Many people love the cool Winter days for outdoor sports like skiing, sledding, skating, or just strolling around. Many others like to “hibernate” inside on those darker, colder days. If you’re in the latter category, one of the delights of Winter is curling up with your favorite cup of tea, and a really terrific book! Here are some you might want to consider:
FOR THE MOVIE FAN: Do you like to see the movie, then read the book or read the book and then see the movie? Either way, you will want to read the charming The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel (Penguin Books 2011) which was the inspiration for the Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie of the same name. The novel, set during World War II, focuses on the life of Oliva Dunne, a ministers daughter in Denver. She has big dreams of becoming an archeologist, but when she becomes pregnant and the father was a one-night stand who is now fighting the war and has no idea about Oliva’s situation, her father decides to marry her off to a farmer in rural Colorado. She agrees to this, and begins a marriage with a man she’s never met, in a rural area where she has no friends or resources. She befriends two young Japanese sisters who are living at a nearby internment camp and unwittingly becomes an accomplice to a crime. But the book does have a happy ending (and I’m not going to tell you what it is). Other than the fact that I simply cannot imagine a modern, urban girl hiding her “shame” in an arranged marriage that seems completely unsuited to her personality and social status, I found the book very compelling, well written, and a good story.
REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE: I’ve always been a fan of the writing of Nora Ephron, who is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, author, and now, blogger. She’s know for screenplays such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Silkwood. But her sisters are also elequent and witty writers. Loose Diamonds ..and other things I’ve lost (and found) along with way by Amy Ephron (William Morrow 2011) is a very personal book in the style of “musings” that are fun to read. If this book was written by “just somebody” without a name, it would be witty, but probably never published. But a witty book with the Ephron name on the cover, is bound to be special…and this one is. The Ephron family obviously leads a high profile life where mixing with the famous (and in some cases, the infamous like Squeaky Fromme) is part of the package. But Amy also talks about the more mundane things in life that we all can more easily relate to, such as buying expensive shoes on a whim because they were reminiscent of mary janes she had years earlier, or how her mother’s taste for serving bowls for proper presentation rubbed off on her until one day when it no longer seemed to matter. These little things are what make up our personalities and shape our lives. I really enjoyed this little book…Loose Diamonds is a little gem!
LEARN MORE ABOUT MAKEUP: Express Makeup by Rae Morris with Photographer Steven Chee (Arena, 2011) is a coffee-table type book that will bring joy to those who love to play with makeup. It has beautiful photography of models made up by the veteran makeup artist, who shows you how to use makeup artist tips and tricks to get different looks, quickly. When you are faced with making up a bunch of models for a runway show or a shoot, you usually don’t have the luxury of time. Step-by-step photographs show you how to do the various looks, and I really like that! Most of the looks are wear-able, with some quite avant-garde. The first part of the book is a very good primer on various makeup items and brushes, what they are, and how to use them. There is even some color theory thrown in. This book will really appeal to those who like to experiment, and learn. With all the mega palettes that you might have received over the holidays that have so many colors in them, it’s the perfect companion. If you love playing with makeup and different looks, you are going to have a lot of fun with this book. My only comment, and it’s not really a criticism, just an observation, is that the models (as in most beauty books) are mostly very young. Anything would look good on them, including no makeup at all. I wish Morris had used a few more mature models, for they are the ones who really do need makeup the most and want the tips to make the most of their makeup!
A WEDDING PLANNING JOURNEY: Quirky but focused on brides and grooms-to-be, is 365 Days Until..The Journey To Our Wedding by Alexander and Ahesha Catalano (Abbott Press, 2011). The book is really the day-to-day “his and hers” journal entries for the year leading up to the wedding of this couple. Alexander and Ahesha each kept separate journals (not sure if they shared anything in them before the book idea sprung to life). It is clear that they had this book in mind when they wrote the entries, because while they are personal and share their “feelings” these diaries obviously have been heavily edited. The entries are brief notations of the day-to-day planning, plus everything else that goes into a wedding (from bridesmaid bickering to family issues). This couple seems amazingly well adjusted with fewer issues than I would have thought possible, and I felt that perhaps the editing made it seem like they had a fairly mild ride through engagement to I DO. But for any couple that is planning a year to “I do” this would be interesting reading and a reality check that even the most well suited couples have bumps along the way to the altar. However, that being said, there are no photographs, and why isn’t there a bio of the couple? A few photos taken during that year would have made the reader feel more connected to the Catalano’s journey. The book drags in spots, but when you’re planning a year out, not every day is going to be exciting. It would have been just as effective to skip the “bland” entries and add more details to the more interesting ones. I also would have liked to have learned more about the wedding day other than “it went well.” You take the journey, but you are pretty much left out in the cold left at the door with a two page ending. At least they added a photo on the final page.
ROMANCE NOVEL, PERIOD: What would a romantic library be without a “period piece” that includes exotic locales, deception and of course, a love story? That’s the stuff of The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell (Penguin 2011). The author’s debut novel takes place in the early 1900’s in Boston. It focuses on a Dr. Ravell, a young obstetrician who has a reputation of helping couples to conceive and Erika Von Kessler, a young opera singer ready to give up her hopes of becoming pregnant. When her attempts to become pregnant fail, she decides she is ready to leave Peter, her husband, and go to Italy to pursue her career. But after she and her husband consult Dr. Ravell, a supposed “miracle” occurs and she becomes pregnant. As the novel unfolks, Erika and her husband Peter find themselves tied to Dr. Ravell in ways that take them into a situation they might not have anticipated, taking them abroad, and eventually, apart. The plot is not completely believeable, and drags in spots, but it is still really interesting, so I kept reading. I enjoyed a few hours absorbed in the story and thought it was worth reading. If you like novels set in a different time, you will enjoy it, too.