Wednesday, August 19, 2009

REVIEW: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe


Connie Goodwin has just spent the last three years in the PhD program at Harvard Grad School. She is now preparing to start the research on her doctorial dissertation in her chosen field, the history of Colonial Life. Her advisor, the esteemed professor Dr. Manning Chilton urges her to look vigorously for new sources telling her an uncovered primary source could really make her in this field.

Meanwhile, Connie's mother, Grace, a free spirit and a healer living in Santa Fe has asked her to get her grandmother's home in Marblehead ready for sale. The house, uninhabited for a couple of decades, lies in near ruin. Connie moves into the house, devoid of any modern conveniences and really knowing she has her job cut out for her. As she picks up a dusty Bible, an old key falls out, attached to the key is a small piece of paper with the words, `Deliverance Dane" which Dr. Chilton tells her could be a name.

As the story evolves, Howe gives readers the story of what's happening to the actual Deliverance Dane in the 17th Century when witch hunts were at their peak, as well as the story of Connie in 1991 Massachusetts. Each of the stories are equally compelling with the reader nearly cursing the writer as she is pulled from one story into another just as the story is getting good. But it speaks to Howe's skill as an author when the reader gets pulled back a forth 300 years and immediately gets into the story again.

The reader will certainly be totally enthralled with the story of Deliverance Dane, a 17th Century healer accused of causing the death of a young child. Just as compelling is the story of Connie in 1991, her friend Liz, a new man in her life, steeplejack, Sam, and the person who is not the friend Connie has thought but instead a person who is out for his own gain, with near tragic consequences.

Howe is a credible writer, a historian of American and New England history herself whose ancestors were accused witches in Salem. It also has another interesting twist, one which is best left up to the reader to discover. This read is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It has become quite the popular novel of the summer mainly by word of mouth - my favorite way of discovering a new book/author. It is has been my pleasure to pass the word as well.

Friday, July 03, 2009

IT'S TWILIGHT TIME







Two weeks ago we took a quick trip the the ocean, ostensibly so I could view the sunset over the Pacific on the summer solstice as part of my - ahem - 60th binrthday gift to myself. We found a little cabin near the gorgeous Rialto Beach. However being so close to Forks, Washington, where the wildly successful Twilight books are set, we had to take some pictures of the local sites, especially for my friend, Tammy - the ultimate vampire fan! So enjoy the pictures and if you've read the books, you can imagine the setting a little better.

I'm Baaccckkkk!

I was SHOCKED when I saw it had been over five months since I had blogged! I have written plenty of reviews but haven't posted them here. After Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea inspired me I thought I should prioritize and keep up the blog as I so enjoy reading the blogs of others including Les at Lesley's Book Nook, Tammy at Under a Blood Red Sky and Jeanette's Reading Journal. I have received so many review books lately that I need a forum to share these and my other reads. I hope I can do as well as some of my favorite bloggers!

Review: THE MOTION OF THE OCEAN


This book is more than just a memoir, more than a travelogue, it is a story of the beginning of a marriage and all that entails - but instead of beginning it in a home in an up and coming neighborhood as many newlyweds do, Janna and Graeme decide to take a two-year honeymoon from Seattle to the Galapagos and on through the South Pacific islands to Hong Kong. Their journey is threatened by everything from pirates to typhoons, but the real threat to their happiness lies in themselves.

I so enjoyed this story. It was one I truly didn't want to end. Janna tells this very personal story in a way many can relate to, whether their living on land, or following their sailing dreams. I enjoyed finding out how the sailing community works (cruisers often travel somewhat together, arriving at the same port and socializing). The crossing was a lonely one at times, and it was great to see Janna come into her own as a sailor.

I loved her writing and hope that since she and Graeme are living on land now, perhaps she can get that novel published. If this book is any indication of her talents, she has a great writing career ahead of her.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

REVIEW: Almost Home by Pam Jenoff








As a State Department intelligence officer, Jordan Weiss' job has taken her to dangerous locations all around the world. However, one place she's refused to return to is England and the memories of Cambridge a decade earlier. When her dear friend Sarah, in the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, needs her in London, she decides to go be by her side. She requests and receives a transfer to London so she can be with her friend in her time of need, unaware that this new assignment may be one of the most dangerous yet.




Soon after her arrival an old friend, Chris, contacts her. He has some lingering doubts about what happened in Cambridge ten years previously, resulting in the death of Jordan's boyfriend, Jared. Chris convinces Jordan to return to Cambridge where they soon have more questions than answers as they quickly discover Jared's death wasn't the drowning accident they'd been led to believe.




Suspense and intrigue abound as Jordan searches for answers in Pam Jenoff's third novel (after The Kommandant's Girl and The Diplomat's Wife). The novel is full of twists and turns as Jordan comes closer to the truth. Jenoff deftly combines Jordan's story of 10 years ago with the present day in such a way that it will keep the reader glued to the pages as the mystery unravels. I am off to pluck her other two books off my TBR pile; I think I have discovered a new auto-buy author. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: Still Alice by Lisa Genova






I wasn't quite sure how I'd react to reading a novel about Alzheimer's disease. Having a mother who is 89 and suffering from dementia, it might come too close to home. But the rave reviews convinced me to read this. And I am so glad I did.




As a highly-respected cognitive psychology professor at Harvard, Alice Howland deals with the mind and memory all the time and is a much sought after speaker at conferences throughout the world. Her only worries seem to be how she is going to fit everything into her busy day and her younger daughter who seems dedicated to going to acting school instead of college.




When she becomes disoriented one day in an area that should have been very familiar to her, has word finding problems, and a missed period, at age 50, she naturally assumes she must be menopausal and makes an appointment with her doctor for a checkup. However it isn't long before her physician figures her problems may be much more severe. She is referred to a specialist who, after a series of tests, eventually diagnoses her with the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's dementia. Alice is stunned. How could this be happening to her? She ends up eventually telling her husband and then her children. At first Alice goes about her life as usual, continuing to give her lectures and other daily activities. It isn't long though before she discovers that the disease has taken over and her life will never be the same.




is an amazing novel by first-time author Lisa Genova who has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. Along with the book, The 36-Hour Day, this should be required reading for anyone caring for an Alzheimer's patient or even knowing someone tragically struck with this disease. Genova explains Alzheimer's in a way that is easy to understand and shows it so vividly in the character of Alice. I couldn't put this book down and am recommending it to everyone I know, whether or not they have been personally affected by Alzheimer's.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And the bad times


My oldest son and I have been estranged for almost 10 years. I am trying to work things out to mend the rift in our relationship. But it has been difficult. There have been family functions to which I have not been invited although my older children have. I have mixed feelings about this. At time I feel betrayed. At others I figure at least I can hear about him. He is married (he and his now wife lived with us for several months in the late 90s when their home was ruined in the aftermath of a terrible snowstorm) and last December they had a baby girl. I have never seen her although she does have my middle name (and that of my mother, for whom she is really named). But this picture of little Tea Renee is too precious. As a grandmother I have to embrace this child. It breaks my heart that I have missed so much. She was baptized at our family's old church Friday night and I was not invited. My daughter took this picture beforehand. I pray every day that my son will be able to let the past be behind him and think about the future. For what a legacy is this to this baby?

Pre-Halloween Fun











40 pounds of pumpkins - $24.00




Lunch out with family - $50.00




A day with our granddaughter (and son) - Priceless

Review: Identical Strangers by Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein


Growing up Stacie (Elyse) Schein felt she was always missing something. When, in her mid 30s she finds she has an identical twin sister she wants to meet her more than anything.

At first it would appear that the two women couldn’t be more different. Stacie (who goes by her middle name, Elyse by this time) lives a bohemian existence in a cramped Paris apartment. Paula is married and has a young daughter. But on closer inspection they are both film critics, both have an older brother (also adopted). It isn’t long after they find out about each other that the two meet – and are stunned.

Although this book says it is a memoir, it is much more than that. The two women discover soon after they meet that the reason they were split up was for an experiment being performed on twins and triplets who were intentionally separated for the study. Told in alternating points of view by both Paula and Elyse, they go into different twin studies, give statistics on twins, and much more.

As they find out more answers, they have more questions, the final one being who was their mother and why were they given up?

I couldn’t put this book done (read on my Kindle). As a mother of twins (even though they are fraternal – boy/girl) I probably had a higher interest in the story than someone who didn’t have twins but this is recommended to all. The rather shocking reasons for the study coupled with the story of their birth mother had me clicking through the book at a feverish pace, wondering how it was all going to turn out.

This book is well-written, interesting, and unputdownable – the perfect read.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Books on the Nightstand









In response to a blog a http://www.booksonthenighstand.com/ I am posting the pictures of what is on my night stand and immediately adjacent to it. Now the pictures on the bottom where those on my night stand and adjacent to it last week before I weeded out some books and moved them into the spare bedroom where they completely filled the right side of a double bookcase! I knew, of course I had a lot of books on the nightstand as I couldn't fit anything else on there, barely the lamp and the radio. In fact, the drawer was pulled out and there were books on it too and I was terrified that they were going to break the drawer in half before too long. Thank goodness for a strong all-wood nightstand! But I never believed I had as many in there as I did. You will also note my beloved Kindle on the night stand. That was supposed to completely replace my book-buying obsession. Ha! And I am not even going to count the number of books in the Kindle, let's just say between samples and actual books, it has now gone to 12 pages. I admit it. I am a bookaholic. (You note I am not taking a picture of the actual library, or all the books stores in boxes).

REVIEW: Schooled by Anisha Lakhani


What Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus did for Nannies and Lauren Weisberger did for the fashion industry, Anisha lakhani has now done for the NYC private school teachers and tutors.

Becoming a teacher over her parents’ objections, recent Columbia grad Anna Taggart is thrilled to land a plumb job as a teacher at a posh Manhattan private school. However, her salary is barely going to cover her rent in a cramped 5th floor walkup let alone her other expenses. However Anna feels teaching is her calling and can’t wait to teach the 7th graders Shakespeare and Lord of the Rings in her own fun way. It’s not long before she discovers she can make literally thousands extra a week “tutoring” wealthy students. The word tutor is a bit of a misnomer. Anna soon discovers she’s not tutoring at all but is expected to actually do the students’ homework for them. She at first doesn’t want to sacrifice her principles but when she discovers “tutoring” can not only pay her rent on a luxury apartment but buy her designer clothing and accessories and a lifestyle she’s only dreamed with, she’s clamoring for even more students.

Based on the author’s own experiences, SCHOOLED may shock those who think the road to Ivy League Schools is paved with the brightest and best. Lakhani exposes a portion of society that feels money can buy anything including good grades for students whose vocabulary and comprehension are at primary school level.

Will Anna come to her senses and realize what is really happening here or will she fall victim to the high-living Manhattan lifestyle her tutoring gives her?
Lakhani is a terrific writer and this book was enjoyable from beginning to end. It flows very smoothly and goes by so fast that the reader is sure to be a bit disappointed to find they’ve come to the end. This is a glorious debut from an author readers will be clamoring to hear more from and it can’t come too soon. Highly recommended,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

REVIEW: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


I knew right off I would enjoy this book when I read reviews saying it was reminiscent of Helene Hanff’s classic 84 Charing Cross Road, a series of letters between a New York City book lover and a clerk in the London bookstore. A book I loved so much that when in London I sought out its location where only a plaque on a building gives any clue to the former site.

Writer Juliet Ashton is stumped. She has no idea as to the subject of her next book. She is tired of the light-hearted items she wrote to keep her fellow English subjects amused during the war and wants to write something with a bit more substance.

Then she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Dawsey has found her name in a Charles Lamb book she once owned and is wondering if she can help him find more books by the author.

As Juliet exchanges letter with Dawsey and eventually other residents of Guernsey who are members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – a group formed in haste as an alibi to the Germans who occupied the island during World War II. As she continues to receive letters, these people whose lives were so changed so drastically during the German Occupation captivate her. She decides a visit to Guernsey is in order. She also is intrigued about the stories of the now-missing Elizabeth McKenna, a much-loved and important member of the community. The letters also include correspondence between Juliet and her publisher as well as her best friend, a young wife and mother in Scotland which helps to lend depth to the novel as she is able to give her first-hand observations of the islanders she has met.

You’ll laugh, cry, and be absolutely charmed by this wonderful epistolary novel. If you love books you’ll enjoy reading Juliet’s observations of booksellers and readers and why she broke up with her fiancé on the eve of her wedding.

Sales of books by and about Charles Lamb are sure to increase as readers of this novel will want to know more about the book that brought Juliet to Guernsey; sales of Jane Austen books as well as those by the Bronte sisters may also be affected.

The Guernsey tourism industry is also sure to benefit – I certainly would love to book a trip to see this quaint island, out of the way of the usual UK tourist trade.

Sadly, we won’t have any more books from Ms. Shaffer who passed away earlier this year; but perhaps there’s a hidden manuscript somewhere. We can only hope. As it is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is going on top of my reading favorites for the year. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 04, 2008

RIP - A Fallen Hero - Andy Palmer



RIP Andrew Jackson Palmer

I didn't know young Andy Palmer, but as a employee of Jefferson Healthcare had met his father, local gynecologist Bob Palmer several times and had spoken with his mother, Janet on the phone. This is a small town, an a tragedy such as this touches the entire community. Andy graduated high school two months ago--who knew that less than two months later his memorial service would be held in the very place where he celebrated his graduation. Having a grandson the same age, made it even more personal for me.

I wanted more people than those in the Pacific Northwest to know about this outstanding young man and so have included the obituary that was shared with the hospital employees as well as a brief story from regarding his memorial service today. A more complete story about Andy can be found at the Port Townsend Leader newspaper.


Andrew Jackson Palmer shared almost nineteen years with us on the Olympic Peninsula. He was born in Port Angeles, WA on September 10, 1989 to Janet and Bob Palmer as their third son.

Andy attended the Children’s Montessori School, Fairview and Franklin Elementary, Roosevelt Middle Schools in Port Angeles and Port Townsend High School. At 6’5” and 240 pounds he was a natural for football and valued being part of the Port Townsend Football Team for four years. Bonfires on the beach, sporting clays, games of urban golf, fugitive, dark, ultimate Frisbee, baseball, weight lifting, reading and spending time with his many friends filled his days. Andy was a devoted Big Brother and has a little brother in our community. He was very proud of his big red Dodge 2500 turbo diesel pickup truck and might be found out bucking hay for local farmers, working at A+ Rentals, Les Schwab or more recently at Auto Works, all in Port Townsend.

Andy is survived by his loving parents, brothers Rob, a firefighter and Henry, a merchant mariner, grandparents Bob and Ina in Sequim, aunt Beverly and cousin Camille in Santa Barbara, aunt Marilyn Acker of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, family in Canada of aunt Cheryl Acker and cousins Gayle in Kamloops, Joyce and Josh in Vancouver, Karen, Grant and Kayla in Iqaluit, and many more.

Andy had an unerring sense of right and wrong since childhood. He will always be remembered as one who held himself to the highest principles of truth, fairness, justice and kindness. He was loyal, honest and trustworthy- loved by all that knew him. He will be missed but we will all be better for having known him. Andy would ask those who survive him to conduct their lives with integrity and compassion for a better world.

Andy died honorably as a firefighter for the National Park Service on the Iron Complex fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Weaverville, CA on Friday July 25, 2008.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for Monday, August 4 at 10 AM at McCurdy Pavilion, Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington. All who knew of Andy are invited.

In lieu of flowers, an Andy Palmer Memorial Scholarship fund has been established through the Port Townsend High School Scholarship Foundation. Donations may be sent to the Foundation at 538 Calhoun Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

MEMORIAL

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. -- The sound of fire engines echoed through Port Townsend streets, as a precession of 100 fire trucks honored a fallen firefighter.

Eighteen-year-old Andy Palmer died while battling a wildfire in California's Shasta Trinity-National Park two weeks ago. He had been a firefighter at Olympic National Park for only one month.

"When he got called to go to California he was just thrilled, just on cloud nine," said family friend Andy Loos.

Representatives from 54 different agencies crowded the memorial service at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. Some flew in from California and Oregon to pay their respects.

"Andy probably would have said 'unbelievable,' " Loos said. "He would have felt this truly amazing, I think."

Friends described Palmer as a "gentle giant." At 6 foot 4 inches and 240 pounds, the Port Townsend High School graduate towered over everybody. His size made him a natural offensive lineman during his high school years.

"Andy loved playing football. I never started a game without a hug from him and a prayer of strength from his favorite movie Boondock Saints," said teammate Christian DuBois.

He added that Palmer never turned down a free plate of food.

Palmer joined the Olympic National Park as a seasonal firefighter. He died on his first assignment when a tree fell on him. Port Townsend High Athletic Director Scott Ricardo said Palmer told a colleague "to tell his mom and dad I love them" as he was being hoisted from the fire lines.

Palmer would have turned 19 in September and planned to major in mechanical engineering at Montana State University in the fall.

A scholarship fund has been set up in his name, for future Port Townsend High students.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Entertainment Weekly - The New Classics: Books - 100 Best Reads from 1983-2008 -

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Those I own are in blue, those I've read are in red

Monday, July 14, 2008

Early Review: Testimony by Anita Shreve


TESTIMONY
Anita Shreve
October 21, 2008
Little, Brown, and Company
Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 0-316-05986-2
320 pages

Anita Shreve never plays it safe with her books and her latest, Testimony, is no exception.

Avery Academy is a small private school in Vermont. Everyone who attends has been carefully screened and selected to attend. From the rich young freshmen to the athletic seniors tapped for college play; no one attends Avery Academy by chance.

But for Avery Academy, all is not as it seems from outside its gates. Parties, which include alcohol and drugs, still occur and kids still get in trouble. This sets the scene for a horrible sex scandal from which no one will come out unscathed, not the students, not the parents, not the headmaster of the school; and not even the citizens of the town of Avery who don’t even usually pay too much attention to what goes on behind the hallowed gates up on the hill just out of town. Parents find that even though they pay for the best education for their children, send them to the best schools available, they still can’t protect them. Adults find that passionate desires can have far-reaching effects that can change lives forever.

Told from multiple points of view (I counted 20) in less talented hands the narration could get confusing. But with Shreve, it did not. Perhaps that was because with over a dozen of these narrators we only hear from them once or twice.

However the story essentially belongs to three people: Mike, the headmaster of the school who we get to know the best, and Silas and Noelle, the two star-crossed lovers; Silas the basketball star, the local boy made good, son of average farmers from the town of Avery and Noelle, the talented musician destined for Julliard. As the story of the events of that one evening of sex and alcohol unfolds it is becomes clear that Silas stands to lose it all. But what sets in place such behavior uncharacteristic of the normally mild-mannered youth is at the crux of the rest of the story.

A graphic beginning describes the events of that tragic evening; and this is so graphic that it could tend to turn off some readers, readers who may be unfamiliar with Shreve’s work. But those who have come to know and trust Shreve as an author will be compelled to keep reading and be certainly glad they did as the events unfold, a bit at a time, through the voices of not only Mike, Silas, and Noelle, but parents, classmates, and the other students involved in the scandal. We also hear from a reporter who eventually wins the Pulitzer for his reporting of the events.

However as the story develops, readers see that the scandal is only the tip of the iceberg for a greater tragedy that will even more deeply affect those involved.

This is Shreve at her best. She tells a compelling story so eloquently that is one of those deemed “unputdownable” -- be sure to start this one early in the day so you will have plenty of time to finish as once you begin it, you will not be able to stop turning the pages.

Early Review: True Colors by Kristin Hannah


I was privileged to get an early copy of True Colors by Kristin Hannah for review. It doesn't come out until early 2009, but to pique your interest:

TRUE COLORS
By Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Press
2009

There are several things readers have come to expect when they read a Kristin Hannah book—that they’ll get an amazing, compelling, emotional story, that they can’t put down once they’ve started. While TRUE COLORS is no exception, there is a degree of depth to this novel that sets it apart from anything the author has written in the past. A degree of depth that won’t simply satisfy her legions of current fans, but I dare say should bring her to the attention of many more.

Spanning nearly 30 years in the lives of the Grey sisters of Water’s Edge, a waterfront ranch on the shores of Washington state’s picturesque Hood Canal, first meet the sisters in 1979 just after the death of their beloved mother. It’s obvious from the beginning that her loss is going to leave an enormous hole in their hearts and have long-lasting effects in the lives of these young girls. But even worse, their grieving father Henry buries his soul when he buries his wife, coping with life by drowning his sorrows in a bottle of hard liquor.

The book quickly fast forwards 13 years where we find oldest sister Winona just beginning her law practice in the nearby town of Oyster Shores, Aurora a young wife and mother of twins, while the youngest the beautiful but fragile Vivi Ann is an expert barrel racer on the western rodeo circuit, living at home, helping her father on the failing ranch that has been in their family for generations. Vivi Ann soon comes up with a plan to save the ranch and resurrects it into a thriving horse arena for lessons and competitions.

Meanwhile Winona, who has been fighting a weight problem all her life, may, at long last, have romance come her way when her childhood crush, veterinarian Luke Connelly returns to town. She is excited that this time their relationship may become more than just friendship—until he is captivated by the beautiful ViviAnn. Although Vivi Ann doesn’t totally return his feelings, they eventually become engaged. Winona has a difficult time hiding her jealousy. All of this causes a rift between the sisters that won’t soon be mended, especially when the new ranch hand and quintessential “bad boy” Dallas Raintree excites Vivi Ann much more than Luke ever can. This sets in place a tragedy that changes the complexion of the sisters’ relationship forever.

This also sets in place events that propel this novel from one of Kristin Hannah’s hallmark “domestic dramas” into one that is part legal drama, a coming of age story of a teenage boy, a story of redemption and forgiveness, and of loyalty and unfailing belief in someone when it really counts.

Kristin Hannah excels in knowing how to pull at the reader’s heartstrings, to touch their emotional sweet spot, and with TRUE COLORS she pulls at those heartstrings and doesn’t let go. TRUE COLORS is Kristin Hannah at her very best – maybe even better than her very best. As usual readers need to keep the hankies handy for the read that is absolutely unputdownable and totally satisfying. As impossible as it seems, Kristin Hannah just gets better and better with each read; I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Review: Molokai by Alan Brennert


I didn't know when, if ever, a book would ever attempt to overtake Katherine as my favorite book of all time and although Molokai by Alan Brennert hasn't quite succeeded, it has come darn close and I am afraid has taken over the #2 slot from Outlander. When one cries tears of joy and sadness for the last 150 pages of a 388 page book, you know it has touched a chord. Spanning nearly 80 years from the late 19th Century to 1970, it is a story of epic proportions.
Young Rachel Kalama is taken from her home at the tender age of 7 and by age of 8 is interred at Kalaupapa on Molokai, more commonly known as Father Damien's Leper Colony. Apart from an uncle who is already there, she is all alone. Yet even with her sadness, with her little girl sweetness, she quickly charms everyone she comes in contact with and makes several very special friends along the way including two women who takes on motherly roles who couldn’t be more different from one another. From Rachel’s friendships with the other young girls – who are all there as if the were orphaned, to romances, to mischief she gets herself into, Brennert breathes such life into this wonderful character. So much so that when you read historical accounts of Father Damien’s Colony you fully expect to read her name among the former residents.

Rachel quickly gets into the reader's heart in such a special way, taking a hold of it and not letting go, not even after the last page is turned. She will stay with me for a long, long time. The story is one that made me for once glad for my insomnia as I was able to stay up until 3:30AM finishing. Then I couldn’t wait to discuss it with my husband and fellow readers the next day. I simply can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you love a good story with characters that simply stay with you for a long time, if you love the Hawaiian Islands, if you are more interested in reading a bit more about Hansen’s Disease (as leprosy is now more correctly called) or are simply just wanting a good book that you can’t put down than I urge you to give Molokai a try. My only regret is that I didn’t get it to it sooner. It had been recommended to me about four years ago and had been on my TBR pile for nearly three years. Don’t make that mistake. Read this book and have your heart deeply touched.

Review: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah







I usually begin my reviews with a brief synopsis, but in the case of Firefly Lane, I want to get the important stuff out there first: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Kristin Hannah is at the top of her game with this emotional three hanky read!

Just what is a friend? And what would you do for your best friend? What kind of sacrifices would you make? Many of us will never find this out. But some of us will. Some of us already know. Kristin Hannah shows us with this outstanding novel what friendship really is and how it can endure over the years. She shows us the power of friendship.

Now for the a few details – without revealing so much as to rob readers of discoveries they should make themselves. Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart meet when they are in junior high – both felt they were outsiders. Tully comes into Kate’s life a low point. She is the most beautiful, classiest person she has ever met – and she has moved right across the street. But Tully has a secret, one she hides with a lie. Eventually Kate learns to trust Tully and they become best of friends with a friendship that lasts through college and as their lives take very different paths. But this doesn’t mean everything is always easy between the two. And it doesn’t mean that one isn’t jealous of the other, but it does mean that they are there for one another. Which, as the story evolves, reveals itself in a powerful way.

Those who grew up in the 70s will love the references to the songs as the decades go by. Those who grew up in the Pacific Northwest will enjoy all the references to familiar events and locations that make everything come to life and lend an air of authenticity to the novel.

I have followed Kristin Hannah’s writing career from the beginning. From its start with a romantic hero with the unusual name of Stone Man McKenna to a wonderful time-travel set in the San Juan Islands (Once in Every Life) to the gut-wrenchingly emotional If You Believe to her breakout novel On Mystic Lake and then several bestselling novels that have made her a favorite with readers everywhere. Now with Firefly Lane she has simply reached the summit of the mountain. Make yourself comfortable – set yourself by the fireplace, grab a cup (or two or three) of your favorite beverage, a box of tissues, and put your feet up. You’ll be there for a while because you won’t want to put this book down once you’ve started. Oh – and you’ll probably want to your best friend’s phone number handy for you’ll want to phone her as soon as you finish.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Five Things Meme

I usually don’t do these memes, but came across this on Les’ blog and it looked like fun:

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:

- Living in a nearly 100 year old house on Bainbridge Island, WA
- Not feeling too much like Christmas having only recently lost my father
- Raising 16 year-old twins who each had their own cars and waiting up late at night waiting for the sound of the cars in the driveway
- Reviewing books and editing Rawhide and Lace Magazine (I was probably on a deadline)
- Still waiting for my ship to come in

5 Things on my To-Do List today:

- Wrap Chrstimas Gifts
- Get rid of clothes in spare bed room
- Order gifts from Heifer international for my brothers
- Finish Christmas cards
- Finish online shopping

5 Things I would do if I were a millionaire:

- Quit work and write that great American novel (and, in a perfect world, babysit my granddaughter)
- Revisit Ireland and Wales
- Move to one of our favorite places (we’d have two homes one in the San Juans and one somewhere warm – probably Kauai they've been our favorite places to visit over the years so why not live there?)
- Buy a boat hahahaha
- Have lap band surgery

5 Things I'll never wear again (or have never worn):

- High heels
- Hot pants
- Pantyhose
- Polyester
- Bikini

5 Favorite Toys:
- iPhone
- Laptop
- iPod
- Anything Kyra’s playing with
- TiVo

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

FREE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN TICKETS




No, I'm not giving them away. But I did get them -- in a roundabout way. Last night we went to the local Casino -- not something we do very often but one of my coworkers was "celebrating" her last day of work so a few of us met her there for some fun. I said at the beginning of the evening that all I wanted to do was win enough money to buy Bruce Springsteen tickets. I wanted to go to his March 29th concert so badly but couldn't really afford the tickets (around $220 or so) and they were going on sale the next morning. Now you have to realize, I usually lose the $20 I choose to play. Within 1/2 hour I lost that $20 on the penny slots and then since I had another $20 bill burning a hole in my wallet, I went and and got another slot ticket. I went to a nickle machine near where two coworkers were playing and sat down. It was one I didn't know how to play but I kept hitting the 18 credits. It got down to 40 credits left and I was trying to decide whether I was going to go for another $20 ticket or not. Then the machine started going crazy and giving me free spins. It finally got up to over 5000 credits. I did some quick math and thought - whee - I won over $25.00! I figured I'd take my winnings and go to another machine. I printed out my ticket and it read $271.10!!!!! Enough for my Bruce tickets! I didn't have to be told twice to go cash that baby in. We spent another hour or so at the casino watching everyone else play :-) So this morning my dear husband gets up at 8 AM to go down to the Ticketmaster outlet, stands by the front door for an hour and finds out that they are no longer a Tickemaster site!!! This is the little indy record shop I have always thought so highly of. Anyway, John rushes back home and sets up his own Ticketmaster account on the laptop despite never having tried to get tickets before. What a trooper. Alas I had to come to his rescue. By the time I ended up signing on we ended up with two general admission tickets -- no chairs - ugghhhh. But at least we have tickets. Let's see if these two people who are the same age as Bruce can manage this! Perhaps we can go to Stub Hub later and get better seats if we have to. But the best thing is -- Even when all is said and done, paying for a few drinks last night, I still have the $40 in my wallet I started with and Bruce tickets that I won the money for.

We figured the general admissions and decent seats went within 15 minutes in Seattle. I just went to Stub Hub and the great seats are going for over $1500. Even the GA are going for at least 50% more than what we paid. Darn! John just said we should have thought this through and bought four tickets. As they say hindsight is 20/20. I am really looking forward to this because I love his political diatribes and with the 2008 election coming around you know he is going to have A LOT to say! And the general admission will still be better than when I saw him over 20 years ago in Tacoma from the second to last row of the Tacoma Dome.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Great Bumperstickers


This is a car we saw on a side street as we were leaving our hotel in Olympia, WA a couple of weeks ago. So many times I try to remember the great sayings on the bumperstickers -- this time I actually pulled over and took a picture. Click to enlarge to read them better!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

OCTOBER READS







Not a very good month as far as number of books read -- was reading too much reference on Alzheimer's I'm afraid. But I did finish the following:

Lottery - Patricia Wood - A

I was absolutely mesmerized by this gem of a read that tells of the $12 million lottery win by a man who is mentally challenged (NOT retarded but slow ). Plowed through it like mad! It was wonderful to read. First time I think I have ever read a book set in Everett, WA! (a town north of Seattle, not known to be the most, well shall we say, picturesque) - the aroma of the mills is mentioned and that says it all .

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer - A

This was a rare re-read for me. I had to read it again after seeing the movie. This story of Chris McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) and his fool-hardy adventures has been fodder for many discussions with my husband. I am sure more are to come as he is reading it now.

Service Included by Phoebe Dramrosch - B+
This was a Book Sense pick and is another in a succession of foodie memoirs I've been addicted to of late. This one is from a server/captain of Per Se restaurant in NYC (owned by Thomas Keller who also owns the famous French Laundry in northern CA). This tells of true gourmet/fine dining. It was very interesting to see how others dine - I doubt I will ever taste many of the foods on the menu at this place but I enjoyed the read.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Concert Review: Iris Dement, Olympia, Washington 10/20/07






Iris Dement is a folk/Americana singer who is probably best known for her song, "Our Town" which was the song played over the closing credits over the last episode of Northern Exposure or as a duet partner for such singers as John Prine. This is a copy of the review I sent to No Time to Cry, the Iris Dement internet discussion list of which I have been a member in some way or another for over 10 years:

Iris was in Olympia, WA October 20th for a fundraiser for both the Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America (the same organization that brought her to Olympia two years ago) and for the Olympia Film Society. One thing I love about Iris - at the end of the show she asked concert-goers to contribute to these organizations whereas the opening act was hawking his CDs and art prints (perhaps he needed the $).
The show was to start at 8PM; we had conflicting reports of when we could pick up our tickets (all were will-call, no Ticketmaster for this show) and when the doors would open (7 or 7:30). We got in line at about 6:25, the box office opened at 6:30, the doors at 7. We went in the right side aisle and then saw the piano over to the left and I thought- aha - that is going to be the best place (special guests already had the first 4-5 rows center) so we found seats on the aisle in the 3rd row on the left side in this auditorium that seats around 600 (and amazingly wasn't sold out!)

There was a rather forgettable, and thankfully short, opening act. After a short intermission, Iris took the stage. I chose not to keep a set list during the evening and instead within half an hour after the show tried to write down the songs that were sung (I had my iPod to jog my memory). I can say she looked better and sounded better, was more self-assured than I have ever seen her.

Other than some strange leopard-print stockings, she was dressed lovely in a velvety skirt with jacket, very nice and even her hair looked very stylish and healthy. That said, it was clear she was still Iris with her sense of humor, her stating that it still felt strange for her to be sitting up on stage with us watching her. She said she likes it, but it's still strange. She said many nice things about her mother ("I may have tired her out,I'm afraid. She'll be 90 in February") in an introduction to Mama Told Her Truth.

Other than the first song and the encore, I have no idea what order the songs were sung - and forgive me for any omissions or errors as this was done by memory:

When My Morning Comes Around - started the show

New Songs:

Mama's Truth
River of Tears - Intro'd as a happy song
Anniversary Song (we have no title, others have called it This Love's Gonna Last, but she called it an anniversary song and since we are celebrating our anniversary on the 24th, I am calling it the Anniversary Song)
How I Learned Now to Pray (I loved this)
Goodbye Party (Great old Cindy Walker song)
That's the Way Love Goes (I had never heard her to this or the above song in concert before and particularly enjoyed this one)
****Another unfamiliar song - Applause was too loud when she announced who wrote/sang it originally

IRIS SONGS:
Mama's Opry
After You're Gone
He Reached Down
No Time to Cry
Let the Mystery Be
Easy's Getting Harder
The Way I Should
Encore:Sweet is the Melody --- and the piano broke - she mentioned earlier how nice it was to have a beautiful piano as it wasn't always the case. When this happened - and truly keys weren't playing - she said,"Looks aren't everything" She tried boldly to go on before switching to the guitar for:
Our Town

Her voice was strong, but as I believe others had mentioned, most of her songs had different arrangements than what we are familiar with on her CDs and previous concerts. I have no idea why that is, but after a bit, and being somewhat prepared, it really didn't make any difference. This was Iris and it was wonderful to be in the moment. She brought me to tears more than once. We had wonderful concert partners, a coworker of mine and his wife (he has been to about as many Iris concerts as I have so is a huge fan and agreed this was huge fan and agreed this was one of the best concerts she's ever done.



My conclusion is that it WAS the best Iris concert ever; if not the best concert I've ever been to. And this is despite the fact she didn't do my favorite, Walking Home. If you haven't seen Iris live, this is her best time. Even if you have, get out to see her again. She is magnificent.

Movie & Book Review: Into the Wild


I first read Into the Wild ten years ago when it first came out after finding out that parts of it are set in Carthage, Miner County, South Dakota pop. 187, a town where my mother has family and where her cousin was once mayor. My great-grandmother is buried in Howard, the Miner county seat. So that was the book and movie’s initial appeal. I mean this town is the true “blink-and-you-miss-it” town. That is, if one would ever even happen to drive through it as it isn’t on a main road. So I wondered, how young Chris McCandless, the subject of the book and movie ended up in Carthage in the first place.

Then I read that Sean Penn was finally making a movie adapted from the book and filming in Carthage. I thought it would be really interesting to see Carthage on the big screen. The first day it was showing in our little theater here in town I Shanghaied my husband (who really isn’t a movie goer, in fact if you ask him, on a scale of 1-10, that he’d suggest going to a movie as a form of entertainment he’d probably tell you –2) into going with me for the matinee. Now John had seen the Oprah show where Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch (who portrays young McCandless in the film) were guests along with author Jon Krakauer and didn’t think too much of McCandless so he was even less excited than usual about seeing this film. If he had known ahead of time that it was 140 minutes long he’d probably had left the theater after his first carton of Milk Duds. But the trooper he is, he persevered for my sake.

The movie adequately told the story of young Christopher McCandless who after graduating from Emory University, took off on a two year road trip, calling himself Alexander Supertramp. Very early on his car was destroyed and he abandoned it, burned what little money he had left and took off on foot. Some one say he was idealist others an adventurer, but others just reckless. Everyone seems to have his or her own opinion. What is clear is that he was found two year later dead in an abandoned bus just north of Denali National Park in Alaska. However his adventures along the way and the people he met tell a very interesting story. And the just how he died is still fodder for speculation although Krakauer does give his theory. Hirsch as McCandless is wonderful – his portrayal deserves an Oscar nomination as does that of Hal Holbrook as Ron Franz, the elderly recluse who befriends him. Told mostly in flashbacks, the movie suffers from uneven editing. I was also disappointed in the cinematography—the Alaskan scenes could have been brilliant but they were just average. That said, the South Dakota prairie was breathtaking. And it was fun to see Carthage. I think the entire town was filmed.

After watching the movie, I was compelled to read the book again. At only 207 pages it’s a fairly quick read. It was even more meaningful after watching the movie. I read many passages out loud to my husband and told him I thought he might change his opinion of McCandless. He is now reading the book. I don’t have the absolutely negative opinion of young Chris as many people have. He was a bit reckless, that’s for sure. But no more than many young men. As Krakauer mentions late in the book, it’s that attribute of daring that contributes to many young men signing up for the military—particularly in times of war. Yes, he did some things wrong. But don’t we all. The only reason that we’re reading about him was that he made some little mistakes that ended up killing him. He was actually a smart kid and I found a lot in him to be admired. It was sad he had to die. Any loss of life is sad. And that is what bothers me the most. That a parent lost a child, that a sister lost a brother, that a world lost a promising young man. There are lessons to be learned here, of course, but was the price too great?

Book Review: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron



I had heard about this book for quite awhile before I ended up reading it. It wasn’t that it didn’t appeal to me. It did. Very much. I just couldn’t justify paying $20 for a 137-page book. Even after seeing the author on Oprah and laughing out loud several times, I didn’t buy the book. Les’ review almost convinced me though. I still couldn’t see how a millionaire socialite could speak to me. How could I identify with her? Eventually I checked the book out from my local library. I was sorry I hadn’t read it earlier. I found out we were alike in more ways than we were different. She is a little older than me, but I am experiencing some of the same issues she is regarding aging. However it wasn’t the essays on the physical aspects of aging that spoke to me the most. I loved her essays on life and friendships and child raising. But two of my favorite essays were the ones to do with reading --- one had to do with being unable to read, the decline of eyesight and having to place cheater eyeglasses all over the house (oh how I can relate!)

“I can’t read a word on the menu. I can’t read a word in the weekly television listings, I can’t read a word in the cookbook. I can’t do the puzzle. I can’t read a word anything at all unless it’s written in extremely large type, the larger the better. The other day I pulled up something I wrote years ago, and it was written in something so mall I can’t imagine how I wrote the thing in the first place. I used to write in twelve point type; now I am up to sixteen and thinking about going to eighteen or twenty.

And this

“Reading is bliss. But my ability to pick something up and read it—which has gone unchecked all my life up until now—is now entirely dependent on the whereabouts of my reading glasses. I look around. Why aren’t they in this room? I bought six pair of them last week on sale and sprinkled them throughout the house, yet none of them is visible. Where are they?”

My other favorite essay is one titled, On Rapture -- having to do with the spending several days in rapture with reading a book. It was then I knew, that despite her millions, her thinness, her cosmopolitaness, and her fame, that we were soul sisters.

“I have just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapture—with a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world. I was reminded of all sorts of things in my own life. It was in anguish over the fate of its characters. I felt alive, and engaged, and positively brilliant, bursting with ideas, brimming with memories of other books. I’ve loved. I composed a dozen imaginary letters to the author, letters I’ll never write, much less send. I wrote letters of praise. I wrote letters relating entirely inappropriate personal information about my own experiences with the author’s subject matter. I even wrote a letter of recrimination when one of the characters died and I was grief-stricken. But mostly I wrote letters of gratitude: the state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read, but it doesn’t happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I’m truly beside myself.”

What avid reader hasn’t felt this way??

It was these two essays that convinced me that I had to own this book. No, I still didn’t pay $20 for a copy but I did fine a pristine used copy at Amazon.com so I can read these essays again and again. And enjoy them again and again. Maybe, as I grow even older I will find that I have even more in common with the author. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Birthday & A Fabulous New Gastronomic Discovery


It is AMAZING to me that after over seven years in Jefferson County and nearly four in Port Townsend we had yet to eat at the highly recommended Wild Coho Restaurant. For some reason this little restaurant in the Uptown District with only 10 tables had intimidated me. Perhaps it was that it seemed so elegant that I was afraid we'd feel out of place. The chef came to Port Townsend via two of the finest Seattle restaurants and we're lucky to have him. I was intimidated despite having been to some of the nicest restaurants in Seattle and other cities. Well tonight was John's birthday and I decided to surprise him with reservations at what proved to be an absolutely delightful and charming restaurant. On this, a Wednesday evening, only half the tables were full so we got the full attention of the server and our service was impeccable. And the meal, it was easily the best meal we'd ever had in Port Townsend. We started with Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Sage and Mascarpone followed by Organic Seasonal Greens, Tomato-Rosemary Vinaigrette, Roasted Tomatoes, Mt. Townsend Trailhead Cheese and Little Garlic Croutons. For our entrees John chose Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Grilled Onion-Artichoke Risotto and Tomato-Mint Relish and I had Grilled Flat Iron Beef Steak with Potato Garlic Gratin, Morel-Roasted Onion. Of course since it was John's birthday we had to top it off with desert and we chose to share the Trio of Custards--Espresso, Crème Brulée, and Cinnamon Plum Tea Custard.

One thing I love about this restaurant is that it uses local foods, from cheeses at the Mount Townsend Creamery to Berries and produce from the great Finnriver Farm, Chimacum and Greens, famous garlic, and potatoes from Corona Farms most every ingredient used is local. This is where I want to spend my money for a delicious meal. Another fun thing about this restaurant is on Thursdays they have their "small plates" where for $5, $6, or $7 diners can choose one or more plates at bargain prices. John and I have decided we're going to do this several times a month.

We have a lot of really great restaurants in this little town by the bay, The Silverwater, The Castle Key at Manresa Castle, T's, and Sweet Laurette's (our favorite for brunch) but it is clear we've found a new favorite. It was a wonderful way to spend a birthday evening.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Musical Review: The Spitfire Grill


After living in this community for over seven years we finally went to a performance by its community playhouse, The Key City Players, last night. The musical, The Spitfire Grill, is based on the movie starring Ellen Burstyn and has been a long-time favorite of mine. When we heard from our next door neighbor that he was going to be one of the performers in this musical, we knew right away that we wanted to go see it. The basic premise is this: Percy Talbott is a young woman who has just been released from prison (for reasons not revealed until much later) and takes a bus to the idyllic small town of Gilead, Wisconsin where she gets a job at the Spitfire Grill run by the crotchety Hannah Ferguson. Hannah, a widow who lost her only child in the Vietnam War, has been trying to sell her little diner (the only one in town) for 10 years without success. Hannah falls, breaking her leg, leaving the running of the diner to Percy and her nephew (Celeb)'s wife Shelby. They do a terrific job of bringing the sleepy little eatery back to life. In the meantime they concoct an idea having a raffle to get rid of the Spitfire Grill and even make a little bit of money. It isn't long before the entries come in by the mailbag loads. There are a lot of light moments as the letters are read (people have many reasons for wanting the Spitfire Grill). But a lot of questions to be answered -- who will win the Spitfire Grill? Who is the mysterious man showing up at the back of the grill every night? Will there ever be true love for Joe and Percy? And the music!!!! How wonderful to use music to give emotion to these wonderful characters. I particularly liked Percy's song "Into the Frying Pan" with sort of a country-western twang. Aimee Kelley Spencer who played Percy did a fabulous job in every aspect of this play. Other songs ranged from operatic-type songs done marvelously by Rowen Matkins to comedic relief by Deena Lien-Richards. Katherine Jensen did a fine job as Hannah Ferguson. The male actors, John Edwards as the villainous Caleb and James Milton as Sheriff Joe were no less sung and acted to perfection. And one mustn't forget the wonderful Mickey McKinney who actually speaks volumes without saying a word. As John and I both commented when we got home, it's marvelous and amazing to find that we have the talent in our small town to find actors who can so perfectly fit these roles. As much as we loved the movie, the musical was even better--the movie having ended tragically and the musical having left us with smiles on our faces. I can only hope we can find time to go see it again. Word is going to get out how marvelous this production is and the little theater only seats 45 people. Should we be selfish and see it again or let someone else have the experience???

Monday, October 01, 2007

September Reads

I had a good reading month -- most of it spent with Ruth Reichl and her foodie memoirs that I read one right after another and enjoyed immensely. If anyone hasn't read these, I would say although it isn't absolutely necessary to have read the first two before enjoying the third, it would really enhance your reading experience if you have a bit more background of Ruth's life. I followed these up with I Feel Back About My Neck by Nora Ephron and despite our vastly different backgrounds I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the book. I ended up with the first fiction in a couple of months, one of Meg Cabot's books for adults, Queen of Babble. I enjoyed the French setting and the fairy-tale feel to this book. It was a fun read.

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl - 4.5/5
Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl 4.5/5
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl 5/5
I Feel Bad About by Neck by Nora Ephron 4.5/5
Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot 4/5

A Date with My Son


It is a rare occurrence when you get to share with one’s offspring something you experienced at almost that exact same age. Last night I was able to relive a concert seen over 30 years ago, at age 27, with my son who will be 27 in April when we went to see the band Jethro Tull at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. This is a band I have loved for years – and hadn’t seen since August 15, 1976 at the L. A. Memorial Coliseum. I bought these tickets in May so have been looking forward to seeing the genius that is Ian Anderson and his band for a long time.

Our evening started out early when I picked Jake up at his home and we took the ferry over to Seattle. Since he’s the chef, he picked out the restaurant, I asked for one that uses local foods. He chose Restaurant Zoe, one the owners of the restaurant where he works as sous chef has been recommending. In fact, the chef-owner of Restaurant Zoe lives on Bainbridge Island and has dined at Jake’s restaurant, The Four Swallows, many times.

We arrived right on time for our 5:30 reservations. I let Jake pick out most of the appetizer and despite the fact I really wanted the foie gras, we had ricotta gnudi which was divine. Jake also chose the wine – and let me see if I can get this right, I did write it down: Podere Ruggeri Corsini 2004 Barbera d’Alba Armujan. One of the perks dining with my son came to light when, on overhearing a conversation our server discovered Jake was “in the industry” and asked him about it. Another appetizer arrived at our table compliment of the kitchen. We did each choose our own entrée: He had a braised short rib dish (it looked yummy) and as per my usual I had scallops. They weren’t as good as Jake does at the Four Swallows but they were unique and delicious. We ended our meal with desert and coffee, having had a wonderful meal with impeccable service.

It was then off to the beautiful Paramount Theater, one of my favorite venues in Seattle. I think the first concert I ever attended there was in late 1972 or early 1973 (Kris Kristofferson). It is a magnificent old structure and the architecture alone is worth a visit. Because I didn’t find out about this concert until tickets had been on sale for a week, our seats were in the third mezzanine, but the hike up three flights of stairs was worth it. Every seat in this venue of around 3000 is a good one and our seats in the first row of the third mezzanine were no exception.

I tried to prepare Jake a bit for the music. I explained to him that while Jethro Tull was a loud band and what we’d call hard rock back in the day, they were quite unique, taking their inspiration from more classical music. And indeed throughout the evening this proved to be the case as they played everything from Bach, to Henry VIII to a song inspired by Shakespeare. Of course they did many of the more well known Jethro Tull hits, Aqualung, Thick as a Brick, Living in the Past. etc. Ian Anderson, is a delightful stage presence, his foot work (prancing on stage like an elf) and this virtuoso flute playing (does anyone do this better?) has not suffered in the 40 years he has been performing. His voice still has the same quality we all remember and is instantly recognizable, albeit perhaps a bit weaker and in a different key, but it is that wonderful, delightful, sexy Ian Anderson all the same.

Unfortunately we had to cut our evening short as I was getting a migraine and Jake was feeling a bit sick to his stomach and we had a ferry to catch – not willing to wait until a much later ferry that would get me home after 2:00 AM.
Dinner at trendy restaurant - $150.
Ferry fare - $35.00
Concert Tickets - $115.00
Spending time with my son - Priceless