Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Postmistress: Review and Giveaway

"We think we know who will die and who will live, who is a hero, who will fall in love with whom; but every story--love or war--is a story about looking left when we should have been looking right."
~
The Postmistress, Sarah Blake


Often as I read a book it resonates with me in an uncanny fashion. As I was reading The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, a NY Times bestselling novel that focuses on the importance of letters, my daughter and I were anxiously waiting to hear from the last of the colleges she'd applied to. Would there be a small envelope, a rejection letter, or a large envelope, an acceptance packet, in the mail for her? On Saturday afternoon I heard our mail carrier pull up to our mailbox. A few minutes later, I dashed outside to check the mail.

The Postmistress is a story that revolves around three woman, two in Franklin, MA (a fictitious town), Emma Fitch, the doctor's wife, and Iris James, the postmistress, and Frankie Bard, a female radio journalist stationed in London during World War II. While there are male characters in the story as well--Dr. Will Fitch, Jim Tom, and Harry Vale, to name a few--this novel, published in 2010, centers on the lives of these three women. Each had a different career in 1940, a time when roles were just starting to change for American women. Emma, young and tiny, adopted the most traditional role of the three, as the doctor's wife (and mother-to-be). The other women were responsible for communication in two distinct ways, highlighting the power of written and spoken words. Iris, red-haired and tall, was the careful, orderly postmistress of Franklin, and Frankie Bard was a striking pioneer as a radio announcer at a time when women were scoffed at because they didn't "belong" on the radio with their "high voices". All three of the women are connected because of the war.

From a feminist's point of view, I appreciate that these women are portrayed as strong and capable. We take it for granted today that American women can choose any career they wish for, but the book reminds us that this was not always the case, and that it wasn't easy to be taken seriously.
In the book, though, even Emma, who was a housewife and looked as if she needed protection, was stronger than she appeared, and she wasn't portrayed as less important than the other two women merely because of her traditional role.

The Postmistress is richly detailed and beautifully written and brought certain aspects of World War II to life for me. I felt as if I, too, were running and hiding from bombs in London, or riding the crowded, dank trains described in the book--the only possible way to escape from the war for many people. It's not that I want to relive the war, or the persecution of the Jews, but the presentation of events in this book, which includes Frankie's on-the-spot recorded interviews with refugees, is a brilliant way to present the human side of this devastating war. I enjoyed the bits of romance throughout the story, although the war destroyed the relationships in various ways. The Postmistress kept me spellbound, and I wanted to linger on nearly every page of this novel.

But back to my own story, about Saturday's mail. Our mailbox had a large envelope in it, which I excitedly presented to my daughter.

More terrific news! The
publisher, Berkley Trade, is generously offering a newly released paperback copy of the book as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • For yet another chance, describe a time when you were waiting for something important in the mail.

Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, April 11. One winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 12. Good luck!

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book. For more reviews please visit the other stops on TLC's The Postmistress book tour.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Really Random Tuesday #21: CSN Winner, iPhone Fun, and a Mad Housewife

Congratulations to Royalegacy, the winner of a $60 gift certificate to CSN stores! Royalegacy, I will contact you very soon by email with all the details you need to redeem your prize. You 're now able to get the Kalorik 4 Slice Toaster you picked out, or something else from CSN. Special thanks to Jamie and CSN for offering this very generous giveaway.


If you didn't win this time, don't despair! I have many other terrific giveaways posted on the right side of my blog, and I'm thinking about hosting a special giveaway after I reach my goal of 500 followers, so please stay tuned.

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Recently I got an iPhone 4. Slowly but surely, I'm learning how to use it. I've mastered the basics of calling and texting with a touch screen. The iPhone has an excellent camera, and I find myself photographing all kinds of things. The camera is ready to shoot almost instantly. My old phone camera took forever to set up for a photo, and as a result I took very few pictures. This shot I quickly took at Trader Joe's. I wandered into the wine section because a colorful display caught my eye.


Although this housewife looks sophisticated and calm (she could even have a secret identity as a book blogger), the label calls her mad. (Is she mad simmering angry, or mad off her rocker crazy? If she's mad crazy, is it because of her lot in life or because of the wine--or both?)

I have a few, select applications or "apps" on my iPhone, including Dictionary.com, which features a word of the day. Here are a couple of words that I recently discovered on this app.

hypnagogic
: inducing sleep; of our pertaining to drowsiness
Does this post have a hypnagogic effect on you, dear reader?

puckish: whimsical, mischievous, impish
My Really Random Tuesday posts tend to be puckish.
I love this word and hope to use it in conversation soon (hopefully I will be understood).

In the future, I may use words from this app for Bermudaonion's Wondrous Words Wednesday. Another really fun app is Scrabble. I can play to my heart's content on my iPhone. I had this app on my iPod touch but the graphics are sharper on the iPhone. Scrabble is a wonderful way to pass the time when you're waiting for someone or for some event to start. I feel a bit geekish at times sitting and staring into my phone, moving around letter tiles, but it is so much fun, and being a word nerd isn't the worst thing in the world.

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Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy the button and use it on your own blog. Leave a link in the comments if you’re participating and I'll add it to this post.

For other Really Random Tuesday posts, please visit Vivienne's blog, Serendipity, and Kim's blog, Page after Page. Kim has even designed her own logo for this meme, which looks lovely on her blog.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Journey


Travel is frequently a foray into the unknown, at least in part. During a recent short trip to NY, I had to be flexible and go with the flow; in doing so, I experienced the present to a greater extent than I do in my everyday life. When it comes to travel, I'm a planner, and I do think ahead (I was diligent about printing out boarding passes within 24 hours of my departures), but I do not plan every single detail, because freedom and spontaneity are also important parts of travel. Having too rigid of a schedule, in travel (or in life), does not appeal much to me.

In the short story A Journey by Irish author Edna O'Brien (born December 15, 1930, in Twamgraney, County Clare, Ireland), a couple takes a journey together; travel is also a metaphor for the unknown. The main character is a woman who's taking a trip with an attractive man, Boyce (who lives with a woman, Madge, and their baby).
"To venture loving him was like crossing the Rubicon--also daft. Also dicey. A journey of pain. She had no idea then how extensive the journey would be."
~A Journey, Edna O'Brien
The story sensitively highlights the woman's thoughts about the situation; she's quite aware of her precarious position. Boyce wants his travel companion to remain a secret (she is unnamed in the story) as they travel from London to Scotland. Along with the heady excitement of the attraction is a feeling of marked uneasiness; the affair has just started and she questions the man's dedication to her, and to the woman he lives with and their young child as well. Boyce makes it clear that their romance must be kept clandestine, at least for the time being, and offers no promises for the future.

Edna O'Brien realistically portrays a scenario in which a woman's internal monologue expresses the numerous, inherent difficulties of the situation created by her impulsive choices; she is anxious and worries about a future with Boyce which may not be so rosy, which may not even exist. The author captures the angst of this couple, particularly of the woman, and this journey causes her a great deal of insecurity, understandably so. A Journey demonstrates Edna O'Brien's incredible ability to capture the emotions, inner voice, and thoughts of a woman.

I read this short story in the book Women & Fiction: Short Stories by and about Women, edited by Susan Cahill, for Irish Short Story Week, hosted by Mel from The Reading Life. Happy St. Patrick's Day to my readers!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Really Random Tuesday #20: A Book Winner and a Very Cute Cat

Congratulations to Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza, the randomly selected winner of my book giveaway. She's won a paperback copy of Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel, compliments of Random House.

If you didn't win this time, don't despair! I have many other wonderful giveaways posted on the right side of my blog, so please feel free to enter those if you haven't already done so.




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My mother has the cutest cats, four in all. This sweet creature is Cloud, I think, in both photos, although one picture might be of Cotton, his brother. It's hard to tell because the cats look a lot alike, especially when they are sitting like this, sleeping peacefully. I know that this cat, although adorable, has little to do with books and reading (I could have placed some books in the photos--this is a book blog, after all--but didn't). Still, for some reason we book bloggers seem to have an affinity for cats, and cannot resist putting their pictures in our blogs occasionally. Why? Maybe because cats are so impossibly cute. So beautiful. So seemingly wise and introspective. The sight of a sleeping cat entices me to curl up with a book nearby. Books and cats just seem to belong together. Avis from she reads and reads has included her own cat, Cairo, in some of her Really Random Tuesday posts, and I've seen many a cat on Yvonne's blog, Socrates' Book Review Blog. In fact, Socrates is a cat! Additionally, Mel's blog, The Reading Life, features a photo of his blog editors, Charles and Yoda, who happen to be fantastic felines. How would you describe the connection between books, blogs, and cats?

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Can it really be the twentieth edition of this meme? It feels like I just started Really Random Tuesday, a meme of my own creation. I don't post this meme every Tuesday (in keeping with the random nature of the meme), but I post it fairly often. Special thanks to all of you who have done this meme. I truly appreciate your efforts, and hope you've enjoyed doing it. For another Really Random Tuesday post, please visit Kim's blog, Page After Page.

Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy the button and use it on your own blog. Leave a link in the comments if you’re participating and I'll add it to this post.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Really Random Tuesday #19: International Women's Day and Mardi Gras

March 8 is International Women's Day, a day celebrating the economic, political, and social achievements of women. In some countries, such as China, Russia, and Vietnam, International Women's Day is a national holiday. In Russia, men give their wives, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers flowers to honor this special day. International Women's Day honors the work of the Suffragettes, and reminds us that we still need to work to achieve equal rights for women worldwide. 2011 is the Global Centenary Year for International Women's Day, which began in 1911.

While I won't be attending any special events here related to International Women's Day, I do plan on reading more short stories in an excellent collection I've rediscovered, Women & Fiction: Short Stories by and about Women, edited by Susan Cahill. I've read some of the stories before, such as The New Dress, by Virginia Woolf, but many of them I haven't read yet. Authors in this book include Edith Wharton, Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro, Eudora Welty, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, Alice Walker, Kate Chopin, and other great writers.

Today is also Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" , also known as "Shrove Tuesday" and even "Pancake Day", referring to the practice of the last night of eating rich foods (including pancakes) before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is celebrated for varying lengths of time in many cities and countries around the world, and people "eat, drink, and be merry", wear masks and costumes, and join parades, parties, and dances.

Mardi Gras

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Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy the button and use it on your own blog. Leave a link in the comments if you’re participating and I'll add it to this post.

For other recent Really Random Tuesday posts, please stop by Sam's blog, Booked on a Feeling, and Kim's blog, Page After Page.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 4, 2011

CSN Giveaway and the Hop

Please be seated because what I'm about to reveal may shock you. I've recently read online that the average American watches approximately 153 hours of TV each month at home. That's roughly 5 hours a day. Wow! That's unbelievable to me. As a book blogger, I prefer to read in the evenings, although I do watch TV on occasion, and movies from Netflix (although sometimes those are few and far between). When I watch TV, because it's rare, it's a bit of an event. I like the setting to be just right. I don't want to be surrounded by clutter because I want to relax and get lost in whatever I'm viewing. Our TV is housed in a lovely armoire, but the armoire is starting to show it's age, and the doors and drawers aren't working as well as they used to. I will be sad to get rid of the armoire, but at some point in the future, I'd like to modernize the area with an LCD TV stand to hold not only the TV, but also remotes, electronic equipment, and maybe even a few magazines or books. CSN has a large variety of attractive TV tables, available for order online. I especially like the sleek looks of this one.


CSN stores also have clothing, cookware, games--and much, much more. And I have some fabulous news! How would you like to win a $60 gift certificate that can be used on any CSN site? CSN is generously offering this prize to one lucky winner who will be chosen randomly (U.S./Canada only).
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra chance at winning, take a look at some of the goodies offered by CSN. Then return here and tell me in your comment what you'd like to spend the gift certificate on.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog or Twitter.
Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, March 21. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday, March 22. Good luck!

More exciting news!


CSN now has a sister site, Joss & Main, a discount shopping site for the home where you can get up to 70% off of top brands. New sales events are posted daily. It's completely free to join (it only takes about a minute to sign up), and gives you exclusive shopping privileges at limited sales (lasting 72 hours). I joined as soon as I heard about it because I want to be privy to their current online sales. I love to get a good deal!

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It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer from Crazy-for-Books. Each week, Jennifer chooses a question for discussion. This week's excellent question is from Mia from Girl About Books: Who's your all-time favorite book villain?

I had to give this question some thought. I'm not sure if I have an all-time favorite villain, but Bill Sikes in Charles Dickens' classic novel Oliver Twist is a brutal, frightening, and memorable character to me. In the movie version, Bill Sikes was played by Oliver Reed, who always scared the wits out of me as a child.

This brilliant BOOK PARTY lasts from March 4 until March 7. It's a fun way for book bloggers to socialize, connect with other book lovers, and discover new book blogs. If you're a Hop participant and would like me to stop by your blog, please leave a comment. If you're entering the CSN giveaway please indicate that in your comment. Thanks!

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Some of the books reviewed here have been provided
to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents,
in exchange for my honest reviews.