Sunday, May 31, 2015

"BALLROOM"--author ALICE SIMPSON'S debut work blends the complexities of contemporary life with the lingering grace and elegance of past grandeur









Told in interconnecting stories, Ballroom is a beautifully crafted debut novel—reminiscent of the works of Elizabeth Strout and Jennifer Haigh—about a group of strangers united by a desire to escape their complicated lives, if only for a few hours each week, in a faded New York City dance hall.


Time has eroded the glamour of the Ballroom, but at the end of the 1990s, a small crowd of loyal patrons still makes its way past the floor-to-ceiling columns which frame the once grand hall each Sunday evening. Sweeping across the worn parquet floor under a peeling indigo ceiling, these men and women succumb to the magic of the music, looking for love and connection, eager to erase the drab reality of their complicated lives.


Nearly forty and still single, Sarah Dreyfus is desperate for love and sure she’ll find it with debonair Gabriel Katz, a dazzling peacock who dances to distract himself from his crumbling marriage. Tired of the bachelor life, Joseph believes that his yearning for a wife and family will be fulfilled—if only he can get Sarah to notice him. Besotted with beautiful young Maria Rodriguez, elderly dance instructor Harry Korn knows they can find happiness together. Maria, one of the Ballroom’s stars, has a dream of her own, a passion her broken-hearted father refuses to accept or understand.


As the rhythms of the Ballroom ebb and flow through these characters’ hearts, their fates come together in touching, unexpected ways.


MY REVIEW:   A poignant character study, "Ballroom", pulses with the underlying rhythm of the Tango dance. Author Alice Simpson's debut work centers around a New York dance hall of the late 1990's--long past its glamorous heyday, but still offering an essence of grandeur and the hope of grand dreams. Connecting its devotees with a fleeting reprieve from the realities of daily life, the Ballroom is an escape route set to a rhythmic beat. Among those linked together in interconnected storylines are: Harry Korn, the aging dance master; Sarah Dreyfus, single and approaching forty with a loudly ticking clock; Gabriel Katz, resplendent in his self-styled presentations; Joseph, who longs for Sarah to notice him as more than a dance partner; Maria Rodriguez,a star in her own right, and the apple of dance master's eye; and Angel Morez, Maria's partner, and a man with many plans of his own. Caught up in the atmosphere and ambiance of the grand old Ballroom, each of them seeks their own version of time in the spotlight--time to dance, to dream, to dare to engage in something more than the routine of their everyday lives. Each of them will experience unimagined highs and lows as they are propelled ever forward by the driving force of the dance.


Review Copy Gratis Amazon Vine 




Alice Simpson never thought she’d ever leave New York City or be a published author, for that matter. When this city slicker moved to Southern California in 2010 to be closer to her grandchildren, it was a surprise just how exciting life could be. Her new work/live loft provides a wider, sunnier landscape, room to create hand painted books, clay sculptures, and write—without cleaning up!

A graphic designer and illustrator, Alice also taught at F.I.T., SVA, and Parsons, and is frequently invited to speak about the influence of dance in her work.


As a result of the publication of her debut novel, BALLROOM, (Harper/HarperCollins-2014), Alice has dusted off her tango shoes and is taking private lessons.

The first four chapters of BALLROOM received second place for fiction in 2013 at the SF Writers Conference. A chapter from BALLROOM was nominated by The Writer’s Voice (NY) for Best New American Voices. Chapters have appeared in WV (Writer's Voice Magazine, NY), Words & Images Journal (U. of Maine), TangoDanza Magazine (Berlin), and in a limited edition, Tango Bar.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Read to Remember--we must never forget sacrifices made to ensure our precious freedom

I have tremendous empathy for all of our armed services members and their families. I greatly appreciate the sacrifices made so that I may enjoy a free way of life here in the United States. Seeing our service members standing so proud in their uniforms makes me want to stand up taller and straighter, shoulders back! The greatest way to honor all of those who served and sacrificed is to hold your loved ones close to your heart, and live your life in celebration of precious freedom. Make a new memory each day. Whether you gather together with others to observe ceremonial traditions, or you take a moment for quiet reflection, live each day to the fullest and savor the flavors of life. Read to remember.  


  
From Ashes to HonorHonor RedeemedMan of Honor



FROM ASHES TO HONOR
HONOR REDEEMED

MAN OF HONOR
 



The First Responders Series   by Loree Lough is a look into the lives of first responders — EMTs, Search and Rescue (SAR) professionals and firefighters — what motivates them and how their job choices affect their lives and relationships. At last count, this popular Inspirational author had 82 award-winning books (more than 3,000,000 copies in circulation), 67 short stories, and 2,500+ articles in print. The oft-invited guest of writers' organizations, colleges and universities, corporate and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad, Loree Lough loves sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry. Loree has traveled coast to coast and border to border, appearing on national, regional, and local TV and radio shows. Although this once-upon-a-time traveling troubadour refuses to say when, exactly, she traded her Yamaha for a wedding ring, she IS willing to admit that, every now and then, she blows the dust off her six-string to croon a tune or two. But mostly, she just writes (and writes). Loree and her husband split their time between a home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she continues to perfect her talent for identifying critter tracks. Her favorite pass time? Spending long, leisurely hours with her grandchildren... all seven of them! She loves hearing from her readers, and answers every letter, personally. Visit her website, http://www.loreelough.com. 
  


Sarah Sundin is the author of the “Wings of Glory” series–”A Distant Melody”, “A Memory Between Us”, and “Blue Skies Tomorrow”–which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Sarah Sundin followed an unusual career path for a novelist, receiving a bachelor’s in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. She now lives in northern California with her husband, three children, an antisocial cat, and a yellow lab determined to eat her manuscripts. When not driving kids to soccer and tennis, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches women’s Bible studies and fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school. She has been writing since 2000 and belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers and Christian Authors Network. She is the author of the Wings of Glory series – A Distant Melody (Revell 2010), A Memory Between Us (2010), and Blue Skies Tomorrow (August 2011). In 2011 she received the Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A Memory Between Us was featured on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirational Fiction List for 2010.


  
   Tricia Goyer’s “The Liberator Series”, includes “From Dust and Ashes”, “Night Song”, “Dawn of a Thousand Nights”, and “Arms of Deliverance”. Four different tales, rich in authentic historical detail, connected by the WWII setting. Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Beside Still Waters, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit www.triciagoyer.com for more about Tricia and her books.


  
  It has been a while since I have read a book where the overall story was the star, and the characters were necessary components to reach the final page. I enjoyed “Restoration”, by Olaf Olafsson, very much. The human failings and strengths of each character add shaded complexities to the horrific World War II story line. The contrast of the settings of glorious Tuscany and the destruction from bombing, killing and marauding invaders is piercing. There is no hero or heroine in this story, but a collection of people and lives that you hope will somehow be set to rights. There are secrets, betrayals, devastating loss, and mysteries which propel the characters toward resolutions and new beginnings. Alice is the wealthy daughter of a class-conscious British family. She shocks everyone by marrying Claudio, an entitled minor-landowner, and moving with him to Tuscany. They begin their life together in a once-beautiful villa in need of much repair. As they work side by side to build a dream life, they try to ignore their underlying differences. A much-loved son, Giovanni, is born, and they find a measure of contentment. However, as the villa and its lands begin to flourish, more and more demands are made upon both Claudio and Alice. He is very much a man of the land and his dependents, and she begins to long for tastes of the life she left behind. She recklessly reaches out for greater fulfillment, and yet she is not without guilt and self-recrimination. The illness and eventual death of young Giovanni pushes Claudio and Alice further apart. Her intended reparation to their marriage is halted by Claudio’s strange disappearance. Alice is left to manage the villa and its lands with the help of a devoted family friend, Pritchett. As the war progresses, more and more seekers of sanctuary descend upon Alice and her home. One of them, a young woman named Kristin, comes bearing a serious wound and deep secrets which could gravely affect many in their wake. The effects of our actions and missteps are very much evident here, and those with survivor guilt must find a way to move forward. Chose to live, and live the life you are given. This is a book which will make you want to read it all in one setting. You will want to know how the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place. A very good read.



  Just as the garden of “Winter Bloom” is lovingly and skillfully brought back to life, so are the lives of the characters revived and renewed. Tara Heavey tells the story of five people who work together toward a common goal and discover much about themselves and each other along the way. When young widowed mother Eva Madigan spies the sadly neglected walled garden of the elderly Mrs. Prendergast, she is struck by the desire to restore the wasted space to its former glory. It takes some convincing, and Mrs. Prendergast warns her that the garden is meant to be sold, but Eva is given permission for her project. She places an ad at the grocer for help with a community garden, and only two people respond to the ad: Uri, a distinguished older gentleman, and Emily, the clerk from the grocer. Soon they are joined by Uri’s son Seth, and after a time, even Mrs. Prendergast begins to help with the work. Each of the gardeners has been touched by tragedy, and their individual stories are woven throughout the telling of the restoration. Uri, a tailor by trade, was taught much by his own father, who was a master gardener. Seth, who inherited his love of cultivating the soil from his father and grandfather, has his own landscaping business. Emily, stuck in her clerk’s job, longs to further her education and move on with her life. Mrs. Prendergast, a lady of impeccable social grace, is nonetheless rumored to have killed her husband and buried him somewhere in the garden. It is her greedy, needy son, Lance, who is pressuring her to sell the land. Eva’s husband took their baby daughter for a drive to settle her crying, and they were both killed in a terrible accident. Eva was left to care for their young son, Liam, and to manage her survivor guilt. These are remarkable people, trying their best to live “ordinary” lives. I was touched by their heartaches, and I celebrated with them their joys. Their shared experience was an affirmation of life, not only for the characters, but also for the reader. I will definitely read more work by the wonderful storyteller, Tara Heavey!



  Prepare to have your eyes opened, your heart broken, and your view of the amazing endurance of the human spirit revised and revived. You will experience all of these things when you read Rosie Alison’s “The Very Thought of You”. A shattering, yet spirit-sustaining, glimpse into loss and survivorship, this is a story which will resonate with many. Few will be unaffected. In the summer of 1939, with the impending threats of WWII devastation looming large, thousands of children were evacuated from London, sent to safer locations in the surrounding countryside. These children were torn from their homes and separated from their parents, and no one could be certain what the future would hold. “The Very Thought of You” focuses on one such child, Anna Sands, relocated to the wealthy manor home of Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. Childless themselves, the Ashtons welcome the children and provide them with care and an education. It is the gallant and gentle Thomas who becomes a touchstone in Anna’s life. He is a man who suffers great loss and unspeakable tragedy, yet he lives his life with appreciation for the beauty he sees among the devastation. True love comes to Thomas in midlife, but it is not a love with whom he will be allowed to share life on earth. However, even death cannot dim the luminescence of this love. Your heart will ache for Thomas, but his soul remains undaunted through it all. As with many who have experienced the shock of wartime desolation, Anna searches throughout her life for real peace of mind. As a married adult, with children of her own, Anna finds some measure of comfort in reconnecting with Thomas. They form a somewhat tentative, but still caring relationship, keeping touch in letters and Christmas cards. Ultimately, Anna’s search for fulfillment will come full circle and bring her once again to Ashton Manor. As the song says: “The very thought of you, and I forget to do those little ordinary things that everyone ought to do….”. This story and these characters are neither little nor ordinary. They will stay in the reader’s consciousness for a very long time.



  “The Soldier’s Wife” by Margaret Leroy is a thoughtful, well-told tale based on the true German occupation of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. After I read the novel, I researched the facts of the occupation, and the real story is just as compelling as the fictional account. Reading them both enhances the collective story content. Vivienne de la Mare is the wife of an English soldier, and she and her two daughters live with her mother-in-law at the family home in Guernsey. Vivienne’s husband was absent from her life long before he went off to war. His affair with an actress alienated him from Vivienne’s heart. Left to care for her mother-in-law, who is rapidly succumbing to dementia, Vivienne makes life as pleasant as possible for her two young daughters. When the German occupation arrives in an intense and violent manner, many rapid changes occur in the life of the islanders. German soldiers take over the empty house next to Vivienne’s, and she becomes involved with one the officers. Theirs is a poignant, passionate, and ultimately improbable affair. During the time of the occupation, Vivienne is faced with many difficult decisions, some of which may have dangerous consequences for those she loves. “The Soldier’s Wife” is written in a beautifully descriptive style, and it offers glimpses into both sides of the horror of the Second World War. The shades of survivorship are well represented. My mother and grandparents often talked about food shortages and rationing during the Great Depression and also later during World War II. My grandparents were very resourceful, skilled in gardening and preserving food, and they were practical in making the most of what was available. As a matter of survival, the characters in “The Soldier’s Wife” had to learn to do the same thing. Used to the bountiful produce from the land and the sea, and the superior dairy products from the famous Guernsey cows, the islanders suddenly were faced with scrambling to find substitutions for everyday foods. They learned to use vegetables in many different ways including making flour from dried ground beans and coffee from roasted and ground parsnips. I am not sure that I would be that resourceful, but we never know what we are capable of until we are faced with great challenges. One of my favorite scenes in “The Soldier’s Wife” involves the rapture of Vivienne’s struggling family’s enjoyment of an unexpected gift of overripe peaches. The fruit was sweet and succulent, and it seemed like a taste of Heaven. The juice from the peaches ran freely down their chins as they gratefully devoured their fruity treasure.



More reading recommendations:
  

“The Bungalow” by Sarah Jio (author of “The Violets of March”):
“A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fianc√©, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war. A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.” http://www.amazon.com/Bungalow-Novel-Sarah-Jio/dp/0452297672/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327369042&sr=1-1
++++++++++++++++++++++++++


“The House at Tyneford” by Natasha Solomons:
It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford-and Elise-forever.
http://www.amazon.com/House-at-Tyneford-Novel/dp/0452297648/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327369297&sr=1-1

++++++++++++++++++++++++++


“The Lost Wife” by Alyson Richman:
A rapturous new novel of first love in a time of war-from the celebrated author of The Last Van Gogh. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.
http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Wife-Alyson-Richman/dp/042524413X/ref=pd_sim_b_4
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++


“Letters From Home” by Kristina McMorris:
Liz Stephen’s life changes when she meets infantryman Morgan McClain at a Chicago USO club. Liz has long expected to marry her childhood friend, Dalton, yet her instant attraction to Morgan is mutual. But when she misinterprets Morgan’s chivalrous rescue of her friend Betty, she flees without explanation. When Betty begins corresponding with Morgan, she asks for Liz’s help. Soon, Morgan and Liz, under Betty’s alias, are exchanging soul-baring letters. Betty, serving in the Woman’s Army Corps, finds unexpected romance of her own, as does Liz’s engaged best friend Julia. But as the war ends, each woman faces the repercussions of her choices. Inspired by the true story of her grandparents’ epistolary courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in a story that is timeless, tender, and unforgettably moving.
http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Home-Kristina-McMorris/dp/0758246846/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327370823&sr=1-1

SERVICE DOGS--in fact and fiction--unequaled valor--unending devotion

The Kill Switch (Tucker Wayne, #1) 
     

THE KILL SWITCH  by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood 
       

Who does the U.S. government call upon when a mission requires perfect stealth, execution, and discretion? 


From the two bestselling masters of action and political intrigue, James Rollins and Grant Blackwood, comes the first in a groundbreaking new series, featuring Captain Tucker Wayne and his stalwart military dog, Kane, both ripped from the pages of Sigma Force for their first solo adventure. It will take this uniquely talented pairing of man and beast to discover the earth-shattering truth behind . . .


The Kill Switch  


The mission seems simple enough: extract a pharmaceutical magnate from Russian soil, a volatile man who holds the secret to a deadly bio-weapon. But nothing is as it appears to be. A desperate call from Painter Crowe, director of Sigma Force, thrusts Tucker and Kane into a frantic race to rescue the brilliant-but-deluded Abram Bukolov from a cadre of skilled assassins, a deadly team backed by a shadowy Russian general, a figure bent on revenge and power.


Hunted and betrayed at every turn, Tucker and Kane must discover the truth behind a biological threat, a horror out of the ancient past that can be weaponized to terrorize the modern world. The journey of discovery will take the pair across the frozen steppes of Russia to the sun-blasted savannahs of South Africa, from the war-torn mountains of Namibia to the snowy Great Lakes of the United States.


As time rapidly runs out, the deep and intimate bond between dog and soldier will be tested to the extreme. It will take all of their skill, talent, and, most of all, trust in each other to piece together a mystery going back to the origins of life on Earth, to discover the key to an ancient peril that can destroy the heartland of America, and, with it, the world.




Tracker (Sigma Force, #7.5)    


TRACKER  by James Rollins         


From New York Times bestselling author James Rollins comes a stirring story of a soldier and his military war dog who are drawn into a dark mystery tracing back to World War II and a lost treasure tied to the bones of the dead.


Off the blustery streets in the medieval heart of Budapest, Captain Tucker Wayne and his war dog, Kane, rescue a mysterious woman fleeing three armed men. The secret she holds will unlock a terrible treasure, one steeped in blood and treachery, tied to a crime going back to the fall of Nazi Germany and a heritage of suffering and pain that reaches out from the past to wreak havoc today. In a final showdown in the depths of a lost cemetery, truths will be unearthed, treasures exposed, and the fate of all will rest upon the shoulders of one man and a dog whose courage is beyond measure.


Included within this thrilling story is a sneak peek at the opening chapters of Bloodline, in which the further exploits of Tucker and Kane will be revealed.


  

A Man of His Own    


 MAN OF HIS OWN by Susan Wilson     


Rick Stanton was a promising professional baseball player with dreams of playing in the major leagues and starting a family with his young wife, Francesca, when World War II changed everything.  Rick returns from the war with his body broken and his dreams shattered.  But it was not just body and spirit he sacrificed for the war. He and Francesca volunteered their beloved dog, Pax, for the Army’s K-9 Corp, not knowing if they’d ever see him again.



Keller Nicholson is the soldier who fought the war with Pax by his side, and the two have the kind of profound bond that can only be forged in war. Pax is the closest Keller has to a sense of family, and he can’t bear the thought of returning him to the Stantons. But Rick and Francesca refuse to give him up. Instead, an arrangement is made: Keller will work as Rick’s live-in aide. And thus an unlikely family is formed, with steadfast Pax at the center. As they try to build a new life out of the ashes, Keller and Francesca struggle to ignore their growing attraction to each other, and Rick, believing that he can no longer give Francesca what she needs and wants, quietly plans a way out.


All three of them need healing. All three of them are lost. Pax, with his unconditional love and unwavering loyalty, may be the only one who can guide them home.





The Chase  


THE CHASE  by DiAnn Mills  


To the FBI it's a cold case. To Kariss Walker it's a hot idea that could either reshape or ruin her writing career. And it's a burning mission to revisit an event she can never forget. Five years ago, an unidentified little girl was found starved to death in the woods behind a Houston apartment complex. A TV news anchor at the time, Kariss reported on the terrifying case. Today, as a New York Times bestselling author, Kariss intends to turn the unsolved mystery into a suspense novel. Enlisting the help of FBI Special Agent Tigo Harris, Kariss succeeds in getting the case reopened. But the search for the dead girl's missing mother yields a discovery that plunges the partners into a witch's brew of danger. The old crime lives on in more ways than either of them could ever imagine. Will Kariss's pursuit of her dream as a writer carry a deadly price tag? Drawing from a real-life cold case, bestselling novelist DiAnn Mills presents a taut collage of suspense, faith, and romance in The Chase.




The Survivor 


THE SURVIVOR  by DiAnn Mills  


Kariss meets Dr. Amy Garrett, who survived a brutal childhood attack in which the assailant was never found. Now Dr. Garrett wants her story written in a novel. Kariss wishes she could seek the advice of Special Agent Tigo Harris, but she broke off the relationship a few months prior and seeing him again would be too painful. She interviews Amy and conducts her own research, stepping unaware into a viper’s pit of danger.


Tigo misses Kariss and wants her back, but he understands why she broke off their relationship. Instead, he concentrates on solving a car bombing and bringing the killer to justice. As Kariss’s new story attracts an onslaught of danger that she never expected, can Tigo save the woman he loves and find who wants her dead for writing about an unsolved cold-case?




Duke    


DUKE  by Kirby Larson    


A poignant World War II story about a boy and his dog and his dad, and the many meanings of bravery, from Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson.


With World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, eleven-year-old Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to "loan" their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again?


With powerful storytelling and gripping emotion, critically acclaimed author Kirby Larson explores the many ways bravery and love help us to weather the most difficult times.

  




Critical Pursuit (Critical Pursuit, #1) 


   
CRITICAL PURSUIT  by Janice Cantore         


Officer Brinna Caruso has built a reputation at the precinct as the cop to call when a child goes missing. For Brinna, it's personal because she was once one of them. Brinna and her K-9 search and rescue dog, Hero, will stop at nothing to find a missing child, no matter the stakes.
Detective Jack O'Reilly isn't ready to return to his homicide duties after losing his wife to a drunk driver. He's on the downside of his career, and bent on revenge, when he's assigned as Brinna's partner. While on patrol, Jack struggles between his quest for personal justice and his responsibility to those around him, especially his partner.


Skeptical of Jack's motives, Brinna isn't sure she can rely on her new partner, whose reckless abandon endangers the safety of those around him. But when a man surfaces with an MO similar to the criminal who abducted Brinna twenty years earlier, Brinna and Jack must cast aside previous judgments and combine efforts to catch the kidnapper and finally allow Brinna the peace stolen from her as a child

.


 The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side


THE DOG WHO COULD FLY  by Damien Lewis         


An instant hit in the UK, this is the true account of a German shepherd who was adopted by the Royal Air Force during World War II, joined in flight missions, and survived everything from crash-landings to parachute bailouts—ultimately saving the life of his owner and dearest friend.


In the winter of 1939 in the cold snow of no-man’s-land, two loners met and began an extraordinary journey that would turn them into lifelong friends. One was an orphaned puppy, abandoned by his owners as they fled Nazi forces. The other was a different kind of lost soul—a Czech airman bound for the Royal Air Force and the country that he would come to call home.


Airman Robert Bozdech stumbled across the tiny German shepherd—whom he named Ant—after being shot down on a daring mission over enemy lines. Unable to desert his charge, Robert hid Ant inside his jacket as he escaped. In the months that followed the pair would save each other’s lives countless times as they flew together with Bomber Command. And though Ant was eventually grounded due to injury, he refused to abandon his duty, waiting patiently beside the runway for his master’s return from every sortie, and refusing food and sleep until they were reunited. By the end of the war Robert and Ant had become British war heroes, and Ant was justly awarded the Dickin Medal, the “Animal VC.”


With beautiful vintage black-and-white photos of Robert and Ant, The Dog Who Could Fly is a deeply moving story of loyalty in the face of adversity and the unshakable bond between a man and his best friend.


   

Suspect


SUSPECT  by Robert Crais      


The explosive masterpiece of suspense from the #1 New York Times' bestselling author.
LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty...until he meets his new partner.


Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED, her PTSD is as bad as Scott's.


They are each other's last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. What they begin to find is nothing like what Scott has been told, and the journey will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"A FINE ROMANCE"--a memoir by actress CANDICE BERGEN--the beautiful, brainy blonde with the bite of humor is also a talented writer

 

 
A Fine Romance
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the follow-up to Knock Wood—her bestselling “engaging, intelligent, and wittily self-deprecating autobiography” (The New York Times)—Candice Bergen shares the big events: her marriage to a famous French director, the birth of her daughter, Murphy Brown, widowhood, falling in love again, and watching her daughter blossom.
 

A Fine Romance begins with Bergen’s charming first husband, French director Louis Malle, whose huge appetite for life broadened her horizons and whose occasional darkness never diminished their love for each other. But her real romance begins when she discovers overpowering love for her daughter after years of ambivalence about motherhood. As Chloe grows up, Bergen finds her comic genius in the biggest TV role of the 80s, Murphy Brown, and makes unwanted headlines when Dan Quayle pulls her into the 1992 presidential campaign.
 

Fifteen years into their marriage, Malle is diagnosed with cancer, and Candice is unflinching in describing her and Chloe’s despair over his death. But after years of widowhood, she feels the sweet shock of finding a different kind of soulmate. Candice takes us through the first years of her new marriage and shares the bittersweetness of watching Chloe leave home and flourish—and the comedy of a losing battle against those damn wrinkles and extra pounds.
 

A natural writer, Candice is hilarious, brutally honest, down-to-earth, and wise. She may be a beautiful Hollywood actress with a charmed life, but Candice is someone who can talk frankly about extraordinary events. Readers who pull up a chair will feel like they’ve just made a best friend.
 
 
 
 
ALSO BY CANDICE BERGEN...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candice Bergen’s bestselling 1984 memoir: an “engaging, intelligent, and wittily self-deprecating autobiography” (The New York Times).

 
Candice Bergen was born into the heady Hollywood of the 1950s. Before she became a celebrity in her own right and wrote her memoir, A Fine Romance, she wrote this book about being the “celebrity offspring” of Edgar Bergen, vaudeville and radio’s greatest dignitary/comedian. Her “sibling” was Charlie McCarthy, the impudent dummy beloved of millions. Bergen, much as he loved his daughter, was a man who “kept his emotions pressed and neatly hung,” and was more comfortable speaking to—and through—his brainchild. Charlie always had an answer. Charlie couldn’t let anyone down. Above all, Charlie never had to leave the paradise that was childhood.


Knock Wood is a book about growing up—about the comedy of expectations that ruled Candice Bergen’s early life, about the ironies that attended her exotic rites of passage. The world offered her a wealth of options: adolescence in Swiss boarding schools; at nineteen, a plum role in Sidney Lumet’s The Group; quick entry into the profession of photojournalism; automatic acceptance among the esteemed company of the moment—be it the international jet set, Bel Air in the 1960s, or the world of radical politics in the 1970s. But always she carried the conviction that her gifts were untested, her luck unearned.

 
Told with wit, self-deprecation, and a rare degree of courage, Knock Wood is the extraordinary record of Candice Bergen’s coming of age. It is at once the moving fable of the love between a father and a daughter, of a woman’s triumph over self-doubt, and a dazzling journal of American life and times over the past four decades.
 
 
 

About the Author...

 
She was born blonde and beautiful, raised like a princess in the magical world of Hollywood, an instant star. But such easy victories weren't enough for Candy Bergen. With great wit, style, and exceptional honesty, the daughter of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the "sister" of famed talking dummy Charlie McCarthy tells the story of her struggle to come to terms with herself.
 
 
Candice Bergen’s film credits include The Sand Pebbles, Carnal Knowledge, Starting Over (for which she received an Oscar nomination), and Miss Congeniality. On television, she made headlines as the tough-talking broadcast journalist and star of Murphy Brown, for which she won five Emmys and two Golden Globes. She later starred with James Spader and William Shatner in the critically acclaimed series Boston Legal.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

AUTHOR REBECCA BARRY--"RECIPES FOR A BEAUTIFUL LIFE"--a memoir of married life, motherhood, and making it work in the modern world--told with humor, truth, and a few recipes sprinkled here and there

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories






Writing with a delicate balance of humor and truth, critically acclaimed author Rebecca Barry reflects on motherhood, work, and marriage in her new memoir about trying to build a creative life.
When Rebecca Barry and her husband moved to upstate New York to start their family, they wanted to be surrounded by natural beauty but close to a small urban center, doing work they loved, and plenty of time to spend with their kids. But living their dreams turned out not to be so simple: the lovely old house they bought had lots of character but also needed lots of repairs, they struggled to stay afloat financially, their children refused to sleep or play quietly, and the novel Rebecca had dreamed of writing simply wouldn’t come to her.

Recipes for a Beautiful Life blends heartwarming, funny, authentically told stories about the messiness of family life, a fearless examination of the anxieties of creative work, and sharp-eyed observations of the pressures that all women face. This is a story of a woman confronting her deepest fears: What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I’m not good at the work I love? What if my children never eat anything but peanut butter and cake? What if I go to sleep angry? It’s also a story of the beauty, light, and humor that’s around us, all the time—even when things look bleak, and using that to find your way back to your heart.
Mostly, though, it is about the journey to building not just a beautiful life, but a creative one.
Rebecca Barry lives in Trumansburg, New York, with her husband and two sons. She received her B.A. from Cornell and her M.F.A. from The Ohio State University. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Seventeen, Real Simple, Details, Hallmark, and The Best American Travel Writing 2003. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Tin House, Ecotone, The Mid-American Review, and Best New American Voices 2005.

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE--made extra-delicious the old-timey way in Gran's cast iron skillet : )


 



My Gran made wonderful Pineapple Upside-Down Cake in her big old black cast iron skillet. She melted the butter in the skillet, added the brown sugar, pineapple rings with the maraschino cherries in the middle, and chopped pecans. Then she added the batter to the skillet and baked it until it was golden brown. My Gran was a small woman, but she could flip that heavy skillet over onto the cake platter and come out with a beautiful cake every time! I wanted something really good today, a treat from me to me, and I decided to make a cake. A very buttery, fragrant cake, rich with pineapple, brown sugar, cherries, and nuts:



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a deep 12-in cast iron skillet add two sticks real butter and allow skillet to heat in oven just until butter is melted. Remove skillet from oven. Drain one large can pineapple slices, reserving juice. Add one cup brown sugar to butter in skillet, sprinkling sugar evenly over butter. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer over brown sugar. Fill center of each pineapple slice with a maraschino cherry, adding more cherries between the slices. Top evenly with one cup chopped pecans. Allow pan to set on top of stove and prepare cake mixture. Using one two-layer size butter-recipe cake mix, prepare per package directions, substituting reserved pineapple juice for water in recipe. Pour batter evenly over mixture in skillet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and done slightly firm to touch (until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean). Remove skillet from oven and allow cake to cook in pan at least 30 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Place serving platter over cake, and carefully invert skillet and platter. Allow cake to rest 10 to 15 minutes and remove skillet. Serve warm and topped with whipped cream. Can be served cold.

BOOK REVIEW: "Palisades Park"--author Alan Brennert's nostalgic ode to America's love of amusement parks is also an involving family drama



Palisades Park



Growing up in the 1930s, there is no more magical place than Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey—especially for seven-year-old Antoinette, who horrifies her mother by insisting on the unladylike nickname Toni, and her brother, Jack. Toni helps her parents, Eddie and Adele Stopka, at the stand where they sell homemade French fries amid the roar of the Cyclone roller coaster. There is also the lure of the world’s biggest salt-water pool, complete with divers whose astonishing stunts inspire Toni, despite her mother's insistence that girls can't be high divers.

 

But a family of dreamers doesn't always share the same dreams, and then the world intrudes: There's the Great Depression, and Pearl Harbor, which hits home in ways that will split the family apart; and perils like fire and race riots in the park. Both Eddie and Jack face the dangers of war, while Adele has ambitions of her own—and Toni is determined to take on a very different kind of danger in impossible feats as a high diver. Yet they are all drawn back to each other—and to Palisades Park—until the park closes forever in 1971.

 

Evocative and moving, with the trademark brilliance at transforming historical events into irresistible fiction that made Alan Brennert’s Moloka'i and Honolulu into reading group favorites, Palisades Park takes us back to a time when life seemed simpler—except, of course, it wasn't.



MY REVIEW:


"Palisades Park" is a nostalgic homage to America's fascination with amusement parks, and it is given an extra poignancy by author Alan Brennert's childhood memories. Brennert grew up within a mile of the actual Palisades Amusement Park, which was located in Bergen County, New Jersey. The famed park provided entertainment and irresistible eats and treats for young and old alike for five decades, finally closing in 1971. Brennert's tale is the story of Eddie Stopka, whose childhood visit to the park would leave him with dreams that would last his whole lifetime. For Eddie and his wife Adele, and their two children Jack and Antoinette, the park was an integral part of their existence. Jack and Antoinette, who insisted on being called "Toni", work alongside their parents, helping them sell the famous salt & vinegar fries. Toni watches the divers at the salt water pool and longs to perform her own spectacular high dives. "Palisades Park" begins in the early 1920's and spans five decades into the early 1970's. The Great Depression, World War II, and many other significant social and political themes are interwoven with the compelling story of the park and the Stopka family. The author's descriptive writing places you right on the park grounds, experiencing the sights, sounds, and scents that are unique to American amusement parks. The salt water, the salty sea air, and the fresh, hot french fries doused with salt and malt vinegar are all yours to savor. I always loved amusement parks best at night, when the lights make them look like brightly lit, somewhat exotic cities. If you have ever held your breath in terror as you rode the rails of a roller coaster, and then jumped on again as soon as you could, you will enjoy "Palisades Park".



*****************************************************************


A Personal Note:


I could not read Alan Brennert's wonderful book, "Palisades Park", and gaze upon the beautiful cover, without thinking about my mother. Mama loved hot dogs, cotton candy, ice cream, bingo, and carousel horses. She never lost her child-like enjoyment of the contagious excitement of the amusement park atmosphere, and I am glad that she didn't! Hot dogs are the perfect Summer food--portable, plentiful, and depending on how you load 'em up--they can be a "meal-in-one". Hot dogs loaded with everything but the kitchen sink. Everywhere Mama and I traveled on our road trips, we found a little place that sold hot dogs. A hot dog, chips, and a cold drink would always hit the spot. PBS produced a delightful special program called "A Hot Dog Program":

(My mother loved this program so much that I bought her a copy)





"Let's be frank: Sausage connoisseurs will watch A Hot Dog Program with relish. Boiled, broiled, steamed, fried, or grilled, get your hot dogs here! A meal, a snack, a guilty pleasure, hot dogs are "as close as we'll get to a national dish," the narrator observes. And unlike their burger counterparts, hot dog stands have not become standardized or franchised. "They are still small, regional, and unique."   A Hot Dog Program tours the United States in search of establishments that inspire motorists to take hot dog detours, from the Super Duper Wiener truck located off Exit 24 on I-95 in Fairfield, Connecticut, to the Coney Island in Denver--33 tons of concrete shaped like an enormous hot dog. Viewers also get a taste of the local flavor served up by the Varsity ("What'llyahave? What'llyahave?") in Atlanta, Georgia, Superdawg in Chicago, Nathan's Famous in New York, and Pink's in Los Angeles, where legend has it that Orson Welles ate 18 hot dogs in one sitting, and where Ruth Buzzi makes a brief on-camera appearance.   A Hot Dog Program is a celebration of hot dogs and the people who love them ("It's the ultimate food," exults one diner), and who have made their hot dog joint their hangout from adolescence into adulthood, although those not stern of stomach may want to fast-forward through the sequence that shows how hot dogs are made.   For more time-capsule Americana, check out Great Old Amusement Parks and An Ice Cream Show. --Donald Liebenson "


"This fun documentary called A HOT DOG PROGRAM looks at one of America's favorite foods and shows some places around the country where you can get wonderful wieners.


From Coney Island on the Fourth of July (when Nathan's sponsors the World Hot Dog Eating Contest) to Alaska at the start of the Iditarod sled dog race (ready for a reindeer sausage?), we take you to some of the coolest hot dog places around. And we talk to some hot dog connoisseurs along the way.


In Chicago, the dogs are dressed heavily; in Macon, Georgia, the wieners are bright red; and in Las Vegas, they're huge. You can get a Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield, Connecticut, a deep fried "ripper" at Ruth's Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, and a snappy slaw dog at Frank's in Columbia, South Carolina.


You get true counter culture at the Varsity in Atlanta, giant orders of French fries at the Original in Pittsburgh, and famous chili dogs and famous folks at Pink's in LA.


It's a story of "Man bites Dog," topped with mustard, ketchup and countless condiments. It's a culinary cruise. It's a frank and funny portrait of America. It'll make you hungry for hot dogs."

REVIEW and RECOMMENDATION: "The Prize Winner Of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids On 25 Words Or Less" by Terry Ryan

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less


The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less

 
by Terry Ryan and Suze Orman


"The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" introduces Evelyn Ryan, an enterprising woman who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry, and perfect prose during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s. Stepping back into a time when fledgling advertising agencies were active partners with consumers, and everyday people saw possibility in every coupon, Terry Ryan tells how her mother kept the family afloat by writing jingles and contest entries. Mom's winning ways defied the Church, her alcoholic husband, and antiquated views of housewives. To her, flouting convention was a small price to pay when it came to securing a happy home for her six sons and four daughters. Evelyn, who would surely be a Madison Avenue executive if she were working today, composed her jingles not in the boardroom, but at the ironing board.

 

By entering contests wherever she found them -- TV, radio, newspapers, direct-mail ads -- Evelyn Ryan was able to win every appliance her family ever owned, not to mention cars, television sets, bicycles, watches, a jukebox, and even trips to New York, Dallas, and Switzerland. But it wasn't just the winning that was miraculous; it was the timing. If a toaster died, one was sure to arrive in the mail from a forgotten contest. Days after the bank called in the second mortgage on the house, a call came from the Dr Pepper company: Evelyn was the grand-prize winner in its national contest -- and had won enough to pay the bank.

 

Graced with a rare appreciation for life's inherent hilarity, Evelyn turned every financial challenge into an opportunity for fun and profit. From her frenetic supermarket shopping spree -- worth $3,000 today -- to her clever entries worthy of Erma Bombeck, Dorothy Parker, and Ogden Nash, the story of this irrepressible woman whose talents reached far beyond her formidable verbal skills is told in "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" with an infectious joy that shows how a winning spirit will triumph over the poverty of circumstance.



MY **5 STARS** REVIEW:


You will never read of another person quite as unique as Evelyn Ryan. Her magically creative mind was far beyond most of our imaginations. She kept her family together by the sheer force of her will and the incredible scope of her intuition. Her husband was an alcoholic,and at times, he was abusive to Evelyn. She remained steadfast throughout, raising their ten children with love and courage. Her genius was the ability to write winning slogans and jingles for advertising contests. Evelyn supported her family for many years by winning prizes. If necessary, the prizes were sold for much-needed cash. This heartwarming true story was written by Evelyn's daughter, Terry "Tuffy" Ryan. This amazing real-life story was made into a film starring Julianne Moore as Evelyn Ryan.

MAMA WAS A DANCER--Happy Mother's Day to all Moms and Grans, and "Like-a-Moms"


      



Mama was a dancer. Brush, Shuffle, Step. Adagio. Allegro. Arabesque. Pli√©. Pirouette. Mama was an ice skater too. Step Sequence. Salchow. Sit-Spin. Spiral. Mama loved all animals, but horses were her favorite. She loved to ride horseback. Cadence. Canter. Gait. Gallop. The last decade of my mother's life, she was progressively ill. I lifted her, carried her, and pushed her wheelchair. Whenever possible, whenever there was a long, clear, safe path, I would "run" the wheelchair. Going as fast as I could go, pushing the wheelchair for all its might. Once again, Mama could fly.   

 
Mama was also talented, artistic, and very theatrical. She played the piano "by ear". I used to get tickled when she played because she added extra notes throughout the music piece. I asked her about those little extras one time, and she just gave a grin and said that was the way it ought to be played. I couldn't afford to buy her a spinet piano, but I did get her a full-sized electronic keyboard with a stand. She loved it so much! She was like a kid experimenting with all the different sound effects. More than once when I returned home at the end of a work day I could hear Mama, aka "The Phantom", at the keyboard. When the house windows were open, you could hear her playing out through the neighborhood. We both loved "The Phantom of the Opera".   

 
I have always set high standards for myself as far as what I had to accomplish in my personal life. I was an "organized perfectionist", determined to meet all the goals I set for myself. I did pretty well at that for many years, and then life began to impose its own needs that had to be met. When my mother's health began its sad deterioration, and I became more and more a caregiver, something had to give. I no longer worked overtime, not all of the daily household chores were done each day, meals became much more simple, personal time was minimalized, and life as it was continued on a more elementary level. I let go of a lot of my own personal expectations...and it didn't kill me. The most important thing was my mother's care, and when I focused more on her needs and less on my own expectations, I could actually relax and give myself a break. In some ways, I felt closer to my mother than I ever had in my whole life. My mother has been gone for a while now, but I have never gone back to being "uber-woman", and I'm glad.  

 
I was not fortunate enough to have my own children, but I have been taking care of adults, kids, babies, and animals for most of my life. When I was a very young child, my family employed a wonderful housekeeper, "Nan", to whom I contributed more than one gray hair. Later, as an adult, I worked as a housekeeper and child care provider for a family with five children, four of whom were boys. I am an only child, and I was more of a girly-girl than a tomboy. This experience was quite an eye-opener, contributing to more than one of my own gray hairs : ) I loved those kids, and they loved me, especially my peanut butter cookies. I cried my eyes out when I changed jobs and had to leave "my kids" behind. It is important to try to have some sort of order in your daily life, but it is equally important to let kids play and just be kids. Grown-ups need to be kids sometimes, and who better to teach us than a child?  

 
My Gran was the greatest cook ever, and some of my happiest childhood memories involve being in the kitchen with her and learning to cook. My lessons in cooking and keeping house are from the old school, but many "old" things are new again. Gran was also wonderfully creative and talented with a needle and thread. She used to make the school clothes for my mother and her sister. She would make her own patterns out of brown paper bags, and she used whatever fabric, even flour sacks, that was available. She made them quite a few "broomstick skirts". Gran was a very great influence on me, and I also love to cook and sew. I even did custom sewing for years, making clothing and collectible cloth dolls. I also made quilts, pillows, and custom-tailored western shirts with embroidery and pearl snaps. At times in my life, my sewing and baking have supplemented my income. I could always count on my fudge to sell through special orders, craft shows and flea markets.  

 
A mother is many different things to many different people. She may be a mother by birth, by adoption, or by osmosis, but her love of others is cellular and soulful. Embrace your mother as a parent and as a person. In your own life, accept and celebrate your role as caregiver in whatever role you are given.   

 
Love is patient, Love is kind,
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud, It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.


 

Love does not delight in evil,
but rejoices with the truth.

 

Love always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

 

Love never ends.

 

L o v e  N e v e r  F a i l s. 


Corinthians 13 : 4 - 8