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The Beatles and Ireland
The Beatles and Ireland
by Michael Lynch
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beatles' Irish Roots, 19 Dec. 2011
The Beatles aren't just English, they are also Irish! John Lennon embraced his Irish heritage by naming his second son Sean which is the Gaelic version of "John." John Lennon's Irish roots were patrilineal (his paternal grandfather was Irish) and Paul McCartney had Irish ancestry on both sides of his family tree. George's Irish roots were matrilineal as his maternal grandfather John French Sr. was born in Corah, County Wexford, Ireland. French emigrated to England as a young man. In the case of Ringo Starr, it remains a question as to whether or not he had any Irish ancestry, although if he did it was very slight.

George Harrison had the strongest ties to the Emerald Isle. Louise French Harrison's (1911-1970) dad was Irish, this providing George with a rich source of Irish ancestry. George had a very interesting family tree. Louise French Harrison's family were descendants of French knights who had settled into Ireland during the Middle Ages. Because of the influx of Franco-Irish settlers, the surname "French" (formerly spelled "Ffrench" until John French Sr.'s generation) was given the Franco-Irish. George, who did indeed resemble his maternal grandfather (Louise French Harrison would say in a 1965 interview in a fan club newsletter that she thought George looked like her dad) embraced his Irish heritage. People who knew the French and Harrison families personally have said that Louise French was very much a homebody who loved her family and delighted in visiting her relatives in Ireland. George's sister, Lou, has supported this claim and in Before He Was Fab: George Harrison's First American Visit and George Harrison: Living in the Material World, readers are treated to delightful picture taken in 1955 of George, 12, Harold Sr. 46, Harold Jr., 21, Lou, 24 and Peter, 15 on a ferry. The Harrisons made numerous trips to Ireland and George was as well rooted in the Emerald Isle as he was in the United Kingdom.

In November of 1963 and October of 1964 the Beatles came to Ireland. In a 1963 interview in Dublin, George Harrison tells his delighted listeners that Louise Harrison flew up from England to see him in Ireland and to visit her many relatives. Readers will especially love the pictures of the Harrisons in Ireland when George was a young boy with his many cousins.

In 1972, Paul McCartney wrote a wonderfully scathing political song entitled "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." On a related note, in 1971 John Lennon sang, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and "Luck of the Irish," two delightfully scathingly brilliant songs. You can find these on Sometime in NYC.

This is a book all Beatle fans will love.


Innocent Foxes: A Novel
Innocent Foxes: A Novel
Price: £2.78

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fox on the Run, 23 Oct. 2011
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"I don't wanna know your name/Cause you don't look the same/The way you did before.
OK you think you got a pretty face/But the rest of you is out of place/You looked all right before." -- Sweet, "Fox on the Run," 1975

When Dixie, a local girl from the small mountain town of Abundance, Montana is nearly run over by a visiting actor named Spencer Scott, her life literally changes. He stops his car; apologizes to her and turns on the charm. This sustains Dixie until she returns home to her boyfriend, Billy, whose behavior makes him sound like a crass boorish oaf. Dixie, newly traumatized from the death of her infant son Jamie Lee sneaks away to grieve as Billy feels she is taking too long with the grieving process. Dixie's other concern includes paying off the funeral debt for her son.

Meanwhile, back on the mountain, Spencer Scott, his personal assistant/lover Sidonie and his 10-year-old son Tennesee (the boy's mother couldn't spell) try to cobble together a life away from the lights and action of Los Angeles. Spencer, 44 spurns marriage after his failed first marriage and his minimal contact with his two grown and highly accomplished children, Thomas and Louisa. He is a chauvanist and a divo with a real sense of entitlement and NO respect for women. Sidonie sounds like a good fit for him as she asks for very little and appears to be content with the arrangement/living agreement she has with Spencer. This includes taking in his son, whose mother decided to go off on a pleasure trip and needed a place to deposit them. Spencer appears to embrace Sweet's lyrics in re his relationships and overall view of women.

Father and son have not bonded and Spencer has a lot of animosity towards Phoebe, the boy's mother. Tennesee carries the triple yoke of a bizarre mispelled name; a sense of entitlement and extra poundage. For a good portion of the book, he is rude; has a potty mouth and drops enough F-bombs to sink a ship and befoul an ocean. Spencer also is a culprit; he drops F-bombs at the drop of a hat. He even goes so far as to say "it's F o'clock in the morning." The boy plainly does not want to be there and misses his PlayStation and life in the city. Spencer keeps trying to encourage him to embrace the cowboy life and appreciate the mountains.

They manage a bit in a fashion until the boy becomes missing in action. Spencer does not table his life to go looking for him. He figures the boy just ran away and will return once he cools off. But did he run away? And why do Dixie and Billy have him?

Readers go on a harrowing trip with this trio who, despite Billy and Dixie's abusive personalities; Dixie's traumatic past and the boy's emotional neglect have more in common than not. All of them have potty mouths. All three are survivors of life's hard knocks.

"Fox on the run / You screamed and everybody comes a-running
Take a run and hide yourself away /Fox on the run
F-foxy, foxy on the run and hideaway."

While I tried, I could never like Dixie, despite her tragic past and her efforts with the boy. I thought she was an extremely tragic figure. Dixie also shows a real dark side in that where the boy is concerned. She discovers that she is quite capable of far more cruelty/danger towards him than she imagined possible. Still, she was a somewhat sympathetic character in that she and the boy eventually bonded. To her credit, she did sneak kindness to Tennesee when Billy went off to get food or booze. I just could not like Billy at all and felt he was an unsympathetic character. He beat Dixie; kicked and beat the boy and posed a general threat.

Dixie tells the boy when he said he hated foxes is that foxes are innocent; killing chickens is the foxes acting on their natural survival instinct. Foxes enjoy a poultry repast most of all and "have no idea they are destroying what they love most." One can surmise that Dixie sees vulpine survival behavior as metaphoric for her own life - she claims to love Tennesee and her son most, but her behavior towards Tennesee and her abetting Billy in his actions are quite destructive to the boy. It also makes one wonder if Dixie is saying she is acting on instinct alone.

Another delightful bit of contrast are the Britishisms that are interspersed throught the book, e.g. "neighbour," "behaviour" and "tucked into a meal." The bucolic mountain setting was a stark contrast to the ugly and sordid issues that the main characters contended with in this book. Readers will have a chuckle over the misspelling of Colombia, the country being spelled as "Columbia" and chili, the food as "chilli."

Another part that bothered me was how the boy coped. His initial experiences with Billy and Dixie were nothing short of traumatic. To add insult to injury, the pair kept the boy in makeshift diapers so as to minimize pit stops and the risk of being seen and recognized. Being forced into wearing diapers had to be the epitome of traumatic and degrading. The boy's fury is well understandable. Since he apparently had little contact with peers or adults who set limits, he saw nothing wrong with repeating tidbits of adult conversations. One felt for the boy when he relayed conversations that his natural parents had about him in that neither one wanted him and their overall negative view of him. One can only hope that poor kid received counseling, help and support.

While the synopsis describes this book as one of loss and redemption, the redemption I saw came from, to a certain extent Spencer once he accepted the fact that his child was missing for real and, the lion's share of the sympathy went to the boy, who was a victim of his life circumstances. His bonding with Dixie made me think Stockholm Syndrome. He later became a survivor.

This is a riveting novel that will keep readers' interest in where the story goes. While I did not like Spencer at all (he was a chauvanist with a real sense of entitlement and his "epiphany" on the mountain seemed to me as nothing more than feeling sorry for himself over his unhappy childhood) or Billy and my dislike for Dixie was tinged with some sympathy, this unlikely cast of characters made for an emotion packed story. I tried, but I just could not like any of the adult characters. I wanted to like this book more than I did. In the interest of compassion, it was a strain to give it a 2-star review when I really wanted to give it a 1.5 star review.

Sweet's 1975 song "Fox on the Run" could easily be the soundtrack of this book.


George Harrison: Living in the Material World [DVD]
George Harrison: Living in the Material World [DVD]
Dvd ~ George Harrison
Price: £8.49

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Inner Light Shines!, 11 Oct. 2011
"Here comes the sun....the smile's returning to their faces." -- George Harrison, 1969

"I want to tell you, my head is filled with things to say." -- George Harrison, 1966

This is the documentary Beatle fans and George Harrison fans have prayed for and long awaited! As others have noted, I, too could have happily watched both installments at one time. Seeing it broken into 2 separate parts had an advantage in that it gave me something to look forward to wataching. This is a brilliant work covering the life and artwork of George Harrison, artist extraordinaire in his multi-faceted glory.

I've said all along that George was all about love. From the time George made his presence known and felt; from the time he was placed in the loving arms of Louise French Harrison and she saw her own intensity looking back at her; from the time Harold Sr. first set eyes on George and his only sister and two older brothers welcomed this "new little Harrison," as Louise French Harrison would later describe George and other new arrivals (nieces, nephews and grandchildren) with much love. Harold Sr. and Louise French were from all accounts a very loving couple who were nuturing to their 4 children. George, surrounded by love from the beginning would live full circle by making a final request that people "love one another."

This documentary portrays the REAL George Harrison and does not degenerate into idolatry. George is shown in many moods, some less than cheery and shown warts, wrinkles, atrocious perm days and all.

George's fellow Wilburys and former Beatle bandmate Paul McCartney and wife Olivia provide the best interviews. I just wish more Harrison family members had been a part of this stellar documentary. George's sister, also named Louise has banged on the drum for her brother for many years. In fact, George was the first Beatle to cross the Atlantic, coming to America in 1963 to visit his only sister.

Most, if not all Harrison fans find George's view of religions very interesting. It has been documented that Louise French Harrison, herself Catholic had George baptized in March of 1943 when he was 1 month old. In 1965 George and Ravi Shankar met and during that time, George introduced the world at large to Eastern music and was exploring his philosophies and religious expression. His Catholic roots never left him; a lovely statue of Mother Mary graced his property at Friar Park.

Louise, George's only sister would say in an early April 2011 interview that it was a shock to her to discover that the "real world" wasn't as honest as Harold Sr. and Louise French were and not everybody lived up to their high standard of honesty. George too lived by that credo and he took things to heart deeply and passionately.

George was also fun. He liked cool cars and was an avid Formula One Fan. His sister had a serious Dodge Dart when he first came to visit her in 1963 when she was living in Benton, Illinois. He had a brilliant, dry, droll wit. He loved nature and demonstrated a very nurturing side, which was a Louise French trait. His passion for gardening was a gift from Harold Sr. and Louise French. George was an intensely curious and interested person, seeking information and trying to make sense out of the world in which he lived.

George had beautiful wavy hair, courtesy of Harold Sr.; the deep-set Harold Sr. eyes, but he had the burning Louise intensity that never once left his eyes. Pictures of George as an infant and as a very young child show his ubiquitous intensity, which never left him at any time. It could be a tad unnerving to see such intensity radiating from one so young. It was a trait that never left him. George resembled Harold Sr. from the eyes up. From the nose down, he was Louise French Harrison all over again and his brother Peter was almost a double of Harold Sr.! Harold Jr. looked more French than Harrison; he and George inherited their maternal grandfather's tall, lean frame. Lou was a Franco-Harrison creation as was George. You get to appreciate these things all the more in the book AND in the documentary. Paul McCartney even says in the book that George had a lot of Louise French's character and personality in him. Louise definitely left her stamp on George! Louise even said in the newsletter that she always thought George looked like her dad, John French Sr.)

Louise French Harrison lent her voice to the George Harrison Official Fan Club Newsletter from 1965-1969. It is plain that Louise loved George and his siblings and in her column, each Harrison child is included and given his or her place under Here Comes the Sun.

Olivia is a beautiful gracious lady and she discusses her life with George and some of the road bumps they hit along the way. She does so with grace, tact and aplomb. At no time does she resort to tawdry tale-bearing and finger pointing. Despite all they had been through together, they raised a good son and Olivia loved George, warts, problems, atrocious perms, infidelity and all. Dhani, their son resembles George and his maternal grandmother who unfortunately died 8 years before he was born. Clearly George and Olivia loved and cared about each other and again, to Olivia's credit, she is tactful and discreet when certain questions crop up. That reflects well on her and speaks to good.

Readers walk the Long & Winding Road with George from his early days until his untimely death in 2001. I love the way George could see humor in himself AND his fellow Beatles, as evidenced in his laughing at a Beatle video. The interviews make a good thing even better and I thank the kind person who made it possible for me to watch this until I am able to buy this dvd.

George Harrison has given the gift of his beautiful voice to many. I knew a child with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. She was a MAJOR Beatles fan and George was her favorite. This child, like so many children with autism spectrum issues was a late talker. Once she acquired speech and an awareness of music, she found her voice in the Beatles. She would let George "talk" for her in that she would quote Harrison lyrics and lyrics from Beatle songs to get a point/message across. This later segued into richer, developed speech. As I said about the book, George Harrison's music and his natural, yet childlike grace of sorts reached countless many. He has a large following of fans with autism, as do the Beatles as a group. Beatle fans with autism is a demographic that is not at all rare or unusual.

George's humor comes through time and again. His sardonic wit after that crackpot broke into his home at the tail end of 1999 was evidenced when he said in re the crackpot: "well, he sure wasn't auditioning for the Traveling Wilburys." He had made peace with his life; he was surrounded by love every step of the way. George during his post-1999 brush with death had a very peaceful and serene look about him; his eyes, always intense like those of Louise French Harrison included an inner peace, like his 1968 song "The Inner Light." He disclosed his peace and the fact that he was ready to let go to Olivia, who bore this with dignity and grace.

This is a beautiful tribute to George and how meaningful his life has been in the eyes of those who knew him and others who love his art/music. George has brought more people closer to God. In fact, my church, which is a Catholic church uses George songs, some of which like "Dear One" are beautiful prayers set to music for our prayer meetings, Bible studes and discussion groups. George is, as we say "a parishioner by proxy" because his beautiful music and his open heart and mind have set a good example to countless people.

Bless George, George's family and all who have traveled down the Long & Winding Road with George.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 14, 2011 6:52 PM BST


George Harrison: Living in the Material World
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
by Olivia Harrison
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.60

28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Want to Tell You, 29 Sept. 2011
"I want to tell you, my head is filled with things to say." -- George Harrison, 1966

This is without a doubt the most beautiful and longest awaited biography of George Harrison to date!

As soon as this book became available, I ordered it immediately if not even sooner. I loved the previously unpublished photographs, such as that of 2-year-old George in the arms of his sister, Louise, then nearly 14. I had to smile at tween George sunning himself with family friends, father Harold Sr. and brother Peter, in or about 1954. I especially loved the picture of Louise and Harold Sr. at a dance in the late 1940s, a loving couple who literally welcomed George with love.

It was such a treat to read about various Harrison family members. It is plain and has been well documented that George was not only created by love, but was literally born into love. From 1965-1969, Louise Harrison lent her voice to a column in a newsletter in a fan club newsletter honoring her son.

Postcards George had written various friends and family members; sketches from his school workbooks all paint young George Harrison into sharper focus. As a bonus treat, readers enjoy the inclusion of quotes by various family members, such as George's sisters-in-law, brothers, fellow Beatles and sundry friends.

I have long thought George and Paul were the most interesting of the Beatles. George's love for Eastern music and his life-long bond with Ravi Shankar, whom he met in 1965 is beautifully chronicled in this book. George's home Friar Park is included, from its "evolution" to its finished state, metaphoric in that it parallels George's "evolution" to that of gardener, a passion he inherited from both Harold Sr. and Louise.

You've just got to love seeing George, then 12 astride a motorcycle labeled "43" (as in 1943, perhaps), a future Formula One enthusiast. The then-future Beatle would follow his love for "things fast," as he would later sing in his 1979 gem, "Faster." In 1963, George, then 20 had a blast go-karting with his fellow Beatles, no doubt wishing his go-kart could be driven a tad faster. George, artist extraordinare, humble gardener, author, father, husband, son, brother, uncle, complex iconic figure remained a boy at heart.

One thing I've long wanted to explore was George's Catholic roots. Louise French Harrison was Catholic and had George baptized when he was 1 month old. George's Catholic roots remained with him for his entire life. He had a beautiful statue of Blessed Mother Mary on the grounds of Friar Park. While George explored Eastern religion and philosophy, he recognized that the precepts of all faiths are very similar.

I will add that George Harrison has given the gift of his beautiful voice to many. A child with Asperger's, which is a form of autism who was a HUGE Beatles fan (George was this child's favorite) was a late talker. Upon acquiring speech, this child would let George "talk" for her, using quotes from George's songs and lines he uttered in Beatle movies to express herself. Over time, this evolved into her developing her own voice, so to speak. George Harrison's music and his natural, yet childlike grace of sorts reached countless many. He has a large following of fans with autism, as do the Beatles as a group. Beatle fans with autism is a demographic that is not rare as one might otherwise think.

This book is such a Godsend and I CAN'T WAIT for the dvd. Olivia Arias Harrison, a beautiful, gracious lady has given the world a gift that will continue to give. To make a good thing even better, she has included her input, which made this a much more effective body of work. I can never thank her enough.

This book is a MUST HAVE for all George Harrison fans. Again, this book is a gift that will keep on giving.

You will also want to read Before He Was Fab: George Harrison's First American Visit, which was co-authored by George's sister, Louise.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 30, 2011 9:31 PM BST


Livvie Owen Lived Here
Livvie Owen Lived Here
by Sarah Dooley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Following the Sun, 24 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Livvie Owen Lived Here (Hardcover)
"Tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun." -- Paul McCartney, 1964

Livvie Owen, 14 has autism and is cognitively delayed. She lives in the small town of Nabor (Nabor with an A), a town adjacent to the more populated Neighbor (Neighbor with an E). Due to her severe meltdowns and tendency to destroy walls in fits of rage, her family has had to move fairly often. She has an older sister, Natasha, 16 and a younger sister, Lainie, 11. She and Lainie do not get along.

Livvie insists on being called Livvie instead of Olivia because she does not like Os and As. She also does not make connections readily and has a very sketchy sense of time and sequence.

Livvie has memories of the Sun House, a house she lived in some several years earlier and loved. She takes nocturnal jaunts outside in search of the Sun House and evenually finds it.

Lainie catches her on one such nocturnal jaunt. The girls find the Sun House and their discovery leads to a deeper understanding of each other and of themselves. Natasha continues to go to bat for Livvie and so does Livvie's very compassionate new teacher. Her teacher has a brother who is a gifted painter with autism. Most of Livvie's classmates are somewhere on the autism spectrum and some are cognitively delayed. Livvie has the dual challenges of being cognitively delayed as well as autistic. She can barely read and this causes her to wonder what the sign in front of the Sun House really says. However, she can write her name and has learned to write "Livvie Owen Lived Here" so as to leave some mark of constancy, permanence as she has been uprooted several times.

Livvie is a very plausible character with autism. She has sensory issues; is bound to routine and has middling communication skills. Livvie is good hearted and wants her family to be happy. At no time does she ever seem to think about herself and does not place her needs above those of others.


Two of Us
Two of Us
by Peter Smith
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come Together Meets Beautiful Boy, 24 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Two of Us (Hardcover)
Beatle fans will undoubtedly love this book. Many, if not all Beatle fans will smile at their Beatle related memories growing up.

This book serves a multi-purpose. Many people and their children bond over the Beatles. The Beatles are the soundtrack to the lives of countless people. Like Tony Bennett, who always impressed me as being a class act, the Beatles have crossed over into all generations and are the voices for everyone. Just as Smith and his dad had their Beatle moments, Smith would later include his son in even more Beatle moments.

The narratives of both father and son make for a very effective book. While this is autobiography, there are times when this particular author spends more time on his own introspective view than presenting that same view in a way that is more inclusive to readers. Even so, this is still an excellent work and Beatle fans will no doubt be cheering him for exposing his son to culture, that is the Beatles and their music.

Smith refers to his son as beautiful, which makes one think of the John Lennon classic, "Beautiful Boy." In fact, John's 1980 classic could well indeed underscore many portions of this book. It is clear that Smith loves his son and that is heartwarming. As much as I love the Beatles, I couldn't help but wonder what Smith would do and how he would talk to his son if not for the safety device the Beatles provided him. One cannot help but wonder if Smith is perhaps relying a little too heavily on the Beatles to get through to the boy and thus, using the Beatles as a conversational/interpersonal crutch.

Even so, you just want to salute him for bringing the Beatles into his son's life. The Beatles are an important part of their relationship which is a good thing. Like Ron Schaumberg's "Growing Up With the Beatles," Growing up with the Beatles: An illustrated tribute, readers are treated to the Smith men's lives running alongside the history of the Beatles and their music. The Beatles really have had people come together.

I love this book.


Fly Away Home
Fly Away Home
by Jennifer Weiner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.85

5.0 out of 5 stars On Eagle's Wings, 24 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Fly Away Home (Paperback)
Sylvie Serfer Woodruff, wife of Senator Richard Woodruff has spent her entire marriage supporting her husband, even at the expense of their daughters, Lizzie, 24 and Diana, 30. The story opens with an affair he had with an intern hits the media fan. For once, Sylvie does not stand by her man. She tells him to hit the road, Jack and she returns to her girlhood home in Connecticut. (Sylvie's name is a play on words - Silver Surfer is not too far a jump from "Sylvie Serfer.")

Diana was the only character I actively disliked. She is a driven doctor, unhappily married to a man she met while on the rebound. The couple have a 6-year-old son named Milo who has Asperger's. Although the term is never used in the novel, it is clear that Milo has Asperger's. He wears a hat inside and outside of the house to block out noises; is bound to routines and eats only certain items. Diana has an affair with a med student that blows up in her face. I can't say I felt sorry for her when her lover jilted her. In her case, I thought it served her right. Harsh and judgmental, it is hypocritical on her part for her of all people to turns her back on her father for marital infidelity.

Lizzie, home from a rehab center in Minnesota is trying to pick up her life. She has sworn off substances and Diana hires her as a nanny for Milo. Lizzie and Milo bond and they go sightseeing throughout Philadelphia, where Diana has moved. Lizzie is a very sympathetic character. While Diana has long been harsh and unaccepting of her, I just loved it when Lizzie catches Diana and her lover in flagrante delicto. I thought it served Diana right, especially after she ousted Lizzie from her home.

Lizzie meets a really kind man in a coffee shop. One can cheer for her as she was in dire need of a good friend, a good person in her life and a chance to shine. You just cheer at their burgeoning relationship.

Sylvia, Lizzie and Diana each have a voice in this book. Each chapter is heralded of the name of the character who is narrating it. Readers gain the perspectives of each of the Woodruff women.

As the novel progresses, deeper emotions and previous issues are brought to light. Lizzie's anguish is revealed. The genesis of her trauma took place when a 16-year-old boy forced her to perform a sexual act. Sadly, Sylvie goes along with Richard to cover it up because the boy's father is a huge political backer. That is a decision that will cost Sylvie more than the huge contribution to the campaign.

Diana's unceremonious dumping by her college boyfriend Hal never really left her. She still pines for him, even after she is married. Nobody could blame Diana's husband for his anger at her infidelity. Many was the time when I wanted to kick Diana in the shins.

The women, like three braided strands intertwine and reunite. They regroup at Sylvie's girlhood home where Sylvie discovers a flair for and a love for cooking. She reconnects with an old friend named Tim who sounded like a truly nice person. The women discover where their loyalties really lie and what decisions are right for them.

This is an excellent novel, chick lit at its best. I love this book and am avidly following other works by this gifted author. Jennifer Weiner is gifted at presenting interpersonal relationships and how they are an ever-changing work in progress. With the exception of Diana, I found myself cheering for the characters and wishing them well. I will admit that I was somewhat disappointed at the ending, but in the context of the characters it was not surprising.

Like the ever-changing ebb and flow of emotions that remain unending, you will not want this book to end either.


Father of Lies
Father of Lies
by Ann Warren Turner
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Full Speed Ahead!, 24 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Father of Lies (Hardcover)
Lidda, 14 lives in Salem Village. She yearns to break free of the Puritan regime that governs the Village in 1692. She wants to wear red, like a local tavenor, Goody Bishop and dance.

Shortly before the outbreak of "witch fever," or the accusations made by several young girls of other villagers being witches and casting spells, Lidda has her first "episode." She has heat flushes; her thoughts speed up and she also has visual and auditory hallucinations of a spectral being who she feels is a benign presence, but sounds more like a sinister and malign one.

In addition to having to hide her "episodes," Lidda has to put on a brave face for her sisters, Susannah, 16, Charity, 12 and brothers Jacob, 17 and Thomas, who is an infant. Each time she feels heat cover her body and a hallucination strike, she darts out to the privy. She becomes dependent upon these hallucinations, feeling that the presence is her only friend. On days when she is not moving full speed ahead, she is as gray as the New England winters.

When Witch Fever, as the rash of girls who writhe and claim to be tormented by spirits strikes the Village, Lidda dodes not buy it. She feels her sanity is at stake - in order to save her own mental health, she must expose the girls for frauds. To do so comes at a great risk as Lidda, too could be accused by the girls.

As the trials take place and more people, including 4-year-old Dorcas Good are accused, Lidda has to make a decision. She has to expose Witch Fever for a hoax or put herself and her family in danger.

This is a very riveting story that is replete with wonderful metaphors pertaining to nature. I have always found the Salem Witch Trials to be a very fascinating subject. Like the classic, "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," this book will certainly keep readers wanting to know how the story is resolved.

Ann Turner includes a very interesting postscript about bipolar disorder. In reading her postscript, it sounds very likely that Lidda suffered from bipolar disorder and possibly adolescent onset schizophrenia, as she did have the hallucinations of a presence and had difficulty in separating reality from fantasy. The postscript was a very effective way to close the book and to provide a very interesting perspective. It also helps answer a question as to how people with mental illnesses fared during that time.


Green Eyes
Green Eyes
by Jean Nielsen
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Mountains, 1 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Green Eyes (Hardcover)
Janice "Jan" Morgan, 15 at the start of the story is naturally elated when she is elected editor of her school paper. Jan's mother, a bitter woman who spends her days worrying over Jan's brother Andrew, 12 often rebuffs Jan's efforts and refuses to attend academic awards events. When Andrew was 8, he fell into an icy puddle. He then got an earache which developed into rheumatic fever. He missed 2 years of school and as a result, their mother indulges him to the point of excess. Their father is a lumberman who works in Cascadeville Washington's lumber camp and comes home on weekends.

Jan is a refreshingly progressive protagonist who claims that her mind is her best feature. She is not a girly cliche. Although she maintains top grades and racks up academic accolades, she is not immune to boys she likes, particularly Danny, who is on the newspaper staff. A highly responsible girl, Jan saves to buy her own clothes and yearns for a typewriter and a chance to attend college. The Morgans' resources are so strained from Andrew's illness that they cannot afford a car; a modern kitchen with a refrigerator and an electric stove or even a move closer to the lumber camp.

Alice Morgan, bitter at giving up her dreams often takes her bitterness out on Jan. She gives Jan every reason to feel "pushed clear out of the family circle" and does not seem to appreciate Jan's maturity, foresight and ability to plan for her future. She lashes out at Jan over trifles. Andrew delights in baiting Jan and rebels against their mother's directives that he not play outside or resume outdoor activities with the Boy Scouts. Andrew lives for the day when he can sled down the mountains and play in the snow with the other kids. Despite it all, he has a group of friends who fortunately stick by him.

Andrew's illness has made her overprotective. She won't let him play outside for long and the two have locked horns about this. On Christmas, Alice buys Andrew two extra gifts, even after they all agreed that Jan and Andrew would get one gift apiece due to financial strain. This effort fell flat as Jan railed and rightfully so at the unfairness and Andrew wept that he didn't want more than his fair share. To add insult to injury, Alice has the temerity to tell Andrew that her gift of a building set was better than the Scout knife from Jan. That was cruel. The Morgans had a heated quarrel about this and Mr. Morgan later tells Jan that they have agreed to send the extra gifts back and the money would be applied to Jan's typewriter and a sled for Andrew.

I loved this book and read it as a child. I especially loved the parts about the Preston family whose infant son Jan babysits. In one memorable part of the book, Jan's young charge Johnny, 1 came down with diptheria. Fortunately, Cascadeville is such a small town that the one doctor is always available and makes house calls. A kind, brusque man, Dr. Conners has made it plain that he cares about the "two generations he brought into the world" and how he thought diptheria's reign ended during the 1910 epidemic in their town. Fortunately, Jan's ministrations and the doctor's diligent treatment pull Johnny through. I like the way the Prestons are presented in an "adult reader" light so that young readers get a better understanding of adult interactions and concerns.

During Johnny's convalescence and subsequent quarantine, Jan has some time to do some serious thinking. She discovers her own inner resources in helping her young charge pull through. It was Jan who stayed up all night with Johnny until the doctor arrived while the Prestons were out of town at a party. Alice Morgan could not leave as she risked being quarantined as well and worried about leaving Andrew alone. It was Jan who followed through on Dr. Conners' directions. It was Jan who, to a certain extent saved Johnny.

Jan shows her mettle and in time Alice Morgan comes around. Thanks to Mr. Morgan, who has made it plain that he will do his best to see that both children are treated fairly and that he will no longer stand for being treated like a guest of honor in his own home when he is there on weekends, things change for the better. (This theme is revisited some 10 years later in Amy and Laura, two sisters whose father tells them never to bring problems to their mother, who has returned home from the hospital after surviving an accident. The girls' mother insists on being part of their lives and not to be protected from things that crop up). Alice appears to have lived by the Glen Campbell song, "The Dreams of the Everyday Housewife." Dr. Conners, a delightful old school doctor gives Alice Morgan some plain talking to and when Jan herself is in an accident, she discovers who her friends really are. Alice discovers a place to showcase her talent and also blooms. Andrew gets a green card from the doctor to resume normal activity, which is what he wanted all along and he finally gets his sled.

This is an excellent, classic book that covers a bygone era and has a rich cast of good, strong characters.
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Castration Celebration
Castration Celebration
by Jake Wizner
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Comedic Cut Up-Just Brilliantly Hilarious!, 27 April 2011
This review is from: Castration Celebration (Paperback)
This is one of the FUNNIEST books I have EVER read! I laughed so hard I was wiping tears out of my eyes.

Olivia, a high school student with a gift for language and art has more or less sworn off of guys. After she walked in on her dad and a graduate student, catching them in flagrante delicto, she decided that guys were rats and she was going to make her statement heard! Her dad was the catalyst that inspired her to promote her Castration Celebration musical.

Olivia takes her bullhorn and soapbox to the Yale Summer Arts Camp and creates...a musical entitled "Castration Celebration" replete with songs like "I'm in Love With Dick" and other risque puns aimed at male genitalia and her anger at the male population in general. Puns such as "cocky guys" are abound. How can you not love the name of the musical?

Max might be one such "cocky guy" who can change Olivia's anti-male posture. Olivia has no choice but to spend time with Max as he IS a part of the musical and...he's not so bad. He's not on the make and he does have some good ideas about how to get the ball...er, the play rolling.

This book is just plain HILARIOUS! The play, which is included in the story is just as funny as the characters who created it. This author is a genius and a brilliant comedian. Between this and Gordon Korman's No More Dead Dogs and Chris Lawford's Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption, which are some of the funniest books under the sun, I don't think I stopped laughing as I read this book.

The risque humor and double entendres work well in this story. Instead of a cliche cast of characters and trite cut ups (oops, another pun), you get richly drawn, rounded characters and a vehicle for comedy! I love it!


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