Wednesday, March 31, 2010

BookLook Review "The Tristan Betrayal"

“The Tristan Betrayal”

What if? What if slaves had not been brought to the New World - would we have had a Civil War? What if the stock market hadn’t crashed in 1929 - would we have had The Great Depression? Writers of spy novels love to take major historical events and muddle the facts to create a new chain of cause and effect. Robert Ludlum was a master purveyor of this literary style who passed away in 2001. A few of his partial manuscripts were finished posthumously by writers who were too lowly to be given any credit by the publishers. Robert Ludlum books were a guaranteed best seller so why confuse the buyer with details? Details which would reveal the book was half written (or less) by Ludlum and mostly written by Bob Smith (not his real name). “The Tristan Betrayal” is one of those bestsellers by Ludlum et al.

Flash back to Moscow at the beginning of WWII when young Stephen Metcalfe is sent into Russia on a top-secret spy mission. The idealistic American only knows it’s dangerous and may change the world. Of course those are the best kinds of top-secret spy missions. What if the newly signed non-aggression treaty between Germany and Russia could be undone? Metcalfe chooses to save the world and not the girl. The woman he loves becomes a critical player in the espionage game. His betrayal causes Hitler to break the pact and attack Russia, thus dividing German forces and bringing about their ultimate defeat.

Flash forward to the now elderly Metcalfe who is sent into Russia on a top secret diplomatic mission to stop a coup attempt to remove Gorbachev. According to the novel’s back cover his spy game is up and running again, “As the past and present converge, Metcalfe braces himself for a new trial of trust and betrayal, one with chilling implications that could threaten what remains of the free world.”

What if the publisher of “The Tristan Betrayal” had given mystery co-writer Bob Smith (not his real name) credit? Would we still buy enough copies to make it a best seller? We may never know the true version of its publishing history but go ahead and read this entertaining novel. If you are a Ludlum fan you’ll enjoy another action thriller worthy of his name on the cover.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Finn Christopher listening to every word

Finn is a very healthy 6 week old in this picture of him listening to every word I tell him. He is a smiley guy and as you can see has fully recovered from his hospital adventure.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

BookLook Review "Snowflower and the Secret Fan"

“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”

Lisa See has written another beautiful best seller. It’s one of those sentimental historical novels we women can’t stop reading. Our individual purchases and group book club volume buys have supported many authors and their entire extended families – for generations. Jane Austen discovered our weakness for fictional women who rise above hopeless circumstances despite their own flaws and their fickle families and friends. We want to read about women like us. But not too much like us and only if they’re strangers from another time and place with much bigger problems.

“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” fills all these story requirements. Lily was born in 1823 in the remote area of Hunan Province. China was still ruled by an emperor and the Taiping Rebellion of 1851 would not affect her life until she was a married woman. The vivid descriptions of the abuse of women within their families are heartbreaking. Lily narrates her story with a detachment which stems from not only her acceptance of this culture but her belief in its beauty and necessity.

When she endures the months of torture for her foot binding, she is stoic even after the death of her little sister whose feet become infected. The author shares the statistic that one in ten girls died from foot binding. And the barbaric practice continued in remote provinces until the early 1900’s. The detailed description of binding and breaking bones and mothers forcing their little girls to hobble across the floor every day on their broken feet is very difficult to read.

One of the fascinating parts of the story involves the secret writing used only by women in China. Secluded behind lattice windows in upstairs rooms, women learned to communicate secretly with beloved female friends and family members using characters called nu shu. Lilly and her friend (chosen by a matchmaker) write through the years on a fan which passes between them. Snow Flower is Lilly’s laotong, or “old same”. I loved this translation of a special friendship known as an “old same”.

The tragedies of the lives of these Chinese women make our troubles seem too trivial to mention. Although, if we could exaggerate just a little and market our story to book club women in China we may create a lucrative foreign market for selling American sentimental novels.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

We celebrate every holiday! Even though we aren't Irish we have have our annual corned beef and cabbage and all things green meal. Green jello is of course included along with the Irish potatoes. You are required to have potatoes.

If you aren't a fan of Corned Beef and Cabbage call me for a delicious version. Haydon almost age 6 proclaimed,"This is my most favorite dinner ever!" The boys are holding their party favor which was a little rubber ducky dressed in St. Pat's attire.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Look Review "The Romanov Prophecy"

BookLook March 25
“The Romanov Prophecy”

Vacation comes from the root word vacate. Well, at least that’s according to my intuition dictionary. When I checked with Webster’s it actually mentioned that a rare definition for vacation is “the act of making vacant”. Ah hah – I was right! If you are in the act of making vacant you should take a book along that will accelerate the process. Don’t take some weighty biography that will tax your brain, take a suspense novel on your cruise. “The Romanov Prophecy” by Steve Berry is the perfect combination of present day international intrigue and historical conspiracy.

Berry has jumped on the Dan Brown bandwagon and writes about a guy so brilliant he dazzles us with his ability to put the puzzle pieces of history together while out-maneuvering everyone else. This super smart human is also James Bond-like in his ability to get women to help him with his getaways. Unlike James (oh James, sigh) the hero Miles Lord solves an historical mystery by combining clues that have escaped centuries of brilliant brains – and he does in less than a week!

Miles Lord is an American lawyer in Russia to research the background of a Romanov heir to the throne. After the fall of communism and several weak governments, a commission has been formed to bring back the tsar. (It’s far fetched but remember, your brain is on vacation.) In his research Lord reads a Rasputin prophecy and gains access to formerly sealed letters and documents dating back to the 1918 massacre of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. What happened to the two missing children whose bodies were not in the mass grave? Did they survive? If so, their children would be the rightful heirs to the throne of Russia. When attempts are made on Miles Lord’s life he knows he has stumbled onto something with dangerous implications. So naturally he involves a beautiful Russian acrobat from the circus to help him follow the clues.

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to put the pieces together to solve the mystery of the Romanovs because our brain was on vacation. We could barely remember what day it was and for sure we didn’t know or care what time it was – until we were ready to head to the buffet again. Today’s picture is courtesy of our room steward who made incredible animals each evening after he tidied up our room. We were very entertained when he even put my reading glasses on our terry cloth elephant and posed him reading a book. Yes, Willy got a very nice tip at the end of the cruise and my tip for you is read “The Romanov Prophecy”.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cruisin' Family Style

Here we are "peeling out" at top speed on our rented golf carts in Costa Maya. They were really fun for the trip into town along cobblestone road then gigantic cart eating potholed road. We did a little shopping then spent most of the day under the shady palms sipping our cool non-alc. drinks at Tequilla Beach. White sand, turquoise water, sea breezes...ah...

Mike and Tyfani look happy after their dives in Belize. They left the 3 little boys for the first time ever and thanks to the super grandma care by Tyf's mom all was well at home. The last time they dove together was in Hawaii six years ago!

Don't worry, Mark and I had plenty of deck time while "the marrieds" played.Our ports were all wonderful: Roatan Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya Mexico, and Great Stirrup Cay. Turquoise water, beautiful vegetation, soft white sand,pretty low key

We called these the "spring break playpens". Beginning at 10 am daily these 2 hot tubs were monopolized by the spring break college kids who managed to consume non stop alcohol without ever leaving the playpen until dinner time. It was quite amazing.

After the great dives on Roatan - Alyssa is modeling her pirate tan lines on her chest. X marks the spot (she may want to kill me for posting this but in the words of our favorite cruise commedian: "I don't care who you are, that's funny!"). Sort of a tattoo in reverse? Demonstration of what happens if you apply sunscreen early and don't reapply? Or maybe, she did it on purpose - sunscreen 15 in an X then sunscreen 30 the rest? Be sure to click on the image to get a close up.