Friday, May 27, 2016

Dear Abby - Meet Starla (A Rescued Pet Spotlight)

Dear friends,

I hope you are having a great day!  It is a long weekend and I have been busy helping Momma get caught up so we can take some time off.  I love long weekends!

Today I have two wonderful guests to introduce to you.  Starla is a 5 year old Cattle Dog Mix. She is here visiting with her Mom, Alanna.



Abby:  What is Starla's background and how did she end up in rescue? 

Alanna:  Starla was a pregnant stray in Texas when she was found. She was super friendly and happy be rescued. Once she had her puppies, a rescue group, Pet Rescue Alliance, transported her up to Virginia to be adopted. She lived with her foster family for almost 3 months in Washington, D.C. before I adopted her. 

Abby:  How were Starla's first days at her new home? 

Alanna:  Starla was a very friendly dog, however still wary of me. She refused to play with any toys or sleep next to my bed for a couple weeks. However, she was very well behaved and knew to sit while waiting for her dinner and to come get me if she needed to go outside. 

Abby:  What are a few of Starla's favorite things?  

Alanna:  Starla's favorite things are chasing squirrels and doing tricks for treats. 

Abby:  Do you have any tips for people who want to adopt a rescue pet?  

Alanna:  Take your time and think about your lifestyle, how it will change, and what kind of dog would work best with that lifestyle. 

Abby:  Is there a rescue group you want to send a shout out to (with link to group?) 

Alanna:   https://www.facebook.com/petrescuealliance, Pet Rescue Alliance
 
Thank you, Alanna and Starla, for visiting today.  Starla, I love your pictures and think chasing squirrels sounds like lots of fun!  We have something in common -- I was also rescued as a stray in Texas, and then traveled to my forever home.
 
If you have a question or comment for Starla, I hope you'll leave a message below.  If you have a special rescued pet who would like to be featured here, please let me know that, too.
 
Have a wonderful weekend!
 
Love,
 
Abby xoxoxo 
 
 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Book Synopsis
From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever.

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

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Purchase Links

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My Review

I finished reading June late at night, in a quiet house with the fan blowing, and the world (at least here) already feeling like summer.  The next day I told several friends that this is the book they need to read for summer.  It is just a perfect long, leisurely read. 

June checks off all the boxes for what I enjoy most in a novel.  It is a novel set both in the present day and in the 1950's.  This is a time period I too-rarely run into with historical fiction.    

The story is compelling.  I really liked the present day protagonist, Cassie, who is living in her grandmother's rambling old home after her beloved grandmother June, who raised her, has passed away.  She receives the unexpected news of a large inheritance from a 1950's movie idol named Jack Montgomery ... and of course, she wonders why she was chosen as the recipient of this inheritance, and begins to dig into history to learn more.

Her historical research brings her to the summer of 1955, when Jack Montgomery traveled to the small town in Ohio to film a movie called Erie Canal.   As Cassie learns more about that summer, she learns more about her grandmother as well.

The historical details of small town life in the 1950's are lovingly told and sure to please fans of historical fiction.

The house, Twin Oaks, is almost another character in this book.  I loved the glimpses into the past that it provides.

The characterizations in this book are wonderful.  There are some wonderfully likable characters, including Cassie, June, and June's best friend Lindie.  I really cared about these characters' lives.

I also loved the themes of this book - the past and how it informs the present, the importance of love, the way close friends can become like family.

June is my favorite read of the year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is a big leisurely family saga, and you will enjoy spending time in St. Jude, Ohio in the pages of this book.       


Author Bio
MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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Giveaway
The lucky winner will receive a copy of June.  Open to U.S. and Canada.  Giveaway ends 6/2.  A winner will be drawn on 6/3 and notified via email.  Winner will need to respond within 48 hours.  The book will be mailed by the author or her publicist.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Music Monday - "Dark Lady" by Cher (1974)

Cher turned 70 last week (March 20, born 1946).  One of my friends and I were talking about our favorite Cher songs, and we both decided our favorite is "Dark Lady."

This song was a hit in 1974.  It's a fun song, so retro, and it tells a story.  (Regular readers will know that I love songs that tell a story!)  This song was written by Johnny Durrill of The Ventures.  (You may remember The Ventures from songs like "Walk, Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O.")  The song has been called a "murder ballad."  It tells the story of a woman who goes to see a fortune teller in New Orleans to see if her boyfriend is cheating ... only to realize he is cheating with the fortune teller!  This song made it to the top of the Billboard chart.

Here is the animated version of this song from The Sonny and Cher Show:



What is your favorite Cher song?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dear Abby - Meet Twinkles and Murray (A Rescued Pets Spotlight)


Dear Friends, 

I hope you are having a great week!   All is fine here, except we are expecting some rain and thunder here today.  (Regular readers will know how I feel about thunder!)

I am excited, though, to have some fun visitors to introduce you to today.  Angela, who is a dachshund person and one of Momma's friends, is visiting with her dog Twinkles and kitty Murray.  Angela and her family have a wonderful group of furbabies including Twinkles (Lab mix), Murray (tabby cat), Gizmo (Dachshund), Sarge (Weimaraner), Miss P (gray tabby cat), and Gimli (white cat).  I have to mention that Gizmo just celebrated his 10th birthday (Happy Birthday, Gizmo!) and he has his own Twitter account -- @GizmoAdventures.   He is one of the world's great doxies, and you should look him up on Twitter!

Twinkles and Murray are both rescues, and have wonderful stories.  Twinkles is a Lab mix dog who is 10 or older.  

Abby:  What is Twinkles' background and how did she end up in rescue? 

Angela:  Twinkles was rescued by my grandmother about 7 years ago. She had been dumped and was also run over. Her hip was broken. She healed and now walks with a limp. Twinkles came to live with us when my grandmother moved into an apartment that did not allow big dogs. 

Abby:  How were Twinkles' first days at your home? 

Angela:  Her first few days, you could tell she was sad and missed her mom. But it didn't take long for her to fit right in. She gets along great with Gizmo and Sarge and even has her own bed for the first time.  (The picture below shows Twinkles with Gizmo.)

Abby:  What are a few of Twinkles' favorite things?

Angela:   My favorite thing is to watch her do zoomies. Despite a bad hip, she still runs like the wind. She also loves to dance in puddles and do spins and splash in them. 

Murray is a beautiful cat who is 4 years old.  



Abby:  What is Murray's background and how did she end up in rescue? 

Angela:  Murray was rescued by my brother and his girlfriend. She jumped on the roof of their car in a snow storm. They got her off the hood and put her in the car;  she was just a kitten. They had her for 4 years and she came to live with us on Christmas Day this past year.  

Abby:  How were Murray's first days at your home? 

Angela:  She spent her first week hiding under chairs and beds. She did want to socialize. We think she was mostly heartbroken that her daddy left her with strange people (we have been around her before, but she was a kitten) She finally came out and is now best friends with my mom. She follows her everywhere and sits in her lap all during the day. She loves to go outside and explore and watch the birds. My favorite thing about her is that when you pick her up, she looks just like Garfield after he gets in trouble. She is full of sass and attitude, but she is very gentle with everyone and purrs almost nonstop. 

This picture of Murray surrounded by toys was one of the first times she came out of hiding after first coming to live with us.


Thank you for visiting, Angela, Twinkles, and Murray!  I loved visiting with you all here today.  Twinkles and Murray, you found a wonderful home where you are much loved.  Please give my love to Gizmo, Sarge, Miss P, and Gimli.

If you have questions or comments for Angela, Twinkles, or Murray, I hope you'll leave a comment below.  Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend!

Love,

Abby xoxoxo 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - Alice in Bed by Judith Hooper

Book Synopsis
One of her brothers is the greatest English novelist of his time; another is inventing American psychology. The James family is famous in Boston and New York for its brilliance, eccentricity, and mesmerizing conversation. Alice James is no less remarkable than her brothers (Henry and William), but there is a problem: she is a girl. Her education has been haphazard, there are no colleges for women, and young ladies are expected to be Angels in the House. No one could be less suited to angelic domesticity than the tart-tongued, defiantly original Alice. She must chart her own course, but how?

Falling mysteriously ill while crossing the Atlantic at age 38, she becomes confined to her bed in a lodging house in provincial England. Thus begins her second life, when she recalls or redreams her life and struggles to make sense of it.  How did her collapse begin? Was it “Father’s Ideas”? The night she drank absinthe and fell in love with a girl? The time William went to the asylum? The childhood years in Paris, when Father fired each of her governesses in turn? Was it the horrors of the Civil War, the erotic relations with the Temple cousins, the day Henry deserted her and sailed to Europe? Was it simply the oddness of “growing up James”? 

Alice in Bed is an absorbing, poignant, sometimes hilarious journey through the Gilded Age with one of literature’s most unusual and captivating heroines.
..
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My Review 

Alice in Bed is one of the most unusual - and fascinating - books I have read in a long time.  I read several Henry James novels in college, and knew a little bit about William James, but was not familiar with Alice James at all before this read.  Now I am very curious about her life, and would like to read her diary.

 

Although Alice James lived as an invalid, she had a remarkable inner life, and showed great creativity and humor.   Readers will empathize with her frustrations as she wants to be free, not just from her mysterious illness, but also from the constraints she feels as a woman during the Gilded Age.

 

Judith Hooper's writing is beautiful, with brilliant descriptions and well developed characterizations.  For example:

 

"I can slow it down and make out individual blades of grass, a chink in a stone wall, a  button missing from the dress of an elderly lady on a park bench, the flies settling on the face of the horse pulling the milkman's wagon.  Perhaps in the absence of an outer life, the inner life shines brighter.  My brother William ought to study this in his psychology" (p. 2).

 

The treatment of mental illness and the status of women in society of this time are key to this book.  After a powerful and moving conclusion, the author includes an Afterward:  "What was wrong with Alice James?"  It offers some fascinating insights to Alice James's life.

 

Readers who have a strong interest in history, especially literary history and women's history, will find this book compelling.   

Author Bio

Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. 

 

Giveaway

One lucky reader will win a digital copy of this book.  Giveaway ends 5/26.  Winner will be notified by email, and will need to respond within 48 hours.   The author or her publicist will send the eBook to the winner.

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Did You Know Tuesday: Margret Rey and Curious George





Margret Rey was born May 16, 1906.  You may recognize her name as the co-author of the Curious George series of children's books, which she created with her husband Hans (H.A.) Rey.

Margarete Elisabethe Waldstein was born in Hamburg, Germany.  She studied art in college, and worked in advertising before meeting Hans Reyersbach.  The couple moved to Paris in 1936.  They were commissioned to write a children's book called Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys.  One of the characters in this book was a little monkey named Curious George.  


When the Nazis captured France, the Reys escaped on bicycle.  The few possessions they took included a manuscript of Curious George.

The Reys ended up in Spain before traveling to Rio de Janeiro and eventually settling in New York City.  They were in New York when Curious George was published in 1941.


The Curious George books were very successful, and were often published under the name H.A. Rey.  Hans illustrated most of the books, and Margret wrote the stories.  According to the Los Angeles Times, “Barely 5 feet tall and red-haired, Rey said she occasionally served as her artist husband’s human model for their impish little monkey. She would scrunch up her face, move her limbs about or even leap from one piece of furniture to another.” 

The Reys were both great animal lovers.  The had a series of Cocker Spaniels and also rescued injured animals and nursed them back to health.  Their rescues included a little chipmunk who they fed with a dropper until he was well enough to eat on his own.

They did not have children, but spread joy to children worldwide with their books.

The Reys moved to Cambridge, and Marget continued working as a writer after Hans' death in 1977.  She passed away in 1996 at the age of 90.

Fellow dachshund lovers will be interested in the book Pretzel, about a dachshund and her puppies.  It was published in 1944, written by Margret Rey and illustrated by H.A. Rey.

 
Did you grow up with the Curious George books - or even Pretzel?  I would love to hear your memories in the comments, below.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Monday - "Everybody is a Star" by Sly and the Family Stone (1969)

Sly and the Family Stone Greatest Hits is one of my all time favorite albums.  It's one I had on vinyl, cassette, CD, and it just now occurs to me that I also need it in digital format for my phone.   Every single song on this album just makes me happy.

"Everybody is a Star" was written by Sylvester Stewart.   This song was released as a B-Side to "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," and it also charted and went to number one on the Billboard charts in 1970.  I love the positive message of this song ... it is so uplifting.

Here is a 1973 live performance of this song from the old show Midnight Special ... and the performance is amazing.  What beautiful voices!



Do you like this song?  Do you have other favorites by Sly and the Family Stone?   I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Book Spotlight - Death at a Fixer Upper by Sarah T. Hobart

Book Synopsis
In Sarah T. Hobart’s wickedly funny and fast-paced Home Sweet Home mystery series, small-town real estate agent Sam Turner discovers it’s bad for business when her clients keep dropping dead. 

Newly armed with her real estate license, Sam Turner loves Arlinda, her quirky seaside hometown in Northern California. But life by the beach isn’t exactly a breeze: She and her teenage son, Max, are being evicted from their apartment, her long absent ex-husband unexpectedly resurfaces, and her possibly romantic relationship with sexy Chief of Police Bernie Aguilar is, well . . . complicated. All Sam wants is a quick and easy sale. What she gets instead is a killer headache—or three. 

Sam’s trying to drum up interest in 13 Aster Lane, a rambling Victorian fixer-upper that’s more than a little neglected—and possibly haunted—so when a trio of offers arrive out of the blue, she can’t help thinking it’s too good to be true. But after a new client drops dead on the property, she fears she’s lost more than a commission. Before Sam’s out of house and home, she must unmask a killer targeting her clients, or the only property she’ll be moving will be plots—at the local cemetery. 

Author Bio
Sarah Hobart is a real estate agent and former newspaper reporter in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and two children in a majestic fixer-upper overlooking State Highway 101. 

Purchase Links
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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Yard Sale Treasures

Hi vintage friends!

I had a wonderful day of treasure hunting at yard sales, garage sales, and estate sales today.   Wanted to share a few pics!

Old Texaco travel pack:




Recipe cards, unused, in the original boxes:





Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory -- First Edition in slipcase:





Vintage Thingmaker molds - these are fun!





MANY children's books - both vintage and new.  These stacks are just some of what I found. 





A boxed set of Ray Charles CDs -- this is my present to myself.  :-)




Everything except the Ray Charles will end up at Birdhouse Books in the next few weeks.   I am excited!

You never know what there will be at the different sales.  My best friend and I go together.  We have been doing this for many years, and help each other look for goodies.  We have done this for so long that we have it down to a science.  We can usually scope out a sale from the car to see whether they have the type of things we are looking for.

Did you go yard saling or thrifting this weekend?  When you do yard sale, what do you enjoy looking for?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dear Abby - Meet Ninja (A Rescued Pet Spotlight)

Hi friends!

I hope you are having a good week.  It has been a nice, quiet week here - my favorite kind.  

I am looking for more rescued cats, dogs, bunnies, ferrets, birds, etc. (!) to interview here in future weeks.  If you have a fur baby who would like to be spotlighted, please leave a comment below.

Today a beautiful cat named Ninja is visiting.  Ninja is a 10 year old tortoiseshell.  My Momma is a big fan of tortie cats.  Here is Ninja's story!


Abby:  What is your background and how did you end up in rescue? 

Ninja:  Farrah picked me up off the street back in August of 2005, when I was about 6 weeks old. I was hiding in the bushes at the homeless shelter she was volunteering at, and I wandered out when I heard her voice because I was hoping she would have food. She found me some food in the kitchen and she and her friends spent the next two hours trying to play with me and win my trust. Then she brought me around to a bunch of other cats--I think she was trying to see if one of them was my mom? I don't know where my mom went, but all the cats she found hissed at me. I think she felt really bad, so she ended up just taking me home.



Abby:  How were your first days at your new home? 

Ninja:  I got the impression that I wasn't supposed to be there, because she seemed to be trying really hard to be secretive about it at first. Her dad didn't seem to like me much, and Farrah got into a huge argument with him when he found out about me. To this day, I steer clear of him, but her mom loves me and always listens to me and spends time with me! Before her parents found out about me, I lived in her backyard and she'd stay outside with me every afternoon and work on things while I tried to lie across her notebooks.



Abby:  What are a few of your favorite things? 

Ninja:  I like lying on top of Farrah or her mom whenever they're sleeping and giving them throat massages! They don't seem to like the second part as much, but they never move away when I do it, so I think they secretly don't mind. Farrah has a tendency to try to do everything and never seems to take a break, so sometimes when I catch her sitting or lying down, I'll curl up on her and it works like magic! She doesn't move. I really like drinking water from the faucets, especially the one with extra-filtered water upstairs, but I'll only jump up there when I know someone will be there to turn it on for me. I also really love having my cheeks scratched/brushed, and sitting next to cords and making chewing sounds. I don't actually chew them though; I just like to pretend.



Abby:  Do you have any tips for people who want to adopt a rescue pet? 

Ninja:  Patience and a lot of [unconditional] love. I had almost starved to death before I was found and given a home, and it can take a long time to learn to trust again. If you're looking for a furry friend, please adopt and don't shop. There are so many wonderful pets in all different breeds, ages, and demeanors out there at rescues and shelters who would love to find a forever home. If you have a pet who hasn't already been neutered or spayed, please consider doing so! 

Abby:  Is there a rescue group you want to send a shout out to (with link to group?) 

Ninja:  Every time Farrah comes back home, she always smells like a bunch of other cats and she has a lot of cat hair on her clothes that are not presents from me. I think she might be hiding another cat from me, but as long as she doesn't bring another one home, I guess I can forgive her. 

Farrah's explanation: In medical school, I volunteered at and eventually started living at a cat rescue/sanctuary called Please Save A Cat.The lady who runs the shelter is one of the kindest people I will ever know--she takes care of over 80 cats (strays, surrendered pets, and cats from local shelters who've run out of time), and also cares for pets of deployed military personnel so that they won't have to worry about them while they're gone--all for free! The rescue is run entirely on donations and out of her own pocket, so I would drive back there to help out whenever possible, even after I had to move 3 hours away for my clinical rotations. 

Isn't that a wonderful story?  Ninja's mom, Farrah, is a dedicated cat rescuer.  She is doing a lot of great work for kitties!  Thank you, Ninja and Farrah, for stopping by!

If you'd like to leave a comment for Ninja, or just say "hi," you can do this in the comments below.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Love,
Abby xoxoxo

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse by Mary Sharratt

Book Synopsis
Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

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My Review

I have always loved Shakespeare.  When I was in high school, we studied one Shakespearean comedy and one tragedy each year.  Then in college, I had a course in Shakespeare's plays.   His work is so rich, but I only knew the basic details of his life.  Therefore the plot of this novel was extremely intriguing to me. 


The Dark Lady's Mask is a real treasure for fans of historical fiction.  The historical details are beautifully realized, and readers will visit both Elizabethan England and Venice.  I found the details of a writer's life during this period particularly intriguing.


Aemilia is a fascinating protagonist, strong, creative, and determined.  I enjoyed reading the way she worked to rise above the challenges she encountered.


The storytelling is wonderful, with well developed characters and exceptional descriptions.  This is my first read by Mary Sharratt, but it certainly will not be my last.


I very enthusiastically recommend The Dark Lady's Mask for other fans of historical fiction.

 

Author Bio 

Mary Sharratt is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.


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Giveaway

One lucky winner will win a copy of this book.  Open to US residents only.  Giveaway ends 5/19/16.  Winner will be notified by email, and will need to respond within 48 hours.  The prize will be mailed directly from the author or her publicist. 

Rules:

– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.


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I received a copy of this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.