Email me at thekeytothegate@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Le livre de Paris

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." ~ Ernest Hemingway 


I only have 150 pages remaining in Edward Rutherford's massive novel Paris. I have become lost in a sea of watercolor pastels, food, fashion, art, ballet, literature...and am currently devouring all things French. I encourage readers not to be intimidated by the size of this tome. The story is an amazing interweaving of characters that spans time and history. A truly beautiful read.

What is your favorite destination read?

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Monday, August 11, 2014

A book that can double as a door stop


"Paris is always a good idea."  ~ Audrey Hepburn

I just started Paris, The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd and am taking a deep breath because this book is going to require a large time commitment, capping off at 805 pages!

About the book (from amazon.com): From Edward Rutherfurd, the grand master of the historical novel, comes a dazzling epic about the magnificent city of Paris. Moving back and forth in time, the story unfolds through intimate and thrilling tales of self-discovery, divided loyalty, and long-kept secrets. As various characters come of age, seek their fortunes, and fall in and out of love, the novel follows nobles who claim descent from the hero of the celebrated poem The Song of Roland; a humble family that embodies the ideals of the French Revolution; a pair of brothers from the slums behind Montmartre, one of whom works on the Eiffel Tower as the other joins the underworld near the Moulin Rouge; and merchants who lose everything during the reign of Louis XV, rise again in the age of Napoleon, and help establish Paris as the great center of art and culture that it is today. With Rutherfurd’s unrivaled blend of impeccable research and narrative verve, this bold novel brings the sights, scents, and tastes of the City of Light to brilliant life.

Have you read Paris or any of Rutherfurd's other books?

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Indecisive Reading


“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  ~ Groucho Marx

Typically, I am a one-book-at-at-time reader. I like to finish one book before beginning another. But lately I haven't been able to fully connect with a story and find myself starting a different book. I currently have four books on my desk.

Do you like to read multiple books at at time?

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Friday, July 18, 2014

Steinbeck's "Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters"


"I think perhaps I am one of those lucky mortals whose work and whose life are the same thing. It is rare and fortunate." 
~ Steinbeck, page 157

     Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck is a compilation of the letters that John Steinbeck wrote to his longtime editor and friend, Pascal Covici, during the writing of his masterpiece East of Eden. Each working day, Steinbeck would begin by writing a letter to Covici as a warm up to the day's writing, describing which scene he was to work on that day. It is a rare glimpse into the mind of a writer and the process of putting thoughts into words. The letters also reveal a look at the man himself, his hobbies and interests, as well as fears and fatherhood. Together, the letters serve as a journal with details about his day and personal life. With this book, the reader is provided the unique experience of sitting with Steinbeck as he creates his most challenging novel. I highly recommend this book for Steinbeck fans, as well as those interested in writing. At many times, he describes his joy in writing this story and is in no hurry for it to end. I felt the same upon reaching the end of this journey.

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.






"HERE is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns. Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckle, buttered spuds."

From the reader's first introduction of Quoyle it is apparent that he is a complicated character with a bleak beginning. Proulx has created a unique writing style that gives a raw voice to the storytelling. A physical image of Quoyle is set within the first paragraph, giving the reader an instant visual of the character that kick starts this story into action.

About the Book (from amazon.com): Annie Proulx's highly acclaimed, international bestseller and Pulitzer prize-winning novel, repackaged and promoted as part of the Perennial fiction promotion in 2008. Quoyle is a hapless, hopeless hack journalist living and working in New York. When his no-good wife is killed in a spectacular road accident, Quoyle heads for the land of his forefathers -- the remotest corner of far-flung Newfoundland. With 'the aunt' and his delinquent daughters -- Bunny and Sunshine -- in tow, Quoyle finds himself part of an unfolding, exhilarating Atlantic drama. 'The Shipping News' is an irresistible comedy of human life and possibility.

About the Author (from wikipedia.com): Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. She has written most frequently as Annie Proulx but has also used the names E. Annie Proulx and E.A. Proulx. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction and was adapted as a 2001 film of the same name. Her short story Brokeback Mountain was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. She won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her first novel, Postcards.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Monday, July 7, 2014

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton


About the book (from amazon.com): The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, it is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth. In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever. The novel is full of secrets -- some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history. Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters -- and an ending -- the reader won't soon forget.

My Thoughts:
     I want to begin by saying that I loved this book! It was the first of Kate Morton that I have read and now I simply must read all of her other work. The House at Riverton (Atria Books, 2006) was originally published in Australia as The Shifting Fog. Oddly I had read Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin right before this one and found a lot of comparisons in regard to the story structure and content. 
     The House at Riverton is narrated by Grace, a former servant of the long established home, but the story is really about two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline, and the aristocratic way of life that is vanishing following World War I. Grace is the same age as Hannah and meets the girls, along with their brother David, during their visits to their grandparents at Riverton Manor. Told in two time periods, the reader is first introduced to the elderly Grace, living out her last days in a nursing home. When she is contacted by a film directer creating a movie about the sisters and a mysterious death that occurred at Riverton, the secrets she has kept all her life rise to the surface and she feels the need to release the burden of the truth before her time ends. 
     She begins to unravel the mysteries that occurred at Riverton by recording the story into a tape recorder for her grandson. The story flows back and forth with Grace's own life as the only connection between the past and the present, revealing the events that shaped and destroyed the lives of those living both upstairs and downstairs. There are numerous themes tackled throughout including the impact of war on soldiers and the divide between the classes. It is the relationship between the siblings that is the driving force of this novel and how their fates are solidified as children in an estate destined to dissolve along with their destinies.
     While the story if full of mystery and tragedy, Morton effortlessly infuses the elegance of the time for the privileged aristocratic families. As the cards are displayed one by one, Grace discovers that she is a more prominent character in their play than she could have imagined.
     The House at Riverton is a hauntingly beautiful novel that lingers in your thoughts long after the last page and long after the secrets are all told. It is a story that you can't imagine could end any other way but tragically and Morton delivers. Yet through Grace, the reader is left with a quiet peace and a sense of relief that the truth is now free.
   
To read a bio on the author Kate Morton, visit my Book Beginnings post here.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Beginnings: Lady Chatterley's Lover

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.

"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
This was more or less Constance Chatterley's position. The war had brought the roof down over her head. And she realized that one must live and learn."

I must confess, I am intrigued by banned books. A banned book deemed a classic...even better. I have previously read D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow but I was not prepared for Lady Chatterley's Lover. The introduction is quite breathtaking in describing the discontentment of the characters. It is easy to see how Lawrence's use of vocabulary in this novel would not have been favored by the masses at the time of its release. In the past few years, many novels have been published with the intent on shocking the reader by detailing what was once deemed romance in explicit detail. However, the themes addressed in Lady Chatterley's Lover set it apart from those current books as it tackles large issues of the time such as the class system and social conflict.

About the Book ( from wikipedia)Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was first published in 1928. The first edition was printed privately in Florence, Italy, with assistance from Pino Orioli; an unexpurgated edition could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. (A private edition was issued by Inky Stephensen's Mandrake Press in 1929.) The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words. The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence's own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, where he grew up. Lawrence at one time considered calling the novel Tenderness and made significant alterations to the text and story in the process of its composition. It has been published in three versions.

About the Author (from wikipedia): David Herbert Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among other things, represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In them, some of the issues Lawrence explores are emotional health, vitality, spontaneity and instinct. Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile which he called his "savage pilgrimage."



Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood


About the Book (from wikipedia): The Blind Assassin is an award-winning, bestselling novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 2000. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century. The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002.[1] Time magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.

"Listen to the clock ticking, I said. It was a pendulum clock - an antique, white and gold china; it had been Grandfather's; it stood on the mantelpiece in the library. Laura thought I'd said licking. And it was true, the brass pendulum swinging back and forth did look like a tongue, licking the lips of an invisible mouth. Eating up the time." (page 139)

My Thoughts: 
     The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Double day (2000), is the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase, clouded by unfortunate events. Brilliantly interwoven with news clippings that help the reader piece together the puzzle, Atwood is a master at layering the past into the present. 
     Narrated by Iris, The Blind Assassin is a dark mystery peppered with images of possibilities lost. Two stories collide into a tragedy that the reader is made aware from the beginning with the announcement that Laura Chase has been killed in a car accident. The first is the mystery that surrounds Laura's death. The second is a science fiction story created by two lovers. The intimacy of these characters makes it easy for the reader to drift into another world as told in this fantasy tale.

"Was that the beginning, that evening - on the dock at Avilion, with the fireworks dazzling the sky? It's hard to know. Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then later, they spring." (page 190)

     The mystery takes us back to the childhood of the Chase sisters where they experience the loss of their mother and struggle to find their identity as the world enters The Great Depression. Avilion, the estate on which they were raised, begins to crumble from neglect and the financial resources that the family is losing from its failing button factory which had been a prominent and successful business. Their relationship with their father is estranged and as they girls enter adulthood, finding an eligible spouse appears to be their only option of escaping the demise of the life they have always known.
     Atwood's writing is simply beautiful. Each sentence is so well crafted that this 500 plus page tome feels like a mere dip into a deep ocean. The story unravels slowly but leaves the reader so satiated for the answers that one can't stop turning the pages.

"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it." (page 283)

     A talk dark stranger, a marriage doomed from the onset, deceit, adultery, jealousy, lust, the class divide, suicide-- you name it, The Blind Assassin delivers, all against the background of a world at war. The intricate puzzle that is the fate of the sisters is superbly revealed, piece by piece. An intense piece of fiction, this book will leave you feeling bleak and emotionally stripped but it will also leave you in complete awe of the journey through which Atwood just led you.

To read a brief bio of Margaret Atwood and the introduction of The Blind Assassin, visit my Book Beginnings post here.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hazy Days and Steamy Reads

“All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, For they dream their dreams with open eyes, And make them come  true.”  D.H. Lawrence




What is it about the long days of summer that entices us to dream even more? 

A steamy classic is a perfect way to embrace the summer heat. 
I am currently delving into Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence.

What's on your summer reading list?

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Mountaintop School for Dogs by Ellen Cooney


* The Mountaintop School for Dogs, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is scheduled to be released Aug. 5, 2014.

About the Book (from amazon.com): Sanctuary. Place of refuge. Training school. Command center for The Network. Home for strays and rescued dogs. Evie is stuck at The Inn, managed by the stern and mysterious Mrs. Auberchon, although she’s supposed to join a training program at The Sanctuary. That’s what she signed up for—never mind that she lied and doesn’t know the first thing about animals except what she’s learned from a breed guide, from the notes someone keeps leaving, and from videos online, like one that asks: Please can more people be nicer to dogs? Once up on the mountain with staffers, volunteers, and her dog students, Evie takes notes on the new things she’s learning. Alpha. Forgiveness. Play. Rehabilitation. Like the racing greyhound who refuses to move, the golden retriever who returns every time he’s adopted, and the rottweiler who’s a hopeless candidate for search-and-rescue, Evie came from a troubled past. She writes: “Rescue. Best. Verb. Ever.” As she creates her own training manual, she may even write an entry on herself. A worthy shelf-mate to books by Garth Stein and Carolyn Parkhurst, this is a brilliantly engaging novel about finding fellow animals who may bring you a deeper sense of home, healing, and the power of inventing a future.

"Abandon. To Turn away on purpose from someone you were supposed to never turn away from. Bad verb. Bad word. Bad everything." (page 43)

My Thoughts: 
     As a dog owner, I could easily relate to this book. Dogs often teach us more than we teach them. They follow our commands in order to receive a desired response but soon they command us with a simple tilt of their head and a gazing stare. I have a five-year-old Sheltie and love her abundantly, however, she tests my patience daily. But once you allow a pet into your home and heart, you are forever changed. 
     The Mountaintop School for Dogs is a story about second chances for all living creatures. The reader is introduced to a variety of characters, some four legged, that are searching for their place in life, a place to call home. When Evie arrives at The Inn and the School, she is lonely and lost. Recovering from past mistakes, she quickly discovers that her own existence isn't that different from the dogs that she encounters. She too is searching for acceptance and finds a kindred spirit in Mrs. Auberchon, The Inn's keeper. Their relationship takes a while to develop just as it takes Evie's students a while to warm up to her. There is a need to assess the expectations and intentions of another before you can reach a level of comfort.
     Evie quickly learns that her inexperience as a dog trainer has left her ill equipped to handle the challenges that arise for rescue missions. I can't even watch the ASPCA commercials. You know the ones- cue the Sarah McLachlin tune in the background....heartbreaking. 
"Because sometimes you don't call it abuse when it's happening to you, even if you're doing it to yourself. You just call it 'my life'." (Page 262)
     The dogs at the school are is a stage of readjustment. They have been rescued from situations of neglect, abuse, or abandonment from those that initially cared for them. Evie is readjusting as well, realizing that you can't run away from your past but you can control your present. She is a strong lead character that the reader cheers on as she improves in the training and care of the canine students, creating a rescue for herself with each achievement, and finding joy in the smallest of progress. Although at a different stage in life, Mrs. Auberchon confronts her own fears and misgivings as she allows herself to be more accepting of others and a new way of life.
"She ran hot water on the label until it loosened enough to peel off. The bottle was too attractive to throw away. It didn't have to come to its end. It could have another life, perhaps as a vase, perhaps as a candleholder, bright wax dripping down its sides, hardening, lasting, staying. She filled the sink with sudsy water and stuck it in there to soak." (Page 143)
     I thought this passage was a beautiful analogy of how we humans, just like our recycling projects, can be transformed. Sometimes all we need is a little trust and self acceptance. The Mountaintop School for Dogs is a wonderful story for reminding us of the importance of compassion and the impact of a second chance for all living creatures.

* I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from Houghton Mifflin. The reading recommendation is entirely my own.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Beginnings: The House at Riverton

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.

"Last November I had a nightmare. It was 1924 and I was Riverton again. All the doors hung wide open, silk billowing in the summer breeze. An orchestra perched high on the hill beneath the ancient maple, violins lilting lazily in the warmth. The air rang with pealing laughter and crystal, and the sky was the kind of blue we'd all thought the war had destroyed forever. One of the footmen, smart in black and white, poured champagne into the top of a tower of glass flutes and everyone clapped, delighting in the splendid wastage."

Thoughts on Intro: The House at Riverton begins with the lovely description of a dream that leaves the reader with a sense that much reality lies behind the story. This is the first Morton novel that I have read and I am already planning on reading more. Her writing elegantly creates a world where the characters come to life and the reader is instantly hooked.

About the book (from amazon.com): The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, it is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth. In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever. The novel is full of secrets -- some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history. Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters -- and an ending -- the reader won't soon forget.

About the Author (from wikipedia.com): Kate Morton is an Australian author whose novels have been published in 38 countries and sold three million copies."The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008. The House at Riverton won General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards, and The House at Riverton was nominated for Most Popular Book at the British Book Awards in 2008. Her second book,The Forgotten Garden, was a #1 bestseller in Australia and a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2008. In 2010, Morton's third novel, The Distant Hours, was released, followed by her fourth, The Secret Keeper, in 2012.

Have you read Morton's novels? Which was your favorite?

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Inspiration: Where Writers Write

Have you ever wondered what a writer's workspace looks like? 
Where do our favorite authors sit down to create the books we come to love? 
Below are a few images from Pinterest to inspire you!

The Bronte Sisters
From Writers Write Creative Blog
Dylan Thomas
From The Huffington Post
Jane Austen
From painting-box.com
Ernest Hemingway
A photo my husband took on our trip to Hemingway House in Key West, Fla.

Can you imagine Jane Austen penning her masterpieces on that tiny writing table?
What does your creative space look like?

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill


Edmund: (Bitterly) I remember all right. It was right after that Papa and Jamie decided they couldn't hide it from me any more. Jamie told me. I called him a liar! I tried to punch him in the nose. But I knew he wasn't lying. (His voice trembles, his eyes begin to fill with tears.) God, it made everything in life seem rotten! (Act III, page 121)

About the Book (from Wikipedia): Long Day's Journey into Night is a drama in four acts written by American playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1941–42 but only published in 1956. The play is widely considered to be his masterwork. The action covers a single day from around 8:30 am to midnight, in August 1912 at the seaside Connecticut home of the Tyrones—the semi-autobiographical representations of O'Neill himself, his older brother, and their parents at their home, Monte Cristo Cottage. One theme of the play is addiction and the resulting dysfunction of the family. All three males are alcoholics and Mary is addicted to morphine. In the play the characters conceal, blame, resent, regret, accuse and deny in an escalating cycle of conflict with occasional desperate and sincere attempts at affection, encouragement and consolation.

My Thoughts:
     I have always enjoyed reading dramas but don't often select them when picking up a new book to begin. Prior to reading O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, I read another of his incredible dramas, Mourning Becomes Electra, and was reminded of what an enjoyable format plays can be. O'Neill never disappoints. Long Day's Journey Into Night (Yale University Press, 1955) begins with the perception that the Tyrone family is a typical American family spending time together at their summer cottage in Connecticut, but the reader quickly interprets that there is an underlying current of turmoil beneath this facade. Their dialogue with each other is uncomfortable and you can sense that they are merely communicating on the pleasantries, like the weather or appointments and projects for the day, rather than addressing anything of a serious nature that is plaguing the family.
     Thought to be largely autobiographical, it is a story laden with heavy content under an umbrella of depression and bitterness. O'Neill clearly sets the scene for the reader so that the script is easily interpreted and literally visual apart from the stage. His development of character through physical description is brilliantly detailed in its simplicity. "Her most appealing quality is the simple, unaffected charm of a shy convent-girl youthfulness she has never lost- an innate unwordly innocence." (Act One, page 13)
     While addiction is the prevalent theme of the story, Long Day's Journey Into Night also explores how we handle disappointments when our expectations for life are not met. This is a powerful story that strips away the ability to project an image and reveals the weakness in each presentation. In many ways, O'Neill's Tyrones are play acting among themselves, portraying characters of a father, mother, and sons in order to avoid accusations and judgement. Their interactions revolve around their denial of their circumstance. Mary, the mother, moves through the scenes in a trance-like state, convinced that she is hiding her own addiction and that her husband is to blame for the family's turmoil. Edmund, the younger son, uses humor as his mask for shading how ill he has become due to his own alcohol addiction. James, the father, and Jamie, the eldest son, cast their guilt on each other and showcase the unfolding destruction through their bitterness.
     Long Day's Journey Into Night is a timeless tale that inspects the family dynamic and the impact of one members actions on another. Like the domino effect, each Tyrone serves as a crutch for the next until they can no longer bear the weight and tumble into desperation, unraveling the ties that bind.

For more information on Playwright Eugene O'Neill, visit www.eoneill.com.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Mountaintop School for Dogs

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.





The Mountaintop School for Dogs: And Other Second Chances 
by Ellen Cooney


"It was dusk on a winter day, and from high on the mountain came barking, drifting down above the snow like peals of a bell, one, two, three, four, more, just to say the light was leaving, but that was all right: here I am, I'm a dog, all is well."

Thoughts on Intro: I love how animated this book begins. From the introduction, the reader gets the sense that the dogs are going to be key characters as well. As a dog owner myself, I am really excited to read this story. There is much that animals can teach us and they provide a unique energy that offers such joy! The Mountaintop School for Dogs is sure to be a terrific read for those with four-legged friends!

About the Book (from amazon.com): Sanctuary. Place of refuge. Training school. Command center for The Network. Home for strays and rescued dogs. Evie is stuck at The Inn, managed by the stern and mysterious Mrs. Auberchon, although she’s supposed to join a training program at The Sanctuary. That’s what she signed up for—never mind that she lied and doesn’t know the first thing about animals except what she’s learned from a breed guide, from the notes someone keeps leaving, and from videos online, like one that asks: Please can more people be nicer to dogs? Once up on the mountain with staffers, volunteers, and her dog students, Evie takes notes on the new things she’s learning. Alpha. Forgiveness. Play. Rehabilitation. Like the racing greyhound who refuses to move, the golden retriever who returns every time he’s adopted, and the rottweiler who’s a hopeless candidate for search-and-rescue, Evie came from a troubled past. She writes: “Rescue. Best. Verb. Ever.” As she creates her own training manual, she may even write an entry on herself. A worthy shelf-mate to books by Garth Stein and Carolyn Parkhurst, this is a brilliantly engaging novel about finding fellow animals who may bring you a deeper sense of home, healing, and the power of inventing a future.

* The Mountaintop School for Dogs, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is scheduled to be released Aug. 5, 2014.

My Furbaby, Chloe
You can read by review of Cooney's Thanksgiving here 
and my review of Cooney's Lambrusco here.

About the Author:
Ellen Cooney was born in 1952 in Clinton, Massachusetts. She is the author of eight novels and stories published in The New Yorker and many literary journals. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and taught creative writing for over twenty-five years, most recently in the writing program at MIT. She now lives in mid-coast Maine.


Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan


About the Book (from amazon.com): The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times). In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.

"Melt White was sickened by the rabbit drives, the plagues of hoppers, a town of random death and no comfort from the sky. 
The land was broken." (page 9)

My Thoughts: 
     Imagine an environment in which the very air you breathe is heavy with dust, soil, and sand. It blows into your eyes, ears, nose and throat. It settles into your hair and skin, and into every fiber of your clothing. Next, imagine that this same dust invades your place of safety, your haven from the storms, your home. Then, consider that this becomes your daily existence for years. The color green is erased from your design palette. All you see is the color of dirt- brown, red, yellow. Your landscape is completely altered and pests and rodents multiply by the thousands. Your means of living becomes impossible and your way of life is going extinct. You lose your livestock, your possessions, your pride, and sometimes even those you love. But you don't give in to the circumstances. You plant your feet into the farmland and wait, hoping that next year will bring about a change, a return to the way things used to be. You stay because this land, your land, is all that you have. Now imagine that you created this disaster...and there is no going back.

"They had removed the native prairie grass, a web of perennial species evolved over twenty thousand years or more, so completely that by the end of 1931 it was a different land- thirty-three million acres." (page 101)

     The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006) explores a piece of history that is often overshadowed by the exodus that occurred in dust ravaged states in the High Plains. This story is about those who stayed.
During The Great War which started in 1914, wheat would become America's most valuable commodity. As shipments in Europe became blocked, the United States filled the world's void and encouraged farmers to plant more wheat, turn more earth. In parts of Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma, this production would bring more people to isolated lands and create an opportunity for many to obtain the American Dream- land, financial stability, and a place to call home. 
     Americans, including many immigrants, were encouraged to travel west and set up homesteads on prairie land that had never been farmed. It had served as grassland for Bison while the Native Americans controlled the land, and then for cattle as Americans moved in and eradicated the Bison. It is an area that experiences periodic droughts but native grasses had the ability to hold moisture in their roots, keeping the grass in place and the soil in tact. As an influx in wheat farming began to occur and technology introduced more modern methods of plowing which turned the earth in considerably less time, the grasses were quickly ripped from the ground leaving it exposed to the wind.
     Initially farmers saw much success. Record rainfalls, high wheat prices, and a desirable market provided them with a quality of life they had never known. But just as they were settling into their visions of a bright future, a series of events halted their forward movement. The nation's stock market crashed and banks closed, drying up the market- while there was plenty of wheat to purchase, the consuming country could no longer afford to buy it and the price plummeted. The farmers' solution: plow more wheat. If prices were down, they would simply have to sell more product. More earth was turned, more grass eradicated. A period of drought would then set in and with no rain to provide moisture to the soil, the winds would begin to blow the land and create massive storms of dust. "The first black duster was a curiosity, nothing else. The weather bureau observers wrote it up and put it in a drawer" (page 88).
     Years of dust storms would follow with little to no rain, leading up to Black Sunday: April 14, 1935. This major storm impacted most of the country and brought the dust of the plains all the way to the east coast. "The storm carried twice as much dirt as was dug out of the earth to create the Panama Canal" (page 8). These storms accompanied with the inability to provide a way of living for families, pushed the people to their limits. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would make this region a priority during this presidency, implementing many programs and projects to aid the people and find a way to heal the land by returning grasses to the vacant soil.
     The Worst Hard Time is a detailed exploration of the Dust Bowl, how it was created and how it forever changed American landscape. But it is also about the human spirit and what it takes to break it. Egan's extensive research is evident through his writing and telling of these stories that are both heartbreaking and inspiring. The strength of character of those who experienced, endured, and survived the Dust Bowl is dauntless, a testament to the power of optimism- that next year will be better.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck


About the Book: A recently discovered novel written by Pearl S. Buck at the end of her life in 1973, The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax (Rann for short), an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, on a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love. Rann falls for the beautiful and equally brilliant Stephanie Kung, who lives in Paris with her Chinese father and has not seen her American mother since she abandoned the family when Stephanie was six years old. Both Rann and Stephanie yearn for a sense of genuine identity. Rann feels plagued by his voracious intellectual curiosity and strives to integrate his life of the mind with his experience in the world. Stephanie struggles to reconcile the Chinese part of herself with her American and French selves. Separated for long periods of time, their final reunion leads to a conclusion that even Rann, in all his hard-earned wisdom, could never have imagined. A moving and mesmerizing fictional exploration of the themes that meant so much to Pearl S. Buck in her life, this final work is perhaps her most personal and passionate, and will no doubt appeal to the millions of readers who have treasured her novels for generations.

"For he came to perceive that since people were his study, his teachers, the objects through which he could satisfy his persistent wonder about life itself, his own being among others, where he lived for the moment, there was his home." (page 154)

My Thoughts
     The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck (Open Road Integrated Media, Inc., 2013) is the story of finding one's purpose in life. The reader follows this pursuit through the eyes of Rann Colfax, from birth to young adult. For those that have read previous works by Buck, her ease of story telling is instantly recognized. As with The Good Earth, The Eternal Wonder is centered around a male character and Buck does a wonderful job with the perspective, bridging the divide between the sexes.
     Rann is a highly intellectual child and is a voracious reader. He has a constant need to learn and understand everything around him and is encouraged by his parents to seek the answers for himself, to always wonder. His intellect sets him apart from his peers and he often finds himself alone, and discovers that he is most comfortable in solitude.  "He was often exhausted by this mind of his from which he could find  no rest except in sleep, and even his sleep was brief, though deep. Sometimes his mind waked him by its own activity. He envisioned his brain as being separate from himself, a creature he must live with, an enchantment but also a burden." (page 96). 
     Following the death of his father who was his greatest mentor, Rann's confidence in his path begins to wain and he is unsure of what he continue to pursue. He begins to think that if he has a better understanding of himself, then he will know what he is meant to do with his life. This journey of self discovery takes him around the world as he begins to travel, learns about love, and then joins the military where he serves in Korea. His time in Korea introduces Rann to his desire and love of writing and his career inadvertently takes off from there. Buck seems to be addressing her own thoughts on how writing impacted her life and the success that she found through creative expression.
     Published posthumously, one has to question if she felt The Eternal Wonder was complete. The ending of the book seems to move to quickly in an attempt to tie up all of the lose ends and feels disjointed as the theme shifts to exploring ethnicity and culture. Perhaps the flow of the book is a reflection of life. When we are younger, we think the days are long and we can't wait to grow up and free ourselves of childhood. But as we become adults, the days feel much too short and time passes much too quickly. The Eternal Wonder is a reminder that we should follow our passions and not fear failure for if you are doing what you love, happiness will find its way to you.

** To read the introduction of this book or a brief bio of the author, visit my post on Book Beginnings here.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Blind Assassin

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.






The bridge
"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car feel a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens."

Thoughts on Intro: The Blind Assassin starts with a very tragic and mysterious beginning that reels the reader in quickly. This book has been on my To Read list for quite a while and I am excited to finally pull it down from the shelf and dig into this 521 page book. The story does not flow chronologically which can often be challenging in keeping the reader's attention but will definitely impact the mystery of this story as it unravels.

About the Book (from wikipedia): The Blind Assassin is an award-winning, bestselling novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 2000. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century. The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002.[1] Time magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.


About the Author (from www.margaretatwood.ca): Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa, and grew up in northern Ontario and Quebec, and in Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College. Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Her newest novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short fiction) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a collection of non-fiction essays appeared in 2011. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was adapted for the screen in 2012. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca


Monday, April 21, 2014

A Poem: On Turmoiled Ground


On Turmoiled Ground

Child! Child! Rest your head upon pine bough drifts
Let moonlight guide dreams through rings of knitted web
Breathe a rhythm of lilac scented mourn
Awake! Wipe song of sorry gently from your parched lips

Child! Child! Dance swiftly across turmoiled ground
Haste not to greet the day unturned
Lay worries at bubbling river's bend
Sing! The heart beats for feathered friends

Child! Child! Hold tight to hope with fingers twisted
Remember youth from the depth of unfiltered sun
Place your bones in rocky soil upturned
Fight! For earth and reason are one

                                                     ~ R.L. Morgan


April is National Poetry Month! 
Check out 30 Ways to Celebrate at www.poets.org.


Happy Reading,
Rebecca

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck

Today I am linking up to Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader where readers share the first sentence of the current book they are reading.






"He lay sleeping in still waters. This was not to say that his world was always motionless. There were times when he was aware of motion, even violent motion, in his universe. The warm fluid that enfolded him could rock him to and fro, could even toss him about, so that instinctively he spread his arms wide, his hands flailing, his legs spreading in the sprinting fashion of a frog. Not that he knew anything about frogs- it was too soon for that. It was too soon for him to know. Instinct was as yet his only tool. He was quiescent most of the time, active only when responding to unexpected movements in the outer universe."

Thoughts on intro: 
     The first paragraph of this novel reads like a lullaby. The descriptions are very soothing yet there is something mysterious about the person or thing the author is describing. The reader is left to imagine for a brief moment.
     I have previously read Buck's "The Good Earth," which is an amazing novel so I am looking forward to this recently discovered work that was published after her death.

About the Book: A recently discovered novel written by Pearl S. Buck at the end of her life in 1973, The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax (Rann for short), an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, on a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love. Rann falls for the beautiful and equally brilliant Stephanie Kung, who lives in Paris with her Chinese father and has not seen her American mother since she abandoned the family when Stephanie was six years old. Both Rann and Stephanie yearn for a sense of genuine identity. Rann feels plagued by his voracious intellectual curiosity and strives to integrate his life of the mind with his experience in the world. Stephanie struggles to reconcile the Chinese part of herself with her American and French selves. Separated for long periods of time, their final reunion leads to a conclusion that even Rann, in all his hard-earned wisdom, could never have imagined. A moving and mesmerizing fictional exploration of the themes that meant so much to Pearl S. Buck in her life, this final work is perhaps her most personal and passionate, and will no doubt appeal to the millions of readers who have treasured her novels for generations.


 About the Author: Pearl S. Buck (1892–1973) was a bestselling and Nobel Prize–winning author. Her classic novel The Good Earth (1931) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and William Dean Howells Medal. Born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Buck was the daughter of missionaries and spent much of the first half of her life in China, where many of her books are set. In 1934, civil unrest in China forced Buck back to the United States. Throughout her life she worked in support of civil and women’s rights, and established Welcome House, the first international, interracial adoption agency. In addition to her highly acclaimed novels, Buck wrote two memoirs and biographies of both of her parents. For her body of work, Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, the first American woman to have done so. She died in Vermont.

Happy Reading,
Rebecca


 

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