The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow





The Magic Room:  
A Story About the Love We Wish For Our Daughters
By Jeffrey Zaslow

Gotham Press, $27.00









About The Magic Room, from the publisher:
Up a short flight of stairs, inside a former bank in a small rural town 100 miles northwest of Detroit – there is a room.  It is a special place, rich in history, and 100,000 brides-to-be from across the Midwest have made pilgrimages to find it. Just 10 foot by 8 foot, it has floor-to-ceiling mirrors on every wall, carrying the brides’ images to infinity. It is called the “Magic Room,” and for good reason.
In THE MAGIC ROOM: A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters, Jeffrey Zaslow takes readers to this remarkable small-town bridal shop to explore the hopes and dreams that parents have for their daughters. He weaves this true story using a reporter’s research and a father’s heart. Jeff came to Fowler not just to write about wedding gowns and what they represent. He came to understand the women wearing them, their fears and yearnings, and through them, he tells a larger story about the love between parents and daughters today.
In THE MAGIC ROOM Jeff examines women on the brink of commitment, whose stories, secrets and memories will pull you in from the moment they first see their reflection in this iconic room.



In stores and on e-books now. 



Rose: My Life In Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison








Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor
By Rosina Harrison

Penguin Books, $15.00

Publisher's synopsis:
In 1928, Rosina Harrison arrived at the illustrious household of the Astor family to take up her new position as personal maid to the infamously temperamental Lady Nancy Astor, who sat in Parliament, entertained royalty, and traveled the world. "She's not a lady as you would understand a lady" was the butler's ominous warning. But what no one expected was that the iron-willed Lady Astor was about to meet her match in the no-nonsense, whip-smart girl from the country.
For 35 years, from the parties thrown for royalty and trips across the globe, to the air raids during WWII, Rose was by Lady Astor's side and behind the scenes, keeping everything running smoothly. In charge of everything from the clothes and furs to the baggage to the priceless diamond "sparklers," Rose was closer to Lady Astor than anyone else. In her decades of service she received one £5 raise, but she traveled the world in style and retired with a lifetime's worth of stories. Like Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, ROSE is a captivating insight into the great wealth 'upstairs' and the endless work 'downstairs', but it is also the story of an unlikely decades-long friendship that grew between Her Ladyship and her spirited Yorkshire maid. 

My thoughts:


Rosina Harrison's 1976 memoir was re-issued in December of 2011, right in the middle of the frenzy surrounding our fascination with the BBC's mega-hit series Downton Abbey! Being a fan not only of Downton Abbey, but also Gosford Park and Remains of the Day, I wasted no time in requesting this e-galley through NetGalley!

I was prepared to like this book and the author did not let me down!   I did keep reminding myself that Ms. Harrison  published her memoirs thirty six years ago, she wrote of experiences and memories dating back over ninety years ago.  I add that, because I consider this to be a bit of a time warp-ish education in the way people spoke and in the way things really were back then.  A couple of words threw me a bit and I found myself on the search engines, learning new "old" terms.  What I also was amazed at was the real physicality of house work done back then. And I gripe about having to rinse the dishes before I load the dishwasher. The kitchen staff scrubbed with products that made their hands bleed. Being a fan of period British books and movies, I was still astounded by how many people those big estates employed!  The series 1900 House, a few years ago, illustrated just how far we've come!

Rose tells things the way they were, in her own words, she doesn't "white wash" Lady Astor or her life with any of her other employers. Rose had a clear and precise picture of people as they were. As she was in service as a lady's maid, she  saw the good, the bad and the ugly. I thought Rose was a great observer, and people who are great observers, in my opinion, are excellent writers. They don't embellish.  They report.  And that's what Harrison did. She reported in great detail, always being careful to respect her employers, their guests and the people she worked along side.

I really enjoyed this book, it's a slice of a life lived a long time ago.  It's well written, entertaining and it kept my interest. Almost too  much, I never wanted to put it down.  Harrison's My Life In Service to Lady Astor, thirty six years later, is still worth a  read, it's the story of a life well told and well structured. It's a look into a time gone by, and shouldn't be missed. What a great lesson in life and history!

I really recommend My Life In Service to Lady Astor!  Brava Rose Harrison!

I give it 4 out of 5 stars!!

** This book was provided to me by the publishers through NetGalley, and in no way affected my review.

The ladies of THE HELP rule at the SAG Awards










The Screen Actors' Guild awarded three "Actors" to THE HELP!  The movie is, of course, based on the best seller of the same name by Kathryn Stockett!


Best supporting female actor went to Octavia Spencer, for her role as "Minnie", best leading female actor to Viola Davis, for her role as "Aibileen" and best ensemble cast for THE HELP!   Bless their hearts!












Stories from The Golden Age, by L. Ron Hubbard

STORIES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE:  Where Adventure Comes to Life.


While at the ALA Midwinter convention last week, I stumbled on the display of books sitting on the Galaxy Press table, where I saw tons of re-issued stories from "The Golden Age."  These are family friendly books from the 1930s that are fun, easy to read and something that takes us back to the days before Indiana Jones and Capt Jack, back to the age when science fiction brought us titles like The Great Secret and When Shadows Fall, westerns like The Branded Outlaw and mysteries like Dead Men Kill.  


Thanks to the great people at Galaxy Press for sharing some samples with me!  


Please visit their amazing website for more great books from The Golden Age:  visit Galaxy Press and Golden Age stories here.  Go ahead, wander back, to those thrilling days of yesteryear ...


Here are a couple of the great covers:










An Invisible Thread


                              



   The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, 
and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny  


By Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski
Howard Books, $25.00

“Excuse me lady, do you have any spare change? I am hungry.”
When I heard him, I didn’t really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noise—the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasn’t there. 
But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped. 
And then—and I’m still not sure why I did this—I came back.

 Synopsis from the author:  
My name is Laura Schroff, and An Invisible Thread is the story of my friend, Maurice, and me. We met on 56th street in Manhattan in 1986, when I was a 35-year-old single, successful ad sales executive, and he was an 11-year-old homeless panhandler. He asked me for spare change; I ignored him and kept walking. But something made me stop, and turn around, and go back to him, and that day I took him to lunch at McDonalds. We met the Monday after that, and the following Monday, and every Monday for the next four years, and hundreds of times after that. Today, 25 years later, we are still great friends.
An Invisible Thread  is the story of how Maurice changed my life, and I his. It is the story of how two people who needed each other somehow became unlikely friends, against all odds. It is the story of the mysterious, unseen connections that exist between people who are destined to meet—and how, if only we open our eyes and our hearts to them, these connections can be the great blessings of our lives.



My thoughts:

An Invisible Thread is one of those books that just tugs at your heart-strings!  Get ready for a lot of "feel good" adjectives in this review, I just can't help myself.  Laurie and Maurice's true life story truly makes you believe that good things really do happen when you least expect them!  


I really liked that their story was told honestly and straight forward... warts and all. Life's not always a smooth ride, even when an impossibly wonderful thing happens. I appreciated that the childhoods of both Laurie and Maurice were shared for the reader, I think it allowed you to get a better feeling for the way things were in their lives, as dissimilar as they were, Laurie and Maurice were able to become friends under unusual circumstances.  


An Invisible Thread is simply written, clear and true. I wasn't sure what to expect,  perhaps that it might be too "heavy" or too embellished,  but it was so entertaining and a quick read, that I really did hate to see the last page.


Laurie's thought about her life being "an invisible thread" made me consider the phrase. She made me think. She made me believe that we can connect and that we can change lives for the better, both our own and those whose life paths we cross. 


I give this one 4 out of 5 stars!


*Author synopsis found here:  An Invisible Thread - The book (official site)




*This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher and in no way did that affect my review.











Frosted Shadow by Nancy Warren

FROSTED SHADOW 
by Nancy Warren

Kindle edition, $2.99





Synopsis:
          There’s nothing pretty about murder.
Meet Toni Diamond, make up artist to middle America. She’s also got a nose for trouble and a passion for solving mysteries. Imagine Columbo in a lavender suit. She never met a woman who wouldn’t look better with a little help from the Lady Bianca line of cosmetics. But don’t be fooled by appearances. Underneath the fake diamonds and the big hair is a sharp brain and a keen eye that sees the details as well as the funny side of life. When a Lady Bianca sales rep is murdered at the annual convention in Dallas, Toni is the one who notices things that some people, like sexy Detective Luke Marciano, might easily miss. Only someone who understands as much about how to make appearances deceiving could see into the mind of this killer -- a murderer who wants to give Toni a permanent makeover. Into a dead woman.

My thoughts:

Grab your lipstick and slide into your stillettos and get ready to join Lady Bianca star salesrep Toni Diamond, makeup adviser turned part time sleuth, in a fun filled, murder prone annual sales convention for the Lady Bianca line of cosmetics in Frosted Shadow. It looks like beauty isn't only skin deep, it can be deadly!   But don't get the wrong idea, this is no piece of fluff. Frosted Shadow author Nancy Warren has written a smart, tech savvy, astute character in Toni Diamond!  Toni's no simpering southern belle. She's a smart, inquisitive corporate executive who just happens to sell cosmetics, seems that her only problem is that she keeps finding herself around dead bodies.  But their makeup is stunning!

This is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. Pure escapism in the highest form!!  Warren knows how to tell a tale and smartly keeps the characters to a minimum, while getting the most "bang" for the buck. OK, I had to say that. I'm happy to say that Frosted Shadow looks to be the first in a series for the well groomed, and whip smart character Toni Diamond!  Toni's the hard working, single mom of a teen aged goth-loving daughter who's tendency towards black frustrates the pastel loving Toni.  I really enjoyed Toni's Dolly Parton loving mother, she's a fun loving good-old-gal who provides support for Toni and a bit of distraction for the reader. You HAVE to love her.

And then there's the cute and sexy police detective, Luke Marciano who can't quite figure out Toni. Her Lady Bianca sales tactics throw him for a loop, but not for long,  He realizes there's a brain behind Toni's perfectly made up face and a heart under her lavender suit. He even acquiesces to trying the cuticle and hand creme Toni gives him. Even if it is in a lavender tube.

The story line is kept sharp and uncluttered by Warren, her characters are clearly defined and there's enough red herrings tossed around to keep you guessing until the end. I had it narrowed down to two possible murderers and would have been satisfied (as the reader) if either had been the culprit.  I'll "cut" to the chase...bravo Ms. Warren. Bring me more of Toni Diamond!

I took my e-reader with me everywhere when I was reading Frosted Shadow!  I'd love to see this book in trade paperback form as I'd love to be able to share it with those who don't have an e-reader or just don't like the reading experience of a cold plastic device. Yes, that'e me.  Hello!!! Publishers!!! BUY this for publication!!!  If you do, I will too! Would love to give this one as gifts!!!  In the mean time, pick it up on Amazon or Smashwords.

I give Frosted Shadow 5 BIG LAVENDER STARS!!



** This book was provided to me for review by the author, and in no way did that affect my honest review.


Book adaptations rule Academy Awards nominations

Now let's take a closer look at the nine overall nominations that came from books, novellas and plays... pretty much any form of literature.


We have(in alpha order):

Albert Nobbs, based on the novella by George Moore, got 2 nominations, one for best actress and the other for best supporting actress. 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, it also got 2 nominations for best picture and best supporting actor.

Hugo, adapted from Brian Selznick's excellent childrens' book, it's pretty much a graphic novel of grand scale.  It got 11 nominations including best film, best adapted screenplay and best director.

Moneyball, based on the book by Michael Lewis,  raked in six nominations including best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay, film editing and sound mixing.

My Week with Marilyn, based on the book by Colin Clark, was nominated  twice, for best supporting actor and best actress.

The Descendants, based on the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, was nominated for best picture, best director, best actor,  and best adapted screenplay.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson received one best actress nomination..

The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, was nominated for best picture, best actress, and two nominations for best supporting actress nominations.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on John Le Carré's novel, got two nominations for best actor and best adapted screenplay.

War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, was nominated for best picture, art direction, cinematography,   original music, sound editing,  and sound mixing,





 

2012 Oscar© nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay


Since I'm all about books and books that  become movies, this is my favorite category at the Academy Awards!


Here are this year's nominees!


Writing (Adapted Screenplay)



  • "The Descendants" Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
  • "Hugo" Screenplay by John Logan
  • "The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
  • "Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin  Story by Stan Chervin
  • "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan




Now, let's give some credit to the AUTHORS of the original books and the play these films have been adapted from!  

  • "The Descendants"  by  Kaui Hart Hemmings 
  • "Hugo" by Brian Selznick
  • "The Ides of March" original play "Farragut North" by Beau Willimon
  • "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
  • "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" by  John Le Carre

All nominations can be found here: 2012 Academy Awards nominations


Best swag this weekend

Just got back from ALA's Midwinter session!  What a great opportunity to support our libraries, our hard working librarians and to meet publishers!  Handed out a ton of cards and grabbed a pirate's booty of swag, in the form of books to review! I'll donate them to my favorite senior community when I have finished them!

My prize book of the weekend was....







More later about the weekend and the authors that spoke!  Great convention ALA!  Can't wait for the next one!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - We have a poster!

WOO HOO!   Here's the poster for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, from HollywoodReporter.com.  




The movie of course is based on Seth Grahame-Smith's novel,  it's adapted for the screen by Simon Kinberg and Seth Grahame-Smith, and is directed by Timur Bekmambetov












Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron

Three-Day Town
Margaret Maron

Grand Central Publishing, $25.99




Publisher's synopsis:
Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant are on a train to New York, finally on a honeymoon after a year of marriage. January in New York might not be the perfect time to visit, but they'll take it. The trip is a Christmas present from Dwight's sister-in-law, who arranged for them to stay in an Upper West Side apartment for one week. While in New York, Deborah has been asked to deliver a package to Lt. Sigrid Harald of the NYPD. Sigrid offers to swing by the apartment to pick up the box, but when they reach the apartment, they discover that it is missing and the doorman has been murdered. Despite their best efforts to enjoy a blissful getaway, Deborah and Dwight soon find that they've teamed up with Sigrid and her team to catch the killer before he strikes again.

First things first, I was new to Margaret Maron's books and her wonderful characters Deborah Knott and Sigrid Harald!  If you don't already know them, this is a brilliant way for Maron to introduce Knott and Harald to new readers and new fans!!!

The title of the book, Three-Day Town references a quote by James Cameron who commented that New York City is "the finest three-day town on earth" and Maron's story unfold over just three days.   I likes the characters and being a huge fan of the city, I easily felt like I was there with them, trying to figure out who was murdering the people in the apartment building and why.  


Maron crafts a well spun tale and a very enjoyable one. Her characters are crisply drawn and different enough in nature so as to add a multi-layered mix of suspects and victims alike!  I liked that there was some tie ins with relatives and friends of relatives. To me that's the way my world is populated and it seems like a normal community of interwoven lives.


For me, reviewing mysteries and suspense stories are the most difficult. The synopsis gives you the plot and I hope I've told you enough about how I saw the story painted by the author.  It's fun,  I almost had the murderer figured out and that's what a suspense is about,  the "who done it?"  part of the book is strong and yet fun to read.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars!  It held my interest and Maron tells a great story!    


*This galley was provided to my by the publisher through NetGalley.com and in no way affected my honest review. 

The Woman in Black trailer

THE WOMAN IN BLACK starring Daniel Radcliffe opens in February.  It's based on Susan Hill's 1983 book The Woman in Black.  

 



This looks to be a smart role for Radcliffe, as he plays a widowed lawyer who is sent to sort out the estate of an eccentric client.

Now I need to read the book!


This background about the book is from Susan Hill's website.  Please click on that link to learn more about The Woman in Black.  

This ghost story was first published in hardback in 1983 and has gone on to have a remarkable life over the following decades, in various paperback incarnations, as a set book for GCSE and A Level, and as a play, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt and running in London’s West End since 1988 and round the world.

This appears to be the most recent cover art for the book:


Cover image:  Vintage Publishing



Check out THE WOMAN IN BLACK  official website and Susan Hill's website for lots more information about the book and the movie!






1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel by Anne Holt

1222
By Anne Holt
Scribner, $25.00
















 Here's the publisher's synopsis:



A TRAIN ON ITS WAY to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby hotel, centuries-old and practically empty, except for the staff. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the passengers think they are safe, until one of them is found dead the next morning.
With no sign of rescue, and the storm continuing to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. Paralysed by a bullet lodged in her spine, Hanne has no desire to get involved. But she is slowly coaxed back into her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation force her to take an interest in the passengers and their secrets. When another body turns up, Hanne realizes that time is running out, and she must act fast before panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, who had travelled in a private rail car at the end of the train and was evacuated first to the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed, but it is making everyone uneasy. Hanne has her suspicions, but she keeps them to herself.
Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.

Anne Holt's 1222 is a book that I almost didn't get to review, I had been sent an e-galley from the nice folks over at Simon and Schuster but it timed out before I could get it read.  So, I wandered over to the store and grabbed a copy. I really wanted to read this as its the locked room, Agatha Christie kind of murder story that I just love. I am so glad that I did read it!  


I've never read any of Anne Holt's books before but the quirky, cranky, wheel chair riding loner of a former police inspector,the character of Hanne Wilhelmsen had me intrigued on the flyleaf.  Author Anne Holt had me hooked on the first page.  Now I have to hunt up her previous books.  


Hanne is a hard woman to like, but the character is written in such a fine way that you have to stick with her, to see how Holt winds the story and twists her plots. While it is translated into English from Norwegian, the story doesn't lose any suspense and for once, I couldn't find any awkward wordings. 


Red Herrings are everywhere and once Hanne decides to get involved in the situation the story really takes off.   There's a lot of background about the character that I thought might be unnecessary, but that's just me, we get it that Hanne's not a happy camper and really can't stand people.  But she's a brilliantly angry detective, it's a joy to "watch" her put the puzzle together. 


1222 is a first class murder mystery. You've read the synopsis, you've read my thoughts. I never want to give anything away, so I kept them to the point, I hope you read it.  I hope you enjoy it.  I did! 






I give it 4 out of 5 stars!
















Writers Guild announces award nominations

The Writers Guild of America has announced this year's Writers Guild Award nominees. I've posted the awards for Adapted Screenplay below, all of them are adapted from wonderful books.

Take some time, read the book, see the movie.

You will find the entire list of nominees here at their official website.





ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne andNat Faxon & Jim Rash; Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemming; Fox Searchlight

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian; Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson, originally published by Norstedts; Columbia Pictures

The Help, Screenplay by Tate Taylor; Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett; DreamWorks Pictures

Hugo, Screenplay by John Logan; Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick; Paramount Pictures

Moneyball, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin; Story by Stan Chervin; Based on the book by Michael Lewis; Columbia Pictures




Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter

SMITTEN

By Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter

Thomas Nelson, $15.99





Publishers' synopsis:

Welcome to Smitten, Vermont.
With the help of four friends, it’s about to become the most romantic town in America.
 The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they’ve got just the plan to save Smitten. They’ll capitalize on its name and turn it into a tourist destination for lovers—complete with sweet shops, a high-end spa, romantic music on the square, and cabins outfitted with fireplaces and hot tubs.
 But is this manly town ready for an influx of romantically-minded guests?
 Country music sensation Sawyer Smitten, the town’s hometown hero, wants to help by holding his own wedding there on Valentine’s Day. And little Mia’s lavender wreaths hang all over town as a reminder that faith can work miracles. Along the way, four women spearheading the town’s transformation—energetic Natalie, sophisticated Julia, graceful Shelby, and athletic Reese—get in the spirit by reviving their own love lives.
 Join best-selling inspirational romance authors (and real-life BFFs) Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for an inspiring stay at the (soon-to-be) most romantic town on the eastern seaboard.

One visit . . . and you’ll be smitten too.

My thoughts about SMITTEN:


What an interesting concept!  One set of characters written by four different authors!  I was immediately mesmerized by this idea and was (OK I can't help myself) "smitten" with the plot.  It was just too cute not to like!


However, I was a bit disappointed. Maybe is was my preconceived idea of what I was about to read, but as cute and clever as this idea was, I had some problems. Now, don't get the idea that Smitten isn't a fun read. It is!  It's a very enjoyable, fast read. It's perfect escapism and would go great with a glass of ice tea, while sitting by the pool.  


I really expected to find a different spin on the characters by each author, I was looking forward to seeing how the four writers would adapt each character to their own style of writing, I hoped each author would present a slightly tweaked impression with their story. I didn't see that.


I also struggled a bit with the guys in Smitten. I just didn't like them and wondered what the women saw in them. 


I'd love to have seen how each author would have written their own vision of this story, I'd like to think that there would have been more "there" there.


But it was a cute idea, I just wanted more than than the icing on the cake. 


So I give this 3 stars, cute and quick, but not much below the surface. 


**This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley, and in no way affected my review.


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