Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow

The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow

I read this review of the book in my local paper and immediately put it on reserve at my local library.  I've been married 3 years this June and still sigh with content when I look at our wedding photos and remember that day. I fell in love with the book cover showing a photo of a bride looking at her reflection in the mirror and sighed again remembering how I felt the first time I tried on my gown.

Jeffrey takes us to a bridal store in a small town: Fowler, Michigan. Becker's Bridal has been in business over 70 years, going back three generations of the shop's current owner. Women from miles away come to Becker's to find THE dress for their big day. Jeffrey slowly tells the history of the shop, while winding in true stories from six different brides that have come to Becker's for their bridal gown. He also tells how the bridal industry has changed, and how women have changed in the way they look for and eventually purchase their gowns. I kept thinking how thoughtful and insightful Jeffrey remained throughout the book; after all, this is a MAN writing about a bridal shop, and dresses and women and so on. (He is a father of three daughters, I later learned.)  The book's title comes from the room designed by the shop's current owner. It is reserved for the bride who is almost certain about the gown she will wear on her wedding day. The room has mirrors all around, a pedestal in the center, and the mirrors give an effect of the bride's reflection going on and on to infinity. There is soft lighting and the entire setup took my breath away  as I read it and quite frankly, I wish I could put on my gown again and have my picture taken in that room! (You must watch the related video on the page and get the full effect!

There are so many reality shows on television now about weddings, wedding dresses, brides, bridezillas, and so on. They show so much materialism, drama and negativity and so little about the romance and love we usually think about weddings. I loved how this book stayed away from those negative influences. Jeffrey wrote the real stories about 6 very different brides, and the real story of the current owner and the real history of the bridal shop. 

I was so sad to learn that the author died earlier this year in a car accident. He was only 53.  I feel so much empathy for his wife and three daughters and especially hope his daughters find comfort in this book for the rest of their lives.

FTC: I checked out this book from my local library.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This book made me hungry!

Confections of  a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado

I'm going to knock out a few book reviews tonight while I'm on a roll. I recently finished this book from the local library. I had it on my Amazon Wish List for probably over a year; I use it to keep track of all the books I want to read and their release dates. This book has been out since 2009 - so long that Gesine has closed the cafe in the book and moved it to TEXAS! *SNIFF!

The author is the younger sister of movie star Sandra Bullock. There, its been said, now on to the book. Gesine WAS an unhappy executive in her sister's production company in Hollywood. Going all the way back to college, she found baking to be relaxing, restorative, an outlet for creativity and a way to give back to her friends and family. One day she decided to move to the other side of the country and eventually open her own bakery and cafe in Vermont. The book alternates from the past, to the present (during an ordinary day in her cafe) and back to the past again. She shares mouth-watering and downright ambitious recipes of her own and her family from Germany.

I related to Gesine right away since my mother died from cancer as well (her mother died of colon cancer in 2000; my mother died from breast cancer in 2001). And just like me, when Gesine was growing up, she found her mother sometimes embarassing and NOW those are the things we both miss most about our mothers as adults. (I thought my mom's tastes in food were weird and outrageous when I was a kid and they're the same foods I crave as an adult.)

I loved reading about how Gesine picked up her life with her husband, started fresh in Vermont, learned how to mass-produce some of her well-loved recipes, then purchased, gutted, and set up the cafe that became a hit in the small town. She perservered over the years through employee turnover, growing pains and learning experiences of opening a new business, and the constant questions that come with being Sandra Bullock's sister. 

I'll be honest, although I found all the recipes mouth-watering and tempting; I'm just not as ambitious baking in the kitchen as I used to be (and they all looked so indulgent as I joined Weight Watchers in January). But I'll definitely remember her book because my mom's side of the family is mostly German (as is Gesine's mother). I'll KNOW to look up her book again if I want honest-to-goodness, indulgent, German sweets!

FTC: I checked out this book from my local library.

After a long time away, I give my review of The Long Way Home!

The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion

The first book I reviewed on this blog was by Karen, and getting back to my blog after this absence, I’m giving huge KUDOS to Karen again for her latest book, The Long Way Home.  Like A Scattered Life, I was sold on the book RIGHT away by the cover, as it contains a partial map of Wisconsin. I was hooked right from the start and finished it in three days!
On a quick side note, when I talk books with anyone, I always say I love a good STORY. I’m not fan of any specific genre, but I love a good STORY about people and what happens in their lives. Karen writes EXCELLENT stories!
Four women are brought together in this story by the same thing, grief over a lost loved one. As my parents passed away in 1994 and 2001, I immediately connected with the women. (This book could not BE more up my alley!)  Marnie lost her boyfriend of several years from a sudden death, and then lost his son to the biological mother who took him far away to Las Vegas with no hope of visitation. Rita lost her only daughter to a brutal and unsolved murder.  Laverne’s husband passed away as well but she’s slowly turned inward as a self-imposed recluse. And then there’s Jazzy; a novice psychic or clairvoyant developing her talents and she becomes the glue for this quartet of women as they make a spontaneous, hail-mary road trip to Las Vegas to rescue Marnie’s “stepson”, Troy.
I loved how Karen wrote believable (and sometimes frightening) adventures that happened to each of the women along the way on this road trip. I continuously felt connected and empathetic to all of the women (well ALMOST to Jazzy but what an ability to have and share with others!) and thought I could have worked with or met any of these women anywhere in the state.  And finally, I found the ending to the book very satisfying.  She took the time to wrap up the stories of all four women.

FTC note – Karen was so generous and thoughtful to provide me an advance copy of the book. Thank you so much for thinking of me Karen!