...radically.
Kitty isn't really a bad person--she's just self-centered and superficial. She reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara. She chases excitement and an unattainable man when she has love right under her nose. Of course Walter isn't the rogue and adventurer that Rhett Butler is, but he's a good man who loves Kitty way more than she deserves. Unfortunately for Kitty, she is like Scarlett--she recognizes what Walter means to her much too late. She does learn from her experiences and plans to make amends to the father her family always took advantage of and ignored as well as to raise her child to be better than she was.
Maugham's book is about relationships--those that matter and those that don't. It's also about personal growth and understanding and accountability. It tells a very poignant tale of love, betrayal, and the quest for a life of meaning.
The Greedy Gremlin is the second in a juvenile series called Pixie Tricks. The series premise is that fourteen fairies of different sorts (pixies, sprThe Greedy Gremlin is the second in a juvenile series called Pixie Tricks. The series premise is that fourteen fairies of different sorts (pixies, sprites, gremlins, etc) have managed to escape from their world into the world of humans. And they are all out to cause trouble. A fairy named Sprite is sent by the Fairy Queen to trick them all and send them back where they belong. He teams up with a clever girl by the name of Violet and each book is an installment in their quest to trick all fourteen fairies.
This particular story features their "battle" with Jolt--a gremlin who loves machinery and gadgets of all sorts and who loves making them work improperly. He becomes fascinated with video games and when Violet's cousin Leon tries to keep Jolt from playing his game, Jolt magics Leon onto the screen. So not only do Sprite and Violet need to trick Jolt to send him back to the land of the fairies, but they also need to save Leon from being destroyed in one of the levels of Action Kingdom.
This is a fun chapter book that children should enjoy thoroughly. The main premise (tricking fairies into doing something that will send them back home) reminds me of Mr. Mxyzptlk in the Super Friends cartoon. He was also a trickster--causing all sorts of trouble while not really being a super villain. In order to send him back to his own dimension, the Super Friends had to trick him into saying/spelling his own name backwards. Enjoyable story and easy to read for kids.
You know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)
And, at its cYou know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)
And, at its core, that's what The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951) is about--how quickly everything mankind has been used to and sure of is destroyed when the majority of the population is blinded after the Earth's orbit takes it through a strange meteor shower (or comet's tail or even a nuclear fireworks show from orbiting satellites--we're just not sure) and venomous, carnivorous plants which are ambulatory start preying on the survivors. It is also about how humanity reacts in the face of such a shattering experience. Far more terrifying than the possibility of death by triffid is the realization of how quickly humanity could lose the qualities that have seemed to separate us from the beasts. Man can become very beast-like when the trappings of civilization are stripped from him.
Whether they decide polygamy is the way to go (to better ensure future generations) or to team up sighted people with those who are blinded or revert to strict religious tenets, it is interesting to watch various groups come up with survival plans and new "rules" for their colonies. It is also interesting to think about what tactics I might adopt if in the same circumstances. Despite the "Killer Plant" B-movie monster theme, Triffids is really a book of thoughtful contemplation about what makes humans survivors and what about humanity should survive.
(view spoiler)[The finale is very open-ended. Of course, so is life. We never know what will happen tomorrow. And neither do the survivors in Triffids. They have driven the man-eating plants from the island, but the triffids still hold sway over much of England and the world. Humanity will have quite a battle before them if they are going to reclaim the Earth. It's left to our imagination whether they succeed. (hide spoiler)]
This story wound up affecting me more vividly than I anticipated. My words of wisdom for my co-workers this morning? "If you ever decide to read the classic SF story The Day of the Triffids, don't do it right before bedtime."
First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Tzimmes (and don't forget the cheesecake and strudel) is a charming slice of Jewish life served up with a side of humor and heaping portion of panacheTzimmes (and don't forget the cheesecake and strudel) is a charming slice of Jewish life served up with a side of humor and heaping portion of panache by Art Marshall Fell. When Art contacted me through the blog to ask me if I'd like to review his short novel, I was delighted. His request was lovely--it came adorned with two music videos of him and his friend David Cross playing a bit of jazz and his bio told me that he hails from Bloomington. As I told Art in my reply, How could I possibly say no to a fellow Bloomingtonian? I couldn't and I am glad.
This short piece of fiction was delightful to read as it tells the story of Dr. Sam Landover, high school math teacher, and his trials and tribulations in brokering a deal among the Shalom Center's Board as they try to choose a new rabbi. Dr. Landover has just gotten through congratulating himself on easing himself off of the Board and getting his friend Max voted on. Time to relax! But Max finds himself unable to take sides when the other six Board members split down the middle on a vote between two rabbinical candidates. He has friends and customers on each side and he doesn't want to make anyone mad. So...he insists that Sam (who got him into this mess, after all) help figure out a way to make everyone happy. Sam uses his flair for making things up as he goes along and, miraculously, manages to find a solution that everyone approves.
Great fun and a lovely quick read. ★★★★
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog My Reader's Block, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]...more
The Night Before Christmas Profusely Illustrated is a collection of stories and poems for and about children. It includes Moore's "The Night Before ChThe Night Before Christmas Profusely Illustrated is a collection of stories and poems for and about children. It includes Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" and lesser known Christmas-themed works by others as well as non-holiday stories and poems about childhood. It is designed along the lines of the MacGuffey Readers that were used as school primers long ago and far away (I have a couple of those around here somewhere as well). The stories and poems beyond the famous Moore poem are obviously intended to teach and remind children of strong moral values such as friendship, family, giving, studying, and helping. The works are charming in their old-world flavor and a nice peek at the world of yesteryear.
Synopsis (from the back of the book): A masterpiece by Canaletto leads a young art historian on the trail of an unsolved mystery. When Jeremy Allyn, aSynopsis (from the back of the book): A masterpiece by Canaletto leads a young art historian on the trail of an unsolved mystery. When Jeremy Allyn, a young art historian, is assigned eighteenth-century painter Canaletto’s Vedute by his teacher as the topic for his dissertation, he decides to focus on a secondary feature, Canaletto’s figures. Allyn uses his camera phone to solve a centuries-old mystery, thanks to clues left by the painter employing a mobile device of his time--the camera obscura. With the action taking place over a single day, art and technology, as well as ambition, romance, and a brutal crime intersect in a series of step-by-step revelations culminating in a startling deus ex machina at the end.
I opted to just quote the synopsis from the book cover and to make this a mini-review for two reasons. First, this is a very short book. Very short. (44 pages) And I was afraid that I might make the synopsis either full of spoilers or, at the very least, longer than the book itself. Second, I don't have a lot to say on this one.
The premise was fantastic--the book jumped off the library's "New Arrivals" shelf and into my hands and as soon as I read the synopsis I was hooked. But. When I started reading it--what a let-down. As I mentioned this is one short book....and as far as I can tell the primary purpose was to give the reader every bit of knowledge David Alan Brown (he would be the author) has about Canaletto, painting in Italy in the 1700s, and the camera obscura. Tons of dry as dust info-very little story. And when we get to the big discovery (finally!), he crams it all into about five pages (five tiny pages--the book is about 4 inches square). Brown could have done so much with this story to make it interesting, but didn't. The startling ending mentioned above doesn't even do it. If anything, it feels rather like a cheat--like he knew the book wasn't all that intriguing and, hey, why don't I try to spice it up with this surprise ending? The book is okay--great premise, poor execution.
At its core, Past Encounters is a story of a marriage in crisis. Rhoda and Peter have come through World War II, each with their own secrets and theirAt its core, Past Encounters is a story of a marriage in crisis. Rhoda and Peter have come through World War II, each with their own secrets and their ways of handling what they have been through and what they have done only serve to drive a wedge of silence between them. They rub along for ten years in what is revealed to be a fairly superficial semblance of a relationship, but the day that Peter puts his fist through the glass pane of the back door starts them down a road that will lead either to the complete disintegration of the marriage or reconciliation and healing.
Blake (Swift) is absolutely on target with her representation of how a relationship can gradually slip away--almost without notice. The polite daily interactions smooth over the troubled waters underneath and both Rhoda and Peter believe that the other responsible for the lack of warmth and trust. The truth, as always, is more complicated than that and they both need to lay a few war-time ghosts to rest before deciding what really matters to them.
Deft characterization and terrific period detail make this novel an absorbing read. An emotional exploration of the psychological effects of war on both the soldiers and those they left behind. ★★★★
Review will post on My Reader's Block on Dec. 2 for Blog Tour. Please request permission before reposting my comments. Thanks.
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments in this section are entirely my own honest opinion.] ...more
...he was pleased to see me in a way he wasn't actually going to be able to say. And I told myself that it was going to have to be enough. I would do...he was pleased to see me in a way he wasn't actually going to be able to say. And I told myself that it was going to have to be enough. I would do the thing he had asked for. That would have to be enough.
Louisa "Lou" Clark is an ordinary woman living the most ordinary of lives--still living at home with her parents, working as a waitress in the local cafe, riding the same bus and walking the same way home every evening. The most extraordinary thing about Lou is her eccentric taste in clothing. She bursts on every scene looking like a rainbow that had a fight in an Oxfam shop. But her life is about to become very extraordinary indeed....and all because she loses her job.
Will Traynor has always been a man of action--whether scaling rocky heights and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or taking on the big deals of the corporate world, he's known what he wants and how to get it. Preferably as quickly and in the most exciting way possible. All that changes on a rainy afternoon when he collides with a motorcycle as he sprints for a taxi. Up till now, he's tackled every challenge that's come his way, but the challenge of living the rest of his life in a wheelchair--not even able to feed himself without assistance--isn't the kind of challenge he had in mind and he decides it isn't the kind of challenge he wants.
When the cafe where Lou works closes down, she is forced to look for another job and, after trying various options that just didn't work out, she applies for position that will offer "care and companionship for a disabled man." That ad doesn't even begin to explain the situation when she meets Will Traynor. Will is bitter and tired of life. He doesn't want help, he doesn't want cheery, and, as far as Lou can tell, he doesn't want her. But little by little these two very different people begin to get to know each other...and the six months they spend together will change them forever.
So...I made the mistake of finishing this book at work. Teary-eyed and sniffing at my desk. Jo Jo Moyes has written a heart-breakingly beautiful book. An out-of-the-ordinary love story. The characters are quirky and imperfect and utterly believable. The story is difficult--the decisions Will makes are devastating for all who care for him--and the struggles they all go through to determine how best to prove that they love him are real and painful the hardest battle anyone should have to face emotionally. I loved watching the relationship grow between Will and Lou. I loved watching Lou learn how to live and to reach for what she wants most in life. I cried with her as she had to let some of those things go.
At the end of the novel, Will asks Lou to support him the most difficult decision anyone can make. At first she can't face it--and then, in a revisiting of a scene from earlier in the book, Will says:
“Hey Clark. Tell me something good." I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn't have met, and who didn't like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other...And as I spoke I knew these would be the most important words I would ever say and that it was important that they were the right words, that they were not propaganda, an attempt to change his mind, but respectful of what Will had said.
And, at its heart, that is what Me Before You is about--two people who had every reason NOT to like one another, every reason NOT to get along who become the only people who can understand and help each other when they need it most. Will as he faces the most difficult moment of his life and Lou as she faces a crucial crossroads. Their care and understanding of each other is what makes this book work. Fantastic story-telling. ★★★★ and a 1/2 stars.