Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas Reads

My family has induldged my love of books AND of Christmas. I had the pleasure of unwrapping all these wonderful books yesterday ~ The Final Eleven Days of Earl Durand is a true story of the "last" outlaw of the west and takes place in our old stomping grounds of Cody and Powell, Wyoming. Can't wait to dive into that one (and it fits the criteria for one of my Back to History challenge reads!). Luanne Rice is one of my favorite authors, so my daughter, Shilo, gave me The Edge of Winter. Yeah!
Falling into the Christmas category is Saint Nicholas from my husband and A Country Christmas from my sister. Saint Nicholas is a historical book that goes back to the real Saint Nicholas and his life. Gorgeous pictures, also! A Country Christmas is a cookbook/craftbook with lots of mouthwatering recipes and great projects. I've already picked some out for next year.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Happy Reading...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Death Dance

'"You think we've got a case?" Mercer Wallace asked me.'
The first paragraph of a book is many times for me the deciding factor on if I'm going to read it or not. This paragraph (can you really call one sentance a paragraph?!) generally would not have done it for me, but the book Death Dance by Linda Fairstein was given to me by my daughter, Brittany, after she had read it so I thought I might as well dive in. I have not read any other of this authors books and there were some things that I could have used a little background knowledge of with the characters, but most of the story could stand alone okay.
Alex Cooper is with the Manhattan DA's office and works alongside Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace from the NYPD's Homicide division to solve the murder of an aging prima ballerina, Natalya Galinova. Natalya disappeared during a perfomance at the Lincoln Center Metropolitan Opera House, so the books delves into the history of the theatre, which I found really interesting. We are introduced to our main suspects; Joe Berk, the slimy rich "Godfather" type figure who heads up the Berk family who own many of the Broadway theatres, Berk's young adult son, Briggs, his nasty out-to- get-the-old-man neice, Mona and her husband Ross Kehoe. There is also the head of the Met and former lover of Natalya, Chet Dobbis. Who done it? Where? and Why?
It really was a fun book, quick to read, with other minor sub-plots involved. These sub-plots were scattered throughout the book and solved in just a short paragraph towards the end. Not at all tied in with our main story. I thought that we should have gotten to know the deceased a bit better, also. The author did not really dive into her personality or who she was at all except to let the reader know that she was a bad tempered prima past her prime. We know that she was married, but are never introduced to her estranged husband. She really was a flat character to me and should have been more the focus, since it is her murder that needs to be solved. Like I said, I really enjoyed the history of the New York theatre scene and the buildings themselves. It was all in all not a bad book and I would read this author again if I came upon her. I would not search her out though. I will not be running over to Amazon to swoop up the rest of the series.

I am now of to read Amy Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


'Not twenty minutes have passed since you left me here in the cafe', since I said No to your request, that I would never write out for you the story of my mortal life, how I became a vampire - how I came upon Marius only years after he had lost his human life.'
Pandora by Anne Rice

Above is the first paragraph in this wonderful novel. I am far behind the times and have only read one other of Anne Rice's vampire novels, Merrick. I did not enjoy that one nearly as much as I enjoyed Pandora. This is a rich novel, full of history. We start out in present day Paris, in a small but busy cafe'. David Talbot is a fellow vampire who has taken on the task of chronicling the stories of his fellow vampires. In the paragraph above, David has asked Pandora to write down for him her story, how she came to be two thousand years old, the first vampire ever made by Marius. Pandora has told him no, that she won't do it, but finds that she can't stop herself and it is a healing process for her. (As writing our stories is for many of us). This book is much more than your typical vampire story. It is more the story of a young woman in ancient Rome. The book is alive with Roman and Greek history, from the year 15 BC, we are taken through time - through the Roman Empire as Pandora is a daughter of a Roman Senetar, through Greek Mythology and visits to some of the greatest cities of that era.
As a very young girl, Pandora meets and falls in love with the very handsome and charismatic Marius, who begs her father for her betrothal, only to be turned down time and again. Marius goes on his way and Pandora only meets up with him again years later in exotic Antioch. By this time Marius is immortal and very unhappy with his fellow vampires. The story continues with the next two centuries of Pandora and Marius' life together.
This one, for me, ended to soon. I could have stayed in Ancient Rome with Pandora for much longer. Now I may be looking for more in this Anne Rice series. I so enjoyed my time there. This book is being passed on to my daughter, Shilo. I think she will get the same pleasure from it that I did.
My favorite passage is this: (as Pandora is starting to write her own story for David)
'I reach now for a victim who is not easy for me to overcome: my own past. Perhaps this victim will flee from me with a speed that equals my own. Whatever, I seek now a victim that I have never faced. And there is the thrill of the hunt in it, what the modern world calls investigation.'

How ridiculous and what a stranger he is who is surprised at anything which happens in life.
~Marcus Aurelius ~ Meditations

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Zanna's Gift ~ A Life In Christmases

I read Zanna's Gift as one of my Christmas themed books challenge. I picked this one up at the Book Warehouse in the factory outlet stores in Seaside. They always have a great selection of books in there. This Christmas book was first published in 2004 and is written by Scott Richards. It was a very touching story, beginning in 1938 with a family trying to cope with the loss of a child. It begins:

'There are many ways to lose a child, and none of them is merciful. But like all unbearable things it can be borne, and in the weeks before Christmas 1938, the Pullmans were learning how.'
Ernie, age 15, died in his sleep, probably of an aneurism. Ernie had a special relationship with his four year old sister, Zanna, a budding artist. Ernie was the only member who could see the pictures in the strange patterns and shapes that Zanna drew. Zanna had been drawing a special picture for Ernie that year and finished it after his death, keeping it always to give to Ernie when she would see him again. The picture became a symbol for the entire family generation after generation, brought out each year at Christmas for it's special place on the mantle.
This is a very touching story, easily read in one sitting, and one that I will keep on my shelves for many years to come, reminding me of the love adn commitment of family.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates

This classic was sitting on my bookshelf, quietly begging to be included in my reading for the Christmas themed book challenge . I could not ignore the pleas and am so glad that I read this. I had read abridged versions in school as we all did, but had never read the full novel. It is wonderful! Such a great read. I will start out as I always do with the first paragraph.

'On a bright December morning, long ago, two thinly clad children were kneeling upon the bank of a frozen canal in Holland.'
Author ~ Mary Mapes Dodge

We meet Hans and his young sister, Gretel, as they are strapping on their homemade wooden skates for a few minutes of early morning fun before their Mother calls them home for a long day of work and helping to care for their idiot (so the story calls him) Father. The Father had taken a bad fall from his dike work ten long years ago and has known nothing or no one since. Mother and Father had saved up their coins, but the very day that Father had been injured, those coins went missing, never to be found so the family has, years ago, fallen to the poorest of the poor. The children are both excellent skaters, but only have their old wooden skates which stick to the ice once they get wet. There is to be a race among the local kids and the winner in both the boys race and the girls race will win a pair of silver skates. One of the townsgirls, Hilda van Gleck, really likes both Hans and Gretel and wants to help them win the race, so she pays Hans a few coins to carve her a wooden necklace with the stipulation that he must use the coins to buy either himself or Gretel a pair of skates so that one of them can be in the race. Hans buys the skates for Gretel and a friend of Hilda's, Peter, then pays Hans for a necklace for his sister so Hans may also get a pair of skates. On the way to market to purchase the skates, Hans runs in to the great aloof Doctor and begs him to take his coins and please come to see if he can help his Father, who has taken a turn for the worse and is in great pain. The Doctor is intrigued by the case, does not take the money and tells Hans to expect him to be by the Brinker house in a few days time. Hans then continues to market and buys himself the much desired skates.
Is the great Doctor able to help Father before it is to late? Will Father die? Does Hans or Gretel win the big race and the silver skates? Are the lost coins ever found these ten years later? If you have not read this novel, pick it up. It is a wonderful classic tale. There is so much to this story that I was not aware of with just the short versions that we read in Elementary School.
Here is one passage that gives an insight into the Saint Nicholas legend in old Holland:
'We all know how, before the Christmas tree began to flourish in the home-life of our country, a certain "right jolly old elf," with "eight tiny reindeer," used to drive his sleigh-load of toys up to our house-tops and then bound down the chimney to fill the stockings so hopefully hung by the fireplace. His friends called him Santa Claus, and those who were most intimate ventured to say, "Old Nick." It was said that he originally came from Holland. Doubtless he did; but, if so, he certainly, like many other foreigners, changed his ways very much after landing upon our shores. In Holland, Saint Nicholas is a veritable saint, and often appears in full costume, with his embroidered robes, glittering with gems and gold, his mitre, his crozier and his jeweled gloves. HERE Santa Claus comes rollicking along, on the twenty-fifth of December, our holy Christmas morn. But in Holland, Saint Nicholas visits earth on the fifth, a time especially appropriated to him. Early on the morning of the sixth, he distrubutes his candies, toys and treasures, and vanishes for a year.
Chistmas day is devoted by the Hollanders to church rites and pleasant family visiting. It is on Saint Nicholas' eve that their young people become half wild with joy and expectation. To some of them it is a sorry time, for the saint is very candid, and if any of them have been bad during the past year, he is quite sure to tell them so. Sometimes be carries a birch rod under his arm and advises the parent to give them scolding in place of confections and floggings instead of toys.'

I really enjoyed this classic Christmas tale.