Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday

I thought I'd do a Mailbox Monday even though it's Tuesday. For more Mailbox Mondays, check out The Printed Page's Tour Schedule.

Normally Harper Collins gives me all the love but this week I've received two books by Random House:

The King's Mistress by Emma Campion - Comes out in July, about the Mistress of King Edward III


Dracula in Love by Karen Essex - Comes out in August, about Dracula's muse Mina.  I've been dying to read this since one of my favorite books is Dracula by Bram Stoker and I love Karen Essex (read my review of her previous novel Leonardo's Swans).  By the way, I'd love to own Mina's dress on the cover.  How gorgeous is it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Lace Makers of Glenmara - Heather Barbieri

A while back I had read some reviews of Heather Barbieri's book The Lace Makers of Glenmara and was dying to read it myself.  So when I was asked to join the TLC Book tour for this book I jumped at the chance.  I'm currently on vacation to see family in Colorado and read half the book on the plane and the other half the next day. This is a perfect summer read.

The story:

Kate Robinson's mother always told her bad things happen in threes.  So when her mother passes away, her boyfriend leaves her for a skinny model, and her new clothing line bombs, she just has to get away.

She decides to take a journey to her family's ancestral homeland of Ireland.  She manages to wind up in the small untourist town of Glenmara by the sea.  Some of the women there take Kate under their wing and she joins their lace making society and starts to learn the trade.  Kate also has the wonderful idea creating beautiful lingerie with the lace patterns.  And then there's Sullivan...  But everything doesn't go as planned.  Not all the townsfolk of Glenmara approve of Kate and many have deep secrets of their own. 

I totally enjoyed this novel.  It helped that it wasn't just narrated by Kate but also by various people of Glenmara.   Each character had their own struggles, problems, and concerns but Kate's arrival changes each one of their lives.  Also, since I'm a newbie knitter, I enjoyed reading about the lace making itself.  I really wanted to see the patterns they were creating and love to know how to do it myself.  And I'm just a sucker for anything Irish so this was the perfect vacation read.

As a side note, Heather Barbieri mentions a few books in her novel - favorite books of Kate's and others and I kept wanting to write them down so I could read them in the future.  When I went to Heather's website, I noticed she had a link to her favorite books.  How cool is that?

For more reviews for Heather Barbieri's book, check out the TLC Book Tour:

Tuesday, June 22nd: Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker
Thursday, June 24th: Books and Movies
Monday, June 28th: Bookalicio.us
Tuesday, June 29th: Drey's Library
Wednesday, June 30th: The Tome Traveler
Friday, July 2nd: Redlady's Reading Room
Wednesday, July 7th: Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, July 8th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Monday, July 12th: Bloggin' 'Bout Books
Tuesday, July 13th: Chefdruck Musings
Wednesday, July 14th: My Two Blessings
Thursday, July 15th: Diary of an Eccentric

Thursday, June 17, 2010

1001 Update: The Thirty-Nine Steps

Earlier this year I decided to read John Buchan's classic novel The Thirty-Nine Steps.  Apart from it being on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, it is also a Broadway show that the hubby and I had wanted to see before we left NYC.  I'd like to say we got the chance to see it, but we were a day late.  They had closed down for a period as they were moving venues.  Sigh.

But! PBS had a showing that weekend of a newer BBC version of the movie (more about the films below) so we still got our date night.

But you want to know what the book's about, right?  Here's how it starts out:

"I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life."

Richard Hannay has just returned to London after being in Rhodesia.  It's May 1914 and Europe is on the brink of WWI.  However, Richard is bored:

"Here was I, thirty-seven years old, sound in wind and limb, with enough money to have a good time, yawning my head off all day."

After returning home one night, a man approaches him at his apartment door and basically invites himself in.  This man, Schudder, lives upstairs, is an American from Kentucky, and has learned a bit too much of European politics.  Schudder tells him:

'Pardon,' he said, 'I'm a bit rattled tonight. You see, I happen at this moment to be dead.'

They sit down and Schudder tells him some things, secret things involving a German conspiracy to kill the Greek Premier.  Schudder's life is in danger and he's had to fake his death to get away from the bad guys.  He also has to stop the conspiracy.  Richard Hannay, while not sure if this man is crazy or not, decides to help him. However, a few days later, Hannay returns to find Schudder dead in his apartment.  Unable to call the police for fear of being accused of Schudder's death, Hannay takes Schudder's notebook, flees the scene, and must elude Schudder's murderers, stop the German conspiracy, and basically save the day.  Oh, and you'll just have to read the book to figure out what the 39 steps refers to.

I absolutely loved this little spy story.  I read the book for free online over at Project Gutenberg.  This is the first of five novels about Hannay.  They are short but chock full of adventure.  Hannay also kind of cracks me up since he's so obviously not your normal hero.  

On to the movie:  The new BBC version was very very good.  I love that Rupert Penry-Jones was cast as Hannay:

If you've seen the newest version of Jane Austen's Persuasion (my review), you'll recognize Rupert.  I've got a slight crush on him because of that...and he's in the BBC MI-5 (also called Spooks) series which I also love.  Side note: If you like Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Rupert Penry-Jones, or Richard Armitage - check MI-5 out.

The book and movie both have all those lovely little spy elements that I love.  Apparently Alfred Hitchcock thought so too.  He made a movie version of The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1935.  I haven't watched his version yet. 

I love how the modern BBC version reminded me of the old classic spy movies.  Notice the lovely plane scene in the modern version:

Doesn't this remind you of the 1959 movie North by Northwest with Cary Grant...also a Hitchcock film?

One of the things I love about blogging is that while writing posts, I find the most interesting posts on other blogs.  Check these out:

Lights, Camera, History - Post on BBC film version (one of my favorite blogs on period films)
Redtree Times - Post on Alfred Hitchcock version 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Second Chance - Jane Green

I've had Jane Green's novel, Second Chance, on my bookshelf for a while now and I thought now was the time to read it. I needed something girly to read. I won a box of books a while back from Reading Group Choices and this was one of those books.

I've never read anything by Jane Green before and for some reason I thought her books would be a little too fluffy for me.  I am so glad I picked Second Chances up. It was the perfect read for me right now.

The story:

Holly, Olivia, Paul, and Saffron are mourning the death of their close friend Tom.  They were all close friends when they were school mates in London, but now they are in their late thirties and are all in various stages of life and relationships.  Most of them haven't seen each other in years and had mainly kept in contact with each other through Tom.

Holly is fairly wealthy, has two adorable kids, and an unhealthy relationship with her distant lawyer husband.  Olivia is single after dating a man for the better part of a decade and runs an animal shelter. Paul is married to the beautiful and successful Anna, but they have been unable to have children which is making Anna miserable.   Finally, Saffron is becoming a successful movie star and is moving on up, but her relationship with a very famous star who is married could bring her ruin.

Tom was always there for each one of them and because of his death, they are all reuniting once again.  And maybe because of Tom, they will all get their second chance at happiness.


I loved that this story was set in England for some reason.  While the story rotates around all the friends, it does center the most on Holly.  While she is a character that I sometimes want to slap, I am still very sympathetic.  I enjoyed reading about each character. Each character appears to have the perfect life, but each character is going through their own struggles.  This book made me think a lot and ultimately be insanely thankful for my own lovely husband and marriage.

I WOULD normally do a giveaway for this book, BUT I'm seeing my beautiful sister later this month and want her to read it first.

**Has anyone read this or other Jane Green books?  Did you like them? I have to say I adore this book cover and noticed that her other covers are similar.  The photo doesn't do the shimmer of the green justice.

**I keep trying to picture, if this was a movie, who would play each character.  Please pitch in any ideas you have. Here's what I have so far:

Holly (Rachel Wiesz or Kate Beckinsale)

Saffron (Sienna Miller)

Olivia (Emily Blunt)

Couldn't find any reviews of Second Chance in my Google Reader so here's a couple reviews of her other books:

S. Krishna's Books - Dune Road
A Novel Menagerie - The Beach House

Friday, June 4, 2010

Small Knit Project

So remember a while back when I said that I was learning to knit? Well, I've been creating some more little things. I actually have two beautiful projects going but can't tell you about them just yet as one is a gift for my sister. She tends to read this so, I can't spill the beans just yet.

But here's a little something that I found and whipped up:

It's a heart mug rug that I found over at FaveCrafts.  It's super easy and great for beginners.  By the way, the mug featured was made by Brainella the Librarian.  Go check out her Etsy shop to buy your own.  She's also got these awesome owls that I adore and would snatch up had I a job and some extra money.

Here's the front and back of the mug rug:

I'm on Ravelry (name ahack025) so if you knit or crochet, come and be my friend.  Do you do any crafts and do you blog about them or share photos?  If so, let me know!

NYC - The Cloisters

Before I moved from New York City, I visited a few favorite places and saw a few things that I had always meant to see. One of those later ones was The Cloisters - a museum dedicated to medieval Europe. I can't believe it took me so long to visit since I lived fairly close to the museum. So my husband and I decided to take a day off from packing and walk down to The Cloisters.

If you've never heard of The Cloisters or have never been, it is a must-see on my list of things to do in Manhattan.  Some people never see it though since it is a fair trip on the Subway since it is on the northern part of the island. Although I think a half an hour subway ride is totally worth the trip (Take the 1 Train local or A Train express).

The Cloisters is run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and if you pay to see the Met then you can also pop up to The Cloisters for free that day.  Keep in mind that the Met and The Cloisters have a suggested fee but can also be payed by donation - great for students or the unemployed when money is tight, although if you have the money...pay the full amount as it is definitely worth it.

The Cloisters is located in Ft. Tryon park which is a beautiful, wooded and very hilly area.  You can see now why they call these part of Manhattan "the Heights".

My husband and I went in March so the trees are still bare.  However it was one of the first beautiful Spring days so we were lucky.  As we were walking we caught sight of this little guy in a tree. Very odd.

The Cloisters is housed in a beautiful castle looking building which are actually pieces of five different French cloisters reassembled together (thanks Wikipedia!).  It is just beautiful.  Warning: Since Cloisters are religious buildings, please treat with respect and do not chew gum - a lesson I learned. You can also take photos but just no flash.

Here's the inside of the building with my husband looking at one of the many huge tapestries.  I absolutely adored all the beautiful windows in the building:

Most of the doorways have actual arches from various Cloisters and medieval buildings.  Beautiful.

I love the stained glass windows:

I found these ladies and thought that, while they look very regal, are also a bit creepy in their decapitated state:

I have no idea who this is but the little green goblin he's stabbing made me laugh. Not sure why.

One of the main purposes of the visit to The Cloisters were to see their famous unicorn tapestries.  They are housed in a fairly dark area so they don't fade the fabric but I still managed to snag a photo in the dark:

I was absolutely amazed at how beautiful they are in person and how large! I also had no idea how many of them there were.  You can go to the Met website and check out more about these lovely pieces.

They have other tapestries as well.  This one is from a series of tapestries called The Nine Heros.  There are the Hebrew heroes: Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, the Christian heroes: Charlemagne, Arthur, and Godfrey of Boullion, and the pagan heroes: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar.  I kept on imagining these guys as the super heros of their times.  I believe this regal man is Julius Caesar...although he does look exactly how I'd picture Arthur.

Here's the entrance to a pretty solemn area with various burial statues.

Isn't the windows in here just awesome?
And another one:

Here's an interesting guy. I noticed a lot of them had their pets under their feet.

For some reason I just liked this Madonna and Child. Don't they look happy?

My husband really liked this piece of stained glass. There was a whole series of them but this one is pretty interesting.

This lady was my favorite piece in the place.  The tapestry had some 3D aspects, like her fuzzy red dress which I loved.

The Cloisters also had a lot of illuminated manuscripts on display which is one of my favorite aspects of medieval art.  I wasn't able to take photos of those though.  Afterwards, we headed outside to soak up some of the lovely sun.

I so wish I could see this when it is all in bloom.

Isn't this amazing? They had a couple of plants like this. I can't imagine how much time and effort they went into making this look exactly so.

If you go, you'll have beautiful views of the Hudson.

We were obviously not the only ones who were enjoying the sun that day:

There are all sorts of areas with fountains. Again I wish I could have seen these when they were all in bloom.

Isn't this architecture just awesome?

They were starting to grow some beautiful plants inside.  Doesn't this one just look delicious? I want one.

So, if you are ever in Manhattan and have never seen The Cloisters, it is definitely well worth it.

Thanks for touring the museum with me!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Mighty Queens of Freeville - Amy Dickinson

I was asked a short while ago by Nicole from Bookreporter, if I wanted to read and review the book The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. I jumped on the chance because I've heard Amy Dickinson on my favorite NPR podcast, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  She also replaced Ann Landers for the Chicago Tribune and writes the famous advice column Ask Amy.

The subtitle of this book is "A Story of Surprising Second Chances" and what a wonderful little memoir this is.  Amy tells her story of getting married, divorced, becoming a single mom of young daughter, moving and living in London, D.C., and Chicago, and often going back home to Freeville, New York where she is surrounded by the strong women in her family who help her through it all.

The book is just over two hundred pages and is the perfect length with the perfect amount of humor and heartache.  I gobbled it right up.  I've never had a baby or been through a divorce, but this summer, after moving from NYC to Kentucky, trying to find a job and supporting my husband going back to school, this was exactly the type of book I needed to read.  This book made me laugh, want to cry, and wish I had my own Freeville.

For more info, you can check out her site My Second Chance Stories.

The Chicago Tribune and Amy Dickinson are also asking for people to write in their Second Chance stories.  Head on over to their website if you want to participate.

Amy Dickinson is also on Facebook and Twitter if you'd like to know more about her.

Also Reviewed By:

The Book Lady's Blog