Monthly Archives: February 2010

>Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas *Review*

> Quaint. That’s the word that sticks in my mind as a descriptor for this book.

It’s 1936 and the Great Depression has taken its toll. Eighty-six-year-old Hennie Comfort has lived in Middle Swan, Colorado- up in the high country of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains- since before it was Colorado. When she meets seventeen-year-old Nit Spindle, Hennie is drawn to the young grieving girl. Nit and her husband have come to this small mining town in search of work, but the loneliness and loss Nit feels are almost too much to bear. One day she notices and old sign that reads “Prayers for Sale” in front of Hennie’s house and takes out her last nickel. Hennie doesn’t actually take money for her prayers, never has, but she invites the skinny girl in anyway. The harsh conditions of life that each has endured help them to create an instant bond, and a friendship is born, one of which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed.

Prayers For Sale is a book in which nothing much goes on. But that does not mean it’s boring. I was enchanted by this story of two women of such differing ages- one 17, one 86- becoming such fast friends. Hennie really took Nit under her wing, looked after her and her husband, and taught her about life up on the mountain. Through stories of her youth and her beginnings in the mining town of Middle Swan we see what shaped Hennie into the caring matriarch of the village and it is through these stories Hennie passes on her love of the colorful people who inhabit it.

Stories for Sale would probably have been a more accurate title for the book. The stories are what make this novel come to life, and Hennie has a boat load of them. She’s always ready to sit a spell and tell them to the fascinated audience and she weaves them expertly through the fabric of their lives. We learn of a cross eyed prostitute at the hookhouse, con artists and leather bellies; war widows, left behind children and a gambler who rides his horse right up to the bar. All these stories are told in the regional dialect of Middle Swan which adds to the stories quaintness.

Reminiscing is the one of the best ways to pass on the history of a locale or it’s people. I have learned many things about my family history from listening to my grandparents talk about the “good old days.” Some things I have written down, some I have committed to memory and already passed down to my children. These stories are a treasure to me and the stories that Hennie passed to Nit will be a treasure she can one day pass on to her children to teach them about the rich history of where they grew up.

If you are looking for excitement on every page this book is not one you should pick up, but if you are looking for a rich story with many interesting characters this lovely novel will dig its way into your heart

>The Friday 56

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Rules:
*Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find the 5th sentence.
*Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.
My excerpt comes from the book Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas.
Hennie stuck the tip of her needle into the fabric and wiggled her fingers to get the kinks out of them. She wondered how it was that rheumatism crippled them so much that she could barely grasp a rake and had to use both hands to lift a heavy pan off the stove, but it didn’t affect her quilting.

>What Happened to Silence in the Library?

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Shhhhh!

Lately I have been frequenting the library more often then usual and one thing I’ve noticed is that no one knows how to be quiet in the library anymore. When I was a youngster (and really it was not all that long ago) a library was a place of solitude. Students went there to use the encyclopedias for research (okay, maybe longer ago then I want to admit), parents went there to check out books for their children and the older generation checked out novels and read the newspaper.

I know the times they are a changin’. Now more and more students as well as adults are bringing their laptops to the library to do their research or their work. And while I can live with the clickety clack of the computer keyboards- what I can not deal with is all the extra unnecessary noise.

Tonight for instance I stopped off at the library to do some research between work and a meeting. I was doing just fine until a young lady in her early 20’s set up her laptop next to mine. Her volume must have been on high because when the computer booted up the Windows music was really blasting. Then the website she clicked on had some crazy special effects noises which she did turn down as she loudly “shushed” her computer. While noisily rummaging through her tote bag she pulled out a large bottle of water (did she not see the No Food or Drink in the Library sign posted at the door?) and proceeded to “glug, glug, glug” it until it was almost gone. Next came the “crinkle, crinkle” of a candy wrapper (again I refer to the sign) before her cell phone rang and she answered that giggling with a friend.

At this point I powered down my laptop and packed it away. Am I too “old school” as my 14-year old thinks or should I still be able expect silence in the library?

>Look Again by Lisa Scottoline *Review*

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When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops. The child in the photo looks exactly like her adopted son, Will. Could the child in the photo really be her son? Everything inside her tells her to deny the similarity between her son and the boy in the photo, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: If Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up?

I have read many Lisa Scottoline books and thought they were great. She always writes an excellent thriller. Very suspenseful. A page turner. I wasn’t as impressed with this one.

The storyline was excellent. Being a mother, the thought of having to give up my child for any reason would tear my heart out. And that is where this novel fell short. The emotion was not there. After her child is taken from her (I’m not giving anything away by saying that- you know it’s going to happen), Ellen doesn’t fall apart like I would. Like any mother would. Oh, she cries- a little. She worries about how he’ll adjust- for a minute. Then she stops to do a “redecorating” project and laughs while sh’e doing it. Not laughing through her tears with hysteria like I would be doing, but with delight. The emotions just didn’t seem true to me. Not from Ellen. Not from her father. Not from anybody. And that’s where I emotionally disconnected from the story. This book could have been so much better then it was had there been more depth of feeling in it. I’m not suggesting you not read this book, just to put some of your own heart in it when you do.

>Library Loot 2/23/2010

> Due to the fact that I went super nuts last week and checked out way too many titles, I made this week a lighter check out week. I had 11 books on my list of items to request, but showed a lot of restraint and only requested my 3 top picks for now. Hopefully those will be in soon.

Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here’s what’s in my bag:

Just as she gave voice to the silent women of the Old Testament in the Red Tent, Anita Diamont creates a cast of breathtakingly vivid characters- young women who escaped to Israel from Nazi Europe- in this intensely dramatic novel. Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for “illegal” immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast north of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp with profoundly different stories. All of them survived the Holocaust: Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Tedi, a hidden Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor. haunted by the unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, Shayndel, Leonie, Tedi, and Zorah find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country.

From the incomparable Anne Tyler, a wise, gently humorous, and deeply compassionate novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life. Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn’t bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new, spare, and efficient condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is – well, something quite different.

Barry Laverty, M.B., can barely find the village of Ballybucklebo on a map when he first sets out to seek gainful employment there, but he already knows that there is nowhere he would rather live than in the emerald hills and glens of Northern Ireland. The proud owner of a spanking-new medical degree and little else in the way of worldly possessions, Barry jumps at the chance to secure a position as an assistant in a small rural practice. At least until he meets Dr. Finegal Flahertie O’Reilly. The older physician, whose motto is never to let the patients get the upper hand, has his own way of doing things. At first, Barry can’t decide if the pugnacious O’Reilly is the biggest charlatan he has ever met or the best teacher he could ever hope for.

“It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.” With these words, Jim Harrison begins a riotous, moving novel that sends a sixty-something man, divorced and robbed of his farm by a late-blooming real estate shark of an ex-wife, on a road trip across America, armed with a childhood puzzle of the United States and a mission to rename all the states and the state birds to overcome the banal names men have given them. Cliff’s adventures take him through a whirlwind affair with a former student from his high school-teacher days twenty-some years before; to a “snake farm” in Arizona owned by an old classmate; and to the high-octane existence of his son, a big-time movie producer who has just bought an apartment over the Presidio in San Francisco. The English Major is the map of a man’s journey into- and out of- himself, and it is vintage Harrison: reflective, big-picture American, and replete with wicked wit.

( And strictly for fun!)

Helene Zahari’s politician husband keeps her on a tight leash and cancels her credit cards as a way of controlling her. Lorna Rafferty is up to her eyeballs in debt and can’t stop her addiction to eBay. Sandra Vanderslice, battling agoraphobia, pays her shoe bills by working as a phone-sex operator. And Jocelyn Bowen is a nanny for the family from hell (who barely knows a sole from a heel but will do anything to get out of the house). On Tuesday nights, these women meet to trade shoes and, in the process, form friendships that will help each triumph over their problems- from secret pasts to blackmail, bankruptcy, and dating. Funny, emotional and powerful, Shoe Addicts Anonymous is the perfect read for any woman who has ever struggled to find the perfect fit. (I checked out the audio book version of this one)

Hmm… a little bit of an older man/ exploring job & life theme going on this week!

Which of these books have you read that are simply fantastic…or not? Have you reviewed any of them? Let me know- I’d love to “hear” your thoughts!

>The Lost City of Z by David Grann *Review*

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I have always fancied myself as quite the adventurer, seeking out for parts unknown and laying eyes on something no human has ever seen before. In fact, I made elaborate plans while working with my son on the Hiking Merit Badge for Boy Scouts, to travel to a very remote location with glacial lakes and a big bear population, only to chicken out at the last minute. He took the Swimming Merit Badge instead.

That is why when I saw this book I knew it was the perfect way for me to live vicariously through someone else’s Amazonian exploits. And it was. It was fascinating!

The Lost City of Z is the true story of Englishman Percy Fawcett, a well known explorer who is almost single handedly responsible for mapping a large part of the Amazon jungle. PHF, as even his wife called him, was obsessed with finding the city of El Dorado that earlier explorers alluded to in their journals. He became a member of the Royal Geographical Society, secured money numerous times through them to finance trips into the “green hell.” As his obsession grew he invented codes- naming the lost city “Z”, and formulas for longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates so others could not figure out where he was starting his journey from. His greatest fear was that someone would get there before him.

Fawcett would start with only a few men, believing large groups of botanists, anthropologists, and pack animals was “suicide.” And indeed, many times he was right. His group would forge on all day in the hot, insect infested jungle with maggots burrowing into their wounds and gangrene infected limbs to get as many miles in a day as humanly possible. Or maybe not so humanly as Fawcett is reported to have a constitution unlike any other. He rarely contracted the fevers others did and never seemed to tire, a fact that irritated him greatly in others. He would ruthlessly plod on though others begged for rest.

In his journeys he encountered indian tribes who had never before seen a human. He never approached them with guns drawn, but with arms up and white handkerchief waving in the air as arrows zinged by his body, and soon befriended them with gifts of mirrors and knives. He was able to once observe a Guarayo indian crush “a plant with a stone and let it’s juice spill into a stream, where it formed a milky cloud. After a few minutes a fish came to the surface, swimming in a circle, mouth gaping, then turned on it’s back apparently dead. Soon there were a dozen fish floating belly up. They had been poisoned. A Guarayo boy waded into the water and picked out the fattest ones for eating. The quantity of the poison only stunned them…the fish that the boy left in the water soon returned to life and swam away unharmed.”

After the war as Fawcett became older and financing became harder to appropriate, Fawcett struck out with his son Jack and Jack’s best friend Raleigh, on a trip financed through the newspaper industry who had been promised updates sent back by indian runners along the journey. From this trip Fawcett would never return. Hundreds went out on rescue missions, many of them never returning either.

Author David Grann pored over journals and books written by Fawcett and other explorers into the region to try to recreate Fawcett’s trail to come to some understanding of PHF’s last trip and his death. Was he captured and killed by hostile indians or did he starve to death? Read The Lost City of Z to find out what the author finds out about the fabled El Dorado. Could it have existed?

How about you. Are you adventurous? What have you always dreamed of doing?

>The Blue Notebook By James A. Levine *Review*

> Revulsion roiled in the pit of my stomach- it was page 2. By page 6 I had put the book down on the coffee table and confessed to my husband “I don’t think I can read this book.” My dear sweet husband, to which everything is black or white, replied “Then don’t.” But it wasn’t that easy.

I thought about what I had read in a few short pages of this book while washing dishes and had come to the conclusion that I could bury my head in the sand and just choose not to believe things like this still really happen; or I could read the book, educate myself, and spread the message. I chose the latter.

Levine, a doctor at the Mayo clinic, was inspired to write this heartbreaking and terrifying novel when he was interviewing homeless children in Mumbai as part of his medical research. In the “Street of Cages” where child prostitutes ply their trade, literally encaged by their neglectful and abusive overseers (who pocket all the profits), Levine was struck by the sight of a young girl sitting outside her cage writing in a notebook. Batuk is a 15 year old girl who was sold to Mamaki Briila by her father when she was 9. Forced to service up to ten men a day from her “nest,” and subject to deplorable treatment by the men who pay for her services, she’s even abused by the doctor who examines her; her friend Puneet, meanwhile, nearly dies after being sexually assaulted by two policemen and is castrated at the first signs of puberty. Batuk tells her story matter-of-factly, in a voice reminiscent of The Color Purple’s. While painful to read, Batuk’s story puts a face on the mistreatment and disregard for children worldwide, as well as a testament to the hopefulness and power of literacy. All U.S. proceeds from the book will be donated to helping exploited children. (Publisher’s Weekly)

Young prostitutes on The Street of Cages.

Even after writing this book and donating the proceeds of it to The International and National Centers for Missing & Exploited Children, author James A. Levine was still so troubled by what he had seen that he made repeated trips to India to try to figure out how something positive could be made out of what was happening day after day. He found a place called The Sparrow’s Nest that was making a difference. Sparrows are the children of the Mumbaii prostitutes. The Sparrow’s Nest provides food, medical care, a place to sleep and an education to these children free of charge. Out of 230 Sparrows cared for over an 8 year period not a single one has entered into prostitution. In fact many have entered college and gone onto careers in teaching, business and hotel management. Read more about The Sparrow’s Nest here.

Even though this was an extremely difficult book to read and I am still processing what I read, I would recommend everyone to push past the disgust you will first feel and finish this book. It has definitely made a difference to me and I hope to other children as well. I initially checked this book out from the library but I went today and purchased this book and my donation to The Sparrow’s Nest is on it’s way.