Friday, February 29, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Cugat: The Record of a Happy Marriage

"Mr. Cugat was a little older than Mrs. Cugat, so that there had been a period of several years during which he, full-fledged and out in the world, sportively tried his wings while she pounded the playing fields of Westover."
Written by Isabel Scott Rorick. First published in 1940 ~

This was an enjoyable book. Quite the little comedy that takes us through some very comical times in the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Cugat. The chapters are each named for a part of the wedding vows, the first chapter being called "...forsaking all others..." In this chapter the newlyweds are invited to a party because Mr. Cugat's ex-girlfriend will be there and would love to see him. Mrs. Cugats jealousy overtakes her (as it should!) and the story reads reminiscent of a I Love Lucy episode. The book was fun and quick, but not one that I will read over again. This edition did have some very cute illustrations to go along with the story.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

"Let us begin with two girls at a dance."
Written by Maggie O'Farrell

I really enjoyed this book ~ when I had to put it down it was on my mind until I could pick it back up again. The story is told of two sisters, one growing up "proper", the other being a bit of a rebel, in the days when a Father could decide that it was in a girls best interest to put her in an asylumn for awhile. In this case Esme was left there, virtually forgotten, for over 60 years until the institution was closing down and the nearest relative had to be contacted. From here, we go 60 years into the past, to a world of family secrets and lies. A wonderful book, one that I'll keep on my shelf for some time to come.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The President's Lady

The President's Lady by Irving Stone is the 3rd book that I have read for the Back To History Challenge and I absolutely LOVED it. This was a book that I just couldn't put down and found myself thinking about during the day. It is a biographical novel, written in 1951, about the lives of Rachel and Andrew Jackson, told from Rachel's viewpoint. The author took great pains to research the Jacksons lives, thus the story is authentic, yet not at all boring. It does not read like a documentary but like a good story.

Rachel and Andrew met at her family plantation just outside of present day Nashville. Rachel was married but living back home because her insanely jealous and mentally abusive husband had turned her out, denouncing her and sending for her family to take her home. Andrew was a young lawyer who lived in one of the family cabins while building his practice. Rachel tryed, time and time again to reconcile with her husband, who would be repentant, wanting her back only to accuse her of the same flirtations once again, sending her back home. When word came that Rachels husband had secured a divorce, the first in the territory, Rachel and Andrew married. Two years later it came to light that the divorce was never granted. It was finally finished, with Rachel being accused of adultery because of the two years that the Jacksons lived as husband and wife. A second wedding ceremony took place immediately, but those two years would haunt them for the rest of their lives. Rachel was shunned by the vindictive town women, who thought she wasn't good enough to join their little clubs. Andrew was away from home more than half of their marriage, serving on the sentate, running for office or fighting in the war, so Rachel spent her time running their plantation, The Hermitage, and caring for any sick neighbors, her support and love for her husband never failing.

She was a remarkably strong woman in many ways. I found that I really liked Rachel Jackson. The author did a fantastic job of bringing her personality and who she was through in his writing. I sympathized with her, cried with her, hurt for her. What a wonderful historical novel.

I've had this book in my stacks for a couple of years now, picked it up at a thrift shop, but don't know when I ever would have gotten to it if it wasn't for this challenge. So glad I was prompted to read it. I've just heard that there was a movie made and now I'm on the hunt to find it...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Baker's Hawk

(originally uploaded here )
Baker's Hawk by Jack Bickham was my choice for the book with an animal in the title for the What's In A Name Challenge . This book came off of my shelf where it has been since I was in Junior High School, so it's been many many years since I had read it. I was surprised to find how much of the story I had forgotten. It was almost like reading something for the first time. This book has been compared to Where the Red Fern Grows which is one of my all time favorites.

It is about a young boy, Billy Baker, in 1882 Colorado who has a great love for wild animals. Billy's dad has told him that he cannot bring any more pets home, so when one of the young hawk's that Billy has been watching falls from the next on his first attempt at flight, Billy takes him to the old crazy man of the mountains. Rumour is that this old crazy man has a special way with the wild creatures and may be able to help Billy's hawk heal his injured wing.

In town, the lawless antics have caused a group of citizens to form a vigilance committee to try and run any bad elements out of town. These citizens feel that the Sheriff isn't doing a good enough job, so they decide to take the law into their own hands, pressuring all to join them. Billy's dad refuses, raising questions in Billy's young mind. Is his Dad not brave? Is he a coward? Why will he not join this committee? Things quickly get out of control. Billy takes to spending much time in the mountains with the old man who turns out to not be crazy at all. Together they are training Billy's Hawk to fly on a tether and come back to him when a whistle is blown. Meanwhile, the vigilance committee is scouring the countryside to get rid of any individual who is different. Is Billy's friend in danger? What will happen to Billy's Dad for not joining in?

I really enjoyed reading this book again. It evokes alot of concern and emotion for the charachters and keeps you reading.

Here are a couple of my favorite passages:

'You imagined old things were put away, he thought, and in one way they were indeed gone forever. But in another way the past was never behind a man; he carried it in his mind and sinew, and in his gut. And he never knew when it would come back.'

'Billy, knowing hawks had to have roughage, bones and feathers to keep their digestion straight, had been catching small sparrows and offering these to the hawk. It got to the place by the end of the week that the hawk knew whether Billy had a dead sparrow for it before Billy was even halfway up tghe last rise from the woods to the house. If he had a sparrow, the hawk cried and spread its wings, moving around nervously, in anticipation. If Billy was empty-handed, the hawk just sat there like some regal king, giving him the cold-eyed stare.
"He's getting trained to expect the sparrows," Billy told McGraw, "and that's good."
"I think he figures he's getting you trained to bring them, only sometimes you're a little dumb and forget," McGraw said.

Happy Reading!