Daily Archives: December 15, 2008

Mailbox Monday – December 15, 2008

What arrived in your mailbox this week? Between the US Postal Service and the UPS man (who is now my best friend), this is what I got:

An Advance Reader’s Edition of American Rust, by Philipp Meyer arrived from Spiegel & Grau. Due for release February 24, 2009 this debut novel is about  “friendship, loyalty, and love, centering on a murder in a dying Pennsylvania steel town.

A review copy of the recently released Family Planning by Karan Mahajan arrived from Harper Perennial. Mahajan’s first novel is set in New Delhi, India and is billed as a family saga. Reviewers have commented on its sharp humor and haunting insights.

The Book of Night Women came to me from Riverhead Books through a Shelf Awareness request. The back of this Advance Reader’s Edition reads: ‘…[James] spins a magical web of humanity, race, and love, fully inhabiting the wonderfully rich nineteenth-century Jamaican patois, which rings with a distinctly contemporary energy.‘ Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Firmin, by Sam Savage (illustrated by Fernando Krahn) arrived via Library Thing’s Early Reviewer Program. I was delighted to see my edition has rat-sized “bite” out of it! This edition will be released December 30, 2008. Publisher’s Weekly writes: ‘An alternately whimsical and earnest paean to the joys of literature.” I can’t wait to read it!

Visit today’s Mailbox Monday at The Printed Page to leave the link to YOUR post and view other reader’s mailbox arrivals.

Blog Advent Tour 2008 – Santa (and a Give-Away)

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To see the full calendar, visit this post.

Marg and Kailana are the hosts of the Blog Advent Tour. Don’t miss all the great holiday posts from participating bloggers! Today’s tour hosts are:

Natasha from Maw Books
Somewhere in Between

And me!!

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I remember waking before dawn on Christmas morning to the heavy weight of my filled Christmas stocking at the end of the bed. My sisters and I would gather together and dump out our goodies before racing downstairs to wake my parents. The magic of Santa made Christmas Eve one of anticipation and mystery.

The American version of Santa Claus arrived with settlers in the 17th century and received its inspiration from the Dutch legend of Sinterklaas. Illustrator Thomas Nast is credited with our vision of a plump Santa which he drew for issues of Harper’s magazine from the 1860s to the 1880s:

*Click on thumbnails to enlarge

In North American poetry and legend, Santa Claus takes to the sky on the night before Christmas in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. The idea of him climbing down chimneys to leave gifts inside stockings hung on the mantlepiece is beautifully rendered in Clement Clarke Moore’s poem TwasThe Night Before Christmas (alternatively known by the title: A Visit from St. Nicholas), first published in 1822.

Jan Brett is my favorite author and illustrator of children’s books. Her illustrations are colorful, lively and filled with woodland animals and beautiful children. She has written several books about Christmas and Santa including:

Christmas Treasury – a compilation of Brett’s favorite winter and Christmas tales including The Mitten, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Trouble with Trolls, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Hat, Christmas Trolls, and The Night Before Christmas.

The Night Before Christmas (a poem by Clement Moore) – the classic poem with amazing illustrations of Santa and his reindeer.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer – a story about a Scandanavian girl named Teeka who must ready the reindeer for their journey on Christmas Eve.

I have never lost my fascination for the legend of Santa Claus with his tradition of giving gifts on the Eve of Christmas. Over the years I have collected Santas which I proudly display at this time of year

I have a treasured collection of limited-edition Santas  by Woof & Poof (they also make other festive figures and stockings). Most of the Woof & Poof line is musical as well:

(**Click on all photos to enjoy a larger view)

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I love the detail as you can see in these close up views…the tiny bells and clock buttons for example.

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I also have a small collection of Santa figures from a variety of sources. These two wooden balls are hand carved and painted with Santa features (by artist Bob Stebleton):

santa.Stebleton santa.stebleton2

And here are a couple more from my collection (including a cloth Santa made from an old quilt which a friend of mine sent me one Christmas):

santa1 santa2 santa3 santa4 santa5

So, what would be a post about Santa without a BOOK GIVE-AWAY!?!? And since Santa delivers around the world, this give-away is open INTERNATIONALLY. For those of you who would like the chance to win Jan Brett’s hard cover edition of The Wild Christmas Reindeer…please email me at bloggiveaway (at) aol (dot) com with the subject heading “SANTA“. I will accept emails until December 23rd at midnight and will draw a winner on Christmas Eve!

My wish for all of you is a joyous Christmas season…

I hope Santa is good to you this year!

Regeneration – Book Review

regenerationI have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. – from A Soldier’s Declaration by S. Sassoon, July 1917 –

Regeneration is the first book in Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy. Siegfried Sasson was an historical figure, a noted poet and decorated war hero who penned the Soldier’s Declaration – a refusal to continue serving as a British officer based on the moral grounds that the war was a misguided effort contributing to the senseless slaughter of men. Spared a court martial, Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland where the famous psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers was assigned the task of “curing” him from insanity in order to send him back to France and the front line.

The novel, however, is less about Sassoon and more about the psychological effects of war. Barker shows us the shell-shocked and mentally damaged patients through the eyes (mostly) of Dr. Rivers.  Billy Prior arrives at the hospital unable to speak. A young soldier by the name of Burns is so traumatized by his experiences he is unable to eat without vomiting. The reader meets yet another soldier who is “paralyzed” even though his spinal cord is physically undamaged. In sensitively revealing the psychic injuries of the characters, Barker asks the essential question: Is war worth the toll it takes on those who sacrifice for it? Even Rivers, who is tasked with restoring men to duty, begins to question the morality of war.

His body felt like a stone. Rivers got hold of him and held him, coaxing, rocking. He looked up at the tower that loomed squat and menacing above them, and thought, Nothing justifies this. Nothing nothing nothing. – from Regeneration, page 180 –

Pat Barker’s strength is in revealing the emotions of her characters without being maudlin. Often she employs dialogue between doctor and patient to reveal the the horror of war and its impact.

‘You wait, you try to calm down anybody who’s obviously shitting himself or on the verge of throwing up. you hope you won’t do either of those things yourself. Then you start the count down: ten, nine, eight…so on. You blow the whistle. You climb the ladder. Then you double through a gap in the wire, lie flat, wait for everybody else to get out – those that are left, there’s already quite a heavy toll – and then you stand up. And you start walking. Not at the double. Normal walking speed. ‘ Prior started to smile. ‘In a straight line. Across open country. In broad daylight. Towards a line of machine guns.’ – from Regeneration, page 78 –

Regeneration is a war novel which is set not on the battlefield, but inside the minds of its characters – many of whom are historical figures. I found it to be a slow start – it is a drama that slowly reels the reader into the story. Regeneration is written with compassion and a subtle tension which reveals a sometimes barbaric and disturbing period in the history of psychiatry. Barker writes with honesty and has created a novel which pricks at the conscience.

Regeneration was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 1991.

Recommended for those readers interested in historical fiction, particularly during World War I. Those interested in psychology will also find this novel a fascinating character study.

4Stars