Friday, May 30, 2014

The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand

Title:  The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand
Author:  Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor with Booth Moore
Publication Information:  Gotham. 2014. 256 pages.
ISBN:  1592408095 / 978-1592408092

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "A true entrepreneur understands the single-mindedness that borders on being obsessive-compulsive. And that the work of an entrepreneur doesn't end with any single business. It's on to the next."

Two girls had a dream, turned it into reality, and watched it disappear. That is the story of Juicy  Couture. Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor created the idea of Juicy Couture and turned it into a multi-million dollar company. The Glitter Plan tells the story of how the two met in the 1980s and how Juicy Couture started. It describes its meteoric rise in the fashion industry, and how it all ended.

This book is part narrative memoir and part business advice similar to Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. The book takes you behind the scenes of a widely known brand and tell the story of how the brand reached that point. It is interesting as a cultural history - how having clothing with writing across the derriere became a fashion and status statement. It is also interesting as a business history - how creativity in design and marketing created a global brand.

The narrative presents the history of how the brand came to be and the struggles of these entrepreneurs. The conversational writing style makes the book a very quick and a very easy read. The relaxed writing approach seems to go well with the entire Juicy Couture brand - serious business with a comfort look.

Each aspect of their journey is accompanied by clearly identified (by a different printing style) business advice. The advice ranges from "Do what moves you and find your partner in crime" to "Surviving the transition to corporate management." These brief sections include definitions of terms and bulleted lists of do's and don'ts. This book is not a manual on how to start a business, but rather a high level presentation of what worked for them.

The books ends with a new beginning - what the future holds for Juicy Couture and for Pam and Gela. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mrs. Hemingway

Title:  Mrs. Hemingway
Author:  Naomi Wood
Publication Information:  Penguin Books. 2014. 322 pages.
ISBN:  0143124617 / 978-0143124610

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "What a pull he has! What a magnetism! Women jump off balconies and follow him into wars. Women turn their eyes from an affair, because a marriage of three is better than a woman alone."

Ernest Hemingway over the course of his life was married to four women - Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain tells the story of his first marriage to Hadley.

This book seems to follow the trend for creating fictionalized accounts of real relationships as Nancy Horan does in Under the Wide and Starry Sky and Robin Oliveira does in I Always Loved You. It is important to note that though based in fact, all of these stories are fiction for the true details of the relationships have been lost with the people themselves. That is why each author is very careful to present it as a novel.

This book is written in four sections - each one telling the story of one marriage. Each section begins at the end in a way. It begins at the time when each marriage is ending whether it be through an affair, divorce, or death.

Each section dips back and forth between the highs and lows of the relationship. It dips back and forth between each woman's belief that theirs would be the one that lasted forever and the realization that it would not. Each section touches on the relationship between these women - I suppose the bond from having loved and lost the same man.

This book is a story of Ernest Hemingway up to a point. His character is presented through the views and perceptions of these women. The book does not speak to his motivations. It leaves you wondering what it was about this man that drew these women, even knowing his past relationship history.

This book is, of course, the story of these four women - their love, their efforts to manage their relationship, and their lives after. One of the most interesting things I found was the ongoing friendships and relationships between the women even though one may have been responsible for the end of the other's marriage.

This book is also a story of the times from Paris to Key West, from the war front to high society.

The book blends fiction with known facts about Ernest Hemingway and the lives of these women. It adds research based on letters and telegrams. Through all of this, it weaves a beautifully written story about love, heartbreak, and choices. I cannot say that I understand these women, but it does not matter. This book is a story of emotions, and sometimes there is no why. It is simply an emotional journey to be felt.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Forgot to Remember

Title:  I Forgot to Remember
Author:  Su Meck with Daniel de Visé
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2014. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1451685815 / 978-1451685817

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "There are always more questions than there are answers."

In a freak accident in 1988, a ceiling fan fell on twenty two year old Su Meck, causing a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She suffered few visible injuries, but the brain injury caused a permanent loss of her memories.

This book chronicles her life after the accident. She was released from the hospital after only three weeks, and sent back to resume her life. A life she had no memory of. A life that included a husband. A life that included two young children requiring a mother's care.

Her memory of her first twenty two years prior to the accident has not returned. Even the memories for a long period of time after the accident are sketchy and developed based on what she has been told about her own life.

Over the years, many of her medical concerns were dismissed. She learned to hide the missing pieces and not share the fact of her injury with many people. The psychological impact of that can been seen throughout the book.

Many people have questioned how a person with no memories can write a memoir. That question does not bother me. A memoir is historical account based on recollections. Typically, they are the recollections of the person writing. In this case, it is based on the "research" Su Meck has done and the recollections of those around her.  Since that is what she has available, these become her memories.

I really wanted to like this book. The medical story of Su Meck is fascinating. Her courage is inspiring. Out of respect for her journey, I wanted to like this book.

Unfortunately, I found the book difficult to read and difficult to remain interested in. The story seems to skim the surface of her life. It seems caught up in the details of everyday life - the moves, the daily chores, the reliance on certain key people, and the developed skill of mimicking others in unfamiliar situations. After a while, reading the same pattern in several different settings gets repetitive.

The book also presents Su's perspective, as reconstructed based on the stories she's been told. Adding in other perspectives or even exploring the emotional impact on relationships may have added greater depth.

I admire Su Meck's persistence and courage in rebuilding her life and wish her luck in the future. The book unfortunately seems to miss the intensity of her experience and leaves me feeling unconnected with her story.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Daring Ladies of Lowell: A Novel

Title:  The Daring Ladies of Lowell:  A Novel
Author:  Kate Alcott
Publication Information:  Doubleday Books. 2014. 243 pages.
ISBN:  0385536496 / 978-0385536493

Book Source:  I read this book based on the title and description.

Favorite Quote:  "Perhaps you're too young yet to see how the tides go in and out. For all the wealth and luxury in this house, there's nothing magical about it. One generation toils away so they can wear fine clothes and eat off silver dishes. The next drifts along, barely bothering to paddle the boat. And then it is up or down."

The year is 1832. Alice Barrow flees her home in New Hampshire in search of independence and a better life. This search brings her to the textile factory in Lowell, Massachusetts and Boarding House #52, Dormitory A.

Historically, at the time, Lowell was growing as a manufacturing center. Retrospectively, it is in fact considered one of the hubs of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The mill and surrounding town were one of the first planned industrial city constructions in the country. Even today, the National Park Service has preserved many of the sites as historical landmarks.

Many men, including many immigrants escaping the Irish potato famine, worked on constructing the factories and canals. A key workforce in the factories were the Mill girls, young single women coming from the farm communities in Massachusetts and surrounding states. The "single" was a requirement of the factory owners. The "young" was due to shorter life-spans, the difficult work, and the requirement to be single.

Alice comes to become one of the Mill girls. In Dormitory A, she meets a group of women, each with their own story and their own reason for being there. The stories are all different but similar in one respect - most of these women do not have the option of returning to the home they have left.

The book follows three story lines - the working conditions of the factories and efforts to change those, the death of one of Alice's friends and the pursuit for justice, and a romance for Alice. The historical discussion of the Mill girls and the factory conditions is the most interesting aspect of the book for me. The fact that one young girl wrote a "Mill Girl Manifesto" demanding rights represents the courage of these young women. The story of the death of Alice's friend ties into that. That death is based on the actual case of Sarah Cornell's death in 1832.

I could have done without the romance aspect of the book. For me, it does not add to the story. I would rather that the focus have remained on the strong and independent woman that Alice was. Aside from that, the book is an enjoyable read, an interesting history, and a very quick read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back (William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy)

Title:  William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back (William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy)
Author:  Ian Doescher
Publication Information:  Quirk Books. 2014. 176 pages.
ISBN:  1594747156 / 978-1594747151

Book Source:  I read this book based on how much I enjoyed William Shakespeare's Star Wars, the first book in this series.

Favorite Quote:
"But truly, what man doth not wear a mask?
For all of are maskéd in some way - 
Some choose sharp cruelty as their outward face,
Some put themselves behind a king's facade,
Some hide behind the mask of bravery,
Some put on the disguise of arrogance.
But underneath our masks, are we not one?
Do not all wish for love, and joy, and peace?
And whether rebel or Imperial,
Do not our hearts all beat in time to make the pounding rhythm of the galaxy?
So while Darth Vader's mask keeps him alive,
And sits upon his face for all to see,
'Tis possible he is more honest than a man who wears no mask, but hides his self."

This book is the second in the series to rewrite the story of the Star Wars original trilogy in Shakespearean English. The first, William Shakespeare's Star Wars, was a delightful book. This one is almost as good.

If Star Wars is not for you or you are not familiar with it, then this is not the book for you. If, however, you are a Star Wars fan, then this is a fun addition to the collection. The book stays true to the story, which I really appreciate as a Star Wars fan.

This book, like the first, is one I can happily share with my children - even the somewhat grown up ones. Having all seen the movies several times and studied Shakespeare, we each find things to enjoy about the book and to have a lively discussion.

Ian Doescher's website provides a study guide to accompany the book which explains iambic pentameter and the use of Shakespeare's plays in creating this story.

In fact, the online resources for this book include a study guide designed for high school or college classes. The study guide outlines the way in which this book references or uses dialogue from Shakespearean plays such as Henry V, Hamlet, and Macbeth.

The end of the book had a note by the author on some of his challenges in converting the story and dialogue into Shakespearean English. For example, how should Yoda speak in that time period? How should the developing relationship between Han Solo and Leia be expressed? The author also presents the creative solutions he came up. Reading that at the end made me want to re-read the book to better appreciate the writing. I would recommend reading that first even though it is at the end.

This book does not include as many asides as the first ones. The asides, especially those from R2-D2 made the first book very humorous. This one is less so for that reason and also because the story itself gets more serious as things go against the rebellion.

Finally, this book being the second in a series does not have the novelty value that the first one did. It did not surprise me in the way the first one did, but it is still a fun book to read and to share with kids. I look forward to reading the next installment.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Hollow Ground

Title:  The Hollow Ground
Author:  Natalie S. Harnett
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2014. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1250041988 / 978-1250041982

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "But comes a point when a person's got to take 'sponsibility for who they is no matter what their parents done to them ... some things you got to get past, no matter how bad."

The time is the 1960s. The place is the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania. Eleven year old Brigid is a young Irish-American girl growing up poor and troubled in this environment.

This book was like reading two concurrent stories - one the result of the external circumstances and one due to the psychological impact of parental actions on children. The "hollow ground" becomes literal and figurative. The ground beneath these towns is burning, and the land caves in on these burned out pockets. Figuratively, a person too can be a hollow ground, so damaged by events of the past as to be unable to move forward with love. The damage of the past leaves a hollow shell of a person behind.

I found the historical story the more interesting one. The Pennsylvania coal mine fires have been burning since the 1960s. The primary theory as to how the fires started is that a fire was started as a way to clear a dump in preparation for creation of a landfill. The flames reached the underlying coal mines through a hole in the ground - "hollow ground" - and have been burning since.

Over the years, a variety of agencies tried a myriad of remedial actions, but to no avail. Thousands and thousands of people were relocated as a part of the remediation efforts.

In the early 1990s, the Pennsylvania governor exercised eminent domain over the affected lands in an effort to remove the remaining residents. In 2013, an agreement was reached with the still remaining residents that they will be allowed to stay for their lifetime. At that time, the property will belong to the government through the right of eminent domain. Meanwhile, the fires still burn.

This is the environment in which Brigid grows up. A constant struggle to survive. A constant threat of imminent disaster. And that's without even looking at the problems that exist within the family.

The first page of the book talks about "what my daddy went through before whatever it was got broke inside him." The book alludes to the fact that he was involved in a mining accident years ago. In fact, historically, an explosion at the Centralia mine in Pennsylvania killed 111 of the 142 miners present on that day in 1947.

The first sentence of Chapter One states, "When Ma was seven years old her heart turned sour. She said it never turned sweet again." Over the course of the book, Ma's story is revealed. What happened in her childhood? What impact did it have on her life? What effect it is having on Brigid's childhood?

So, Brigid's life is one of physical and environmental hardship and of a daddy who's "broken" and a Ma with a "sour heart." The secrets of their past effect their present and Brigid's future. The believed family curse appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sadness exists. Yet, love exists too. With Auntie. With Gram. And friendship exists. A childhood exists. Perhaps, even hope exists.

The raging fires and the family dysfunction set a very sad and depressing tone for this book. Yet, Brigid emerges as a strong main character who elicits emotion and sympathy, and the history presented is a very real one. Definitely not an easy read, but definitely a worthwhile one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We Were Liars

Title:  We Were Liars
Author:  E. Lockhart
Publication Information:  Delacorte Press. 2014. 225pages.
ISBN:  038574126X / 978-0385741262

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Silence is a protective coating over pain."

The Sinclairs are a wealthy family who summer every year on their own private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Harris Sinclair developed the retreat for his family - one house for himself and his wife and one each for their three daughters.

Cadence and her cousins Johnny and Mirren are Sinclair grandchildren. They have been coming to the island all their lives. When they are eight or in "summer eight" as they call it Gat joins them. He is a nephew by marriage. Together, the four of them become inseparable during the summers. They become the Liars. Year after year, they return to the island and their summers together.

As the book begins, Cadence is seventeen and returning to the island after two years. Two years ago, in "summer fifteen," something happened. Cadence has no memory of what happened except that she was found injured. Her injuries were severe, and she is still in the recovery process.

For Cadence, "summer seventeen" begins with everyone returning to the island. The Liars are back together, but seemingly declaring their independence from the adults. Everyone is mindful and careful around Cadence, conscious of her injuries and her inability to remember. Slowly, though, bits and pieces of memory start to return. What truth lies beyond what Cadence can remember?

The back cover of this book recommends, "Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE." The implication is that the mystery of what happened is revealed at the end. The issue is that the mystery was no longer a mystery well before the end. I did not know exactly how the events happened, but I did correctly guess what happened.

Reading the book then became a matter of determining how such a thing could happen and of anticipating and feeling Cadence's emotions as she slowly figures out what happened. The story or the characters or the relationships do not develop. This could be because Cadence is the narrator, and  her memory and interpretations are not reliable. No matter what the reason, the book is about the final plot twist and just that.

My other issue with this book is that the characters are not particularly likable. Many of them come across like "spoiled brats." The arguments and some of the concerns seems petty, and discipline seems to be non-existent. Control exists, but not discipline.

The book is a fast read but not as engaging as it could have been.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bittersweet: A Novel

Title:  Bittersweet:  A Novel
Author:   Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Publication Information:  Crown. 2014. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0804138567 / 978-0804138567

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "The truth is a noble grail to seek. But if you're after it, you must imagine, first what it will mean to get it. The truth is neither good nor bad. It is above evil. Above morality. It doesn't offer anything besides itself."

Bittersweet is a place. It is the name of a cottage that is part of a Vermont estate, where the wealthy Winslow family has come together for years. Genevra "Ev" Winslow attends a prestigious college and hopes to make the cottage hers. Mabel Dagmar is Ev's college roommate. She is a scholarship student, and the life that Ev lives is, for Mabel, the stuff of dreams.

Then, the dream becomes reality. Ev invites Mabel to Bittersweet for the summer. A friendship flourishes, and Mabel starts to become part of the Winslow clan. However, the closer she gets, the more secrets she discovers. Secrets about the Winslow family and their relationships. Secrets behind the Winslow fortune. This is the stuff of nightmares not the ideal dreams Mabel has about their lives.

The crux of the book is what secrets does Mabel discover? Does Mabel walk away or stay? Does she expose the secrets or keep them? What choices does she make for her own future?

The plot of this book is not new. A rich family with a dark history. An outsider who enters their midst. The secrets are found out. It's been done before.

The secrets Mabel discovers do take the book in a direction entirely different than what I expected. Without a spoiler, I will say that the secrets extend way beyond what I expected in a book about two college girls set in a quiet Vermont setting. It is a little far-fetched for my taste.

The setting is beautiful. The characters do not resonate with me. The story line seems familiar. Overall, the book an okay summer beach read but not a memorable one.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies

Title:  Birdmen:  The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies
Author:  Lawrence Goldstone
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing Group. 2014. 406 pages.
ISBN:  034553803X / 978-0345538031

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "No lead is insurmountable if you stop running before you've reach the finish line."

Birdmen is the history of the years-long fight over patents to the technological advances that made sustained human flight possible. It is the story of the Wright Brothers and those who competed with them. It is the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright as individuals, as pioneers, and as businessmen. It is a history of aviation and its growth in the United States.

The book begins with the statement of Wilbur Wright's death in 1912 at the age of 45. The stated cause of death was typhoid fever. However, to the Wright family, "Wilbur had been as good as murdered, hounded to his grave by a competitor so dishonest, so unscrupulous, so lacking in human feeling as to remain a family scourge as long as any of them remained alive. Glenn Curtiss."

Such a beginning sets the tone of intensity for this feud that continued over the course of a decade. The historic flight of the Wright Brothers took place in December of 1903. Wilbur Wright died in 1912. The court battle continued until a year after Wilbur Wright's death. Its impact helped define American aviation.

This book presents a detailed, researched account of this decade-long fight. It includes note references to the research documents. The final copy will also include an index (the review copy includes a placeholder). The review copy also includes a few pictures, but not too many.

The level of detail is the making and the downfall of this book. The story is a fascinating one. The details make the history complete, with names and dates and chronologies. Yet, at the same time, the level of detail makes the book slow reading. A lot of history has been written as a narrative story, making it more engaging to read; this book reads more like the history book it is.

 I would recommend this book as a source for research. I would also recommend this book to anyone with an interest in aviation, in the Wright Brothers, and in a broader scope, US history as impacted by the work of these pioneers.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mad About You

Title:  Mad About You
Author:  Sinéad Moriarty
Publication Information:  Penguin Books. 2013. 400 pages.
ISBN:  1844882969 / 978-1844882960

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "Marriage is like a business, Emma. You only get out of it what you put in ... You've worked very hard to create your little family. Don't throw it all away unless you're absolute sure you can't make it work."

Mad about You by Sinead Moriarty is the fourth book in a series about the character Emma Hamilton. I learned this after reading the book. The book stands on its own and can definitely be read without having read the books that came before.

In this book, Emma, her husband, and two young children move to London for his new job. He is trying to overcome the shadow cast by his last job and trying to prove himself in a new position at the rugby coach for the London Irish. Emma misses home and is trying to figure our where her life and her marriage are going.

Surrounding them are family and friends. Emma's sister Babs is still single and still looking for a mate. Emma's friend Lucy and her husband Donal struggling through marital, career, and parenting issues. Emma meets some new friends in the neighborhood. One is a divorced socialite, and the other is an environmentalist. Claire is the nanny Emma hires to care for her children.

Through these characters, this book tells a story about everyday life and everyday issues:

Finding love
Finding time to focus on marriage with young children in the house
Finding a way to balance career and family
Finding a way to balance whose career takes precedence in a marriage
Finding a way to further your career
Finding a way to enjoy your children while providing the boundaries they need
Finding trustworthy childcare
Finding friendship
Finding the trust and compromise in a relationship

Emma's life is further complicated by the fact that someone is sending incriminating and sometimes threatening text messages to Emma's and James's phone. Is James having an affair or is he being stalked? What does this mean for Emma's marriage?

This book starts off slow. It took me a while to get into the story and to start to identify with some of the characters. After that, some parts of the book are laugh out-loud funny. Some seem just a little long. It balances out to be a very readable book. I look forward to reading more by Sinead Moriarty.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Only Time Will Tell

Title:  Only Time Will Tell
Author:  Jeffrey Archer
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Paperbacks. 2012. 464 pages.
ISBN:  0312539568 / 978-0312539566

Book Source:  I received this book through a GoodReads read along free of cost in exchange for an honest review. This is the first book I read as part of a GoodReads read along. It was interesting to participate in a section by section online conversation and get different perspectives over a period of time. I found myself reading a section and then following the discussion for that sections. A few posted spoilers did impact my reading, but overall a positive experience. It's very different from my local book club in that we read the entire book and then discuss it over the course of an evening. This experience was reading the book in a more segmented fashion, and discussing the segments over a period of time.

Favorite Quote:  "If you make a deal with a fool, don't be surprised when they act foolishly."

Only Time Will Tell is the first book in the Jeffrey Archer series, The Clifton Chronicles. So far, four books in the series have been released, and one more is expected.

The story begins in the 1920s with young Harry Clifton, living with his single mother. He knows that his father died in the war. He is young and spends more times on the docks than in school until certain teachers take an interest in him and give him direction. He does well in school, which puts him on a path different from the expected life on the docks.

Several mysteries run throughout the book. What actually happened to Harry's father? What is the relationship is between the Cliftons and the Barringtons, the rich owners of the shipping company? Who is Jack Tar, and why does he take such an interest in Harry? Slowly, the answers emerge and, in turn, lead to more questions. Be warned; this book ends on a cliffhanger, awaiting the start of book 2.

I enjoyed the structure of the book. It is divided into sections, each told from a different point of view. Each section covers part of the story from the previous section and then moves the story forward. Each section introduces new details that help complete another piece of the picture. Hearing each character's perspective adds some dimension to the characters. This really helps the book especially since most of the characters are clearly delineated as rich and poor, good and bad, heroes and villains. Hearing each perspective creates some depth.

This is the first Jeffrey Archer book that I have read. It reminded me of the Barbara Taylor Bradford book Emma and the series that came after. It is an entertaining family saga with the poor but hard working young man making his way in life, with the rich company owners making trouble, with a love relationship strife with troubles. It is an expected but easy to read and well written story. I look forward to reading more of the series.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Knitting Yarns

Title:  Knitting Yarns
Author:  Ann Hood, editor
Publication Information:  W. W. Norton and Company Inc. 2014. 294 pages.
ISBN:  0393239497 / 978-0393239492

Book Source:  I read this book because it combines two favorite subjects - knitting and authors.

Favorite Quote:  "When I knit, everything else vanishes. Sadness, anxiety, anger, confusion. It is just me and the yarn and the lovely sound of my needles clicking together."  [Ann Hood]

Knitting yarns are essays and one poem from twenty seven authors who are also knitters. They speak about the power of knitting as a craft, of the impact the craft has had on their lives, of lessons learned, and of special people and special memories.

Some of the authors featured include:
The book also includes knitting patterns designed by Helen Bingham. The patterns include the complete instructions for making each project.

The individual essays are as diverse as the authors themselves. Some speak of a special person who taught them the art of knitting. Some speak of life situations in which knitting played a role. Some speak of a special knitting project that holds special memories. I laughed with some and cried with others.

I did not read this book through from start to end. It sat on my nightstand for a few weeks, and I found myself savoring an essay here and there. Each one stands alone. The book can be read from end to end, or flipped open to read just one essay.

I was drawn to this book as I am a reader and a knitter. Readers will find interesting the insights into the worlds and lives of authors whose books they have read. Knitters will find themselves relating to the experiences described and the impact of knitting on lives. I could see this book making a wonderful gift for certain people in my life.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Confabulist: A Novel

Title:  The Confabulist:  A Novel
Author:  Steven Galloway
Publication Information:  Riverhead Hardcover. 2014. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1594631964 / 978-1594631962

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "The truth wasn't easily identifiable. You could spot a lie, but the opposite of a lie wasn't always the truth."

The word "confabulist" does not exist in the dictionary. The closest words are "fabulist" and "confabulate." According to the dictionary, a "fabulist" is a person who invents or relates fables or a person who lies. The verb "confabulate" in psychiatry means to "replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true." The implied question in these words of what is real and what is an illusion lies at the heart of this book.

This book is a proposed story of Harry Houdini and about a man named Martin Strauss. The lives of the two seem to interconnect in so many different ways over the years. The book weaves back and forth through different time periods and through Martin's memories. Somewhere, the line between reality and illusion is blurred, and the two merge. To complete the illusion, the book is populated with historical figures such as the Romanovs and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The book begins with three intriguing ideas:

Martin is told that "You will in essence, Mr. Strauss, lose your mind."

Martin thinks, "What is a memory anyway, other than a ghost of something that's been gone for a long time? There are secrets that I've kept. Maybe they should stay secrets."

Martin declares to the reader, "What no one knows, save for myself and one other person who likely died long ago, is that I didn't just kill Harry Houdini. I killed him twice."

The story then proceeds to draw on all three ideas. It tells of Martin's past and his uncertainty.
It also tells a story of Harry Houdini - his role as an entertainer, his relationships with his mother and his wife, his beliefs in the difference is giving people a show versus preying on their spiritual beliefs, and his unusual role during the World War. Martin's story weaves in and out of Houdini's story. The more intriguing parts of the book are Harry Houdini's.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It has that same magical quality about it, and a similar circular approach to the story. Fanciful and not be believed, yet believable at the same time.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.