The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Book Review by Laura the Book Enthusiast

A child who has lost her memory, a mysterious book of fairytales, and a woman known simply as the Authoress. This is the plot we are presented with in Kate Morton’s, The Forgotten Garden.

As her grandmother, Nell lay dying, Cassandra hears her grandmother utter something about the Authoress telling Nell to wait for her. From this point on, Cassandra’s life goes into a tailspin. After Nell’s death, Cassandra begins to unravel a mystery involving a book of fairytales that belonged to Nell. Cassandra travels to England, to gaze upon the cottage her grandmother had purchased back in 1975. She discovers a garden without an entrance, a garden that despite its neglect, is full of life. What secrets does this garden hold? Who are the Mountrachets? And how does the Authoress fit into this puzzle? Join Cassandra, as I did, on this journey into the past.

I must say, I absolutely loved this book. While one could argue it is very character driven, the plot is intriguing and engrossing enough to hold your attention. I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out who the characters were, and what they would do next. Speaking of, I adore the character, Eliza. We get to see her in childhood and adulthood. Eliza is a free spirit, smart, and strong. While she may appear to have rough edges, Eliza has a heart full of love and courage. She’s very fun to read. In fact, all the characters are memorable and interesting.

The setting takes on a life of its own. The maze, garden, and cottage seem to be characters in their own right. Yes, The Forgotten Garden has something for everyone. As said in the novel, ““She’s understood the power of stories. Their magical ability to refill the wounded part of people.”

Whether you like fairytales, mysteries, romantic settings, love in all its forms, or even well written characters, you will enjoy The Forgotten Garden. I wouldn’t describe this novel as a romance, but the premise is weaved beautifully into this engrossing mystery. Above all, this novel is about people, with all their layers, good and bad. And these characters unfold the plot for us in a thrilling way.

So, what are you waiting for? Go to your local library or bookstore, and pick up a copy of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. That’s right, plant yourself, and allow the story to bloom into your heart.

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Review by Laura the Book Enthusiast

As children, who of us don’t, at least, imagine having no adult supervision. We can eat what we want, go to bed when we want, and do what we want. Best of all, no consequences, or so we foolishly believe.

The scenario above is exactly what Jonathan Grisby finds himself in. Sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for reasons unknown, the protagonist struggles to adjust to the harsh conditions of this brutal prison. When the boys of Stabhenge find themselves without adult supervision, they decide to take Stabhenge into their own hands; renaming it Scar Island, in honor of themselves. But what starts out as a democracy, turns into a dangerous dictatorship. Will Jonathan stand up against the foe of Scar Island, or will he allow his personal demons to condemn him?

Scar Island is mesmerizing from start to finish. I listened to the audiobook, performed by MacLeod Andrews, who captivated me with his wide array of voices and characters. You have the stoic protagonist, Jonathan, voice ordinarily calm and quiet. There is Sebastian, the loud-mouth bully, who also sounds like a bit of a whiner, which I believe is a good acting choice, because bullies usually are. Colin, my favorite character, seems to be Jonathan’s conscience, and is a brave boy with a lisp, no less. His speech impediment does not hold him back from speaking his mind, much to the irritation of Sebastian. Speaking of, the subtle humor Gemeinhart weaves into his story, via dialogue, is clever. You will find yourself shifting between dread and laughter quite frequently throughout the narrative.

There is a mysterious librarian who pops up from time to time, and yet, you can feel his presence through the whole novel. While we do get some background information on this character, just who the librarian is, is shrouded in mystery. This elderly man can’t even remember his own name. However, he remembers all the books available in his library. Jonathan always has a book in hand after his encounters with the librarian. As the latter always says: “You cannot leave a library, without a book.” Truer words never said! The librarian shows Jonathan, Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, and Treasure Island, subtle, or not so subtle references of their similarities to Scar Island.

If you enjoy elements of mystery, horror, suspense, adventure, and even humor, you will enjoy Scar Island. Great characters abound, and an intriguing setting is the frosting on the cake, or, the shells on the seashore. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Scar Island at your local library or bookstore. The librarian would approve!

Wonder Woman 2017 – Film Review by Laura the Book Enthusiast

I finally saw the film, Wonder Woman last Monday, and I have to say, it was fantastic! I grew up watching reruns of seventies superhero tv shows, such as The Incredible Hulk, and of course, Wonder Woman. Because of this, I wasn’t sure if Gal Gadot would be able to fill Linda Carter’s boots. I must say, Ms. Gadot exceeded my expectations. She nailed both Diana Prince’s, and Wonder Woman’s characters. Gadot portrayed Prince’s strength, courage, naivete, and compassion with intelligence, sensitivity, and humor. I felt this is a woman I would want on my side, even be friends with.

This film deserves the title of blockbuster; not only was there action, but excellent character growth, and portrayals. Despite it’s somewhat dark setting, Wonder Woman succeeded in its message of hope. One even begins to wonder if Wonder Woman has lost faith completely in the world she has only recently begun to inhabit. What, or who though, inspires her not to give up? For those who have not seen the film, I will not spoil this for you, so, I will leave that for you to discover.

Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, is an excellent hero in his own right. He and Diana Prince light up the screen together, as equals despite Diana’s super-strength and powers. Speaking of, this film does an excellent job of portraying man and woman as people, not focusing so much on gender, but individuals. There are some references to a woman’s proper place, but only because the setting is during World War 1; its brushed aside rather quickly, and it doesn’t distract from the film.

The story opens with Diana Prince, present day, studying an old photograph of her sent by Bruce Wayne. Cliché as it is, she narrates of something dark that she learned about humanity years ago. Diana says, “I used to want to save the world. This beautiful place. But I knew so little then. It is a land of beauty and wonder, worth cherishing in every way. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness simmering within. And mankind? Mankind is another story altogether.”

This statement sets the mood for the rest of the film, as we anxiously await her conclusion of mankind. Of course, the action in this film is a wonderful distraction until that moment.

We are introduced to the Amazonian world of Diana’s youth. We meet her mother, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and her Aunt Antiope, a valiant warrior. We see Diana grow in her skills as a warrior, and as a leader. One day, the Amazonians lives are shattered, when enemy forces from the world of men find the island of Themyscira. Lives are lost, and Themyscira will never be the same, neither will the Princess of the Amazonians. In the midst of this tragedy, Diana meets Steve Trevor, a stranded pilot fighting a battle of his own. Together these two heroes will find their destinies in the world of man, and Diana, aka Wonder Woman, will come to an insightful conclusion about her journey, and what it means to be human!

Anyone who likes action, superheroes, intriguing villains, great characters, inspiring messages, and heart, will love Wonder Woman. I encourage all to see this entertaining, and inspiring film. So, grab your lasso, and head on down to your local theater to see Wonder Woman. You won’t regret it, and that’s no lie!

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Tammy and the Bachelor- An MBTI Study By: Laura the Book Enthusiast

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My posts are usually on the shorter side, so if this one is too time consuming, let me know and I will try to separate this into 2 posts.  I understand that we all lead very busy lives.  Short and sweet often helps!

Hello bloggers and readers.  I have loved Tammy and the Bachelor since my mother brought the VHS home in the 90s. It’s not blockbuster, or anything profound, but I was hooked the moment the song “Tammy” (1957) filtered through the screen. Tammy and the Bachelor was nominated for an academy award in 1958 (IMDB), and the song Tammy, sung by Debbie Reynolds, was number one on the charts, earning her a Gold Record (IMDB).

What’s to follow is an MBTI study on some of the characters, and some basic analysis interspersed throughout. For those who love Tammy and the Bachelor, but know little about Myers Briggs (MBTI), I have posted a link below to the official website. Feel free to skim through, and then join us back here! If you would rather not visit the site, I will make my analysis as clear as I can.

Speaking of, I am no expert of Myers Briggs typing. I have studied MBTI for the last few years, but this has been via the web, and things I have picked up on message boards. While I think my educated guesses are as good as anyone’s, it doesn’t mean I can’t be wrong. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section for yay or nay on my analysis. Be aware of some spoilers ahead.

Tammy, played by Debbie Reynolds, is an INFJ. I will make my arguments for each function in order.

Introversion: Tammy, may at first seem extroverted. She talks a great deal, is quite opinionated, and loves people. What some are not aware of is you can be all these things, and still be an introvert. Introversion and Extroversion are simply ways one gains their energy. If you gain energy around people, most likely you are an extrovert. If solitude recharges you, then you are an introvert.

Additionally, because of their extroverted feeling (an auxiliary function), INFJ’s can appear extroverted. They love being around people in smaller doses, and to be a sounding board for others, especially loved ones. Tammy often seeks alone time, to process what she has learned, or her own emotions.

For example, Tammy looks up into the night sky, singing her heart out about her love for Pete (portrayed by a young, Leslie Nielsen). When Barbara makes fun of Tammy when Peter is being pressured to go into advertising, rather than focus on his agriculture experiment, Tammy goes off alone to talk to Nan, her goat. Things become clearer to Tammy when she meditates alone.

Intuition (N): Does this girl have it in spades. Tammy senses that Barbara isn’t good for Peter from the very beginning. Tammy knows that Miss Renie is holding herself back from her own potential, allowing her responsibilities to hold her back. Tammy knows that Mr. Brent is hiding behind his books, rather than facing life. Tammy knows the reason Mrs. Brent is constantly antagonizing others is because she is afraid of dying. Tammy demonstrates her insight when she expresses these thoughts to Peter. She is spot on when she tells Peter he is afraid of being a failure.

You will also notice how Tammy is often referred to as wise by many of the characters. Not that all types can’t be wise, however, wisdom in INFJs practically gallops, and from a very young age. Tammy also loves to use metaphors, similes, and analogies; it’s the INFJ’s bread and butter. Some gems:

“You are like driftwood out on the river with the current pulling one way, and the eddy going another.” ~ Tammy to Pete
“He’s a fox dug himself a hole, if he’d come out of his hole, maybe your ma wouldn’t be so scared.” ~ Tammy, speaking of Mr. Brent
“It sorta hangs on like a spirit haunting someplace when the body’s gone.” ~ Tammy speaking of a perfume.

Feeling (F): Which does not mean emotional, any more than thinking means heartless (a pet peeve of mine). Tammy tries to maintain harmony in her relationships. She is very polite and diplomatic. While her social skills need smoothing out, due to isolation, she is still acutely aware of other people’s feelings, and tries to put them at ease. When she tells people a truth they may not want to hear, she does so gently, but directly. She does not relish confrontation, and only loses her temper when Pete stubbornly refuses to see her point of view. Her extroverted feeling shines through during her social interactions. See her interactions and skit at the Pilgrimage party.

Thinking (T): Tammy’s tertiary function. I have heard introverted thinking is related to why something works, and extroverted thinking is how something works. I remember it also being put that introverted thinking theorizes, and then uses observations to support the theory, while extroverted thinking observes, and then comes up with a theory based on these observations. I believe Tammy demonstrates her T(i) (introverted thinking) when she makes her observations about Pete’s garden. She’s not so focused on how the garden works, so much as why it should.

Sensing: Tammy’s inferior function. I could go on to say how she loves nature, and has her own distinct fashion sense, but you could say that of anyone. What I do know is that she takes in her surroundings on a nearly subconscious level, where her intuition takes over in the filtering process. The sensing function is an INFJ’s foundation, and intuition is the structure. Without sensing, intuition couldn’t stand.

Yes, I am an INFJ, if you haven’t figured that out already with my massive use of metaphors and similes. Anyway, Tammy may not always be consciously aware of how she knows the things she does, but it’s her silent sensing function that aids her in intuitively coming to a conclusion.

Some other MBTI Character guesses.

Peter (Actor Leslie Nielsen) ESFJ. Peter may also be an introvert, but due to his upper-class upbringing, he may come off more reserved than your typical extrovert. He seems to be a sensor though, as I believe this is where Tammy and Peter have difficult relating. Peter has a sense of duty toward his family, and his F (e) (extroverted feeling) prevents him from expressing his own needs. He wants to make his family happy, and at the same time desires to spread his wings through agriculture, which is perhaps an expression of his tertiary or inferior extroverted intuition.

Mrs. Brent (Actress-Fay Wray) ( )STJ

Professor Brent (Actor-Sidney Blackmer) Tough one. Maybe INTP. He seems perceptive, and he seems to exhibit more extroverted feeling than introverted feeling. I could see an argument for NFP. Thoughts?

Aunt Renie (Actress-Mildred Natwick) ESFP

Barbara (Actress-Mala Powers) ( )NTJ

Ernie (Actor-Craig Hill) ESTP

Grandpa (Actor-Walter Brennan) ENFJ

I think I will safe any further discussion about the film itself in the comment section. Meaning, I would love to turn this into a conversation. What did you think of the film? Loved it? Hated it? Sound off in the comments below. What do you think of my MBTI analysis? I would love to hear from you. Below is a link to the MBTI site, IMDB, and Tammy and the Bachelor on YouTube. I encourage you to check it out, and contribute in the convo that I hope is to follow.



The Cream in My Coffee-by Laura the Book Enthusiast

After my return from Hawaii, which was glorious to say the least, I had some bad luck. Not that I believe in luck, good or bad, because sometimes bad things happen, and yet, when we are going through the bad times, it’s so easy to forget the good ones. Not to say we can’t have a bad day. I believe bad days are just our way of working our way through the clouds, so we can find the sun again. What’s with the philosophical metaphors, you ask? Well, I wasn’t just having a bad day, I was having a bad month. I will not drag you down with this information, however, I want to share with you an experience involving my own personal vice, coffee.

Our local coffee shop was having a $1 drink special. Coffee is a girl’s best friend, so I couldn’t miss out on it. Unfortunately, the hours this offer was going on was while I was working. Of course, I couldn’t let that stop me, so, I decided I would sacrifice my reading time, and go on my break. The coffee shop is just a few blocks down from my job, so I figured I could make it back in time. Well, I figured wrong.

Apparently, my fellow coffee goers have telepathic powers, and conspired against me by all going for coffee at the same time. Cars lined up around the block to the drive-up window. Of course, it wasn’t much better inside. Guaranteed my fellow coffee drinkers would stampede if startled. Already half of my break time was up, and I hadn’t even ordered. I know, I shouldn’t have been surprised that so many people had shown up for cheap coffee, but you must remember, I wasn’t in my right mind. The obvious wasn’t so clear to me.

I made it to the coffee hole, I mean register, and ordered my drink. I held back tears as I asked if my drink could be expedited, because I would be late for work otherwise. The barista told me that would be fine. I nearly gushed at her in appreciation and thanks! While waiting, I overheard her talking to the barista making the drinks. The latter’s reply, “She will have to wait.” Her words seemed to echo in the noisy room. That really got my coffee boiling, and it was hard to swallow.

Then, I heard the barista that helped me reply, “I can make if for her.” In that instant, I saw a halo appear over my angel’s head. That’s it! From now on I will my coffee savior, “Angel”. Angel got me, she understood. Within minutes, I was out the door with my coffee, and arrived back at work on time.

In all seriousness, I am somewhat of a people pleaser. I was concerned I had gotten Angel in trouble. I was pretty sure the barista in charge of the drinks that day was  management. I made up my mind to call the coffee shop when I got home.

Caffeinated, and content, I made the call right when I walked in the door. Who answered the phone, but the coffee tyrant herself, the manager? Okay, she really wasn’t that bad, although, I may not hold that opinion if I hadn’t gotten my coffee. I digress, so, anyway, I began to tell her how pleased I was with the service provided me that day. I identified the barista who helped me, and told the manager that Angel had made my day. I expressed how bad my month had been, and that act of good customer service really lifted me up. I thanked the manager, and asked her to pass on the message to Angel.

The manager, who I will call Sally, then told me how happy she was to hear a compliment, rather than a complaint. Sally admitted originally, she hadn’t agreed with what Angel had done, but after it was explained to her, Sally understood. Sally then told me she was happy the experience made my day, and was sure it would make Angel’s day as well.

After we hung up, I pondered why moments like this should be so special. Shouldn’t acts of kindness be the norm, not the unusual? By my reaction to the good customer service, and the manager’s positive reaction to me, it goes to show how important kindness is for humanity. It’s sad that kindness is often looked upon as a weakness, rather than a strength. Isn’t it amazing how the smallest things make the biggest impact? A bitter cup of coffee, can become sweet with a little cream and sugar. After all, this experience happened to me nearly three months ago, and it still resonates.

What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? How important do you think small acts of kindness is in the grand scheme of things? I would love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. Once again, a big thanks to all following and liking my blog.  You guys make my day!

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Hello Everyone!  I wasn’t sure if I would be posting a review for this particular book, but the deeper into the story I dug, the more engrossed I became.  Allow me to express myself regarding The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.

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The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

Book Review by Laura the Book Enthusiast

Gerald Jampolsky once said, “Forgiveness means letting go of the past.” A simple philosophy to have, but very difficult in its execution.  In The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, Jonathan Evison weaves together a thematic story about life, death, loss, and letting go.  Ultimately, the idea of forgiveness is at the heart of this touching novel.  The best part of it is, it’s all done in humor.  It’s one of those stories where you can laugh and cry all within a few pages.  Evison balances emotions beautifully, allowing us to smile even despite the tragedy that befalls Benjamin Benjamin.

No, the above is not a typo, the protagonist’s name is Ben Benjamin.  From the moment you meet Ben, you know that he is a good man, but something has broken him.  He is a man on the verge of divorce, with Stay at Home Dad being the steadiest job he can add to his resume.  Ben decides to become a caregiver, which is how he meets Trev, a young man with muscle dystrophy.   A close friendship develops between the two, and Ben comes to find that he needs Trev just as much as Trev needs Ben.  Benjamin and Trevor decide to embark on a road trip, unaware of the self-discovery that awaits them.

I will admit, this story was a little slow going the first few chapters, but, as the road trip progressed, I found myself more and more engrossed.  Watching the broken Ben begin to heal, and seeing the disabled Trev begin to truly live, made the wait for the action worth it.  We get to meet Dot, and Peaches, two young women on journeys of their own, who end up at the same fork in the road as Ben and Trev, pun intended.  While the character’s destinations may be different, they will find their way together.

Caregiving is full of heart, of laughs, of tears, of contemplation.  If tragedy befalls us, is that it?  Are we stuck in this never-ending feeling of hopelessness, despair, and even guilt?  Can we learn to let go?  Can we forgive the most difficult person to forgive, ourselves?  Will Benjamin Benjamin achieve this end?  You will have to read Evison’s novel to find out.

Pick up a copy of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving at your local library or bookstore.  Better yet, pick up the audiobook version, and take it on a road trip; Ben and Trev would approve.

Some Kind of Courage-By Dan Gemeinhart

Another thank you to all who are following my blog, and liking my posts.  It means a lot to this newbie.  It makes me feel so at home, which takes me into my review.

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Some Kind of Courage, By Dan Gemeinhart

Review-By Laura the Book Enthusiast

Do you remember the old saying about a boy and his dog?  Well, how about a boy and his horse? This is the very principle that Dan Gemeinhart pens in Some Kind of Courage.  I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and I must say, it made the narrative even more touching, voiced by actor Andrew Eiden.  Both writer and voice actor made the protagonist, Joseph Johnson, so appealing.  I have always believed characters should drive the plot, not vice versa.  A character can make or break a good plot, but great characters can make an average plot exceptional.  Gemeinhart uses this tactic in his historical fiction novel.  The setting is in Washington State, just before the turn of the century.  From the outset, this novel very much plays out like a bluegrass country song.  The protagonist lost both his parents and sister in death, and is now living with an abusive guardian.  To make matters worse, Joseph’s guardian sold the boy’s beloved horse, Sarah.  Sarah, is the only family Joseph has left, and he is determined to get her back.  This is where his journey begins.

Joseph meets plenty of kindred spirits along the way, as Anne Shirley (L.M. Montgomery) would affectionately call them.  One such friend, is Ah-Kee, a Chinese boy who is as lost, but as brave as Joseph is.  Courage, this a trait that is emphasized throughout this novel.  Joseph, a child no more than twelve years old, sets out on a daring mission across the Eastern Washington Wilderness, not only where he must brave a rough terrain, but also not the most honorable of people.  Then we have a Chinese boy, named Ah-Kee, with no way of verbally communicating with the people around him, accompany an American boy he doesn’t know, on a journey with an unknown destination.  These two boys are simply searching for their families, and despite the language barriers, Joseph and Ah-Kee are bonded through a common goal.  A goal that binds all of humanity, to find a place to call home.

Join Joseph as he fights with all his power to get his “sweet Sarah” back.  Cheer for him as he takes on shifty business men, and even an outlaw.  Cry with him as he grieves over the loss of his family.  Laugh with Ah-Kee when Joseph takes on a bear (you’ll see).  Allow Joseph and Ah-Kee to inspire you, as they display loyalty, compassion, and yes, courage.  I nod my head in agreement to Joseph’s words, “Mama said that if someone’s putting ugliness into the world, you can’t be ugly back; you gotta put a little bit of sunshine into the world to even things out.”  Amen, Joseph.  Amen.

Take it from someone who is not normally a fan of historical westerns.  I absolutely loved Some Kind of Courage.  The characters, the setting, the plot, and the themes resound with everyone; no matter one’s age, culture, race, or gender.  So, saddle up your horse, gallop to your local library or bookstore, and pick up a copy of this enchanting novel.  No worries, you can always go home again.