A Touch of Stardust

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author:  Kate Alcott

Title:  A Touch of Stardust 

“Life holds surprises and sometimes you hold on – and let go – in different ways.” The book, A Touch of Stardust, by Kate Alcott, was a surprise hit with me. The protagonist, Julie Crawford, is a Midwestern transplant, who wears, as we all sometimes do, blinders to world occurrence.

This novel really caught my attention with its fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of movie production. David O. Selznick and George Cukor could not reconcile their divergent styles into a cohesive whole, and so Victor Fleming became director of Gone With the Wind shortly after the production’s start. Selznick had a definite vision for this masterpiece and woe betide anyone who saw a different vision.

Julie Crawford is unable to find the position she desires and so settles for working in the Publicity Department of David O. Selznick Productions. Julie’s foray into Hollywood is being temporarily funded by her parents and has a definite sell-by date.

Julie’s world view rapidly changes through her association with Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Andy Weinstein, and the looming threat of World War II. You can be sure a biography of Carole Lombard and/or Clark Gable will soon be on my reading table due in part to the portrait of these Hollywood legends painted in this novel.

An eye-opening peek at what it takes to bring a movie, successfully, to the big screen.

1989 [sound recording CD]

From  Jackie Cantwell

Author:  Taylor Swift

Title:  1989 [sound recording CD] 

This is Taylor Swift’s first pure pop album. And it is nearly pop perfection. Even if you’re not the expected demographic listener for this CD, like me, you may find yourself humming these songs. Not only do I have a deeper respect for Swift’s songwriting abilities, I admire her collaborators such as Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would”. Antonoff plays acoustic, electric and bass guitar as well as drums and keyboards on these tracks. The strongest track is probably the first that was released, and that is “Shake It Off”.  “Bad Blood” has evocative imagery and reminds me of Avril LaVigne. “Blank Space” and “All You Had to Do Was Stay” also remind me of Avril LaVigne songs which shouldn’t be a surprise, as they both collaborated with Max Martin, the Swedish producing marvel. The tone of the album seems to be nostalgia for lost love, but at the same time, it’s fun to listen to. Harry Styles is rumored to be the subject of “Style” and “Out Of the Woods”. “Welcome to New York” is another strong track which is about re-inventing oneself and taking on the challenge of a new city (or identity).  “This Love” was written entirely by Swift and it’s a beautiful, dreamy song. “I Know Places” seems to warn lovers that the paparazzi will try to find them but she can hide: “They are the hunters, we are the foxes and we run.”  “Clean”, co-written with Imogen Heap,likens the end of a relationship with going sober. Some songs repeat these phrases: wildest dreams, Oh my God, mad love, sink (or sinking) ships; while other songs repeat references to the words: ghosts, lips, cheeks, and insane. I love you, Taylor, but I hope you got a thesaurus for Christmas! Grade: A-.

Tom Crean : unsung hero of the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic expeditions

From  Eileen Effrat

Author:  Michael Smith

Title:   Tom Crean : unsung hero of the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic expeditions 

Making the most of limited resources, Smith documents the adventures of Tom Crean, a man who spent more time in the Antarctic than Scott or Shackleton. A modest man, he did not leave diaries, letters, photographs or books detailing his exploits as many others did. In fact, he never gave an interview and rarely spoke of his adventures to family and friends in County Kerry, Ireland. What emerges from this biography is an extremely private and unassuming man. His selfless courage, resilience, loyalty and limitless good humor kept despair in check from numerous life threatening situations. His adventures are incredible, and the man unflappable. This biography is one you won’t soon forget.

Elephant company : the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II

From Margaret  Mezzacapo

Author:  Vicki Croke

Title:  Elephant company : the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II 

Here’s the engrossing, true story of Billy Williams, elephants and World War II. Williams goes to Burma as a young man. A lifelong fondness for animals blossoms into a deep love for elephants, which are used as beasts of burden in logging operations in the jungle. Williams fights for – and achieves – humane treatment of these magnificent animals. Then, war breaks out. The elephants, known collectively as “Elephant Company,” become an integral part of the war effort, helping rescue refugees and saving many human lives in the process. Both Williams and his elephants overcome formidable obstacles to achieve this. The story is an illustration of how the tenacity of the human spirit can greatly diminish the horrors of war.

Doctored : the disillusionment of an American physician

From Margaret Mezzacapo

Author:  Sandeep  Jauhar

Title:  Doctored : the disillusionment of an American physician  

Sandy Jauhar, author of the bestseller  Intern, has now become a physician in private practice, and quickly finds out that medicine is being practiced in a way that is totally unexpected to him.  As with so many other things, the drive for the almighty dollar pervades the conditions under which he functions. He just wants to practice medicine, but realizes that he needs to perfect social skills so he can get along with his fellow physicians and thus generate referrals and other economic avenues.  Add in a wife, a physician herself , who seems to personify the term “money-hungry,” and Jauhar finds himself immensely impacted by stress, and questioning his own abilities. This is an interesting look into the reality of today’s medical world.

The Christmas Cat

From Margaret Mezzacapo

Author:  Melody Carlson

Title:  The Christmas Cat

Garrison Brown’s grandmother has died, and he returns to her home to dispose of her estate – and her beloved pets as well. In the course of doing this, he meets a cute-as-a-button girl and a courtship ensues. Christmas magic pervades everything and there’s a happy ending – although it seemed sad that cats who had been loved and cared for were now regarded as burdens to be gotten rid of.

Leaving time : a novel

From Margaret Mezzacapo

Author:  Jodi Picoult

Title:  Leaving time : a novel  

Once again, Jodi Picoult presents us with a well-written, engrossing tale. Jenna Metcalf is a teen whose mother disappeared when she was a baby. She becomes obsessed with finding her mother – or discovering what became of her, or why she abandoned Jenna. Both of her parents were scientists, studying elephants, and these large, gentle and frequently misunderstood and mistreated animals figure largely (pardon the pun) in the story.  This is another fine work from Picoult.