"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favourite Books of 2011

I have read over 100 new books this year and a few stand out amongst the rest as memorable.  As I recall, from the top of my head, I think of The Help by Kathryn Stockett (thought provoking and humorous), The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (dreamy fantasy world of the circus), Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (creative suspense), Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (true genius), Little Princes by Conor Grennan (touched my soul), Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure by BK Bostick (can't wait for the next in the series), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (true friendship under occupation), Still Alice by Lisa Genova (loyalty, support, knowledge and humor), Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer (remarkable, 1st in a series), A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison (eye-opening and suspenseful), Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (a languid visit to romantic Tuscany), Hot Water by Erin Brockovich and CJ Lyons (suspense!), Don't Let Your Mechanic Pick Your Pocket by George A. Moyer (an honest informative book for all car owners), Reflections of a Successful Wallflower by Andrea Michaels (funny and entertaining), Hunting for Hemingway by Diane Gilbert Madsen (who knew Hemingway was so intriguing?), Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (a warm read recommended for every mother/daughter), Engage Commit Grow by Larry Smith (should be required reading for every business student, manager, and owner), Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon (a best-seller in the making!), The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (fantasy meets mythology).  But if I have to categorize them, by genres, it narrows the field somewhat.  

Fiction: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, The Help by Kathryn Stockett,

Fantasy/Fiction:  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Legal Thrillers:  A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison, Hot Water by Erin Brockovich and CJ Lyons

Historical Fiction/Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Non-fiction: Engage, Commit, Grow by Larry Smith; Don't Let Your Mechanic Pick Your Pocket by George A. Moyer, and Reflections of a Successful Wallflower by Andrea Michaels

Biography: Little Princes by Conor Grennan, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Travel/Memoirs:  Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Teen/YA: Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon

Children's: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, The Wizard Who Saved the World by Jeffrey Bennett

Mystery:  The Cat Who Turned On and Off by Lillian Jackson Braun, Hunting for Hemingway by Diane Gilbert Madsen, Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie

I am looking forward to a new year of remarkable new reads, debuting authors, book previews, advance reader's copies.  To curl up with a good book, a throw over your lap, and a favourite drink in hand and perhaps a little chocolate is pure delight.  Imagine a fire crackling in the hearth and, perhaps, some Michael Buble playing softly in the background.  Is there anything better when you are enjoying some time to yourself?

Here's to a new year of remarkable reads!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry

Coming Up For Air
Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
Published: August 16, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 272

  • ISBN-10: 0312610394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312610395

Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and local bookstores.

My copy of Coming Up For Air has not yet arrived, so in lieu of a review I am writing a "mention".  The plot attracted me right away.  I love stories about old houses, and one cloaked in mystery is right up there for me.

The following description is taken from the author's site:

On the coast of Alabama, there is a house cloaked in mystery, a place that reveals the truth and changes lives...

Ellie Calvin is caught in a dying marriage, and she knows this. With her beloved daughter away at college and a growing gap between her and her husband – between her reality and the woman she wants to be – she doesn’t quite seem to fit into her own life. 

But everything changes after her controlling mother, Lillian, passes away. Ellie’s world turns upside down when she sees her ex-boyfriend, Hutch, at her mother’s funeral and learns that he is in charge of a documentary that involved Lillian before her death. He wants answers to questions that Ellie’s not sure she can face, until, in the painful midst of going through her mother’s things, she discovers a hidden diary – and a window into stories buried long ago. 

As Ellie and Hutch start speaking for the first time in years, Ellie’s closed heart slowly begins to open. Fighting their feelings, they set out together to dig into Lillian’s history. Using both the diary and a trip to the Summer House, a mysterious and seductive bayside home, they gamble that they can work together and not fall in love again. But in piecing together a decades-old unrequited-love story, they just might uncover the secrets in their own hearts…
Coming up for Air is the story of one woman’s search for truth – and what happens when love steps in along the way.  

There's something here for lovers of a few different styles of writing:  mystery, suspense, romance, women's fiction.  It truly appeals to me and I hope my copy arrives soon!  Check it out!

Christmas House in Utah (lights in sync with music)

Merry Christmas to all from My Bookshelf.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

War Horse Opens in Theatres Christmas Day

You may take the interactive journey, War Horse Experience, at movies.msn.com/warhorse/map.

The War Horse Journey follows the extraordinary adventure of a horse named Joey as he moves through the war, inspiring and connecting the lives of all he meets. Follow his path to explore War Horse content, travel the landscape of the film through time, and interact with exclusive materials including content from the British Imperial War Museum.

George Whitman of Shakespeare and Company Parts Company With His Earthly Friends and Family

George Whitman, proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, the famous Parisian bookstore, has passed away December 14, 2011, two days after he celebrated his 98th birthday.  George founded the bookstore Le Mistral in 1951 on rue de la BĂ»cherie which he later renamed Shakespeare and Company in honour of Sylvia Beach, the original owner of Shakespeare and Company which was founded November 17, 1919.  Shakespeare and Company is currently located at 8 rue Dupuytren (as of 1964, when the current Le Mistral was renamed).  

Sylvia Beach opened the doors of Shakespeare and Company to budding writers as well as to the bibliophiles of the area.  During the war, Germany invaded the area, Sylvia was arrested, and her store closed December 1941.  Hemingway rescued it from the German forces in 1944 but it remained closed.  In Sylvia's honour, George Whitman named his bookstore, carrying on her traditions and adding his own including workshops, lodging for struggling and/or travelling writers.

Last month's issue of "France" magazine featured Shakespeare and Company, namely Sylvia Beach, who founded the original bookstore in Paris.  I read this article just a few days ago and then came across a newspaper article announcing the passing of its current proprietor, George Whitman.  He sounds like a fabulous supporter of the arts, following and enlarging the footsteps made by Sylvia.  May he rest in peace.  FYI, his daughter is now running Shakespeare and Company.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Walk Across the Sun Exposes Modern Day Slavery in This New Fictional Thriller

A Walk Across the Sun
Author:  Corban Addison
Publisher:  Harper Collins Canada and Sterling Publishing in USA
Publication date:  2012
On Sale 13/01/2012
Pages: 448
Available as an ebook, trade paperback, hardcover (384 pages)
Genre:  legal thriller 
ISBN-13: 978-1402792809

Source:  an ARC was provided by the publisher for staff at the bookstore which in no way influences this review nor my opinion.

"An unforgettable journey into the underworld of modern-day slavery, A Walk Across the Sun begins on December 26, 2004, as seventeen-year-old Ahalya Ghai and her younger sister, Sita, are walking on the beach outside their home in Chennai, India. Suddenly, the unimaginable happens: a devastating tsunami hits the shore, tearing their family apart instantly and leaving them orphaned and alone. As they attempt to travel toward safety inland, they are kidnapped and delivered to a Mumbai brothel, to begin new lives as 
captive prostitutes.

In Washington, DC, a young lawyer, Thomas Clarke, is forced to take a sabbatical from his prestigious law firm. He chooses to serve his time with a non-profit group working in the red-light areas of Mumbai, where his wife, Priya, has returned to live with her family following the tragic loss of their child. Little does he know that his reluctant penance will soon turn into an international quest for the woman he has lost and a child he has never met.

Though separated by half a world, the destinies of Thomas and the Ghai sisters become intertwined as Sita is trafficked to Paris and then New York. Before long, Thomas is navigating the brutal system of international human trafficking in an effort to reunite the sisters and save Sita’s life. Unflinchingly gritty yet ultimately hopeful, A Walk Across the Sun is an eye-opening tale of family and survival." (from Harper Collins)

''We’re taught in history class that slavery ended with the Civil War,” says author Corban Addison, “when in reality there are more slaves alive in the world today than ever before.” In fact, today there are 27 million slaves in the world. 2 million children are exploited in the global sex trade. Trafficking in persons touches every nation on the globe and reaps $32 billion in profits worldwide each year."

Shocked?  Horrified?  I was stunned by the statistics!  

A Walk Across the Sun is the story of two sisters, Ahalya and Sita, enjoying their teenage years growing up in a loving family in a coastal town in India.  The day of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami is the day their lives change forever.  Lost to the forces of nature, their parents are dead and the girls orphaned.  As they find a ride to take them to a city where an aunt will meet them, they are abducted and sold into a brothel.  

The days ahead will see them sold again and separated.  Sita finds herself in a restaurant in Paris, working as a slave and her sister Ahalya is confined to the prison of a brothel.  

In another land, across the ocean, lawyer Thomas Clarke finds himself a scapegoat in his firm and takes a sabbatical in India, working pro bono with a team, CASE, whose cause it is to break up the human trafficking rings.  When Thomas becomes involved in an operation that frees Ahalia, the cause takes on a human component, one that touches him deeply, and he vows to do all in his power to reunite the sisters.  His promise takes him to three countries, emphasizing the magnitude of the nature of human trafficking, both into slavitude and prostitution.

A Walk Across the Sun is a compelling thriller that will open your eyes to the horrors of modern day slavitude.  It is a story of hope, of love and loyalty.  You will find it beseeching you to not turn a blind eye, but to feel a desire to make a difference yourself, and you can.  In the acknowledgements, author Corban Addison offers links to organizations that make it their lives' work to fight the underground system of human slavery and trafficking.

I have to admit that the endorsement by John Grisham, one of my all-time favourite legal thriller writers, enticed me to read this book.  As Mr. Grisham states he has been approached by others to endorse their novels, never before has he done so.  This is the first time Mr. Grisham has endorsed a novel, and that, in and of itself, made it impossible to resist.  The story and writing of Corban Addison made it impossible to put down!  

If there is one new author in the field of legal thrillers you read in the coming year, make it Corban Addison.  Great things are expected of this writer!

About the Author
Corban Addison holds degrees in law and engineering from the University of Virginia and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. After completing a federal clerkship, Addison began his career specializing in corporate law and litigation. He has an abiding interest in international human rights, and is a supporter of numerous causes, including the abolition of modern slavery.

In researching A Walk Across the Sun, Addison traveled to India and spent a month with a team of investigators, attorneys and social workers from the International Justice Mission. During his visit, he went undercover into the brothels of Mumbai and met trafficking victims face to face. In addition, he spent time with activists in Paris and with a senior official from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Addison lives with his wife and two children in Virginia. This is his first novel. (from the press release)

Rated 4.5/5 (mature themes but no graphic details)

Trailer: The Litigators by John Grisham

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Books to Movies: The Help (review)


Released August 10, 2011:  The Help

"Change begins with a whisper."

Starring:  Emma Stone as Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, Viola Davis as Abileen Clark, Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Ron Howard) as Hilly Holbrook, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote, Ahna O'Reilly as Elizabeth Leefolt, Allison Janney as Charlotte Phelan, Anna Camp as Jolene French, Eleanor Henry as Mae Mobley, Emma Henry as Mae Mobley, Chris Lowell as Stuart Whitworth, Cicely Tyson as Constantine Jefferson, Mike Vogel as Johnny Foote, Sissy Spacek as Missus Walters.

Nate Berkus was one of eight executive producers and Chris Columbus (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the first two Harry Potter films) was one of four producers/co-producers.  

Eye-opening and potentially life altering....both could describe The Help.  First I read the book and found myself glued to the page.  It was riveting, entertaining, and delightful while provoking feelings of disgust, dismay and disappointment with regard to the circumstances of the help.  It's a mixed bag, but in a good way.  The movie is much the same and I highly recommend it!  The script closely follows the story line and for that I am glad!  The story is one that is sure to stay with you.  Even my 23 year old son enjoyed it immensely, proving that the audience is not limited by age nor gender.  Having said that, I would recommend a PG13 rating due to the nature of the story.  Watch this with your children, if you allow them to do so, so you can explain the atmosphere in Jackson and much of the states during the 1960s and previous.  The Help is definitely an ideal girl's night out, date night, or curl up with your loved one kind of 

The casting is superb!  Bryce Dallas Howard is a perfect Hilly!!!  Sissy Spacek is a wonderful cheeky mother to Hilly, Emma Stone passionately portrays Skeeter to a "t" and the maids.... spectacular!  The casting director should receive accolades!

I love this movie!!!

For the sensitive viewer:  It is good to note that the language is toned down in comparison with the book and the scene involving the man in Celia's garden was not included in the film.

original book cover

"You is kind.

              You is smart.

You is important."

                   "...I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe."

"She didn't pick her life.  It pick her."

"Two-slice Hilly" (when you see the movie and/or read the book you will totally understand this one!)

movie tie-in book cover


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun
Author:  Frances Mayes
Published:  1996
Publisher:  Broadway Books, a Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
Pages:  292
Genre:  Travel Memoir
Source:  I own this book


(from the back cover)  Frances Mayes--widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer--opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside.  In sensuous and evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy.  An accomplished cook and food writer, Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book.  Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.  A celebration of the extraordinary quality of life in Tuscany, Under the Tuscan Sun is a feast for all the senses.

My Thoughts:

Under the Tuscan Sun is not a book to be greedily read, speeding through to be done.  It is like a fine dessert or a hot drink on a cold day. The heated mug warming your hands and the steam your face, as you hold it near and the drink, enjoyed in small slow sips, heating your insides slowly. That is Under the Tuscan Sun.  One must linger over the poetic descriptive flow, the picturesque countryside coming to life on each page.  Take it slow and immerse yourself in the words, the country, the way of life.  Under the Tuscan Sun is akin to a holiday abroad wherein you are at liberty to meander the streets, visit the shops, taste the delicacies therein and watch the people.  The countryside of rolling hills, vineyards and chestnut forests fill your mind. You are there with Frances as she explores the vast beauty of Italy.  

Not only is this a travel memoir, Frances shares the joys of acquiring Bramasole, her home in Italy, and, with her partner Ed, taking on the renovation of all renovations, gutting rooms, taking down walls, laying brick floors, revamping the landscape, finding scorpions.  There are conundrums, the revealed frescoes, the pain and the joy of restoring and developing Bramasole to a traditional Italian villa -- the house and land it takes two oxen two days to plow.  Amidst it all, Frances and Ed tour the countryside, exploring the towns and shops and bringing home new exciting foods to prepare.  Frances, after all, is a gourmet cook and it seems that Ed is no slouch either.  Shared within Under the Tuscan Sun are summer and winter recipes, favourites of hers, some traditional and some her own variations on Italian foods.  It is all mouthwatering goodness!!

I encourage you, when you are in the mood for a languid, feel-good book, to pick up a copy of Under the Tuscan Sun, sit back and enjoy the visit to Cortona through the senses and words of a gifted writer.  You'll relish the experience!

Rated 5.5/5

Also by Frances Mayes, continuing her story, is Bella Tuscany: the Sweet Life in Italy (2000) and Everyday in Tuscany:  Seasons of an Italian Life (2010).  See Frances' website for more:  http://www.francesmayesbooks.com

Favourite quotes from Under the Tuscan Sun:

“Life offers you a thousand chances... all you have to do is take one.”
― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

“Splendid to arrive alone in a foreign country and feel the assault of difference. Here they are all along, busy with living; they don't talk or look like me. The rhythm of their day is entirely different; I am foreign. ”
― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

“Like fanning through a deck of cards, my mind flashes on the thousand chances, trivial to profound, that converged to re-create this place. Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different. Where did the expression "a place in the sun" first come from? My rational thought process cling always to the idea of free will, random event; my blood, however, streams easily along a current of fate. ”
― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

In 2003 a film version of Under the Tuscan Sun was released starring Diane Lane as Frances Mayes.  

Under the Tuscan Sun, the film, is the reason for my reading the book of the same title.  Though the circumstances and story are altered (ie. wherein Frances acquires Bramasole), this movie is worth watching.... repeatedly. It is one of my favourites!

Frances, recently divorced, travels to Tuscany as a gift from one of her best friends.  She is at a cross-roads, heart-broken, and at a loss.  The trip to Tuscany sets in place a life-changing series of events which help Frances realize that it is never too late to pursue dreams, to find "home", and to love again.  Set in the beautiful countryside of Cortona, Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun beckons the viewer, much as the book did, to come, to languish, to immerse yourself in the culture, to eat a grape that "even tastes like purple" while the bells toll.  A chick-flick with substance, humour, and delectable food and environment; won't you take the journey?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fond Christmas Memories: Rich Little's Christmas Carol

I still remember this from when I was a child.  Of course, I was too young to understand all the nuances but I do remember it being a less frightening version of the classic Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Now I watch it with a new appreciation for the great talent of Rich Little and his humour.  It's a light twist but the message remains as important today as it was when Charles Dickens wrote it years ago.

What are your favourite Christmas memories?

Book Review: Merry Christmas Stories by Jeff R. Spalsbury

Merry Christmas Stories
Author:  Jeff R. Spalsbury
Published:  2010
Publisher:  Black Rose Writing
Pages:  211
# Short Stories:  25
ISBN 9781935605676
Note:  This copy was autographed by the author

Source:  This book was provided by the author, as part of the TLC virtual book tour, in exchange for an honest review.


Bound together in one volume are 25 short stories of Christmas.  Within these stories you will find heartwarming tales of love, life, lost Santas and found, new loves and old, an alien or two and a family of ghosts.  Mr. Spalsbury pens them all and even includes one of his mother's poems, Think of Me, in the story "Loneliness is My Mistress".  There is something for everyone.  You need only a few minutes to select and enjoy any one of the twenty-five stories.  You will laugh, smile and you may even shed a tear, but one thing is for sure, you will feel of the spirit of Christmas within these pages. Three of my favourites are Santa's Missing, Santa's Found and Willie Putt-Putt which made me laugh. Merry Christmas stories is available in the US at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, and in Canada at Amazon.ca

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nicholas Sparks' The Lucky One Movie Trailer

Thanks to The Book Vixen who posted the following trailer for the soon to be released The Lucky One.  I just had to share it here as well since I reviewed Nicholas Sparks' The Lucky One back in January.

An excerpt from my review:

"Nicholas Sparks weaves a story of love, of mystery, of intrigue and suspense in this novel. ..... " 

"The Lucky One is the story of a young marine who, after returning from war, pursues his destiny, whatever that may mean.  His friend Victor, a strong believer in such things, is persuaded that the photo Logan found has preserved his life in-so-much that Victor deemed it possible to remain alive during the war by being in close proximity to Logan.  Logan is not convinced. However, he and Victor come home from war while many of their brigade aren't so lucky.  Still in possession of the photo of a young woman, Logan decides to follow Victor's advice when he tells him he must repay the debt.  He must find the woman in the photo."

"Sparks introduces us and seduces us so we are right there with the characters cheering them on, chastising at times, and eager to see justice.  The sudden plot turn near the end leaves the readers hanging until the epilogue.  A remarkable tool the author has developed to keep you guessing, until the last moment, if all will end happily ever after." (copyright My Bookshelf)

Now that you have seen the trailer, will you read the book?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Taking Green to a Whole New Level (books and Christmas trees)

Here's another take on "green" for Christmas.  The staff at Gleeson Library in San Francisco used books from their shelves, covered in varying shades of green, to form this creative Christmas tree.  Clean up is easy.  Just re-shelve the books!  Clever!


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