A Secret Gift

Thoughts   A Secret Gift by Ted Gup, The Penguin Press 2010, 346 pages

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MOTIVATION for READING:     I responded to a Twitter request for tour hosts.      Timing was good for me to read this by today (except I had Dec 12 in my planner – why did I have that?!  oh well.)   I was ready to read more about the Depression era and it truly was a well-crafted memoir exploring family, a town and a particular challenging piece of history:  the Hard Times.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Mr. Gup was given an unusual piece of luggage that had belonged to his grandfather and he wondered about it.   I do that a lot;  WONDER about stuff, especially items that have been passed down through my family and also about buildings.   But not buildings that have been passed down through the family – I don’t have any of those.   (These points ARE related.)      But I do wonder…   “How did this one item come to be in my grand_____’s possession?   What were her thoughts on it?     Did you know it would come into my hands?     Was it special to her in some way?”     I’ll never know.    It’s too late to find out.

But Ted Gup, being a skilled professional researcher, investigative journalist and writer was able to find out SO MUCH!

The suitcase contained letters and newspaper clippings from 1935 that told a story of one man giving away money to hard-pressed families in need and keeping it all secret.   These letters were  addressed to a name Gup didn’t recognize; fortunately his mother did know the name but not much else.  He had to dig and find exactly what this collection was about and thus unraveled a mystery and triggered the project idea for this book.   (Though I don’t think at that time he had a book in mind.)    He was just hoping to learn more about his grandfather.


WHAT I LIKED:    One of the best things about this book was personal for ME.    My mom and dad were here for Thanksgiving and my mother hijacked this book (while I was in the middle of it!) and she liked it, too.   But the BEST THING?   We talked about OUR HISTORY.   What she could remember about her parents and the Depression and how people DIDN’T REALLY TALK ABOUT IT and how each generation has a different approach to learning about this time.   It was all quite fascinating.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:   Can’t think of a thing!   I loved the fact that it had photos.  I appreciated that Mr. Gup was honest about exposing some truths he found about his family that may not have been positive.    I admired the look into religious animosity and how the gift transcended that.

MORE ABOUT BUILDINGS:   I wish I could say I knew Canton, Ohio which is where Gup’s grandfather lived at the time.   I really enjoyed the descriptions of the town and buildings, then and now.   This is one of those things I wonder about – I love old buildings and like to imagine when it was built, who enjoyed it, etc and then some.      The book doesn’t go into too much depth but I’m glad it was included.

The stories of the people who asked for the cash and what happened to the families since were wonderful.  Some were sad, some were happy and it was just.  INTERESTING.  I’m glad I read this book.

RATING:    FOUR SLICES OF PIE.    My mom gave it 4 stars, too.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Me (at the Author’s Booksigning at Baker Books a few weeks ago):  “SO, what’s up with the feather?”

JK:  “You’ll have to read to find out.”

Me:   “Yea, I kinda figured you’d say that.”




Me (to myself on about page 350):  “Oh crap!  I haven’t thought about that darn feather!   It has GOT to show up soon!!!”

Thoughts   Finny by Justin Kramon, Random House Trade paperbacks 2010, 366 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:     I met Justin Kramon at the Book Blogger Convention 201o New York City.   He was unassuming, charming, non-pushy;  like he didn’t have a care in the world.    He took my card and I accepted his.   Within a week, I received a very nice email inviting me to let him know if I would like a copy of his book due out in July (keep in mind, the email was first week of June.)  I said, “Yes.”    When I got the book, I also got a feather.   I wondered…  “What’s up with the feather?”

I still can’t decide if the feather is hugely significant or just a charming feature.  But regardless and nevertheless, the book is CHARMING.   Actually, the more I think back on it, the book has its share of angst, too.

I really did want to read this ever since meeting the author.   When I realized that he would be visiting my favorite local impressive independent bookseller Baker Books, I grabbed my friend Holly and made her attend with me.     She’s reading it right now, too.  IN FACT!   and if that doesn’t prove how much I’m a fan of cool authors and cool Indie booksellers, I gave Holly the copy that Justin Kramon sent me (I kept the feather) and I bought a copy from Baker’s at the signing.    Woo HOO.

FIRST SENTENCE:  “She started life as Delphine, named by her father for the city where the Greek oracle was from, but she’d always had an independent mind about  things like names, so she’d gone by Finny ever since she was old enough to choose.”

I really like this first sentence.   I love a finely crafted first sentence.     I’m impressed before I even get to the 50th word.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:     This book is a coming of age and then some for a young lady named Finny.   She experiences first love and…   And then some.    Let’s break down a coming of age story:    young kid has ideas and frustrations about life, meets some interesting characters, questions all of it, and realizes some good stuff arises up and out of pain and we all have to deal with pain in life.

Finny is so likable even if she has different illusions and questions about what life and how her life is supposed to be or might be.     I loved how Kramon describes time moving by in Finny’s life.    I was charmed by her affection for her brother and her friends.   I admired the quirky characters that orbit her world and how she appreciates them.     I felt COMFORTABLE in this book.      I enjoyed it and enjoyed how it moseyed along.     I’ll admit, I didn’t read this fast.   But I enjoyed every moment I was in Finny’s world – and it did get a bit crazy here and there.

WHAT’s GOOD/not:     Somewhere I heard this was to be a some kind of ‘Dickensian’ novel  – –   aka of/like Charles Dickens?    I can’t tell you how long ago I read a Chuck book or what that might mean so I can’t answer to this.    What I did love was the last question asked of Mr.Kramon during the Baker Books event:   “How and why did you write this book with a female protagonist?”  or something like that.   And the answer was wonderful!  It was one of those cool answers when an author admits something odd and yet totally authorly-like, (and I’m totally going on memory paraphrasing here and I don’t know the proper procedure to be accurate or not), “I had originally set out to follow the character of Sylvan (Finny’s brother) when this precocious red-headed opininated kid Finny, Sylvan’s little sister, piped up at the dinner table in one of the scenes.   I found her much more interesting and the story soon began to follow her.”    Something like that.      Awesome.    I love hearing about how stories and characters come alive and it’s like the author just has to pay attention and write it all down.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS:   I liked this book a lot;  I’m still not sure how to describe it or classify it, but I enjoyed and really liked Finny as a character.     I look forward to reading what Mr. Kramon does next and wish him a successful career as a writer.

Oh!  The feather!   So.  The feather is the fleeting soft almost-missable moments of our life, the momentos that fall from the important things (wings?  power of lift?!)  that mean something important if we only hold on to what we KNOW is important.     (heckadoodle, I don’t know!!)    

RATING:   Four slices of pie – some kind of chocolate with a cup of coffee from a silver server in honor of Mr. Henckel, one of the many charming characters.

OTHER REVIEWS:   So many!!    Read Sophisticated Dork’s review, also posted today.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Dykes To Watch Out For

Thoughts     Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, Firebrand Books 1986, 78 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:     I had read so many great reviews of various titles by Alison Bechdel and so was testing my area’s InterLibraryLoan system;  this one popped up.    I reserved it for my GLBT Challenge and my OPEN category in the Twenty in Ten Challenge:  Graphic Novel.     I’m going to say that this book picked me.

Don’t you love books that are SMART FUNNY?   This one is.    And I howled at the 80s references (see the published date of 1986) – so spot on.

I have to admit I was delighted (in hopes of reading 100 books this year and I’m off that mark) at the page count of 77 – I am seriously taking more time to write this review than it did to flip through every panel!      Little humorous vignettes that are obviously about lesbian relationships but have universal themes.     Truly, it is a look at the craziness of relationships, ANY relationships – beginnings, middles, and ends, etc.

One of my favorite things was the smattering of panels for each letter of the alphabet that showcase a type of lesbian.   I love the alphabet!   I love to read books, blog posts, anything that features the alphabet.     And then – surprise!!!    The last pages has “the Amazon’s Bedside Companion:  A Sophisticated Alphabet and Subliminal Picture Quiz” which had me breezing through once again from the beginning!   For example, the Z page featured a Zinnia and I totally missed it.   So clever and fun.

Nymeth recently reviewed one of Bechdel’s latest (as I understand it, an extension/compilation of what she started in the book I’m reviewing here); I must quote her:

“the main appeal of The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For is actually how very universal and how human it is.”


RATING:   Four slices of pie.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Making Rounds with Oscar

Thoughts   Making Rounds with Oscar:  The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa MD, Hyperion 2010, 215 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:   I volunteer at a nursing home and enjoy reading books about our elders.    (If I could figure out a clever term to call this opposite of YA, I would use it;  EA for Elder Adult?   SA for Senior Adult?)    AND I have a pet named Oscar, albeit a dog.    I blame Nancy the BookFool for telling me about this book:

A clearly-written tale told with a tenderness for dementia patients as well as objectivity and scientific curiosity about a very special feline.

and I thank Esme at Chocolate & Croissants for sending it to me:

Death is a subject that we do not like to discuss. As Dr. Dosa tenderly tells us “Oscar’s gift is a tender mercy. He teaches by example: embracing moments of life that so many of shy away from”.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Oscar is one of two cats that lives on the dementia floor in a Rhode Island nursing home.    He seems to have figured out that his special talent is to give comfort to patients in their last hours of life.    The family members and staff begin to recognize and appreciate it when Oscar makes his appearance, surveys the situation and curls up to sleep on the bed, snuggled in at their feet.   At first, Dr. Dosa is skeptical but warms up to this special cat as he shares the many stories and examples of Oscar’s care.

WHAT’s GOOD and NOT so good:    The lovely stories had me crying through every section.   There is a good balance of humor and sadness;  the stories are both heart-breaking and touching.    Dr. Dosa actually does a good job (intentionally or not?) of showing that nursing staffs are typically over-worked and under-appreciated and that doctors can be quite dense.    He does give an excellent description of dementia care and what is involved;  that each case is different and that adequate resources within our medical system continue to be a challenge.    The writing is simple and sometimes Dosa gives personal facts that were unnecessary;  I just wanted more Oscar the Cat.    I did enjoy all the cat quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

Overall, I was charmed by Oscar and the work he is being recognized for.     Four slices of Pie.

For a less than gushy  review, check out Citizen Reader’s.   Be sure to read the comments, too.

And just one more photo of MY Oscar!  The day he graduated from Pet Therapy School:

(This is the only size image I could find!  oh well…)

Here’s another;  with Copley.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Thoughts   Blankets by Craig Thompson, Top Shelf Productions 2003, 582 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:       For the Graphic Novel selection of the Twenty in Ten Challenge.    I borrowed from my friend Ree from book club.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   First love, coming of age, struggles with the ideas of religion and family.

Can I just say that I did enjoy this book but I felt it had abrupt chapter changes?     I think this suffered – for me – from the weight of too heavy expectations.     I am extremely impressed with the talent of the author.    I appreciated the sharing, I felt the pain and loneliness, I am glad to have read/experienced this; but I am not over-the-top gushy about it.    (again, NOT that I didn’t love it, …  sigh)

I will, however, point you to many  a-favorable review from bloggers whose opinions I reverently respect:

Jenny’s Mumsy at Jenny’s Books, Nymeth’s things mean a lot, Chris @ Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, Bart’s Bookshelf, Lu at Regular Ruminations, Melody’s Reading Corner, The Zen Leaf, Aarti from BookLust, and Kim that Sophisticated Dork.

Reading and re-reading the posts from the links above makes me wonder if my heart was placed in the freezer just before I opened this illustrated novel.     Actually, the last few ‘moving’ books (Watership Down, Ethan Frome) which are supposed to be water-works inducing, failed to provoke any tears whatsoever.   SO.   Perhaps it is mood and I haven’t been sensitive enough of late.     Please don’t hold it against me.    (I can only imagine Nymeth’s severe disappointment in me right now!) Perhaps I just suck at self-evaluation and understanding what and why I like a book.    I will soon be re-reading The Book Thief, a favorite of mine (read for the first time just last year) so let’s see if I cry this time.   I love to cry with books.     I’ll let you know.

Feel free to leave a link to your review and/or share your thoughts here.     AND, leave me a recommendation for another Graphic Novel that maybe I might want to read — just don’t tell me I must.

RATING:   Three slices of pie.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.