January 24, 2015

  • SIMPLE DAILY PLEASURES....

    Most of you know that I try to post a grateful post every day on Facebook.  I've been doing it regularly since my husband became ill and then passed away.  It really does help me focus on all the good things I have in my life.

    So, of course, today I was checking the most recent essays in SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  As it happens, she was discussing acceptance of real life.

    "Accepting and blessing our circumstances is a powerful tool for transformation.  In fact, this potent combination is a spiritual elixir that can work miracles in our lives."

    What is acceptance?  It is surrendering to what is:  our circumstances, our feelings, our problems, our financial status, our work, our health, our relationships...our dreams.   Before we can change anything in our life, we have to recognize that this is the way it is meant to be right now.   When we accept our circumstances, we relax.  We change our vibration, our energy pattern and the rate of our heartbeat.  Once again, we are able to tap into the boundless positive energy of the Universe.  Acceptance illuminates reality so that we're better able to see the next step."

    So, whatever situation exists in your life right now, accept it.  Acknowledge what is going on....your house is dirty, your job is not making  you happy, your checking account is overdrawn.  This is your real life for today.   Let go of the struggle.  And allow the healing changes to begin.

    "Next, we must learn to bless our circumstances.  Usually we don't know why something had occurred, and we won't until there's enough distance to take a backward look.  Blessing the circumstances teaches us to trust.  Then count your blessings.  See how many you can list."  You maybe surprised at the goodness you have in your life.  In the rush of daily living, we fail to notice or acknowledge what good there is.  Writing the blessings down may help you see how much you have in your life, in spite of the difficulties.

    Here's where the daily listing of simple gratefulness comes in.   Most of us think we have to wait until the difficulties are gone before we start to get our act together.  Tomorrow, we will start.  Tomorrow we'll some time to have enjoyment.  Life never calms down enough for us to wait until tomorrow to start living the life we deserve.

    Stop waiting for life to become perfect.  Start working today on what you have already to make your life as satisfactory as you can.  Accept, give thanks, and get going....Begin to call for the riches from your everyday life.  Move from lack of to abundance.  Procrastination robs you of too many precious moments and opportunities.  Call a friend for lunch, begin to read, write a book, organize your desk, try a new recipe, smile at everyone you see, sit and dream about what you want in life, and give joy away.

    Think of one thing that would give  you pleasure today and do it!

     

    Something that often give me a lift is to just change some of the decor in my home.  Put out a different color as an accent from season to season.  Place mats can be purchased very inexpensively and they can make the top of your end tables or dining table look completely different.  Putting out fresh towels and mixing the patterns or colors in the bathroom is refreshing as well.  I have put light blue hand towels with dark brown bath towels and wash cloths.  Or dark green with a lighter green patterned hand towel.  It just makes the area look different.

    The same goes with clothing.  Try adding  a scarf or a pin, or a necklace or bracelets  for a change of color with your basic outfits that you wear all the time.  We all  have closets full of clothes but  usually stick with the same basic 5 or 6 outfits, whether we work outside of our home or stay at home.   Try to make them look different in some way.

    I am not a big shopper at all.  And since June, when I started a new eating plan, I vowed not to buy anything new for myself for 6 months to give me motivation to stay on the eating plan.  I've lost 20 lbs.  So, I have purchased a couple of different tops on sale in the past couple of weeks.  I got a beautiful sheer 3/4 length sleeve blouse at Goodwill for $5 last week.  I don't think it was ever worn.  I bought another top last night at T.J.Maxx for $7.  I looked both labels up online andboth brands had similar tops that went for $48 and were marked down to $25.  I don't often have that type of luck but I did this month.  I also found a 5x7 handpainted-glass-painting of a strawberry plant for 49 cents which I am giving to a friend who features strawberries decor in her kitchen.   And finally I found a beautiful 3x3 foot square of tapestry material to use as a table topper for 99 cents.  I was just ready and open to find some treasures....and I did.

    Our weather has been different this month.  It is still cold but almost all the snow has melted and I haven't had to use the snowblower for a few weeks!  Today the sky is blue and it is sunny outside in spite of being 37 degrees.  I could handle the entire winter if it stayed like this.

    And I read some books.

    12959233

    bookshelves: familyfriendshistorymarriage

    This is the second book in a trilogy by Ken Follett. It is over 940 pages and takes place from 1933 to 1949. The history and information about the wars that Russia, Germany, France, England and finally the USA take part in is brutal. Of course, I studied some of this in high school but I had no idea how long and how involved these wars were. What I did realize was that the world has been fighting since before we even knew what was going on. Some country or group wants to have it all, the power, the gold or oil or coal or control. There is no indication that any country has ever been without struggle. And it continues to this day. The cruelty and disregard for human life and for families or hard work is not taken into consideration when any country wants to be the country in control.

    This book continues following the families from the first novel, their children and grand children. The third and final book of the trilogy will do the same.  If you like to read about a lot of history and get perspective from all sides, these novels might be just what you need to read.
    Here's the book description...
    Winter of the World picks up right where the first book left off, as its five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, Welsh—enter a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, up to the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs.

    Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until she commits a deed of great courage and heartbreak. . . . American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific. . . . English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism. . . . Daisy Peshkov, a driven American social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set, until the war transforms her life, not just once but twice, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war—but the war to come.

    These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as their experiences illuminate the cataclysms that marked the century. From the drawing rooms of the rich to the blood and smoke of battle, their lives intertwine, propelling the reader into dramas of ever-increasing complexity.

    Another reader's review....
    I read the first of this trilogy – Fall of Giants. It was excellent. Winter of the World continues in the same superlative fashion. The narrative is quick and absorbing. Through the eyes of interesting characters, you get a front row seat in the most memorable historical events that were really not that long ago. The first book took me inside the world my grandparents experienced. This one transported me into the events that shaped my parents. The book provides in-depth perspectives and describes how people actually felt at the time. There is a handy map of the world on the inside covers. It shows all the cities where events transpire. Ken Follett is a master storyteller. His books are extremely interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. I eagerly await the third in this series. 
    16248251

    bookshelves: familyfriendsmarriage

    This is a book in a trilogy. I didn't realize that when I started with the second book in the group. Each book can stand on its own, however. Ellie Hogan is living in Ireland with her husband. After losing several babies and then her husband, Ellie can't bear to stay in Ireland. She decided to return to the United States where she had lived a few years before. As she gets settled in the US, she finds a way to help others thereby helping herself deal with her grief. She is reunited with a man she had met the first time she was in the US and thinks she can pick up that life again.  After a few more months, she realizes she wants to go back to Ireland to grieve the lost of her husband and decide what to do about her life next.    I have the last book of the trilogy and will be looking for the first book the next time I go to the library.
    Here's the book description....
    It is the 1930s and when her beloved husband, John, suddenly dies, young Ellie Hogan decides to leave Ireland and return to New York. She hopes that the city's vibrancy will distract her from her grief. But the Depression has rendered the city unrecognizable-gone is the energy and atmosphere of fun that Ellie fell in love with ten years before.
    Plunging headfirst into a new life, Ellie pours all her passion and energy into running a home and refuge for the homeless. In return they give her the kind of love, support and friendship she needs to try and overcome her grief. Until, one day, someone she thought she'd never see again steps through her door. It seems that even the Atlantic isn't big enough to prevent the tragedies of the past from catching up with her.
    Another reader's review...
    I wasn’t convinced initially about this book (not sure why) but once the story reached the death of Ellie’s beloved husband, John, I was right there with her. It may not be the way some people would react in grief, yet I could understand how Ellie couldn’t bear to be where her life had been lived so much with John. She simply cannot come to terms with his death and tries to run from the reality. So she sets off for New York where she had lived for a time years earlier.
    In New York, Ellie sets about making a new life for herself. In the process she sees the poverty around her and ends up helping others who are suffering the effects of the Depression and who have been evicted from homes. But as always happens the past comes back to haunt her. 
    While I may not always have agreed with Ellie's behaviour or the choices she made, there is a lot to like about the way the character of Ellie is developed, from someone who flees from responsibility and lack of involvement to a person who reaches out and helps others.This is a real feel good story.
    I hadn't read the first book Ellis Island but didn’t feel it need to have read that to read this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I would have liked a different ending but I believe there is another book to come.
    20604392

    bookshelves: marriage

    This is the third book in a trilogy. I really didn't like it very much. I felt like the main character whose life has been told in the previous two books turned into a very cold and controlling woman. By the end of this book, I was more than glad to not read about her any longer.
    This third book told the continuing story of Ellie Hogan, an Irish woman who had come to the United States twice during her lifetime. She had married and buried two husbands, had 2 adopted sons and a variety of friends. Although she seemed to be skilled in many things, including housework, cooking, starting and making businesses successful and art; she never seemed to be happy with her life.
    Each book can stand on its own and each book does fill in the blanks to let the reader known what happened in the previous stories. Nevertheless, I only finished this last book because it was the last....
    Here's the book description....
    Set in 1940s Los Angeles, the compelling final installment in New York Times bestselling author Ellie Hogan’s sweeping immigrant trilogy begun in Ellis Island and City of Hope—a story of family, love, danger, and ambition in Hollywood during World War II.

    Irish immigrant Ellie Hogan has finally achieved the American Dream. But her comfortable bohemian life on Fire Island, New York, is shattered when her eldest adopted son, Leo, runs away, lured by the promise of fortune and fame in Hollywood. Determined to keep her family intact, Ellie follows him west, uprooting her youngest son and long-time friend Bridie.

    In Los Angeles, Ellie creates a fashionable new home among the city’s celebrities, artists, and movie moguls. She is also drawn into intense new friendships, including talented film composer Stan, a man far different from any she has ever met, and Suri, a beautiful Japanese woman and kindred spirit, who opens Ellie’s eyes to the injustices of her country.

    While Leo is dazzled by Hollywood’s glitz, Ellie quickly sees that the golden glamour masks a world of vanity and greed. Though she tries to navigate them around the dangers of their new home, she will not be able protect them from an even more terrifying threat: war.

    And another reader's review...
    I read this book not having read the first two books in this series. So I expected I might be a little bit lost in the beginning, and I was OK with that. However, that was definitely not the case, since the first 50(!) pages were pretty much a rehash of everything that took place in the previous books...to the point that it got tedious and I was ready for the story to start.

    Ellie is a twice-widowed woman raising her two adopted boys while working as an artist in New York during the early 1940s. When her oldest son disappears from school, and it turns out he's fled to Hollywood to become an actor, Ellie follows him west, to bring him back. However, she ends up staying in Hollywood, bringing her family with her.

    I found Ellie to be a pretty unlikable woman. Harsh, unfriendly, cold, and always thinking she was better than everyone else. She treated Stan, her love interest in Hollywood, pretty horribly. I felt absolutely no connection to her and could really care less what happened to her.

    This book was filled with constant descriptions of things that happened in the previous books. As if the author felt the reader couldn't possibly remember something that we had already been told 75 pages previously. How many times did we need to be told how Ellie came to adopt Tom? Or how Ellie was so wonderful because she founded a woman's homeless shelter in New York?

    For a book that takes place during World War II, there was very little mention of the war! Except for a handful of pages where Ellie's new half-Japanese friend Suri talks about the horrors of the internment camps, and a bizarre side trip to Manzanar, all of which seemed incredibly contrived, as if the author felt she had to somehow shoehorn insomething about the Japanese internment camps to prove her book was set during wartime.

    Overall, I cannot recommend this book, and I don't think I'm going to go back and read the first two books in the trilogy. If you've already read the first two, you may want to give this a try, just to finish the arc. Otherwise, give this one a pass. 

           
           

January 13, 2015

  • JANUARY JOYS ~ 2015

            Here we are in the second week of January....for me....it's the midst of Winter as well.   So, I am telling myself to find the JOY....

    We've had 20 inches of snow in less than 2 weeks.....but today, although it is very cold at 5 degrees, the sun is out, the sky is crystal blue and there is no snow coming down.  I have used the snow blower every day but two since the snow started falling.  I'm grateful, very grateful, to have that electric snow blower too.  Even the maintenance man who plows the streets in our little community co-op managed to get our street fairly clear yesterday without leaving huge piles of snow in front of my driveway too.  I made it out to the library to return some books that were coming due, stopped at the Post Office to mail a package and got a few groceries.

    Sunday was my mother's birthday.  She would have been 90 years old if she were still living!   Her twin brother is still living in Pennsylvania.  I can't believe that she has been gone so many years.  I am older than she was when she passed away which just seems so illogical.   And I am older than my husband was when he passed away 15 months ago.  I'm not sure I like being one of the older members of the family because I just don't feel that old.

    I'm in the middle of another 900 page book by Kenneth Follett.  Winter Of The World.  This is book #2 in a trilogy.  There is a lot of history and a lot of information to take in.  I will do a review when I have finished the book.  I set a reading goal of 100 books for 2015 on Goodreads.  I have read 2 which means I am already one book behind in the schedule!  LOL.  This book should almost count for 3 since it is so big.  And I have the final book of the trilogy to read too and it is also very big.

    I haven't been doing much of interest since I last wrote.  I try to clean up and/or organize something every day.  This morning I cleaned up two cabinets in my family room.  They really were not in bad shape since I don't use them very often.  But I did want to find a couple of things and I located one of them.  I have a list of "would like to haves".  The next time I get out, I will go to Goodwill to see if there is anything of interest there.  Sometimes I do find a small treasure that I didn't even know I wanted!  Imagine that?

    Some more January joys to share.....

    I'm thinking about teaching myself to crochet.  I learned a tiny bit about 40 years ago and I was thinking it might be fun to learn again and maybe actually do well enough to make something.  We shall see how that goes in the weeks to come.

    I've noticed since I am on this different eating plan that going to the grocery store is such a different experience.  I completely avoid many aisles because I am not eating sweets, candy, cookies, ice cream, cupcakes and so on.  I used to like to check out what was new so I could buy it for my husband to try and of course, I wanted a taste too.  I did buy some garlic and sea salt microwave popcorn that was on sale for 70 cents because it was close to the expiration date.  I made a bag last night and ate about 1/3 of it.  I wasn't that impressed so I threw the rest of it out this morning for the birds and squirrels.

    I'm still on Facebook but less enthused with it.  If it wasn't the way I stay in touch with my family and friends, I would quit.  I do play a couple of games to keep my mind active but even that starts to get boring

    I am trying to get back into reading more books because my interest never changes with that hobby.

    So I guess I should review the two books I've read so far this year...

     

    18816603      3 of 5 stars

    bookshelves: familyfriendsmothers-and-daughters

    Read in January, 2015
    I generally love books by Jodi Picoult. I think there have only been two of her novels that I didn't care for. One was The Tenth Circle which I believe if I reread it I would enjoy it. This is the second. I did really like the information about elephants ~ it was intriguing. I liked most of this book but the last 30 pages or so I didn't enjoy as much. I thought it was just too quickly changed to an ending that, while it made sense, didn't seem to fit the rest of the storyline. I reminded me of a movie I saw several years ago. I'm not going to name the movie because that would give away the end of this book.*  But,if you are a Jodi Picoult fan, I am sure you will enjoy this story enough to make it worthwhile to read, especially if you like elephants.
    *It was interesting to me to read many reviewers who thought the book used the theme of a well-known movie to end the story just like I did.
    Here's the book description...
    For over a decade, Jenna Metcalf obsesses on her vanished mom Alice. Jenna searches online, rereads journals of the scientist who studied grief among elephants. Two unlikely allies are Serenity Jones, psychic for missing people who doubts her gift, and Virgil Stanhope, jaded PI who originally investigated cases of Alice and her colleague. Hard questions and answers.
    And another reader's review...

    This newest Jodi Picoult left me a little dazed and confused. Picoult used to be one of my sure bets for a great read and no one quite wrote like her. This being said, I'm not really sure what direction Picoult has been going recently.    Leaving Time was such a mixture of characters, stories and subplots that for me just didn't flow. Maybe if I was an elephant fanatic I would of found it more interesting. To me it was like putting a nonfiction learning experience into the middle of a novel. Throw in a young girl looking for her mother who disappeared when she was a child, a psychic who has fallen from stardom and an ex cop who prefers a drink,not to mention a murder, elephant stampede and dad in the mental institution. Put them all together with the excerpts on elephants, weave a story and the blow it out of the water with an unexpected ending. I almost put this one down halfway through but skimmed through it and I will say I did like the ending as strange as it was.
    I wish Jodi Picoult would just go back to dealing with people and human interest stories and just write a good page turner again.

     

    20707959       4 of 5 stars

    bookshelves: friends

    Read in January, 2015

    I don't know why I forget to check out books by John Grisham. I always like the books very much and this one is no exception. Samantha Kofer is the adult child of two parents who are attorneys. She has a great job with a Wall Street firm. But, during a financial crisis, she and some other co-workers are put on hold and told if they will work for a non-profit for a year, their job will be held and they might be called back. At the very least, their health insurance will be paid.

    Samantha decided to take a job in Brady, Va. with a population of 2,200.  The small town is in the midst of coal country in the Appalachian Mountains. There, she learns how to become a real attorney, filing paperwork, going into court and fighting for her clients' rights. She gets involved in some seriously dangerous work against the big firms that try to take the coal but won't pay for the claims that result.
    Will she stay and work for those poor people who need help or will she go back to NYC?
    Here's the book description....
    The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.

    In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

    Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.

    And another reader's review....
    I can't remember the last time I read one of John Grisham's books. I didn't mean to neglect them, it just happened. I have always loved John Grisham's legal thrillers, this was no exception, I really liked it.
    When Samantha loses her wall street job as a lawyer, she takes an unpaid internship in the small town of Brady, Virginia. She had no idea what she was getting into, picturing a small town with small problems but she finds herself in coal country and as she becomes part of the town, she learns of the dirty dealings, the lawsuits, the deaths, many being horrendous. She didn't realize the danger she was walking into, even the cases that seemed pretty simple at the start, really weren't. From someone who had never seen the inside of a courtroom, she starts to love litigation.
    This book has a bit of romance, lots of action, and although there was a lot of talk of coal and details about the coal industry, I was never bored, actually fascinated.
    The book was left in a position that there could be a continuation, so much we don't have conclusions to and are left to wonder what becomes of the people, the lawsuits and Samantha herself.
    Well, since I brought up reading, I think I should do just that.  Have a great week.
             

     

January 3, 2015

  • IS IT 2015 ALREADY???

     

     

    The days are already flying by, aren't they?   Here it is the 3rd day of January, 2015 and I just got a blog written!    Please don't think the above photo is any reflection about how I really feel about the new year.  Quite the contrary, I am looking forward to 2015.

    Instead of making resolutions that will, undoubtedly, be forgotten in the days to come.  My sister said making goals might be better.  I agree.  They sound more attainable too.  So my goals for 2015 are:

    1.  Continue to work on losing weight.  I managed 20 lbs in 6 months in 2014 so I'd like to lose 30 lbs in 2015.  I don't use Nutrisystem as often as I did.  I am trying to eat foods based on what I know is better for me.  Besides the cost of Nutrisystem is high and I don't care for all the pasta and spiciness.  I am eating up the Nutrisystem foods and I do have another shipment coming this month.  Fortunately I can backdate the shipments so I don't get them so often.

    2.I want to read more books this year.  Last  year, I managed to read 76 books.  My goal for this year is 100.   In 2013, I read 125 but that was before my life changed with the illness and death of my husband.

    3. I want to continue to be more sociable.  I do get out about 2 times a month with friends.  I need to continue to do that and maybe even take a trip this year. I have many friends who want me to visit them and just need to decide when and where to go first.

    4. Edit and get my latest manuscript INDIGO MEMORIES up for sale on Amazon.com by Spring.  I also want to start thinking about writing a new manuscript this fall.  I have an idea but I don't know for sure if I will follow that idea or if I am ready to deal with it.

    5. Work on my garden in the Spring.  I planted some new plants and vines last fall.  I am hoping they will survive the winter and grow this year.  If not, I will get some new plants and start again!

    I think those are enough goals for 2015.

    And of course, once again, I have turned to SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  I seem to select different dates every year and read her essays.

    This time I am going to include her definition of what SIMPLE ABUNDANCE means....

    "Simple, adj. 1: without embellishment; 2: clarity of form and thought; 3: fundamental

    Abundance, n. 1: an ample quantity, profusion; 2: wealth; 3. plenty

    SIMPLE ABUNDANCE, 1: an inner journey; 2. a spiritual and practical course in creative living; 3: a tapestry of contentment

    Sarah Ban Breathnach says..."we already possess all the inner wisdom, strength, and creativity needed to make our dreams come true.  This can be hard for most of us to realize because the source of this unlimited personal power is buried so deeply beneath the bills, the car pool, the deadlines, the work life and the dirty laundry.  When we can't access our inner resources, we come to the flawed conclusion that happiness and fulfillment come only from external events.  That's because external events usually bring some sort of change.  We learn to rely on circumstances outside ourselves for....momentum as we go through life.   There are six principles that act as guides as we make our inner journey over the next year.  There are six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness and a sense of security.

    First, there is gratitude. When we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize we are very rich indeed.

    Gratitude gives way to simplicity - the desire to clear out, pare down and realize the essentials of what we need to live truly well.

    Simplicity brings order. both internally and externally.

    A sense of order in our life brings us harmony which provides us with inner peace to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us each day...

    and beauty opens us up to joy.

    But just as in a beautiful tapestry, it is difficult to see where one stitch ends and another begins...

    Pick up the needle and make the first stitch on the canvas of YOUR life.  Invite your spirit to open up your eyes of inner awareness.  Be still and wait, knowing that ....in the tapestry of your own life are...the golden threads of a simply abundant tomorrow."

                                       

    So to continue my tradition of reviewing the books I have read.....

    20663712

    bookshelves: familymarriagemothers-and-daughters

    Read on December 23, 2014

    This was a quick read about how a young Italian woman was married off when she was 14 years old. Her husband went to America and she stayed behind for almost 9 years. By the time he had the money to send for her, she barely knew him. She quickly had 7 babies (one of them died at birth) because she was taught that having babies, cooking and cleaning and catering to her husband was her mission in life. After she met a man who swept her off her feet but had to leave; she became depressed and quiet. The rest of the book was about her children and how the females in the Italian family changed over the years. There did seem to be a lot of attention paid to the sexual part of each female's life. I didn't see the need for that. I won't say it was the best book I've read by Ann Hood but it was certainly interesting.

    Here's the book jacket review....
    From the best-selling author of The Obituary Writer, the stirring multigenerational story of an Italian-American family.An Italian Wife is the extraordinary story of Josephine Rimaldi—her joys, sorrows, and passions, spanning more than seven decades. The novel begins in turn-of-the-century Italy, when fourteen-year-old Josephine, sheltered and naive, is forced into an arranged marriage to a man she doesn't know or love who is about to depart for America, where she later joins him. Bound by tradition, Josephine gives birth to seven children. The last, Valentina, is conceived in passion, born in secret, and given up for adoption.Josephine spends the rest of her life searching for her lost child, keeping her secret even as her other children go off to war, get married, and make their own mistakes. Her son suffers in World War I. One daughter struggles to assimilate in the new world of the 1950s American suburbs, while another, stranded in England, grieves for a lover lost in World War II. Her granddaughters experiment with the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in the 1970s. Poignant, sensual, and deeply felt, An Italian Wife is a sweeping and evocative portrait of a family bound by love and heartbreak.

    And another reader's review...
    Rather than a "typical" novel structure, this reads as a bunch of connected short stories, following an Italian family in America from the turn of the century to the mid-70s. Hood's prose is beautiful, even as she exposes the darkness. If anything, this book seems to be about dreams that die, the disappointments of life. Where the American dream fails. There is a sad beauty there, but as I don't get to spend much time with most of the characters, I have trouble really investing myself in their journeys. Especially as it quickly becomes clear that there will be no happy endings here. There is no even glimmer of hope. I know how it will end. Additionally, most of the disappointments revolve around relationships, especially romantic and sexual relationships. With most of the stories revolving around women, it packs the punch of discontent and unrest at the heart of the second wave women's movement.This book wasn't my cup of tea at the moment. But there is something haunting here, and as a quick read it may be worth it. Just don't expect happily-ever-after.

    18775398

    bookshelves: familyhistorymarriage

    Read from December 20 to 30, 2014

     

    I am not sure why but this book seems to drag. Probably that is because it covered 42 years from before the reign on King Henry VIII and during his time on the throne. I learned much more about him.  Such as he tried to control all things, including the Church, the Pope and other countries. He wasn't a nice man. He married several times and found ways to get out of the marriages ~ either by denying the validity of the vows or by "removing" the woman from the throne. This story revolved around Margaret who was one of the last of the Plantagenets who were rivals of the Tudors claim to the throne. She strived all during her life to keep her family safe. She was the guardian of both Arthur (Henry's older brother) and of Henry when he was a child. She was the closest lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon and of her daughter, Mary. She was often caught between her love and allegiance to the Queen and the King.Margaret watched the deterioration of the Tudors in power. She had the knowledge of an old curse that seemed to come true during King Henry VIII's time. And when her life was nearly over, she finally became defiant and refused to put her head on the block.
    Here's the book jacket review....
    From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes the story of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII's stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret's world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and holiest woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.

    And another reader's review...
    At first I thought that I may have read too many Henry VIII novels, as everything felt very familiar, but as I got further into the book I understood why Philippa Gregory decided to use Margaret Plantagenet as the narrator. It allows a much wider view of this era, as well as of Henry. Most of her other books tells the story of a specific queen, which obviously only allows us to see what is happening in the court. Margaret is able to do this, but also give us a much bigger perspective as to what was happening in the country and how the king's choices affected everyone. But even more than that, she is able to really show us how shocking the changes in Henry's personality was, as she knew him from birth. I've read quite a few books on Henry VIII, but I don't think I've ever understood how extreme these changes were, and that he became such a tyrant and persecuted and killed so many people. As the Plantagenet's were rivals to the Tudor reign Margaret is once again ideally situated to illustrate this - her father, her brother and her son was taken to the tower and executed. She was Henry's oldest victim, and was executed at the age of 67. Philippa created a strong, engaging and authentic protagonist. At the end of the King's curse I felt I had a much clearer picture of Henry's madness.
    So that is my first blog for 2015.  I hope and plan to blog more regularly this year.  Stand by.

     

December 30, 2014

  • SISTERHOOD OF THE WORLD BLOGGERS AWARD - 2014

    Sisterhood of The Bloggers Award

     

    wpid-sisterhood-of-the-world HILTHETHRILL gave me a Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!  Oh the honor is almost too much!   But with the presentation of that honor comes so much responsibility. Here are the rules for the game:

    The Rules

    1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
    2. Put the award logo on your blog.
    3. Answer the ten questions they have sent you.
    4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
    5. Nominate ten people.

    So here goes.  #1.  THANK YOU HILLTHETHRILL FOR GIVING ME THIS PRESENTATION.  i AM NOT WORTHY.  I DIDN'T PREPARE A SPEECH BUT I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL THE PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR PLACING ME IN THE SISTERHOOD.   So, I thank....ME!

    #2.  The Award is there in color at the beginning of this blog.

    #3. Now comes the hard part....answering the questions HILLTHETHRILL has prepared for me.

    **** HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS...

    1. I feel you can tell a lot about a person by what they eat for breakfast. What is your FAVORITE breakfast?

    My favorite breakfast if I can have it is to go out to eat and have two fried eggs over hard, hash browns which are perfectly potato-y and not too burned, buttered sourdough toast with jelly and bacon, Bacon, BACON!

    2. Who are the top three celebrities that want to sleep with you, but don't know it yet?

    Well, if they don't know, what's a girl to do?   I guess I would choose Sam Elliott just to talk to me.  Sean Connery because he is so James Bond-like and hmmmm....and maybe George Clooney because he has a villa in Italy.

    3. Tell me about your favorite hiding spot as a kid, and your favorite hiding spot as an adult?

    I don't really recall a favorite hiding spot as a child except for the old public library in my youth.  It always looked just like a castle to me.  The Children's department was upstairs and there were huge windows with window seats where you could climb up and sit to read.  And a favorite hiding spot now?....probably right here on the second floor of my little home where I can type away and still see out the windows to watch the people, cars and weather.

    4. Do you feel that society is going to hell, or do you feel that we are improving, or staying the same?

    I'm sorry to say that I am losing faith in most of our fellow humans, the government and many corporations.  I just can't understand why we can't all try harder to get along.  I wish people would come together to save our country and our world and stop all the fighting.  Of course, there are some wonderful people out there but we mostly hear about the bad ones.

    5. Do you remember your dreams? Tell me the last nightmare you remember.

    Yes, I usually do remember a great portion of my dreams.  My last nightmare was probably thinking someone was trying to hurt me.  I used to dream about Satan and being lost in a big house in a maze just knowing the devil was behind me.  I won't look into the bathroom mirror at night because I am always afraid Satan is right behind me.  

    6. What's in your pockets?

    LINT!   I don't keep things in my jeans pockets very often.  But the best thing is finding money I stuffed into a jacket pocket and forgot about.

    7. What are you interested in that no one else seems to care about?

    I care about my ancestors and preserving the information about them.  I am always interested in finding old photos or hearing stories about them.

    8. Who is your childhood hero?

    I guess I have always thought very highly of Mother Theresa and of Jane Goodall.

    9. Do you have a lucky talisman, a rabbit's foot or a pair of lucky socks? Or something you always do for good luck?

    I carry a silver dollar from 1976 that the company I worked for presented to every employee on the 100th anniversary of the company's creation.  I also believe 3 is my lucky number and often use the number 3 to decide what to pick or which seat, or door to go to.

    10. What do you like about HilTheThrill, and how can she improve?

    I admire HILTHETHRILL's creativeness, her style, her efforts to make something special out of things that might not seem worth it.  I love how she loves her daughters and her husband, how she is always searching for something to bring simple pleasures.  Her photos are beautiful.  Her wit and humor are delightful.  I think she has grown so much since I first started reading her blog years ago.  She is in a happier place now and I hope she continues to thrive there.

    Leave your answers in the comment section below or send me the link to your post. To those who read or follow my blog it would be interesting hear your answers as well. Feel free to comment below

    *****

    To nominate others to do their own questions and answers, I would love to have anyone do this project.  But I would especially pick LA the Sage, Lavonna Nix, Endless Summer, Pound Head here, Mary Combrink, Bonnie NewComer, Julie Weger and Tonya Weger.

    Here are the questions:

    1. What is  your favorite book and why?

    2. What style of clothing do you wear most often?  Any special outfit you want to describe?

    3. What motto do you try to live by?

    4. What career would you choose if you had a do-over?  Or are you happy with what you do now?

    5. What is the silliest thing you have ever done?

    6. What would the title of a television program about you be called?

    7. What is your favorite holiday and why?

    8. What 3 wishes would you like to have?

    9. What is your biggest regret?

    10. How would  you change your life if you could?

    If you decide to do this project, please send me a link so I can enjoy your answers.

     

December 17, 2014

  • WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME, WILL YOU STILL NEED ME, WHEN I'M.....

    I have a confession

    confession to make..............

    Yep....I hit the 7oth year of my life yesterday!    But I don't feel that I look 70 and I sure don't feel 70 ~~~~~ so I am not going to believe that I am 70! So There!

    I am returning once more to SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach.   In reading her essay for December 16th, she said...

    ...."I haven't yet gotten to the point where I don't need gold stars: gleaming, golden, five-pointed proof that I've accomplished something that was a bit of a stretch, especially if it was remembering to treat myself with the loving kindness that seems so much easier to give to others."

    I'm sure most of us remember when we got gold stars for doing a good job at school.  Maybe some of us even got gold stars at home that were put on a "chore chart" to show how well we did.

    "But gold star days are very different when we give them to ourselves .  If you give a gold star to yourself and stick it to an empty calendar space, the star twinkles, winks and whispers. "Good for you, Girl!"

    I don't ever give myself a gold star but I do let myself appreciate my accomplishments.  When I allow myself to accept the good things I have done, whether or others or for myself, it does give me a good feeling.

    "Have you ever noticed an actress in a movie or television show and thought to  yourself..."If this gorgeous, high-maintenance, personal-trainer using, spa-attending woman is visibly maturing, what does the low-maintenance, car-pool, suburban mother and stressed out wife and career woman like me look like?

    Have you ever asked someone "How old do I look?"  or "Am I showing my age?"...  And then you held your breath waiting for their answer?  LOL.

    "Now we are entering our Act Two in life.  Act One just sets the scene--who our heroine is, where she came from, the forces that shaped her.  In Act Two the creative tension really begins to build as her story unfolds.  Act Two is teeming with twists and turns as the pivotal moment of choice comes into view.  Act Two reveals the dramatic center of her authentic plot.  What will happen next?  How will our heroine cope?  How will she change? "

    "We can't move into Act Two until we have several decades under our belt.  Hopefully we are wiser, more experienced, self-confident, courageous, and canny.  Suddenly we have more depth to the scripts in our life.  "In middle age, we are apt to reach the horrifying conclusion that all sorrow, all paint, all passionate regret and loss and bitter disillusionment is self-made."

    But now we know how to change that.  Don't we?

     

                                                       

     

    So let's make a list of what I have accomplished in my 70 years of life.

    1. I'm the older of four daughters.  I feel like I am the mother of the group and have a responsibility to take care of my younger sisters

    2. I graduated from high school and then got three Associate Degrees while I worked full-time.

    3. I was married for 48-1/2 years to the same man.  We would be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary in April, 2015.

    4. I started working as an insurance claims secretary and worked my way up to Senior Claims Representative.

    5. I've written 4 books.  Three are published and for sale on Amazon.com and the fourth will be editing and for sale by Spring.

    6. I have a few friends from my childhood and from high school that I  still am in contact with.

    7. I learned to drive a car when I was 30 years old.

    8. I have a new computer and a new cell phone that I am learning to use without too much trouble.

    9. I  write on 3 different blog sites.

    10. I am a step-grandmother and step-great grandmother and a faux grandmother for another person's children.

    11. I helped to raise a very intelligent and hardworking son of whom I am very proud.

    12. I read many, many books throughout the year.

    13. I've had over at least 12 cats and 3 dogs in my life.

    14.  I have lost 20 lbs since June, 2014

    15.  I still feel fairly young.

    And I did read a book or  two since my last blog.

     

    19486412       4 of 5 stars

    bookshelves: familyfriendsmothers-and-daughters

    Read on December 09, 2014

    I finally finished this book. I had started it about a month ago and had to return it because it was on the "hold" list. I got it again last week and finished it. I enjoyed the story of the various mothers and children who had a connection in the town. Some of them were quirky and some of them were over-the-top. The mystery of what happened and why and how was interjected into the various chapters. The reader never quite knew what was going on until the end of the book. And the circumstances were much different from I had anticipated. It was a very entertaining book. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a light mystery and a story that could be relevant to them.

    Here's the book description...
    Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
    A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly? 
    What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?
    Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 
    Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
    Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

    And here's another reader's review...

    This one was 480 pages that read like less than 300. I was thoroughly captivated, found this to be brilliant in plot, structure and tone. Gulped it right down.

    On the surface this was about a group of parents whose children were starting kindergarten. We have the typical cliques, the do-gooders and many, many who think their children are oh so special.  Over parenting to a T. Working moms against stay at home moms, fulfillment vs. involvement. Humorously told, there are so many times this book had me laughing, some of these moms were so over the top, absolutely absurd.

    Under the surface was another layers, the author tackles many issues, among them bullying, spousal abuse and others. These women and their marriages all have issues, problems with their marriages, dealing with traumas from the past. Considering everything that was tackled in this book it should not have worked but it did, and that is to the author's credit.

    Everything leads up to trivia night at the school and that will bring revelations, disasters and many will find themselves changed. Loved every minute of this one.

    16131115

    This wasn't the most exciting book I've read. There have been a group of 4 women who are married to medical students who decide one August to go away for a week just to talk and relax while their husbands are busy at the hospitals where they work and learn. As each year goes by, the 4 women continue to rent a beach house and meet for one week. Their husbands move on to get into their specialties and their medical practices. As one doctor's wife is gone from the group, he remarries and the next wife joins. Finally when one wife passes away, the other 3 don't meet for about 3 years. Then there is a new wife so they are invited to her family's island for 2 weeks. The 4 women go and try to figure out the new, much younger wife. There are misunderstandings and squabbles but, of course, they all bond together in the end. This is a light read...one for a long weekend.
    Here's the book description...
    Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.
    And another reader's review...
    Oh my, Anne Rivers Siddons. I hate to say it, but I think it's time to retire. I can't believe I ever used to enjoy and look forward her novels. Granted, it was way back in the 90s when I was a big fan of her work. I loved reading one of her big, family dramas on vacation every year. Have my tastes changed so drastically, or has her work gone downhill so significantly?Whatever the reason, this particular novel was b-a-d. The dialog was forced and unrealistic. The characters were flat and one-dimensional. The plot was dull and predictable; using every classic "beach read" theme possible. Perhaps most bizarre was the strange juxtaposition of the last two chapters. Why were they seemingly reversed? And to what purpose was the BIG ending thrown in at the last (literally, last) possible moment. It did nothing to help move the "drama" (newsflash: there was none) or the story along. It just seemed like ARS had some story notes and suddenly realized she had forgotten a key element and threw it in. She should have ended the book at the end of chapter seven, in my opinion.

    As usual, my question when it comes to poorly written books like this is; where was the editor, and why wasn't she/he doing their job?

    So, once again, it is nearly time for the holidays.   I got all my Christmas cards addressed and sent out last week.  I wrapped and shipped all the out-of-town gifts last week too.  I still have some gifts for the family here in town to gather together into gift bags.  And then we will be nearly done with 2014.   I have to say that I am pleased that I survived my first year of "firsts" without my husband.  I am looking forward to next year too.  I'm hoping things go well for everyone.
    Adorable Christmas Cat - lovely, paws, new year, merry christmas, happy new year, holidays, hat, happy holidays, beautiful, magic, sweetness, animals, christmas cat, cat face, pretty, sweet, beauty, holiday, cats, cat eyes, christmas, magic christmas, kitten, cute, kitty, photography, eyes, cat, xmas, adorable         

December 7, 2014

  • DECEMBER DOINGS.....

    You are probably asking why I have a photo of a goat when I love cats so much.  Well, the short version of this story is that a blogger friend of mine is in deep need of some help.

    She took care of her parents when they were older. She moved them into her home and cared for them through illnesses.  When they passed, she used the small amount of money she inherited and paid it on a house with a small barn.  She put all her money into that home and started to raise goats.  She has one daughter who is now a teenager.  She has worked literally night and day, in snow and in ice, and in rain and heat to build up a good herd of goats.  She lives in the Catskill-Hudson Valley of New York.

    She has made cheese and other by-products from the goat milk.  She sells her products to restaurants and at farmers markets.  You would think her life has been fun and easy.  But it has not and it is just getting worse.

    Unfortunately her husband hasn't pulled his own weight.  He has purposely sabotaged every effort she makes to succeed. He works when he feels like it which is not often but he never gives her any money for the utilities or the bills. He spends his money on alcohol.  He runs off any interns she gets to help her on the goat farm.  He won't milk the goats or give them the correct feed.  He has broken much of the machinery she has to use.  He is verbally abusive and goes out of his way to make her life and the life of their daughter miserable.

    She hasn't been able to afford to get a divorce attorney. She has sold off as many things as she can to keep the bills paid.  She is running out of options.  She just found a young attorney who  is willing to help her but now she needs money to retain the attorney, to keep the goats fed this winter, to pay the utilities and to put food on her table.  Not to mention taking care of her daughter who is still in school.  With the cold weather coming up, heavy snowfalls and the holidays, she doesn't have any leeway.

    I am asking all my readers that if you ever donate this time of year, will you consider donating to this woman and her daughter.  Here is a link.....   http://www.gofundme.com/i5ulos

    And if you would like to order some her products from cheese to soap ~ here's a link.   http://acornhillfarmsteadcheeses.com/PRODUCTS.php

    In other areas, I am slowly working on my Christmas card list and gift wrapping.  I'm still rewriting my book and I have 43,785 words to date.  I am trying to read some books as well.

    Thank you for reading this post.

     

December 1, 2014

  • HAPPY DECEMBER ~ 2014

    I have a confession to make.  It's been 30 days since my last blog post!   Did you miss me?   That's what I thought.

    Well, anyway.  It's been a busy month and as always, the time went by faster than I had realized.  As you know, I participated in the NANO November Novel Writing Challenge.  I wrote almost 53,000 words in 21 days.  I sent in the manuscript to have the word verification done and I got my certificate and I will get a code for 2 free self-published books when I sent the manuscript to CreateSpace.  Unfortunately, 2 days later when I went back to my manuscript to re-read it, it was gone, Gone, GONE!

    I have been in the process of rewriting the manuscript since then.  I have just over 28,000 words to date.  It isn't as difficult to rewrite because I know where I am going with it.  But until I have it recreated, I can't stop thinking of it.  I have saved it on a zip drive so I won't lose it again.  Something had happened to my computer that day and I got messages about various things crashing....don't know why it had to be my manuscript but it was.

    Besides that catastrophe, I said Goodbye to my friend whose husband died on the first anniversary of my husband's passing.  She has moved to Marina del Rey to live with her daughter who has a job out there.  She is loving the warm weather.  She left the day before our first snow which turned out to be over 12 inches before it was done.   So I have used my snowblower once so far this winter.  Our area broke some records.  Earliest snowfall of the year and coldest day in November.  I hope we don't break a record for the most snow all winter.

    I'm still doing the transcribing for the Smithsonian Institute.  I haven't done as much since I lost my own manuscript but I do intend to get back to it soon.  I have a lot of things to do in the next few weeks.  Addressing Christmas cards, wrapping and shipping out Christmas gifts to a few family members.  And of course, wrapping the gifts for my family and friends here at home.  I am not feeling festive yet.  I think it is just too early.  I put a couple of things out for winter decor.  I put away the Autumn door wreath and some little things in the house.  My cats have calmed down plenty but they still get into way too much so I have to be careful where I place any decorations.  I bought a Christmas cactus this year.  It's still got blooms on it in spite of being on the top of a bookcase so the cats can't get to it.  I heard that if you plant it outside in the summer, it will grow very quickly and then you bring it back in when the weather starts to cool.  I'm going to try that.

    I know I have been very busy but for the life of me, I can't figure out what I have been doing besides the normal weekly chores. I did go to the dentist and to the doctor 2 weeks ago.  I've lost 19 lbs so far.  I'm hoping to get another lb. lost before my birthday in 2 weeks.

     

    I also read a couple of books.

    A friend suggested the first book.  I really enjoyed it.  So much, in fact, that I have the 2nd book in the trilogy on my library request list and I borrowed the 3rd book of the trilogy which I can renew if necessary.

    7315573

    bookshelves: dramafamilyfriendsmarriagehistory

    Read on November 13, 2014

    I've recently finished this book of 985 pages. It was recommended to me by a friend. It tells the stories of 5 different families from Russia, Germany, England, American and Wales. It is the beginning, middle and ending of World War I and there is a lot of history in this book. I got caught up in the stories of a young Welsh boy who had to enter the coal mines, an American law student who finds a new career working for the President in the White House, a young housekeeper who worked for a wealthy and titled family in England, a good German man who had to become a spy and two young Russian brothers who wind up in different countries. I think this would make a wonderful television series in the same way that Downton Abbey became so popular. I can hardly wait to read the next two books of this series.

    Here's the book description....

    4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  

    This is an epic of love, hatred, war and revolution. This is a huge novel that follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women. It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V.   The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family, is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich,  a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, "Fall Of Giants" moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.

    and here is another reader's review....

    This is my first Ken Follett novel, and I am hooked. I've read where some people have not been that interested in the subject matter of Fall of Giants and prefer the Middle Ages. I'm fascinated with 20th Century history, so this is right down my alley.

    This novel covers the years of WWI and the Russian Revolution and follows 5 families. Their stories all connect at some point. While you invest in the characters, the story is plot driven and moves pretty swiftly through the years. There are times that a character may be left for a year before we hear from him again. But you don't feel like you're missing any crucial information.

    My favorite portions were before and after the war. There is quite a bit of battlefield sections in the middle. They are well written, but I am more interested in the people than military tactics.

    I was surprised at how quickly this book reads. Despite it's huge size, you can read it pretty quickly if you have the time to devote to it.  I thoroughly enjoyed this.

    *****

    \Turn of Mind

    bookshelves: dramafamilymothers-and-daughters

    Read on November 28, 2014
    This subject of dementia of a female orthopedic surgeon really interested me. It's a fictional story of a woman who recently lost her husband.  Her son and daughter have left home and she has retired because she became aware that she was losing her memory. When the story starts, one of her oldest friends who lived 2 houses down has been found dead with 4 fingers cut off one of her hands.

    The book is speaking in Jennifer's voice (the female surgeon) She has a housekeeper who tries to help her by writing down every day in a journal of what happened that day. When Jennifer has a visit ~ the visitor writes in the journal so Jennifer can go back and read. But, of course, she is constantly confused and can't remember. She is often reliving the past and gets herself into some trouble.

    The book was a bit difficult for me to read because it jumped around on what Jennifer remembered and what people told her. The entire book was broken down into 3 parts with no chapters in each part.

    I continued to read the entire book because I wanted to find out who killed Amanda and why her fingers were cut off.
    The ending wasn't what I was expecting but I certainly wasn't surprised either.

    Here's the book description....
    3.65 of 5 stars 3.65
    Is the perfect murder the one you can't forget or the one you can't remember?

    Dr. Jennifer White, a brilliant former surgeon in the early grips of Alzheimer's, is suspected of murdering her best friend, Amanda. Amanda's body was found brutally disfigured — with four of her fingers cut off in a precise, surgical manner. As the police pursue their investigation and Jennifer searches her own mind for fractured clues to Amanda's death, a portrait emerges of a complex relationship between two uncompromising, unsentimental women, lifelong friends who were at times each other's most formidable adversaries.
    And another reader's review...
    Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante may just be the talk of the summer. I read it in one sitting, it was that riveting. Sixty-four year old Dr. Jennifer White retires from her orthopedic practice when she discovers she has early on-set Alzheimer’s. When her old friend is found murdered with mutilated hands and missing fingers, Dr. White becomes a prime suspect. What could be a run of the mill murder mystery becomes a complicated story of a woman experiencing rapid dementia and declining memory. I can only liken it to experiencing a horrible nightmare over and over as we follow Dr. White’s thought process in this first person narrative. The story goes backward, forward and round and round in an attempt to give us the whole picture; yet in a voice that so confused that sometimes we feel our own memory is failing us. With a deceased husband, two children and a caretaker also on board, Dr White’s story is fleshed out and we eventually understand what happened.

    I fear that calling Turn of Mind a mystery may lose some readers and what a loss this would be. If you were able to read Still Alice by Lisa Genova, frightening as the topic of Alzheimer’s can be, then don’t miss Turn of Mind. Disturbing but thought provoking, it’s a different take on the topic of dementia and its many manifestations.

    ******
    Well, I think I have come to the end of my first blog for December.  I promise it won't be my last.  I will try to do a better job of reading more books and of posting my thoughts.
      

October 31, 2014

  • HAPPY HALLOWEEN....

    Here we are at the end of this month and almost the end of autumn~

    I decided to refer to SIMPLE ABUNDANCE by Sarah Ban Breathnach again to see what she had to say about this date.

    The essay is entitled MAKE ROOM FOR MYSTERY, AWAKEN TO THE MAGIC....

    It's All Hollow's Eve.  Some of us will be accompanying our little goblins on their Trick or Treat rounds tonight to provide love, care and concern for their protection.  Some of us will be greeting those little goblins at our own front doors with candy or other treats.

    "Halloween comes down to us from the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhaim, held on October 31st.  The last autumn night before the cold and bleakness of winter.  On this night ~ considered the Celtic New Year ~ the Druids believed that the supernatural world drew closer to the physical world, so human beings were more susceptible to the power and influence of the unseen.  Magic spells could be cast more easily, predicting fortunes were more revealing, and dreams held special significance."

     Ms. Breathnach goes on to say ...."Being human, I believe Halloween is the perfect reminder that magic flows through us, mystery infuses every encounter of every day.  We conjure up missing objects...we transform leftovers into a feast, banish fear, heal hurts, make money stretch till the end of the month.  We carry, cradle, nurture and sustain life.  We do all of this and much more.  Most women are not aware of their tremendous power for good.  We've not consciously awakened to the realization that we are descendants of an ancient, sacred lineage..!"

    "Isn't Magic what you're performing when you create an authentic lifestyle for yourself and those you love?  Aren't you shaping unseen forces with your creativity and crafts? .....How much more could you accomplish if you were fully aware of your powers?'

    "Oh Daughter of the SHE, much power has been gifted to you.  It is the power of Love,  Tonight by candlelight or the light of the moon in your backyard, commit to use your power wisely for the Highest Good of all.  YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF THE COUNTLESS LIVES YOU TOUCH IN THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFETIME.    Go directly to the Source.  Acknowledge your lineage and your authentic gifts with a grateful heart.  "I am sure there is Magic in everything, " Frances Hodgson Burnett observed, "only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us."

     

     

     

    So, for me, I am going to acknowledge my gifts.   Tomorrow starts NANO November Novel Writing Month and I am already entered for the challenge.  I have a tiny bit of any idea and I don't know where it is going to lead me, but I am up for the job.  I have a working title of INDIGO MEMORIES.  I can't wait to see where the characters take me this time.

    Since my last blog, my friend who recently lost her husband has decided to move in with her daughter who currently lives in California.  She will be leaving soon.  She doesn't want to live alone and in particular doesn't want to go through a winter alone.  I will miss her and hope she enjoys her new home.

    I'm still following most of the Nutrisystem eating plan.  I"ve lost 18 lbs to date.  I'm hopeful to lose 20 lbs. by next weekend.   It's really not very hard to follow the plan.  I miss the carbs but have realized when I do eat them that the craving comes back instantly.  I don't  really miss sweets including candy too much.  When I do want something sweet, I usually just take a spoonful and I am satisfied.  Thank goodness.

    Since my last blog, I did finally read some books.  I have been thinking that I may get off Facebook for the winter and spend more time reading.....I want to get back into the habit of enjoying books again.

    18295838     4 of 5 stars

    This novel was based on some true facts. Much of Jackie Kennedy's wardrobe during her time in the White House ( or the MAISON BLANCHE as it was referred) was made by the American seamstresses who copied the latest Paris fashions for the First Lady. When Jackie Kennedy was criticized for using French designers instead of American designers; this was the answer. The owners of Chez Ninon traveled to all the showings in Paris each year and then copied the fashions that they knew the First Lady would wear. They even had a stand-in model who had the same measurements as the First Lady who came to all the fittings where photographs were taken to be approved by Jackie Kennedy or her designer friends.
    This story is loosely based on some real facts and some real situations. There is a mystery on where that famous pink suit went after the assassination of the President. The National Archives in Washington D.C. has stored the entire contents of Parkland Hospital's trauma room #1 where the President was pronounced dead. The location is unknown to most people. The pink suit was not stored at that time. It suddenly arrived many years later in the original box from the Chez Ninon with no return address and a single digit postal code in place of the five-digit zip codes adopted on July 1, 1963. Inside the box was the suit, the blouse, the handbag, the shoes and the stockings Jackie had worn on that terrible day, along with an unsigned piece of her mother's letterhead stationary with the words...."Worn Nov. 22, 1963".There is also a side story of the young woman who sewed so many of the designs and the pink suit by hand and was one of the "back-room girls" who was never given credit for her unique talents.

    Here's the book description...
     "Beautifully written and engrossing, The Pink Suit gives us an extraordinary alternative reality, transforming JFK and Jackie's romance into the unforgettable love story of a seamstress and a butcher. Kate and Patrick are wonderful creations, and the evocation of the early 1960s is moving and convincing. Kelby spins a compelling tale of one of the most iconic garments ever sewn, and makes it entirely her own."--Claire Kendal, author of The Book of YouOn November 22, 1963, the First Lady accompanied her husband to Dallas, Texas dressed in a pink Chanel-style suit that was his favorite. Much of her wardrobe, including the pink suit, came from the New York boutique Chez Ninon where a young seamstress, an Irish immigrant named Kate, worked behind the scenes to meticulously craft the memorable outfits.

    While the two never met, Kate knew every tuck and pleat needed to create the illusion of the First Lady's perfection. When the pink suit became emblematic, Kate's already fragile world--divided between the excess and artistry of Chez Ninon and the traditional values of her insular neighborhood--threatened to rip apart.

    Moving from the back rooms of Chez Ninon to the steps of Air Force One,The Pink Suit is an enchanting, unforgettable novel about hope and heartbreak, and what became of the American Dream.

    Here's a review by another reader...
    A very unusual take on the Kennedy assassination and the icon that was Jackie Kennedy. This book very much focuses on the time, money and effort that went into creating and maintaining 'the Wife' as the nation's sweetheart. The story barely involves the Wife at all, choosing instead to focus almost entirely on the design and creation of the iconic pink suit that was worn on that fateful visit to Dallas. The novel is based on the actual Irish seamstress who was integral in crafting the suit in question as well on the fashion house Chez Ninon. The author makes it clear that although Kate and the fashion house were real people the image of them presented her is her own fictionalized take on their lives and attitudes.  However,  for the most part she does an incredible job of breathing life into these characters. As with her previous work, White Truffles in Winter this is a gorgeously sensual novel. The textures, scents and weave of each fabric becomes integral to the plot and characterization here. The subplot surrounding Kate's own love affair with her homely butcher allows Kelby to draw in more of the wonderful descriptions of food that made White Truffles such a delight.There were some lovely little cameos from Coco Chanel and Martin Luther King so be sure to look out for these along the way.

    This novel could easily have descended into a mere fluff piece but some beautiful writing and a well thought out set of convincing characters ensure that there is no risk of this;  all while providing a glimpse into what it takes to build a modern icon.

     

    18812405      4 of 5 stars

    This novel has been compared to GONE GIRL. There some similarities such as the chapters being told by different people in the book. There is a mysterious disappearance of a young girl. The reader soon finds out that the background stories of each character certainly help the reader form an opinion of the main characters. Some of the story is told in "flashbacks" because the young girl has lost her memory. It's a very evenly paced story and the reader will get caught up in the mystery. Why was she taken? What will happen to her? Why do some members of her family seem more irritated then frightened? Who is really behind it all? What will happen in the end?
    I read this book in 2 days. It was much more pleasing to me than Gone Girl.
    Here's the book description...
    "I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

    Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.

    An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

    Here's another reader's review...
    This book is not at all what it seems. I was expecting a book like Gone Girl and what I got was a relative of it. If you liked Gone Girl, you will like The Good Girl. It had me racing through the pages until the very end, WHICH BLEW...MY...MIND!It didn't really hit me what was going on until the last few pages. I had to reread a couple of pages to get it, but it was enjoyable, not annoying where I just didn't get it. I had an idea of what was going on, but I had to be sure. This book really kept me guessing and each time, I was just very wrong.

    I really did like the multiple POV's of the novel, however. To some it may be confusing, but to me it was great! Refreshing, even. I haven't read a novel with multiple POV's that I have enjoyed in a long time. The author did a good job with hooking the reader in and having them crave for the end of every chapter, just so they could see what was going on in the next one. The characters were realistic to people I know and I was drawn into their lives and this again, was great.

    This is a fantastic book if you're craving a dark mystery. If you read this, you won't be disappointed because I was not and I am now looking forward to more books by Mary Kubica. She can write a hell of a story.

    20821084      4 of 5 stars

    What an interesting book!  There are two main characters who have five days left before their lives change drastically. One of them is a mother who believes she must take her own life due to a terminal illness. She wrestles with leaving her husband and her child, her friends and her parents and makes "deals" with herself about if and when she should do it. There is a man who teaches in the lower income part of Detroit who is married. He and his wife have taken in a "foster" child for a year and the last 5 days they have him are coming quickly. He wants to keep the boy but his wife has a different perspective. As the reader follows the story-line, the reader becomes involved in the decision-making process. What IS the right thing to do? Who is being selfish? What will each person decide to do? How will it all end?This is a first novel by Julie Lawson Tanner and it is a good one.

    Here's the book description...
    "A beautifully drawn study of what is at risk when you lose control of your own life.  Unique, gripping, and viscerally moving -- this impressive debut novel heralds the arrival of an extremely talented writer." —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Lone WolfDestined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

    Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.  
    Here's another reader's review...
    Five Days Left is an emotional and touching story about life and death and the sacrifices that are made for the sake of one's family and relationships.There are two plot lines--two different journeys that are totally separate yet connected and intertwined. The story of Mara is sad and heart wrenching as she goes from a healthy and strong woman to a woman who discovers she has a fatal disease and needs to rely on the help of family and friends. Mara has a loving and wonderful husband and a beautiful adopted daughter. Mara does not want to be a burden to her family so she makes a promise to herself that when the symptoms worsen she will end her life on her own terms. This will spare her family and herself the pain, anguish and humiliation of this terrible disease. The story of Scott is also a heartbreaker. Scott is a foster parent to Curtis while the mother is serving a jail sentence and big brother is fulfilling his college dreams. Scott loves his wife who is pregnant with his first child. He also loves Curtis who eventually will be reunited with his mother.

    Both Mara and Scott have 5 days left to come to terms with a decision and say their final goodbyes. I was on a journey with these two people knowing perfectly well that I may not like the outcome! I thought this was an amazing debut novel. Dark and thought-provoking yet filled with hope and love. I look forward to reading more novels by this new author.

    So that ends this month and this blog.
    HAPPY HALLOWEEN.....
       

October 18, 2014

  • A LESSON OF LOSS

     

     

    My goodness, it's been a couple of weeks since I last posted!  As I had mentioned in the previous blog, my year of "firsts" ended on  October 9, 2014.  One entire year since my husband passed away...and still.... it doesn't seem possible that I will never see or hear him again while I am alive on this earth.

    On that day, I got some phone calls from family and friends who were checking in with me.  I appreciated that so much.  But the way the day turned out was certainly not what I had expected....

     

    .... about 5 weeks earlier, when a dear friend whom we had known for over 40 years called me.  Her husband had suddenly collapsed and since she was a registered nurse, she got him into some doctors right away.  They soon found a tumor on his spine and were also concerned about some severe pain he was having in his left hip.  After more testing, the news came that he had cancer.  So he began some radiation in hopes the tumor would reduce and his pain level would drop.  As these things often go, he had continuing and escalating pain.   He was sent to the same oncologist as my husband had last year.  The doctor decided to supplement the radiation with a 3 week trial of chemotherapy.  He had one chemo treatment and actually felt better.  He had 2 great days and he and his wife and his daughter (who had flown in from California) got a lot of things done.  I had suggested they get a will, a medical guardianship and DNR document done immediately.  And also to make funeral arrangements so she didn't have to stress about that when the time came. He had always taken care of all the finances and his wife had no idea what to do first.  Two days after those couple of good days; he was in terrible pain and his wife finally got Hospice Home to find him a bed because he had felt a pop and his left hip had shattered.  The oncologist said there was no use in trying to repair it because they had just confirmed that he had cancer everywhere.  His wife called and asked if my son and I could witness the legal documents on that Wednesday.  We went to the Hospice Home and met them and their attorney.  He was mostly sleeping and probably drifting into a coma by then.  We did witness all the documents.  My son and I both talked between ourselves and felt that he wasn't going to last much longer due to his coloring (or lack there-of) and his lack of response.

    The next day my son and I were doing some errands together when I got the call.  He had passed 6 hours earlier.  The day before we had told his daughter that we knew my husband was just waiting for Jerry because they used to ride in a 2 man police car when they first got on the police department.  I told his daughter that they would be "partnered up" riding together again in Heaven taking care of everyone.  When she called, she said "my Daddy is with your husband now in  Heaven.!"   It was October 9th....the same day that my husband died a year before!!  We all took such comfort in that,  believing that the guys are together again, laughing and telling "police stories" and getting caught up on all the news.

    It actually made my first anniversary without my husband easier because I had my friend to think about.  I was able to help her with some police documents this week.  In a few weeks, she has decided to move in with her daughter who lives in California.  She had a year's lease on the apt. she and Jerry had moved into a year ago.  The management is waiving the last two months of her lease as a courtesy.  Her daughter is looking for a larger apt. in the same complex she lives in now in California.  They have gone through the house that is still for sale and selected several things to take to California.  I will miss my friend but am happy that she will have a place to make new memories.  She said she just can't live alone ~ she never has and doesn't want to have the stress of taking care of everything on her own.

    According to Sarah Ban Breathnach's book SIMPLE ABUNDANCE...

    "If we are alive, we cannot escape loss.  Loss is a part of real life.  "Have you ever thought, when something dreadful happens, a  moment ago things were not like this; let it be then not now, anything but now?"  The English novelist Mary Stewart asks.  "And you try and try to remake the time, but you know you can't.  So you try to hold the moment quite still and not let it move on and show itself."

    "Today might be tough for you.  You might not want the next moment to show itself, to reveal the twists and turns of life's mystery. But at least you have it.  YOU still have life.  A choice as to how you will live this precious day."

    "Don't wish it away.  Don't waste it.  Redeem one hour.  Hold it close. Cherish it.  Above all, be grateful for it.  Let your thanks rise above the disappointment--opportunities lost, mistakes made, the clamor of all that has not yet come."

    "And if today is so horrendous that the gift doesn't seem worth acknowledging, if you can't find one moment to enjoy, one simple pleasure to savor, one friend to call, one person to love, one thing to share, one smile to offer, if life is so difficult you don't want to bother living it to the fullest, then don't live today for yourself.  LIVE IT FOR THE ONE WHO IS GONE."

    I had lunch with another good friend.  She is starting a new job on Monday.  She hasn't worked a 40 hour week for several years and she hasn't worked part-time for several months.  But she wanted to rebuild her retirement fund and thinks this will be a good way to do that.  It's the same type of work she had done for years ~ insurance claims  handing and she already knows a couple of the employees so I think it will be a good fit.  I can't wait to have lunch with her again to find out how she likes it.

    In-between all of that turmoil, I have planted some more plants for the winter.  I have continued to transcribe for the Smithsonian Institute and recently worked on a diary of Gertrude Vanderbilt (Gloria's aunt).  It was written in 1890 when Gertrude was 15 years old.  She traveled from New York to London to Paris and back to London and then back home to New York.   It was quite interesting to read and transcribe.

    The first of November I will begin writing my 4th book for NANO National November Novel Writing Challenge.  I thought of a "working title" and just asked my granddaughter to draw a cover idea I have.  She is very excited and I can't wait to see what she has in mind.....If I use it as a cover, I am putting her name in my book as the illustrator!

     

    I also managed to read a couple of books...

    6319371

    This is Candy Spelling's first book. I have already read her second book. This book also covered her marriage to Aaron Spelling and how it changed her life. From what she describes, she adored her husband but learned that working behind the scenes was best. Aaron wanted her by his side almost all the time. She got involved in buying the gifts for the all clients and employees, creating dramatic dinner parties, always being dressed to perfection and being the perfect wife and hostess. In spite of all the wealth the couple eventually acquired ~ they started out like most young couples with little to nothing. They soon learned how to become a "brand". She talks about the huge Manor they built and lived in together. She realized after Aaron passed away that she should downsize so she sold the Manor and moved. Well, reducing from a 56,500 sq. feet of living space plus a 17,000 sq. ft completed attic to just 17,000 sq. ft. on two floors of a penthouse IS downsizing, I guess.She also mentioned her children, Tori and Randy. She said that she and Aaron wanted their children to work for a living and both of them do. She said there are trust funds and college funds for the grandchildren. She also talked once again about the on-and-off relationship she has with her daughter, Tori.
    Here's the book description...
    Carole Gene Marer spent her girlhood dreaming of meeting Rock Hudson, but when she finally had the chance—on her second date with her future husband, television mogul Aaron Spelling—she was so shy she hid all night in the powder room.  How Candy morphed from that quiet girl into a seemingly-confident, stylish trophy wife, mistress of the largest house in Los Angeles ( over 70,000 square feet when you count the attic) is at the heart of Stories from Candyland. 
    The life Candy created for her family—her husband and children Tori and Randy—was fabulous, over-the-top, and often magical.  So what if California Christmases don’t come with snow? Let’s make some on the tennis court!  How do we take a cross-country family vacation with a dad who doesn’t fly? By private train car, of course (with an extra for the fifty-two pieces of luggage).  The kids want to dress up for Halloween? No problem, why not call in Nolan Miller to design their costumes?Candy had a hand in some of the most beloved television shows of all time (she once stopped production on “Dynasty” because Krystle Carrington’s engagement ring was not spectacular enough), has entertained half of Hollywood in epic fashion, and lives an enviable life.  But under all the fun and showmanship lies a more interesting character, still wrestling with some of the insecurities of her ingénue self.  Oprah threw her into a major panic with a discussion of hoarding.  A lifelong humming habit evolved as a unique coping mechanism.  And there’s nothing like being defined as, “well, you know, complicated” by your daughter on television and in her own book.Stories from Candyland sparkles with glamour and grand gestures. But it also satisfies with some more intimate Candy concerns: why being a perfect wife and mother was so important to her, how cooking and cleaning can keep the home fires burning, why collections matter, and whether dogs are better judges of people than people are.

    Visit Candyland in these pages and get a glimpse of a generous, glittering world revealing many of its surprising and funny secrets for the first time.

    and here's another reader's review....

    I have read both of Tori's books and I was curious to read about Candy's version. I picked this one up with and open mind and tried not to be influenced by too many reviews. It seems that most people who have read Candy Spelling's memoir tend to give it more negative reviews than positive. I read this book for entertainment purposes and to hear what Candy had to say about her life. I was not going into this hoping to read the best work of literature ever published, nor did I have any unrealistic expectations. With that said I need to review this book for what it simply is. It is the story of a woman who becomes a celebrity through marriage.

    Growing up I was a fan of Dynasty, The Love Boat and occasionally watched Fantasy Island. As I entered my teenage years I was a 90210 and Melrose Place fan. I looked forward to watching a new episode each week and I loved all that the shows had to offer. I knew Aaron Spelling was a very successful producer and his family was often talked about. Candy Spelling makes it a point to mention throughout that Aaron was one of the most successful and wealthy Hollywood producers. She also briefly mentions her "complicated" relationship with Tori, and of course she talks about their 70,000 plus square foot Mansion.

    If you don't think you care to know about the lavish life she led, then don't read this book. If you're looking for a quick read and an inside look at the Spelling legacy then pick it up. This is not the best book I ever read, but it wasn't the worst either. I think that the reviewers who bash her for writing this book do it unnecessarily. It is not all that bad and it is pure entertainment.

     

    18453249

    THE BLESSINGS is a story about an ordinary family...or what most of us would expect an ordinary family to be. They support each other, they gather almost every week together for a meal to celebrate, mourn, discuss family matters or just to watch football games and eat. They are a close Irish-Catholic family in Philadelphia. Most of them never leave but those who do ~ eventually come back, even if it is only for a short time or a holiday. They have the same fears and problems that most of us have except they are always ready to forgive and move on. They endure sickness, death, birth, marriages, divorces and all of the things that make up life.

    One of the females goes to college and becomes a photographer and an artist.   She has a showing which features plenty of dioramas that she has created. One is entitled (DIS)COMFORT... which is done "in layers of five shoeboxes stacked on top of one another like the floor of a tall, unwieldy house. On some floors, people sit alone in rooms; on others, the same people are all grouped together. She was trying to get at the feeling of being separate and together, belonging and not belonging at the same time."
    I read this book in one day. It's 260 pages. It will make you think about your family too.
    Here's the book description....
    3.78 of 5 stars
    When John Blessing dies and leaves behind two small children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come. His young widow, Lauren, finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother's wife Kate pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage. John's teenage nephew Stephen finds himself involved in an act of petty theft that takes a surprising turn, and nephew Alex, a gifted student, travels to Spain and considers the world beyond his family's Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, THE BLESSINGS reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.

    "There's no shortage of novels about the quirks and tragedies of large families, but The Blessings is a uniquely poignant, prismatic look at an Irish-Catholic clan as it rallies after losing one of its own."-Entertainment Weekly
    "
    And here's another reader's review...
    I had been hearing some positive things about this book around the library and so I decided to give it a read, not knowing what to really expect. It wound up being a very relatable and enjoyable book. There isn't really much by way of a plot, rather each chapter winds up being basically a short story about one member of a very close, extended Irish Catholic Philadelphia family over the course of several decades. They are all connected, and so answers that aren't necessarily provided during the course of one person's "story" wind up being provided during someone else's. Each character is both different enough from the others and fully fleshed-out enough to keep things interesting, and the choice to follow different people in each chapter makes it hard to guess where things may be heading next. There are certainly some surprises in store for members of the family throughout. Growing up with a large family that was very close makes many of the moments immediately resonate with me, and some of the problems faced throughout the course of the novel strike close to home as well. Still, the aforementioned lack of plot makes it feel somewhat uneventful when all is said and done. The Blessings do wind up being a great cast of characters though, and the family's unwavering love for and faith in each other no matter how much life throws at them is a joy to behold, and that alone makes this one of the better works of fiction you might run across this summer.
    ***

October 10, 2014

  • A YEAR OF FIRSTS....

     

    Once again, it's been several days since I last posted a blog.  Time just seems to get away from me.   I have nearly gone through an entire year of Firsts...next week will be the first anniversary of my husband's death.  I've had my first Thanksgiving and Christmas, and New Year's  without him.  I've had my 49th wedding anniversary without him by my side.  I had his birthday and mine without him.  I've even attended some funerals without him too.  Most of the time, I do OK with it.  Some times I feel a bit sad especially when I am with other couples that we used to do things with.  It's hard to listen to them talk about their vacations and plans for the future because I know I don't have him to do that with any longer.

    But, I am managing quite well.  I'm getting used to a very reduced amount of laundry, less food to buy, smaller portions to cook and having silence in the house.  Sometimes I play CDs and listen to  music which can bring back some memories.  Sometimes I just sit here in front of the computer and type away.   I pay the bills, and try to figure out how to fix things and what to buy when I need something done that he used to do. I do miss the fact that when he started a job, he worked until it was completed.  Now, I sit and wait for repairmen or contractors to finish up what I asked them to do months ago...Of course, the contractors haven't charged me yet so that's a blessing!

    I remember how many times we had conversations and he said to me.  "I don't want to sound morbid or even selfish but when the time comes, I hope I pass away before you do.  I don't want to be alone."   I agreed with his thinking.  He was certainly a people person.  He needed conversation and people to pass his time.  He liked nothing more than to do things for others.  I can't imagine him living without me...not to sound arrogant but I don't think he could or would have adapted as well as I have.  The things I like to do can be done by one person and that does keep my days filled with activities.  Most of them are by myself but that suits my personality quite well as I am an introvert.

     

     

    A dear friend of mine recently posted a blog based 15 things that made her happy.  She wrote them down within 5 minutes.  I decided to do the same.

    THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY...

    1. Library

    2. Good friends including my sisters

    3. Doing what I want when I want

    4. My cats

    5. Helping others

    6. Completing tasks on my own.

    7. Old photographs

    8. Writing 3 self-published books and planning on a fourth

    9. Losing weight

    10. Good TV shows

    11. Books

    12. Finding the perfect gift for someone

    13. Butterflies and hummingbirds

    14. Sound of my cats purring

    15.  Cozy home

    What would YOU list in 5 minutes?

     

    I'm still doing transcription for the Smithsonian Institute.  Currently I am working on a journal by a man in 1860 who is in Greenland and doing some exploring.   His "cursive" handwriting is poor at best and sometimes it is nearly illegible.  My eyes and brain are learning to read most of it but sometimes I get a headache and have to stop.  I've been transcribing the various journals  for 6 weeks now and still enjoy it very much.

     

    I did manage to read one book this time around.

     

     

    18404135

    This book kept me interested enough to keep on reading. After I finished, I realized the plot wasn't anything special. However, it took place in 1875 in England and it involved some royalty, a very handsome man and a lovely young woman. It wasn't over the top with sex or swearing. It was just a nice story about love and lust and attraction and what the world was like back then.  This is based on some real people which makes it a bit more intriguing.
    If you want an easy read with plenty of description ~ this could be the book for you. No deep messages ~ no lectures ~ just a nice love story.
    Here's the book description....

    In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

    Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

    Full of passion and drama, THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and a cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.

    and another reader's review...
    I did totally enjoy this novel. Daisy Goodwin has a wonderful way with details when she writes her books, this my second novel by her and like her first one, I was enthralled with all the sumptuousness of her details. The beautiful gowns and finery were vividly imagined, the excitement of the fox hunt, the splendour of the social gatherings of the rich and snobbish were all presented wonderfully in this book!
    I know this has a mixed bag of reviews, but in its defense this book is geared to the romantic at heart, the person who roots for the heroine Charlotte, who despite the fact, she is an heiress is totally unspoiled by her wealth. I mentioned that I didn't care for the Empress, I was put off by her constant demanding and her worries about wrinkles and losing her beauty. I didn't feel sorry for her that she was lonely and unloved, she came across as one who got what she wanted.

    Bay was a cad for so easily coming under the spell of The Empress.But without giving away anymore details, I enjoyed the time spent reading this lovely novel. I wanted more.

    *****

    I am currently in the middle of this next book.  I am not very impressed.  It is interesting that she admits that her husband Aaron Spelling basically wanted her by his side to show her off.  I think she is an intelligent woman but as she even says herself...."most people believe she is cold and heartless."  I'll let you know next time how I feel about the book when I have finished it.

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    November NANO novel writing Challenge is coming up soon.  I have an idea for a new book and plan to start writing it during November.