As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cumberland Falls - Kentucky

This past week I got the chance to go camping with a few friends. We wanted to miss the Memorial Day crowd so we went on Thursday to Cumberland Falls in Eastern Kentucky. I thought I'd share some photos of my new state.

I went with three of my friends and their new rescue pup, Doc. They blame our little family for their new acquisition. Doc is the third dog we've influenced people on getting. He's still getting used to people and noises but he loves other dogs and children.
Cumberland Falls is known as the "Niagra of the South" and I can see why. It is a beautiful waterfall.
I always love finding beautiful flowers. We met some elderly ladies who were wondering what type of tree this is. Does anyone know?
Doc also loves water but the water was running a bit too fast to let him off leash.
I love the coves on the river. I always imagine this is where a treasure might be hidden.
We then took a short hike to Eagle Falls.  It was only 1.5 miles but it was straight up and down.  Kind of like this:
I loved the overhanging rocks on the hike.
Eagle Falls is another beautiful waterfall:
Doc got to get in the water again. I have to admit I was a bit jealous. After hiking in the humid heat, a splash in the water would have been wonderful.
We also saw a crazy tree with a huge knot.
While hiking to Eagle Falls, we got to see Cumberland Falls from the other side. It's amazing how noisy a huge waterfall is.
The main purpose of the trip though was to see the famous Moonbow.

We went close to mid-night and waited and waited for the full moon to peak out of the clouds. And I saw it! It was a beautiful white bow. I had help setting my camera and with and ISO of 800 and an open shutter for two minutes I caught these photos:
Next time I will try and do less time to see if I can get it to look more like the white band. Have you ever seen a Moonbow?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Queen of Palmyra - Minrose Gwin (Giveaway!)

I was asked to join the TLC Book Tour for Minrose Gwin's novel The Queen of Palmyra. I'll have to admit that I was a bit hesitant because this is not normally the type of book I choose to read. But since I moved to the sort-of-South, I thought I'd broaden my horizons in reading. All I can say is Thank Goodness I did because this is an amazing novel. I sucked it right up and immediately gave it Five Stars on GoodReads.

The Queen of Palmyra takes place that fateful summer in 1963 in Mississippi when temperatures got to record breaking highs, JFK and Medgar Evers were assassinated, and the country's racial tensions were at an all time high.

Florence Forrest is a young white girl and it is the summer between her fourth and fifth year in school. However, she is way behind in studies because for the past year, her father and mother have been on the "lam" as she calls it, traveling around while her father unsuccessfully tries to hold one job after another. They finally return home to Millwood, Mississippi and that's when things start to crumble.

Florence's father, unbeknownst to her, is part of the Klan which is something her mother abhors. However, her father is a bit of a terror and as their marriage slowly crumbles, he tries to keep Florence close by telling her stories that have deeper darker meanings. Her mother manages a quite successful cake business but Florence starts being pawned off more and more on others, mainly Zenie, her grandmother's black housemaid. That summer, Zenie's college student niece, Eva, comes to stay with them. Florence is made a witness to all and must finally grow up and choose for herself which path she must follow.

I found this to be such an absorbing novel. I normally don't choose to read novels with such obvious serious topics. In the past, I normally tried to read lighter books for an escapism type of enjoyment. But I'm finding that more and more I'm steering toward books with tougher topics. This is definitely one of those novels.

Florence is such an interesting character because of her obvious lack of understanding but she observes everything and tries to figure out what is going on. She's such a neglected character. She is left to fend for herself often and goes long periods of time without food, a bath, or a a change of clothes.

I have to say that all the other characters were so well written as well. Her father, though while a terrifying character, is flawed and realistic. Her mother refuses to stand up and chooses to escape. Zenie and Eva were my favorite characters. Zenie, named after Zenobia the Queen of Palmyra, tells Florence stories about the Queen. While a good influence on Florence, Zenie views the care-taking of Florence as just another job and often refers to the girl as "it". Eva...well you'll just have to read the story to find out about Eva.

I keep wanting to blab about the book so I think this would make a perfect Book Club book. While I've never read The Help, I have read The Color Purple and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

***Would you recommend any books like this that are all absorbing?

The TLC Book Tour Stops:
Tuesday, May 4th: five borough book review
Wednesday, May 5th: The Bluestocking Society
Monday, May 10th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, May 11th: Natty Michelle
Wednesday, May 12th: Pam's Perspective
Wednesday, May 12th: My Reading Room
Wednesday, May 19th: Staircase Wit
Thursday, May 20th: Lit and Life
Tuesday, May 25th: Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, May 26th: Take Me Away
Thursday, May 27th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Monday, May 31st: Green Jello
Tuesday, June 1st: Crazy for Books

More reviews:
Devourer of Books

This is Herbert Schmalz's 19th Century painting of the Queen of Palmyra.

You can also listen to Minrose Gwin talk about her book over at Book Club Girl

Now for the giveaway: I have an extra copy of The Queen of Palmyra. All you have to do is leave a comment, a way to contact you, and answer the question is asked just above. The giveaway is open through June 11th and like always, my contest is open international so good luck!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Life After Yes - Winner!

Thank you all for entering my contest for Life After Yes. And now for the winner:

Vivienne from Serendipity!!

Woo hoo! I love Vivienne's blog, Serendipity, if you've never checked it out before. She's a wonderful blog lady from the UK, and is currently trudging through Wuthering Heights. Hang in there!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann

Last night I finished reading Colum McCann's novel Let the Great World Spin. It won the 2009 National Book Award and I can see why. When I first heard about this book with it's NYC setting, I wanted to get my hands on it. So of course when I was asked to join in the book tour for TLC Book Tours I was ecstatic.

 Let me start my synopsis by quoting a piece from the novel: It had never occurred to me before but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected.

I love this quote. It depicts New York City AND the novel so very well. Most of the book takes place or focuses on NYC, 1974. We start the story centered around two Irish brothers in the Bronx. The story then skips perspectives, darting around the city but each story is somehow connected to each other. Pivoting in almost each story is the August event of Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers.

When I first heard about this book, I thought it was going to be a series of interconnected short stories. That's not really what it is. It's a full novel with various perspectives. Front and center is the story of Corrigan, an Irish man of God who moves to the Bronx to work with people in need. Think of Corrigan as an odd modern Francis of Assisi. Corrigan's story is mainly told through the eyes of his brother but we hear from nearby prostitutes as well. Then the story skips to others: an Upper East Side wife, a wealthy judge, a single black mother who's lost her son in Vietnam, an artist who's fifteen minutes has come and gone, and many others.

 I can't tell you all the voices in the story without giving away some of the pivotal story, but it's all interconnected. Just like the city. I remember living there and even though there are so many many people, the city hummed as one. If it was a bleak rainy day, everyone was bleak. If it was a beautiful sunny Spring day, everyone perked up. But what intrigued me was looking back into the past life of NYC and it's people. This glimpse in 1974 is not pretty. People were used to being mugged, seeing prostitutes on street corners, and drugged up people daily. I remember hearing stories from my neighbors about heroin needles on the street and the drug running from Jersey. While NYC today is a much cleaner and safer place to be, living there I often turned a blind eye to the darker aspects of the city. I remember one winter's day, seeing a homeless man on the subway going around stealing the coats of other homeless people sleeping on the benches. He had about five coats and was picking up his sixth. But what do you do? I'm not proud to say what I did (turn a blind eye) and what Corrigan would have done is not the same thing.

Was this book good? Yes. Was it a difficult read? Yes. Does it make me think? Yes.

 I'll end this review with something Colum McCann wrote at the end:
The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.

Colum McCann's TLC Book Tour Stops:
Monday, May 3rd: Stephanie's Written Word
Tuesday, May 4th: S. Krishna's Books 
Wednesday, May 5th: The Literate Housewife Review 
Thursday, May 6th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, May 7th: Luxury Reading 
Monday, May 10th: She is Too Fond of Books
Tuesday, May 11th: My Friend Amy
Wednesday, May 12th: The Brain Lair
Thursday, May 13th: Diary of an Eccentric 
Friday, May 14th: Lit and Life 
Monday, May 17th: Book Club Classics
Tuesday, May 18th: Beth Fish Reads
Wednesday, May 19th: Book Chatter
Thursday, May 20th: Evening All Afternoon
Friday, May 21st: Brunette on a Budget
Monday, May 24th: Ready When You Are, C.B. 
Tuesday, May 25th: The New Dork Review 
Wednesday, May 26th: Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker
Thursday, May 27th: Nonsuch Book
Friday, May 28th: Caribousmom

BEA Week

This little post goes out to all the people in NYC today who are talking about books, books, and more books. That's right, the annual BookExpo America is this week and I am so jealous that I am missing it this year. I can't complain too much because I did get a chance to go last year.

If, like me, you are unable to go this year, head on over to Armchair BEA where you can still participate. You may not be grabbing totes of goodies at the Javits Center, but Armchair BEA will be doing some giveaways.
For those of you AT the BEA, I hope you hit The Strand and Housing Works Book Store (my favorite). Quick tip: Should you be near Union Square, home of the beautiful Barnes and Noble and near The Strand, head over to Fish's Eddy - a fun little dish/kitchen store. They have THE BEST mugs and dishes w/ Brooklyn and Manhattan skylines. They also have fun little Alice in Wonderland dishes. (Photos are not mine.)

**HINT HINT: If you stick around this week, I'll be giving away a piece or two from Fish's Eddy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

One of my favorite books I read last year was Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I am an unabashed Gaiman fan. I even participated in the Dream King Challenge. So you can imagine how unbelievably excited I was when I won a limited edition copy of The Graveyard Book from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. If you've never checked out Pat's website, I encourage you to do so. Even if you aren't a "fantasy" genre reader, there are so many interesting books listed you'll probably find a ton of new books to read.

Anyway. On to The Graveyard Book. I actually read the story online as an E-book from the library. I really didn't want to mess up the limited edition book so after I read the story I went back through and checked out all the lovely artwork.

If you haven't yet read this wonderful story, I'll give you a little synopsis. The story opens up to an assassin who enters a family's home and kills the entire family...well almost. He doesn't kill the youngest Owen. The baby is spirited to a nearby graveyard where the ghosts become his guardians and he is dubbed "Nobody Owens." He learns tricks and stories from these ghosts but eventually he must grow up, leave the cemetery and find out who killed his family and why.

I loved this book. Bod, as Nobody is dubbed, is so curious and smart and I just fell in love with him. The ghosts are amazingly well portrayed. It's one of those books where the words combined with the few illustrations make it just visually stunning. I could imagine all the scenes just as if I was watching it.

Which made me excited to go to my illustrated version. How gorgeous is the cover?

The front flap opens to show Bod as a baby walking down the assassin's knife. Loved it.

I loved how Bod was drawn. I thought he looked pretty much how I envisioned him.

Each chapter heading has a beautiful two page illustration:
This edition was made by Subterranean Press. I get their email newsletters. They do some gorgeous work. It looks like The Graveyard Book edition has been sold out but they have a limited edition of Smoke and Mirrors.
If you haven't read this Newbery Award winning book yet, please go out and read it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure

I just had to post this after watching the entire speech. A friend, Rachel from A Bohemian's Book Reviews posted this on Facebook and it was something I definitely needed to hear today. Hopefully it might be something someone else needs to hear too.

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure | Video on

Poor Anna

I'm sitting here today at my computer trying to write a cover letter for a job position. We found a new desk for me for only $35 at a garage sale. How cool is that!'s thundering outside and going to rain AGAIN. I totally forgot that the South (is Central Kentucky considered South or??) rains all the time. At least this summer it is. Our dog Anna Bear HATES thunder (and fire crackers). She would be the worst hunting dog. So she found a new place to lay down.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Life After Yes - Aidan Donnelley Rowley (and giveaway!)

Last year I was asked to read book called Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley. Since it wasn't published yet, I was asked to wait to review it until a much closer publication date (May 18th). Then I heard TLC Book Tours was promoting this book and I asked to be part of the tour since I wanted to review it as well.

The story revolves around Quinn (actually Prudence Quinn O'Malley) who is a young attorney living in New York City. She is living the life and is dating an attractive man who whisks her away to Paris. He then proposes, she accepts...and then she starts to doubt.

Now let me say right here that this is not normally my type of book. In fact, after the first page or two I was asking my self "Why did I decide to read this? It's so cliche!". But then something odd happened. Quinn thought the same thing. And that got me interested in the story. I wondered what was going to happen to a woman who supposedly has everything she should wish for but who suddenly doubts it all.

While I didn't always like Quinn and often wondered why in the world she was doing the things she was doing, I was sympathetic. I mean, I was never one to imagine my wedding day or dream about bridal dresses so I kind of understood her fight or flight reaction. Another interesting thing is that the story takes places just after 9/11 and Quinn's father was one of the casualties that day. I had lost my father almost ten years before I was married, but I think it's always one of those things a girl will think about: the fact that her father isn't there to walk her down the aisle.

So this wasn't a typical romance/chick-lit type of book. It had it's dark moments but there was a surprising amount of fun moments as well such as the witty best friend (cliche as well but hey...).

**Side note: Harper Collins asked me and Nicole from Linus's Blanket to come and chat with Aidan Donnelley Rowley and other Harper employees who had read the book. Aidan was a wonderful host and answered all our questions and chatted away with us. She was born in Manhattan, is a lawyer, mom and also has a great blog called Ivy League Insecurities if you want to check her out more.

**Another side note:
I have an extra copy to give away to one lucky winner. The giveaway is open internationally through May 25th and all you have to do is:
1) Leave a comment with your email or blog for contact purposes
2) Tell me what about this story interests you.

For more reviews check out the TLC Book Tour:

Tuesday, May 18th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Thursday, May 20th: Confessions of a Bookaholic
Monday, May 24th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, May 26th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, May 27th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, June 1st: Crazy for Books
Wednesday, June 2nd: Cindy’s Love of Books
Thursday, June 3rd: Write Meg
Tuesday, June 8th: Heart 2 Heart
Wednesday, June 9th: Thoughts From an Evil Overload
Thursday, June 10th: Book Club Classics!

More reviews:

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno - Ellen Bryson

A little while back I heard about Ellen Bryson's book, The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, on Shelf Awareness and requested an advanced reader's copy. The book comes out this June. Look at the cover, doesn't it just look gorgeous? This is one of those books that I enjoyed from beginning to end and got me out of my reading slump. I still can't believe this is Ellen's first novel.

The story revolves around Bartholomew Fortuno, dubbed "THE WORLD'S SKINNIEST MAN" in P.T. Barnum's museum in New York City. P.T. Barnum is the same guy from Barnum and Bailey Circus. It's 1865 and the Civil War has just ended and President Lincoln has just been shot. But this story isn't about Lincoln or the Civil War. It's about the Curiosities (the freaks and oddities as they were called) who actually lived in the Barnum's museum.

Bartholomew Fortuno is considered a True Prodigy, one who was born with his "gift." But his world is rocked when a mysterious veiled lady arrives under cover and is rumored to be a new act. From that moment on, Fortuno's life will never be the same.

I absolutely loved this story of Bartholomew Fortuno. The entire time period and feel of New York City and the Museum comes alive, but it's Fortuno's story, as well as the other Curiosities, that I fell for. Fortuno struggles with past and with his future as he grows in character and as a man.

I had briefly heard about P.T. Barnum's odd museum which later on burned to the ground. A few years ago, some CUNY students recreated the museum online in a wonderful interactive site. If you've never checked out the Lost Museum website, I urge you to go check it out.

I loved that Ellen took pains to include authenticity into the book. For example, every once in a while there are hand written letters or Notices for the museum performers. Here's an example:

**Ok. I normally try to end these reviews on some sort of note, but I have no clue this time. Just read this book. And then tell me what you think. Yeah? Ok. Deal.