Monday, December 19, 2011

In Hovering Flight By Joyce Hinnefeld

Lets us say, only hypothetically, that you are not into historical fiction and would rather read something else. I have just the book for you. This is it my friends, it is bird fiction:-)

I'd grown up reading about the foibles of the great Indian ornithologist Salim Ali. I should say that some of the inspiration in watching birds that flitted around our farmland came from these readings. The rest of course was from the inexplicable tie that bound me to the fertile green land itself. The other day my Mom was telling me about two "bhoomikulukki" (wagtail) birds that visit our front yard (muttam)  everyday and how she thinks of it as a visit from me to her... My Mom loves watching birds which is second only to planting stuff and making things grow. I cannot grow a thing if I tried but I love them birdies just like my Mom. My daughter too enjoys watching the many birds that visit our backyard thanks to our neighbors who are great gardeners.

That this book came with Ursula Hegi's recommendation is what made me pick it up in the first place. A few pages into all that the book was unraveling and I just couldn't put it down. Be forewarned that you may not like it of you don't like birds since the book is sprinkled all over with bird watching facts and fiction. It revolves around Addie, Tom and their daughter Scarlet who was named after the Scarlet Tanager. It also includes John James Audubon's depiction of the cuvier's kinglet which no one has really seen except for Audubon and his illustrations. That was, until Adie's claimed to have seen it. At the end of the novel one is not sure if Adie has seen it or not but it truly does not matter. If Adie and Tom's passion for nature is not enough, then the bare truths of their familial existence and how it binds with their love of nature will keep you rooted in this on-the-way-to-be-a classic book.  I find a strage reluctance to discuss their story here, it is almost as if it is personal and must be read in peace and quite. Adies's love of birds takes the form of activism while Tom's is the balancing act of the quiet yet unstinting support. Joyce Hinnefeld is to be read and absorbed, period.

The romantic and doting pair in the above pic set up home in the palm tree behind our house and it was a pleasure to have them around. And no, it is not the camera but the setting sun that provided the flash! Heading into the holidays I hope everyone will have a Very Merry Christmas and a jolly good time!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Moment Of Prayer And A Book

I  knew kochuthressiamma pj (kpj) of pareltank only through her blogs and some exchanged comments.  I'd been a faithful reader and an admirer of her courageous, thought provoking, spiritual and sometimes hilarious posts. Offering a moment of prayer in memory of this beloved blogger here.

The Four Seasons 
Today's post is in honor of kpj as I am sure she would have loved knowing this angle of Vivaldi's Venice and of the orphan girls who were wards of the state as well as one time students of the Maestro. As made clear from interviews with the author, the book is not really centered around Vivaldi but rather around the lives of the girls. Laurel Corona hit the nail on the spot when she decided to do the book this way. Her interest in the lives of the figlie (wards) is genuine and paves the way for a very interesting and rewarding story. Fact and fiction are intertwined in this book and Corona differentiates relevant events/chronology at the end of the book.

I first heard Vivaldi from a CD of the Four Seasons my husband had. The name cannot fail to gather one's interest and the outstanding music cinches the deal. So when I got this book I assumed it to be all about Vivaldi. I was both right and wrong. You do get a good picture of the famous composer who was also an accomplished violinist. What you really love is the heartfelt portrayal of the figlie del coro who were trained from childhood to master music and perform mostly in churches and private parties in eighteenth century Venice. They were held in high esteem and the public enjoyed their music. Despite a natural sympathy you feel for the girls, I was truly amazed at how the Venetian setup managed to do so well by the orphaned girls. Many of the abandoned kids were a result of the strange system of allowable marriages in families which is made more complicated by the presence of courtesans and convents alike.

Corona's book starts with two sisters named Chiaretta and Maddalena who were given to the Pietà,one of  four such institutions (ospedalis) in Venice. They were given up by their mother who could not take care of them anymore. The Pietà took care of them by teaching them arts and crafts including lace making, and learning one or many instruments and singing. If anyone was good at any of the arts they would go up the systemic ladder to finally perform as part of the coro (choir). They were allowed to marry and were given a dowry if the alliance was seen fit. After a certain age the ones who did not make it were asked to enter the convent. Before you raise your eyebrows, you must know that the social system in Venice was in such a way that even the wealthiest, noblest families could not afford to marry off more than one girl or one boy. The remainder entered convents or courted courtesans without being able to have real families. Corona did a fine job of mixing the calm, musical and organized lives of the girls of the Pietà with that of the rollicking, fun loving Venetians in the book. Chiaretta became an accomplished singer and Maddalena an accomplished violinist who presumably was also Vivaldi's muse. As in real life Vivaldi started out as a violin teacher and composer to the acclaimed choir of the Pietà. I was surprised to find that he was a priest though he was allowed to absolve himself from saying the mass due to problems related to asthma. He became famous while at the Pietà and moved to better patronage later in life. But his most accomplished music is said to have occurred while writing for the female performers of the figlie de coro.  Maddalena is shown as the inspiration for Four Seasons which apparently is quite different from his earlier music. In real life a singer named Anna Giro and her half sister who played the violin  were said to have closely associated with Vivaldi. I like Corona's story better where Vivaldi had strong feelings for Maddalena which were never brought out of fear for her future as well as his own since he was a priest. In time Vivaldi went on to produce magic through his operas and Maddalena became the Maestra de violin at the Pietà giving wonderful performances and achieving a great sense of the self through her music. Loved the way the author introduced the idea of Four Seasons from Vivaldi when he figured out that the then adolescent and underling violinist Maddalena was the only person who could understand/feel the 'bird flying' or 'the dog barking' that he played on the violin.

I feel that I have written more about Vivaldi than the girls here but the novel does complete justice to both. Maddalena is the thinker and musician who slowly figures out her life and achieves satisfaction on a higher plane and Chiaretta is the vivacious singer of the golden voice who marries the scion of a noble family and lives a full family life but never really sings again according to the rules for girls married off from the Pietà. A beautiful book to read, this will not disappoint you. For my part I'll be looking out for books by this author for sure. Visit here and here for a rendition of the Four Seasons.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

I  read this book a few months back and was so enthralled that I sat down right then to write my impressions.  I am glad to be able to post it at least now.

Tony Hsieh is an Evangelist. Not the kind that your are familiar with though. He is an Evangelist who wants you to find happiness in life. He is well qualified to do the job because he is proving it through his own life. Granted, I first heard about Tony Hsieh's book as a rebuttal to Tiger Mom's book. I haven't read Chua's book but had read a lot about what people had to say on it. One of the articles suggested to read this book to get an opposing view.

Once you get hold of this book, the first few pages are enough to tell you that you cannot really claim Tony to a specific category. His message is universal and his life seems dedicated to make this happen. Although I finished the book I have placed an order for it in Amazon as a keeper and for my husband and kids to read and for me to keep reading as a reference. Some of the things he is doing in his company may not be applicable to you and that is not what he wants. In the end he just wants you to be happy. What appeals to me is that I wholeheartedly agree with his premise that 'if you always do the right thing, then everything else will fall into place". I say this to my kids and try to do follow as much as I can.  At work I had seen that things improved 100% and made me a much happier person when I just focussed on doing the right thing without worrying about who does what or who gets what. This strategy makes good soul out of everyone at work where you do spend a majority of the hours in any given day. This in turn makes workplace less stressful and life easier to live. Being humans we have our faults, but once we know them and do our best, nothing can really bring us down in spirit. So while Tony may never know this I am excited to find someone who is in a position to practice what he preaches and does it.

Tiger Mom's part in this is that apparently Tony was raised by his Chinese parents in a more relaxed manner and yet he went on to become an achiever. This was point the rebuttal wanted to make. Rebuttal or not I was glad to have come into Tony Hsieh's amazing story. After graduating from Harvard, Tony  founded Link Exchange with a friend which he later sold to Microsoft. He had enough experience running his own small food business while in Harvard. Before that he did a profitable penny souvenir type of business from home! Come to think of it, the man was destined to succeed I guess.  After selling Link Exchange he did his time as a venture capitalist and ended up as the CEO of zappos which eventually was bought by Amazon. Since Amazon agreed to keep the Zappos spirit as is, Tony is still the life and soul of this well run company geared towards the perennial formula of success that many still somehow forget. Customer satisfaction is the missing word here. The book is a joy to read and Tony Hsieh's enthusiasm and love for people can be quite catching.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Bunch Of Books

 My husband presented me with that latest of the omnipresent gadgets meant for staying in touch. Steve Jobs's iPhone. I was completely happy with my good old phone but even I thought I could use a new one since one of the buttons came off of it. So here he (my husband, not Mr. Jobs) goes adeptly turning off my old phone and connecting the new one and depositing it in my bag all in a good evening's work. Then he calls me as I was driving to work and I was totally surprised and happy to find it in my purse! At first I couldn't find much use for its many features but now I am a complete convert and am a fan of Jobs for a job well done. This is a quality product where every little detail was thought about and implemented to the satisfaction of a critical eye. The only complaint - and I think it a valid one - is that it should have had a good GPS installed. Something along the lines of what the androids sport so well as evidenced by my husband's 2 year old and still going strong google phone. Why am I blabbering out all this here? I would not have been able to capture this beautiful swan if it wasn't for the excellent camera on this phone so readily available in my jeans pocket. It was on a visit to our local park. I had not noticed him there before but apparently he is a regular visitor!

So nance asks if have stopped reading books. Without nance this blog will wither and die and so this post is for nance. I never stopped reading and they are what keeps me sane when things get on a never ending roller coaster or life throws its lemons around. Though I read I didn't have time to sit down and write'em impressions I have of the book and then I feel the soul of it is lost and that I cannot put what I felt on reading it. These are a bunch of books I read the past week. I am writing down a few lines here on each of them. There is not much in common except that they are all about women.

Little Bee By Chris Cleave (Published as The Other Hand in Britain)

With an eye catching byline on the back cover that claims in uncertain terms that they don't want to give out too much about this special story, the book easily came home with me. Yes, it indeed is a special story and  one of the narrators is what makes it so. The girl who calls herself Little Bee is an illegal immigrant to UK from Nigeria and the story begins when she is about to be released from the Immigration Detention Center. It goes onto get her story combined with that of a British couple. The second narrator is the wife who is also a magazine editor. The story revolves around what happened one day at one of the beaches in Nigeria where Little Bee's world collided with that of the British couple as a byproduct of the oil conflict in Nigeria. What was most interesting about this book was Little Bee's narration in first person. Refreshingly worded and told from a different angle, it attracts you immediately. The author draws deeply from his own experience in West Africa and his connection is evident in how well he is able to bring out this female voice. The book has snagged a few awards and will be made into a movie with Nicole Kidman as the second narrator.

The Wednesday Sisters By Meg Waite Clayton

At first glance the urge is to dismiss The Wednesday Sisters as a run-of-the-mil chick flick er.. book. In addition to being a satisfying chick read, it incorporates so many other elements that ultimately it becomes a flick for everyone. Granted, being set in Silicon Valley Bay Area may have twisted my hand a bit but who can resist a bunch of wives meeting regularly in the park in the late sixties eventually evolving into a group of writers and publishers through mutual support and encouragement? I'd like to be a part of that myself. The birth of Intel/silicon valley is a quiet presence all throughout since that is where one of the husbands worked! The venerable Robert Noyce is presented as a distant yet familiar figure. Clayton had her own version of Wednesday Sisters and this could be written in tribute which makes it all the more endearing.

The Dovekeepers By Alice Hoffman

There's been a flurry of various type of keepers lately. Memory keeper, bee keeper, bear keeper, you name it we have it. Something about it makes me not want to touch it and yet when I read one it is always better than expected. So it is with Hoffman's Dovekeeper. It is about four Jewish women from around the time of the Roman occupation of Judea who keeps the doves for a dessert settlement of the diaspora. It is based on the ancient settlement called Masada built on the ramparts of King Herod's Fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is second only to Jerusalem as a tourist destination. It was appropriated by a violent sect of Jewish fighters against Rome. The book is replete with magic and mysticism, gained and lost love as well as mothers, daughters and war. Each of the artifacts used in the book to perform magic or war was based on an actual such object found in the Museums around Masada and elsewhere according to the author. I found that very intriguing. It is almost as if those objects came to life and told their stories!  It takes talent to bring such a story together with that of four different women and make it as interesting as it is. Hoffman has succeeded very well in doing this.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Elizabeth Berg's Books

High BP invaded the house quite unawares and its medications had the most uncommon but listed side effects, and life's been in the doldrums. The ongoing remodeling came to a halt and priorities changed overnight. Having a doctor for a brother only a call away (and willing to listen for any lengths of time) in this country where the doctors mostly diagnose you for the 5 minutes you are in their office helped more than I can say. Family support from both ends held us together and friends in need were great too. Finally it looks like we are past the nightmare and can relax a bit. When life seems to take the carpet from under your feet, prayers give you strength. Childhood prayers that lolled though the house every morning and evening came to our aid in time of need. Taking heart from this we hope to impart some of it to the kiddos. Hope they will be able to channel this candle in the water that will burn for you in times of trouble - to paraphrase a famous Disney song. Setting aside the dutiful and conveniently short prayers, we have started what we hope to be the beginning of a long history of family prayers. Needless to say the novelty of a structured prayer is holding the kids up through the longer time for the moment. I remember my own impatience as the rosaries stretched long every day with no end in sight and yet how comforting it always is! It is a ritual that anchors you in familial love and in devotion to a higher power that keeps you secure.

I didn't mean to go that much off the subject but guess it had to be. Since books are my major form of relaxation I couldn't wait to get a bunch at the the first chance in a long time. Lucky for me I chanced upon Elizabeth Berg again. This writer as I knew then is just what you need in such times. She is an ultimate woman's writer and instead of fishing for angst and rage she manages to bind her characters with love, empathy and kindness while not being overly so. Her sensible characters go through life with real experiences and come to the most amicable conclusions after facing plausible soul searching episodes. An aphrodisiac if you are looking for something gentle and engaging. I wish her the best and hope she will write as many books as she can so her subtle message of love and civility will reach more people. I finished True To Form and The Year of Pleasures in 2 days! The former is told through the eyes of a budding teenage girl who lost her mother and is finding her own way in the world. What is great is how she picks up on the love of people around her even when it is not so demonstrative. It is that awareness of true and gentle love among all layers of people and its understanding that will form the person that she is. Great great book. I could easily see the 13 year old me in her:-) The second book is about a well loved and protected wife who is forced to find the meaning of life anew when her husband dies. Berg portrays her decisions and how she mourns rather well and while some parts could be said as piling it on (the warm cozy), still manages to remain true to her basic message in a reliable story fabric. I am going back to get more of her books.

In a rather sad but not really so aside, I have to say that my trusty Library has just decided to charge us yearly for its wonderful service because although we live near it, we don't fall in its service area. Being superior to what we have in our service area, I will be ponying up the money for sure. Just hope that it won't keep going up each year though.. Isn't it odd that all the Elizabeth's I have come across are good writers that cater to the reader in me? Could it be because I am partial to them for carrying my sister's baptismal name? On other news I have drafts of a few fantastic books I had read earlier and will be posting those in the coming weeks. Till then go find Berg and have one on me. K?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Visit and a Book

Little did we know that we will be flying to tornado country when we booked tickets to spend Easter with my brother and family. Luckily for us, we managed right under the ravaging weather radar and came back safe and sound. Our prayers for those who were caught unawares. Yes, we went to Pioneer Woman's state although we didn't spot her and even had food at Sonic. It was really good to spend this holiday with family. Afterwards we drove 5 hours to the neighboring state to see my alma mater in US (pictured above is the ornate top of the oldest building on campus) after wrangling a dinner invite from my graduate adviser. It was quite a gratifying trip and the family enjoyed revisiting my old habitats. Weather too decided to be lenient while we were roaming around campus. When we visited the downtown I realized that I had never visited it during my time there! My husband and I would like to actually move there, as the green and sprawling university town is just what the doctor ordered for bringing up a nice little family. Hold your horses, we are not moving yet, for such is the travails of life that these decisions cannot be made lightly... So here we are back in sunny benevolent California, obediently spinning the daily wheel of life.

In expectation of my sister's visit from India in summer we are doing some much needed repair ( remodeling sounds better. eh?) to our house. I am holding my breath until the work is over because I just cannot tolerate dust and so much hegemony inside my sanctuary. But we cannot really escape it if we have hopes of living in the house long term. OK, so that was all about the visit and what is the latest and greatest here. Now for the book.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing
 The main reason I bought the book was because I wanted something to keep me occupied during the flight especially since the kids are older now and the husband came prepared with his newly acquired Nook. I just need to hold paper between my hands which is why I don't own the Kindle that he tried to get me. So off I went browsing the airport bookstore and this book caught my eye despite there being hundreds of good books around. I hope to go back to that book store another time just to note down titles for future reads. Didn't have much time to spend there during this trip. Lack of time is also the reason why I thought this was Arundhathi Roy's second book instead of Anuradha Roy's first book. It is also what made me think the coconut trees on the book cover shows Kerala instead of West Bengal! Only after getting on the plane and settling down did I realize the mistake. Undaunted, I started to read the book and a few pages were enough to tell me the mistake was actually a find! Anuradha Roy is a gifted writer with a great perception for people from all walks of life. The book envelopes the reader in a nostalgic past that you will totally get even if you are not from that part of India. Story spans three generations of an old family in Bengal starting with pre-independance India and is sort of centered around a house on the banks of a river. The house is not the one lived in by the family in question but comes out as a central character. Roy's other job is as an independent publisher in India. If you come across this book you will know what to do now. We had four flights to take in all and that is about the time it took me to finish the book!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Year Of Fog & A Summer Without Dawn

Not only did the kids get better, but we all went skiing last weekend amidst snow showers as evidenced by our little snowman up there! Dads and kids did the skiing while I had fun sitting inside the rented cabin with other Moms and enjoying the falling snow, drinking coffee and taking a leisurely walk. Don't get me wrong, I wanted to ski but the weather seemed more for simple merriment rather than trying my first hand at skiing where one could fall many times over before getting the hang of it. The decision to postpone the inevitable was rather quickly taken if you know what I mean:-) Perhaps half the charm of being in the snow was knowing that our snow free hometown is only a few hours drive away.. True to form guess what we did just three days after getting back from the snow storm? Went biking around the block in near summer weather!!!! Only in California I think..

The Year Of Fog by Michelle Richmond

This beautiful book was finished in 2 sittings separated only by going to work and tending to kids' needs. Six year old Emma vanished in the few seconds that her step-mom-to-be Abby turned to take a picture in the foggy Ocean Beach of San Francisco. Michelle Richmond describes Abby's uncommon love for the lost girl with a realistic approach. The twists and turns in Abby's relationship with Emma's father is also realistically portrayed. As an extra perk, the way memory works in people under different circumstances is shown with the support of adequate research material. The way Abby rethinks the events of the day and picks through her memories even after Emma's own father has given up is far from the norm and intriguing. Abby's search is made conceivable to the reader through interesting visuals and thought processes.  Interesting to note that the fog on the beach of the initial chapters gets replaced with the fog of Abby's memories. Very good and quick read. All the beach and fog brought forth memories of House Of Fog and Sand which was a book and movie that I had liked. But they are not similar in any other way.

A Summer Without Dawn by Agop J. Hacikyan & Jean-Yves Soucy

This top of the line historical fiction is a must read for all. There is not much material on the authors in the web especially for Jean-Yves Soucy. Agop J Hazikyan is of Armenian descent and his background has done full justice to the story he is trying to tell. The authors have painstakingly portrayed the plight of a people while keeping it on a personal level by threading in the story of a particular family. I agree with the reviews that describe the book as the Armenian equivalent of a Dr. Zhivago or a Gone with the Wind  . Vartan Balian is an Armenian Christian who is an Army Reserve Officer in the Ottoman Empire around World War I. He is also a trained pharmacist and even this position of advantage and wealth does not help him and his family from what was to come. Maybe it was because Mother Teresa was from the same region of the Balkans (Albania) that I felt a quick affinity to this particular story. More than a million and quarter of Armenians were systematically eliminated in the Armenian Deportation procedures that started in 1915 during the Young Turks regime (the name Sublime Porte is also used) under Sultan Mehmed V and the three Pashas who wielded the real power. Armenians were asked to move from their ancestral homelands in the Ottoman Empire to far away lands with no intention of  letting them reach any destination. Vartan, his beautiful wife Maro and 10 year old son Tomas are noble, lovable characters and it is not surprising that we feel their sufferings as our own. The book served literally as a 'Porte' into the time around the downfall of the Ottoman Empire before the formation of the Republic of Turkey. Historical fiction at its best. Interesting fact for those who watch Food Network. Just learned that Chopped Judge Geoffrey Zakarian (a favorite of yours truly) is of Armenian descent. The last name ending in 'an' is common for Armenians it seems.

Below is a picture from my girl based on the entirety of our trip which started through rainy green meadows and centered around the snow cabin.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Three Books

I have read a few books these past days. That was before the cold virus landed in full force. Found only three of them worth mentioning. These are real gems though and  I am happy to talk about them.

The Savior by Eugene Drucker

At first glance it has the look and feel of a story similar to The Pianist. No I didn't read the book, only watched the movie and loved it. So then what is the big deal. Why bring this to the post? There you have it. It is a violin instead of a piano! OK just kidding:-)  It is quite an interesting story of a German (read Aryan) musician being reduced to playing for bored and angry soldiers and eventually for an experimental group of concentration camp inmates during the Third Reich. The expected but still ruthless conclusion makes us feel the human pain in full force. Being told from the other side of the fence by a sympathizing spirit is a good change. An intriguing aspect is the presentation of music and its organization for concerts even if not for the usual audience. I was not much into instrumental music until my son and now my daughter started piano lessons. They are not maestros but it is endearing and lively to listen to the sound of music played by little hands in the house. This gave me a new appreciation for music unaccompanied by voice. So enjoyed this book probably more than if I'd read it earlier. How else could I have appreciated  the presence of  Bach's Chaconne and its effect on the characters? Eugene Drucker is a Grammy winning violin artist and has given the equivalent of a beautiful concert to his readers here. It is loosely based upon the experiences of his father who was an accomplished musician in Germany during the period of the story. A good read doubtless.

A True Story Based on Lies by Jennifer Clement

Jennifer Clement is a well known poet and I knew that is why this book attracted my attention. Not really, but I have to say the book read like a poem. How could she express this deep deep story in such simple and elegant prose? Clement just  had to be a poet. The funny thing about the book is, there are not many words  in which one can describe it. It is an amazingly well written book. A lot is said in a little in this gem of a book. It goes through the exploited life of a woman named Leonora living among Mexico's impoverished tribes who finds work among its rich. The story maybe be oft told but we will see it anew through Leonora's eyes for whom I developed a certain admiration. This very real character will take a stranglehold on your heart and keeps you thinking whether you like it or not. This small book is simply too large to ignore.

Elizabeth Berg's Home Safe

Whenever I visited a library in Kerala, India there was an author that I could bring home in confidence. Elizabeth Goudge. I have read most of her books in this fashion. So when I fastened on the name Elizabeth Berg I had a deja vu that this is going to be a long relationship. A faithful author to read along the lines of Goudge, Piccoult, Divakaruni or Amy Tan. I was not disappointed. She seems to be a prolific author and I will be reading her books again.  Home Safe is all about writer Helen Ames and how she copes with writer's block and life in general after her husband's sudden death. It also explores her relationship with her daughter and her attempts to build a social network by teaching writer's workshops. I have half a mind to join one. Maybe in another 10 years? Read all of her books OK? Because I will.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Olive Kitteridge

I give you this most perfect book on the 3rd anniversary of my blogs.  What a book to post about on this special day! It is the one at the top of the set. While strolling through the streets of a nearby University town we spotted a used bookstore. Of course we had to take a peek which was gratified on realizing that the owners cater to just my kind of reading in the fiction aisle. So we got a book from there and Olive Kitterdige came home with us. Written by Elizabeth Strout, this book is a compilation of short stories about the people living in the New England town of Maisy Mills. Olive Kitteridge pokes her face in all the stories. In sometimes short and sometimes long spans.  Elizabeth Kitteridge, I mean Elizabeth Strout - it is difficult to separate them - has magnificently captured the trials and tribulations of a present day woman through the various stages of life. Strout seems to be primarily interested in portraying people through their post marriage lives and is very good at it. Looks like having lived in a small New England town of  Puritans  has given her the right tools to delve into her characters with precision.  
I could not put this book down although there were no mysteries to solve and no thickening plots. The quite simplicity with which Strout goes through each story is just cool. Why is this so perfect? Because there is something in it for every reader. This will be my all-time recommendation for anyone, anywhere, any day.  Suffice it so say I have read Strout's two other books after hunting them down in our Library. Her very first book Amy and Isabelle explores mother daughter relationships and teenage angst in all honesty. Abide With Me is simply too sweet to pass up and can hold a good candle to Cronin in the turbulent yet peaceful journey of its main character Tyler. So many good reads everyone. Boy, am I generous today, there are more books to follow!!

 Chitra Divakaruni's One Amazing Thing
A Divakaruni book is a surefire read and this one was no exception. Her portrayal of a cosmopolitan group of people caught inside the Indian Embassy during an earthquake has come together very well. Divakaruni is venturing closer to her current home environment in this book . Meaning she writes it without the usual foot in a nostalgic India immortalized through her golden prose many times over. The change is really beautiful and though less lyrical shows her off as a strong writer and storyteller once again.

The Portrait of an Unknown Woman By Varona Bennet
Varona who? you might say but this writer is a force to be reckoned in period dramas based mostly on facts. Chances are you might already be familiar with her and I am the last to get on board. The book is about 425 pages and was way awesome until about 400 pages. After that it fell through a little too quickly! Maybe the author wanted to keep the pages to an agreed upon number and had to end it there. Anyway there were too many secrets being revealed in such a short time that I couldn't swallow all of it so easily. Having said that you will still thoroughly enjoy this book if you are a historical fiction-er like me. The Unknown Lady is Margaret Giggs. A ward of Sir Thomas More the famous lawyer, humanist and Chancellor to Henry VIII. At least until he resigned, was executed and later joined the Pantheon of Catholic saints. Being raised a Catholic, Thomas More's name was not unfamiliar to me but this book is a jewel of information both in regards to More and Meg Giggs and the many luminaries of those turbulent times in the Church's history. The best find for me was Hans Holbein, portraiture expert and King's Painter. This mostly logical story line developed by the author to weave England's Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties into it was fun. A wonderful period for the writer to choose from. The brilliant pick of Meg Giggs as narrator instead of the oft repeated characters from Henry's Court augments the novel's appeal. Holbein painted two family portraits of the Mores. The sketch of the first can be seen here and the second here. How some of Holbein's paintings took shape is given special thought and written in detail. This provides a most interesting angle to the book. So read them all or read a few and don't forget Mrs. Kitteridge. Keep reading!